Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I rummaged through the shelves in my room today, looking for nothing in particular. Sometimes mindless activities can be quite therapeutic on days when your brain is working overtime on myriad thoughts that your mind can't cope with.
I found a whole bunch of old, useless things still lying on my shelf when they should have made their way into the dustbin years ago...an old, broken mouse, old visiting cards, a plastic bull(toy), cut-out articles from newspapers and magazines and a very old diary.
I let most of the things stay where I found them(I plan to clean my shelf and deal with them soon) and crawled into bed with my old diary. I'd forgotten its existence and as I flipped through the yellowed pages, I found myself smiling....the diary dated back to 1993 to a time when I regularly maintained a dairy and penned my thoughts before going to bed everyday....My diary was my confidant, and to it I would narrate stories about crushes and heartaches, disappointments and joy...all the little things on a 15 year old's mind. The diary was witness to the many poems I wrote about life, pets, friends....poems that I never shared with anyone barring my grandmother who patiently listened to every single one of them.

On 1st Dec '93, in a very pensive mood, I penned a poem I called 'Words'. Here it is...

Think before you say something
Think before you say anything
'cause the time can arise when you'll regret
your thoughtless words that made you lose a friend.

Words are powerful, words are strong.
They can build a wall, they can tear it down.
They can make you cry, they can make you smile.
They can build a bond, they can create a fight.

Careless words may wound the heart,
so every word must be given a thought.
A wound in the heart only words can heal.
So remember, words are a big deal!!
Choose your words with great choice
They will give you poise in life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken Sanju Baba on my mind!!!!

Every year for the last 4 years we have visited the Mohammad Ali Road on one of the Saturdays during the Ramzan month. Come evening the street is abuzz with activity. Men, Women and Children dressed in all their finery take to the street to break their day-long fast. It difficult to walk on the footpaths as they are converted into extended sit-outs for the many restaurants. Some restaurants even have dinner tables and chairs laid out on the street. There is chaos- cars, bikers, blaring horns, crowds of people pushing you around, beggars grabbing you by the arm and asking for alms, hawkers and vendors yelling and selling their wares. Every year I tell myself that this is the last year I'll put myself through the torture of finding my way through the throngs of people. So many people, in such close proximity, packed like sardines makes me very uncomfortable.
Yet, it's worth it and every year I find myself going back again!!!

Noor Mohammadi is a well known restaurant on Mohammad Ali Road and well over a hundred years old. The food there is to die for!!!!! The lip-smacking Nalli Nihari, the Chicken Hakimi and the Chicken Sanju Baba leaves me licking my greasy fingertips even I've stuffed myself to the brim.

Here I am trying to get some office work done on a Sunday afternoon and my insatiable mind can't stop thinking about last night's dinner at Noor Mohammadi. I plan to visit again next week and until then I guess watching them make the famous dish on Video 18 will have to do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Psalm of Life -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I was browsing the Internet for something else and I chanced upon what used to be(and still is) one of my favourite poems while I was a student.

We used to have oral exams for English Poetry back in school. The teacher would pick a few poems that all students had to learn by heart. On the day of the exams, your luck and the little chit of paper you picked would decide which poem you would have to recite in front of the entire class.

We studied Wordsworth, Blake, Frost, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Longfellow....

Of all the poems I've memorised some poems have stayed with me forever.

This is one of them....

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Incy Wincy's BIG catch!!!

Vincent the spider was very popular in the spider clan of Dolvi Forest. He could spin the largest and strongest of webs and capture the largest of the butterflies. His friends envied him, the lady spiders adored him and his Momma was proud of him. The butterflies and honeybees would often hold secret meetings and in these meetings they'd discuss for long hours Vincent's whereabouts and the various routes to avoid being caught in his web. Vincent was a terror in their world and his web spelt doom.

As a little spider his proud mother would often exclaim, "My Wincy's going to make it really big some day and go where no spider has been before!!!'. The older Wincy was, the smarter he got and nobody knows who started it, but soon our little Wincy was known to all as Invincible Wincy. No other spider that they'd seen or heard of could create such an intricate web. Wincy could capture a variety of bees, flies, moths and butterflies; all in a single day's work. And on such a day he'd wrap the goodies in the most beautiful silken web and present them to the pretty spider ladies in the clan. Incy Wincy was the most eligible bachelor in Dolvi Forest.

