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Fourth pillar of our democracy – Be strong and prudent

February 12, 2015

Having following politics for so many years I have to admit that the Media often tends to be biased and in a big way impacts the perception of a person or a party toward the general public. I would like to point out few instances that I have recently experienced:

  1. Modi’s 10Lacs Suit: I have personally seen on the twitter the price of Modi’s suit shoot from mere expensive, to 5 Lacs and then 10 Lacs. FACT is that no one knows the actual cost and still everyone is made to believe it is 10 lacs or so. The important thing is not even the cost but the FACT that no one really knows if that was bought or was perhaps gifted by someone. Being at such a high position, gifts are very common and any person who holds a high position will concur to this FACT. Now here is a link which no one would ever tell you to read but again it is a FACT – http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/modi-gifts-auction-yields-rs-19-cr-for-girls-education/1214480/

Tomorrow if it indeed turns out that the suit was actually a gift, then would media bite their words and apologize?

  1. I saw few of my Christian friends on facebook looked really aghast at the recent vandalism of few churches in Delhi and I totally understand their feeling. Now the FACT is that no one actually knows who the culprits were but again everyone is made to believe that they belong to BJP. It hurts me to see that all educated people when it comes to religion become blind, not limited to any religion but spans across all. I in fact not only stand against any kind of vandalism of religious places but also demand that the culprits should be nabbed and given harsh punishment for instigating hatred. But for god sake do not assume things and point finger at a party without any proof or FACT.

If you go by common sense it is actually other parties who benefit from these kinds of acts since BJP doesn’t have much vote bank with minorities. This reminds me of Kavin Spacey of ‘The Usual Suspect’ where suspects are usually not the usual ones. Also vandalism is not a new thing and has been happening for last many decades against all the religious institutions! I would also like to state that people like ‘Sadhvi’ and ‘Sakshi maharaj’ do more bad than good to the party and should be confronted and reprimanded for uttering nonsense.

  1. Then there are really some impatient bumpkins who say that they don’t see any change or improvement: I would suggest them to read newspapers especially economic time\financial express so that they can get some sense of economics and how it works. We have erased our targeted fiscal deficit which gives us much leeway to allocate more money in the coming budget, inflation has tanked, GDP is on a move, ‘make in India’ campaign might not have rocketed but has definitely started on a good note. On the ground, be it swatch bharat, pradhan mantry jan dhan yojna, PF scheme, adopting a village, Beti bachao – beti padhao, mann ki baat, inclusion of much neglected NE states etc are the foundations on which we need to move on. I don’t want to comment on the international diplomacy and our defense enforcement as many would not understand or make much sense of it but we are definitely doing great on that front too.

PS: I am not opposed to media criticizing or supporting a party, as this is the norm across the globe. I just want them to be more prudent and fact based.

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ShortHand for a Long Trip

January 30, 2011

Second Trip to NYC:

