Tag Archives: Gurgaon

Durga Puja

Durga Puja (Worship of Durga) is the ultimate festival of the Bengali people. Although you cannot deny the religious nature of Durga Puja, it is as much a cultural and a social festival as it is a religious one; which explains my interest in it. Being an Atheist, it is the cultural part which draws me. It is my favourite festival of all time and is something I look forward to, all year, every year.

Durga Puja is celebrated in Autumn, on a date decided by the Hindu calendar, either in late September or early October. It coincides with the North Indian concept of Navratri, but unlike Navratri, we don’t punish ourselves by restricting our diets or eating vegetarian food. Unlike Navratri, Durga Puja is a time to meet people, feast like there’s no tomorrow & gorge on your favourite food, mostly meat.

Durga Puja
Durga, PC: Indiatimes

The Origins (For me)

My memory of the festival from when I was young is that I had no interest in leaving my house to go and see it. In fact, when I lived in Panchkula, one of the Puja committees even awarded me a prize (Set of Sherlock Holmes books, which I treasure to this day) for academic performance. I refused to attend and someone later brought it home for me.

The first time I remember attending a Durga Puja in earnest was when Ritwik Mandal took me to one in Nagpur. I remember he insisted that we have the puja lunch (bhog). They didn’t have cutlery; you were expected to eat rice with your hand. I was struggling and an elderly couple sitting next to us started making fun of me in Bengali, not knowing I could understand them. I took the higher ground and didn’t abuse them.

Slowly, as I attended more and more Pujas, my interest went up. I remember going to the Maddox Square puja once with my cousins when I was in Kolkata. We reached the venue well past midnight; still the atmosphere was electric. There were thousands of people there, chatting with family and friends. The smell of food being prepared wafted through the air. I hung out there for a few hours and headed home. I had not seen anything like it before.

Regular Patron

Eventually, I became a regular patron of Durga Puja, when I moved to Gurgaon and my parents moved there, too. My father had no interest in it, so me and my mother explored the city in search for new Pandals. After marriage, I drew my wife into the mix, too. Slowly we developed our favourite Pandals, although we would go Pandal-hopping to all the major ones in Gurgaon as well as Delhi. When our daughter was born, we got her hooked, too and we developed a predictable schedule.

  1. Few weeks before the start of the Pujas, we would go to Slice of Bengal in CR Park to begin our shopping. My wife and daughter would both get Bengali sarees and other clothing.
  2. We would attend the pre-Pujo fest at the Chittaranjan Park Bangiya Samaj.
  3. On day 5, we would go to the Pandal at Kashmere Gate, see that it is not ready yet and return home disappointed. By next year we would forget this and do the same thing again.
  4. On day 6, we would cover some of the Gurgaon pandals.
  5. Day 7, we would go Pandal Hopping at CR Park in the morning (Including Navapalli, my daughter’s favourite), then go to Oh! Calcutta for lunch and then return home stuffed. In the evenings, we would go to some more pandals in Gurgaon, including my favourite at the DLF Phase 1 community center.
  6. More of the same on Day 8
  7. On the 9th day, we would go to all our favourite ones once again and then bid a tearful goodbye till next year.

I much prefer Delhi & Gurgaon Durga Pujas to Kolkata ones (which are complete carnage).

Disappointing 2021

Durga Puja in 2020 was a subdued affair because of COVID, but there was something, at least. This year’s Durga Puja was a big disappointment. Normally there’s one Bengali group organising it in Bangkok, but this year, there’s nothing. There are no Bengali restaurants in Bangkok either (There are Bangladeshi, but its not the same). So we are sitting at home, watching it on TV.

Hope I am able to enjoy my favourite festival next year, again.

My Worst Purchases-Dyson TP03 Air Purifier

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is Dyson TP03 Air purifier.

Dyson TP03
Dyson TP03

It was the day after Diwali 2019 in Gurgaon. Because we Indians cannot celebrate festivals without polluting at least 1 element of nature, the AQI was 1999. I already had air purifiers (Different makes) in all the bedrooms, but it was getting difficult to breathe so we decided to get one for the living room.

We had had a very good experience with the Xiaomi 2S, so we decided to get another one for the living room. Headed out to Ambience Mall (I miss you so much) and went straight to the Xiaomi store. We had already decided what to buy, so I asked the sales guy to bill one for us. Instead, he laughed at us and said “Stock hi nahi hai to kaha se du”. (We don’t have stock where do I give it from?). Angry at his rudeness, we decided to get the Dyson TP03 (Also known as Dyson Pure Cool Link) instead. Surely, compared to the Xiaomi (₹7999) the Dyson (₹29999) would surely be much better? How wrong we were.

