Friday, July 30, 2010

Memorable Matheran Mania

Saturday, July 24: an unforgettable day. A day to be remembered for all things that went wrong for good. Ten of us, most meeting each other for the first time, trekked together on an unknown route, facing adventures that we had never dreamt of.

It all started on Saturday morning. The sequence of misadventures and thrills started at Dadar station, when we were waiting on platform 4 and saw the Karjat local leaving from platform 1. That was the first time during the day that the presence of mind was needed to board the Indrayani and change to Karjat local at Kalyan. The day is as good as it begins and this day had quite an interesting start. The process of missing the plans and finding alternative had started here.
We reached Bhivpuri at 8:00 am as planned (so far on track as per schedule) and had a regular Maharashtrian breakfast: Wada-Pav and cutting chai. We asked for directions as we were having breakfast and we got more routes than we could count, including one that suggested we take a rick back to Neral and taxi thereon.

One of the routes mentioned of a dam. So we decided to take that route. An hour of walking and we were near the dam. Pali dam is dam that is currently under-construction. The canals are still to be cemented and the walls of the dam are still being built. The dam faces the Matheran mountains and the view from here was spellbinding. The magnificent mountains with lush greenery, gushing waterfalls and a crown of clouds was an absorbing view. While the view was good, there seemed to be no road ahead.
We met a couple of guys who suggested we walk to Bhekre and from here we could find the route to Matheran. As we were walking, we found a road that went around the dam. Some kids passing by told us that the road leads to Aasalgaon. Since it looked like the road went to the base of the mountains, we thought of taking that route. The route that we had planned was Garbett point via Thakurwadi. So we checked about Thakurwadi and the kids told us it is beyond the village on the hill behind. We were supposed to go via Bhekre and we were going through Aasalgaon and we were happy that we had saved a 2 km walk to Bhekre. What we did not realize was that almost every village has its own Thakurwadi and we probably weren't on the right path!
Whether we were on the correct path or not, did not bother us as the view all around was too scenic for us to be bothered about anything else. On the way to Thakurwadi, we came across some obstacles. The first rock climbing that we did on the route. Not too tough, but it required 'hand'ful of efforts. Now we were at a considerable height, we could look down upon a few waterfalls. Some breath-taking views they were! It had been raining throughout and hence the camera was in for most of the time. And every time, it stopped raining for minute, I was happy clicking.
The Thakurwadi village had quite some fields. While walking through the fields, we were wondering if we had actually climbed up a hill or were we still at the base. At a place when we had heaved to reach, the villagers there had well plowed fields with crops growing. Incredible India...what else! As we passed by the village (asking for directions), the kids gathered around as if we were some cartoon characters. It was pouring continuously with variations of heavy and medium rains. As we were walking through the treaded path, we realized that there are multiple paths, going in various directions and with the grass covering every bit of ground, it was even more confusing. Had even trekked on this same spot before, we still would not have been able to trace ourselves.

The mountain was in front of us and the thought that was running in our mind was that we need to get on top to reach Matheran. For that we decided to take any route that leads upwards. As we were climbing up, grip was becoming difficult due to the wet out-field. At one stage, it was so slippery (there was no risk of slipping downhill, it was just difficult to climb up) that we were on all fours, pulling up ourselves. Here Akshay decided to help Komal by passing her bag to Kedar. Unfortunately, the bag landed before Kedar and out of his reach...and it went tumbling down. That was one moment all of us were glued to only one thing...the rolling bag and it landed at the bottom on the slope in a pool of water. The bag was rescued and we continued the uphill trek.

As we kept walking, we reached a point where the path lead into a waterfalls. Finding no route further, we started finding another route (guessing about which could be the route). In the finding (and guessing), we saw a route that went around the hill. Not knowing where that went to, but seeing that was the only route visible, we "thought" of taking that route. It involved crossing a waterfalls (a small stream flowing downhill its own path). As we were crossing it, we realized that it was a point-of-no-return. Essentially, if there was no route further, we could not cross this path in the reverse direction. And as fate was to happen, the route ended up at another waterfalls and all that we could see above was a rock-solid stone not suitable for climbing. Now was the challenge to find the return route.