One sunny day a strange old spider walked into their forest. He was bedraggled, weary and lame and hobbled along on the six legs he had. Two of his limbs were missing and everybody was keen to know his story. After supper consisting moth legs and bee stings the spider family crowded around the old spider "Tell us your story..pretty please. We'd love to know of all the places you've seen." The old spider found himself a comfortable nook and soon told them story after story about all his adventures. "I'll save the best for last", he said. Before they realised it hours had passed and suddenly the old spider sprung up; his weary eyes lit up and he said, "It's time....it's time I told you about the other side of the forest." None of the spiders; not even Wincy, had ventured that far. This was a tale they didn't want to miss.
" At the other end of the woods, past the banyan trees, the little stream and the paddy fields is a very strange land. I've seen the strangest and largest looking creatures roam there. They seem stupid despite their size and are usually terrified when they see one of our kind. One afternoon, as I caught a nap in a tree, a strong wind blew me off my seat. Off the tree I fell and landed on one of these creatures. He was a thousand times bigger and stronger than I was and I feared my life initially. Although a little scared, I decided to put up a brave front. As I marched down his hand he saw me, and to my surprise let out the loudest scream, brushed me off his hand and ran away. I fell to the ground and the impact of his hand brushing me off broke a couple of my legs. I never saw him again. I spent a few weeks nursing my wounds and during my stay there I chanced upon many others of his kind. Sometimes they walked through my web but every encounter that I had with them confirmed the fact that they were scared of spiders."
He sighed and took a deep breath. "I'm sure if we plan and work together we can catch one of the big creatures in our web. They definitely seem to be better prey than moths. Just one of them would last the entire clan for a whole year!!!" He stood up and walked around. "That's what brings me here. Let's plan over the next few weeks and then go for the BIG catch!!!".
It was way past their bedtime and the old spider let out a long yawn. "We'll talk about it in the morning. Now, I must get some sleep."
After all the spiders had gone to bed, Incy Wincy, who in all the excitement wasn't able to sleep at all, got dressed for work. His exploits had made him bold. A few weeks seemed like a long time to wait for an adventure like this one. It was no news that his webs were the best and the strongest by far. He didn't need a plan. He didn't need anybody's help. Off he set to bring back the BIG catch!!
He travelled to the edge of the forest and waited to spot the big creatures. He didn't have to wait long. There were so many of them. And they were BIG!! He found the right spot and worked on the web for days. Never before had he built such a web. The thread was strong and no creature he'd ever known could break free. After days of hard work the trap was ready and Incy Wincy waited with baited breath for a big creature to wander past.

On the other side of the forest was the Dolvi Village which was home to many village folk and also housed a huge irom and steel plant. It was lunch time at the Steel Plant and the cafeteria was crowded as usual. Madhukar preferred to carry his own food rather than wait in long queues at the cafeteria to be served lunch. Besides he had also put on a lot of weight and needed some exercise. He would quickly eat his lunch and then step out for a small walk everyday. The fresh air would clear his mind and energise him. Today was no different. Madhu, as he was fondly called by all folks who knew him well, decided to step out of the Factory premises and walk towards the paddy fields that grew just outside the factory wall. It was a beautiful day and myriad flowers in yellow, blue and pink had bloomed along the road side and along the border of the field. Birds could be heard singing in the trees and pretty butterflies flitted from one bloom to another. Soon, Madhu forgot about work and started walking along the path near the field.
Madhu had always loved nature. He walked gently along the path and admired the butterflies. He didn't want to get too close and disturb them and yet get close enough to observe the pretty paterns on their wings. As his walked along he accidentally walked into a spider's web. Now, Madhu would never want to disturb nature and he felt quite regretful about walking into and destroying the spider's web. He wasn't sure what had happened of the spider that was probably in the web and so Madhu stood still. He didn't want to accidentally step on the little insect.

Incy Wincy had waited patiently for the right moment and here it was. This creature was even bigger than the others he's seen of his kind. Here was a chance he wasn't going to miss. He was going to make everybody proud. The creature stopped and looked at flowers and butterflies. For a creature of such might, catching butterflies should have been a very simple task but this creature seemed to walk after them awkwardly not knowing what to do. As the creature approached the web Incy Wincy sprung into action. He dropped the web on the creature and then pounced on it himself continuously spinning and wrapping the creature in his yarn. The creature seemed to stop moving. The web was working!! Incy Wincy was ecstatic!!! His plan had worked. He had caught the BIGGEST catch ever in history!!!!!! How he was going to kill it and how he was going to take it home to his family he didn't know. This was a moment he hoped they all had seen. Maybe, just this time, it made sense to let the prey go. He would wait for the rest of the clan to arrive and make another web in the mean time. The next time with his troops with him they could definitely carry their BIG catch back home. With a sigh, Incy Wincy swung off the creature.

Madhu felt the spider crawl down his face. He didn't want to flick it off and hurt it so he decided to wait and watch. A little creature like this one could do him no harm!! The spider lingered on his hand for a bit and then swung itself off on its web. The lunch break was almost over. It was time to go back to work. Madhu turned around and walked back over the path into the Factory compound.