Here’re my views after using it for >1 year

+ Is Stylish, looks nice in the living room
+ Setup is easy and app is very nice
+ App can show historical AQI data
– Can only show AQI on a scale from 1-10 (Both the tiny display & the app). No other details
– Is noisy
– Doesn’t really purify very well or fast. On most days, it couldn’t keep up with outside air leaking in
– Since it throws air straight at the user rather than up in the air, in winters it becomes uncomfortable

At the end of the day, I think the company’s Air Multiplier technology is not really suitable for air purifiers. Basically, if the fan draws “X” amount of air from the pedestal (and via the HEPA filter), it draws 15*X amount of air from the back of the air multiplier which doesn’t pass the filter at all. So at any point of time, only 6.66% of air thrown by the purifier is clean/has passed through the filter, compared to 100% for traditional purifiers.

All of this results in a lot of air flow in the (already very cold) room but very little purification. My impression of all this is that Dyson has over-engineered its purifiers for the simple purpose of purifying air. I feel terribly guilty for not buying 2 Xiaomi purifiers for the same price as this and still have cash left over.

What is my Hometown?

When I was making a Facebook account recently, it asked me what my Hometown was. I thought about it for a while, but didn’t have an answer. Looks like I have had such a nomadic life, I don’t have a Hometown.

Here’s a list:

YearsCityDuration
1985-1985Bhubaneshwar, Odisha<1 year
1985-1985Kolkata, West Bengal <1 year
1986-1989Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh~3 years
1989-1990Dhani, Madhya Pradesh~1 year
1990-1990Dewas, Madhya Pradesh <1 year
1990-1994Indore, Madhya Pradesh~4 years
1994-1997New Delhi, Delhi~3 years
1997-1998Durgapur, West Bengal~1 year
1998-2002Panchkula, Haryana~4 years
2002-2007Nagpur, Maharashtra~5 years
2007-2008Kolkata, West Bengal~1 year
2008-2021Gurgaon, Haryana~13 years
2021-CurrentBangkok, Thailand
Nomadic Lifestyle
Not my hometown
Sucks, indeed

This list just covers the cities I have lived in. Even within these cities, I have sometimes lived in up to 3 different places. What is my Hometown, then?

Bhubaneshwar, because I was born there, but lived only a few months?

Kolkata, because that’s where my parents are from, but lived only a year?

Gurgaon, where I lived the longest and have my own place but don’t ever plan to return to?

Thankfully, I am off Facebook, so don’t have to answer this question anymore.

I miss Home

As expected, 6 months into my stay at Bangkok, I already miss my home in India terribly. Part of this is because of the lockdown in Bangkok. Part of this is because I never really wanted to leave India and had to do so because I was unhappy with my job and this was the best option I had, then.

What I Miss about Home

  1. Although Thailand has some of the biggest malls in the world, I miss my Ambience Mall. I miss looking forward to weekends to go to Ambience Mall.
  2. Although Bangkok has some of the best restaurants in the world, I miss dining at Pizza Express, Daryaganj, Chili’s, Mamagoto, Sodabottleopenerwaala and Burma Burma.
  3. I miss going to Cyber Hub on the weekends.
  4. Although Bangkok has some of the best bars in the world, it is missing a microbrewery culture which was so popular in Gurgaon and Bengaluru. I miss drinking craft beer.
  5. Living in my own house and doing what I want with it.
  6. I miss Connaught Place, although, I hadn’t been there for many months even when I was in Gurgaon.
  7. Miss Hotstar India. Hotstar Thailand doesn’t have as many shows, especially from HBO, FX etc.
  8. Sorely miss Amazon. Lazada/Shopee are disgusting and I use them only because I am forced to.
  9. I miss having the electrical switches the right side (For India) up.
  10. I miss the few friends I have.
  11. Miss the prevalence of online services like online doctor consultations, online medical test bookings & online booking of household services.
  12. I miss driving my own car.
  13. Lastly, I miss a sense of belonging.

What I don’t miss

  1. The horrible air quality most days of the year.
  2. The unnecessary and tiring bureaucracy in every aspect of life.
  3. The forced religious indoctrination in everyday life.
  4. The lack of respect for animals and even pets.
  5. The high cost of fuel, electricity and cooking gas.
  6. The high cost of food at restaurants.
  7. The filth omnipresent everywhere.
  8. The utter disregard of Indians towards their country and their countrymen/women.

