Planning the visit
“Forward this mail to 14 friends within 14 days and see his chamatkar, else face bad luck”.
No, I have not forwarded this mail to my friends and spammed their mailbox rather I have sent it back to the same person 14 times for wishing me GOOD (or BAD?) luck. It was a great shocker for him as I have forwarded the mail to his official mail ID. Also I have asked him if he had received all 14 mails else I promised to send this mail 14 times everyday to him. Well, not to mention that he got a shock of his lifetime and I knew for sure that he would never forward any bulk mails to me. I really didn’t know if Baba was angry with my sin so wanted to take his blessings and experience the chamatkar myself.
Our company holiday list is published at the beginning of each year. This is an indication for the employees and their managers to make their holiday plans in advance. The three days weekend in September instigated an urge to plan a small trip. This is the time when the rains will stop and we will have a beautiful weather. I searched for a weekend destination from Hyderabad that could be reached in one night by train. Shirdi scored over many other destinations as the first choice. The only close contender to this place was Tirupati and Horshley hills. However, September being a festive season (Brahmotsav starts at the same time) in Tirupati I decided in favour of Shirdi-Ajanta-Ellora-Aurangabad (later on I came to know that this year there were record pilgrimage in Tirupati during Brahmotsav in September).
As usual my planning started four months in advance by finding out the places to visit in these locations. Accordingly I booked railway tickets three months in advance, to ensure our choice of berths. This being my first travel with our one year old, I was cautious to book all lower berths.
As I began planning, my first consideration was the following constraints and risks –
- 1.Shirdi to Ajanta road distance is about 150 Km or more than four hours by cab. Train is available but takes a roundabout route. That would have wasted almost the whole of Saturday, increased overall ineffective travel.
2.Ajanta caves need to be visited in the morning for better photography as these caves face eastward. Ellora caves on the other hand need to be visited in the afternoon as these face west.
3.One option was to visit Ajanta first and Shirdi in the end but that was not possible as the connecting train to Jalgaon (nearest station to Ajanta) reaches the station at a very odd hour.
5.The time limit to cover all these was only three days.
I went back to my planning board for planning this trip and roped in all my project management skills for this.
Initially I was in a dilemma as to how to start the journey. Trains to Ajanta from Hyderabad reaches at odd hours and that automatically made the choice of visiting Shirdi first. My travel experience says Shirdi is worth one night stay. I planned for an early check out from our Shirdi hotel on Saturday. Same day I scheduled a visit to Daulatabad fort in the morning and Ellora caves in the afternoon. The Saturday night stay was booked in Ajanta and the third night was our transfer to Hyderabad by train.
The final plan looked like this –
The whole planning was completed seventy days in advance. Train tickets were already booked. Next it was time to book our hotel rooms. I booked the “Ajanta T Junction” resort through MTDC website. Thanks to internet the whole world is in our bedroom now. Everything is ‘just a click’ away. Only two of these resorts that can be booked online out of the five present. If you are planning a visit you need to book well in advance for confirmation. There are three resorts available to site people but it depends on the rush and your luck.
Initially, I wanted to stay in Shirdi temple and intentionally did not book any hotel there. The Sai Baba Sansthan has confirmed that booking can be made only after visiting Shirdi. This was only gap that was itching me constantly until I tried to gather more information from other sources. I realized that one needs to have recommendation from some VIPs to stay in the temple.
Unfortunately, I had only 10 days then. Without any delay, I booked a serviced apartment in Shirdi for one night. We thought that at least we could cook something on our own there, as the food is very costly at Shirdi.
Jayeeta (my wife) was very enthusiastic in this planning. It was three days to our travel when one night I woke up and saw Jayeeta writing something on a writing pad. It was real surprising. I looked at my watch, it was 2 am. I asked her –
-What are you doing at this hour? My voice was shaken and broken, half asleep.
-Nothing. Making a list..
-List, shopping list? I told you I am already out of pocket.
-No. This is a list of the things to be taken to Shirdi. So that we don’t forget anything.
Oh. There was a sigh of relief in me. At last she is doing something useful. I went to sleep again.
Next morning she gave me the list.
-I told you to travel lite..
-But I can’t reduce this any further. Everything on this list is important. Please have a look.
