Birthdays come and go, but the birthday presents – well they stay forever (atleast till you outgrow them). I had the time of my life and I am sure I shall never forget my 24th birthday.
It all started with Dussehra coming on Monday (28/09) this year, making it a long weekend. Since my birthday happens to fall on 25th September (Friday) and following my tradition of not doing anything on that day (since my engineering days), I decided to make my long weekend a longer one :) And Baroda seemed to be the perfect place in my mind – It was not that far from Delhi, was in Gujarat (a state I always wanted to see) and Jango was there in Baroda, hence good company. And so I decided two months ago that I would be going to Baroda.
24th / 25th September: Thanks to the Swine Flu, MDI Gurgaon was closed abruptly for 2 weeks, thereby giving Anup a chance to come along with me to Baroda (his home is a few hours from the place). The train journey was great – I quizzed for more than two hours with Anup and I finally happened to see Kota! Well at least the railway station, at 3:30 am in the morning !!! More was to follow as I saw Ratlam station (remember Jab We Met, the Shahid – Kareena starrer?) and Godhra (the place seemed so peaceful!) en-route to Baroda. The train was on time (the day was just getting better and better!)
Jango picked me up at the railway station and took me to his place. We then went for lunch, and had a delicious chicken curry. Afterwards, he went back to his office and I took bath, went to church and slept peacefully (Since Anup was travelling with me, I didn’t have the chance to sleep the whole night). In the evening, Jango took me to see the most traditional garba dance in entire Gujarat – at the Arts College of MSU (Maharaja Sayajirao University). Baroda is considered the arts hub of Gujarat and what better than see garba at the heart of the heart :) It was awesome! Just seeing those women in the various colourful dresses, and the atmosphere, all made my brief 20-minute stay at the garba most memorable! Although we were not allowed to click any pictures, the memories would linger forever. Then we had a light dinner – I didn’t want to drink the vodka I had got for Jango, because we were supposed to get up early the next day.
26th September: A big day indeed – we were supposed to go to Pavagadh Hill Kalika Mata Temple, which was around 45 km away from Baroda. After reaching the place, we walked all the way to the top of the hill, climbing more than 2000 steep steps along the way (My toes hurt!). We then came down walking in the midst of a broken-down fort, part of some earlier city in Champaner ruins I guess. We came back to Baroda, rested and went to Barbeque Nation for dinner! After the unlimited starters and slushies, I ate pudding, fruits and cake till my tummy almost burst. Again the plan to drink was put on hold (because we were too full, and I had to wake up early the next day).
27th September: Sunday morning meant Morning Mass @ 8 am. We went to some restaurant for more chicken curry for lunch (yum yum!). The entire afternoon was spent walking in Vadodara Central, Landmark and other malls. We checked out some cool electronics stuff @ Croma too. In the evening, I finally decided to drown that Vodka, with 2 pizzas :) and “Little Zizou”. Inspite of 6-7 large pegs, I didn’t feel inebriated at all! While Jango fell asleep very soon, I stayed awake, watching some videos and copying a lot of stuff from his HDD to mine :)
28th September: Dussehra Time! But we woke up lazily @ 11 am (I felt so fresh after vodka!). Today was Gujarati food time! And what better place for that than Rajdhani “Gujarati” thali! We went very early (reached there @ 11.55 am) and had a heavy lunch. Lunch was followed by some more window-shopping, well not entirely, as I bought a new bag at a Samsonite Factory outlet, for a 40% discount! Then we came back, and I did some last-minute packing etc. I was feeling sad on leaving Baroda, but then, it’s my work in Delhi that could afford such a trip.
Talking about birthday gifts, well I got two gifts this time (that’s two more than what I usually get!). My quizzer friend from Thailand Andy (real name Anand) sent me a hard-cover of the latest Dan Brown thriller “The Lost Symbol”. And while in the train, Anup presented me with a Denim t-shirt, which was luckily my size!
It was a trip I will not forget for a long time. A long time. And it was all thanks to Jango, Anup, Barbeque Nation and Smirnoff Vodka :)
Anup (extreme right) @ Ratlam station - the train did not stop here, but that bugger managed to get down and even pose for a picture!