Determination never fails and will finds its way. So it was...we found another path to cross back to where we were. Having lost our way a couple of times and the clock sounding close to 3:00 PM (already 6.5 hrs of trekking), we were wondering on "What next!" One of the options that we had kept handy (and the basis of our confidence) was Thakurwadi, from where villagers commuted to Matheran n-times a day. Eventually (and thanks to Tanvi), we met a villager and cajoled him to lead us to Matheran. The adventure of losing routes ended here, but the thrill of the trek continued as we crossed a couple of water-paths, climbed a few more rocks, walked a single-person path of which some had land-slid. None of these were very much that the regular commuters walked on slippers and with as ease as we walk on in office (rest of the places in Mumbai are not so much ease to walk on). But the thrill and adventure can only be experienced not described. And we experienced it!
Thanks to our guide (I forgot his name!), we finally made it to Matheran. After about 10 hours, the eventful trek finally ended. Along with the guide, we had another unnamed companion who deserves a mention. A black pariah dog with golden spots. He accompanied us from Bhivpuri station, all the way to Matheran. We walked with us on all the wrong routes and all the adventurous paths. After we reached Matheran, he mixed with some of the locals and disappeared.
I had never dreamt that I would do such a trek and had it not been for such a wonderful company, it would not have been possible. So just as I end this blog, a big "Thank you" to all those who made this trek such a memorable experience. For me, this trek has boosted the confidence in saying "Never say die" and I am sure it has affected all those who were with me in a positive way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

4-Day Experience

Day 1:
Flying high at the start of the week, they say, is a good sign. My week started on the same note, in a literal sense! This was my first trip to the Coimbatore office. Then there was Golmaal…on the entertainment screen of the Indian Airlines flight (and that was the only thing worth watching). So except for the delayed flight, the week seemed to have started well.

Coimbatore is a small town. From the high skies, the coconut grooves were clearly visible. Lots of open space, greenery and many small houses did give the place a typical south Indian village look of the “Malgudi days” types. My flight of thoughts were disturbed by a bumpy landing.

Language barriers are very high here and the height was understood when we could communicated to with the pick-up person via the office admin. The flight delay had ensured that we went straight to the office, instead of the guest house. We had traveled about half an hour after landing and I was still searching for some township. The place we reached looked like an Industrial area with space for huge factories to put up their units. Later we were told that the area is a SEZ and there would be many IT parks coming up there. (Cognizant and Bosch have already made a base there) Inside the office is a completely different world (as compared to the outside) but more or less the same as the interior of most offices these days. Well, there is a TT table here…with a spacious TT room (wish we have one in Goregaon office too!) and the cafeteria opens to a small and beautiful open-air gallery. There was a light breeze as we were standing there…a feel that will relieve you off stress.

Thali for lunch and dosas for dinner…coffee during the breaks, the south Indian diet had begun. Finally a cab drive to the guesthouse B/23, Shrevatsa Garden, Thudiyalur (Don’t ask me to pronounce that) at 11:00 PM and the day comes to an end.

Flying start, bumpy landing, looooong day…that’s the way the week has started. Let’s see what’s in store for tomorrow.

Day 2:
A long day had ensured a good sleep…and the morning was pleasant. Though 7:00 AM is an early start, it was probably the freshness around (due to the light drizzle last night) that had driven off the laziness. Idlis for breakfast were no surprise.

Used to the rush and hustle of Mumbai, this place was quite a different experience. The guesthouse is a 3-bedroom bungalow decently maintained by the caretakers. Though the language barriers existed, I never truly felt out-of-place here. Probably it is the hospitality of the people here.

While we were filling ourselves on the idlis, the news were rolling about the hunger strike in Mumbai, the lifeline was affected!

The office pick-up was at 10:00 AM and the day had begun. Though the day was equally long, I was in a more bearable state today. The interesting thing of the day was the dinner. Along with my colleagues (Anish and Mithun), we drove to one of the “High Class” Pure Veg (most of the Veg Restaurants here are tagged “High Class”). We reached there by 9:30, as seemingly reasonable time for dinner…not there though. By the time we reached, the “masala” of the dosas was over. Hence we settled with ghee roast (it’s not roasted ghee, but a bigger dosa made in ghee), a rawa onion roast and a tomato onion uttapam. The waiter was more of a host…always there before we could call for him. Dosas topped with filter kaafi and we were done for the day.

It drizzled today evening too, so again the weather is nice and cool. The day was good and a good night’s sleep should give me a better tomorrow.

Day 3:
The morning was a bit lazy today…rather the morning was similar, but getting late to bed must have caused the laziness. I requested for tea to drive-off the sleepiness and was soon to realize that I had asked for oranges in a banana plantation. The tea was not that bad, but then when you are accustomed to a taste, you feel the difference. So when we were told about “pohe” for breakfast, we decided to skip that and rather have some local stuff. Breakfast here, has timings and you should consider yourself lucky to get breakfast after 9:00 AM. We were lucky!

