Tag Archives: The Lavasa chronicles

The Lavasa Chronicles: Travelers’ Anecdotes

Travel. A weekend away from the city. Seven other interesting people. A time for many conversations and memories. Here are a few snippets from my Lavasa diary:

My favorite cars

One thing that never occurred to me was that the participating rally cars themselves would be photo-ops. Most participants had decorated their cars, some representing their favorite causes. One car was brightly festooned in pink for girlpower. Here are a few of my favorites:

This team’s theme was water preservation to ensure a green world. The top of the car was richly decorated to depict a green, flourishing world, with what looked like real grass and shrubs and a blue-green planet Earth nestled at its center. The back of the car (which I unfortunately couldn’t catch on my camera) was painted a sandy brown and rust, a scene of desolation, dryness and death to show what our planet would come to, if we weren’t careful in our use of water. My picture doesn’t do this car justice. I think it was easily the most elaborate, eye-catching car in the rally.

The other car that caught my fancy was this one that came up, just a little later in the line. Promoting the cause of making this an easier, more convenient world for handicapped people, the car actually carried a wheelchair to its top. Take a look:

Tangled Octopus

One thing marked a distinct change in the atmosphere at the Oriental Octopus. After the infamous Basa/Pasta exchange, here’s what transpired,

Shakti: (in a loud voice belying her tiny frame) I’ll review this, of course!!

Tada! Like magic, the waitresses and servers were swarming all around our table suddenly. Every second second (hee hee) was punctuated with a solicitous,

“Are you enjoying the food, ma’am?”

It might have worked if only there was food on the table to be enjoyed.

The Nauvari Ladies

These ladies drove their car in this garb, to show their pride in their home state. Also, their car said, “Merchant Navy rocks”. A tribute of course to their husbands’ professions.

Lavasa Wear

Me: It’s like official Lavasawear is designer shorts!

Monica: Look at those girls, they’ve changed yet again!

Shakti: Grumble grumble.

Me: *sniff in poor imitation of waitress* Never mind, attitude shows in your body language, no matter what you wear.

Shakti: But nobody is looking at us!

Talk To The Bust

Since the prime cause of this rally was breast cancer awareness, the heavy-handed focus would have been inevitable. But I was charmed by the cheeky and smart tee-shirt that this lady sported.

Boy Bands

Quite appropriately the post-rally entertainment included a boy band, SQS Supastars. I giggled when they belted out ‘I will survive’. I’ve never heard a man sing that but the boys played on valiently and from the look of it, they were a big hit with the ladies. I was most amused to spot a sign for hair braiding right at the foot of the hip young man playing the guitar. I guess someone dumped it there and forgot about it. 😀

Fun Food

Potato chips are at Lavasa with a twist! Chipstix, a stall on the promenade slices a single potato into one unending swirl, fries it on a skewer and serves it up in a variety of interesting flavours (green chutney, salt n’ vinegar, barbeque chicken, pizza express).

Broken Limbs

The evening was pleasant and most of the rally crowd (including the dress-an-hour girls) had vanished. We walked around the promenade and ended up for coffee at Grandma’s, another eatery in the style of European pavement cafes. Amidst conversation I heard a loud crash. I jumped and I turned with a scream. I thought the man was holding a real woman with a broken leg!

Clean Laundry

The delightful Biswajit Dey was scheduled to leave for Mumbai right after the rally. But due to the mysterious workings of the universe he was detained and made to entertain and tolerate six opinionated, temperamental and excitable women. Naturally, he had no luggage with him. But did that deter our valient collective knight-in-red-armour?

He says he washed up his clothes in the night and dried them with the hairdryer in the wee hours of the morning, so as to be fresh and ready for the 6a.m. nature trail (which didn’t happen but that’s another story).

Synchronised Sickness

The Lavasa-Pune road would test the cast-ironest of stomachs. Winding roads, sharp curves, steep inclines are perfect ingredients to the travellers’ bane – motion sickness. Nisha was the first to succumb, standing by the side of the road while we waiting, watching guiltily (Why? Because we’re women. Other people’s troubles always make us feel guilty). Then Anu stepped out and she was standing next to Nisha in an accurate imitation.

I looked up from my nap (late Saturday night-early morning rally-madly early morning for non-trail, what do you expect?) and suddenly I was heaving out of the car too.

