2020 will forever be a year where travel came to a grinding halt. The year of the pandemic. While we consistently traced the impact coronavirus has on travel and the changing regulations, in this evolving landscape we also travelled through our stories, in conversations with people and via food. Here’s a recap of what our readers loved in 2020.
“On March 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and in the days to follow, museums and broadways shuttered, gatherings of large clusters were restricted and universities too moved online. Once a destination with 65 million visitors, New York is now uncannily reminiscent of a Hollywood home-invasion sci-fi with nearly uninhabited streets.”
“In late March, when India went into coronavirus lockdown, the government suspended all international flight operations. Seven months later, countries are opening up their borders to other nations with close geographic, economic or cultural ties to resuscitate the tourism industry, which has been severely impacted because of the pandemic. As of November 18, India has air travel bubbles with a total of 22 countries.”
You can’t be a writer if you don’t observe,” Grover recounts in a telephonic interview. He seeks out good food with a passion, and is always happy to swap travel tips, as can be seen in these edited excerpts.
Which place has always captivated your imagination?
Benaras. I lived there and studied at IIT-BHU for four years. The city’s culture and chaos has stayed with me. Everytime I go back, I discover something new about Benaras—a different place or a new ritual that has been followed for hundreds of years. The city has many, many layers and the foremost one for me is food. It is also the first thing I explore in any place I visit.
It’s impossible to miss Pankaj Tripathi. From the small village of Belsand, Bihar, Tripathi harboured a thirst to be an actor, and to travel. He’s accomplished both. A glimpse into an interview with the actor:
Would you say that seeing the world made you a better actor?
Definitely, definitely. 100 per cent. It has made me a better actor, a better human being. When we travel, we understand the world, our place in it, and where we should be. Bahut saare bhram tootte hai (A lot of misconceptions were cleared up). So naturally, travelling makes us a better actor and human being.
“Bread, in some form or another, is eaten by almost all communities around the globe. Even during the pandemic, people waking up in Malaysia start their day with a smear of kaya, a luscious, buttery coconut jam spread on airy toast, while in Morocco, a golden, honey-infused mixture is still drizzled upon thick slices of warm bread in the morning. You too, can wake up like a Malaysian or Moroccan for a day. All you need is a bit of bread, plus a few additional ingredients, some readily available, and others perhaps gathering dust in your pantry.”
“Be it the potato-laced biryanis of Kolkata to the spicier, mixed versions from Thalassery and Dindigul, biryani seems to unite the subcontinent of India better than any political party ever could. It has inspired ancient Tamil poetry and so many splintered regional styles, Hyderabad alone is said to have dozens variations. While several famed eateries are oft thought to be the purveyors of the most quintessential biryani preparations, it is important to remember the authentic, home-style recipes of home cooks with decades of experience and generations of know-how.”
“For over 40 years, according to Kamalathal, she has been serving up idlis for arguably the best price in the country: from 50 paise in the 1980s, only to be increased to one rupee in recent years, a sum that most beggars now snub in big cities. At 85, Kamalathal runs one of the most famous businesses in the entire district of Coimbatore. However, Kamalathal is nonplussed by her notoriety. Kamalathal’s priority, to provide for others fairly, seems to be a notion as antiquated as the tattoos she received when she turned eight.”
SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur
Wes Anderson meets imperialism at this former royal guesthouse of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur. Sea blue, fuchsia and indigo wallpapers bathe the cavernous interiors of the 1729-built property. Marble makes up the grand staircase, Art Deco furniture is peppered throughout and greenery is everywhere. The 13 rooms and suites have played host to dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth, Lord Mountbatten and Jackie Kennedy, who now have suites named in their honour. (Doubles from Rs55,000; thesujanlife.com)
“Passengers in window seats have the lowest likelihood of coming in contact with an infected person… but illnesses are most likely to be transmitted only to passengers within one row of the infected person.
The “FlyHealthy Research Team” observed the behaviours of passengers and crew on 10 transcontinental U.S. flights of about three and a half to five hours. Led by Emory University’s Vicki Stover Hertzberg and Howard Weiss, they not only looked at how people moved about the cabin, but also at how that affected the number and duration of their contacts with others. The team wanted to estimate how many close encounters might allow for transmission during transcontinental flights.”
Call Me by Your Name
“Somewhere In Northern Italy”: reads the hazy opening credit of Luca Guadagnino’s young romance. Fitting, for so much of this movie delights in the blurring of time, place and purpose. The six weeks that brew the story of lover-pals Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) could’ve been ten. The lush family home of Elio, cocky and vulnerable in the throes of late teenage, could have been any summer estate. And yet, for their socially unsanctioned ardour to announce itself between peaches, fountains, apricots and kisses, there must exist a landscape as melancholic and memorable as love itself. So we are packed off to the Italian countryside, awash in fruit season. It is a season of plenty—of bike rides, picnics, cold swims and hot-knife touches. Tail the pair as they fritter away time with an irreverence afforded only to the unbroken… what follows is only vaguely relevant. Two hours 12 minutes of second-hand courage. Can you complain?