02 January 2021

Shande's experience on HOMP

Highway on my podcast (HOMP) was one of the by-product of COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, an initiative by pioneers of travel show - Rocky and Mayur along with show's director Abhinandan and cameraman Prashant. The podcast was go to channel for me during lockdown period. One of the interesting aspect of the podcast was encouraging listeners to share their personal experiences over email and which were read out in various episodes. 

Below is the email which I had shared with the team and which was read out in Diu/Daman episode.

Hi Abhinandan, Rocky, Mayur & Prashant,

This is Sandeep (nickname Shande). Basically a Kannadiga, born in Uttar Pradesh and now very much in Bengaluru !

Thanks a ton for the lovely stories and also behind the scene anecdotes. You have been my friends during this tough lockdown period esp. while doing mundane household chores and lonely strolls around my home.

I used to miss most of your HOMP episodes when it was aired around 2010  - mainly due to 2 hours one-way commute from office and on weekends, I used to be busy with activities related to my photography club (Bangalore Photowalk). 

I have been an avid traveler for the last 15 years. Apart from covering many places in my home state Karnataka, I have traveled across other states - Ladakh, Himachal, Sikkim, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Maharashtra, M.P., Punjab etc. and most recent was one to Gujarat with my family in Dec 2019. Your podcast has helped me to cherish all my personal moments and many things which I have missed out. Farali Kachori at Jamnagar looks to be a big miss for me ! wish I had your guidebooks/podcasts handy during my Gujarat trip :)

I am a vegetarian and not a very serious foodie. However, I would like to recall following moments
  • Pav Bhaji at Supreme Corner, JM Road, Pune - it was during the demonetisation period and I had 3 hundred rupee notes in my pocket. One of which was utilized at this hotel :)
  • Kotte Kadabu at Cafe Mysore, Mathunga, Mumbai
  • Karela Pyaz + Butter Chapathi at Bhagat Tarachand, Vashi, Navi Mumbai
  • Aloo Paratha+Chai at a roadside restaurant at Orchha.
  • Veg Thukpa at a canteen next to Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim
  • Gujarati Thali with Bajra roti at low-brow restaurant at Bachou (on the way to Bhuj, photograph below)
  • A cup of cardamom tea at Singhik - North Sikkim with a magnificent view of Teestha River Valley
  • Kachori - Chai at a tela in central Jaipur during early morning winters
  • Jigarthanda at Besantnagar beach Chennai
  • Gudbud at Diana Hotel, Udupi
  • and Hot Idly, Dosas with chutney at any darshani in Bengaluru :) 
Gujarati Thali at Bachau, Gujarat

I have listed down multiple places mentioned during your podcast and wish I cover these places once the lock down period is over.
  • Sadarji's hotel near Assembly house, Lucknow
  • Sharma Dhabha, Jaipur
  • Rajma Chawal at Pahalgam  
  • Radha Paratha House, Porbandar
  • Seva Cafe, Ahmedabad
  • Lee's Kitchen, Uttarakhand
  • Durga Mantap, Bhuvaneshwar
  • Sharma Vaishno Dhaba - near Chel, Himachal 
  • <many more>
And please let me know the coordinates of the Ghee Dosa place which you mentioned in the Karnataka podcast :) 

More than food, photography has been the primary motivation for me and below are a few photographs I would like to share with you all. You can see more at my blog (www.naanushande.com). I have not been active for the last 2 years. But your podcasts have given me a lot of kick to get back to writing. 

And finally thanks for adding me to your mailing list. I have been receiving updates from Episode 12 and not sure  how to access the previous ones ? Is it archived somewhere ? Also, similarly please see if there's a way to archive the lovely emails from fellow HOMPers which you read out during your episodes.

I am very much excited to see you guys back on the road and would be happy to contribute to HOMP initiatives in whatever possible way from my side.

