Monday, November 03, 2008


The monsoon had beaten it's annual retreat leaving us PMSing (Post Monsoon Stress) with the advent of the October heat. Hoping to escape the grueling weather in the city we planned another trek.
We caught a 6am State Transport bus from Dadar and headed to Lonavala via the old Mumbai- Poona Highway. The old bus groaned as it climbed the winding ghats. Nonetheless, in a couple hours we were at the Lonavala ST stand just in time for a hearty breakfast at Ramakrishna.
Idli, dosa, hot samosa and a masala chai later we hopped into a sumo we'd hired and set off on our 20 km drive to the base village- Peth-Shahpur. The village of Peth-Shahpur is en route to INS Shivaji and Sahara Group's Amby Valley.
We parked our vehicle at the base village and started our trek.

The Koraigad fort is atop a steep hill at the height of 3,000 feet above sea level. The climb, although it looks steep, is fairly easy and takes approximately an hour. The path to the fort is along a flat plain initially and is covered with a carpet of yellow blossoms and multitudinous butterflies . It then winds though a moderately wooded path through a canopy of vegetation until you reach the steps of the fort. The climb is rendered much simpler because of the steps and yet it is steep and can leave you breathless.

It took us longer than an hour to get to the top. We stopped every now and then to admire the caterpillars and butterflies, to photograph the fort, a Ganesh Temple on the way, a few caves that were possibly granaries.
We entered the fort through the main darwaja
atop which a saffron flag fluttered in the wind.
The fort has no tree cover and is an expansive table land covered with fresh water ponds. The monsoon had left the fort covered in weeds and grass and the October sun beating down on it had transformed it into a yellow grassland. We explored the fort for a couple of hours letting the sun burn our skin despite the sunscreen, glares and hats we wore. We walked along the periphery of the fort and the sight is one to behold...the Mulshi lake, the mountain ranges, a bird's eye view of Amby Valley, an airstrip with a biplane and the Dukes nose in the distance.
The fort houses an ancient temple with a 4 feet tall statue of the goddess Koraidevi and a number of cannons. There is no food available on the fort and we sat along the largest pond, our tired feet soaking in the cool water, munching on the snacks we'd carried with us. Soon the sun was overhead and despite the the breeze our sun burnt skin coaxed us to leave the fort and start our descent. The climb down is much simpler. Soon we were back at the base village and in our car headed to Lonavala.

After a late lunch we caught an ST bus back to the city. Twelve hours after we'd started our journey from Dadar we were back in Mumbai..a little tired, very sun burnt but mostly happy from our little get-away from the city.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

HT Cafe again!!!!

I'm back in print!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Adieu to Lisa Chow

My world was falling apart. I felt alone in a city I'd moved to and decided to make my home. Disillusioned, lonely, heartbroken, I needed a friend. I returned home every night only to be enveloped by the silent walls of my apartment where my mind screamed for some peace of mind. I needed an escape. And I didn't want to be alone.

Here I was, miles from home, in a new city to be with the man I loved and yet in the aftermath of the relationship, making my way through the carnage of my shattered dreams I craved for somebody to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, somebody to need me, somebody to just be there and break the silence of the looming walls of my fourth floor apartment.

Sometimes animals lend you the support humans fail to give. One sunny afternoon I made my way through Russel Market. I didn't know what I was looking for. Was hoping to find a pet, probably a duckling. Then I saw them; their beady red eyes glowed in the sunlight and three furry creatures turned their curious little noses towards me and captured my heart. Henry Hog, Lisa Chow and Molly Glutton found their way into my heart and into my apartment in Bangalore and turned it into a home. Coming home wasn't so bad after all. I'd fish out my key from my purse and the sound of the door unlocking would send the threesome into a frenzy. Their squeals brought the house alive. I'd watch with amazement carrots, cabbage, tomatoes disappear into their ever hungry stomachs in seconds.

The three guinea pigs became more than just roommates, my friends, my family, my emotional walking stick. As I watched my world crash and my dreams shatter the threesome made themselves comfortable in their new home. But it was time to move on, and move out and return to Bombay. Time to start a new life. Emotionally drained, I don't think I had the strength to start anew or even the courage to deal with what was happening. My family thought I'd be better off moving back home to Bombay with my pets. They'd help me deal with my pain and keep me engaged. Well....they were right.