Soon news spread. Incy Wincy had done it again!!!! He'd managed to ensnarl one of the Big creatures in his web!! His proud Momma said, "See, didn't I always tell you. My boy has made it big and has done what no spider has ever done before."

Monday, August 17, 2009

To El Morro and back

Last week Swine Flu besieged the city and many parts of the country. A few deaths across the country had most people hit the SOS button. The panic stricken people in a desperate attempt to curb the epidemic lined up at hospitals for tests, closed schools and colleges and kept their children away from the crowds, stayed away from Malls(well....mostly....except when there were huge sales at throw away prices), theaters stayed closed for 3 days, people cancelled travel plans...

We'd had enough of the madness!!! The media has added to the panic and at the same time has maintained that more people have died this year, as every year, from common flu, diarrhea, TB, etc.
Swine flu is definitely a cause for concern but there is no reason for panic.

We wanted to get away from it all! Six friends, a hired car and some music...we hit the road!!
This weekend we were tired and didn't really want to trek but we definitely wanted to get out of the city. Korlai Fort or El Morro like the Portuguese called it seemed like the perfect getaway. Its strategic position overlooking the Revdanda creek, its historical background, the promise of seafood because of its proximity to the coast, the opportunity for good photography, all made it the perfect choice for our Sunday Outing.
The drive to the fort was beautiful. It was a cloudy morning and after a hearty breakfast of pohe, vadapav,kharwas,sabudana khichadi and masala chai at Datta(Panvel)we hit NH17.
The drive was scenic...clouds enveloped the Karnala Pinnacle, the hopeful monkeys lined the highway waiting for snacks and treats from the passing cars, a little ahead the villages ran alongside the road, the lush green fields of paddy, the various gourds that grew on vines that snaked up poles and nets kept to tame them, the villagers setting up their daily stalls selling fresh farm produce....
As we neared Alibaug the roads turned into gallis, old houses with tiled roofs surrounded by palms stood in stark contrast to the posh villas. We could smell the sea in the distance and we grew impatient to reach the fort.
As we crossed the Revdanda creek the fort came into sight.

Located on a little hill and surrounded by water on three sides, the fort is at an approximate height of 300 feet above sea level. The whitewashed walls of the church on top are visible from a distance.(The ruins of the ancient church are being restored)
Korlai Fort or Castle Curlew or El Morro although built and used primarily by the Portuguese was at various points also under the Nizam, Maratha and finally the British rule. Though the main entrance to the fort faces the East you can drive right to the base from the West through the Korlai village. A Naval lighthouse stands at the base and is operated by 4 men who live in its premises. We climbed to the top of the lighthouse and spent sometime with the coast guard who told us about its operations- the beacon, the focus points, the distance to which the light travels at night, etc

Approximately 150 steps lead to the top of the fort. The fort commands a view of the Revdanda creek and the Revdanda Fort on one side, the Arabian Sea to the West and the Korlai Village and the Korlai Beach to the other side. The ancient church, a number of cannons on the bastion, a breathtaking view of the creek with the fishing village, a temple, colourful boats bobbing on the water, cattle grazing in the distance...I'd almost forgotten that it was no longer the cloudy day it started out to be. The sun was blazing and my skin was two shades darker(I'd forgotten to wear my sunscreen), we'd finished our supply of water, it was nearing 3pm and our stomach's were screaming from hunger. We'd spent almost four hours atop the fort.

Someday I'd love to watch the sunset from the fort or even lie in my sleeping bag and listen to the sea while i watch the innumerable stars on a winter night.
As we drove back we realised that in this part of the sleepy world it was too late to get lunch. Fortunately at Alibaug a little eatery(Khanaval) was open and we lunched on Mutton Thali with Fried Pomfret. I've been wanting to eat at the Patil Khanaval at Murud for ages. This little place, although its namesake, and our saviour didn't offer the mouthwatering lunch that I expected. Nonetheless the food was decent and we were starving.
On the drive back to the city we bought all sorts of gourd from the villagers-bitter, snake, etc. not so much for our love of food but more from the excitement at buying straight from the hands that sow the crop and reap it.
This will probably be our last trek for the season. The rain has vanished and the heat is slowly becoming unbearable. A lot of ambitious plans have been chalked out for Winter treks in the Sahyadris. So....until the next trek....I have some wonderful memories from the many treks this Monsoon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Restoration or Renovation?

3 years ago I used to drive down to the Sewri Mudflats to see the migratory flamingos on a lot of weekends. On one such trip, equipped with my camera, I decided to visit the Sewri fort.
The dilapidated fort which had witnessed the vagaries of time and the weather and more so the unrelenting human hand seemed to be left to its own fate and I wished that the Government would do something to look after our heritage sites before it's too late.

