July 18, 2008

Aati Kya Khandala

Ever since Aamir Khan and Rani Mukherjee immortalized Khandala, I have had this strange urge to go there. The sad part is I had no idea where it was. Khandala is not a place which you search and go to. You just pack your bags and reach there. At least that’s what I thought. One weekend, after getting bugged with Life, Universe and Everything in between I decided that it was time I moved out of Mumbai. It had been a long time since I had trekked or generally back packed. So in comes the 2nd greatest travel planner I have known in my life and he decides that we should hit Lonavla. Now for all those who doesn’t know the claim to fame of Lonavla, it’s all about fudges and chikis. But more about that later.

After waking up on a lazy Saturday morning, we reached Dadar and picked the first bus that was available. It dropped us off at a highway and the helper said, “Lonavla bas saamne hi hain.” We decided to walk it down and to our great surprise found that we had got off at Khandala. Imagine; you have been living so close to a dream travel destination and you had no idea about it. While this got us all excited we also realized that Lonavla was still some 4 kms away. To make a long story short, we reached Lonavla and after dumping our bags we set off on exploring the mountains. The beauty of the Ghats and also of Konkan perhaps is best seen in the monsoons. It was raining all throughout yet no one bothered much about it. I guess we all realized that the greenery we saw all around us was a result of the rains that kissed the mountain slopes and gave rise to its numerous waterfalls. Also you should not miss the numerous lakes of Lonavla like the Tunagrli Lake, The Valvan Dam and The Lonavla Lake.

We all have some point of time in our lives have realized that it’s beautiful to just stand on top of a cliff, look down and believe that one day you too can fly, as you slowly soak in the white streams cutting through the lush green mountain slopes. Lonavla has its own share of Shooting Points, Duke’s Nose, Tiger’s Leap and other places where you stand with your girlfriend or your entire extended family and pose for photographs to show back home. And yes, it also has its fair share of spots where you can look philosophical and click your next orkut snap. Interestingly, this is one Hilly region where I did not find a suicide point. I guess it’s just too beautiful to go ahead and do something as dumb as killing yourself.

I believe that we were pretty close to Amby Valley where once Sahara had hoped that the rich and the famous would flock to. But unfortunately that was not to be and I feel that’s where the great Dance of Democracy that our country witnesses every five years (or even earlier at times) comes into play. It’s a bit of convoluted logic but I really believe that exclusivity in this country will always have a tough road to cover. The power of a billion dreams is too great to allow someone to closet oneself in one corner of the country. But this power has its downsides too. Classic example in Lonavla would be the Bhushi Dam. It’s a beautiful dam but completely spoilt by drunken men dancing topless under the waterfall, groups from Mumbai and Pune singing loudly and disturbing the peace and all in all making a ruckus in what could have been one of the most pristine places on our dying planet.

I really feel sorry for people who go on trips and sit in hotel rooms all day long to consume alcohol and get drunk. But worse than those are the losers who come out after their drinks and decide that they are superheroes and create a safety hazard for themselves and everyone around them, not to mention that they destroy the silence of the mountains. I am not being a puritan here but it becomes extremely irritating at times. Where have all the quiet philosophical drunkards gone?

Luckily for us our auto driver told us about the existence of another waterfall nearby. Given its tough approach roads along the mountain slopes, this waterfall is not visited by the general crowd. And thank The Heavens for that. We just sat there, oblivious to the world around us, to the world that we had left behind for a couple of days to escape into the heart of nature. I don’t know how the Liril Girl did it, but standing under a waterfall is actually a tough task. If the flow is rapid, the water can actually hurt.

Set had booked an awesome resort for us with a beautiful view of Lonavla from our window. At night we kept on reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ (the usual) and as expected everyone refused to wake up in the early morning. Only VJ and I walked down the roads to the temple nearby to click a few photographs. By the time we were back, it was time to get ready to leave. But we had one plan left. Khandala. So we went off to Khandala in the morning just to tell everyone that we had lived the “Aati Kya Khandala:” dream. Any day I’ll prefer Lonavla over Khandala. The magic is just not there in the slopes of Khandala, at least not without a guide constantly telling tourists nearby, “Wo dekhiye, wo Shahrukh ka Bangla tha.”.

All Bongs would know about the famous Maganlal Meghraj. Maganlal is present in Lonavla too. He’s the name that ninety percent of the chiki shops brandish. Being against a monopoly of any sort, we got chikis from one of the Maganlal franchisees, A1 Chiki and Purohit’s chikis. To my easily satisfied palate all of them tasted brilliant.

It was good to run away and I am glad that I clicked - With a Good camera - After a long long time. I’m happy – that’s all I can say.


Akanksha said...

quiet philosophical drunkard reporting SIR! But I wouldn't need alcohol to give me a high in such a beautiful place!

Addy said...

Gosh! the last two posts were magic... they made me so nostalgic.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Akanksha - I absolutely agree :)

@Addy - Make a trip back :)