For the first time in our five year married life I saw her doing something voluntarily and for the first time I saw such a big list for a three-day travel. Apart from clothes and other normal stuff, the list also included emergency light (proved useful in Ajanta resort at night and during Shirdi blackouts), medicine, baby diapers, toys, hand-fan (this was for baby – for Shirdi power cut), feeding bottles, flask … So far it was ok but the last entry was a big surprise.
-What is this? I shouted..
-The last entry… why do you need this? You need the ‘BABY-POTTY’ for these three days?
-Yes. Don’t you realize that he may be young but he needs to be comfortable all these days? Do you understand that his discomfort can make the whole travel a bad experience for us? After all, he is also a human being.
Not to mention, that it was the conclusion of the discussion. I realized we have a very important member with us…our one year old kid, Snehal.
The real excitement of a travel starts when you start packing the bags. As I was travelling with my mini-family I have started packing early. It was no better than shifting our house to a different city. I could not reduce the list to any significant extent and finally agreed to pack four bags for this travel. This was surely more than what was needed.
It was not the perfect day at all. In fact everything was in a mess. None of us was well. Jayeeta was sick, Piklu had running noses and fever and so was I. I thought of cancelling the trip once but later retracted from that decision as everything was booked. Sometimes planning ahead may really become a problem. This risk of falling sick was already in my initial planning and I was ready with all the medicines per the mitigation plan. Surely, project management helps us in every walk of life.
We started at 3:30 pm from our Kondapur home. The train was at 6 from Secundrabad but I wanted to reach the station one hour in advance. This was only to avoid last minute rush for the right compartment and the right seat.
I have booked till Manmad. My plan was to board off peacefully and to avoid all last minute rush with the luggage. We were already tired when we boarded the train and ready to sleep at the earliest. To make things worse, my son started rejecting all types of food. He didn’t drink his favourite baby-food for dinner either. Even worse, he started vomiting with the slightest glimpse of food. My trip was sure to be a bad one.
I could hardly sleep that night. Next morning I got up early and went to brush my teeth. It was 6 am when some people were getting ready to board off the train. I met Mr. Das among them. After retirement he is now spending his time in visiting places of worship with his wife and in India there is no dearth of them.
-Where are you going? Mr. Das started the conversation in Bengali. He could understand that he has met another Bong there.
-Shirdi. Will board off at Manmad.
-Oh. We are also going there. But we’ll get down at Nagarsol. I guess that is nearest to Shirdi.
This was a surprise to me. I have done enough searching but missed this valuable information. I couldn’t believe that my internet skills were so poor. I hid the feeling to say –
-We are travelling with our kid and huge luggage. I wanted to avoid the last minute rush as the train will stop only for five minutes there.
-No problem at all. The whole train will be empty there. He said.
Now, that was surprising. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t find this information in the early stages of my planning. Obviously, it was not a huge risk as I have collected the information in time rather just-in-time. Nagrsol was 15 minutes away and we had to get ready before that. It was better to start early for Shirdi as that would avoid the heat en-route to the temple.
The train was almost empty at Nagarsol. As if this was the terminal station. Many of them had plans to visit the temple in the morning and then proceed towards Aurangabad to stay overnight. I felt that would have only increased our tiredness. Also we didn’t want to travel to the temple without being cleaned up.
Immediately after getting out we saw a crowd approaching us. I could make out from a distance that they were all cab drivers trying to woo potential passengers. I didn’t want to fall prey to these drivers and travel in a crammed Tata Sumo with people sitting on each other’s lap. I wanted to take some time before making any decision and after wasting some time on the platform I came out to get rid of the crowd. My idea was to catch the cab left without any business and to get some good bargain in the process.
There are three different modes of transportation available from Nagarsol to Shirdi. The Maruti vans normally take 7-8 people and charge anywhere around 60-70 rupees per person on sharing basis. The Tata Sumos take 9-10 people with same rate. There is a public bus facility too but the condition of the buses was not too enticing for us to board them. Some of the locales decided to board the bus. I planned to hire a Maruti van for our own.
I was really surprised at the price where the bargain started. It was surely double the rate should be and nobody was willing to reduce it. I couldn’t believe that someone could charge me rates higher than that was prevailing in Hyderabad. The longer I waited the possibility of a good bargain looked slimmer. With my wife and kid both sick, I had no choice but to take one of those expensive Maruti Omnis. Later on I realized that they have only one business for that day and they were charging me for to and fro journey as mostly they would not get any passenger on their way back.
