Friday, 2 November 2012

Explore Mumbai - Vasai Fort



Again Mademoiselle Mumbai called me. This time it was through my cousin, when she declared, she's getting married!

Obviously a trip to Mumbai calls for its own list of places to be visited. Much unknown to many, is that Mumbai has its own bunch of ancient caves & 15-17th C AD forts. That includes caves in Kanheri, 2 caves in Jogeshwari etc and forts in Sewri, Sion, Mahim, Bandra, Madh, Vasai etc built by Portuguese & British. I wanted to see at least one of these forts if not all, and Vasai Fort was first in the list.

The Vasai Fort was built by the Portuguese and was called The Fort of St. Sebastian of Vasai. From the Portuguese, the Marathas won it over by King Baji Rao Peshwa, in 1739. From the Marathas, it went over to British Raj who called it Bassein Fort.

This is the first ever time I saw a fort of this kind. I've seen the Chenji / Gingee fort in Tamil Nadu and Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad, but the construction of those were very different, built with huge boulders of granite. This was built with some smaller granite, bricks, etc. The architecture is a major difference. The earlier places were South Indian and Nawabi architecture, while this was purely western, Portuguese to be precise. It was awesome. It was in ruins, still it was majestic.

I managed to spot the Fort beside a temple. An ASI office is at the entrance. It was fenced by ASI. After spending almost more than 15-20 mins in there, I realized this was just one of the 2-3 sections of the fort. I moved over to the 2nd one.

This was much more maintained with a garden in the front and a swivel door and heavier fence. It was all the more majestic & bigger than the earlier one. I couldn't help but wonder how fabulous it would have been when it was in use. I was visualizing people dressed in Portuguese & Indian outfits of different races, walking about & talking in the huge premises!

The flooring has been re-done by the ASI and some broken places have been filled and renovated. There were some little openings & paths that led nowhere. Earlier might have been doors, who knows?!

Some planks with reliefs sculpted on them were kept aside. Some more panels of relief sculptures were still intact on the walls.

Some had written words - No I couldn't read the language! All of the windows and doors were arched in true arches - that's one fabulous aspect of architecture.

One thing that totally astonished was there were no bats, no monkeys, no mongrels and no stupid humans too (read - smoking drunkards or just college bunking brats). Not even broken whiskey bottles - that's astonishing, I mean really, really astonishing. Just a few pigeons, nothing else!!! Behind this building was a huge wild mango tree. I had seen wild mango trees only in Parappalaru before this!

Further walking ahead lead to a school here, while is located within the compound of the fort!! Beyond that is the village. Women clad in traditional Marathi saree drape with Mangalsutras and Men in the traditional triangular lungi tie-dyed in bright colors were walking about. Enroute was a mini dhobi-ghat with about 20 women washing clothes here - that itself was a colorful sight with their colorful outfit and all the more colorful garments that they were washing. In a green environment, with granite fort background, so much of colors, was an amazing visual treat!!!

TO REACH THERE:
Nearest Railway Station in Mumbai: Vasai Road station in Western Railway Line of Mumbai Local.
Trains to Virar pass through Vasai.

Autos can be taken from the station to the Fort. Mumbai autos run on metre.

Refer to the fort locally as Vasai Khila, as in the local language, so they understand!

Dedicated to my Mom & Pop...

Written by Bhushavali

 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Ladakh - An eternal adventure

 There used to be (still is) an adage in North India in Pre-Independence era – "Jisne Lahore Nahin Dekha, Usne Jeevan me Kuch nahi Dekha!" (If you haven't seen Lahore, you haven’t seen anything in life!) If it were up to me, I'd replace Lahore with Ladakh.

Ladakh invokes a paradoxical feeling of infinite serenity mixed with excitement and adventure. Ladakh is, on record, the biggest region and Leh the biggest district of all of Asia. As a teenager raised by a farmer's family, my mind's landscape was moulded by the earth and found refuge in Ladakh's pristine beauty. In Ladakh, you don't capture the beauty; the beauty captures you and captures you absolutely. 


