We’ve moved! 1400 Kms from Visakhapatnam. Now a 45 minute ferry takes us to or away from the crazy island city of Mumbai to tranquil, green Karanja near the village of Uran on the mainland of rural Maharashtra.
The drive was long and rough in places especially Hyderabad city and up to Sholapur. The years of political neglect in states like Karnataka shows in the potholes of the national highway. For a full description of the Hyderabad to Pune highway visit this blog.
Then you hit the Pune-Mumbai expressway and we couldn’t believe the discipline that Indian drivers showed at such high speeds, that too at night. We kept asking ourselves how and why people, who probably otherwise drive like jack-asses were displaying a pretty commendable adherence to lane driving. I’d only ever seen this on the British motorways when we would sometimes rent a car to reach the more remote villages for group discussions on topics like the social importance of post-offices (!)
There are many new adventures for all three of us. It’s our first time living in an apartment block and I’d been dreading the five trips a day down in the elevator for Abroozi to empty his bladder. We were also unsure of how he’d take to riding the elevator as we’ve heard many horror stories of hands and tails of children and pets getting caught in the doors that close unexpectedly, lift doors opening with no lift inside etc. So we’re teaching him to sit at the elevator and only walk in and out with us on command. Such precautions I believe are necessary. We don’t want a repeat of what happened to Danny – where the lift took off with him on the outside tethered to the people inside by a leash and collar. If his collar hadn’t been loose enough for him to wriggle out of it, he would have been dragged upwards. I hate to dwell on such horrors.
We’ve settled in to our new digs. And tried to make the small apartment something of our own. Being used to a very bright house with a huge garden we’ve brought the outdoors indoors with our trellis experiment growing money plant and monstera creepers. Lets hope it covers the entire trellis while it’s doing a remarkable job of concealing the damp that lies behind it, possibly the result of a leaky pipe running down the building shaft.
In our quest to make the three tiny balconies – why they couldn’t just give us one large one, we’ll never know – in to a green paradise, we visited India’s first Green Mall, Go Green Nursery on the Mumbai-Goa highway about 20kms away from us and 17kms from Panvel. I encourage you to visit. If you live in mumbai you’ll need a trip away from the city at some point and you can pick up a range of indoor plants and learn from the many knowledgeable women (and a few men) who run the place. These are local people from the surrounding villages who do a remarkable job of caring for the flora and telling you what will survive in your home. The car boot was crammed with saplings: we came home with monsteras, honey suckle, calenjula, elephant’s ears, dracena, cholorphytum, all spice, mint, peppermint, cacti, bamboo grass, sheflera, curry leaf and a fig and orange tree which are new additions to our bonsai family.
Our plants in transit from Vizag suffered terrible case of broken pots due to unsecured baggage. Shame on Agarwal packers for not treating them with care as we had been promised. A warning to plant lovers, pack your plants well, individually, trim leaves and branches and create individual boxes for the pots. We were quite naive but they all survived although requiring re-potting.
To Uran township/village we dashed to buy new pots and in the bargain discovered the bizarre bazaar town of Uran. This really is the tip of the mainland but we get the freshest fresh figs, strawberries, grapes, turnips, sweet potatoes because the main subzi mandi has shifted from Crawford market in Mumbai to Vashi (Navi Mumbai, not far from us). Vegetables tasted, well tasteless in Vizag and the fruits were always days if not weeks old and pretty insipid. Everything here tastes fresh and sweet, the food in our house tastes better! I bought fantastic turnips (recipe soon) from two old ladies who were trying to use a smart phone. Someone was calling them and they couldn’t work the slidey thing to answer the call, so I answered for them – I think I made friends.
Uran is a madhouse – pretty much one long street with absolutely everything in it. These Ikea lampshades i bought in Berlin…can be found here in Uran market for Rs.90. And we’re told there’s more variety in Crawford market. A bit of black spray paint is all it needs.
But it was in our very own Karanja market that I found these little ‘sambar’ onions. Hindi is the language here but when I picked up these onions, the lady asked me, ‘For what do you use these onions?;. ‘Sambar’ I replied. ‘Where are you from?’ she queried. Tamil Nadu I said providing a loose geographic reference. ‘Where in Tamil Nadu?’ she persisted. ‘Vellore, Katpadi’, I said. She beamed and burst out in excited Tamil, ‘ I thought I’d ask you because only Tamilians buy these onions and I wasn’t sure if you were one.
She and her husband and his brother own four shops and the local eatery Karanja Chimney and their family has been here for 50 years! So off to her husband’s fruit shop I went and asked for half kg of grapes in Tamil, to which he did a double take and then proudly gave me 700 gms (200 for free!). A little bit of partisanship in retail works wonders I say. I’m always very proud to connect with ‘my kind’ when in a minority. (My mother will cringe that I don’t show the same deference to my Bihari side). The DH stays well clear of revealing his native origins.
Another trip to Uran today to sample the local delicacies and discover another alleyway…so many adventures to be had.