Celebrating Pongal in Coastal Andhra

My knowledge of AP geography is not so great, because I have rarely driven on my own on AP (or Indian) highways and never used printed map to understood / optimize the route plan.  Only visual of AP map I have in my mind, is from my Social Studies classes during high school.  I have travelled to Tirupati few times by Road and have vivid memory of cities on that route.  I have better knowledge of US states, as I was on the road so many times on my own for first 2 decades using Rand McNally Atlas maps and later using Yahoo maps print outs (before GPS days)

My knowledge of coastal cities of Andhra Pradesh is mostly because of Telugu movies, and thanks to several friends made over last several decades in schools, colleges, and at work place.  When my colleagues @ Cigniti proposed celebration of PONGAL (popular harvest festival in South India) in Native Andhra region, I was quite interested.   Sanjay Jupudi hosted all of us at his parent place in Bhimavaram.   Most of the management team from Cigniti with their families planned to join the event.   There was a quite bit of discussion on mode of travel, but finally all of us decided to take the road for flexibility and nuances of each individual travel start / end times.  I, Radhika and Kids travelled in our Honda with Mohan as my chauffer.

I heard of greatly improved national highway (NH) infrastructure between Hyderabad and Vijayawada (NH9), but was more than pleasantly surprised by the NH9.  Thanks to Private / Public partnership (via GMR), driving was a breeze because of quality of the roads.    Similar to REST AREAS concept on US highways, we have ultra modern food courts (serving multi cuisine, pizzas, and subway sandwiches) along with old style Dhabas, and mom’n’pop coffee huts.   Our first stop was at Suryapet “7” upscale food court (about 2 hours from outskirts of Hyderabad).  Revanth & Aniketh quickly embraced SUBWAY as their choice for the lunch.  It was never been so easy for kids to decide what to eat on an Indian National Highway.

To keep my blog short (as most of the readers attention span is too low, and I have got lots of other things to catch up), here is the gist of my observations and experience over last 72 hours.  All opinions expressed are my own, and does not reflect that of past, current, and future employees, friends, colleagues, and family members.  So please do not get carried away while/after reading it  🙂

  • Though my mother tongue is Telugu, I had to struggle a bit to converse (or convey my message) in coastal areas because of strong / distinct dialect in Andhra region.  I stayed @ “GREEN VIEW INTERNATIONAL RESORT” located little outside the Bhimavaram town.  It is very common in India to attach tags “RESORT” & “INTERNATIONAL”. It has nothing to do with the amenities provided.  Place is pretty new & neat, but were missing some basic amenities missing (as the place is still under development).  I tried to explain the same to caretaker, but he had trouble understanding my pace of telugu (which is full of English, urdu, hindi, telengana dialect, and hardly any telugu).  Irrespective of whatever I said, care taker was smiling innocently and wondered why I am not happy with non-functioning A/C, water supply, light switches,  missing hot water etc J.  Later he moved us to a different room where most issues were taken care
  • So, I finally have realized that I hardly use any Telugu words when I speak Telugu. Most in Andhra region does use mostly telugu words when they speak in Telugu
  • There are so many folks on the roads who are more than eager go give direction, though they are not consistent.  Still most popular direction is “keep going straight and then turn left / right”.  No indication of how long to go before deciding to to turn left / right.  One guy near Eluru said, “కొద్దిగా  దూరం  వెళ్ళాక  సొరంగము  వస్తది  దాని  తరువాత  తిన్నగా  వెళ్ళు  మల్లి  ఎడమ  వైపు వెళ్ళాలి”   I had to reach far end of my memory bank to recollect “sorangamu”. When was the last time, you have used the word “సొరంగము”?
  • Tier 2 towns such as Vijayawada & Tier 3 town such as Bhimavaram seems to have access to luxuries / amenities which were once limited to Hyderabad.  My kids were surprised to Jaguar, BMWs, Mercs in small towns across the AP (and not all were registered in Hyderabad).   Bhimavaram has stretch of 5KM with malls, new multiplexes, shopping arcades.  There was a PIZZA CORNER in the middle of nowhere.  Some areas in Vijayawada looked ultra slick. We had lunch at one of the swankiest Pizza Hut that we have been, with US soft rock melodies in the background
  • Though I no way encourage animal cruelty, I did attend COCK FIGHT event, as it was a group event, as it is supposedly major attraction in coastal region during Pongal.  Apparently 1000 Crores of INR is exchanged during 72 hrs of Pongal festival via COCK FIGHT betting.  We were at a place close to Bhimavaram.   The setup reminded me of Gladiator movie.   Me and kids walked out after 2 rounds of cock fight
  • We also went to Kolleru Lake, which has a sanctuary for migratory birds.  I was happy to see the setup in place for migratory birds.  Check out my other post on this topic
  • Lavish Authentic Breakfast at Bhimavaram from our host Sanjay Jupudi. Needless to say that the primary ingredients were love and affection. Immensely thank Sanjay and his family for such a wonderful feast. Special thanks to his mom.
  • Menu for breakfast included: Vada, idli , pesarattu, upma, masala dosa, puri bajji, 2 types of pongal, bread with jam and butter, 2 types of cereals  4 types of chutneys, karam podi, ghee and of course a sambar as well, Desserts included: gajar halwa, gumadikaya halwa, Two types of Junnu (Sugar and Jaggery)
  • Mega Dinner was hosted at a farmhouse in the midst of plantain farm.   Variety of food served was too many to list here  🙂   There was a young chap who was serving food for guests, most of which was moslty non vegetarian delicacies.  When I alerted him that I am a vegetarian  he did not understand. I told him in telugu (నేను శాఖాహారం మాత్రమే తింటారు).   He got a shock of his life. He had me confirm it dozen times and checked if I am joking.  Apparently, I am the first vegetairan that he has ever met in his life.  This kid has never been out of Bhimavaram, and apparently all or most in the coastal regions eats only non veg food 🙂
  • Private boat was hired for the entire gang to view Papi Kondalu.  Since I have already been there, and we wanted to checkout Kolleru Lake, we had to split
  • I remember Sanjay calling each of us travelling in 4 different cars and later staying at difference places nearby, a hundred times to check if all of us are doing OK and comfortable
  • As I said earlier, there is no trip without visits to temples enroute.  Thanks to Radhika we did stop at Dwaraka Tirupait (also called as Chinna Tirupati), Mavoolamma temple (known for fulfilling your wishes),  Someshwaram Temple, and a Jain temple

Sanjay’s parents raised the bar for perfect hospitality too high for us to reach.   They have truly adhered to the age old saying, “Athidhi Devo Bhava” (Treat your guest like a god).   Once again, I finish this blog with billion thanks to Sanjay and his family for hosting a perfect vacation

Click below to see the video collage from snaps & video clips from the event.

7 thoughts on “Celebrating Pongal in Coastal Andhra

  1. Good coverage on your trip, Sai. Looks like you had a perfect holiday trip to Bhimavaram & other places. It is the way to go – specially with your kids, lest they would never ever be aware of the niceties of our culture..


  2. A beautiful presentation by sai chintala i feel as if i am there conrats to sanjay and sudhkar for organising such nice holiday we wish we to join u people for 2014 pongal once again congrtas to my dear pinni and babbaigaru for hosting in such a perfect way bye


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