When to Go: - When road is declared opened and snow is being cleared from the road. So keep an eye on Himachal Pradesh Websites or Leh City Website for up to date Information. Generally it opens in the last week of May until last week of September.

So guys there could be three ways to explore the Ladakh: 
1.   
 Bike Road Trip – It is advised for the guys who think and believe that they are tough. Mind my words; this road is the grand daddy of toughest road in the world. Females are strictly not advised either to go with guys or alone on this trip. Further this is for the guys with ample amount of time. (This is the opinion of the author and NOT of Travel Another India – we know women who have done this bike trip. Gouthami)
2.    Four Wheeler Trip: - It is more convenient than the previous one. A group of friends, family can go in a four wheeler. Hiring a driver would be best option instead of driving self. It is good for females as well.
3.    Flight to Leh - It is the best option available for anybody especially who want to do Leh but can’t take the road trip due to time and other constraints. This gives you an advantage that you would be fresh to explore the important spots around the Leh. From Leh city one can hire a motorbike as well as a four wheeler to further explore the beauty of the region.


             
 Road Route: 1.Chandigarh to Manali to Leh
                                     2. Srinagar to Leh

Distance: Either way the whole journey is around 2500-3000KM. Chandigarh being the starting and end point

Folks who would want to explore Ladakh by bike and road in an 'organic’ way must keep in mind the following points:-

1.      A sleeping tent: According to the size of your group buy a sleeping tent which can accommodate maximum guys. Dome shaped tent is recommended. Don’t get looted through online purchase. Best way is to go to Azadpur Market in Delhi. It is a wholesale market for sleeping tents, bags and such stuff. I myself surveyed the whole day and purchased a dome shaped tent which could accommodate four people. It weighs around a kilo and easily adjustable.


2.      Sleeping bag: Forget about the blankets; go for the warm and compact sleeping bag when you have decided to go organic way. Again it can be purchased from Azadpur Market in Delhi. You would understand the importance of both these items when you would arrive at Pangong Lake. You would want to spend a night and local tent owners would demand more than two thousand rupees for a night.
3.      A small diesel stove: It is essential as you would need to make your breakfast, tea and food. If a bigger group is there, at night can go for cooking on firewood but again you have to carry them which would increase the weight of your luggage.
4.      Utensils: Multipurpose small pan is the way to go where you can make noodles, warm the water and make chapattis in that.
5.      Milk powder: Instead of searching for liquid milk, carry milk powder.
6.      Shoes: A pair of strong water proof strong shoes with warm socks pair. Your feet many times would kiss water on the way.
7.      Gear: Water proof jackets/ Gloves/ Windcheaters/ Warm inners/ Knee and elbow guards are essential for a biker. They must be of very good quality otherwise in no time your hand would stop talking. A special type of bandana comes in market for biker which covers your head and face and saves you from tanning. Go for a pair of it.
8.      Bike Tools: A pair of extra Clutch Wires, Clutch plates, Extra Brake Wire, a small plastic air pump: Along with full serviced bike with new tires you must keep the above mentioned accessories along with you.
9.      A pair of carrier: Iron carrier on both side of the bike is must to carry your luggage. This can be bought and fitted in Karol Bagh auto market of Delhi.
10.  Reserve Oil Cans: Last but not the least one pair of 5 liter plastic cans. It is interesting for your knowledge that at many place the next petrol pump comes after more than 300 KM.
11.  And yes, a good SLR camera to click the eternal beauty of the earth in this region. I bet this place is the photographer’s paradise. You would have not seen such a beauty prior in your life. An SLR with extra pair of battery, memory card would be your partner and you would thank yourself for it. We did shoot almost 8 hours of footage on a normal video camera. It would be a treasure to show your kids and grand kids.
12.  Medication: Many blokes might feel Acute Mountains Sickness due to thin air in Leh and around. So there might be stomach upset, vomiting and dizziness. Don’t forget to carry a strip of Diamox (Acetazolamide) from your local pharmacy shop. For biker, you would start feeling this on the way near Sarchu. Don’t fight it. Take a tablet; drink a lot of water and go to sleep soon. Give your body time to acclimatize. Upon reaching Leh take a full day rest for acclimatization. (Please check with your doctor before starting on any medication – Gouthami.)
13.  Travel Permit:-Anybody from the outside of Jammu and Kashmir region would need permission from Leh city administration to go beyond Leh. This is a must step for everybody. Write maximum number of surrounding spots to cover. This permit would be checked at various places by the state police and para military forces. If you are accompanying any foreign national along with you, he/she would get permission only in a pair. A single foreign national is not allowed. So you need to look out for travel agents, many of them would be humming in the same office for their client’s permit.
14.  ATM n Cash: Most of the time there is only one ATM (SBI) is in working condition in Leh city. You would have to wait for long time for your cash. So it is better to carry a bit of extra cash with you than to stand in queue.
15.  Phone: Up to Himachal your pre or post paid number can work. But in the state of Jammu and Kashmir you would need BSNL SIM. Your service would hardly work there. That is some disgusting stuff but make a query prior to your visit about the service providers that would work in Leh.
16.  Why this adventure: If you seriously want to do an adventure this is the best option in the world. I have met hundreds of bikers on the way including enthusiastic bike lover from foreign countries. None of them have seen such an exciting, beautiful, tough and adventurous terrain in the whole world. You would be a changed person after this trip in many ways and particularly you would start respecting truck drivers and driving.

