Category Archives: Chennai

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 1

Been a while since I wrote a trek series, the last one was the Sar Pass way back in 2017. It’s not like I went on a trek and didn’t write a word about it. I skipped the trekking trip in 2018 due to my wedding and went on a short trip to Amritsar, Delhi & Agra and honeymoon trip to Meghalaya. So when my friends were planning for the Valley Of Flowers, I jumped on the wagon with no hesitation.

Before marriage, I would simply inform my parent a day prior then pack my bags and go on trips. But the post-marriage scenario is a bit different and it would be worst on my part if I don’t credit my lovely wife here. She really understands my love for traveling and super supportive of me going on this trip in spite of some resistance from my family. So, thanks a lot Banksy, it was one much-needed trip for me.

As they say, any trip is good just as much as your company. So I better introduce the people who made this trip most memorable. To start with, it’s Jayashree (a.k.a Buddy) and Nigilan, yes the same friends from all of my previous treks and many other trips before. Then we had Thiyagarajan (a.k.a Thiyaga), the Thagappa/Daddy of the gang who was part of my first Sandakphu Trek. What’s charm without new people, we had Govindarajan (a.k.a Govi) and Himakar (a.k.a Hima) who are the work buddies of Jayashree.

This time also our trek was with the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) and the main reason for this being their nominal price for the amenities they provide. Though the trek was scheduled for July the planning for the same has started well in advance by Jan. This helped us to register for the trek before the slots get filled, apply for leaves well in advance, and book flight tickets before the price goes sky high.

Day 0: 26th July 2019

In spite of all those advance planning, I was due shopping and packing with just less than a day left. Thanks to the gang for sharing one elaborate checklist which helped to a greater extent. I began my shopping only post afternoon and somehow completed the same by the eve. However, the mammoth task of packing was still pending. Finally, with some extra helping hands from my wife, I finished packing just before midnight. Seems I took the words packing at the 11th hour quite seriously 😀

Finally ....

Day 1: 27th July 2019

With our flight from Chennai to Dehradun via Hyderabad scheduled for departure at 11.15 AM, all of us reached the airport around 10 am and checked in on time. Nigilan was the only exception as he told he would be flying directly from Bengaluru via Mumbai. After roughly an hour in the sky, we reached Hyderabad airport. To our surprise, Nigilan was there at Hyderabad Airport awaiting us. In the meantime waiting to board the connecting flight, we munched on some overpriced airport restaurants. It was around 4.15 pm when we touched down at the Dehradun Jolly Grant airport. I was super excited to set foot on a state that I have never been to. Happy to cross one more from my list. From there, we hired a prepaid taxi and headed straight to our base camp at Rishikesh.

Upon arriving at the base camp, we completed our registration process and were allocated rooms. While repacking our stuff, we all realized that we missed packing a few small items. So, we decided to pay a visit to the nearby market for some quick shopping. After done with shopping amidst some surprise rains, we felt hungry and decided to have something light like a snack. Our search narrowed on a newly opened restaurant that served hot samosas, Kachoris, and fresh Ghewar. Back to the base camp, we separately packed the extra clothes and deposited the same before having our dinner. Before heading to the bed, we were all instructed by our camp leader to wake up and get ready by early morning 5 am. That’s how one awesome day came to an end.

 

 

To be continued …

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The Stained and Strained Collars

The International Workers Day or Labour Day is just around the corner. As much as the significance of the day, this short, quick and dirty blog post also aims to celebrate the working class across the world.

“Uzhaippali Illatha” song from the movie “Uzhaiplai” is always the first thing that would strike my mind every time I think of the Labours Day, followed by the famous Triumph of Labour statue by Marina Beach. I am yet to hear another song that glorifies the significance of the workforce as much as this one.

Whenever we think of this day, we mostly relate it to the blue collar workers, the stained collars who do the manual labor. Undoubtedly, they are the most suppressed workforce throughout history. We tend to often sympathize them when we learn about their hardships. But, what we fail to do is to empathize and that includes me too.