Goodbye, Gurgaon

The fateful day is here. After almost 13 years in this city, the time has come to say goodbye and move on.

I got married while living here, we had our kid here, bought our own apartment here; till a few months ago, I thought I would live here forever. However, the deteriorating air quality year-on-year and the complete apathy of the government decided otherwise.

For years, I watched the air quality go worse, for years I saw people turn a blind eye to it and eventually it became clear that this problem won’t be solved in the near future (or maybe ever).

PC: Rentomojo

I will miss

  1. Spending my weekend at Ambience mall, perhaps my favourite place in the city. I still remember the first time I went there to buy formal shoes for my first job here (the job didn’t involve formal wear).
  2. Having breakfast at McDonalds while soaking the winter sun at MGF metropolitan mall.
  3. The (few) friends I had here and drinking beer with them at one of the many craft breweries.
  4. The wide highways, flyovers and underpasses and sparse traffic.
  5. The ease of getting things done and solving problems by throwing money at them.
    Apps and online services for literally everything.
  6. Extremely fast same-day and next-day Amazon delivery.

I will not miss

  1. The horrid air quality between November and January every year and the grey/brown skies.
  2. The constant and relentless pitch of hindutva in every aspect of your life.
  3. Kids as young as 12 driving cars with impunity.
  4. People who cut in queue (in person or in their cars).
  5. The name “Gurugram”.

Beer, my friend

I have a long relationship with beer and our relationship has evolved over all these years.

A mug of “Child” beer

I clearly remember my first beer (or any alcoholic beverage for that matter) which was at Orchid Lake resort next to the pristine Umiam Lake in Meghalaya. I was around 12 years old at that time & was going to Shillong with my uncle and his friend for the day from Guwahati & had stopped at that resort for lunch. My uncle and his friend ordered beer for themselves and offered me some. My first reaction was that it was bitter. I obviously kept that information to myself & commented that it was very tasty so as to not embarrass myself as less of a “man” in the presence of 2 adults.

I had beer a few more times with that uncle over the next few years but didn’t enjoy any of it.

When I went off to college at Nagpur, I was suddenly exposed to a whole plethora of alcoholic beverages. Beer was reserved for those hot summer days when we didn’t have electricity or had an exam the following day & didn’t want to get too drunk.

I remember one evening when Sood Sahib was feeling a bit low. I suggested that we drink some beer & his spirits lifted immediately. We bought beers from a store and some policemen tried stopping us on the way, but we somehow escaped, got soaked in the rain, reached home, dried up and enjoyed our beers.

Sood Sahib Enjoying and Appreciating Beer

I also remembering going to Urvashi with Neeraj after our gym sessions to drink beer with Tandoori chicken to aid our workout recovery. Beer also accompanied our jam sessions on numerous occasions.

My first major incident with beer was when I bought what I thought was “Haywards 5000” from a seedy store in Nagpur, went home and drank it alone. My roommate came home from college later to find me passed out with my head shaved. Later, when I regained consciousness, he also reported some strange behaviour from me but I would refrain from going too deep into those details. Later everything explained itself when we saw that the beer I had was actually a “Haryana 5000”.

When I moved to Gurgaon, I was exposed to a new world of freshly brewed beer also known as “artisanal beer” or “craft beer”. We used to go to Rockman’s Beer Island at Ambience Mall very frequently to drink fresh brewed beer poured out for us from taps.

We used to order barrels of this stuff and get hopelessly drunk. I remember one incident when we went to Beer Island with Soniel’s German colleagues, everyone got sloshed on beer and they ran away without paying for anything and we were stuck with the bill.

Beer plus Laser

Another incident with beer I remember is when I had something called “Beer Buster” at an office party. It was beer mixed with Tabasco sauce and I had litres of it. When I came back home, I couldn’t sleep because the Tabasco was burning in my chest and stomach all night.

Neeraj at Beer island

One of my best beer experiences was during my Beer trip to Bengaluru. We went to a place called Biergarten which was a huge open air pub surrounded by beautiful palm trees. The weather and the colour of the sky were unlike anything in Gurgaon. Even the washrooms had a killer view.

Biergarten, Bengaluru

Not until the lockdown, when I was forced to stay without any beer for months did I learn the true value of beer (among other things). When the lockdown did open and I rushed to the nearest beer shop to buy some, I decided that I would start treating beer with more respect from then on. Yes, I would savour my beer more and learn to enjoy it.

