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Numaish – A whiff of POP corn!!!!

Now a days Pop Corn is almost synonymous with a movie in a theatre, shopping at a multiplex or even may be a short weekend trip at the near by mall which offers a play area for kids. But for those who have been in the Pearl City – Hyderabad during the 80s and 90s, it is no exaggeration that POP corn is synonymous to their very own Numaish or Exhibition for those who are not aware of it. So much so that I still am confused if my addiction for Pop corn is because of Numaish or my love for Numaish is for the Pop Corn. I just hope I never ever figure this confusion out.

As millennials, we are now aware of super and mega sales on Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and the likes which go on for 3 to 4 days during festival season or at times off season too on all kinds of goods. A little earlier it was the clearance sale at big stores that would excite people. But for me it has always been Numaish, the Baap (Father) of all Super and Mega sales that brings in the excitement. From clothes to shoes, from crockery to bed and bath, from gadgets to handicrafts, from play time to food, you name it and it is there.

It opens on the New Year’s day 1st of January and lasts till 15th of February (a good 46 days) every year. It originated 78 years ago and this year (2019) marks its 79th year. The All India Industrial Exhibition or popularly know as Numaish held at the Exhibition Grounds at Nampally, Hyderabad. I remember as a child, my mother used to take my sister and me to this heavenly place every year and all I ever did was trail along her to all the stalls and shops and take a whiff of the pop corn. And a little while of walking around and being less naughty would mean a whole pack of pop corn, just for me. And then the play rides – the Tora Tora, the roller coasters, the well of death (Mout ka Kua) where bikers would test their talent and fate and the very famous GIANT WHEEL. Most of the kids my age, not to forget, their parents too would get scared at the sight of the wheel. But would get on to it to may be show to others or to themselves how brave they are or just because they would rather not leave their kids with strangers on the wheel. And I used to get on to the wheel only to watch how people react to when the wheel moves up and down. Might sound scary, spooky and a little sadistic, but that’s me.

After I grew a little older, it became more than just pop corn and giant wheel. At times it was a chance to hang out with friends or just a pleasure trip where we get to window shop the world (we have always felt it that way). Also, the umpteen trips to this place all through these years have helped me in improving my skills – bargaining, negotiating, convincing, decision making and last but not the least interacting with strangers. It is an all together different feeling when you walk out of the store with that thing in your hand at the price you quoted. Elation. Ecstasy. Euphoria. If you have ever tried your hand at bargaining, you will definitely agree with me on that. And it doesn’t matter if you actually need the thing or not, as long as you are getting it at a price quoted by you. Naive, you would say. I know. But that is the beauty of the place which one has to experience by oneself.

The most charming thing about this place is that people from all over the nation come here to sell their stuff and to showcase their talent. There are stalls that showcase Kashmiri carpets and shawls, Rajasthani dupattas, Bengali sarees and the Lucknowi Chikan work apparels, Kolhapuri chappal (slippers), Pawadi & Kutch chappal, Nawaabi chappal, Jaipuri chappal, crockery in melamine and glass, artefacts made out of wood, cane, jute and cloth, handlooms from Pochampally, Ikkat, Patola and Bandini, fashion jewellery from all over the nation, home appliances, industrial items, real estate jigs, models of Government projects, local tourist attractions, food stalls that cover a wide range of dishes like Dosa, Dhokla, Chaat, Chole Bhature, Manchurian, Biryani and Haleem (PISTA HOUSE). There is a stall that displays the Forest view of our state – Telangana, a stall that showcases the items made by prison inmates, a stall that depicts the works taken up by DWCRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas).