A week back, I was a bit furious with a delivery person for canceling my order and with the other not delivering my lunch on time. Then a couple of days back, a few relatives dropped by home for lunch. So, my family tasked me to pick up food from the same restaurant where I ordered last week. I felt burned out just for one trip to the restaurant and back in the hot Chennai sun. It took doses of juice and a long afternoon sleep to completely recover from the fatigue. At that point in time, all I could think off was the delivery guys whom I was furious with. Probably, next time when someone comes to deliver in the hot sun, I would give them something cool to drink or give them some extra tips. Among all their struggles to make their ends meet, these little things might put a smile on their face and keep them going.

With enough being said on the suppressed sect, let me jump to the depressed sect. Yes, If you have guessed it right, I am talking about the white collar workers, the strained collars who are tied to their desk forever. Typically, we tend to oversee their strains. Maybe cos they don’t have to do any physical labor. Maybe, cos they dress neat and work comfortably in an AC office. But, on the flip side, they are the ones who suffer the maximum from the mental health problems as a result of workplace stress. Lack of work-life balance and physical activities put them under the high risk of inducing major lifestyle-related conditions such as depression, insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Self note: So, my dear desk clinging friend, it’s high time you keep a check on your mental as well as physical health.

Wish the stains wash away and the strains loosen up and relax. Happy International Workers Day.

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 4

A quick recap from the blog post in this series. Taking off from Chennai, we landed in Delhi. From there, we embarked upon a journey to one of my dream destination, Amristar via train. Visiting the golden temple was definitely one of the blissful experiences in my life. Then, a long day well spent roaming around Delhi visiting the Lotus Temple and the Akshardham Temple. The last thing I could remember was sleeping on the couch in the hostel’s common area exhausted.

Day 4 – 31st March 2018

We woke up around 3 am and departed to Agra by cab around 4 am. Both Alex & Ali got other plans, but Daniele & Justin paired with us for this trip. Sincere thanks to countless movies and songs references as the symbol of eternal love. Not to mention, the numerous portraits and souvenirs I see in the houses I visit. All these got me curious about this place and always wanted to visit there since my childhood. No introductions needed and yes, you guessed it right. It’s none other than one of the seven wonders of the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal, meaning “Crown of the Palaces” is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall. – Wikipedia

We started quite early with an intention to catch the sheer beauty sun raise over the dome of Taj Mahal. But, unfortunately, we marginally missed it as we reached Agrad only by 7 am. The 230 km long drive along the Yamuna Highway was bit consoling as I got to catch up with some sleep.

Silhouette of the beauty as seen from the Yamuna Highway

No wonder it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In spite of being there quite early in the morning, we had to wait in a long queue for tickets and security check before entering the premise. It felt overwhelming to see tourists around the globe traveling all the way to catch a glimpse of this beauty. In the meanwhile waiting in the queue something interesting happened. One of the CISF officers managing the security check casually enquired about our whereabouts. After a few mins of conversation, it turned out that his in-laws were the neighbors of Remya and they started discussing the common people they know. Such a small world, isn’t it?

Ticket to the paradise. With QR code.

A few steps ahead welcomed us the gigantic and tall Grand Gate, made of red stones with beautiful marble works. My excitement skyrocketed as we passed the main gateway.

In no time, I got lost in quite a familiar view composed of gardens, fountains and pathway leading to a giant white mausoleum. The same view that got featured in millions of photos, postcards and wallpapers. That’s the mighty Taj Mahal, I told myself for a reality check.

The most familiar view – The Poem Of Eternal Love On White Marble

Here comes the best part. When you go near and realize that it was nothing like what you have imagined all your life. Actually, it was much more huge and majestic than what I have imagined. OMG, the large main dome and the tall minarets, I stood there awestruck by its splendor. My thoughts weren’t around either Shahjahan, not Mumtaz or their eternal love. Rather on the hard work of those awesome artisans, craftsmen and builders who worked relentlessly to create this marvel.

Up close the beast with the beauty

White marbles and intricate inlay works made it look like a poem. As they say, the poem of eternal love on white marble. Our curiosity made us stand in the long queue that leads to the inner chambers of the mausoleum where Shahjahan and Mumtaz rest forever.

The Gang – Smiles on, in spite of a tiring day

By noon we were out of the super crowded Taj Mahal campus tired and hungry as always. After done with our lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed straight back to Delhi. Wait, there is no way I am leaving Agra without getting some mouthwatering Agra ka Petha.

Back to Delhi, my self and Kavin took a short trip to Connaught Place (CP) to meet her friends in a resto-bar. Back at the hostel, we had a relaxing evening at the rooftop garden with fellow hostelers. Finally, a well-rested night in the last 5 days and that’s how an awesome day came to an end.

Fun time – Clicked using Danielle’s Polaroid

Day 5 – 1st March 2018

Woke up, packed our bags and checked out of the hostel. Then straightaway rushed to the airport to catch our morning flight en route to Chennai. It was one hell of a trip and was quite sad that it came to an end. Back at the Chennai airport, I decided to end my trip with a Biriyani as a tradition. While Remya, Shashi and Shalini decided to head back home, Kavin joined me for some yummy Biriyani. With multiple choices, we narrowed upon Sukkubhai Biryani that’s known for its Beef Biriyani and it’s proximity to the airport added to our advantage. On our way to the restaurant, Kavin surprised me with an awesome northern light painting and a hand-painted bookmark. Thanks a ton, Kavin, means a lot.

Oil painting and Bookmark

 

After munching on the succulent Beef Biriyani I headed back home and that’s how yet another awesome trip came to an end. Definitely, it’s a trip to remember.

The End.

For The First Time – A Pantomime In Tamizh

Apart from R.S.Manohar’s drama at my school, Crazy Mohan and Kathadi Ramamoorthy drama at Raja Annamalai Mandram and Short & Sweet last year, I haven’t watched much of stage plays in my life. So, I was really excited when I was invited to watch “KoKo – A Pantomime in Tamil” a Tamizh play this weekend (12.03.2017). One of the perks of being a part of an awesome group like The Chennai Bloggers Club is that you get invited to such interesting events. Initially, I was quite confused about the term “Pantomime“. So, a little bit of Googling helped.

“Pantomime (informally panto), is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is still performed throughout the United Kingdom, generally during the Christmas and New Year season”

koko

The play opened with a spectacular shadow show aided with computer animation projected on the screen. The story starts with Chicki (Vikas), a Hen running for life from a Butcher (Hemanth) and struggling hard to save her egg in spite of multiple mishaps. Her struggle reminded me of the “Oodinal Oodinal, Vazhkaiyin Oorathirkey Oodinal” dialogue from the movie Parasakthi. Later she meets 3 circus artists Joe (Sidarth), Joko (Naresh) and Raga (Sujay) who gives her shelter and protects the egg at the time of a natural calamity.

As the time pass by, Chicki becomes an integral part of their lives while the embryo starts growing inside the shell. One thing that awestruck me was the projection of stages of embryo growth on the egg shell. Bravo, bravo guys. One fine day the egg hatches into a chick and they name her “KoKo”. She becomes the pivotal character of the story and rest revolves around her life, interests, friendship and her struggle to keep up with the expectations of her mom Chicki.

KoKo

Have never before reviewed a movie or a play and hope I will not in future. I am more of a common spectator than a critic, I neither know the standards of the art forms nor its nuances. In my view, it’s a mind-blowing play. I enjoyed every bit of it. Most of the time, I found myself laughing and clapping out of control. Kudos to Sravanth, the director for giving us an amazing play. Acting isn’t an easy job, that too acting in front of live audience. What can I say about these Incredible actors who acted this play? They could not only act, emote and bring the characters to life but also could dance, sing, juggle, do hula hoop, aerial silk and what not. It’s not just the acting, the dialogues and the music rocked too. The song “KoKo Kannama, Pogathey Chellamma” still resonates in my ears, wish I could listen to it again.

All these time I was ranting that we lost talent and creativity referring to the terribly boring TV soaps and movies. After watching the play, I realized that we aren’t deficient of creativity but the shortage of opportunity for the one who deserves. I really wish that the talented ones like MacTrics (the KoKo crew) gets more opportunity. I appreciate Shraddha Theatres and the producers who bought this play on the stage.

