Some time ago I bought a Wonderbag and what a wonder bag it’s turned out to be!
Last night, during Earth Hour, Ché (Husband) and I ate Kitchri cooked in the Wonderbag. I cooked the lentils, spinach and rice for 15 minutes on the stove top at about noon. It immediately went into the Wonderbag, nice and snug, and at 5pm I opened it to reveal perfectly cooked and delicious Kitchri!
The Wonderbag is the invention of South African Sarah Collins (Top 10 Finalist, Most Powerful Women Entrepeneurs, Fortune Magazine 2013). It’s a slow cooker minus the electricity.
When rolling blackouts started in 2008 she remembered how her grandmother used to put cushions around her pots to keep the food cooking after it had been removed from the fuel source. So she came up with the Wonderbag.
The wonder of the Wonderbag is that it’s extremely useful for communities in Africa and other continents who battle against odds to cook food using wood and kerosene stoves. Apart from the danger of using these fuel sources in small huts and shacks, they also add to environmental pollution. You can read about the Wonderbag story on her website.
Anything you’d cook in a slow cooker or crock pot is ideal for cooking in the Wonderbag.
The impact of the Wonderbag is wide. She has some interesting infographics on the site. Here are some of the impacts of wide-spread cooking with the Wonderbag:
Saving of energy, water and time, simply by making cooking more efficient
In developing countries, the basic need to feed a family has huge challenges: Staple diets require long cooking times, yet there is little access to energy and water
Lack of clean fuel means using charcoal or tree-wood for cooking
Cutting down trees results in deforestation as communities quickly use the tree wood around them, digging up the roots when desperate
Deforestation leads to foraging further afield, which is done by women and also girls, often taken out of school
Foraging as far as 5-10 km per day leaves women open to violence
Poverty will not end if girls don’t have time for school, women spend 4-6 hours of their day cooking, and the environment is ravaged
The above points are taken from the Wonderbag website – go on over to the site to see the full list of environmental, social and economic impacts and challenges, especially in the developing world, that the proliferation of the Wonderbag hopes to address.
During my recent trip to India, I spent 3 weeks working in Pune. It struck me today that I have written about Delhi and Agra, and have not writen a word about Pune. Today my post is dedicated to Pune.
Pune is a very large city in the provice of Maharashtra. It is the same province where Mumbai is located. Pune is the 8th largest city in India with 3,115,431 inhabitants. It is the cultural capital of Maharashtra (Wikipedia). It is a mere 30 minute flight from Mumbai.
I spent 3 weeks over January and February, in winter, walking around in short sleeves. I am told it gets very hot during the summer. It was wonderful weather when I was there.
I stayed in an apartment complex in Magarpatta City. Magarpatta City is a self-contained city within a city, consisting of residential, business and commercial settlements. It has schools, gym, spas, and recreational facilities. It also has eco-friendly practices, such as rain water harvesting, vermiculture, a bio-gas plant, garbage segregating at source, use of fly-ash bricks in construction, and has one of the largest residential solar water heating systems in India. Solar panels have been installed in every residential apartment complex.
Magarpatta City has wide leafy boulevards and has a constant maintenance team looking after the pavements and parks and making sure everything is spotless. The image below is of the road into the city from the main gate. The gate is manned by security. Busses and rickshaws can be found outside the main gate.
Pune has many shopping malls. Magarpatta City has 2 and the 3rd one, the Magarpatta City mall is being built and looks huge. Opposite Magarpatta City is the newly build Amanora mall, it is also huge and looks very upmarket. The other malls I went to were Inorbit Mall and Phoenix Market City, both in Nagar Road. This last one is truly colossal! I need not mention that all the malls I went to have the full range of retail, entertainment and wellness choices. I also don’t need to mention that they all carry the full range of branded shops. This goes without saying for any mall in India. Destination Centre in Magarpatta City has all you need for daily shopping and stays open until late in the evening – great if you are working late. It also has restaurants, and the BEST masala tea I had in India!
Pune has more than enough to choose from in terms of restaurants. If western is your style, the Hard Rock Cafe will suit you. The Sizzlers range of restaurants offers lots of yummy food. There are many trendy restaurants. I am vegetarian and I had more choice than I could eat in all the time I was there. In fact, in the month I was there I did not eat the same thing twice (except if I chose to, like Gulab Jamun, described in a previous post).
Sukanta is a pure vegetarian thali restaurant. Within seconds of seating and with huge flurry and a whole lot of noise, a round stainless steel tray is placed in front of you with 9 or so smaller stainless steel bowls on it. Each bowl is then filled with yummy food – veggies, curry, dahl, breads. Even the sweet is placed on the tray. As each bowl empties it is immediately filled (I kid you not, it is that quick) – waiters walk up and down the restaurant looking for empty bowls to fill. And they know just which ones need which food. You literally have to put your hand over the bowl to prevent them from filling it again.
The next day we went to Soho for my friend’s birthday. This is a trendy place, where you can get a good meal and have a good dance, it is place to go when you want to have a good party. We were there on a dry day, so no alcohol was served, so just time your visit well.
Deccan Harvest in the CyberCity area of Magarpatta City was also good. Fancy and with good food. Another thali restaurant I went to was in Phoenix Market City mall, very fancy. Food very delicious. Same concept as Sukanta, called Rajdhani.
Now if you are going to Pune, you simply have to shop in Laxmi Road. In terms of clothes and jewelry, whatever you can get in the malls you can get here, with more variety and much better prices. One can’t bargain in the malls. But you can bargain in Laxmi Road. If you are not a local or speak Hindi, go with someone who does to do all the bargaining for you. I bought some beautiful clothes, including sarees there.
I am told that Pune is a city where the motorbikes outnumber the people. I think this is certainly true. It was also here that I drank the heavenly nectar of sugar cane juice mixed with lime juice. A simple corner stand housed a medieval-looking press, hungrily eating chunks of sugar cane, fed continuously by a sweating attendant.
Getting around Pune is easy. There are busses and taxi cabs. If you are brave, hire a scooter, or a car. If you want some adventure, I can definitely recommend the ubiquitous rickshaws – ready my post on this interesting, fun, and sometimes frustrating mode of transport – Rickshaws. They are everywhere, their sound unmistakable as they putt-putt-putt their way around the streets looking for fares. I would be lying in bed in the middle of the night, and their putt-putt-putt sound would reach up to me on the 10th floor.
On my second last day, I visited the Aga Khan Palace. It is a beautiful, majestic palace. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi was held under house arrest for almost 2 years with his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary, Mahadev Desai. Both his wife and secretary died here, whilst in captivity. The gardens are large, beautiful and serene, despite the noise and activity of the Pune-Nagar Road just outside the gates.
There is so much to see in Pune. I did not do much of the tourist stuff. Tourist sites mention the Osho Meditation Resort. I did not go there, only drove past and I must admit that I was disappointed to see lots of westerners there. It is geared towards western visitors. I suppose western visitors bring in tourist revenue to the city. Even though meditation and yoga are of India, to go to a resort catering mostly to western visitors is not to know India. I believe that the gardens are beautiful and are open for an hour or two at sunrise and at sunset. Otherwise, you will have to book into the resort.
I prefer the real India, the grittiness and gentility, rubbing shoulders with people, street food, and drinking the local tap water – YES, I did it in Pune! And I was fine.
I loved being there, living day to day, absorbing the culture and the vibe. I hope India is on your list of places to visit. And that Pune will be part of your itinerary.
Reflections on writing, editing, life, family and social impact initiatives by a chief wide eyed in wanderer, wonderer and bottlewasher