Thursday, February 16, 2012

Waiting For Dinner

Date: February 14, 2012

Day: Tuesday

Time: 8.45 p.m.

Place: Hotel Greenpark

What's the first thing that you see around? That the parking lot is full. So much so that you start wondering if you will ever get a place to sit. And of course, there's no place. There's a huge waiting list.

Knowing that it's the same situation in every other decent restaurant, you resign yourself and enlist yourself for getting a place for two. Now what comes is the big wait. You keep a track on how it will take and end up getting answers such as: "Ma'am, it's page 3 that's going on. You are on page 5. At least 45 mins more."

You deliberate whether sitting out the 45 minutes would be a better option, or finding out another restaurant would be. Eventually you realise that you will spend the same time in some other restaurant. So, why not here.

So, what else do you do in that time but observe things around you. You see so many around you waiting for their turn. You see kids playing around, mammas behind those kids making sure they don't get hurt. You see couples waiting, groups waiting, and waiters waiting too.

Eventually realise that you can divide all the people in some groups. First group is that of the "young" couples. Now let me tell you that "young" doesn't mean by age. "Young" means the couples who have spent very little time together and who are in various degrees of awkwardness and comfort with each other, as well as with the society.

The couples who fall in this category have not had a lot of experience in going out with each other in public. These might be couples who are not sure they are in love, whether they are destined to be together, or whether they really serious enough to think about each other as partners. They may still be doubtful. Nevertheless, they are not averse to trying it out. So, when they are waiting for their turn, they are cautiously looking around to see if they see someone whom they know. They keep on glancing here and there in the hope that they are not caught by some acquaintance, because they probably have not informed their guardians/parents that they are out for dinner with someone. They also are not sure if they should be showing any kind of togetherness to the partner. They are nervous, and they are eagerly waiting for getting a table so that they get the privacy they are looking for.

In this category also lies the "expectant" couple. This couple is on the brink of being committed. They are waiting eagerly for their turn to get the privacy and be done with the magic question. Till they get that table, they are just a bundle of nerves, waiting to be exploded.

The other category is the newly married couples. You can find these easily. They are the ones with the girl looking around nervously, hoping not to find anyone she knows. She is yet uncomfortable being out with the boy. Although happy and looking forward to the privacy of their table, she is not sure if she should be feeling good that they have come out for dinner on a day such as Valentine's Day, or if she should think that celebrating such things are just tacky. She is best waiting for the moment when they can retreat to their world of privacy when they get a table. The boy on the other hand is feeling extremely proud of getting the girl out for dinner on such a lovely day. He is much more at ease with the crowd around him.

Then there are couples who have been there and done that. It's not new for them to go for dinner on such an occasion. But they have still not lost the charm in it. They are very comfortable with each other and enjoying every moment.

You will also find families who have come out for dinner. Mother-father-kid/s, all together. The kids may be young or even a bit older. For the parents, it's an occasion to enjoy some time together, do something different than the routine. Even if eating out might be routine, the charm and magic of the day is still to be celebrated.

Lastly, there would couples, though really very few in numbers, who have come for dinner, just for the sake of it. But they are really very few.

In all this, you'll find the ladies wearing a variety of clothes. The most modern chicks would be wearing the most fashionable dresses. There will be ladies who flaunt by wearing all rich sarees. There are casual dressers, who are more happy to enjoy the moment than worry about clothing. Some would be neatly dressed, who enjoy wearing good clothes without flaunting them. For them, comfort and feel-good are the factors that are most important. It's actually a fashion parade out there.

For guys, mostly, it doesn't matter. They are more worried about the immediate...food, and when they can get a table.

Intermittently, you can also see couples coming out of the diner, looking happy, relaxed, enjoyed, and fully satiated. They are happy that they enjoyed their privacy, their food, and most important, they are happy that they were lucky to get a table so early and not wait so long for their special dinner.

And suddenly, they call your name and you are finally getting a table all to yourself. It's time to turn your attention to more important thing...what to order!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On Watching Agneepath

...the new Agneepath, starring Hrithik Roshan.

It affected me in many different ways. We were around 10-12 minutes late for the movie. We missed the start. But I don't think that mattered much. I have not seen Amitabh Bachchan's movie and so this version was totally new for me.

The first thing that stuck me was the tremendous violence in the movie. It is downright nerve-wracking. I was on the edge of my seat and was not sure I had done the right thing by coming to watch the movie. The movie starts with violence where Vijay's father is murdered by Kancha, the main antagonist. It is an incident that drives the movie. It drives each and every move that Vijay makes. It sets a grim tone to the whole movie. There are almost no light moments; emotional, yes; but lighter moments...I really cannot remember.

Vijay's father, a school master had tried to oppose Kancha's dream of turning the village in a drug center by renting the lands of all villagers. Kancha successfully removes the thorn (Vijay's father) from his way, while the whole village celebrates that they can now freely help Kancha. Kancha lures them that their lands would be used for a salt factory and they would get money out of it. This grim victory is actually the downfall of the villagers. They win the battle of doing away with the schoolmaster and in turn lose the war of having a happy and prosperous village. They literally walk towards their downfall.