Spread across 23 Acres of land providing access to approximately 3000 stalls, this exhibition is without doubt one of the finest and largest in the world. With the advent of technology, it has become very easy for anyone with a smart phone to order a piece manufactured not just in our nation, but anywhere in this world with just a simple click. Hassle free. But if you want to feel the forte of the region and get to know a little about it from the manufacturers themselves, then you should definitely pay a visit to the Numaish. It is filled with crowd always, at least in all these years of my visit, I have rarely witnessed this place with minimal crowd. This place can support a floating crowd of about 20 lakh people on each day. Enormous. Gigantic. Mammoth. ‘Crowd’ would just be an under statement. Getting lost in the crowd is the most common thing that can happen if not cautious. Though I have been going back to this place year on year for the past 20 years, I can never say that I have seen it completely. There have been times that I felt that I am just moving in a circle ending up at the same point where I started, which is a visual illusion (though not optical). It would take any sane person at least 24 hrs to see all the stalls put up here, whereas it is open only for 7 – 8 hrs every day. Irony.

It is not just about the variety platter that is being offered which matters, but the fact that the spirit of the manufactures and stall bearers keeps going up year by year. All through these years they must have seen many highs and lows and withstood many obstacles. One such thing was the cash crunch which hit 2 years back in 2017 due to the demonetisation. To everyone’s surprise, it did not falter their spirit but on the other hand, raised it by making them get a step closer to technology and digitisation. It definitely takes courage to come to a place away from home for 45 days and make it feel like home for lakhs of people who come there. There have been few who have been taking part in this exhibition through generations too. But as I said earlier, it has always been synonymous to the whiff of fresh pop corn for me. Such a welcome whiff, that can mesmerise you so much so that even a certified lethargic like me can walk around for 3 hours at a stretch without a halt. At times when I feel that I am lost in the crowd, I stop, close my eyes and have a deep whiff of the pop corn and viola!!!! I am lost no more. I know exactly where I am and where I have to go.

Pop corn there is now being offered in various flavours – Chocolate, Caramel, Cheese, Schezwan, Tomato, Butter, Plain salted and Masala. My all time favourite being the ‘Masala pop corn’ with which I survive through my bargaining stints, window shopping and not to forget the long walk across the ground. If you are a local here you would know that too. If you are visiting Hyderabad during Jan – Feb, make sure you don’t miss this experience. The feeling of discovering oneself amidst a crowd. The feeling of bearing the torch to those who follow you into a stall unknowingly and get benefitted by your bargaining skills. The feeling of having had the best food ever with strangers around. The feeling of being an ace at deciding on what to shop and what not to (which by the way has rarely any connection whatsoever with the utility of the item). The feeling of taking away very little out of this huge shopper’s paradise. The feeling of having been a part of a walk marathon and mostly watch others shop around. The feeling of being there and having done that. Our visit to this place would always end on a sweet note – the sugar candy which we would carry back home as a prized possession and then compete on who finishes it the last. Crazy!!! Not really.

Place – Numaish, Exhibition Grounds

Location – Nampally. With the Metro now, it has become easier to commute. Just get down at the Gandhi Bhavan stop and walk straight into the Exhibition grounds.

Duration – 1st January 2019 to 15th February 2019

Timings – 3:00 pm to 10:30 pm on Week days & 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Weekends

Entry Fees – For Adults (anyone above 5 yrs of age) Rs. 30/- per head. Senior citizens, children below 5 yrs, persons with physical disabilities are exempted of the entry fee.

Eateries – Outside food is strictly not allowed except if it is for kids below 5 yrs. There are many food and juice joints within every 2 kms of distance inside.

Lessons from my NUMAISH visit:

  • Have a list of things you need to shop for but don’t be surprised if you end up getting more, in fact things which you might realise later you don’t need at all.
  • Most of the stalls are equipped with PoS machines, but it is better to have some cash in handy for smaller purchases.
  • Make sure to carry your own water bottles if it is not a burden. Might help in lessening the litter around.
  • Do make use of the litter bins put across. They are not for show off, they have been put there for a reason.
  • Take care of your belongings (mobiles and wallets) especially if you are visiting with kids. Beware of pickpockets.
  • There are places for radio announcements and police patrolling stops after every 2 – 3 kms. Do not hesitate to make use of them if need be.
  • They have also provided for toilets after every 5 kms. There are a few with kids care section and for the disabled too.
  • If you are into a little fun, do try out the train ride which takes you around the whole ground from middle of the road with the crowd staring at you.
  • Bring back as many memories as possible some in the form of purchases, some in the form of stories to tell your kids and their kids. Make the most of your visit.

