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