I started drinking beer slowly, appreciating the textures and flavours and enjoying the taste rather than aiming to get hopelessly drunk.

First Craft Beer after Unlock

When I drink alone at home, I never drink more than 1 or 2 cans at a time and I make sure I enjoy every sip. When drinking out with friends (rare), all these rules go out of the window, though.

3 cheers to beer and here’s to many more years of friendship.

The Lockdown finally got me running

The first few weeks of the lockdown felt awesome. No need to go to work & lot of time freed up from the daily commute. I spent most of this time drinking and lying around. However, eventually the lying around became quite tiring physically.

Things were so bad, I went through most days with less than 200 steps. The less I moved, the more tired I felt. Eventually, I was always tired and even getting out of the bed seemed a huge challenge. I knew I needed some exercise. I tried Darebee’s daily workout for a few days, but I didn’t find it motivating and couldn’t sustain it long enough. What I needed was to go out and run, but with the lockdown, that was out of the question.

By the end of the lockdown, I was so eager to go out and run that when we were allowed to go out, I started running immediately and fortunately, was able to maintain the habit over many months.

My energy levels came back up, I felt much better after the workouts, I could focus more at work and I slept better. I also started watching my diet and limiting what I eat on weekdays.

Some other quantifiable gains over these 3 months of daily running

  • Weight came down from 70.4kgs to 64.5kgs
  • Body fat % came down from 14.5 to 11.7
  • VO2 Max went up from 39.3 to 46.8
  • Resting heart rate went down from 65 to 55

It’s not that I am fanatic about running. Since I can spare only 15-20 minutes daily between meetings, I run only 2km each time. But I do this with consistent pace and do it regularly without skipping days. Whenever I feel like skipping a day, I think about how lucky I am to be able to go out at all.

Schedule

I hope I am able to keep up the cadence, at least till the air quality here goes to shit, like it does each year and going out becomes impossible.

Rains in Gurgaon

I love rains, and have written about it many times before. My favourite type of rain is one which goes on for hours & it makes me nostalgic & pensive. Unfortunately, in Gurgaon, such rain is rare; it almost never rains for more than an hour at stretch. (Which is good in a sense, because of the waterlogging that follows soon).

Rains

I love the sound of rain the background and I love how the rain drops stick to the windows.

Rains in Gurgaon
Rain Drops on Windows

Don’t you love the sight of raindrops clinging to leaves?

Even the Air Quality has improved drastically.

Air Quality

Unfortunately, the rain has already stopped by the time I finished writing this post and soon, it will be hot and humid.

Lockdown Day 54 – Freedom!

Last week, the lockdown rules were slightly relaxed in Gurgaon and it is now allowed to go out and do some things. Freedom at last!

I had been waiting to see my ENT, so I used this chance to step out of my apartment for the first time in almost 2 months.

It was a surreal experience driving after so many days; I had a continuous feeling of guilt, as if I was doing something wrong.

I returned back home soon enough, but at least it gave me a chance to stock on some beverages. There were very limited brands available, but I wasn’t complaining.

Lockdown Day 33

Today is Day 33 of the lockdown. In these 33 days I haven’t gone out of my apartment complex gate once. And it is starting to affect me in some weird and unexpected ways.

  • I do not miss socialising at all. In fact, I welcome this time away from unnecessary socialising.
  • I am having very vivid dreams and remembering them for a change. Normally I hardly have dreams and don’t remember them later.
  • I miss going to Ambience Mall, drinking coffee ☕️ at Barista, eating at Pizza 🍕 Express and just roaming around the mall. It is unlikely malls will open even after the lockdown is relaxed and I am not sure how the mall or the business inside will survive this.
  • I miss drinking fresh beer 🍻 at pubs. Again, not sure when this will happen again.
  • I miss eating out at restaurants. My thoughts especially drift towards Toninos at Two Horizon Center on Golf Course road
  • I miss driving my car 🚗 , while listening to BBC World Service.
  • I miss ordering stuff from Amazon, waiting for the delivery and unboxing the items.
  • I miss going to the park and walking🚶‍♂️ around.
  • I miss going to the nursery to buy new plants 🌱 and fertiliser.
  • I miss going to Galleria, sitting opposite the fountain and sipping Coca Cola.

As per the current situation, restrictions should start lifting in 11 more days, but I have a feeling that’s not going to be the case and things won’t start going back to normal for a long time.