Road to Relaxation

This past week has been playoffs in the Indian Premier League (India’s cricket league) and tonight, Sunday May 26th, the Mumbai Indians have won the final match against the Chennai Super Kings. Lots of celebration in the streets although there are a few key differences between Mumbai when the Mumbai Indians win the IPL final and San Francisco when the Giants win the World Series: 1. Mumbai is not even close to as contained as San Francisco, thus there aren’t any main streets that everyone goes to for high fives, riots and debauchery (I’ll follow up in the paper tomorrow…sitting in Worli I have no idea how wild people are getting in Powai ya dig?) 2. Fireworks. Everywhere. Big ones too. I was in Mumbai for Diwali two years ago, the same year Obama was in town. At that time there was heightened security and fireworks were said to be illegal, but even so, there were plenty of fireworks that night. Mumbai loves its fireworks. Legal or not, you better believe they’re going off. I’m never surprised to see them. 3. The IPL is wrought with scandal. Not the steroids kind – the match fixing/gambling kind, and there are A LOT of folks involved. Players, gangsters, family members of league executives, bookies, and so on. Every newspaper covers this story front page (and has been everyday for the last two weeks). The scandal has left the city disillusioned in many ways, causing some division in the celebrations.

On a related note, Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement from the league.

My parents left for the airport just before the game finished (It was really nice to have them here and I miss them terribly already). The weekend was another filled with family, food and fun. In my post “The Sound of Mumbai” I discussed my family’s M-O in India but this past Saturday we diverged from routine and for my parent’s last weekend in town we road-tripped to Pune with my faiba and fuva. A very packed yet relaxing day.

We hit the road around 6:40am on Saturday morning. The key was to get out of Mumbai before the traffic picked up. If executed correctly, Pune only takes two to three hours to get to. I can sleep almost too easily in moving vehicles, especially when woken before 8am, so I missed the gorgeous drive but by 10am we had in fact made it to Kathraj Jain Mandir, located on a hilltop overlooking the city (the Twin Peaks of Pune if you will). It was an incredibly serene location. We were warned about the heat in Pune, but unlike Mumbai, there was no humidity to accompany the heat, which I much preferred. The temple itself had a dharamshala on site (basic hotel rooms for travelers – just a bed and bathroom) so we temporarily used one of those rooms to freshen up before heading inside the temple for prayers. The temple itself was beautiful, despite on-going maintenance, with really intricate hand carvings and stone work everywhere you looked.

Temple

Much to my delight, we enjoyed some fresh fruits as our post prayer snack – Mango (of course), chikoo!! and lychee!! (I’m getting spoiled with the fruits here) – before embarking on part two of our road trip.

The aim was to spend the afternoon lounging in Lonavala, a popular hill station in Pune district – but not before visiting one more temple and enjoying a fantastic lunch at the Kailash Prabat Hotel. This was my first hill station excursion and boy, was it a joy! So Lonavala is huge. I was imagining a “station” in the “hills” if you will. According to my dad, under British rule, during the summer, the Europeans couldn’t stand the heat so they “stationed” themselves in the mountains for the season – thus the term “hill station.” It’s a full on city or town in the mountains and Lonavala specifically is known for its chikki (chikki is the original KIND bar, but they’re usually harder to bite into – although you can get soft chikki).

My faiba’s friend is a member of Club Mahindra, an Indian time-share situation with 40+ resorts, so we were luckily able to spend the afternoon hanging out on their Lonavala property.

Lonavala

Top right: Faiba, Fuva, Dad, Mom

The location was completely peaceful but getting there was another story. From the main road to the property is exactly ten kilometers. Unfortunately that’s ten kilometers that you’re basically off-roading since the one lane that has been built to get you to the resort is ridden with potholes and piles of rocks or other debris. It took us approximately 40 minutes in our Toyota Innova to drive that distance. No surprises here: It turns out that that particular road is government maintained, and the government won’t allow Club Mahindra to fix the road because they claim they will get to it. With infrastructure and the Indian government, crores of rupees will be set aside for fixing roads specifically, and then any number of things, except what has been planned for, will happen. One example – a plan is created for X number of potholes to be fixed with concrete. Instead Y number of potholes are fixed with sand and asphalt, and the rupees not spent, due to cheaper materials and less work, gets pocketed by someone – this temporary solution allows more dollars to be allocated to fix the same potholes next year and now we’ve entered an endless cycle. Everyone has a handful of stories ready to share about how the government is corrupt. Where it gets interesting is when you as a citizen are forced to compromise your integrity because the system as it stands is broken.

I’ve really taken for granted how straightforward the ‘right vs. wrong’ line is in the United States.

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