3:00 PM – Had Maggi – My Friend Gibin’s Car – Dropped at Hamilton Station – 3:37 PM – Train to NYC – 4:53PM – reached NYC – walked till Bryant’s Park 42nd street – Watched people Skating – Friends Vinay and Hardik came – Entered the Park – Put on the Skates – Landed on the pond – tried real hard to Skate freely – failed – still did lot better than last time – friends were doing good – fell 4-5 times in between – stood up every time to fall again – but now at least confident of waking on the ice if not skate – tired of skating – moved out of the park – headed for station – had nice dinner @penn station – took the subway train to Queens at friend’s place – met their friends – had chat – watched the Ind-SA one run win Highlights – went to bed – very nice sleep – got up at 8:15AM – everybody else sleeping – did my routine – tried my best to get Vinay up – but in vain – checked my mails – spoke to Vinay about the visits for that day – replied in sleep – others got up – Vinay too got up snapping last 2 days sleep at one go – ate “farsan”, “chikki”, etc – 12:30 PM went for lunch – at subway – had a foot long – bid adieu to Vinay – he swiped for me, his card – entered the station – caught the train – got down at Penn station – three other friends Neha, Tejaswini and Gibin were at NYV too – were at Empire state building – went till the empire state – had coffee near it @ Star Bucks – went ahead – caught a street show – friends met there – took snaps and video – went to the pizza hut – they had lunch – I was full – then decided to go to the central park – took the subway – walked a bit – reached central park – the south entrance – amazing feeling – looked so bright coz of the snow cover – saw frozen lake – went to the zoo – zoo was closed – came back –  decided to go to the Madame Tussauds next – took a cab – reached times square – the evening looked so full of lights – walked couple of blocks – reached Madame Tussauds – statues by statues went to each wax models – took numerous snaps – joked – laughed – experienced a flop haunting show – watched a 15mins 4-D show – came out of the building – spend few minutes at times square – headed towards the MoMA – walked a LOT – reached MoMA – it was closed – walked a bit – saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church – went inside – beautiful and mesmerizing it was – took few snaps – took some rest – came out of the church – went to the Rockerfeller  center – to the top of the rock – took few snaps – came down – wanted to go to the Bryant’s Park – but instead took cab for Penn station – everybody were exhausted – must have walked 10 miles the entire day – took ticked for Hamilton – paid through card – forgot to collect ticket – ran back – took the ticket – caught the train – reached Hamilton at 10:10PM – came back to home – had dinner – to a deep sleep and sweet dreams :).

America’s Way…

December 12, 2010

America’s Way…

It has been more than a month here in USA. I just got this idea of a new post because of  so many things that I found here is done the other way, the unusual way! I mean if we think west they think east, quite literally though:). So here are few of the things that I found to be implemented\ practiced\ done differently compared to what we have in India or elsewhere.

1.    Keep Right – As soon as I landed, the first thing that I found to be different was the moving vehicles. It is widely known that the Americans follow ‘Left hand’ Drive, so the steering here is to the left, unlike at most of the places. They follow the right lane, we follow the left. They overtake from the left we just don’t care!
Many a times when I see cars moving in lanes I get a feeling of zipping between the two and zoom ahead, the way I used to drive in Mumbai :), here a strict lane discipline is followed. Every time someone takes a left or right I used to get a feeling like, ‘hey, you are on the wrong lane!!’ only to realize that it would take me little more time to get familiar with this “always keep right” theory. Even while we walk, especially near the corridors\aisle of office, quite naturally I take the left part of the aisle and quite often come perilously close to dashing someone at the turns. So mantra here is KEEP RIGHT.

2.    Rooms – When I reached my place and for the first time opened the door, I was surprised to find stairs. Not that I don’t find them in India. But the puzzling part was that the stairs were INSIDE our house. I mean you have a door, and when you open the door you have to use stairs to go to your rooms, and there are no other rooms except yours. Another thing is that at most of the places the kitchen is directly attached to the hall.

3.    Plugs: All the plugs here are the thin ones, but I was saved that here they have the three plug system, else looking the differences here, I was wondering if there would 4-5 pin plugs, may be circular ones. But the three pin plug too can not be the same else why would the Americans be called different, here the “neutral” line the one with thick pin is at the bottom and the two pins above it. Look they have to be different.

4.    Hold a pen\pencil: This one really got me think a lot. So whenever you go to banks, or other places where you see people doing manual paper work, you would be astonished to see the way these all people hold the pens\pencils in their hands. It would appear that none of them have been to schools ever, while this should be the case in India. May be it looks different and definitely weird from my perspective but hey even I have done this, holding the pen in weird position, when I used to get really bored and try sketching few cartoons on my book while the chemistry professor used to speak gibberish.

5.    Drink Water : We in India have a classic way of using our palms curled inward to drink water from a tap, specially in the country side. Here I have seen so many faucet\taps where the water comes upward. I just don’t get the brains behind it. You get to drink only 20-30% of what comes from it, and rest is drained out. May be they recycle it and send it back :). On a serious note, when some one is campaigning for saving the fresh water source and then one look at the waste that happens through these crazy brains you sometimes get confused, the solution is more obvious than it appears.