As soon as I got into the cab I realized that it might have been scrapped by its owner a few years ago. This special vehicle didn’t have a front window pane, the seat covers were cut off and the sponge lining was visible from inside. The whole van was stinking like hell as if it was soaked in mud just the previous day. Within five minutes of hiring the cab I realized that I will repent this trip throughout. I couldn’t believe that for a journey that should have cost me not more than 300 rupees at the most, I am paying double the amount. Now, I will be happy if we reach Shirdi in good condition without any disaster.
The cab came to a screeching halt in the middle of nowhere. Only a few huts were visible at some distance.
-What happened? I asked the driver. I was worried that he would ask for more money by giving some reason or the other.
-The driver will come. Said the man who negotiated with me and whom I thought was our driver.
What the hell. I have booked this person’s cab and negotiated the price with him but he had never told that someone else is going to drive. I felt like giving a big blow on that bastard’s face for keeping me stranded in the middle of nowhere, risking all our lives.
Immediately I realized that if that guy wanted he could have robbed us instead, if his intentions were really bad. To add to my dismay, the driver disappeared in one of the huts after waiting for 10 minutes.
Now I had no choice but to wait for the unforeseen driver and didn’t have any choice of taking another cab / bus to my destination instead. We were left alone to wait for the unforeseen.
I was almost falling asleep when the original driver appeared from behind like a chamatkar after 20 minutes of wait. These 20 minutes was like two hours to us.
I confirmed the pricing again with the driver before he started driving. I wanted to make sure that all my initial bargains should not fail with this new man coming in. He was not surprised at all rather he seemed to be disinterested to know my bargain. So far I was happy with this bargain, but now I felt I didn’t get a good bargain at all.
-You know there is a village here where we don’t have any lock in our doors as there is no theft or robbery. The driver wanted to start conversation.
-Oh that’s great. I murmured while I was thinking what was the need to steal from the villagers when they could rob the tourists daily in broad daylight? I didn’t have courage to utter those words though.
We reached Shirdi in approximately two hours. We were approaching the temple and I was very happy that I booked a nice services apartment around half kilometer from the temple. Our plan was to visit the temple in the afternoon so that the rush is less.
At a first glance, I felt that Shirdi is an upcoming town and the signs of a village turning into a town were evident everywhere. There were some malls and shops and a lot of hotels on both sides of the main road.
My hotel was in front of the water park. I wanted to visit the water park after the temple. I was just imagining how much fun we would have in the park when the driver took a left turn from the main road and shattered my string of thoughts.
-Where are you going? You need to go to the ‘Silver Oak Holiday Home’ just opposite to the water park. I tried to confirm the location as he was driving into a muddy area full of big craters and all of them filled with muddy water. I have never seen this kind of road in my lifetime. Even the prehistoric roads were better as I have seen them in my history books.
-Yes, I am going in the right direction.
-What are you saying? I have booked a three star accommodation. At least from the room rent I felt so.
-Sir, there is a five star hotel on this road, too.
His reply came as a direct blow to me. All my dreams were shattered in no time. I couldn’t believe that they had five star hotel in a muddy and bumpy road. I was never so dejected even when I was rejected by my first love.
-Oh shit, is this the place you have booked? You always try to save money in small things and never take care of our comfort. I don’t know what my father has seen in you when he had chosen a worthless fellow like you. My wife groaned.
-My bad… I didn’t have information on the approach road of our hotel on net. I tried to be bold.
As we went in I could only see water on all sides of the car and anytime that could come in through the big holes under our feet. I started praying in all possible languages to Baba that the car should not stop here suddenly as I could not get out to push the vehicle. But that possibility seemed to be greater as we went in with no sight of our hotel.
-See your hotel there. It is only another turn away. Driver pointed to something towards the left.
-Oh, that’s ok. You concentrate on driving… I almost screamed. I didn’t want him to lose focus and go into deeper water or even worse to turn turtle.
I will never forget the vicious smile he had on his face after seeing me scared. I felt like kicking his ass and throwing him out of the window, but restrained myself considering the greater danger of getting down and pushing the car to my destination.
He took another left turn through a bushy area. I never wanted this trip to be so adventurous. Already taking the one year old baby in Indian train was enough of adventure for me.