Please buzz me when you are here in Bengaluru, I stay < 1 km from Vidyarthi Bhavan  :)


A few photographs from my trips across India

Nubra Valley, Ladakh

Mt. Kanchenjunga as seen from Pelling, West Sikkim

Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand

Cenotaphs at Orchha, MP

Adinath Temple, Khajaraho, MP

Khuri Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer

Puri Beach, Orissa

Gokarna Beach, Karnataka

Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur, Karnataka

Landscape at Chikmagalur, Karnataka

01 January 2021

Gujarat Trip: Brief Itinerary

Here's the brief itinerary our Gujarat trip which was executed in December 2019. As mentioned, in my retrospect post that Gujarat is quite a large state and has signature destination across all corners. We had to skip Statue of Unity, Mandvi, Diu, Junagad to accommodate Kutch (White Desert), Bhuj in our itinerary and had to be considerate about senior citizens and a small kid in our group.

Day-0: 6th Dec 2019
  • Departure from Bangalore and Arrival at Ahmedabad
  • Check-in at Toran Hotel (in front of Sabarmati Ashram)

Day-1: 7th Dec 2019
  • Early morning visit to Sabarmati Ashram
  • Started journey towards Dwarka
  • Stopover at Jamnagar in the evening - visited Ram dhun mandir and Lakhota lake/palace
  • Drive through Reliance refinery and stopover for dinner at a highway hotel
  • Reached Dwarka at 11.00 pm + and checked-in at Toran behind lighthouse

Day-2: 8th Dec 2019
  • Drive to Okha and took a steamer to Bet Dwarka
  • Lunch at a low-brow eat out near Okha
  • Visit to Nageshwar Temple
  • Visit to Sunset point near Toran Hotel
  • Darshan at Dwarkdish temple to witnessed evening aarti - (no cameras, mobiles allowed)
  • Dinner at a small restaurant near Dwarka temple

Day-3: 9th Dec 2019
  • Early morning wake-up and walked to Gomti Ghat and surrounding locations
  • Early morning darshan of Dwarkadish
  • Started drive towards Porbandar reached there by noon time
  • Visited Gandhiji's birth place
  • Started drive towards Somnath - lunch at a low-brow Dhabha
  • Stopover at Madapura beach for brief time
  • Reached Somnath at 6 pm and checked-in at Sagardarshan Guest house
  • Walked to Somnath temple but missed 7 pm aarti - (no cameras, mobiles allowed)
  • Watched sound & light show at 8 pm

Day-4: 10th Dec 2019
  • Early morning walk to Somnath temple and witnessed 7 am aarti
  • Had breakfast at cafeteria in Sagar Darshan guest house
  • Started drive towards Gir around 11 am
  • Lunch opposite to Gir safari reporting office
  • Started safari ride at 3 pm and it went up till 6 pm
  • Started drive towards Bhuj instead of staying overnight around Gir
  • Stayed overnight at Oyo hotel near Rajkot

Day-5: 11th Dec 2019
  • Continued journey towards Bhuj (post breakfast)
  • Lunch at a low-brow eat our near Bachao
  • Reached Bhuj around 4 pm and visited Aaina Mahal, Prag Mahal
  • Checked-in Hotel White Desert in Bhuj Cantonment
  • Dinner at one of the eateries near the hotel (there were lot of options !)

Day-6: 12th Dec 2019
  • Started towards Dhordo (post breakfast)
  • Completed permit formalities at Bhirandiyara
  • Visit to Kaladungar - highest point in Kutch
  • Checked in at Toran Rann Resort and also at White Rann Resort
  • Visit to Zero point of White Desert (5 km drive) - Witnessed Sunset 
  • Walked around the desert and witnessed Moon rise (it was a full moon day !)
  • Back to Hotel for dinner
  • Night drive to Zero point and witnessed the moonlight illuminated landscape

Day-7: 13th Dec 2019
  • Early morning walk around Dhordo and witnessed sunrise
  • Re-visited zero point to experience landscape of white desert during broad daylight 
  • Shopping of handicrafts, clothing at the exhibitions stalls at Dhordo (next to Rann Utsav village)
  • Started drive back to Ahmedabad
  • Reached Ahmedabad late night and checked-in at Toran Hotel

Day-8: 14th Dec 2019
  • Early morning walk to Sabarmati Ashram
  • Visit to Akshardam Temple - no cameras, mobiles allowed
  • Lunch at Food court in the temple
  • Came back hotel and visited Sabarmati Ashram for shopping etc.
  • Took a late evening flight from Ahmedabad
  • Reached Bangalore around midnight

Hope this helps in planning your Gujarat trip. If you have any queries please post a comment here or send me an email at sandeep@shande.in 

10 August 2020

Kuch bin hamne bhi bitaye Gujarat mein

A trip to Gujarat was in my bucket list for a long time and it had got amplified with Amitabh Bachhan's Kuch din bitaye Gujarat mein promos. But my actual visit didn't get materialized for a long time and main blocker was exorbitantly high flight ticket prices during holiday seasons and multiple secondary reasons such as small kid at home, taking long leaves, etc. 