I highly recommend each and every parent to watch this play along with their kids. Though it’s highly entertaining, I assure you, there will be a lot to take back home and discuss. I wouldn’t mind watching this play again and give a standing applause at the end. All the very best team, Wish you more plays to come.

P.S: Joko, If you are reading this, You made me laugh the most. I became your fan.

P.P.S: Joe, you kinda look like Cricketer Ishant Sharma. 😀

P.P.P.S: Raga, Such a calm and wise appearance you have got.

P.P.P.P.S: Chicki, Next time when I see a Hen, I am gonna remember you only.

P.P.P.P.P.S: KoKo, You are adorable.

Claps To UrbanClap

Unfortunately, not all of us are super skilled like my dad. He is someone who can fix electrical, plumbing and carpentry issues to an extent all by himself. At times he even mocks me by saying “You are an engineer just for namesake, you don’t know how to fix this simple thing”. All they thought me in the engineering was how to fix a bug in the code and arrest memory leak but not how to fix a fused bulb and stop the water leak. Fixing these small household issues becomes a big headache for the current generation who doesn’t want to move their a** to get things done and somehow never gets time for anything in life. The problem lies in finding skillful workers to do the job, even if we find one, they are never ready to do petty jobs.

Nowadays we got apps for almost anything and everything from booking movie tickets to ordering food home. Luckily there are a few service aggregators who can help with the above problems, but unfortunately, all of them are not trustworthy. Then there is UrbanClap (UC) which is successfully providing services since 2014. It’s been one of the trusted marketplaces to hire 80,000+ professionals for 80+ home services such as Beauty, Photography, Electricians, Plumbers and Fitness . Though I have a Rs. 200 credit to try their service, I didn’t have any requirement for the same. So, as far now, I decided to review their app.

Before jumping to their app, I played around their website for a while. The website is simple, modern and straightforward with a big services search right in the middle of their home page. The site also lists the most trending services and service listed category wise.

Home Page

Home Page

Trending Services

Trending Services

Now coming to the mobile app, the app is available for both iPhone and Android platforms. I tried the app on my android phone and it worked without any issues. The signup process was fairly simple, the users can also signup with their Google+ or Facebook too. The services can be searched directly or browsed based on the categories. The best thing is it suggests the services and professionals based on the proximity and the ratings. The app also allows the user to chat directly with the professionals for clarification and request a quote from them. The app is simple, user-friendly and provides a better experience.

I would definitely try using this app when the need arises.

This blog post is a part of the Chennai Bloggers Club campaign in association with UrbanClap.

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 6 – Refreshing Rimbik And The Rest

Recap from the last post: We were at Gurdum celebrating Giri’s Bday at midnight.

30-04-2016 (Day 6) Started as usual with tea, breakfast, and our customary group pic. Just before we start to our next destination, Sowmya thought us all a lovely good night song as tonight will be the last one we all will be spending together. So, we all learned to sing the same tonight.

“The time has come to say good night, to say sleep tight till the morning light.
We’ve had so much fun today, tomorrow is just a dream away.
The time has come to say good night, it’s the end of the lovely light.”

To Be Memorized. Ordered by Sowmya Teacher

To Be Memorized. Ordered by Sowmya Teacher

Customary Group Pic. PC: Sowmya

Customary Group Pic. PC: Sowmya

I thought the last leg of the trek gonna feel tiring rather to the contrary, it felt energetic. The route was down the valley, almost flat, narrow and exciting. Since the start, we heard the flow of the water and that sound was very refreshing. Later, on our way, we saw water flow through. As it’s an unmotorable road, we saw a worker carrying a huge tank over his head. Life is not easy here and these kinda scenes make me realize that life is not easy here. After 6 km of trekking, we stopped by SriKhola (1938 m) for lunch. After our lunch, we spent some time playing with water in the nearby stream. We also did play UNO for a while before resuming our trek. It was fun crossing the iconic SriKhola Bridge. As it’s an old wooden bridge in not so good condition,only one or two persons were allowed to cross it simultaneously. After yet another 7km trek, by late noon we reached Rimbick (1917 m), our last camp. Finally, we got mobile network after 6 long days and the calls and emails began to flow. Believe me, days were much better without the network. As we saw a few MOMO shops on the way, myself and Upma planned to have some. But, all our glorious plan went in vain as the shops shut down as early ar 5 pm here. At the end, we had to console ourselves with some chocolates. To celebrate our MC Giri’s birthday, Manali & Co. surprisingly baked a yummy pressure cooker cake topped with melted Dairy Milk chocolate and Gems. The best part is that they pulled it off with limited ingredients available there. Lavanya and Lakshmi also made a yummy Paal Payasam (Kheer) to top up the celebration. After Giri’s cake cutting followed the grand dinner which officially marked the end of this awesome trek. As planned, the day got ended with Sowmya’s good night song. While my sleepy head went to bed early and dozed off, the other guys DJed and danced along with cool and awesome landlord aunt. Seems I missed so much fun.