Hog, Chow and Glutton flew to Bombay, Indian Airlines, economy class. Happy with a bigger enclosure and the new city they decided to start a family. 4 months after we moved to Bombay, one morning Chow very coyly introduced us to her litter of two. Soon our guinea pig family grew from three to nine.

In the months that followed some friends adopted 4 of the piglets and two continued to live with us even after they grew up and the five pigs provided endless hours of fun and companionship.

Over five years have passed. The pigs grew old and passed on. Lisa Chow, the last of them lived to a ripe old age of five and a half years.
A lot changed over five years and most importantly I changed and with me my life changed. I didn't need an emotional walking stick any more. I was stronger and ready to take on life. I think Lisa Chow waited till she knew in her little-guinea-pig-way that I was strong enough now and she was free to succumb to the hand of time.

I returned from a 3 week vacation to find Chow on her side, a film covering her eyes had blinded her, her little feet had no strength to support her body and still she called out in recognition every time I passed her basket. In our five and a half years together she could recognise me from the sound of my footsteps. The vet recommended some medicines and gave her three days to recover. "Put her to sleep in three days if the medicines don't help and end her suffering; she's lived a full life" he said.
I watched her writhe in pain for 3 days and she very demurely let us feed her medicines(with a dropper), water and food. Her condition was beyond repair and on 5th September just before midnight Chow breathed her last.

This is a final adieu to my guinea pig family. They shared with me the worst and the best years of my life.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Iron Fort - Lohagad

The Indrayani Express lugged through the rain drenched ghats in the early hours of the morning. We alighted at Lonavala station to find out we'd just missed the local train to Malavli. It didn't dampen our spirits. A hot cuppa tea at the station and off we went to Malavli by rickshaw.

From Malavli station we started our walk, past the railway crossing, a bridge over the expressway, through the Bhaje village and soon we were trudging through slushy paddy fields. A crab popped out from under a rock to say hello and a pair of startled brahminy mynah's took to flight. A cool breeze enveloped us and we were intoxicated with the sights, the smells and the sound this scenic setting had to offer.

The rain gods had finally obliged and waterfalls rushed down the hillside and transformed into gurgling streams.

We reached the road that leads up to the base village. Although motorable I'd only drive up that road if I'm allowed to drive a hummer. The road wound and climbed, leaving the inexperienced trekker a little out of breath. We stopped often and flopped ourselves on little rocks along the way, more to admire the breathtaking view than to rest. In the distance another local train blew it's horn and snaked it's way to Pune. Above us the twin forts of Visapur and Lohagad towered like benevolent monarchs. Their history excited and intrigued us.

The history of Lohagad can be traced back to many dynasties and time periods - Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas, Bahamanis, Nizamshahis, Mughals and Marathas. The mighty fort, which is one of the better preserved ones today was captured by the Maratha ruler, Shivaji in 1648 AD. The treaty of Purandar forced Shivaji to surrender the fort to the Mughals in 1665 AD but he recaptured it in 1670 AD using it to hide a huge treasure he amassed when he raided Surat. Some people believe the treasure is still hidden on the fort waiting to be discovered.

Soon we were at Lohagaon, the base village. A village stall promised hot bhakris with spicy zunka and even fiery hirvya mircha thecha.

We placed our order and started our ascent up the steps to the Iron Fort. Hordes of monkeys climbed down the walls of the fort to inspect the human invaders. Some pensively watched from the distance and the bigger, bolder ones even barred their teeth in warning. Undeterred we continued through the four huge doors leading up to the fort. First through Ganesh Darwaja, past Narayan Darwaja and Hanuman Darwaja and finally Maha Darwaja we were atop the fort. The fort has remnants from the Mughal as well as the Maratha old cannon, water tanks, temples, dargas...

We walked through the clouds, the rain coming down in torrents, the roaring wind threatening to blow us off the fort. By the time we'd scaled the length and breath of the fort we were drenched to the bone, our teeth clattered and our muscles ached for warmth but our hearts were captivated by the beauty it had to offer. Our stomach's reminded us of the hot lunch that awaited us at the village.

As promised, the Maharashtrian lunch followed by piping hot adrakwali chai were delicious. Satiated after a delectable meal and warm after a change of clothes we bid our adieus to the hospitable villagers and started our journey back.

We still had one more detour on our agenda. The waterfalls we encountered on our way up extended an invitation which we readily accepted. The cool water engulfed our tired bodies as we lowered ourselves on the rocks. The veiled sun was slowly moving across the sky towards the horizon. Soon darkness would set in and it was time to head back to Malavli.