Finally, in Nov 2019, when a flash airline ticket sale was happening for Go-Air and I applied my contrarian theory looked for prices of competitor airlines and there was a sweet deal in Spicejet in 1st week of December which synced with the basic motto of my travel - don't travel when others are traveling. Within matters of hours, I finalized the date of travel with Ramya, discussed my leave plan at the office, and booked the tickets Bangalore-Ahmadabad return without any concrete itinerary in mind. 

Here a couple of points from my retrospect. 
  • Gujarat is a very large state and the signature locations on all corners. Plan your itinerary meticulously and have some buffer to make-up for unavoidable delays.
  • Initially, we didn't have White Rann on our travel list. But later we figured out that the week when we had planned the trip coinciding with the full moon day. This changed planning equations dramatically and later we had to give up on the newly unveiled Statue of Unity and Baroda city tour thinking it can be covered future visits to the state.
  • Food is never a compromise in Gujarat. Wherever you go, you will be served with nice Gujarati delicacies with Sev Tamatar, Bhaigan masala, etc. icing on the cake is complimentary/unlimited buttermilk they serve along with Thalis. I am sure it will keep your bowels going for the entire trip !
  • Got to appreciate the professionalism of A to Z travel. Initially, I was discussing to book an entire tour package tour with them. Then later due to certain preferences w.r.t accommodation, I opted for only rented vehicle and as my per requirement they helped me with Seven Seater Innova with a carrier. 
  • Hats off to our driver Sunilbhai. He managed with us for a week and always spot on with the choice of his restaurants
  • Full moon day at Kutch is a good experience. But the crowd on a full moon day was a big let down. Plus authorities switching off of mobile signals on that particular day created a lot of issues syncing with family members in a crowded place.
  • Please ensure that you stay close to White Rann at Dhordo village. The Rann Utsav package with 12K per person per night tariff for a large group was out of budget for us. Instead, we opted to adjacent places - Toran Rann Resort and Gateway To Rann Resort. Gateway to Rann is way better than Torann with respect to experience, food, etc.
  • Staying at Toran Ahmadabad was a prudent decision. We could cover Sabarmati Ashram during our early morning walk. esp. during Golden hours. Not to mention it saved us a couple of hours on a packed trip. 
 More details about the itinerary in a separate post.

09 August 2020

Surviving the great lockdown !

There are zillions of updates, articles written about unprecedented thing which has happened for last couple of months due COVID-19 pandemic. When the half of humanity was staying at home and many people rekindled their hobbies which lost in usual corporate rat race. 

For me as well, there was lot of urge within to re-look at blogging and post the write-ups which have been cold storage for ages. Somehow, the breaking-the-jinx blog post remained on edge of the fence. Finally, on Sunday morning (Aug 9th), I woke-up abruptly at 5:45 am from a dream something related to blogging (can't remember exactly) and got in front laptop without excuses to jot down things I will be posting in near future. The result of that is one of the blog post which you reading now :) 
The thought was to post something constructive and not related to usual travel/photography stuff, but in contrast some stuff which made tough lockdown period bearable. 

I had heard about podcast for long but never really gave a second thought what's it's really about and what will be there in it etc. Last year, I got introduced to it from wife Ramya's friend Naren at a lunch get together. Then, he had iterated that it's an ideal way for beating traffic stress and inturn do something constructive. I started listening from Attention Pliss podcast by one of the reknowned blogger and writer Arnab Ray and became a regular listener to this weekly podcast on current affairs. During this lockdown, I wanted something extra while doing mundane household chores and also during lonely walks around my home. To address this, I stumbled on a lovely podcast - Highway on my Podcast (HOMP) by pioneers of Travel Shows - Rocky and Mayur along with show's director Abhinandan and cameraman Prashant. These guys have been my friends during this tough lockdown period and their state-wise episodes has helped relive all my amusing travel memories for last 15 years. Another interesting in the podcast is they encourage the listeners to share their experiences thru email and interestingly my email was recently read out in Diu/Daman episode. More on podcasts and recommendations in a separate blog post. 