No, the last part was not so bad. The final 10 yards was free of any water or craters and we reached an apparently new building with a cute school for toddlers in front.
It was 8 am by my watch.
Before paying the driver off I got down to meet the manager.
As I entered the premises I could see one table with a huge register kept on it but nobody was in site. The table was probably taken from an old furniture shop as a reject. The chair was one of the typical chairs used in govt. offices and this one was repaired several times and still put to use. I was looking for the manager when one person came out of the watchman’s room.
-May I see the manager please! I urged.
-Yes, tell me. The fellow replied.
To my utter shock, the person who seemed like room servant or at the best the watchman of the premises turned out to be the manager, too. Good money saving tactic.
-I have booked a room online. Can you please check if this is confirmed? I wanted to confirm first as I couldn’t believe that I have booked this hotel online with a price of a three star hotel.
At the back of my mind, for the first time ever I was thinking that may this turn out to be the wrong hotel. I didn’t want to take the risk of staying in an island in Shirdi and definitely I didn’t pay the premium price for an area like this.
-Yes, this is confirmed.
Oh god! What a shock with this confirmation. I couldn’t show my true emotion to him. Instead, I smiled and went back to pay the driver.
-One more thing. Our check-in time is at 12 noon. Pat came another shocker.
-What! Do you mean I need to wait for four hours to get a room?
-See I plan to vacate your room by tomorrow 8 am. Why don’t you adjust? I tried to calm down and show patience.
-Ummmm well, I can do one thing. I will not give you generator back up for four hours in the morning.
-Four hours! What do you mean? Don’t you have any electricity? I almost screamed as I continued to get shocks from this man.
-Sir, we have daily six hours of power cut. Four in the morning and two in the ..
-Ok..ok..by this time I remembered that I already read it somewhere in the web but I was not prepared for this.
-But can’t you adjust this little bit as we are planning to visit the temple in a while and you can put the lights off then.
I tried to negotiate.
This time he agreed. I patted my own back. I am mastering negotiation skills.
Meanwhile, one servicing person came from inside the watchman’s (sorry manager) room. Probably he was the only other person apart from us and the manager in that building. I was wondering how the building will look like in the middle of the night when there is mandatory power cut. As a positive thinker, in this scenario I could only think of another adventurous night in Shirdi haunted house. I was planning to write a best-selling novel out of my experience.
The temple visit
- Ek Do Teen Chaar!
- Sai ki hai Jai jaikar!!
We were standing at the long queue for the last one hour in utmost hunger, hoping to see Baba in another one hour or so and then run for lunch. A bunch of young Baba devotees just came in the line and they were chanting many slogans like the one mentioned above. I felt it was more like a political rally rather than devotees shouting for a deity.
We came to temple around 11 am after freshening up in the hotel. The bathroom light in the hotel didn’t work but thanks to glass window panes we could complete everything in a hurry. I was not sure how much time the manager would give me before he switches off the light. Then we had one more vomiting session by our son as my wife tried to feed him. This could have also happened in the temple.
We came downstairs from our room. The manager was sitting at his desk, keeping his balance well on the serviced chair. For a moment I felt that he was one of the trapeze artists who could not make it big in his professional circuit.
-How do I go to the temple from here? I asked.
-You can catch an auto sir. They will take 30/40 rupees. You will get an auto about half kilometer away.
Is he crazy? I wondered. How do I go this half kilometer wading through knee deep mud?
-Can they be summoned here? I asked again.
-The boy will call an auto sir. He pointed at the other person who looked like a forty year old man. Not sure how he seemed to be a ‘boy’ to the manager.
The auto came in 10 minutes. As I thought, he wanted Rs. 40 for this trip. Rates are always higher for tourists. But it was better to bear that extra cost rather than wading through the mud. I thought positive and soon the rate seemed to be less.
It was a 10 minute roller-coaster ride again and at the end of it we reached the temple.
-Come sir. Keep your shoes with us. It’s free. Will also give you token.
-Is it? Ok keep our shoes then.
-Sir, what do you want as an offering to the Baba. Garland, Naryaal…
-No nothing, give me the token.
I was standing there for five minutes asking for the token at least three times but there was no reply from his side. I realized that nothing is free in this world and I will get this free service only if I buy something from him. What a time waster, I thought.