Petite miracles of the World!

Our first look of the Shell and Pearl Museum

Shells – The hard outer protective layer created by sea animals. If this was not miraculous enough, I sometimes wonder at the persuasion and perseverence with which humans perceive their goals. One such wonder is the Shell Museum at Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram). A collection of more than 40000 different shells is what welcomes you there. Each shell unique in itself having a story to tell. It was definitely a sight to see these stories talking to each other and to people looking at them in a language of their own. All thanks to Mr. Raja Mohamed who spent 33 years of his life in gathering these shells from different parts of the world.

I remember, as a kid, I would always be curious to know more about shells, how they are formed, where they come from, what happens to them after a while, do they get decomposed too??? But because we were not introduced to either Google or Wiki then, could never get my doubts clarified. But after visiting the museum, have just been awestruck at the beauty of these little miracle bundles not to forget the answers I found for my silly doubts too.

Can’t find enough words to describe the feeling I had while I was going around watching the shells. There were a few that even made my imagination go wild. So much so that I ended up into my childhood fantasy of making up wild stories around few of the shells that I saw there. This is just a glimpse of my wild imagination.

There were a few (actually many) of those that amazed me too. There were the ‘Right Handed’ and the ‘Left handed’ ones. There were ones that looked like Giant Butterfly wings and also the tiny dot shells. There were the princely ones and the most regular ones too. There were the Turtle back shaped and also the Porcupine shaped ones. The rarest, unusual and the common ones too.

Then there was a set which displayed the World’s smallest shells. Truly fabulous. They were all supposed to be the most common ones, but seemed uncommon to me.

Also, there was something else apart from the shells that attracted my attention. Each Gallery had a descriptive of how these shells were formed.

And this was not the end of it. There was more to come. Not to boast about it, but I do take pride in being brought up in the City of Pearls, Hyderabad. Only till I headed to the next stop at the Museum. It was no less than a grandeur of pearls. I had goosebumps all over while I was having a look at them. Have grown up watching different sizes and varieties of pearls at our very own Charminar shops which offer a platter of pearls. But this turned out to be epic. Truly EPIC!!!

I remember, during my younger days, whenever we had visitors from foreign (For us anywhere outside AP / TELANGANA is considered Foreign), it was a ritual to take them around the city. And one of my favourite spots was of course Charminar. On the pretext of taking the guests around, we used to take shots at the Pearl shops around looking out for varieties of pearls.

I don’t know if someone said it earlier, but I would definitely want to say this, “what good is a Shell without its pearl?”. You will have to see it to believe it though.

We also got to know few ancient facts about pearls there.

We ended our visit with the Aquarium next to it which had the most beautiful fish collection, but a rather limited one. And then there is also a store which sells shells and pearls called ‘Mayabazar’ in the same complex. If you are a shell enthusiast, or if you have a thing for pearls or if you want to take away a few souvenirs for loved ones, this is definitely the place. So, the next time you are visiting places in South, near Chennai especially, do make sure you drop by this heavenly place.

MAN MADE PEARL

Place – Indian Shell & Pearl Museum, Mahabalipuram

Location – Right on the way to Chennai from Pondicherry via East Coast Road. If you are taking the road, it might just take 2 hrs from Pondi to reach.

Entry Ticket – It costs Rs. 150/- for the Shell Museum, and Rs. 50/- each for the Pearl and Fish Aquarium. Photography and Videography allowed. Totally worth it.