Four feet evenly spaced from each other (we’re women, we’re neat that way). I heard a loud snort and I wondered who would be mean enough to laugh. To my astonishment, it was Nisha, the forerunner of this puke-relay. Even as she held her stomach (in amusement or sickness, I don’t know), she gasped,

Someone should take photographs right now! What a sight we must make!

🙂 Ah, laughter the best medicine!

Guilt Reading

Kiran: (checking phone) What is this? Someone is featuring me on their Daily but I haven’t written anything big recently.

Monika: (peering at the screen) Umm…that’s just an app.

Kiran: Oh, you mean you haven’t specially featured me in your Daily?

Monika: (shuffling feet) Umm…I installed it ages ago and forgot about it. It’s….err…automated.

(All of us shuffling feet and looking away)

The best part of my Lavasa experience was the people I met. Anu, Monika, Kiran, Pushpa, Nisha, Shakti and Biswajit – you really made this a memorable weekend!

I Style!: Matchless Shoes

I spotted this at the post-rally celebration at Lavasa this weekend. Shibani Kashyap performed the Lavasa anthem and right after that came a cutesy boy band called SQS Supastars. They began with hot favorites like ‘It’s My Life’ and progressed even to ‘I Will Survive’. The women hooted, they cheered and they enjoyed themselves as the boys entertained the crowd.

Amidst all the laughter and madness I noticed that the guitarist (already notable for his hip hat and vest ensemble) was wearing different shoes! Simple but quirky and bold, no? I thought it really suited him. The crowd was too wild for me to get close enough to talk to him but I did manage to grab a pic. Take a look.

For a simple but eye-catching shoe style, the boy features on I Style!

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

An Omelette Starts My Day Sunny Side Up!

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Growing up in a Tamilian household meant that this was invariably idli-dosa fare. Any South-Indian will tell you that these are fun to eat only when you don’t have to eat them everyday. On account of that unvarying diet as a child, I find my favorite way of breaking open the day is with a Continental breakfast. The home kitchen is presided over my very strictly vegetarian mother so half the ingredients aren’t even allowed to exist here. Ergo, a good breakfast is usually an important determinant of how I judge a hotel stay.

Now my ideal continental breakfast would have the following:

  1. A pot of English tea (very little milk, tea just barely there, honey in place of sugar, no masalas)
  2. Crispy, brown toast (not slightly yellow, not black but golden brown) buttered on both sides. I should have to crack or crunch it, not tear it in strips.
  3. Fresh fruit/ juice. The standard options are pineapple and watermelon and I usually opt for the latter. Most hotels also serve papaya, which I like but steer clear of since it usually gives me a stomachache and an early period (papaya adds a lot of heat to the body and accelerating the menstrual cycle is one side-effect).
  4. Fried sausages or cold salami cuts
  5. Eggs

I love eggs. These are the one semi-non-vegetarian item allowed in my house and even so, I have to make them in a separate dish which must be washed separately and stored outside the window when not in use. Eggs are beautifully diverse in the ways they can be eaten and I generally enjoy every variation from scrambled (Western gooey), burjied (desi crispy) and hardboiled. I’ve never actually had a poached egg or Eggs Benedict but I’d love to try each sometime.

And finally there’s the omelette. I know there are as many ways of making an omelette as there are cooks. I’ve had so many omelettes in my life that I think I know what I like. And then something new comes along and I add to my repertoire of ‘omelette-lovely’ flavours. Currently, my dream omelette exists only in fantasy since half the ingredients aren’t allowed at home and they’re never all available at a restaurant.

The Waterfront Shaw promenade, that hosted us on the Lavasa women’s rally weekend has a number of different eating joints. The American Diner seemed to be a good place to have breakfast and I’m really glad for our choice. In addition to all the accoutrements I mentioned in my perfect Continental breakfast, they also had an eggman (yes, he was only cooking eggs!) standing outside the restaurant who would serve up eggs as you liked them. It was lovely to be dining outdoors for one. And to have the perfect omelette made in front of you and served up….ah, bliss!

I love a garnish of fresh basil leaves, which in my home preparation, comes straight from my window garden. I usually sprinkle in rosemary, thyme and a dash of oregano. And finally, while beating the eggs, I add a teaspoon of milk to make it fluffy. But the eggman had none of these ingredients. But he still managed to rustle up an omelette that was the crowning glory of an already wonderful breakfast.

