Monday, October 31, 2011


Every religion has its festival time. Christians celebrate Christmas & New Year with great fanfare. Muslims have Ramzan and Bakrid which they celebrate with a lot of religious fervor; Sikhs and Jains even have a few festivals coinciding with the Hindus.

But Hindus have more religious festivals than others to propitiate the countless gods and goddesses that they worship. India is supposed to have 25,000 Melas celebrated across the country. These Melas invariably coincide with local temple festivals in different States or specific religious occasions attracting thousands of devotees ranging from a few thousands to several Lakhs. The biggest among them being the Kumbh Mela which attracts over 10 crore people to Allahabad every 12 years!

Hindus also have a number of festivals celebrated at the family level. Apart from the mandatory New Year celebrations they have Krishna Jayanthi to appease Lord Krishna, the fun loving Lord whose advice to Arjuna in the battlefield in Mahabaratha gave us the Bhagavad Gita. Ganesha, the elephant god, very popular across India, has Ganesh Chaturthi dedicated to him which is celebrated with music and dance for 10 days in Maharashtra and many other parts of India. Similarly Navaratri is celebrated in different forms in different regions. While exhibition of dolls (Kolu) dominates the festival in Tamilnadu, it is Durga Puja in Bengal and Garba in Gujarat. Of course, Diwali the festival of lights is celebrated with firing of crackers across the country and in which members of other religions also participate.

When I was growing up in Mumbai, the children used to look forward to this festival because of the fun and excitement associated with it. Diwali used to be a special occasion which the locals, particularly the Gujaratis, used to celebrate for three days. For Gujarathis, Diwali also marked the beginning of a New Year.

In our family, as for most South Indians, Diwali is a one day affair. The night before Diwali; my mother would apply kumkum and turmeric powder on all the new dresses to be worn by every member of the family and neatly arrange them in the Pooja room along with some packets of Diwali crackers. In the morning, she would wake up the kids by 3.30 am so that all of them could have their Ganga Snanam (oil bath) and wear the new dresses before sun rise. Before the bath, all the children and elders in the house would be asked to sit in a row on the floor in front of the pooja room and my mother would apply a dash of hot gingelly oil, kumkum and turmeric powder on the forehead, hands and feet and then perform arati; before anyone was allowed to have his/her bath. While doing this she would also explain the significance of the rituals to the kids. Then there would be a scramble to get into the single bathroom; as the kid who managed to have a bath; get dressed and fire the “pattas” (electric crackers) first was considered a `hero` or `heroin` in the colony! Invariably the noise generated would wake up the entire neighborhood, if they were not already awake!

Then it would be time for tasting the special Diwali savories and sweets that my mother would have prepared with lots of love and keeping in mind the special preferences of different members of the family. Later on the family members would visit the neighbors to wish them for Diwali asking the question `Ganga Snanam Acchha? (Have you had the sacred bath?); and to exchange sweets. Diwali was also the occasion when youngsters would seek the blessings of the elders by prostrating before them wearing their new dresses.

It is sad that modern day kids are being brought up by the overstressed parents without exposure to several of the fun rituals associated with Indian festivals. When I ring up my children, who all have their own families now, to wish them Happy Diwali at 7.30 in the morning, I find that it is a wake up call I am giving them as the whole family is taking it easy being a declared public holiday.

Thanks to the propaganda against crackers which creates atmospheric and noise pollution, even the modern day children are not as excited about firing crackers as we were in our times! With many of the popular Sweet and Savories shops offering readily packed sweets and savories special for every festival, most of the young mothers take the easy way out, buying such packets, instead of spending time in the kitchen. It is the same story with most of the festivals.

I feel sorry that the modern day kids are growing up without any knowledge of our tradition and culture! But I suppose each generation has to live with the changing values and priorities of the next generation.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Home Away from Home

I am a hard core loyalist! Be it my favorite barber, tailor, grocery store, travel agent, medical shop or any one providing any form of service; I tend to be loyal to the one who gives me consistently good service. I have even been a loyal husband to my wife for the last 40 years!!!

