Shirdi!!!

All of us know that Shirdi is the land of Sai baba and every year lakhs and lakhs of people go on a pilgrimage to Shirdi. Last year I got the opportunity to visit Shirdi and Sai Mandir.

Before reaching there I had to do an extensive research on the travel options, dharshan facilities etc., I was also very skeptical about the food and lodging options there. This triggered me to blog about my travel.

About Shirdi:

 Shirdi is a small town located in Ahemadnagar district in the state of Maharashtra. It is famous for its Sai Mandir. 

How to reach:

Shirdi is accessible by road, rail and air. We took a flight from Chennai to Pune and travelled to Shirdi via car. There are many cab operators from Pune airport and our operator charged Rs.4500 for our one way travel. We had already booked the cab online. Several private and government buses ply from Pune to Shirdi. The other nearest airports to Shirdi are at Aurangabad and Mumbai.

Several private and government buses ply from the other cities in Maharashtra like Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nagpur.

Shirdi is also well connected by rail and it has its own railway station. This connects Shirdi to all the major cities of Maharashtra.

From Pune we drove through Ahmednagar to reach Shirdi and it took us almost 4.5 hours.

Day 1: We boarded the early morning Spicejet flight to Pune and our cab was already waiting for us in the airport. We reached Shirdi by 11.30 AM. We had already booked a hotel through MakeMyTrip.com. 

Where to stay?

There are many hotels in Shirdi that offer lodging facilities. Shri Sai Baba Sansthan trust also offers accommodation and the rooms can be booked in their website. We stayed in Hotel Yog Palace and it was near to the Mandir. The rooms were very neat and clean. One drawback is they do not have their own restaurant. But next to Yog Palace, there is a south indian hotel (Hotel Iyappa) run by Ramachandran ji and he serves very tasty food. We stayed in Shirdi for 4 days and on all the days we had our breakfast in hotel Iyappa. 

Where to eat?

Hotel Iyappa offers very tasty south indian food at a lower cost.

Mukta food court near the temple offers authentic north Indian cuisine.

The best restaurant in Shirdi is “Sai Neivedyam”, just opposite to the Mandir.

Darshan:

We had booked for darshan (Aarthi ticket) on the day 1 itself as we had plans of visiting other places on the following days. Tickets for darshan can be booked online through the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan trust website. They have two types of tickets: Dharshan and Aarthi. We had booked tickets for night Aarthi. 

There is also a regular darshan queue and people start gathering there by 04:30 AM as the Mandir opens at 04:00 AM. Darshan begins at 07:00 AM. 

Before going to dharshan, cell phones have to be kept in the lockers provided by the trust. Though it is near to the temple, I suggest leaving them in the hotel room itself.

What to see in Shirdi?

1. Sai samadhi Mandir

2. Khandoba temple

3. Gurusthan

4. Chawari

5. Dwarakamai

6. Lendi gardens

There are other small temples near the Samadhi Mandir.

On Thursdays pallaku seva takes place where Sai baba portrait is taken from Samadhi Mandir to Dwarakamai. From there it is taken to Chawari and it returns back to the Sai baba Samadhi Mandir.

We visited the Mandir and other places twice, on Day 1 and Day 3.

Watch out for my next post to read about the temples visited on Day 2.

The IYER Wedding!!!!

Well, finally after all the efforts and too much of planning, I got married to Venkat on the 26th of June. It was a typical Iyer wedding which went for 2.5 days. Though we had great fun, it was very tiring. I also realized the 2.5 days went really really fast and before we could even realize, we had tied the knot.

So, the 2.5 days went off with due respect to all the customs and I thought I can share what actually happened on those days.

We started our wedding with the Virudham on 25thmorning. Usually this is done on the previous day of our wedding (like ours) but it can also be done before the wedding day. We reached the marriage hall and my parents got ready to do the Virudham for me. Virudham means fasting where the bride, her parents, groom and his parents will fast and invoke the blessings of the lord and ancestors. Also, the bride and the groom have to do it separately. Just like my first birthday, my parents gave me little rice, jaggery with curd and also give me a new name. After this, yellow thread was tied on my wrist, which means I cannot go out of the marriage. Similarly another yellow thread was tied on Venkat’s wrist. After this palikai ceremony took place where 9 grains were placed in 9 cups and elders sprinkled water on it so that it will sprout. The tradition behind this is as it sprouts, we will be blessed with prosperity. Then aarthi took place and the Virudham came to an end.