I visited the Sewri Fort again last month. I had read reports in the Newspapers about the fort getting a face lift and wanted to see it for myself. The Government has finally done something about this heritage site...finally!!! I'm not sure how I felt about the new look though. On my first visit the fort bore an unkempt, dilapidated, rough but rustic look.
Today, the fort has been cleaned up. It no longer smells like a toilet or is used by miscreants. The peepal and banyan trees which were growing though the cracks of the walls are no longer there. The fort seems renovated!!!!!!!!! Shouldn't such places be restored instead so they still bear their old, rustic, historic look and yet are cared for so they don't crumble to dust someday?
The fort is all concrete now. It's a new fort now and no longer bears any semblance to a monument. Do compare the pictures in this post with my previous one.
Do respond to this post. I'd love to know what you think...


Offbeat destinations in Maharashtra

This monsoon I plan to visit a few more offbeat destinations in Maharashtra and write about them.
The first of them was Sindola and you've already read my post about it. I've visited Karnala, Manikgad, Kothligad and Sagargad since.
I read a book on the 2012 prophesy and my 'bucket-list' has a zillion more additions now. So much to do..
Well....I hope to write about each of these trips soon..

Monday, June 15, 2009


This year has been exceptionally hot and since patience is a virtue I don't really possess we did our first monsoon trek before onset of monsoon. We chanced upon 'Green Carpet' and their plan to trek to Sindola Fort on 7th June and decided to join in.

I scanned through 'Offbeat tracks in Maharashtra', 'The Sahyadri Companion', 'Trek the Sahyadris' and the internet and found very little information on the fort. Barring Harish Kapadia's Trek the Sahyadris none of the other books had any mention of Sindola fort and Harish Kapadia doesnt mentioned much besides this:

As seen from Bhandardara lake, straight in line with the damn wall in the south east is Sindola. It is a good climb above Mutkhel, which is an important village on the south-western shores of the lake.

The author classifies it as an easy trek but I'd say otherwise. Our five-people-group started at 5am from our respective houses in Mumbai to reach Kalyan Station between 6:30 am and 7am. By the time the 'Green carpet' bus left Kalyan station, at almost 8am(an hour after the scheduled departure time), stuffed with trekkers like a gunny bag carrying potatoes in a truck, we'd begun to lose our enthusiasm. The bus journey to Malshej ghat was deafening; most of the 35 odd people in the bus started singing, in chorus, their remixed versions of bollywood's most annoying songs. The idea of a short nap on the journey had to be dismissed as even a conversation with the person sitting next to you was impossible considering the decibel levels. After a long halt for breakfast and another hour of singing we finally alighted from the bus at a spot in the middle of the ghat. The Padmavati river snaked through the valley to our left and to the right in the distance we could see the Sindola Peak. The initial journey was easy with a gradual climb but the sun was high in the sky and beat down on us, dehydrating us and making the climb very tiring.
Soon the easy part was over and we started scaling the sides of the hill with very poor foothold and loose rocks and scree. To our left was a fall, straight into the valley. For the experienced trekker Sindola wasn't as difficult a trek but it definitely wasn't easy either. I discovered a fear of heights for the first time. My feet struggled for a foothold(my woodland shoes didn't help much)and thorns dug into my palms as i struggled to hold on to the sides of the hill. Looking down at the valley I felt my head spin and the rest of the trek seemed stressful and like a fight for survival instead of the pleasurable trip it was meant to be.
Despite the odds we made it to top. The view was breathtaking but barring two small idols cut in the rocks -Hanuman and Ganapati - the top of the hill bore no evidence of the fort or the watch tower. The highlight of any trek is either the journey or the destination and this trek was treacherous without much to see on top.
As we finished our lunch we saw very menacing looking clouds over the adjacent hilltops and before we started our journey downwards the wind began to blow so hard that it threatened to blow us off the hill. In minutes the rain followed and soon we were drenched to the bone. The rain stopped in less than fifteen minutes but it ensured that a part of the journey back down was rendered slippery.
With terrible cramps in my left thigh and my newly discovered phobia of heights my feet refused to move. A couple of hours later, with help from two other trekkers, I finally made it off the most difficult part of the hill. The sun was back, our clothes were dry and a sense of accomplishment was slowly taking place of the fear we held on to all afternoon.
I'm sure I won't attempt Sindola Fort again....I'm not sure I even want to call it a fort!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Potty Babble

I never though answering nature's call could add some humour to a dull day at work. Over the last couple of years I have been very amused by the different posters put up at the loos of the various client offices I visited.

Here are some of them....