What NOT to do:
1.      Drink and Smoke: Aha! Yes boys, no drinking there post Manali. As you would approach Keylong, level of oxygen would start dipping and your vehicle would tell it. Moreover, Alcohol dehydrates your body, so at lower oxygen levels you would need more water in the system. Less oxygen and tobacco too don’t go along very well. So curb your desire for the sake of safety.
2.       Rain Drive: Absolutely not. Don’t try to do an Akshay Kumar or Salman khan there. When rain starts pouring, look out for a hiding rock. There are many sheds and villages on the way, take a refugee there.
3.      Disrespect: On the road there would be many small monuments mentioning various soldiers and road making guys who died on their duty. Don’t put their feet, pee over them. If possible blow a horn when you pass by.
4.      Night Driving: Not under the pain of death drive in the dark. 6PM and you are in your tent. In fact wake up after a full sleep and try to start the trip soon after breakfast.


Where to Stay:
In Leh city, give your tents and bags a bit of rest as it is not necessary to stay in tents in the city. Most of the Indian middle class choose to get looted in 3 star or 5 star hotels or guest houses. A sensible traveler in my opinion shall follow what an International guy is doing. There is a particular area near Police Station and Main Bazaar where Ladakhi people have opened their home for tourists. They charge like 150-250 INR a day. Plus you get to acquaint with Ladakhi culture from close as you live in their home. Most foreigners apply the same way of residing. Next day of your arrival shall be used in getting permits from local administration and minor bike repairing. Your camera, phone battery must be recharged fully prior to make a further move.  It would also give your body to acclimatize according to the environment. Check out the Ladakhi festival date online before you plan your trip. That would be a great experience to indulge in.

Where to go beyond Leh:
1.      Khardunga La: This is world’s highest motorable road at 18000 feet. It itself would be a sense of achievement when you would click yourself at that milestone. Alone Khardung La can be done in a single day easily. Post Khardung La there is astonishingly beautiful Nubra Valley where you must spend at least a night. Two hump camels in India are found here. Start early, explore Khardung La and by evening reach Nubra valley.


2.      Pangong Lake: Beauty, beauty and beauty. It falls on different road than Khardung La. Almost 80 KM from Leh. 145 KM lake, 45 KM of which is in India and rest is in China. So apparently you would reach near China border. Spend a night in your tent. You would have not experienced such a night before in your life. You would want to stay there for a week. If not then I can bet whatever you ask. It is such a beauty, a virgin beauty. Climax of the film ‘’Three idiots’’ was filmed here. A famous song ’Satrangi re…’’ from the SRK flick ‘’Dil Se’’ was filmed here and to add to your information SRK used to take bath in the lake every day. 2 nights here are equal to a life time experience.
3.      Top passes of the world: This terrain of Manali-Leh and further comprises of four world highest motorable passes. Khardung La, Chang La, Tang La, Baralacha la.

