Monday, February 15, 2010

Some Canadians Visit... and Some Thoughts on the German Bakery

If you're a regular reader you probably noticed that I haven't posted a blog for a while. My mom and stepfather Kirk were visiting from London, Canada for two weeks. This past weekend I spent in Lonavala with a side trip with the Firelords overnight. That means this will be an epic blog post.

Pune became Indian front-page news February 13, 2010 when a bomb exploded at the German Bakery in the Koregaon Park neighbourhood, killing 9 people and injuring 60. It's suspected to be a terrorist bombing because the German Bakery is popular with foreign visitors and locals alike. I'm safe, and all of my friends are safe as far as I'm aware, but it has affected all of us. I took my mom and Kirk for a coffee there two weeks ago. Some friends were at the cafe only 30 minutes earlier, and other friends were driving past when the explosion happened. I'll be thinking of the families and friends of the people killed, and the recovery of the injured. For me, it's important not to be afraid. Pune is a great place to visit, and a cool city. A minority of violent people can't ruin a city for everyone else. It's important to continue with our lives and demand our right to live freely and peacefully.

The last week of January and the first week of February I showed my mom and Kirk around Pune for a week and a half, then we visited Mumbai for three days. After their flight arrived on Monday we went shopping to buy a kurta for mom at FabIndia, then walked around my neighbourhood. The men in the local sweet shop were delighted. Then a quick tour of my flat before heading for Parvati Hill. We spent a lot of time eating and riding around in autorickshaws, and I saw some new things, although I also took them to places I'd visited before.

Tuesday was the 60th anniversary of Republic Day. (India became independent in 1947, and became a republic in 1950.) We visited Shaniwar Wada, and as I promised, took a good photo of the front. Laxmi Road Market gave a good idea of how the locals shop, and since it was a holiday, it was especially packed. Kirk lagged behind because he "didn't want to shove old ladies out of the way" only to have a demonstration of an old lady shoving me out of the way.

Wednesday we visited Pune University, where I showed them my regular canteen thali. Mom had read about Alice's grave before. From there we went to Rajiv Gandhi zoo to visit the famous snake park. We were really impressed with the zoo, since there was obvious care and effort put into creating a few habitats for animals native to India, rather than trying to squeeze in as many animals as possible from around the world. All the tigers were hiding, except for the white one.

Thursday we visited the Raja Kelkar museum, which is filled with local and Indian art and tools. I've included a photo of a Yali, which is a South Indian protective demon. Perhaps this is the same creature I photographed in the Hampi carvings?

Friday we spent a quiet day, then went out with the Firelords motorcycle club for a ride. The next day, much of the same, only we met for dinner with the Firelords at Kishor's place. Sunday mom and I ate dinner with my flatmates then walked to the temple that I can see from my flat.

Monday we visited the Tribal Cultural Museum, which was small but worthwhile. I was impressed by the warli painting, the metal jewelry, and the woven baskets. From there we stopped by Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road, where the tourists shop, and where I stayed when I first arrived in Pune.

Tuesday we travelled to Lonavala to visit the Karla and Bhaja caves. I disagreed again with my guidebook which recommended Karla for the large chaitya. I loved Bhaja because of the many water tanks, and the collection of carved stupas lining the path.

Wednesday early morning we caught the bus to Mumbai to spend three days. We stayed right by the Taj Mahal Hotel, at the Moti Mahal. The first day mom and I walked around Colaba. This time we went into Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue! On the way out we were delayed by the convoy for the German President, which continued to block our direct travels for the rest of the week. We also went into the High Court and checked out the carvings of wolves in lawyers' clothing and peeking monkeys with the scales of justice. Thursday I sent mom and Kirk to Elephanta Island.

Friday we shopped and took some photos of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus), then mom and I travelled see the dhobi ghats, Hajj Ali Mosque--because it was Friday, some men were singing devotional songs on the porch--Mahalaxmi Temple, and Chowpatty Beach for bhel puri and mango kulfi. Saturday we returned to Pune to catch their evening flight back to Canada.

This past weekend I spent in Lonavala, which included an incredibly cool trip. Sadly I don't have any photos because I wasn't prepared, and didn't bring my camera. The Firelords planned a trip to the "Slopes of Hell" (or whatever they call it) which involved each of them riding up a steep incline to the top of a mountain in the Western Ghats. The communications tower at the top justifies a "road" with steep drops to either side, loose rocks, and overgrown cobblestones. Very few of them made it up without stalling. Then we spent the night on the mountain, and rose with the sun to travel home again.

Lonavala is a hill station selling chikki at four out of five shops, unbelievable traffic at night, and gorgeous panoramic views of the Western Ghats.