The temple must be having some arrangement 0and I directly asked the security guard at the main entrance about the place to keep our shoes. Oh it was in front of our eyes but I couldn’t see that till he pointed to that direction. Even though camera, cell phone, wallet nothing is allowed inside the temple we had to bring a bag with baby food, water, our favorite caps and umbrella too considering the rainy weather. I was carrying the bag as Jayeeta was carrying the baby. The door keeper stopped us at the entrance –
-Kaun sa gaon se aa rahe ho? He asked while he was checking our bag.
I kept mum as this was none of his business.
-Kaun sa gaon hai tumhara? He asked again.
-Tumhe isse matlab? I asked. I was scared if there was some reservation for Maharastrians here. You never know how it turns out.
He asked the question a third time and I gave the same reply. This time harshly. He stopped asking and let us go. Not sure if he was asking the questions after seeing the content of our bag.
The Sai Baba temple complex is spread over an area of 200 Sq. Mtrs. Apart from the main attraction ‘Samadhi Mandir’ which is basically Baba’s Samadhi site, there are other sites that are worth a visit. ‘Khandoba Temple’ is believed to be the site where Baba first came in with a wedding party. This is considered to be the site for young people. Gurusthan is located to the north of the Samadhi Mandir and is believed to be the Samadhi site of Baba’s guru. There is a pair of marble padukas kept on the pedestal there. On the right side of the entrance to the Samadhi Mandir is Dwrakamai where the Baba was living throughout his life. Chavadi is another place where Baba used to take rest and sometimes even sleep. Lendi Bagh is a garden where Sai Baba used to take rest in the evenings. There is a perpetually burning lamp lit by him and placed between two trees. The main attraction though was the Samadhi Mandir
While we were going inside the mandir, Jayeeta started –
-You know, Baba is actually not from Shirdi. He was born nearby to Shirdi and came to this village at the age of 16. At this age he started hard penance that nobody could think of doing at that tender age. The Baba didn’t have this fakir’s attire in his initial days. He has taken this dress after losing a wrestling match.
-Even he was interested in wrestling? My idea of a Baba is typical calm and composed person completely away from any sports.
-Might not be. But this was one incident. Jayeeta replied.
-Hmm interesting. I added. I have one more story about him.
-What is that?
-Baba was fond of lighting earthen lamps with oil in his mosque during night time. One day he didn’t get any oil in the local market but he lit all the lamps with water.
-That is amazing.
-Yes. I said. Likewise there are many. He once had correct premonition about a field-fire that was not visible. This saved huge crop of a poor farmer. Another time he has stopped rain to save his devotees.
-Oh…I know one such story. Jayeeta interrupted. I came to know this from one of his devotees. Once a child was passing by the well in his village. He was very thirsty and wanted to drink some water but accidentally he fell in the well.
-Oh no. That is shocking. I said.
-Yes. But when people came to rescue him after hearing his cries, they were spellbound. Tell me why?
-Why? Obviously I was equally amazed.
-The villagers saw that the boy was hanging in the air in the middle of the well. He was safe and secure. Baba has saved his life.
The queue was visible from the main enclosure. I was not sure how to catch the crowd. The guards directed us upstairs to join the queue. I thought that there are two different queues and this one will give us a better Darshan. But no, the queue was so long that it extended to the first floor.
After almost one hour the queue suddenly stopped moving. It was time for the mid day Aarti. It lasted for one hour and we were fortunate to see that live on TV screens kept on the sidewalls. At one o’clock we started moving again. By this time the queue has only got longer. We were directed to the ground floor and then again to the second floor for final Darshan. The wait was three hours long but the benches kept along the queue gave us some rest and helped lessening the pain of waiting. There was only one issue, it was long past our lunch time and we were almost dead with hunger. But there is no gain without pain and I thought there might be pilgrims fasting since morning, I tried to motivate myself for the Darshan.
As we approached the main darshan area, I took control of our son as we anticipated some jostling and pushing around by the devotees. This is common in every Indian temple I have visited and always there is fight to have the darshan before anyone else. I tried to concentrate all my energy together to save our child from others’.
The crowd increased exponentially as we approached the main area and everyone was fighting for a glimpse of the Baba. Police personnel posted there were releasing more people in the queue at times making the situation even worse for the devotees. It was extremely difficult to tackle the child but somehow we managed to have a safe darshan.