Here’s what went into my dream omelette:

  • Two eggs
  • Half a teaspoon oil
  • Half a spoonful of cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Chopped chicken sausages
  • Chopped Coriander
  • Diced onions
  • Diced tomatoes

This man is responsible for the single most satisfying, complete, out-of-world experience that I had all weekend at Lavasa!

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Cross-posted to Plain Salted.

The Lavasa Chronicles: A Mixed Bag

This is going to be an off-the-top-of-my-head post just jotting down sundry thoughts from my experience. A number of more detailed posts will follow this and I’ll link-update them as they come up.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

 

I’m just back from the Lavasa Women’s Drive weekend. Over 250 participants from Mumbai and 150-odd from Pune competed in this rally to Lavasa. The event was a speed-time-distance based one with specific goals on each of these, for the participants. The rally flagged off on Sunday, 27 February 2011 from Bandra Reclamation. Each participating vehicle was started off with a minute’s interval from the previous, starting at 7.00 a.m. I was invited to ride along with the Windchimes team to cover the event and review the Lavasa experience over two days.

The other bloggers were Anu, Pushpa, Nisha, Kiran and Monika (specially in from Bangalore for this event). Shakti also joined us on the drive down to Lavasa but had to return almost immediately after we got there. Meeta was also spotted at Lavasa, from the Pune leg of the rally but she was there as a rally participant and not with the blogger team.

The drive took around six hours, counting the hour that spent at the breakfast stop on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Put a bunch of bloggers together and expect that they’ll talk. Make it an exclusively women bunch and you know there’s going to be no dearth of chatter. The waiters probably never heard so many human voices at one time, which may explain why they served us an incomplete order and worst of all, coffee with sour milk that made poor Kiran sick.

The car Shakti and I were in also stopped for a general look-see at the dam on the way. It’s something I’m used to doing from my childhood travels with dad and mum who counted these pitstops as an integral part of the journey. However, I have to say there doesn’t seem to be much that’s appealing by way of scenery, or perhaps it’s just the season we’re in. Most of the landscape looks barren and dry.

As we neared Lavasa however, it started to change a bit with sporadic bursts of colour, which we realised were flowers and shrubs planted by the Lavasa landscaping group. Maybe it’s just me but I’m not sure that I count hay-coloured rocky terrain dotted with violently pink bougainvillas as ‘beautiful’. The contrast seems jarring somehow, like a supermodel walking in a desert. Umm, perhaps that worked for Lisa Ray in a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan video but seeing it in real life, didn’t do it for me.

Still, as we neared Lavasa, there was a distinct change in the scenery. Visitors are greeted by a series of concrete pillars all adorned by gaily coloured butterfly and ladybird statuettes, which strangely enough are quite cheerful. Round the corners and suddenly you’re in a superclean, toytown with well-laid out roads, scenic buildings and a shimmering body of water in the distance. If the weather didn’t remind one of the tropical climes, you’d think you were in Europe. All around us rally participants milled around, resplendent in their costumes and Lavasa chic. I felt woefully out of place in my shabby travelling gear (and here’s what I did to compensate).

The Waterfront Shaw is a hotel right on the promenade over the said body of water. It’s flanked on either side by various eating joints including an English pub, an American Diner, Chor Bizarre and Oriental Octopus. The last is what we picked for our first meal at Lavasa. I’m afraid to say that our first taste of Lavasa food and service was regrettably less than satisfactory. The serving staff had the genteel air of condescension that one would expect at a 7-star hotel but without any of the accompanying service. Witness the following conversation:

Shakti: (reading from menu) I’d like the Pan fried Basa, please?

Waitress: Pasta? We don’t serve pasta. *sniff*

I skipped the soup in favor of Chicken Satay, usually a hot favorite with me. Woefully, it arrived as a frightening mess of yellow chunky gunk over tough meat pieces. It wasn’t wholly inedible as I don’t really mind peanut pieces but that’s not really how Satay is made, is it? Also, I think we’d have been a lot more forgiving had our reception been friendlier.

The vegetables arrived well ahead of the rice, so much so that we had devoured them by the time someone remembered to serve us the rice. And then we were served two bowls of rice in place of one.

