This literary attempt is not fictional, and any resemblance to characters from the loony toons show is purely coincidental.
Sunday, 19th August 2007, the Sabbath day.
It was a reunion for most of us who had left Patni to pursue higher education or propel the career graph, have a heavier wallet, stability and whatever crap they gave to their ex-PM to get out of the organisation.
The day started with me, Priti, Amitava, better known as 'tava', Himanshu (now the Microsoft dude), Lokesh, Tista and Kajori waiting endlessly for Amar & his wife Shilpa. Numerous phone calls to Amar and only one answer, "Arre baba I'm reaching in 10 mins. I am near Nocil."
His 10 mins took an hour and 15 mins. It had started to drizzle and hunger was setting in. Many of us left early from home and had skipped breakfast. So we decided to grab some snacks from Bikaner (Vashi) in the meanwhile. It was good, but nothing can beat my daily dose of neatly sliced fruits, cornflakes and milk. Yum!
Bhavesh was to join us from Pune however, ditched us at the last moment.
By the time Amar decided to show up, it was 9:15 am. We could have been at Khandala by this time. Some threats were muttered under the breath. Yes, Tava, we saw that! Good for you it wasn't spoken out aloud.
We got into the cruiser and it took us 30 mins to decide on what to play !!!
The next hour was more productive and fun. Non-stop drive through the express highway along with playing charades. It was entertaining, with random confusions thrown in by the other team.
Lessons learnt here:
1.Throw in as much as chaos and confusion as you can and irritate the opponent team.
2. Best way to animate movies like 'Abhod', 'Kohra' and some more - with mere hand & head movements :-p
Finally, we reached the Khandala station at 10:15 am. Fantastic place and a long trek lied ahead of us.
The Duke has an Arrogant Nose; more so in monsoon when it is high in the clouds. There was another hillock jutting out of the main hill seen prominently from the Mumbai- Pune expressway. Duke’s Nose is also known as Nagphani, for it looks like a serpent's hood from below. It's also where a couple got married in mid-air hanging from a rope tied between the two hills.
Directions to Duke's Nose:
Start from Khandala station. Walk on the line towards Mumbai, take the old line. Reach an ancient temple, then an old water preserver. Move below pipelines ... Reach Dukes Point.
2 hrs slow walking.
With a few snaps being clicked here and there, we moved along to get atop Duke's nose in time.
Where in Mumbai, can u walk on lush green grasses every day. We were soaking in the feeling of those breathtaking views when the almost inevitable happened. Apparently, we had taken a wrong uphill track. We would have never realized it had not we run out of road.
Thanks to a sweet old couple, we found the right road.
The climb was long and tiresome, the rain added to the strain and discomfort. Cutting our way through thickets, climbing slippery rocks pumped our adrenaline rush. Everyone was having a good time, even first-time Trekkies. No complaints. Some stretch did remind me of the long grown trees in Amazon, that never let even a drop of sun's rays reach the ground.
Tip 1: Never go trekking when it rains heavily. But guys, this is India not US of A, "The land of Opportunities" like one of my Indian counterpart who stays in NJ says. Here we don't have a reliable 'weather.com' like they do in the west. It's a miracle if they can even predict the current day's weather. If the newspaper declares 'Heavy rains expected on the 24th of this month', believe me, it's much safe to have some sunscreen splashed on your face than carry an umbrella.
Anyways, back to my story, Gabriel had left the flood gates open that day. Who's Gabriel? He's the one who keeps a scorecard up in heaven. All except me were drenched. Now dear readers, it's time for me to blow my horn. I had my trek gear and smiled silently for being smart enough to carry a windcheater with me :-)
But "What's this?" I said to myself. Some distance later, there seemed something wrong. How could this happen? Not to me. A tiny rupture in my windcheater had let the rainwater seep in. The big "J" knows how to humble me down …
Nearing noontime, we came across open land. Mist, mist and more mist. It was amazing. It was hard enough to locate what lay a few meters ahead, more road or absolutely nothing. We took a break and had our fruits and water. After the refuelling session, we moved forward on our journey.
Tip 2: Carry back all non-degradable waste with you. Treat nature the right way, and she shall return the favour in kind.
We could hear some gurgling sound up ahead and went on to investigate it. Priti, Lokesh, Himan and Kajori never misses a chance to have a dip. A small stream and three hefty people. I am pretty sure they must have blocked the flow up ahead. Priti being rated among the feather-light category was always worried about being sucked by the flow.
The rest of us stood there and watched the crazy four frolic in the water. There were a couple of waterfalls at a distance, but no one knew how to reach there.
I stood at a distance among the others, contemplating the direction to take and later decided to forego it—sour grapes.
Any sight of a stream would have these four dashing towards it. I fail to understand the affinity one has with getting wet in a stream or a waterfall even while it is raining cats and dogs. It's not like we were deprived of the sight of water throughout our 5-hour trek. There was a fair amount of water being thrown at us at a speed of 10 miles per hour, remember. It was raining heavily and it had no intention to stop.
The visibility had reduced drastically. Dukes' nose was lost and long forgotten, and no one knew where we were. Time was running out, and we had to make a return journey sooner, so as to avoid the traffic back home.
After a lot of disapprovals and groans, we managed to get the four out of the stream. We were disappointed about the fact that we could not reach Duke's nose. However, the fun, adventure, slips and falls were too good to spoil our mood for the rest of the journey. The descent went smooth, except for getting lost in between :-)
But like they say in China, If you want to reach the foothill, make sure you are climbing down.
The cruiser was waiting for us, and we could rest our legs. Hitting back on the road, we decided to stop over at a roadside stall where they served hot tea, vada pav and bhajia. I am not a tea drinker; however, I gorged on a few hot onion bhajias.
Hygiene was the last thing on my mind. The shop owner was pleased to see a good response for those hot titillating bhajias, and she gladly made more of those spiral things on demand. We thanked her and continued further on our journey. We later stopped at a local dhabba (that's a roadside restaurant) for lunch at 4:00 pm.
Good food! The matki dry was finger smacking. Having had our fill, we left the place and climbed onto our cruiser.
The rest of the journey was quite. We were not exhausted but were re-playing the entire day's event in our mind and enjoying it silently.
Well, we will be back again. And make sure to be on Duke's nose.
Tip 3: Making the best of any situation, makes every situation the ‘best‘ situation.
The fact we missed being on Duke’s nose did not bother us. We had tons of fun together. Also, now we know which road should be avoided (or at least hope to remember).
With this, I thank you all for having stayed with me during my narration of an eventful Sunday.