Unusually on 1-05-2016 (Day 7) everyone woke up early and got done with our tea and toast as we had to leave early to avoid traffic on our way back to Darjeeling. It was a tiring 60 km Van ride from Rimbik to Darjeeling. Luckily we had a pitstop at Dhotrey, yeah exactly the same place where the trek started. I had one of the best chicken MOMOs of my life in a small shop there just for Rs. 30 for a plate of 8. I had 3 plates plus an Omelet, that yummy it was. The rest of the ride was spent discussing Sambar and Chennai with Sachin who hails from Mumbai. Finally, by afternoon, we reached our base camp at Darjeeling. After refreshing and collecting our certificates, we decided to spare the little time we got on shopping. All I could get was a small prayer flag and some good black tea leaves in the limited time we got.  Then, we packed our bags, bid goodbye to the beautiful Darjeeling and took a Van back to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). It is like Win Rar on vans with high compression rate, 11 of us went in the same van which usually carry 7-8 people max. All I witnessed during this ride was my favorite Thirukkural, “Anbirkum Undo Adaikkuntaal Arrvalar Punkaneer Pusal Tharum”. Which means, Is there any fastening that can shut in love? Tears of the affectionate will publish the love that is within.  We reached NJP well in advance, so we relaxingly had our dinner and boarded the Padatik Express back to Kolkatta. As they say, history repeats itself, this time also a family requested me and nigilan to take the upper berth as they got women and children, and as usual, we happily agreed.

I woke up on Day 8 (2-05-2016) and not so soon I realized that we are running late. As out train was delayed for more than an hour, we had to skip our breakfast and rush to the airport to catch our flight back to Chennai. The sad part is that we didn’t even have time to buy Rasagulla which I promised to many. After munching some MOMOs at the airport, we boarded our flight by 11ish and landed back in Chennai by the afternoon. Once I was out of the airport I could feel the harsh Sun rays on my skin and could hear it whisper “Welcome home my boy”. This is what I have been missing for the past 10 days and nothing feels like home. As I was too hungry then and as Sudhakaran a.k.a puppy decided to give me some company, we hit our favorite Biryani place before returning back home.

IMG_20160430_214759

To be preserved. ID sealed and signed by all camp in charge. PC: Jai

 

Epilogue

Now don’t ask me where is the Prologue or search for it, it’s not there.
This trip was a super awesome one. It still feels like a dream, cos it’s something I did much out of my comfort zone. The high altitudes, the harsh cold temperature, the language and the food, all those are really out of my league, but somehow I managed. What makes travel more interesting than the places are the people. The whole group along with our guides made this trek a memorable one. I should really thank Buddy Jai, Nigilan, and Puppy who urged me to join this trek in the first place.

I recommend each one of you to travel. For me, traveling is not going on a tour with everything planned. It’s an adventure where you aren’t planned for everything. Traveling gives you lots of exciting experiences, open your taste buds to awesome food, befriend strangers and at the end, you will have quite a lot of interesting stories to narrate, just like this. All you must do is shed your comfort a little bit and there’s a lot of adventure out there to last you a lifetime.

The End.

Walking Down The OMR Food Street

One awesome thing being part of an awesome group like The Chennai Bloggers Club is you get invited to interesting events. This time, it’s a food tasting event at OMR Food Street. Situated near Thoraipakkam, OMR Food Street is the Chennai’s first organized food street. This place not only hosts a variety of eateries but also gives you a unique experience apart from the typical food court and street food. One could see this place buzzing with people even by 5 in the eve. Though I have been here before, being with blogging buddies is yet another different experience. I am not a food critic and reviewer and all, I am a simple foodie who enjoys food like any other. So, all I am gonna share about is what I had there in chronological order.