Ideal tool for Mopping 
At the onset of lockdown period, I took up responsibility of sweeping and mopping at home. Initially, I used to do the stuff daily and later when it became monotonous I used the technique of listening to podcast make the most of time used for household chores. But with a 3 old year at home, the floor of the house used to get dirty within matter of hours. It's always tedious to do usual jhadu, pohcha thru the day and to address this issue, I bought the dry and wet mop from Amazon (details below). Since then at any point of the day, I can ensure that the floor at my home is tidy ! Coming to ROI, the break-even for this product is already achieved thru half of our maid's monthly salary :)

Extended Screen 
Work from Home can be stressful, esp. when you on critical path sharing your desktop screen with our colleagues for the whole day. Sharing is one part, but you will not be able to do any extra-curricular activity during micro-breaks. I was accustomed to work on split screen for a long time not only to have your "private space" during screen share sessions but also to improve your overall productivity when working individually. For this reason, I used to use my 32 inch TV whenever I used to occasionally work from home during pre-covid times. But somehow it didn't have the feel of the monitor which I used to have at office as the pixel density of a TV LED won't be made for viewing from a short distance. Later, during first week of walk March, when Covid made it's first strike in India there multiple speculations that we all may end-up WFH for long. Then, prudently or luckily rather before the lockdown period, I decided to order a BenQ monitor (details below) for seamless working experience at home. 

Vegetable Cutter 
When you are working from home, your lunch break-ups will be typically early around 1 pm and later around 4-5 pm there will be a craving to have some snacks. In office, you end up having snacky stuffs like bhel puri etc and emulating same stuff at home is not a cakewalk ! Somehow, during initial lockdown days, I squeezed some time from my work schedule to prepare churmuri, bhelpuri by cutting vegetables. Of all the tasks, cutting onions is one of critical task and takes lot of time. Of late, I hardly used to get time as cutting veggies as it takes around 20-30 minutes. Recently, I came across Butterfly's innovative non-electric vegetable cutter and ordered the same without any thoughts. Since then the vegetable cutting for churmuri is cut-short to less than 5 minutes !
So these are couple of things which has made my lockdown period manageable.  Please do share your thoughts and list !

31 December 2018

What was different in 2018 ?

It's time when you look back at happy gains and learnings from the year which is about to end. How about looking at the things which I experienced for the first time, did differently by breaking the jinx in 2018? I am sure all of you will have a similar list from your timeline and here's mine:

Wild Card Entry at Tirumala: Visiting Tirupathi and getting darshan of Lord Venkateshwara needs a lot of meticulous planning. I also did the same almost and was planning for darshan with my less than 1-year old infant, confirming whether they have restrictions like Dharmasthala. In contrast, Tirumala has something called Supadha entrance for people with special privileges and one of them is for parents with less than 1-year old infant. So, without much plan and a little bit of research (thanks to GoTirupathi website) we landed up in Tirumala and had darshan of Lord Venkateshwara with a waiting period of 1 hour or so. More about this experience in a separate post.
Alipiri Gate Entrance to Tirumala
Sun touching Shivalinga at Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple: Staying so close to the famous Gavigandhareshwara temple for last 20+ years, I could never witness the rare event of sun rays touching Shivalinga on Sankranti evening marking the entry into Uttarayana. But this year, I managed to break this jinx and credit mainly goes one beautiful article in livemint which was wired in my brain to provide a timely reminder. Actually, the common people are not allowed inside the temple due to space constraints and the proceedings are beamed live on a large screen at the shamiyanas outside the temple. Initially, we (me & Ananth Shayan) were a bit dejected for not being inside the temple, but being at a venue with a large crowd and listening live narration from the head priest made the event more memorable.
Sun rays falling on Shivalinga

Concluding proceedings of Bangalore Karaga: I have managed to see initial proceedings of the famous Bangalore Karaga festival and also visit to the Dargah along with other temples in pete area. But witnessing the return of the Karaga to back to Dharamarayaswamy temple in early morning hours didn't materialize for long due to personal commitments, business travel etc. Before start of 2018, by I had earmarked dates of the festival in my calendar as it was falling on a weekend (Saturday night to Sunday morning). Apart from this, it was a long wait on the day of the festival as well. Due to last minute change in the Karaga bearer, the Karagashakti came out of the temple 3 hours late and the final proceedings at the temple were also delayed. Thanks to my friend Anantha Shayan for accompanying me to witness this festival yet again.