Having tried idlis and dosas, I opted for medu wada. Served on a banana leaf, the wada was one of the crispiest I have ever had. What amazes me is the variety they have in the coconut chutneys. There is a white chutney, a green chutney, a red one and all of them have a unique taste which you can’t resist. Then there is a confusion on which is your favorite. As we were finishing our breakfast, someone mentioned pongal…well, so tomorrow’s breakfast menu is set!

Talking of food, we decided to have a non-veg dinner, so the lunch was on the lighter side. The thought of getting to taste new variants of non-veg delicacies had started ringing bell since evening and to ensure that we were not late, we left for dinner at 8:30. Tried two dishes: Chettinad chicken was one and the name of the other dish was a tongue twister. Though the name was a tongue twister, the taste was relishable. Both the dishes tasted wonderful (my colleagues were saying it was not prepared as well as it was last time) Interestingly, the tandoori roti was quite the same as we have here. Enjoying roti in the land of rice in another unique experience.

Day 4:
Yesterday I missed mentioning this. Everyday we have a pick-up from the guesthouse at 10:00 am. The vehicle is a Maruti Omni. Other than TVS Luna, this is the most common vehicle plying on the roads here. The driver for yesterday’s pick-up, I guess, was a new one. As mentioned earlier, we have a communiation problem here. So the communication happened thru the only common language – the sign language. And before the communication could be understood, this guy would have passed the place. We made 5 U-turns on a route that had none.

But the problem here is not about the communication, rather it is the speed. No one seems to be in a great hurry, but still the vehicles always zoom-by. It feels like a F1 race…with two differences – there are vehicles coming from the opposite direction and the roads are not that broad. “Not that broad” would be an exaggeration…the roads are wide enough to fit in a truck and a cycle comfortably. Any vehicle traveling in the opposite direction means that both the vehicles go off the road partially. It’s the turns and twists (angling almost 90˚) and the speed at which the drivers maneuver their vehicles speeding near 80 kmph to about 40-50 on these curves, gives the ride a F1 feel.

Today is my last day in the Coimbatore office for this trip…back to Goregaon office tomorrow afternoon. Junior of a Sr. Manager was born today and we got a chance to meet the baby boy.

Till yesterday it was drizzling…tonight it rained, clouds clashed and Coimbatore thundered. Without exploring Coimbatore much, I gathered some nice experience here. Would surely like to visit this place again…but that would be on a vacation, so that I can explore Coimbatore.

Monday, January 18, 2010

We won the marathon!

Writing on my own blog almost after an year. Incidentally my last post on this blog was about the same event...the Mumbai Marathon. Though it is the same event, the experience definitely is a different one. And I believe, everyone who has been there year on year would reflect similar thoughts. I don't know what it is, but this is one of those rare days in the whole year when I am eager to get up early on a Sunday morning, travel to one-end of the town, walk 2-3 kms to run for 6 kms, return back in the scorching heat and still have the energy to write this blog.
Probably it is the "Spirit" of Mumbai, the enthusiasm of the Mumbaikars there where everyone is running for a cause that drives the energy levels to an unbelievable high. I have been attending this event for the past 2 years (this was my third). And this year, I had missed the registration date. It was a terrible feeling of being left out. While I had missed registering, my wife was in...she was a part of her company's corporate run. Over the last couple of weeks, after trying out all known options, I was mentally preparing myself on not being able to participate and instead being a specatator. I was joined by my friend Yogi. However we hadn't lost hopes. So when we managed to get the running bibs, the happiness was unbound! I guess that itself speaks a lot on the event and the never say die attitude of Mumbai.
For my wife, it was her first time and so was it for her friend. From Flora Fountain to Churchgate, Marine Drive to Nariman point over the Princess Street Flyover...she enjoyed every bit of it. Though we were not able to run together, we definitely are participating next year (hoping to run together). So next year again there would be new hopes, higher spirits and another wonderful experience.
And what did we win this year?? Winning is not restricted to cash prizes, trophies and shields. About me, I won a running bib...about my wife, she won a new experience, together we won some wonderful memories. And at least those who were there would echo along with me "Mumbai participated...Mumbai won! We participated, we won!"
For more pics log on to: Mumbai Marathon 2010