That 6pm crowd @ OMR Food Street

That 6pm crowd @ OMR Food Street

With Blogging Buddies PC: Mahesh Lakshmanan

With Blogging Buddies PC: Mahesh Lakshmanan

  1. Paniyaram
    It was Sindhu’s idea to start with Paniyaram first. There was a small shop named C-Tasty which sells a variety of Paniyarams such as Cheese, Mushroom, Paneer and Carrot Paniyarams. But we decided to go for the classic plain Paniyaram. It was soft and tasted good. The chutneys they gave accompanied the dish well, especially the Kara (Spicy) Chutney.

    Paniyaram

    Paniyaram

  2. Atho
    Being brought up in North Chennai, Atho needs no introduction to me. Actually, I was very surprised to see Burma Square, an Atho joint there. I am happy that this Burmese dish which is quite prominent in Noth Chennai areas has spread to other parts of the city. This is one of the things that I really missed after moving to South Chennai. Not only Atho, they also sell other Burmese food such as Sejo, Mohinga, Bejo Soup, Etc. The Atho was good but little spicier than authentic ones. The soup was good too but was slightly on the thinner side than the usual.

     

  3. Thattu Vadai
    I was really surprised to see one of Salem’s signature food being sold here. Once I enjoyed having it in Salem itself and thanks to Thattu Vadai Touch shop for bringing similar experience back. We ordered Thattu Vadai Set, Norukku Mix, and Panagam. Thattu Vadai was really awesome, Norukku was bit mushy and the Panagam  was perfect. It’s been years since I had Panagam, it used to be one of my favorite drink during my school days and remember preparing it even during one of my work experience cooking classes.

     

  4. Adai
    There is a shop here, that sells traditional Millet based food, the same way they do it in good old times even before rice and wheat were cultivated in large scale. So, to go with the kind of food they serve, they must have named it Ki Mu 200 (200 BC). We had Thinai Adai with Aviyal and Thinai Sweet Pongal. The Adai tasted a bit different, but the Sweet Pongal tasted
    quite typical.

     

  5. Paratha
    After munching South Indian dishes, it’s time for some North Indian ones. “Stuf-fed” sells all kinda stuffed parathas here. Out of all their options, we opted for Pyas Paratha. You know why? according to Sindhu, that’s the one which sounded cool 😀 . The Parata was typical, but the accompaniments pickle and mint chutney took it to the next level.

    Pyas Ka Paratha

    Pyas Ka Paratha

  6. Crepe
    Friend: Bro, what’s Crepe?
    Me: It’s a thin dessert masala Dosa, where they stuff in fruits and ice cream instead of mashed potato, they also top it with maple syrup, honey, chocolate sauce etc.
    This conversation might not sound funny now, but it sounded then. We ordered Crepe Classic at Zuki&Co. Though it was delivered late, it’s worth the wait. The Crepe was soft, thin and had yummy fresh strawberry fillings. They also sell Nanari sarbat which is a must try.

    Crepe Classic

    Crepe Classic

  7. Ice cream Fruit Salad
    All I thought of was having some juice before entering “Oasis” the juice shop there, but I quickly made up my mind when I saw few others having Icecream Fruit Salad. It was not only eye-catching but tasted yummy too. Their selection of fruits in the salad was good and the syrup over the ice cream elevated its taste.

    Ice cream fruit salad

    Ice cream fruit salad

Just like the way I did If you also like to taste a variety of food under your budget, OMR Food Street is the place.

Look what a good food can do to me, it puts a big smile on my face. Awesome candid click my Mahesh Anna

Look what a good food can do to me, it puts a big smile on my face. Awesome candid click.  PC: Mahesh Lakshmanan

My sincere thanks to CBC for organizing and OMR Food Street for hosting us. It was a great experience to indulge in a variety of food and will definitely visit again.

Featured banner image courtesy Vinod Velayudhan.