4.      Sindhu Darshan: The Famous Sindhu River passes from Leh and special cultural festival is celebrated every year for tourists. So don’t forget to be a part of it.

Returning back:
Okay after exploring Leh and around you would be tired a lot. Most likely you would want to be at home as soon as possible. If yes, it is good for guys travelling by air. They can directly fly back home from Leh. Folks travelling in four wheelers either can take the same route via Manali or choose to go via Srinagar.


Then you will be on the Leh-Sri Nagar highway. Soon enough you would witness the magical Magnetic hills on this road. Your vehicles would be pulled naturally. (It is an optical illusion not to be missed – Gouthami) Geographically hills make such an angle that it creates magnetic force. Plus, don’t forget to take blessings from 500 years old Guru Nanak Gurudwara. It is known as Gurudwara Sri Pathar Sahib. Just imagine guys it is such a tough terrain in modern age and Guru Nanak came here some 500 years back with no facility.

Next destination would be Kargil, Tiger Hill, Drass, Amarnath boot Camp at Baltal and then lush green Sona marg.

Guys on bike would need to take a halt for night at Kargil. We camped just outside the Kargil city. This highway was the target of Pakistani intruders during Kargil war. Blokes with four wheelers even can stay for a night in Kargil. Point is one cannot make it to Srinagar in a single day from Leh.

 Kashmir valley is lush green and divinely beautiful. It carries totally different culture from Ladakh region. Try to communicate with villagers in Drass area and you would hear the amazing stories of the Kargil war.


When you would reach Srinagar, take rest for the night and explore the beauty of Dal Lake. You can head from Srinagar to Jammu, Pathankot and finally Chandigarh.

 I tried to cover as much as I can. Rest if any reader wishes to explore Ladakh this summer, yours sincerely would be glad to guide.

Trivia: 1.We shot the documentary film of the entire organic trip. We are planning to release it for Mountain Documentary Film festival. Tentative title is ‘’The Kicked’’.
2. The cost of this organic trip was INR 15000/. Half of the amounted is the petrol cost.


The author Samar can be contacted at: sufis.discoveringindia@yahoo.com

The opinions expressed in this article are strictly that of the author. Travel Another India is not responsible for the veracity of the contents of this travelogue.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Experience Another Ladakh...


Experience Ladakh with Travel Another India

To paint a picture of Ladakh in a single stroke is difficult. Its vast and varied natural splendour, with the snow capped peaks, rugged mountainous terrain, beautiful lakes, cold deserts, mighty rivers and deep heritage make it a mosaic of natural beauty.

We invite you to paint another picture of Ladakh rich in the warm hospitality of the Ladakhis and explore the hidden untouched charm of this place as you join us and “Experience Ladakh” from 15th July to 22th July [8 Days and 7 Nights]. We aim to bring together unique and authentic experiences that represent Another India rich in the diversity of its culture, crafts and cuisine.

On this trip we will explore art, architecture and spirituality as we visit the remote monasteries and stop at a Buddhist centre of learning. We shall experience the Ph-Yang Tsedup festival at Phyang Monastery. We will camp on the banks of the serene Lake Pangong. We will follow the Indus, the cradle of our civilization, as it winds its way through Ladakh. We shall spend a day with a Ladakhi family for a first-hand view of their culture, hardships and daily life and maybe even learn a new recipe. We will talk about the social and ecological issues and the solutions that our hosts have come up with.

To ensure that the rewards of tourism are equally shared with the host community, we have partnered with PAGIR (People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights) – a group of Ladakhis with disabilities working towards better livelihoods, a cleaner Ladakh and deeper social inclusion. “Experience Ladakh” is managed and organised with their local expertise and the proceeds from this are shared equally with them.
So call us on +91 9900 193 873, email us at book@travelanotherindia.com or visit our website www.travelanotherindia.com to sign up and “Experience Ladakh” this July. Hurry! The group size is only 14!




