God’s fruit

The Shreemanth Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh temple in Pune, built in 1893, is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and has an idol which has been insured for $160,000 USD as it is adorned with more than 8 kilos of gold. The sculpture of Ganpati (another name for Ganesha) is 2.2 metres tall and 4 feet wide and is most famous for its beautiful and detailed facial features.

The name of the temple is after a famous trader and sweet maker, grief-stricken, Dagdusheth Halwai who lost his son to the plague. The temple thus became a healing outlet for the merchant and his wife.

Dagdusheth Halwai’s sweet shop, which made him an extremely popular sweet maker in the city, is still operational but with the name of Kaka Halwai.

Many visit this temple to pay their respects, offer prayers and with the hope of receiving the blessing of Lord Maruti (Ganesha). For those foreigners like us, it might come as a surprise to recibe Ganesha’s blessing in the form of a Coconut. However, the coconut is an essential offering in almost all rituals of Hinduism as in Sanskrit, Sriphala – the name for this fruit, means God’s fruit.

Goodbye sweet home

Home for 9 weeks. And now it is over. I will miss the rickshaw drivers eternally there, just outside the complex. And the corn man who comes every evening to sell roasted corn. The shops across the road which got us by day by day. And Kalyani Veg in the corner; the first Indian meal we had and a sure choice any given evening. Though I cant wait to go back to the more permanent home. 

Around the corner

Just outside our home is The Greedy Man, a pizza place that makes the better pizzas I tried in India. However is much more than that. It is the pause, the rest from constant meals that are full of spices and thus heavy to digest.

The other side

This is the office. A rare view of the building because we always drive in from the other side. One more view where the economic differences in India stare you in the face as within that building multinational companies have their offices. 

Street snacks

Snacks are important. Street food is important – it is fundamental part of the culture in countries like India and Mexico. Pani Puri is a popular street food snack in India, known with different names in different places. The snack consists of a round, hollow puri (fried crisp) which is filled with a mixture of flavoured water (which in Hindi is “pani”), and spices – spices can be tamarind chutney, chilli, potato, chaat masala, onion and chickpeas. It is generally small enough to fit completely into one’s mouth. Not my favourite Indian snack but one worth trying for sure!

Self Dabbawala

Walking to work I noticed someone carrying his tiffin box ahead of me. A tiffin box is usually a cylindrical tin or aluminium container in which people carry their lunch. Whilst I was walking, I remembered the story about “Mumbai dabbawalas”. In Mumbai there is a service that has been running for the past 150 years to deliver home made food to people around the Mumbai city.

The word “dabbawala” in Hindi means “one who carries a box”. The Mumbai dabbawalas pick up the tins from people’s homes and deliver homemade food in time for lunch for the workers. Dabbawalas then have their own lunch and pray before returning each tin back to their original homes. A lunch box changes hands 3-4 times or even 6 times and in all their existence they only make 1 mistake every 6 million transactions! If only this service was available at home, I would surely hire it. Maybe my partner could get lunch delivered to me with a note attached!

Crossing roads

Walking to places is such a pleasant experience. I like being able to walk from one place to another. However, with limited or no sidewalks, wandering in India by foot is quite a challenging experience. Work to home is barely a few kilometers distance and having to take a bus or a rickshaw in such amazing days seems like a waste. Whilst it is sometimes a stressful activity, my time here has increased my tolerance and immunity to the constant beeping horns, cars and motorbikes driving opposite direction and making all sorts of illegal driving manoeuvres. It is still though, quite an adventure to cross roads. Especially this one, that I cross every day on my way to work.

Eggs on toast

Eight weeks away from home in a very different country. As I see my time here coming very soon to an end I find thinking about the things I miss. After so long of such a different diet my old pleasures start to demand their rightful place. And so after 56 days came the one morning when I just wanted a good brunch and a nice long chat. Especially after a quite interrupted sleep. A good brunch as I think of one: with eggs and avocado and coffee. Good and stong coffee. I guess we could have come here earlier but we were busy, seeing what is different, experiencing new things. I dont regret any choices and visiting this place just happened in the right time with good company to jabber jabber jabber. 

Birds and crocs flock together

The Madras Crocodile Bank was created in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker to “promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and their habitats through education, scientific research and captive breeding”. This unique wildlife park was originally created in an attempt to save the Indian Marsh (mugger), gharial and salt-water crocodile species. The efforts made are focused on Indian species but they have several other species. The bank also re-release crocodiles/reptiles back into the wild, almost throughout India.

Crocodiles have the most powerful bite among any reptile on earth – no wonder they are scary creatures! However they are genetically closer to birds than snakes and lizards. Weird but true. Also, crocodiles lay-eggs to reproduce and their eggs are stored in nest-holes (in land) for 60-110 days, before hatching. The temperature of incubation mostly determines the sex of the off-springs.

This park is making huge efforts in research and conservation (it has bred over 5 thousand crocodiles over the years) and even as a tourist destination, definitely a great stop on the way to Chennai. 

A balancing act?

The ButterBall or Krishna’s Butter Ball is a rock that has been defying gravity for over 1200 years. It is 20 feet high and 5 meter wide rock estimated to weigh over 250 tons almost a perfect sphere but not quite. Whilst it is known now (and for the pst 50 years) as Krishna’s Butter Ball, its original name means “Stone of The Sky God” in Tamil: Vaanirai Kal. 

A random story about this “ball” is that in 1908 the Governor of Madras decided that the stone might be dangerous for nearby homes and asked for it to be removed by the help of elephants. An elephant can carry up to 9 tons; to attempt to move the Butter Ball they employed seven elephants. The carrying power of 63 tons and the rock could not be moved so the task was abandoned. 

The rock is situated in a flat surface that is so slippery it becomes the perfect slide for kids during lunch break. Or for a couple of childish tourists…