6.    Wood everywhere: Here the floors are made of woods, the walls are made of wood, the ceilings are made of wood, everything is made of woods. I am amazed as how come they have everything made up of woods and still there are ‘woods’ (forest) every where. Another surprising thing is that the light poles too are made up of woods unlike the metal ones we have in India. Again this seems to be a waste, may be to prevent the electrical shocks…don’t know.

7.    Select a checkbox: If we are filling a form say, and we have few options with checkboxes, we usually select our option with a ‘tick’ against it. Here, they have to be different right…so they ‘cross’ it against the option instead of a ‘tick’. Perhaps the school teachers here too put an ‘X’ instead of a ‘tick’ for the correct answer. Had this been the case in India, my dad would have been so happy when I was a kid.

8.    On is actually Off – As soon as I reached my place, the thing other than the awkwardly built stairs the other thing I noticed was the switches. So here if you have to switch something on, you have to push it up and for switching it off push it down. When we can have the motor bike gears with both the upward and downward changes, why not switch. Great analogy…right!

9.    Plugs but no control:  First of all I haven’t seen any two-point plugs here in USA, all have three points and the other thing is that none of the plug is accompanied by the switch. So when ever you have to say charge you mobile, or say switch on your router, you have to plug in the charger and when it is done you have remove it back, no switch control. Very annoying!! This thing actually encourages to waste electricity because you can not always plug and unplug you gadgets, I mean you just feel lazy to do that every time, so there should be a more logical way.

10.    Papers – Papers: It doesn’t surprise me that here in USA we use paper a lot, and consequently waste paper a lot. I haven’t seen anyone till now using their handkerchief ever in the washroom. Not only the paper is used for various purpose (you got it right), it is also used in heap (you again got it right :)). Even in kitchen we have paper to wipe the washed utensils or just to use for cleaning your hands. In India we use cloth and water at appropriate places, right!

11.    Fans – Here most of the homes don’t have the ceiling fans but one those have, especially in few shops, have five blades unlike the normal three we usually have in India. How about having a dozen of blades!!

12.    Bulbs: Even though we are a developing nation, the CFL revolution has made every house to use it instead of the bulbs. But here in US, bulbs are omnipresent. Go anywhere you will find bulbs, that too the yellow ones are more popular than the white ones. Cannot comprehend this logic too!

13.    Where to dry my clothes: It is a huge surprise to me that we are not allowed to put our clothes to dry in the balcony. It might not look that elegant but hey it is far better than using the drier which is a huge power guzzler, to dry our clothes. Why should not we just use the dryness of the air, it is free and natural way. We are not allowed to wash our clothes too in the bathroom, this is understood that the floors and all are made of woods but common the drying rule has to change.

14.    Measure of Time, distance, weight, temperature, etc: This one is even more annoying. First take the temperature, here everyone speaks of Fahrenheit, but tell me one thing doesn’t the Celsius be used for better understanding. When we say 32F it means 0C. As with the number line in Maths, we can easily say that anything >0 is positive and <0 is negative. But in terms of Fahrenheit, the number 32 spoils the magic of 0. I just prefer things to be simpler rather than coming up with a new dimension only to complicate the matter. Let us now take the pounds while talking of weight. We all know that 1kg = 1000g = 1000*1000 mg = so on and so forth. But 1 pounds = 16 ounce = 16 * 28.349g, look at the simplicity. When someone has discovered the value ‘0’ and thus the term ’10’ we all should respect it, just coz it makes our life simpler. Again if we talk about the distance, 1km = 1000m = 1000 * 100 cm = 1000 * 100 * 10 mm etc, but when it comes to ‘Miles’ how do you quantify into smaller terms. 1 mile = 5280 feet = 5280 * 12 inches = 1.66kms, look the world has never been so simple! Again we talk of ‘Litres’ in India. 1L = 1000ml here we have ‘Gallon’ and best part is that 1 Gallon = 3.7854 L = 128 fluid ounce. Just makes our life, you guessed it…..a ‘hell’!