We got into the local train at Malavali, got off at Lonavala to pick up chikki and fudge and then boarded a bus back to Mumbai. Weary, we rode in silence. Some fell asleep. I shut my eyes and savoured each moment of my blissful trip to Lohagad.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I float down life’s river to a destination without a name
Think I’ve lost the plot, don’t remember how to play the game
Drifting along the river, suddenly by my side
Another lonely traveler, he wants to share the ride

Where have you been, I have waited..
For the twisted hand of fate to usher you into my life

Lost and Found. Lost although I’ve found him
He’s a mirage and I’m the desert sun.
Shining on when he’s not there,
Shining on when he’s not there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Found my Joie De Vivre

Do you think it’ll rain tomorrow and I’ll get the day off?” I asked her the same question two decades ago as a school girl as I do now. My grandmother shakes her weary head and responds, “You, will never grow up!!!”
I prayed for rain; the Gods almost never complied and I dragged my reluctant feet to school. Today I dragged them to work. The BMC announcement on SMS, the weather bureau, the 9pm news all promise heavy rain in the city coupled with high tide and water logging. The sun had other plans and out he popped forcing me to brace myself for another long journey to Malad.

Just another 5 days to go before my last day at work. I’ve decided to let go of a lucrative job to pursue a dream. My constant search for 'Work-Life Balance' is hopefully over. A friend commented, " You love life too much Lax to ever balance it with work.'

I have a dream and I plan to dedicate the rest of this year to make it a reality.

I've found my Joie De Vivre

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Deesh happens whonly in India!!!!!

We read so often in the newspapers about shootouts in american schools and lately of similar instances in India as well. What happens minutes before the killer starts shooting innocent, unassuming victims? Is it just another day in their lives? And how do they react to gun wielding strangers? Panic? Or is it their 'Chalta hai' attitude that gets the better of them. I'm lucky I didn't find out....

The Monday blues spilled over to Tuesday. I resorted to my numbaar one stress ofcourse!!! A colleague had Jumbo Vada Pav cravings and off we went after work to my favourite tapri at Mindspace.

A Vada Pav in hand, exchanging pleasantries with ex-colleagues along the tapri, I missed watching my colleague bump into a really drunk or doped(maybe both) guy. As she glared at him our other colleague happened to notice that the guy wasn't just drunk or stoned, he also possessed a gun!!!! As he swayed and his two friends attempted to help him keep his balance. He held on to his gun and moved it around casually like it was a book or a cigarette he was holding. We panicked and moved away quickly into the car to watch what was happening from a safe distance.

Was this really happening? And why weren't all the people around reacting!!!! My heart skipped a beat...what if he just hit the trigger.....what if he shot somebody.... I looked around...everything seemed normal!!!

'Yaha sab kuch chalta hai!!!'

Somebody dialled the cops.Must be a toy gun, they said. And where is Mahim space?? After 5 minutes of explaining and after taking another 15 minutes to get there, the cops finally arrived. The gun wielding man managed to coax a rickshaw wala to drive him away just seconds before their arrival.

So filmi, I must say!!! The cops arrive when it's all over!!! Whereas for me...that was an interesting end to a blue tuesday :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pink is my new obsession!!!!!!!!

I'd driven to Sewri a million times to watch the flamingos in the distance.Pink specks covering the mudflats turned into bird shapes through my binoculars.

This Saturday was different!!! The afternoon sun scorched our skin as we assembled at Mahul village at 2pm. A little boat and some fisher folk awaited the 'Jungle lore' gang. We set off through the mangroves starling some paddy birds and gulls in the process. The high tide was coming in. The Flamingos who's had their fill were now walking along the mangroves before taking flight.
We were ushered into an even smaller boat, so we could row up to the flamingos without startling them. With my sun-kissed arms on either sides of the boat, squatting on the floor, shifting to maintain the boat's balance, I spotted them as we turned around the bend. Thousands of pink beauties as far as the eye could see!!!
I'd never been so up close and personal with the flamingos....the lesser and greater, the juveniles...just meters away from us....
They waded through the water, squabbled and called out to each other, some posed on one leg....and then....when the tide came in further and the skies beckoned they took off....synchronised feet treading the water's surface, wings flapping, and they were off...
As they flew above our heads towards Anushakti nagar, we watched them till they turned into little specks and then merged with the distant hills.

We rowed back to the village in awe, sharing photographs, our excitement and our new pink obsession!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tiger, tiger, burning bright!!

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake)