Thursday, June 6, 2013

Food indulgences in Kerala

Boatman's Sardine Curry
Brown rice thali at Travancore Palace, Chertala
Fresh toddy
Coconut Chutney
Steamed rice, moru curry and sardines in fresh coconut, a staple in Kerala
Houseboat cuisine

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Long time ago, some time in the late nineties, my then-boyfriend-now-husband would make these official trips to a place called Pondicherry, an erstwhile French colony in the southern part of India. Every time he came back feeling rejuvenated and blissful. And every time he spoke of the French avenues, the churches, temples and the virgin beaches, I would turn green with envy. To put me at ease there were these beautiful promises that would appear out of nowhere. And all of them, all the time sounded the same, "I'll take you there once. We must go there together".

Now let's stop this right here. I don't want to risk anything by washing my dirty linen in public. But I think I am allowed to wash a little corner of the dirty linen. I am tempted to do so. The end of the story is that the promises were never kept and the trips never happened. So for me, Pondy ( as we know the place) was this distant dream which was not showing any signs of being fulfilled. Till one day, a French guy came into the picture. Yes, it took a guy from France to show me a former French colony in my own country. This was his first trip to India and he didn't want to miss this lovely city. Wait! Was this my chance too? Yes, it was. And I grabbed it.

I was FINALLY going to see Pondy!

It was not a lavish trip. We just had 48 hours, which included reaching Pondy from Chennai airport. En route we spent some time in Mahabalipuram, which is around 99 kms away from Pondy. A must do if you are around that place. I couldn't click any pictures there as I had forgotten to charge my camera...clumsy, ain't it? Well, Trouchky had his camera. So here are two pictures from the historic town of Mahabalipuram.

We wandered around amidst the megalithic and monolithic structures for around three hours and then hopped back into the taxi, tired and sweaty wanting to reach Pondy as soon as possible. Waiting there for us was a spacious room at the Anantha Heritage.

After resting for some time, we decided to step out. Pondy is all about lanes and quarters. And the hotel had provided us with a map, lest we lose our way and reach someplace else. So here we were, finding our way through the busy Nehru Market, dodging cycle-rickshaws and bikes, once in a while brushing against the customers who had thronged the place, while more kept coming. Finally we reached Baker's Street, a concept-store on Bussy Street that can take care of your hunger pangs. You can also buy some homemade preserves and chocolates from here for people back home.

Now, with the rumbling in the stomach all pacified, we decided to call it an afternoon. A short nap was awaiting. The Goddess of Sleep was beckoning. And the hot sun was not doing much to persuade us to stay out. But come evening, and we stepped out again. This time it was much better. The proximity to the sea ensured a good breeze as we kept discovering lane after lane in the French quarter and finally resting at the seafront promenade.

The next day's itinerary was already in place, thanks to Doorways Pondicherry. For a city that's all about avenues, temples and churches what could be better than enjoying them sitting in a cycle-rickshaw. The ride covers all that one needs to see in the quaint setting of Pondy and it's done at a smooth pace. One gets to see the French, Tamil and Muslim quarters of Pondy whilst enjoying the gates and doors and yellow walls that present a delightful treat to the eye.

We deliberately did not add Auroville to our 'places to see' list. From whatever little I had heard and read about Auroville, I realized that it would be foolish on my part to cover all of these when we were facing a time crunch. But nevertheless, that distant dream of visiting Pondy did materialize and I am glad that I got to see the city with huge archaic doors and yellow and white walls of Franco Tamil villas with the effervescent bougainvillea vines elegantly draping them.

This definitely was my first time in Pondy, rest assured, it won't be the last.