When Vijay's father is murdered, his heavily pregnant mother is shown being trampled at the feet of the angry village people. I was hoping that they wouldn't show her bleeding to death, and thank God, they didn't! Eventually, the mother and son escape to the big city and arrive in a basti. The mother goes into labour pains and a daughter is born.

Soon enough, Vijay-a boy of 12 years, witnesses a murder by Rauf Lala, and lies to the police about the murderer. Vijay  also murders the police officer who tries to get him tell the truth. His mother severs all her ties with the son and moves out of his life to lead a life of her own with her daughter. We now see a Vijay that's all grown up handsome and all with a girlfriend, who works as a mafia leader for Rauf Lala. Rauf is not just a drug mafia, but also a human trafficker.

As Hrithik Roshan entered as the older Vijay, I found it very similar to Fiza, a movie directed by Khalid Mohammed. Fiza is the story of how a sister seeks out to find her brother-a troubled boy who goes on to become a terrorist. Vijay in Agneepath too has had a disturbed childhood that has made him a violent mafia leader. I think I made that comparison more because Hrithik Roshan has played the troubled boy in both the movies.

I won't give away the whole story here. But what with songs in between, more murders, mass killings, double dealings, we are finally led to a climax, that's again a replication of what we saw in the beginning.

The once happy and prosperous village that Vijay and Kancha hailed from, has now turned into a barren land. Death, disease, poverty, unhappiness, and distress is what you see and it makes you feel all the more horrified and hollow.

At every violent, illegal, unhealthy event in the film, I was more and more engrossed with feelings of futility, hopelessness, dread, and loss.

What also aided these feelings was the tremendous background music given by Ajay-Atul, the Marathi composers, who have done a fantastic job. The tension, the evilness, the futility, the murderous villains, the dark atmosphere is all enhanced by the background score. It increases your heartbeats, it gives you the chills, it makes you all nervous. Salute to the two.

The duo have also provided the music to the songs in the movie. One particular song affected me in a totally different way. The song is "Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin" and shows how Vijay enjoys his time with his sister and girlfriend together. The lyrics are really nice and the song made me cry. The emotions of Vijay meeting his sister after 15 years, and how he had lived each unhappy day to enjoy this one happy day in his life resonated with me and brought out completely different feelings. I don't know why that happened. But I cried remembering my parents, how sometimes I miss them very much, how they miss me, how we are unable to be with each other in our moments of distress and happiness too. I thought how each day I hope to have them with me and meet them. I cannot describe all that I felt as I cried dearly. It was a very, very distressful moment for me. I miss my parents a lot. A lot.

My life has been so very different since my marriage. The song brought it all out. I was quite disturbed for that evening and night. The violence and this song of the movie have made a major impact on me.

Agneepath has really been a different experience for me. Unforgettable!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Diveagar and Srivardhan

If you want to enjoy the beach, head to Diveagar. The beach is safe, beautiful, and vast. The waters are comparatively cleaner.

Map
Routes to Diveagar

1. Via Tamhini Ghat
This is the commonest and probably shortest route to go to the Kokan area from Pune. From Chandani Chowk, take the road towards Paud, Mulshi, and follow it up to the Tamhini ghat. After crossing the ghat, you have to join the National Highway 17, the Mumbai-Goa Road at Kolad.

2. Via Khopoli-Pali Road
From Pune, you take the Mumbai Expressway. Take the Khopoli exit. From Khopoli, take the Khopoli-Pali road. I don't know much about this route. We did not take this route. With this route, you get out on the NH 17 somewhere near Kolad.

3. Via Khopoli-Pen Road

From Pune, you take the Mumbai Expressway. Take the Khalapur exit (go past the Khopoli exit), and take the Khalapur-Pen road. This is a beautiful drive, though a bit lonely. It's a stretch of 25 kms and takes approximately half an hour. There aren't any shops or garages on this road. So, make sure you have an extra tyre with you, and also get to know how to change a punctured tyre, just in case. This route goes directly in the Pen city right through the market. Cross the town and join the Pen-Alibaug road at the other end of the town. After around 5 kms, take a left at the Wadkhal naka. That's where you join NH 17.

Eventually, all roads lead to NH 17. :)

On NH 17, you will pass all small and large villages and towns. The important towns on the way are Nagothane, Kolad, Indapur, and Mangaon.

To go to Diveagar, you must take a right at Mangaon. Just after crossing the ST stand on the right hand, a small road is seen on the right. It can easily be missed, so keep a watch on it. Interestingly, the road points to only Morba, the next village on that route. But that really is the turn that you need to take to go to Diveagar, Harihareshwar, and further down south.

From the Morba road, you must cross the Morba-Sai ghat. After Sai (a village), comes Mhasla. At Mhasla, you need to take the right turn to go to Diveagar and Srivardhan.

