Friday, 8 July 2016

Lonavala vignettes

It was not my first trip to Lonavala but was certainly the best. This was the first time that I spent more than one day there and there was no other agenda, than to enjoy with family and cousins. And of course, the rains!!! Lonavala, in any other season, may have lost its charm, due to rampant construction but Lonavala in the rains continues to be a big draw.
We started for Lonavala in the afternoon, about 2.30 pm. on Friday. Myself and the wife, both took a rare leave from our respective offices. A leave from the office is rare enough, but both taking a leave on the same day is a further rarity. Daughter was anyway on leave so we had no worry on that front. It had been a great build up before we embarked on the trip since all the cousins were excited due to the fact that,  this was a very first planned trip when 6 families had coordinated to make it happen. Last minute instructions were exchanged on what to carry and the precautions to be taken, due to rain, were fired off from all directions so that everybody was well aware when finally the D-day arrived. As always we made our way through the traffic slowly, till we reached the Mumbai Pune Expressway, and then we just took off. Of course, the rains were our constant companion, sometimes pouring and sometimes just making its presence felt on the windshield.
Finally we reached Khandala exit, from where we left the express way. After many years, I had entered the narrow roads below the express way and I enjoyed driving on the nearly empty roads. From khandala we proceeded towards Lonavala and on reaching the Kumar Resort, took a right turn to still narrower roads. The winding roads went on and on, and finally we reached our destination, an old Parsi bungalow. I parked the car in a marshy slushy land opposite the bungalow and carrying our assorted luggage, went inside the gate. An old imposing stone structure welcomed us. Later we came to know that it is @135 years old and the furniture inside too, was of a bygone era. Made of the finest teak, the design was old world. You could make out that the bungalow had seen some of the most elegant and monied masters in the past. The dining table stretched from here to eternity, I had only seen such long tables, either in movies or in palace museums. And what can one say about the mounted wall clocks, each one exceedingly majestic, but alas, none was working. We were happy to meet all the cousins after a long time and the small talk and discussion in the wide varandah, stretched into the evening. The kind caretaker gave us steaming hot tea accompanied by the tastiest garam batata bhajis and Kanda bhajis. Evening time saw us having a long walk in the inner lanes under a clouded sky accompanied by a drizzle which sometimes hurried across due to high winds. As it got stronger, we hurried back to the bungalow to take shelter under the warm but humid walls. And then the stories and gossips stretched into the late night to the accompaniment of ekach pyala which were repeated innumerable times. The night time was quite scary in that old bungalow but since all were tired after a long day, everyone had a peaceful sleep. All the while, the rains did not let up, heavy rains  tapering off to a drizzle and vice versa.
The next day started quite early with everyone enjoying a hot cuppa tea with some khari biscuits. The caretaker cooked up steaming poha with egg omelette for those with a non-veg bend of the tongue. A few of us went to the market to buy Coopers fudge which is a speciality of Lonavala along with Maganlal chikki. We reached a little early and whiled away our time by walking through the market area, shopping for delicious guavas and expensive tomato, cucumber et al. As we, once again reached the Cooper shop, we were surprised to see a queue outside the closed shop waiting for the fudge to arrive. It was later that my cousin told us, that this is an every day phenomenon in Lonavala, such is the craze for the fudge among the tourists. Anyway , we were successful in grabbing our pound of the fudge and returned back to the bungalow with gleaming but wet faces. The talkathon sessions again commenced and culminated with a housie game which was enjoyed by all. But the highlight of the afternoon was certainly a dumb charades game, the youngest member being the star performer, the enthusiasm and energy displayed by her, captured everyone's heart. After a late lunch, most proceeded for a light siesta. All this while the sound of raindrops on the wet lawn outside was a constant backdrop.
Evening time was dedicated for a temple visit and every one started in their cars but we had not factored in the heavy traffic which arrives from both sides, Mumbai and Pune, towards Lonavala. After getting held up in this traffic for a few minutes, we made our way back to the bungalow. A walk in the rains was a perfect antidote, and all had a fun time getting fully drenched in the heavy downpour under heavily overcast and misty skies. The mists coming from all directions is certainly a sight for sour eyes and a soothing balm for weary souls getting away from the pollution laden fogs of the overcrowded cities. A very drenched but happy group then made its way back to the bungalow followed by an encore of the previous night.
The last day, which was Sunday, dawned and everyone got busy preparing for the return journey. All had totally enjoyed their brief stay in the mountains. But all had to make long journeys to their home cities hence left early, after a sumptuous breakfast of upma and omelettes. But once we reached the ghat section while coming back to Mumbai all the regrets of returning to the daily grind, were thrown out of the window, since the panoramic sight of heavy rain in the mists was visible on the wide canvas created by God. We stopped awhile by the side of the roads and then proceeded on our journey, after getting our fill of the clean, pollution free air.
Yatindra Tawde


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