All in all, the only saving grace in the entire meal was the Elanir drink, a mocktail of coconut water and pineapple juice. Even so, the waitress would have to put a zinger on it with her sneer at my excitement.

Me: Wow, that’s actually yella-neer, as in coconut water in Tamil!

Waitress: It’s Elanir, ma’am. *mother of all sniffs*

We were told later that the Oriental Octopus had only set up shop a week ago, which could explain the teething troubles they had in the kitchen. However, good customer service can and should start from day one. After all, how much training and experience does it require to be nice to people? Such a pity then, so much would have been forgiven had we just been served with a smile and a friendly word instead of all that sniffing.

Post lunch, though the evening looked a lot more promising. After dumping our things in our rooms, Anu and I headed out to catch the last of the music performances by Shibani Kashyap and SQS  Supastars. Side attractions included temporary tattoo artists and hair braiding stalls. I’ve never seen so many women let themselves run free. They danced, they cheered and jeered, they human-trained across the entire shamiana. It was a fitting end to the adrenalin rush of the rally.

That evening we were left to our own devices and fortunately for everyone, the blogger bunch all got along like a house on fire. We ended up walking around the promenade, shooting new display pics for our Facebook
profiles, watching the tourists and sampling curious delights like Chipstix. We turned in early after a light and very satisfying meal at Chor Bizarre, an Indian restaurant decorated with British Raj period antiques.

The plan was to get a good night’s rest before getting up for the promised 6a.m. nature trail, boating, extreme sports by Xthrill (if possible), a visit to Crystal House (a school for the labour force of Lavasa) and Bamboosa. Would you believe, we were all up and raring to go by 5:45 a.m.? Only, umm, who was taking us? None of the organizing team were to be seen. The bloggerati snuck in a photo or two between fighting off the affections of the numerous stray dogs and wondered what why we were up so early in a strange place. But Biswajit Dey saved the day. Within an hour, taxis had been arranged and we were ferried to Ekant, another hotel resort higher up the Lavasa heights.

We managed to get a good few pictures, of the panoramic view of the valley, the sunrise (always magnificent anywhere in the world) and the nature trail. Then we had tea with the friendly owner with the scenic view for company. We headed back to The Waterfront Shaw and ended at the American Diner for breakfast (where I had a dream omelette al fresco). The organizers team emerged around 10, by which time the bloggers were done with breakfast and were idly sitting around on the promenade. As it turned out, none of the promised plans actually materialized and we would spend another hour and a half exploring every inch of the same promenade again.

With only a couple of hours to go before leaving, the only thing left to do was Bamboosa, the Lavasa factory for bamboo handicrafts and products. This factory not only employs the local labourers but also includes a crèche facility for their children. The Crystal House (which we didn’t have time to see) brings a high standard of education to their children. I was told that this year’s graduating batch has four admits to Stanford.

We left Lavasa at 1:30 after a quick lunch at American Diner, the bloggers all in one car. And that’s when the treacherousness of the Lavasa access road hit us. Not belying the landscaped horizons, the road itself is very steep and has multiple sharp turns. Nisha was the first to pour her guts out onto the side of the road. Anu followed soon enough and to my big surprise, so did I. I don’t think it had to do with bad driving or food. Apparently the road down from Lavasa is indeed a difficult one, which takes its toll on the strongest of stomachs.

I was quite disappointed at not being able to catch any of the events on the promised schedule. What’s more, being up at 5 a.m. and waiting around for five hours and then cramming the lowest priority item into the last hour is not fun for anyone. It didn’t seem very respectful of our time and our presence at the event. I’m not sure whether it was miscommunication or mismanagement but I’m not about to get into that.

The company of all the bloggers I met more than made up for the organizers’ glitches. The ride back (synchronized puking notwithstanding) was delightful. We talked about parenting (Kiran, Monika and Anu are all parents and mommy-bloggers), travel, blogging, people we all knew in common, trolls and how to deal with them and all manner of delightful things that are so close to a blogger’s heart.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Other accounts of the event:

More at The Idea-smithy: The Lavasa Chronicles

Anu: Lavasa Trip, EkantNature TrailFood Memories

Kiran: Lavasa Trip and More

Nisha: Lavasa articles

Sakshi: Babes, bonding, bravado

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