We usually invite close relatives, elders to the Virudham function and serve them breakfast and lunch. A traditional lunch without onion and garlic was served.

In the late evening, we had another engagement to which friends and relatives were invited. First the groom was called and my brother kept turmeric for him and gifted him with a dress. Also, he placed the garland around his neck. Then sweets were distributed to the guests. Next, my fiancée’s sister kept me turmeric and gifted me with a saree. After we changed to out new clothes, we were asked to sit next to each other and the elders performed the aarthi. In the meantime, elders from both the family sat next to each other and wrote the “Lagna pathrigai” which means “Marriage contract”. This was read aloud by the priest. It includes the name of both the familes, names of the bride and the grrom and an agreement that the marriage is to be conducted. This was signed by both bride’s and groom’s parents.

After this, thamboolam (plate with betel leaves, dry fruits, coconut, turmeric and kumkum) was exchanged.

In the olden days, we used to have the Jaanavasam where the groom arrives to the wedding hall in a decorated car. Family and friends join the procession.

After this we marched to the dining hall and had a tasty dinner. We then left to take rest as we had to wake up very early the next day. Depending on the muhurtham time, the Kasi yatra time will be fixed as that’s the first tradition on the D day. Our muhurtham was between 7:30 to 9 and Venkat had to leave for the Kasi yatra at 6, while I had to wake up at 3 and get ready. After I tied my new saree, 4 garlands were put around my neck and similarly the bride had 4 garlands. Also, extra poonal thread was given to Venkat and he was asked to tie the Panchagajam for the first time as he was to enter the family man stage.

Then, the Kasi Yatra started. Venkat held an umberella, a paper fan, walking stick and a towel with dhal and rice and started to walk on a false yatra. He was stopped by my father and was asked to marry me by washing his legs. As soon as he accepted the proposal, I was called and made to stand in front of him.

We got ready for the malai maatral ceremony for which uncles are given first preference. Our uncles lifted us and we exchanged the garlands. Also we had a short game where when I try to put the garland his uncles will take him backwards and I had to run to catch hold of him.

After this short game, Venkat was asked to hold my hand and we were asked to sit on a swing for the Oonjal ceremony. The swing was rocked and elders gave us milk and banana. After this round rice balls were thrown in all four directions to shoo away the evil spirits. Then, ladies from our family carried rice and lamp in a vessel and other traditional stuffs and came around us when one came around pouring water. With this the oonjal ceremony came to an end. During the oonjal, relatives sang songs.

Once again he was made to hold my hand and we went to the decorated Manadapam were the wedding was planned. Then we had to do few other puja and I was given the traditional 9yards saree. I was accompanied by my athai and sister in law and they helped me tie the saree. I was then brought to the mandapam. I sat on my father’s lap and my hands were lifter upward and was placed on the hands of Venkat like we are holding each other. Coconut, betel leaves and nuts were kept on my hands. On my hand, a ring made of a dried grass was placed and a branch (yoke) was also placed. Then the mangal sutra was placed and water was poured on the yoke. Then a belt made of another grass was tied to my waist. In the mean time, my sister showed the Mangal sutra to the guests and got their blessings. Later Venkat tied the knot and my sister in law did the last two knots.

Then we were made to take seven steps around the agni. Venkat held my hand and we walked around the agni. For each round, he stopeed, held my right toe by bending down and helped me take seven steps around the fire. At the beginning of each step he chanted the mantra. After this gifts were exchanged.

Then we went around the agni and poured ghee and twigs into it.

Venkat then held my left toe and made me step and stand on a grindstone.

My maternal aunt then placed the “Metti” on my toe and we were made to see the Arundhati and Dhruva Nakshathram.

My brother then was made to sit beside us. He gave a handful of puffed rice into my hand, my husband added little ghee to it and I in turn had to put it in the fire. This was repeated thrice.