I will add on to this list as and when I get to see more weird ideas, I am sure I will :).

Having said all these, I have another blog to write about the positive things that I have seen here. And believe me it would take quite some time to post it online, coz there are many.

Cheers………

Trip to suppoSADly KOLAD!!!

January 24, 2010

Trip To (Maharashtra – Kolad)

Ok here we go.
Today:
It is Thursday 1st October 2009:
I called one of the Manager Saheb of our group to confirm the plan for the next day (Half of out group consists of Managers; I belong to the other half). Yes!!! Finally after too much of tit-tats most of us had unanimously agreed on a date to leave for the trip…. Trip to KOLAD. Not surprisingly the date was the very next day (our planning is always done one day in advance, engineering has made us perfect at least in this field) that is 2nd October 2009, Gandhi Jayanti (No way Gandhi in this context is related to the Gandhi soon to be revealed). So here was the final plan conveyed to five of us.

Place: Kolad, I mean THE KOLAD (Around 110kms from Mumbai)
Leave from Mumbai at: 5:45 AM from Borivali- West
Means of commuting: From rented vehicle at 10 AM we moved to Volvo bus at 12 afternoon and finally settled in a State Bus at 4PM.
Days of stay: 2-3

So before taking you all to the most adventurous trip which our group ever had, let me have the honor to describe about the vibe that was created a day before the trip. One of the managers (remember we have more that one, will come handy later on) instructed me to get some woolen clothes since THE KOLAD would be bit cold this time of the year. The other manager told me that first thing we will do after reaching there would be River rafting….whooo so exciting!!!! Just to add to it there is a damn…I mean dam nearby which is supposedly one of the best in Maharashtra.

So here we start the day, 5:40 in my watch and getting down from a rickshaw and simultaneously attending to the call which was the fourth one since I left home, no wonders they all were from my friends cursing me for coming late. Late I said!! Its always been that way they should know by now :-). So no time for excuses (I didn’t have any) as the bus was scheduled to leave in next five minutes and we needed to reach the depo which was easily 10mins from the station, so we frantically crossed the bridge to the east and took rickshaw from there to reach depo. Three in one and two in the other. I was in the other one. So where are we heading to, I asked my very adorable friend NEREUS HIXON. He said something which I didn’t get and then I said fine. Our usual gossip followed. Five minutes in the Rickshaw and I asked my adorable friend, haven’t we reached yet, he gave me the most flabbergasted look ever and thundered back, HOW ON EARTH DO I KNOW THAT. God O God, didn’t he replied to my query which I had asked him just 5 mins back, and now I know that he had muttered “I DON’T KNOW” to which I had nodded by saying fine. OH!! What a fine way to begin. Called our other troop, got the exact place and made the rickshaw take a U turn and thank God we are at the bus depo, all five of us, safely. Hold on…what is the time already 5:57 (Yes I wear a digital watch). As luck had it the only bus with the engine heating up was the one we were supposed to take. We grabbed this opportunity with both our hands; as the bus was already in motion 🙂 and thus successfully achieved our first milestone. My Project Manger would really be proud of this.

TIRING BUS EXPERIENCE:

It was still bit dark, light breeze from the west carrying the freshness of the last leg of Monsoon. Inside the bus were five bachelors, meeting after quite a time for a long PLANNED trip. Settled on our seats of this state bus which was happy to carry ten odd people we began with what we do the best, taking cheap shots at each other.
May be this is the right time to formally introduce you to this mirthful group of mine. Will start with Managers first.
The one who always initiates any plan of ours and threatens to give up if we don’t reply to his mails and end up sending mail which refers to the previously sent threatened mail, let me have the honor to present HEMAL VORA. Always with a smile on the face and reminder of the threatening mail at back of his mind is known for his managerial skills in negotiating and organizing. Very much alike him and most enthusiastic of us is our next manager AJESH THOTTUNGAL, just remember him as PANDEY, he is also one of the two photographer in our group. Third in the list of managers is this very cool chap for whom I would like to say “Don’t go by the looks they are deceiving”, this is KUNAL GANDHI. (I should have mentioned, Don’t go by the Name too). Known for his verbal skills which he used as armor for getting our work done during our trip, he was also the only one with good understanding of Marathi without which we might be…..hmmm……don’t worry it will come later on.
Now I can go on with NON-MANAGERS who just loves to see things in place and enjoy. You have already been introduced to my adorable friend NEROUS HIXON, call him NE RE US. He is the Jack in the Pack, a trip without him would be like visiting a museum. And at last I have myself to present, I don’t praise myself, I BOAST 🙂 but I am sure you are not interested 😉 so name is enough for now – NILESH SINGH, call me Nilu, btw I am the other one interested in photography.