Day by Day
Day 1 (15th July):               A member of the Himalaya on Wheels team will be at the airport with a placard to pick you up and take you to the hotel. Mandatory rest is advised for the first day to avoid the onset of High Altitude Sickness. 
Day 2 (16th July):               Today we go west towards Sham valley. We will be travelling along the Kargil- Batalik Highway. After stopping at the Indus-Zanskar confluence, we will head to Basgo Fort. We will then visit the Alchi and Likir Monasteries before tucking in for the night at Uley tokpo (A resort set in an orchard on a steep cliff above the Indus River).
Day 3 (17th July):               After an early breakfast, we go for a short trek up to the Rizong Monastery. We will then depart for Leh. After having Lunch at Nimoo, we will go to Phyang Monastery for the festival of Ph-Yang Tsedup with its sacred dances. We will then stop at the SECMOL campus for a talk on passive solar heating and educational reforms. Time permitting we will also visit Hall of Fame, before reaching Leh.
Day 4 (18th July):               Today we will see places in and around Leh, beginning with a visit to Shey and Thiksey Monastery. This will be followed by a visit to Sindhu Ghati on the banks of the Indus. We then move on to the Stok Palace before heading for lunch. We will then visit Choglamsar, a Tibetan settlement that has become a centre of Buddhist learning. Tea and snacks will be served with the Himalaya on Wheels team at the PAGIR office. The evening is yours to explore Leh.
Day 5 (19th July):               Spend a day as a Ladakhi today. You will be working with families in Stok region and experiencing their life first-hand as you assist them in their daily chores of farming, herding and getting water. For cooking enthusiasts, we could also have a short cooking session around noon.
Day 6 (20th July):               Start with a visit to the Shanti Stupa for a breathtaking view of Leh. Head on towards the ChangLa pass stopping at Tangtse for lunch. Then head onwards towards the Pangong Lake. We stay at the Martsemik camps for the night.
Day 7 (21th July):               Wake up to the sunrise at Pangong and laze around a bit. We then head back towards Leh. The evening is yours to catch up on all that shopping you had been meaning to do. We will also take you to Jungwa Shrungskyob – a waste-to-craft shop run by PAGIR.
Day 8 (22th July):              Head back home after a (hopefully) memorable trip J




Essential Information

1.       When: 15th July to 22th July (Sunday to Sunday)
2.       Number of Days: 8 Days and 7 Nights
3.       Maximum Group Size: 14 Guests
4.       Getting There: Daily flights to Leh from Delhi and weekly flights from Jammu and Srinagar. By road, you could drive from either Srinagar or Manali. The Srinagar–Leh (434-km) road is open from mid-May to November while the Manali-Leh road (473-km) opens in mid-June to early October. Aim to reach on the 15th and leave on the 22nd.
5.       Accommodation: (Alternate accommodations on request)
a.       Barath Guest House, Leh
b.      Ule Ethnic Resort, Uley Tokpo
c.       Martsemik Camping Resort, Lake Pangong

6.       Tariff: INR 19,900 per guest for Twin Sharing Accommodation for the period of the trip

7.       Package Inclusions:
a.       Airport transfers
b.      Accommodation as mentioned on twin sharing basis*
c.       Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on all days of the trip
d.      Taxi and driver for all the places mentioned in the itinerary
e.      Soft copy of the guidebook detailing more information about places on the itinerary
f.        Fees for places on itinerary including inner line permits to Lake Pangong
8.       Package Exclusions: 
a.       *Single rooms on request at additional cost
b.      Air fare to and from Leh
c.       Fees for cameras
d.      Bottled water,  hot beverages, soft drinks and tips
e.      Travel Insurance
f.        Laundry, phone calls, personal expenses or extra meals
g.       Anything not specifically mentioned under “Package Inclusions”
9.       Cancellation Policy:
a.       7 days before arrival due date – 100% refund
b.      Between 7 days to 72 hrs before arrival due date - 50% refund
c.       Less than 72 hrs before arrival due date - No refund
10.   Payment Policy: 100% payment at least 72 hours before arrival to confirm the booking.