A small door led us to the main area. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the surroundings. The whole area is covered with beautiful gold carvings. Even the pillars are gold plated but these are protected with wooden boxes to prevent the pilgrims from scraping the gold off the pillars. In the middle of these golden marvels, the white marble statue of the Baba is kept on a golden throne. Baba’s calm and composed eyes are looking straight at the eyes of the devotees. I felt as if he was looking into my eyes and saying ‘Don’t worry, everything will be alright’.
It was like Magic. Magic that lasted only for a few minutes. But I took the full advantage of these golden moments before we were slowly moved out along with the crowd. It was the true chamatkar of Baba that made me forget all the pains I had gone through in the morning. I saved this picture permanently in the closet of my heart. Unfortunately, this can neither be shared with others nor be captured by any high end camera.
Before Darshan, we were in a hurry to have food. After Darshan however, we forgot everything. As we were going out I went to collect the ‘prasadam’. Another long queue but this time no fatigue in any one of us.
We came out of the temple complex around 2:30 pm. It was well past the lunch time and I was worried that no hotel would serve us Lunch. We went to the nearest hotel that seemed to have an AC restaurant. We couldn’t visit the Bhojanalaya of Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan and I would repent my whole life for that. Everyone who had food there praised the food for its quality and above all for lucrative (I don’t use the word ‘cheap’) pricing.
The restaurant was around five minute walk from the temple. It seemed to be a costly hotel. We entered the hall and I stood by a table with Piklu on my lap while we were discussing which table to take. We normally prefer corner seats but those were already occupied by others. A bunch of sexy college girls were occupying one corner. The whole restaurant was abuzz with their incessant giggles. Not sure what these girls discuss and what makes them laugh so often. They surely don’t need to visit any laughing club ever. Other corners were used for something else and had no tables.
Two/three other tables were occupied by other families, some of them had toddlers in their group too. They were comparatively calm as they were discussing their next travel plans. This was seemingly upmarket place all and present there seemed to be quiet rich.
Suddenly there was a huge thud and the whole place was silent in one moment. I was also looking around for the source and saw all the eyes on me. I had never attracted so many women’s attention in such a short span, I felt good. My wife must be very jealous.
But why is everyone staring at me? I wondered. I looked around and looked at the floor behind me as the sound seemed to have come from there. Oh no, my son had done his job again. He thought that the finest bone china plate kept on the table was his favourite football and he shot that down breaking it into pieces. I realized why everyone was staring at us.
Oh no. I don’t want to attract attention for all the wrong reasons. I tried to scold my son for his behavior.
-Babbba….(father…) my son uttered those beautiful words when I looked at him in anger. No one can scold an one year old after those sweet words.
I hugged him even tighter and went away from the table and took our nearest seat very fast before he could make any more mess. One of the waiters came forward to clean the mess.
We took a side table with a sofa. These seats are also our favourite seat in any restaurant. I summoned the waiter and asked for the menu card. The crowd got back to their business. Girls started chirping and giggling again, this time some of them were giving me an askance look at times. Families started their own discussion. The older ones got busy in some serious talk.
The menu card was presented and we were expecting some more shockers as we opened it. By this time we were convinced that Shirdi is expensive, even more than Hyderabad but this hotel was too much. One plate of steamed rice cost Rs. 90. Side dishes were all above 100. The amount given is only sufficient for one person and two people can’t share one plate. I wondered if the hotel management consideres this as a three star hotel.
I met Mr. Das again at the exit. They were staying in that hotel. Room rate as they said was 4,500 per night. The rate seemed quiet high for the ambience facilities provided. His informed that his son Aditya also lives in Secundrabad.
We went back to the hotel around 4 pm in an auto. This time I paid him thirty rupees. No other activity was planned for this evening except sleeping and packing for next day. All of us including the kid had a good afternoon nap. This gave us some much needed rest and helped to rejuvenate ourselves on the eve of our Aurangabad tour the next day.
We didn’t dare to venture out in the night fearing a power cut. There was possibility of falling in the mud in the middle of darkness. I had to drop my evening shopping plan. Even though I was aware of the power cut, I didn’t know about the muddy road condition there. As an emergency measure we took three cups of ready to eat noodles and these were the only option to us for our dinner that night. We always carried hot water for our baby and hence preparing noodles was not that difficult.