Eateries – Not sure if food is allowed inside, but can definitely take water along with you. Especially if you are weak at heart and tend to drool away at the sheer sight of beautiful pearls.

Lessons from my SHELL & PEARL Museum visit 

  1. It is alright to be surprised at times on a trip that is totally planned.
  2. Do not worry if you have to cut short on other places to see or things to do when you are on a trip. It is bound to happen. Else, there is no fun.
  3. When you come across a place where you are not sure whether to look around or focus on taking snaps, do not think twice. Keep looking around. Try to sneak in snaps in between. But make sure you enjoy the sight of the place when you are there.
  4. If you have good knowledge about shells and pearls (not in the literal sense though) do shop around for some of them. They will act as good souvenirs or gifts for people back home.
  5. Do make sure you come back and try to find out more about the place. You can rely on your folks (Moms, Dads, Grandmoms, Granddads, Uncles, Aunties or Friends) or our very own Google and Wiki.
  6. And last but not the least – try this one “She sells sea shells on the shore.” Let’s see how many times you can say it without fumbling!!!

Teintes De Pondichery

A rare combination of coastal Indian and French cuisine, Puducherry is our own French colony with a tangy tinge of India in it. A place well known for peace and tranquil owed not just to the Aurobindo and Auroville Ashram but also to the Serenity and Paradise (beaches). A true escape from the regular hustle bustle of a busy corporate life. When me and my friend decided that we go away from work for a while, this was our first choice for no specific reasons.

Day 1 – Bonjour Pondi

We took a flight, a direct one from Hyderabad to Puducherry. For those who didn’t know, yes. There is a single flight from Hyderabad to Puducherry courtesy Spicejet. So if you do not want to while away your time in boarding buses, trains and cabs, do check out for direct flights from your place. Reached Pondi at about 11.30 am and hit our hotel – The GINGER. All we had was a list of places to visit in our 3 day stay here. So the first thing we did was to have a wonderful lunch out at the hotel where we were put up. For us, Pondi was all about Fish. So we went ahead and ordered their signature fish dish (which by the way took ages to be served). Totally worth the wait, must say!!!!

The signature GINGER fish in Tartar sauce (MAYOOOO…..)

After this heavenly treat we hit the road, literally hit the road. Found out the local market and rented a bike for our trip. And off we went to the Auroville Ashram (Thanks to Google maps). Since we had not booked earlier, we could just have a look around and witness the Matr Mandir. It is truly an exercise for those who are mostly confined to their desks because of their work. Almost 3 – 4 kms of walk inside to reach the spot. We felt weird when we saw people cycling their way in and out. But after a looooooong walk (which felt like almost 20 kms) when we got to witness the Dome, we didn’t really mind it. We then headed out to visit few temples – Manekula Vinayagar temple and the Varadaraj Perumal temple (which we initially mistook to be Kanniga Parameswari temple, thanks to Google Maps again). We then hit our first beach of our trip, Promenade. A cool walk along the shore with the sound of waves hitting every now and then in the background is something you need to experience if you are in Pondi. Its like an Ilayaraja classic which brings in the aroma of life. Did you just read aroma???? There was another aroma apart from Ilayaraja’s classic which was inviting us….. The Le Cafe, the French cuisine dine out which served the best Pizzas of Pondi (says Google again).

The Wood Fired French PIZZA

Day 2 – Our Panai Soru Kozhambu

For those who know me and my lazy bones well, it takes a thought about beach and a stubborn friend to move my ass at 5 in the morning. And before we could even think about it, we were off on our very own Dhanno to the Serenity Beach. Rocks, water, sand and an eerie calm. Priceless. Our plan for the day was to visit Aurobindo Ashram and the much talked about French colony. So we hit the road with Dhanno and google maps. We also visited the St. Basillica Church and the Samba Kovil. Only to find ourself famished. We found this hoarding on a posh looking hotel on our way out every now and then. To put an end to our curious pangs, we walked right into it just to taste one of the most heavenly delicacies of the world.

