Our three-in-one trip

An invitation from AMA which came out of the blue  to conduct a workshop on Feature Writing  saw us on board of KingFisher Red  heading to the Textile city  during the third week of January. We found  the piping hot  food served on the flight extremely palatable. The brief halt in Hyderabad enroute  enabled me to make a couple of calls to my folks in Hyderabad. We  reached Ahmedabad  as per schedule  and  made our way  to the AMA  guest house, a  cosy self contained apartment.  Ramu, its care taker took very good care of us from the time we set eyes on him till our departure.

My   first impression of   AMA complex   was that it is very sabbatical friendly  with its ambience conducive  to  a lifelong learning .The Director, Mr.K.K.Nair  said they run 400 workshops under their umbrella on  a wide variety of subjects  per year  besides a number of post graduate diploma courses.

I enjoyed  my two-day workshop  on Feature Writing  with  a bunch of enthusiastic participants, a  mix of students and working  men and women. Their  imagination and creativity was quite amazing and the lighter moments added pep to the sessions.

I can’t  but compliment  the  dynamic and unassuming head of the Association  and his team  for   so  efficiently   running    this premier association (I  wish  the MMA in Chennai  takes a leaf from its  parent body).

We  flew to Pune from Ahmedabad  by Indigo airlines, (one of the best I thought, despite having to buy your food)  landing to a very warm afternoon which made it worse by the cabbie who was supposed to pick us up from the airport. Not only the man  failed to appear with a placard with our names, but had the temerity to repeatedly ask us to  come  to the  parking lot.(sometimes mobiles are a hindrance than a tool of assistance).  Fortunately we had a very friendly  cabbie  called Sundeep  who drove us to all the religious places  we  subsequently  visited   having  Pune as the base. We were greatly impressed not only  by   his deportment  and behavior  throughout  our journeys  but his knowledge of the significance of the places of worship  as well (during our conversation we learnt he is a post graduate in Commerce. His only regret was that he could not speak English though he understood the tongue).

We left  for  Shirdi  early morning reaching  in less than four hours and checked into Shraddha Inn, a three star hotel. After our brief stay here   we thought  this hotel had an edge  over   similar hotels back home  in terms of comfort and facilities not to speak of the food. We had a very good darshan  of   Shirdi SaiBaba  and found the  system  here  very organized, none trying to jump the queue  or proving to be one up over the others (however don’t fall into the trap of the vendors  who induce you to buy the puja items for an exorbitant price) .

We  left for   Pandrhapur  the next morning  reaching the place in four and a half hours. Our experience was totally different  in this temple town .We were happy that we could just have a fleeting glimpse of the Lord (the priest inside the shrine mercilessly pushes you)  and His Consort  whose shrine is at a little distance.When I   asked the man who was incharge  of  collecting donations why it  was so he came out with a very mundane explanation :      “jaise sab ghar me hota hai, mia-bibi alag alag rehte hai.Apke ghar me bhi hota hoga.” When I said  there must be some other explanation he only repeated  his statement adding that he was a married man and was talking through experience! So much for his ignorance of the fact that Lord Panduranga was a Swayambu  and  a separate shrine for His consort   was built much later in the temple. (a word of caution-don’t ever get  carried away  by touts nearby  the temple who are out to exploit gullible pilgrims).

We left immediately  for Kolhapur, a drive of nearly four hours from Pandrahapur. We  managed to get  a bite in a dhaba on the way.  

We noticed  Kolhapur  has immensely developed  in the years between our last visit  (which  was  way back in the  mid nineties)   and now. Hotel Woodlands  where we stayed overnight  was excellent  in terms of accommodation  and facilities.

We  had a very fulfilling experience  during our visit to the Kolhapur temple, both in the evening for Aarthi  and  the next morning. You find no touts  here and  no one breaks the  rules  or tries  to bypass  the  system .

Return to  Pune  was faster than expected  (the  road  is extremely  good)  and we  checked into our hotel  Shreyas, for the third time .

A word about the food  in different places we visited: 

Hotel Shreyas  situated  in the centre of the city  offers typical Maharashtrian  fare  for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The  piping hot  chapaties and pakodas served by smiling waiters make even the diet conscious give  their principles a go by.

Sometimes  visiting a much hyped  restaurant ends up in disappointment  as it did  with us   when we  dined  at Durgankur restaurant on Tilak road. Excepting for the  oversized chapathis, it didn’t  have anything much  to boast of.   

Lunch  and breakfast  in  Shraddha Inn  is a good spread. What  was remarkable  was their  heating  system  to keep  the dishes piping hot  and  healthy at the same time ( the  restaurant executive showed us how it was done).

Hotel Woodlands  in Kolhapur, though a non-vegetarian one had an exclusive pure vegetarian  restaurant on the first floor. Phulkas here  are brought fresh from the oven and the waiter applies ghee right in front of your eyes before serving.  The  side dishes  too  are equally  tempting. It was amusing to see  another soon following him with a plate  consisting of  Indian sweets and  asking whether you would like to order any of them(extra charge ofcourse).

Our journey, especially mine  to Bombay  by the age old Deccan Queen was nostalgic bringing back memories  of  my traveling with my  parents as a child.Our  two day stay   with our niece and her family in the busy Metro was very enjoyable. We were touched by their warmth and  hospitality, it was really nice to have had home food  after eating out for 10 days!

n.meera raghavendra rao   

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