Staying overnight at Nandi Hills: I am sure most Bangaloreans would have been to Nandi Hills multiple times in their lifetime but not stayed there overnight due to limited availability of accommodation. There has been only one option i.e. KSTDC MayuranPine which had only 3 rooms and it's been tough getting a room there on weekends. Recently, they have brought booking of Gandhi Nilaya room on the same platform for increasing capacity. Earlier this year, when I took off for a day for my son's birthday this place turned out to be our obvious choice for having a unique getaway and being very far from the city. More about this experience in a separate post.
Late evening at Nandhi Hills

Witnessing Deepothsava at Bhogonandeeshwara Temple: In last decade this famous temple next to Nandi Hills has become a must-visit destination if you are traveling around Nandi Area. Also, the location is quite famous for pre-wedding shoots and nowadays for kinda limited audience destination wedding near Bengaluru. And not many know that there is famous Deepothsava which happens here on last Monday of Karthika month. As it always falls on a weekday this event doesn't appear in calendars of many netizens of the city and also it clashes with famous Kadlekai Parischey festival in Basavanagudi. However, this time I managed to visit this along with my colleagues and actually, during peak hours the place was just 50 mins drive from our office Manyata Tech Park.
Deepothsava at Bhoganandeeshwara Temple

Kuvempu's home at Kuppalli: Visting famous Kannada's poet home at Kuppali in Thirthalli taluk was in my bucket list for a long time. The place is only 17 kms from my hometown and I could not manage to be there being so close! Finally, when I had been Hariharpura to witness Deepothsava on Saturday, I ensured to leave a couple of hours early while driving back to Bangalore for having a stopover at Kuppalli.
Kavimane at Kuppali

Visiting Mahabalipuram near Chennai: I had been to Chennai several times but somehow a visit to Mahabalipuram remained in my bucklet list for long. But during one of my recent biz trip to Chennai, the trip materialized, thanks for my friend and award-winning blogger Shrinidhi Hande

Pancharathas at Mahabalipuram

Managing without a Facebook app on mobile: Once upon a time, Facebook used to be a handy app on mobiles esp. when I used to manage activities at Bangalore Photowalk. But in recent times the amount of noise to signal has increased multi-fold and browsing Facebook on mobile was mainly unproductive. It was so sub-consciously addictive that I was not able to avoid it. But the decisive step was taken when I did a factory reset on my smartphone due to some issue with an upgrade of software. Later, while re-installing all necessary, apps I thought of how about managing without facebook app for a couple of days. Now, it's been a couple of months and I am alive without the Facebook app on mobile. For any FB requirement, I occasionally login thru browser on laptop/mobile. And for any photo sharing and updates, Instagram is sufficient anyday!

Traveling to and fro to office without a motorized vehicle: Cycling to-n-fro to office has been in my to-do list for a long time but due to fear of traffic, cycling in the night time, weather conditions made this act postponed indefinitely. In fact, I made an attempt for this in Dec 2015, but I could complete the loop in a day as I was too tired and later after 2 days I had a horrible experience in pollution, traffic while making return journey after 2 days. This year, the decisive decision taken when I got stuck in a cab at Hebbal Flyover for an hour around 12 noon due useless white topping work at outer ring road. The jam was so much that after passing thru the bottleneck Google maps sent me a notification for rating my visit Hebbal BMTC depot! Anyways, post this day I have done multiple trips (once a week) to the office on a cycle and experience has been rejuvenating. And major credit should go Lumos cycling bagpack which brings in all confidence for cycling in the night time. More about this bag in a separate blog post.

No visit to a cinema hall: Courtesy Amazon Prime and other video-on-demand sites I didn't have the need to visit a cinema hall. And also with an infant at home, it would be difficult to be at a hall just for experience purpose.

And lastly, not writing even a single blog post - well, it was almost there and I managed not to have this in the above list by composing this post to summarize different things which happened in 2018.

Happy new year to everyone ! Looking forward for having much more eventful 2019!