So where have we reached, omg still in Mumbai and its already 6:42. After light breakfast which Hemal had got for us and which he always get for the trips we had some gossip. Believe me when guys gossip they do it more that the gals but they don’t admit, rightly so coz there gossip is more sensible. They talk about sensible girls, their sensible looks, their sensible dresses, there sensible quietness (sensibility when they don’t speak :-)), there sensible charm, there sensible……(XXXXXXSENSIBLY CENSOREDXXXXX).

Bored of sensibility I decided to watch the beauty which had just started to greet us, we were already on NH-17 from panvel (outskirts of Mumbai). This time around I had got my new goggles with an inbuilt mp3 player(interesting). The journey throughout from panvel onwards was very pleasant with mountains, hills and lush green planes in between. I always believe that the monsoon is the best bet to plan any trip. Along the way the konkan railway track was following us, hiding for few moments and again joining our caravan.

Finally THE KOLAD:

It was around 9:48AM when we reached our destination THE KOLAD. In between had a short nap when the conductor and driver both were swapped with the new set as per the state bus routine, so was wondering while stepping out of the bus whether I had boarded the same bus. So here we were all standing at the bus stop, and never in my dream, I thought that KOLAD would be like this. I mean the very look of it was DISAPPOINITING. It looked liked just another village, but hold on we still have the fun to begin, the river rafting and all. So anyways our one of the Manager, Mr. Gandhi began his operation. Fluent in Marathi he was asking a vegetable vendor about the place, looking at the weird smile of the vendor (I ignored the missing tooth, or did I :-)) I thought we might have reached the wrong place. It wasn’t the case and the thing was that the place was right but all the images of the place we had in our mind were completely flawed. That vendor said that we have a dam here but its as good as no dam…damn it, we have a river here but river rafting was something alien to him, we have few hotels here but go there without any expectations. After consulting few more people we came to a decision which we actually knew from our heart was that we are USELESS. The place was completely devoid of any place worth visiting. We were in quandary, as to what next. We urgently needed a hotel to get some rest from the long tiring journey.