Finally after little more pooja, wedding came to an end and we rushed to have lunch. Our banana leaves were decorated and we were asked to feed each other.

After a tasty and sumptuous lunch, we quickly got ready for the Grihapravesam. Me and my relatives visited his room and we were given sweets and gifts. In turn they visited us and we did the same for them.

Now is the fun part of the wedding, the “Nalangu”. Venkat and myself was asked to sit opposite to each other surrounded by our relatives. We started with an anthakshari. Then we applied turmeric on each other’s feet. We were asked to comb each other’s hair. Venkat had to apply make up for me. Then we put a ring inside a pot filled with water and tried taking it out. Even if one picked the ring the other has to fight to get it. Then we had the coconut game were we had to pass it and once it comes in the middle, one has to hold and the other has to take it out from that person’s hand. Finally, appalam was broken on each other’s heads.

Then we had the aarthi ceremony and finally the wedding is over.

Like every other wedding we also had the reception in the evening.

On the 3rd day, we had the kattusadham which literally means packed food. Brunch was served and packed food was given to us. My things were sent to Venkat’s house and we bid farewell to everybody of course with tears.

There ended our 2.5 days typical Iyer wedding and I stepped into Venkat’s house as his wife…

Well gotta go now, c ya all soon. Bye..!!!

My protected life…

It was around 1.00 PM on a Monday and the sun was at its peak. TO be more precise it was March 9, 2015. I started to office, after enjoying my weekend. Being the first day of a week, I was feeling fresh and wanted to reach office early so I can start my week with a bang. But unfortunately, I was late and the cab driver left me. When I realized, its late, I called him and he said he almost reached my office. Usually, if I miss my cab, I take an auto or a taxi and end up paying 350 Rs. Suddenly, the importance of saving crept in my mind and I decided I will take a train. Believe me, I have been the MRTS only twice and I have never boarded the train from Mylapore. Going by bus is ruled out as I have never travelled in bus and I am not familiar with the bus routes. My colleagues had taught me the train route so I was quite familiar with that.

During my college days, or even my school days, I never had the chance to travel alone. Either of my parents used to drop me and pick me. Even if they were unable to accompany me, I used to take a cab. Even auto was forbidden. Few might call it luxury, but it was a way of giving me full protection. I was never exposed to the world of public transport. Even long distance journey was by car or flight. For a person who was brought up like that, travelling by a train is very difficult.

Also, I never used to carry money. I am a spendthrift at times and if I carry cash I might spend it. At times, I avoid carrying my debit card, but luckily that day I had it with me. I was waiting in my cab pick up point and tried calling few private cab drivers, but they were unable to arrange a cab with a short notice.

I decided to take a chance and with 10rs, started walking towards the railway station. I somehow found the entrance. But, when I entered, it was empty. The ticket counter was closed. I asked a lady there and she said she was not aware of the ticket counters. I came out and saw the vehicle stand. Suddenly, I remembered I have visited that stand with my mom and I decided to walk straight. In few yards I saw something familiar and I realized I was in a very well known area. I saw many people walking towards the entrance. It was actually the back side of the station. I had two options, either to take an auto or go by train. I was already late for work and I decided if I go by train I an reach early. I somehow bought the ticket (spent 5Rs.) and started waiting for the train. Finally the train arrived. I have demophobia (fear of crowd). But my fate, the train was crowded. I always have the fear of falling down and I was praying god to save me. Somehow, I managed to put up with the crowd and the train reached Thiruvanmiyur. I got down there and decided to take an auto. I didn’t have sufficient cash and I asked my friend to come near the entrance to give cash. Unfortunately, I was able to find a share auto only. I told the driver I need to go to ascendas and he misunderstood me. He didn’t stop near my place and I thought he might take a different route. But as if he was going straight, I realized I didn’t have enough money and decided to get down. After getting down, I gave 5rs and he demanded 10rs. I told him I had just 1Re  left and he started shouting at me. I was embarrassed. Unable to take it further, I told him I just don’t have change and he said he can give me change. I said I only have a 500 Re note. The guy who was sitting in front said he will pay. But the auto driver never listened and I started searching my bag. Finally he just left the place.

