Destinations, Guides

How-to City: 24 hrs in Panaji

Panaji or Panjim, we wondered aloud minutes after deboarding from the bus that had brought us to the capital of Goa from Margao. It was the beginning of August. Rain clouds flecked the horizon. The bus station was empty except for a few bus drivers and hawkers who were prepping for the day. In the next two days over delicious curries and cans of chilled beer, we would learn that Panjim (the final ‘im’ that also appears in names of other Goan towns like Betim, Siolim, Candolim, etc. indicates a nasal ending, so the ‘m’ is never heard) is the older Portuguese name and the official name is Panaji. Locals usually pronounce it as ‘Ponnjee.’

Old Goa was one of the three principal cities in Portuguese Goa and Panjim, on the left bank of the Mandovi estuary, was originally a suburb of Old Goa. The city is laid out in a grid; the main roads run parallel with the seafront. In 1500, Yusuf Adil Shah of the Bijapur sultanate built a palace here that would later be seized by Albuquerque and renamed the Idalcao Palace. After malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged Old Goa, the Portuguese Viceroy moved to Panaji in 1759 but Old Goa continued to the de jure capital of Goa until 1843.

Panaji is often overlooked by visitors impatient to see Goa’s stunning beaches. We spent two beautiful days walking through the old Latin Quarters, dreaming about moving into a traditional Goan home and inviting friends over for potlucks, visiting churches, and lamenting that we didn’t have enough time to visit all the eateries we wanted to.

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Destinations, Photo Essay

Varanasi: A Photo Essay

Some of my favorite things in all of existence are comic books, films, photographs, and surrealistic art. The marriage of storytelling and visual cues that carry forward a narrative is something that catches my attention every single time. Therefore, when Debanjan came up with these incredible images from our trip to Varanasi I knew I had to make an attempt at reconstructing a pastiche narrative out of things that are visible and things that can be imagined.

Narrow lanes of Kashi

Serpentine lanes of Kashi

I relate the by lanes of Varanasi with the serpentine underground world of the Minotaur’s chambers, or something that came out of Pan’s Labyrinth. A secret world where life flows on its own will; where we are pawns and destiny plays us off against each other. Every time you walk along the narrow lanes and take in the heady atmosphere, you will be transported, out of time and place, into the magic of mythic Varanasi.

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Travel Advice

Money Matters: How Should You Save Up For Long-term Travel?

Every time we read about someone quitting their jobs to hit the road, we are tempted to do so ourselves. Countless travel bloggers on the internet have repeatedly mentioned that all you we have to do is to let go and start but in a real world with real responsibilities, is it that easy? Some of us have elderly parents. Some of us have to take up the financial responsibility of our families and to do so we need a steady income. We have to account for our parents’ medical bills, our siblings’ education, and though living on the road, living off of the road sounds magical, it is not always feasible. The weak INR and the infamous Indian passport only complicates the problem.

However, we also acknowledge that these are excuses, no matter how difficult to overcome they might appear, and thus we’ve given ourselves a deadline and our plan is to save as much as we can till then. So, how should you save up?

1. Get a savings account where a part of your salaries (we suggest at least 30%) is deposited every month. We’ve made a mutual pact to not carry that particular debit card around. The principle of if you don’t see it, it’s not there works excellently!

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Destinations, Food, Guides

Walkin’ It (Food Special): College Street, Calcutta

It’s raining in Calcutta and traffic on MG Road has been standstill for the last 20 minutes. I get off the bus and take what used to be called Harrison Road and wonder if this practice of  changing the names of cities and streets is the right way to escape history in order to respect your culture. I walk briskly past the row of Tasa Party’r Dokan, front offices of marching bands for hire, and wonder how out of character the up and coming buildings look with their neon signs and shiny exteriors. But I don’t have time to muse today. I’m on a mission and I know where I’m heading.

Join me for a food walk through Boi Para, our beloved College Street!

Jhaal Muri seller in College Square

Jhaal Muri seller in College Square

Putiram:

The key to powering through winter mornings on the weekend is a filling breakfast and being the North Calcuttan kid that I am, breakfast floats a scene of hot radhaballabi (fried flat-bread stuffed with dal) with chholar dal and jilipi or sondesh for dessert. I turn right on College Street More, outhustle the busy boipara book-hustlers, and squeeze through the narrow entrance into College Square besides the very square-jawed Hindu School building and exit on Surya Sen Road, across the street from Putiram, my first stop on this food walk in College Street.

The radhaballabis and accompanying chholar dal, and plates of alur dom are gone quickly. Since no Bengali breakfast is ever complete without a little mishtimukh, I order malpua. Malpuas are similar to pancakes made of flour, milk, grated coconuts (sometimes they contain ripe bananas, but those varieties are hard to find in Calcutta) seasoned with cardamom, fried in oil, and served in syrup. I add in a few chhana’r sondesh for good measures. Now, I have had better malpuas elsewhere but the sondesh is just divine. Low on sweetness, but delicate, fragrant, and melt-in-the-mouth.