Suggested Trip Extensions
For those who have more time on their hands and wish to stay and spend more time at Ladakh, we have ideas for trip extensions that we can help arrange for you:
·         
        Trip to the Nubra valley (2-3 days): Visit KhardungLa top and Disket (the capital of Nubra) on the way. Go on a double humped camel ride through the cold desert and camp at Hunder. The next day visit the Sumoor monastery going further on to Panamik before returning to Leh.
·   
      Homestay treks in Sham Valley (2-4 days): Trekking enthusiasts can trek through the Sham valley stopping at various homestays on the way. There are a lot of beautiful villages that are off the beaten track and the scenery is simply breathtaking.

For these options and more that are a part of Himalaya on Wheels, refer to our website: http://www.travelanotherindia.com/himalaya.html or call us on +91 9900 193 873 or email us at book@travelanotherindia.com

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Green Hotel


My name is Anika. I am nine years old.

During the summer vacation my family wanted to go somewhere together so
we decided to go to Mysore. We stayed at a place called The Green Hotel. It was very nice because it had a very big and pretty garden. The food is also very nice here and they have a library with very nice books. There is also a craft shop where there are many pretty things to buy. Over all it is a very good place. 



Write-up and Photo by Anika Gururaj - Bangalore

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Melghat September 2009


As we drove into the forest, I wondered what good deeds I had done in my previous birth to be this lucky. Wandering through this verdure is now my “job”! Physically tiring at times, but mentally it is fantastic – I guess this is what LSD must be like. An early stint of volunteering in a drug deaddiction camp meant that I never made the mistake of trying drugs. I guess now I am old enough to, but with the highs I get through my travels, do I really want to?

And I am rambling.

I am in Melghat, just a little South of Bharat ka Dil. Last I came here in March, when winter was over and summer was setting in. While there is a lot of talk and festivity around Basant, I really don’t think we have spring in the true sense. Before Holi it is cool and cold, while after it is hot. Of course, in Madras it is just hot all the time, but that is not relevant.

So summer was just starting and the days were still bearable. As this was a dry deciduous forest, all the leaves were brown and ready to fall. From somewhere, a memory popped in from my school geography class – I actually learnt what a dry deciduous forest was. Our teacher was quite firm and I had no option but to listen to her and imbibe all that knowledge. Suddenly what I had learnt 20 years (ok – 27 years really!) ago was all around me. A completely brown forest and as we drove on, whole hill sides covered with brown trees. For me, it was surreal like I had stepped on Mars or the area had just been bombed by one of those bombs that just make trees brown (I am sure some crazy has made one such). In March I had spent three days going through that shades of brown forest and even the increasing heat each day had not dimmed my wonder. I clicked away till I ran out of memory cards and batteries. And finally settled down to just being amazed and wondering at the magic that is this earth.

Now here I am again after the rains – a failed monsoon to be sure, but still rains. And now it was a rich green bordering on the vulgar in its abundance. No brown – the tree trunks were covered in this verdant growth. I had thought that only in Kerala would I have this confusion over how many shades of green there are, but here in Central India was the same chaos in my head. I simply surrendered this time. No need to understand this or count the shades – just rejoice in it and be. Hmmmm! I guess old age makes Zen philosophy easier.

Our first stop was Wan (vaan – as in monkey). Perched on a hill top was the Forest Rest House. Down below on one side is the Wan River and on the other, the railway station. Eight trains go up and down on this metre gauge line every day. Once it connected the royal kingdoms of Hyderabad and Ajmer. Today it connects Indore with Akola. A train came by – quite a long one; the reserved coaches were empty. The rest of the train was full up and more than a dozen people got down at Wan.