I was in constant touch with my colleagues. For few minutes I felt stranded. But, I regained my confidence and started to figure out the routes. I was not able to find any auto nearby and I decided to start walking. There were two routes for me to choose and I felt the second one was much shorter. So I chose that and started walking. Much later I realized I missed the route again and the route I had selected is the longest. With no auto and no cash I continued walking.

When I was around 15 mins away from Ascendas, a cab driver (drives for a reputed hotel) stopped and forced me to get into the cab. Luckily, a passerby stopped and asked the driver to move. After escaping from him, I started walking again and finally I reached my office building. That’s when I realized, how protected I have been all these while. I was very dependent on someone to even go for a shop. I just cannot go out alone. Many times, I have travelled in the wrong routes. If only I had asked someone for the correct route, I would not have faced so much. But the fear of asking or talking to a stranger has always been there in my mind. Now I know, I have to overcome this. Well, let’s see!!!!

C ya in my next post, bye till then!!!!

Fine, I am 26!!! Thats not a big deal!!

For the first time in my life, I feel like fast forwarding my birthday. Yeah, I don’t want to see my birthday. I know the reason behind this. Yeah its my 27th birthday. Well, it’s not about me getting older, it’s about my relationship status. Yeah, I am single!!! Who fixed the age for getting married?? What’s wrong if I am 26 and I’m still single. I am not bothered about it. I am educated and I know the pros and cons of being single. I will get married when the time comes. It’s just that I am waiting for the right guy. I cannot marry a random guy for the sake of having a life partner. I want my relationship to be good even though not perfect.

Who told you I will never get married if I cross 27? That’s a humbug. What if I meet my guy at 30?? Getting married is my wish. It’s my future and it’s my problem. Thanks for worrying about me but please don’t demotivate me.

When guys can get married in 30s, why can’t girls?? Now please don give excuses like culture and science. I have heard enough of it.

What if a person who is younger to me gets married?? It is not going to affect my life in any way. Its her wish!! Her life!! Tomorrow I may not even see her. If she gets married, let her take it up. Why force me into it for the sake of other people?

Even if it is written on my head that I should live alone, I can and I will. I know how to mould of my life. Probably god has not written marriage in my life. But I am sure he would have written something better and it will soon reach me. Getting married is not the ultimate goal. I have other goals too. Why can’t I fulfill them??? At the end, its my life. I have to live it. I have to shape it. Who will cry when I die??

Signing off in an angry note..

Guys – They are not to be blamed always

Hi.. its been few days since we met. I was just searching for a good topic and that’s when my best friend suggested that I write something positive about guys. And here I go..

Well, like a coin has 2 sides, there are positives and negatives for everything. Same way, though we criticise guys and term them with many names, they help us in many ways.

In a girl’s life, males play multiple roles. As a father, brother, friend, husband and son.

First as a father, a girl’s first male friend. In fact it is said that a father and his daughter share a special bonding and he is closer to her than her mother. He protects us and gives us everything. Fine, he is our father so he does.

Now, brother, husband and son also play similar roles as a father. Let’s not go in detail there. But a friend!!!!. What relationship we have with him apart from being a friend? But still he comes along with us just to safeguard us. Be it shopping or movies or restaurant. Shopping, well they know they will get bored, but they just come because they don’t want us to go alone. Have to mention how they patiently wait outside the trial room. And the horrible movies we take them to.. Have you ever thought why they do all these? It’s because they care for us and they don’t want us to go alone.

We often talk about rapes, but there are guys who accompany us because they are scared something might happen to us. They actually save us from the rapists. Not only friends, your office cab driver, cab mates even they find ways to drop you safely at home. I have experienced this. After dropping me in the gate my cab drivers wait till I reach my flat and then leave. Shouldn’t we just stop blaming all guys?? Not only safeguarding us, only to our friend we can be ourselves.

At times he is like your female friend. He understands even the girlish situation of yours and try to save you. You can rely on him just like you rely on your female friends. Even when you show your worst character to them, they will not mistake you. With my friends I do that. I run, jump, dance, torture them, make them take me for long drives.