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Pike Place Market Walking Tour
Destinations, Guides

Walkin’ It: Pike Place Market, Seattle

It’s a pity we aren’t singing to market, to market to buy a fat pig, I think aloud as a little girl balances herself astride Rachel, the bronze cast piggy bank, mascot of Seattle’s bustling Pike Place Market. It is named after Rachel, a 750 lbs pig that had won the Island County Fair in 1985. “Follow Rachel’s bronze hoof-prints, rub her snout, and make a donation for good luck,” Jake, our guide, announces. It’s my first morning in Seattle and I’m out with Seattle Free Walking Tours for their Market Walk. Thankfully, the sun is out and Pike Place Market is pulsating with energy.

Jake from Seattle Free Walking Tours sitting on Rachel!

Jake from Seattle Free Walking Tours sitting on Rachel!

With a crumpet from The Crumpet Shop in hand, I stand outside the crowded Pike Place “Original” Starbucks. It isn’t the oldest but it’s the longest operating Starbucks, Jake tells us. The original store was destroyed in a fire in the early 1970s. The Pike Place location has been there for 41 years and still has the original logo: an wood-cut illustration with the words “Coffee, Tea, Spices” around the Starbucks siren. It’s understandable that their logo is a siren and not a mermaid, someone quips, since not many can ignore the call of a Starbucks on a typical Seattle morning.

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Destinations

Driving Over the Jalori Pass

My pupils have dilated and like a four year old, I have pressed my face against the frosted window. Large fronds of ferns and stunted cycads crowd the narrow strip along a rivulet running parallel to the road. Beyond that is uninhabited wilderness— an undefiled, sacred land ruled by Aranyani, the mother spirit. Ancient trees with colossal scabrous bodies shoot up and disappear in the dripping clouds. A grotesque piece of bleached tree trunk poses strikingly amidst the intimidating green.

Post Anni, the clouds clear and I find myself perched high in the mountainside with a near vertical drop to my left. Far down an unfatigued river cuts its way through the rocks. Stunted pomegranate trees bearing red half-opened flowers challenge the monotony of conifers. The glossy road snakes down until we reach Kandugarh, a tiny hamlet with two-storied slate roofed stone huts and a pretty post-office veiled with creepers. And then without warning, we meander into a belt of purple wildflowers. Bewitched, I put my book aside. That purple and green could complement each other so magnificently I had never imagined.

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Destinations

Field Notes: Kashi II

v.

আস্তে আস্তে বুঝতে পেরেছিলাম যে কাশী শহর টা ঠিক এক মাত্রিক নয়। দেখতে গেলে, কোনো শহরই একমাত্রিক নয়, কিন্তু কাশী তে বহুমাত্রিকতা টা ততই প্রকট হয় যত গঙ্গা এগিয়ে আসে, এবং চোখ কান নাক খোলা রাখলে সম্পূর্ণ পরিবর্তন টা চোখে পড়তে বাধ্য। আধুনিক কাশী, পুরাতন কাশী পেরিয়ে গিয়েও গঙ্গাবক্ষের কাছে এসে আমি পৌঁছে গেছিলাম কাশী প্রাচীনতার সান্নিধ্যে। এখানে সময় শান্ত, ইতিহাস চিরজাগ্রত এবং আমাদের জাগতিক জীবনের অস্তিত্ব নগণ্য। বিশালের সামনে নিজের ক্ষুদ্রতা চিনতে শেখা একইসাথে ভয়াবহ এবং সমীহ উদ্রেগকারী, আর হয়তো আমাদের সকলের জন্যেই তা বেশ প্রয়োজনীয়ও বটে।

কাশীর ঘাট গুলি দিয়ে, গঙ্গা কে পাশে রেখে এগিয়ে যাওয়ার জন্ন্যে সবচেয়ে ভালো সময় কিন্তু ভোরবেলা। যে কোনো ধর্ম কেন্দ্রীক শহরের আত্মিক বৈশিষ্ট্য গুলো ফুটে ওঠার মাহেন্দ্রক্ষণ শুরু হয় ভোর ৪ টে নাগাদ। যত ভক্তি-প্রবল জায়গা, তত সূর্য-নমস্কারী আর পাপ স্খলনকারীদের প্রাতরাশ-পূর্ব কর্ম যজ্ঞ হলো এই সময়ে সারা দিনের পুণ্য সঞ্চয় করা। যত আলো ফোটে, তত রং রস গন্ধের সমারোহে কাশী নিছক একটা স্থান হওয়া ছেড়ে দিয়ে আধ্যাত্মিকতা কে আপন করে নেয়।

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