However first we had to enjoy the sight of the river. A check dam had been built across more than a century ago and the British used the railway line to lug water from here to the town of Akot below. The mind boggles at the thought. Today, the dam contains enough water through the year to bring in the smaller animals of the forest for a drink. Sitting in the verandah of the Forest Rest House we got an eyeful of rolling hills, green green green and the river at the edge. As if on cue, a bunch of langurs came to the edge of the check dam and stopped. They looked around carefully and then slowly, one by one began to cross the dam. Each would wait for the previous one to cross almost fully before setting out. The rear was brought up by a mother with her child struggling to keep pace.

Later in the afternoon, we walked down the railway line – I have always wanted to do that! We walked up to a lone soul sitting on the platform - an elderly man in a dhoti and a blue jubba carrying an old umbrella. The lines on his face were like the furrows on the fields in the plains and his skin was a chocolate colour. He sat and watched us steadily as we approached him – not blinking or turning away. Why should he? This was his turf. We asked him what time the train would come. He answered with a smile, “It will come some time and then I will board it.” The sheer luxury of just sitting; not knowing when the train would come and in no hurry to board it all, but sure that you do want to go when it does come. I would have gladly exchanged places with him just then!

The station office itself was placed above at a height above us and we climbed up to take a look. The station master was sitting in just a lungi chatting with someone. One look at us and he scrambled away. We saw the train timings on the notice board and the ticket prices next to it. Really? Is it that cheap to get around this country?

The Right to Information Act has obviously had a huge impact – a newly painted sign was hung up informing you who the RTI contact person for this railway division.

The Station Master came back with a shirt on, ready to talk to us. The village of Wan consists of a railway colony of seven families and two “local” families. The railway line needed a lot of maintenance up in the hills and so the gangmen were based in Wan.

We continued on to Gullarghat driving right through the Melghat forest. The core area of the forest is a Project Tiger Sanctuary – so it is out of bounds. This part of the forest was good enough for us. There are still three villages inside this part of the forest. So occasionally we would see a motorbike or a milk van. Else we had the whole forest to ourselves. It is impossible to see animals here – the topography doesn’t allow it. So all we saw was langurs and some sambhar. That’s all?? We saw a million varieties of birds and a zillion varieties of butterflies. Of course I don’t know the name of a single one – they were all new and fascinating for me. But that doesn’t make a good story right? “I saw a yellow and black butterfly” Or “I saw a yellow and black animal” – which would make you perk up. Sad though that may be, that is how we all are.

So it was a good thing that I wasn’t interested in telling tall tales – I was just soaking in all this colour with a green background. There were really these yellow and black butterflies. Bright yellow outlined carefully in black; is there someone up there doing the outlining so meticulously? I particularly noticed them because they were gathered all in clusters over the many damp patches along the road. As the car approached they would disperse in a cloud of yellow which of course my camera skills don’t allow me to capture. Do my word skills do any better? At each cloud I would sigh and wish I could be part of this mad yellow splutter. Finally we stopped at a point where there was a clear stream flowing reflecting some beautiful tree formations – but more importantly for me, where these butterflies were in extra abundance.

After some time the tarred road gave way to a red mud road adding to the beauty of the scene. Nature is the ultimate artist – playing with colours so splendidly that the oddest colours come together to create perfection.

At Gullarghat we stopped at the Forest guest house which is a cottage painted all over with pictures of the local flora and fauna, set on a stream. In March we had tasted the water from this stream – sweet and chilled, even in that heat. Today the stream was flowing, not wildly, but gently allowing me to sit with my feet dangling in the water. What I really wanted was to throw myself in. However, since I can’t swim and didn’t have a change of clothes, I resisted and tamely sat on the edge. I could feel all the tension of non-stop travel leave from my shoulders. Every time I see the scene in a movie where a heroine is singing in the stream, I wonder why I have never done it. Not sing (I might be arrested for noise pollution), but sit in the stream. After all I travel so much and cross so many streams. But that is the point – all I do is cross those streams, never stop in their midst. And finally I could do it. I could sit in this stream as long as I wished – or at least till it became dark – and it was my “job” I was doing. As I was saying, must have been one helluva lot of good deeds in the last birth!

Gouthami
11/Sep/09