Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape to Agra

I fancy railway stations, trains, platforms and everything attached to locomotives. Fond memories of childhood days, when my brother and I used to wait for vacations are still fresh. We used to quarrel for the window seat and mum had to intervene with creative solutions.

Today, I relived those memories of the roaring engine, smiling faces on the platform, little kids running and asking for refreshments, families relaxing on the floor, (in India we don’t have enough space in the waiting room, so we make arrangements). Oh how can I forget the venders yelling Chai, Chai  (tea, tea); they have this amazing voice that has become a distinctive characteristic of Indian Railways.

Today, I had this urge to escape from the modern lifestyle that Delhi offers, I felt choked and the best way to release and break free was to head to a new city, and here I am in Agra.

More candid pictures of Agra in my next post.


Two Cats Episode # 2 – Short Story

Two and a Half Cats

A lazy Saturday morning, I am up at 7.30 which is a rare affair. A newspaper delivery boy cannot afford to be late and especially in Shimla, a city where people love to read the daily with a hot cup of chai. I wonder if people in other cities in India are so touchy about their dailies and chai.

Unlike other Saturdays, today I feel a bit weird. The January air in Shimla is chilly and cut right through my bones as I pedal, hurriedly, to Lakkar Bazaar. My bicycle and I roam around in Shimla and most of the people here call me the bicycle boy. Apart from delivering newspaper in this city, I write poetry and stories. I love my job as much as I like to ride my blue bicycle. It was a gift from mum on my 18th birthday and the most cherished one.

My muffler flutters as I pedal with all my might. Strawberry Chacha waves and calls out my name.
‘Hey bicycle boy can you give this box of strawberry to Himanshu.’
‘Oh I am heading to Wake & Bake; I can do that chacha.’
Quickly, I keep the box on the front and pedal my way to the cycle stand.

The brown stairs at Wake & Bake Café is fascinating but what gets all my attention is the sculpture of the two cats. They seem to be shy but friendly. I enter and give the box of strawberries to Himanshu, the lanky chap who is behind this magical place called Wake & Bake Café.

‘Hey thank you Tarun for helping me out with the strawberries.’

‘Oh come on Himanshu, I am very hungry can you get me a cup of chai and banana crepes.’

‘Sure man.’

Mesha is here today as she carefully takes out the HB pencils from her bag to work on her masterpiece. The Yellow Universe evolves as its creator comes with a variety of tools and ideas and shape it. I love the way it has grown with time.

Dhananjai comes with the banana crepe and chai. I start to gobble the crepe and sip the chai. Perfect combination for me. As I devour the meal in front, I hear a sound; perhaps the sound of a cat meowing.

It, indeed, is the sound of a cat. Himanshu, Mesha, Dhananjai and I look up and try to find the source, but to our surprise we are unable to locate the source of the meow. Dhananjai pays attention and declares, ‘the sculpture, the cats.’
The horror on his face, now evident, says it all. We start to walk towards the sculpture with our hearts beating like that of Romeo from the Romeo and Juliet tale.

They notice our presence and quickly turn their backs to us. Himanshu musters courage and tries to strike a conversation.

‘Hey Two Cats, were you guys meowing?’
Cat # 1 turns and replies, ‘You have to help us, please.’

Now how can we help two dead (sculpted) cats meowing, I guess we need help here.

Cat # 2 or the headless cat turns and faces turn pale. She is melting and we have no idea what is going on.
‘If you want to save Shimla from the Vampire Cat infection, you have to help us.’
‘We can turn your city into Vampire land and the infection will turn each and every one of you into a vampire cat and not vampire humans.’

Now that is weird, I have no desires to become a vampire cat in this lifetime. After a lot of probing, we come to know that they want Chicken Pretzel. Wait, what about fish. Aren’t cats supposed to love fish and not chicken. I try to talk this out but you know cats are cats. They meow and leave you with no choices whatsoever, it becomes all the more difficult if they are vampires.
Dhananjai quickly takes the order from the cats.

2 Chicken Pretzels
2 Strawberry milkshakes
2 Chicken Kathi rolls.

As the cats place their order, I put my desires to have paneer kathi rolls in front. What I get in return is a long stare from Himanshu, Dhananjai and Mesha.
‘Shimla is on the brink of a possible vampire cat attack and you want paneer kathi rolls.’ Mesha lashes out.

I can sense the urgency to change the topic before they could give me a nice moral lecture. But anyways, Chicken Pretzels, strawberry milkshakes and chicken kathi rolls saved Shimla from becoming a Vampire Cat hill station.
Eeee, I would have missed my blue bicycle has the infection turned me into a vampire cat.


Review: Wake & Bake Café, The Mall Road, Shimla, India

The balmiest café I have visited so far.

The brown wooden stairs lead us to Wake & Bake Café; two (one and a half, given that one is headless) cats welcome us. My eyes lit up as I enter. Misha with her warm smile receives us. I and dad grab a seat as he admires the wall with abstract figures. My hands continue to tremble and shake but the balmy café quickly warms me up. I look at the seat next to mine, it is occupied by a young couple, they look happy in their world (the newly wed world).

Wake & Bake Café offers a blend of Italian, Continental and Middle Eastern cuisines. I decide and order a cappuccino, Margherita pizza, and dad orders Chai (tea). Unlike the everyday pizza we eat, in Wake & Bake Café you get square shaped pizza. The Margherita pizza is neatly done, nicely topped with cheese. The crust is not very crunchy but I would say it is on the gooey side and I have no complaints as it melts in my mouth. At Rs. 70, the dish is a good deal.

The hot cup of cappuccino is divine and goes well with the Margherita pizza. The Chai has a calming effect on dad as he forgets that mum has asked us to come back as soon as we can.
By the way you must try the Engadine and Carrot cake, they are extraordinary and the sweetness is apt.

Interiors of Wake & Bake Café

The interiors have been artfully designed and shouts and horns for Misha, the lady who painted the mystical wall and the work is in progress. The tone of the interior is warm with wooden ceiling and furniture, and yellow walls. You can sip your coffee and munch your lunch with the colossal Himalayas, just grab your plates (you can ask for some help here) and climb up the stairs. The porch, with tables for 6-8 people, provides a stunning view of the mountains and trust me, you cannot ask for more.

Trance music fills the café and brings out the creativity (if you happen to be a writer, poet, musician or dancer). I am in love with the whole look and feel of this place and would highly recommend my readers to come here and have a tasty time.

Rating: 4.5/5