Somehow we managed to get address of a hotel which was around 4kms from the bus stop and the good thing was that it was close to the river, in fact the river was flowing along the road throughout. The sun was really blazing at us, yup right it was really hot and humid, I was cursing my Manager number 2, Pandey, who had suggested two woolen cloths, thankfully no one had listened to him, I guess he would be the perfect manager in the future for his company :-).
We reached this hotel whose name I forgot, they had four rooms, two of them were with ACs. Rooms were spacious enough for 4-5 people. Behind the hotel was that much touted river flowing from the east(I carry my compass when ever I go on any trip). The charges for a day were very reasonable at around 350 for non AC and 100 more for AC. Rather booking the room we decided to fill our empty tummies. The hotel was small but tidy, with a TV and sofas (Don’t expect more, this was it). We had ordered our food, the rates were reasonable. The TEA was awesome, though it cost us 10bucks each, it had its worth.
The hotel staff it seemed were very happy to see people around and did there best hospitality, we took some rest and couple of our Managers started calling there friends frantically to get the details of places which we could visit near KOLAD, yes!! by this time  we had made our mind not to waste our time at this place any more. Finally we left for the KOLAD bus stop, the same way we came here, leaving behind the disappointing faces of the hotel staffs who were expecting us to stay for a day at least. We took a 10 seater, which actually had space for 6-7, Rs5 per head(standard charge). In the rickshaw we asked if they have any water sports at this place, the driver halted at a place which had a banner reading “Eco-Mantra”. We thought of giving it a try, if any thing interesting is in the store for us. We came out of the rick, it was a small cool place with few stairs leading to the bank of the river (remember the river flows along the road through out). As we approached the bank, we saw a small inflated boat ferrying a couple in their 20s accompanied by a macho looking person to the other side of the bank. A rope which extended from one bank to the other (river was hardly 50m wide) may be for the fishermen to check the depth or so, and few young people at other side of the bank just chilling out more or less like us. Suddenly we saw a waterman (like we have Superman, Spiderman etc) approaching us from the other side of the river, actually he was the same macho looking person on the inflated boat and after seeing us he jumped into the river (God knows why we didn’t call him). As he reached near us, he stood (still in the water, may be trying to tell us, look the water is not that deep, come have a plunge) there in waist deep water flaunting his six packs (five of them were not clearly visible) and in a weird accent asked us if we had done the booking. Booking!!! For what, we asked. He candidly replied that usually people like us (like us means what, dare any one compare this group with other ones) come here for river rafting, rock climbing and other water sports but they have to book in advance. RIVER RAFTING!! Yahoooo…. (all in my mind, nothing came out). We in an equally candid way asked if we can also participate, though we haven’t booked it yet and also enquired about the charges applicable and where all are these events being held. The reply was simpler that the question we asked. The boat we saw was part of the water sport (name of the sport probably “cross the pool”), the fishermen rope which I thought was also involved in the name water sport (name probably “cross the pool – this time sans boat”). It also turned out that the young people at the other side of the river were actually playing the so called water sports, at the max there were five or six ( probably over booking). The rate for these sports was a paltry 500Rs (*^%*#@!). Would have got same thing done for 150Rs in Mumbai (I don’t know where though :-)). Anyways, the Rock Climbing was somewhere around the mountain that he pointed at (thank god he didn’t say that its inside the river!!) and much touted river rafting was 22kms from that place, around Rs2500 extra for these two events. We thanked him for the information and left the place. We took the rick for the KOLAD bus stop and reached there in next 5mins or so. While traveling we came to the conclusion, after the approval of all the managers that the macho guy we met was the same guy who had posted all the misleading information about this place in the web (web is what we trusted and came).

Anyways we are at the KOLAD bus stop at around 12:18 afternoon, full to fish market type, people all around, humming noise all over, blazing sun, narrow roads etc. Saw the same old guy (one with missing tooth, which I had ignored) sitting at one of the corner. We asked few locals, rather I should be saying Kunal one of our manager asked a local about places around Kolad, worth visiting. First of all he flogged us for coming here as there wasn’t anything special to watch, but then suggested us few places which according to him were worth a visit. Raigad, Pratapgad, Harihareshwar were few of them. We first decided that we will go to Harihareshwar via MANGAO then will go the Rai/Pratapgad!!. But after consulting more people, Kunal, Hemal and I decided that we will go to Raigad\Pratapgad(since both were similar and close by) and then will move to Harihareshwar. We all drew some imaginary maps in the air and telling each other where these places are with reference to Mumbai (only when we reached back Mumbai and saw the map, we realized that we would have reached either Latur or plunged into Arabian Sea, had we followed those maps). Since there were no direct buses to Raigad we need to get down at one of the stop and then take a rick or a bus from there. One of the folk whom Kunal asked said that we need to get down at Mangao and then take bus to Mahad and then a rick to Raigad. So the same was conveyed to Pandey and NeReUs. Since there was still some time for the bus our manager Kunal kept on collecting more and more information about the places (told you Marathi helps). Surprising he came with shortcut instead of Mangao-Mahad-Raigad we would go to Mahad-Raigad (indeed a shortcut). As we were discussing about the final change in the plan the bus arrived and as usual we grabbed this opportunity with both our hands (it was in motion too). I and Hemal directly went to the back of the bus and grabbed the seats. Kunal was somewhere in the middle, NeReUs and Pandey were standing as the seats were full. We asked Pandey to remove tickets for Mahad, he in turn asked NeReUs to do that, he obliged and removed five tickets for MAHAD, then asked the conductor to give the tickets for MANGAO not MAHAD. Dude you are in dreams or what, we are going to MAHAD not MANGAO…three of us roared when he finally got ticket for us(By this time Kunal was sitting with us). Pandey and NeReUs were actually aghast that we didn’t convey to them our last moment change in the plan. Anyways Kunal took the responsibility to get this thing sorted out (Marathi works).