A deadly combination of steamed rice and fish. Ummmmmmm!!!!!!!

Must say, the soup (Nand poondu rasam) Crab served in steaming hot garlic rasam turned out to be a relish but could not beat the original ‘Oru Panai Soru Kozhambu’ literally meaning One Pot (Mud Pot) full of steamed rice and curry. I am pretty sure, a thought that we have landed right out of a draught stricken area must have crossed Ms. Anita, the waitress who served us this delicacy. After this master hog, we hit our hotel back and probably didn’t want to head out anywhere else. Later in the evening we headed out to Promenade beach again, this time around to try out some authentic French cuisine for dinner and ended up at the Coramandel Cafe, famous for its ambience and cuisine. We were pleasantly surprised after looking at the menu, probably because we were totally unaware of what French cuisine is all about. Overall, it turned out to be more of an Indian flavour to what seemed like a French savoury. And all night through I had just one question on my mind. How could ‘Paneer’ make it to the French cuisine???

Day 3 – Buddha Bay

Wherever you are, Sundays are bound to make you feel lazy. And Sunday it was. After our free breakfast, we decided to take a nap for a while longer to make it up to the Sunday effect. After which we hit the road to the Eswaran Kovil which incidentally is right next to the Varadaraj Perumal temple. We then visited the Puducherry Museum. Reminded me of one of our History classes back in school (in a nice way though). I was specially attracted towards the Paintings that were put up there. Marvellous. And then we decided instantly that we would have some local food that day at Adayar Anand Bhavan. The Veg Thali (Meals) there could deceive anyone into believing it was not sufficient. But turned out to be as filling as ever. We then chilled out a little and went shopping to the MAX store there. We had booked for a dine out at Bay of Buddha (The best Pub at Pondi as told by Google) which is a roof top at Promenade Hotel for that night. Our last night at Pondi. All thanks to Mr. Nizamuddin, the desk manager at Promenade who managed to keep a slot available for us and the best one too.

A Toast to Pondi…..

Day 4 – Jour Des Coquillages

The plan for the day was to reach Chennai for our flight back to Hyderabad at night via Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, as it is popularly known as. Before we left Pondi, we visited the Paradise Beach, just in time to witness the sunrise.

Our Last Sun rise at Pondi

It was time to bid adieu to our Dhanno, a true blue VESPA which had been our travel mate for 3 days. Took up a cab from Pondi to Chennai. Just at the time when we were thinking, it was all over so soon, we came across a surprise. A pleasant one though. A Shell and Pearl museum. A real eye candy. Not many of them knew about this. Had not heard about it earlier. Not even from Google. And then we stopped over at a food court for a quick bite. But obviously Fish being the flavour of the day.

The Wanton fish meal….

We then saw the Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas, The unfinished cave of Krishna Mandapa, the Light House (scary stairs) and stepped by the famous Tiger cave. But then bunked the cave and pushed off straight to the waves across. Had a good time at the beach there and headed back to the Airport (Chennai).

A trip to remember – Flight, Fun, Food, Fish, Friends, Fusion, Fossils, Fotos and Fondi.

Lessons from my FONDI trip

  • It is good to check out all possible options of travel and commute well before taking a trip.
  • Should have tried one of the home stays at the French Colony.
  • It is good if you know / can manage with the local language – Tamil. Even otherwise, English rules.
  • Never be in a rush to finish off all the places to visit or things to do in your trip list. It is sometimes good to stay back where you are and enjoy the moment. A la Deepika Padukone in ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’. After all you didn’t pay for the hotel room just to keep your belongings.
  • Trust google maps. But also make sure you confirm with local people around about places of visit. Deadly combination, especially if you are not a native local. And last, but never the least,
  • It is alright to not have photos of a certain place, point or people as long as we have the memories close to our heart.