When it comes to Hotels, I am fiercely loyal to specific hotels in each city. These hotels are like “Home-away-from-home” for me! I am sure many modern day executives, travelling almost 15 days a month on work would have their own preferred hotels, where they feel at home! Of course this is completely different from the several `Chinna Veedus` that many of our politicians boast and also unlike the proverbial wives sailors are supposed to have in every Port that their ship calls on!


When I go to Mumbai on official work, I love to stay in Hotel Hilltop at Worli. A nondescrepit, unimpressive looking building; it appears more like an apartment complex. Started in the early Sixties, Hilltop became famous for “The Hell”; the first Discotheque in the country. At some stage it went into the hands of the Underworld and became notorious for its shady activities. It also got embroiled in a court case and was closed down for a number of years.

After a change in management, Hilltop is a mid-level business hotel today; very popular among pharmaceutical and other companies for conducting regular monthly/quarterly residential sales conferences. It has neither restaurant nor an attached bar. The buffet breakfast, lunch or even dinner is served in one corner of the lobby of the Hotel. The rooms; some with a sea view, are well appointed with all the modern facilities that a three star hotel offers. The room service is excellent and the staff is very cordial.

I have always felt like a special guest because of the friendly approach of the staff at the reception desk! Even when the hotel is full, I have managed to get a room allotted to me at short notice as I am a regular customer. In fact the roof top room (meant for the Manager) was allotted to me for a day on one occasion!

The icing on the cake, of course, is the beautiful Worli Sea-Face, which is just 2 minutes walk from the hotel. Being somewhat health conscious, I am addicted to my morning walks. It is a great pleasure walking on the footpath; running along the parapet wall separating the Arabian sea and the road.

Any day, my first choice of a hotel in Mumbai will always be Hotel Hilltop!

* * * * * * * * *

When it comes to Coimbatore it has always been Hotel City Tower, on Sengupta Street located bang opposite the old landmark; Hotel Alankar. City Towers is a nine storied hotel with decent rooms and basic amenities to satisfy a business executive travelling on a budget. I have been patronizing this hotel from the time it started its operations in the early eighties.

There is an interesting story about the origin of this hotel. The owner of the hotel, a Kerala Muslim who had made his millions doing business in the middle East was on a visit to Coimbatore on work. He went to the most popular Hotel Alankar; at that time for accommodation. One look at the shabbily attired visitor, the reception desk refused to give him a room because he looked like a guy who could not afford the hotel.

He came out of the hotel in a huff and vowed that one day he will build a classy hotel bang opposite Hotel Alankar and give the Alankar management a run for their money. He realized his dream within five years of that episode. Hotel City Tower with the first ever roof top restaurant in Coimbatore and with 95 well appointed rooms opened for public in 1983. It also has a banquet hall, meeting rooms and two restaurants. The one located on the Roof top has a panoramic view of the Coimbatore City. Being a staunch Muslim the owner refused to have a `Bar` in the Hotel. Even today, customers who are thirsty for the glass that cheers have to walk across to Hotel Alankar or next door to Hotel Heritage Inn.

Like the Hilltop, the staff at City Tower is equally friendly. In the early days the owner himself would stand near the entrance and welcome the guests!

Incidentally, Alankar went downhill after the opening of City Tower and had to undergo a complete makeover to survive the competition from City Tower!

I remember, I was one of City Tower`s first customers on the day of their inauguration and I have continued to be a loyal customer since then getting a special discount and treatment even today!

City Tower is certainly a “home away from home” ….in Coimbatore!


In Delhi I like the accommodation at India International Centre. Apart from the beautiful ambience, good food and decent rooms at reasonable rates, the place comes attached with my favorite Lodhi Gardens! What a lovely place to go for a morning walk surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna!

A meeting place for the intellectuals, it can be seen teeming with the who`s-who of Delhi in the evenings! You are likely to bump into some of them at the restaurant. It could be an ex-Prime Minister or just a minister, or well known names from the world of Art and Culture or even some famous “Babus” who run the Government. Of course, if you are the type who does not want to have anything to do with such people, there are enough restaurants nearby, where you can spend a quiet or a noisy evening with your friends!

Undoubtedly a good accommodation after a hard day`s work to relax and recharge; “A home away from home” is a must for anyone travelling frequently on work!

The author can contacted on 98403 92082 or email: