Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The beginning

I was doing my fellowship at Aravind eye hospital in Madurai, which allowed 10 days of leave in my 18 month tenure; so you can imagine how precious each of those days was.
I cashed in one of those precious days to visit Kanyakumari with my mom.
Our plan was to drive down early morning to reach the southern most tip of India by early noon, have a lunch somewhere nice , then spend the evening sightseeing, and again having an early dinner and setting back.
Food of a place was always intrinsic to my experience of a place.
Now Kanyakumari, is not only the southern tip of India, but is also the meeting point of three water bodies, the bay of Bengal, the Arabian sea and the Indian ocean, they even have a point where you see the three waters mixing in various shades of blue, green and grey. I was looking forward to seafood delicacies, and set out googling the best places to eat in Kanyakumari. Maybe a local place for the freshest of crabs and prawns, or even one of the sea facing resorts which offer a mindblowing view of the brilliant sunsets that KanyaKumari was famous for. Something classy, or local, or kitschy, or just plain ‘do not miss when visiting ‘ kind of places.
But I couldn’t find anything!
We had less than 24 hours to make the most of our visit to a place, we may never be visiting again, and I couldn’t find a single website to help me.
Sure there was trip advisor, but it just rated restaurants, there was no way of knowing which were the local favourites, which ones were iconic, which places were off the restaurant list, such as shacks and market places.
We ended up eating chicken biryani, at a restaurant our cab driver suggested.
A few months later I cashed in another of my precious leave slips to go to Munnar and Thekaddi with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This time we were better prepared.
I realised there might be others like me who go on whirlwind trips, who don’t have time for the ‘slow vacation’ who don’t have the luxury of ‘ lets go there and figure it out’. I was a working professional , who loved travel, who loved eating out, and who needed it all to work out such that I got the best moments on my vacation.
So I decided to document my trip to Munnar, and it was the beginning of my food and travel blog.  We spent a lot of time searching for a place which made appams. We finally found it on a cart, near the bus stop, which serves freshly made appams in the evenings. I didn’t want the next traveller to struggle to find an appam place the next time they visited. read my first travel blog on Munnar HERE
Whenever we planned holidays or vacations, the meal times acted as pitstops. It started with “We will stop here for a tea break, then srive here for lunch, followed by a great tea break at this place …”sometimes even the dishes were predecided, lets have mapro cheese grilled sandwiches, then drive to the lake, have strawberries and sweet corn cutlets …
I figured there may be more people like me, who felt that the food of the place was as important as the sight seeing. Who realised that the whole experience at the trevi fountain would be incomplete without an Italian Gelato , or journeying to the statue of Liberty, meant having the fanous ‘hamburger’ the Americans had invented, and Hyderabad food trail meant scoring the best biryani.
The journey was not easy however.
Remember the precious leave slips? Yes. It wasn’t like I was a backpacking youngster who had a rich inheritance to bank roll her travels. I not only did not have the luxury of wealth ( we got 10000 a month stipend, of which 3000 went in lodging expenses), I didn’t even have the luxury of time, since my leaves were limited.
My travels were few and far between. How does a travel and food blogger , blog if she doesn’t travel ?
Low on money and low on time , I was still keen on pursuing my passion for food and travel blogging, even as I pursued a gruelling professional life as a doctor.
Since then I have worked in a private hospital, where , again, we did not have public holidays and none of the bank holidays, neither was Saturday a weekend. We even worked through independence day.  I now have my own clinic and I work through all holidays as well, because those are the days when patients can easily come into the clinic. I am a doctor first, and being available is paramount to my providing service.

I realised that I had to write my food blogs during my medical conferences. I travelled to Hyderabad, and the two blogs I wrote during that time are my most favourite, I also won the best paper award during that conference the APAO-AIOS conference.
The next year we went to Agra to collect my certificate and it led to another food trail in Agra.
I even travelled with mom to China where she attended a conference , and I managed to get a peek into Shenzhen way of life.
I was already a super specialist, trained in extremely minute surgeries, in children as young as ten days old, and yet I was excited at the prospect of eating sea weed and hopefully snakes in Shenzhen. read about my China blog post, also my first international food travel blog HERE
My medical colleagues understood little of it, and my blogging friends even less so.
By that time my food writing got me a satisfying post as a restaurant critic with Navhind Times, a local Goan Newspaper. I began to post a few blogs about Goa as well, since not only did I live here, there were people who would love to read and plan their trips depending on what I had experienced.
For every travel I plan now, writing a food and travel blog, or two is upper most on my agenda. I do copious amounts of reading and note taking, whether it was for our Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Splendida, or the surprise birthday gift of a trip to Kashmir or my dad’s 60 th birthday in the Maldives, or my 30th in Istanbul.
It has been a slow and organic growth, my blog.
With the intent of helping people realise the kind of foodilicious holiday they could expect from their destination, I have loved this lipsmacking journey and I am far from done.
My work, my profession is poles apart from my passion of food and travel blogging, and as I look back on the last five years I think that has added to the mystique.
How do I manage?
I blog about my staycations, because I rarely have the luxury of travelling far from home. I blog about my work vacations, be it for my international fellowship to Newyork, or my surgical expedition to Dominican Republic. I blog when on holiday with family, I blog about my families holidays, I blog for the love of food and the love of travel.
Does it pay to be a food and travel blogger? Yes, it does. As the lines from Batman go “ if you are good at something , never do it for free.” But food and travel blogging has given me much more, it has given me a greater understanding into the world of hospitality, and how hard people work to make our stays memorable, it has given me a better understanding and respect for fellow travel and food bloggers, who create worlds with their content, they make people drool, and dream about different cuisines and different destinations, and that is a worthy profession as any. It has also connected me to a robust generation of new age travellers, who balance work and life , who follow their heart as well as their head, and even if it has them doing cartwheels at times, it’s worth the journey.

This blog, has been a gift , for  all my readers, but also for me.