Its just not about roaming or sharing. Its something more. We just cannot blame them because they are guys and avoid them. There are many good ones too. I have got many male friends through community groups and only I know how well they behave to me. I can totally trust them.

It’s not that all guys are bad and they flirt, there are some real good guys too.

Alright, time to go. C ya soon. Bye..

Does marriage really depend on your physique??

Oh gosh! You are soo fat and the groom might reject you. Well, I keep hearing this very often. That made me wonder, does my physique really matter for getting married!! Why can’t a girl who is on the heavier side get married. Are all the grooms perfect? Can’t you find a groom who is short or bald? So, being short or bald does not stop the wedding, but being fat does!! Who framed all these criteria? We framed it. We came up with specifications. To the guys, when you complaint that bride’s family is expecting good salary, own house etc., where did this expectation go?? Shouldn’t you be against this also.

And to all those who say a fat girl will be rejected, being fat is not a mistake. And not all fat girls hog. It might be due to various issues. Before you judge a person, try to talk to him/her about his/her problem. Believe me, you will realize they too have emotions. By telling them, “you will not get married”, you’re only creating an inferiority complex and scaring them, which is not at all necessary. Not all slim girls are beautiful. I totally understand health issues are related to weight, but that does not decide your marriage.

Well, let’s say I am very beautiful and I get married, but after that some allergy reduces my beauty, will the guy leave me? Will he still say beauty is all I want. First of all, try to understand even a fat person is a human being.

Now, to all those who say, “First reduce your weight, then get married”, do you think reducing is very easy? Nope, never! It will take a year or two to reduce and then you will say, sorry now you are too old to get married.

Folks, I am on the heavier side and I have rejected many guys because they are not my kinda people. Please don’t assume I was rejected for being heavy. Beyond your physique there are many other reasons.

It is not that we are fat because we want to be. It is our physique and we are working to reduce it. It is not that we just sit idle and hog, even we have a corporate life. Think and understand before you speak.

We too have feelings! Yes, even we cry and feel scared. Just because we are fat, you don’t have the liberty to talk about us. We will talk back.

So, please think before you speak.

Yennai Arindhal!!

Movie review after a long time – Well, after 2 years. Though I never stopped watching movies, I never had the time to continue my movie reviews. As years pass, life changes and priorities also changes. So, had to concentrate on many other things. Now everything is in place and hence decided to start my movie reviews again. Well, here it is, I’m back with a bang with Yennai Arindhal.. A come back for me and thala!!!!

Directed by GVM, this movie is studded with stars like Trisha, Anushka, Arun Vijay, Ashish etc., A commercial hit by GVM after Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu. I felt Kaakha Kaakha, VV and YA are interrelated. GVM also accepted it and said its a trilogy. Though, many people criticised and said it is just a mixture of his previous films, I felt the movie attracted the mass and the screenplay was good. They were able to hold the audience till the end with suspense.

Don’t worry, this will not be a spoiler for those who have not watched the movie yet. We all know “Thala” is a man of simplicity and he has showed that on screen as well. Arun Vijay’s hard work and the need to come up in film industry is shown in the movie. Especially his physique and acting in the climax shows he has transformed into a great actor.

Trisha suits well for that character and her beauty cannot be explained in words. Though Anushka, did not have a role to showcase her talent, she has done her part well.

BGM by Harris of course tops the list and songs are the first attracting feature in this movie. Though thala has done an awesome job, songs and Arun Vijay outshine him.

Hats off to GVM to take a very important issue and mix it with such a story. The transformation from one direction to another after intermission is worth appreaciating. Usually, it is very difficult for script writers/directors to change the movie track and still link it with the start. But, here GVM has done it really well and till the end he made sure the link was never broken.

It won’t be good if the small girl’s performance is not appreciated, as she has done a great job. Especially her acting in few scenes like when she accepts Trisha and Ajith’s wedding, when she asks Ajith to re-start his police career, have to be appreciated.

Overall, I would say it is a very good movie and it is a great come back for Thala, Arun Vijay and GVM.