4. From Harihareshwar
Marine Drive: Harihareshwar-Diveagar
If you have visited Harihareshwar first and are coming to Diveagar, the route that you take is through Srivardhan. This road is called the Marine Drive. It's no comparison to Mumbai's Marine Drive. Initially, you might just feel that why the hell is it called Marine Drive. But patience and you are appropriately rewarded. The road at one point goes on to become parallel to the coastline and it definitely deserves to be called Marine Drive.

Srivardhan

Shreemant Balaji Vishwanath Peshwe
Srivardhan has a great historical background. Unfortunately, nothing of this great history is now visible in Srivardhan. It's the birthplace of Shreemant Balaji Vishwanath Peshwe, the Prime Minister of Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj. But what remains now of the house in which he was born is nothing but a statue.

We had hoped for at least some sort of museum or some relics that would help relive history. But nothing at all.

Srivardhan beach
I guess, Srivardhan is now more known because it is a Taluka place. It was bustling with activity even in the afternoon when we reached there. The traffic was pretty heavy and had to be monitored by traffic police.

Again, the beach at Srivardhan is beautiful and quite long. We were there in the afternoon and did not find anyone else on the beach. Perhaps it's busy in the morning and evenings. But, it's better to check with the locals about how safe it is.

We did not stay at Srivardhan. So, I cannot provide much information about the places to stay and eat at Srivardhan. However, I am sure you will be able to find homemade food and rooms that are let for staying.

Diveagar

Diveagar main road
Diveagar has recently, rather, since 1997 suddenly appeared on the tourist map. Earlier, it must have been the same old sleepy coastal town, that not many knew about. In fact, Borli-a town around a kilometer away from Diveagar has been the market center.

What has made Diveagar famous is a golden idol of Lord Ganesha that was found buried in a trunk in a field. The story goes that in 1997, a peasant was digging in a field and he stuck gold. Literally! He found the buried trunk containing the idol of Shree Ganesh. The trunk also contained some ornaments for the idol. Diveagar suddenly warmed up to the blessings of the Lord, and lo behold, it is now a much sought after place!

The gold idol is placed in a Ganesh temple not far from the site it was found. The temple is very much in the center of the town and there's a parking lot just opposite the temple, where all tourist buses are parked.

Diveagar Beach

The beach in Diveagar is beautiful. It is long, calm, and clean. In the evenings, a vehicle is available that aids you para-sailing. I cannot give it a name. You are tied to the para-sailing equipment and a jeep takes you till a certain point, with you are in the sky around 35 feet above the ground. People assist you with the equipment and also help when you touch down. It might be fun. I didn't try it out.

Diveagar beach
In the mornings too, the beach is beautiful. You can take long walks on the beach and enjoy the cool waters. Of course, be it in the morning or evening, do keep a watch on the tides. As always, the high tide waters rise drastically and might be dangerous.

You can have nice coconut water, bhel, kadak chai, or also buy a few toys at a couple of hathgadis available there. You can also enjoy a water ride in the boats available. Do make sure that they provide you with life jackets before you go for the ride.

Where to eat at Diveagar?

Two places really...Bapat Khanawal and Paarkar Khanawal.

For vegetarians, you just cannot miss Bapat Khanawal. The food is awesome. And the most important part is that you get to have modaks that you just cannot miss.

To go to Bapat Khanawal, you have to cross the Ganesh temple, and keep going straight ahead. The lane is full of Bapats. There you will see a small board explaining that the Bapat Khanawal is the 5th gate on the right. It's damn easy to miss the gate. So, better count them correctly! Because, if you miss that, you are going to miss an awesome food offering.

Mind you, you need to tell at the Bapat Khanawal in advance before you go for lunch or dinner. You cannot just barge in and sit down to eat. Also, when you are asked to come before a certain time, do make sure you go before that time. The Bapat Khanawal can take only around 100-150 people to eat at a time and you should not miss it. They close down at the decided time. Don't miss the right time.

If you want to have modaks, you must also place an order for that. Place an order of how many per head you will have. They make it in that much quantity and you cannot have more than that. But, seriously, do NOT miss the modaks.

For non-vegetarians, Paarkar Khanawal is the best place we thought. Awesome fish you get there. Pompfret, surmai, chicken is all available there. At Paarkar Khanawal too, if you are going in a large group, it's better to inform them in advance. Otherwise, it really gets crowded and there's a big waiting list then. Vegetarian thali is also available here. So, for groups that have people who are vegetarians and non-vegetarians, this is a really good place.

All in all, other than eating and visiting the beach, there's not much to do in Diveagar. So, relaxing is best done here.

Staying at Diveagar

Innumerable bed-and-breakfast places are available. You should find a place to stay easily. However, if you are going for a weekend that is kind of a long weekend, it is better to book rooms before you go. After noon on a weekend, you might find it difficult to find a place.

Tips for Visiting Diveagar
  • Keep first aid, sunscreen lotion, caps, old newspapers handy. All these are useful at times.
  • Keep a torch handy as night falls.
  • Depending on how much time you want to spend on the beach, a day and half is more than enough for Diveagar.

Happy vacation!