Here is the gist that happened between Kunal and Conductor(sitting at the front) [ Not MANGAO, want MAHAD….already tore those tickets…Should have decided before asking…..sorry there was some confusion….can not take the tickets back, (rising tempo) what do you people think about us….DiSh-DaSh-DuSh….No Yes Please… and finally SHAANTI SHAANTIHI]. We saw Kunal coming back but not with five tickets but ten. I thought may be doing some charity around, might have removed tickets for some poor people traveling in the bus. It turned out that we were the poor people. Here was the thing, five tickets KOLAD-MANGAO (which was already with us) and five for MANGAO-MAHAD (By same bus of course, we are not always idiots). Since it was quite a long journey about 2hrs or so, most of us decided to take a small nap (two of the idiots were still standing).

We reached MAHAD at around 2:02PM. Believe me we all were so exhausted that at one point we thought of taking a bus directly to Mumbai (Mahad is a big bus depo with buses plying to all the parts of Maharashtra). Sitting at the bus stand and having Lemonades (5Rs each) we decided not to be upset by the things happened or didn’t happen since morning. We have not wasted that much of time as it seemed to us, at that moment. So the refreshing Lemonade did the trick and we decided to carry on. By now we were aware that we could either go to Raigad or Pratapgad but not both, since they were quite a distance apart. So we went ahead with RAIGAD (while I have been saying Raigad through out, its actually Raigad FORT and Pratapgad FORT for that matter.).

Now our next task was to get a Rick ASAP. We got one but that driver was asking a lot around 350 bucks for 23kms, reason he gave was that he wont get passengers back, we anyhow pacified him by promising that we would be coming back by the same rick and wont take more that an hour, and you know what he trusted us…hohohoho (all of us grinning and giving that cunning smile at each other). Not only that, we also got the price to come down to 275 bucks (V R MEAN :-)).

At this point each of us heaved sigh of relief. Our journey began from here (some background music please).

Khat-Khat-Khat that was the noise our tempo was making through out its way to Raigad, and no wonders that it never needed horn. It was just five minutes or so we were alltogether into completely different world, narrow roads, hills, greenery, pin drop silence, serenity, in short absolute peace. In next 30-35 minutes we were at the Raigad Base point, it was still sunny and bright but not that hot. On reaching the base point we saw a huge hill to our left side, dense jungle ahead, deep gorge towards right (yes when I say base I mean the edge of the mountain). It was amazing view, I wont say breathtaking (I give sincere reviews:-)) as I have seen similar views if not better at many places before. It was unique in a way that it was not at all a crowded place (actually there wasn’t any space to build anything), also you can actually feel the base of the hill above which the Raigad fort was situated. Yup the fort was at top of the hill. Though we were not able to see a single view of the fort from the base, the very thought of fort at that height made us curious as, how could Shivaji Maharaj could built his fort at that height and how on earth could he spot this place. (And also how his horses would have reached there)

Anyways there were few people at the base which actually amazed me as I didn’t see a single vehicle passing through the road which we took from Mahad till here. We also came to know that there is a state bus plying after every 2-3 hrs or so. The very next thing we spotted after reaching the base was the ropeway (yup the ropes connecting the base with the summit of the hill where the fort is built). Goosebumps!!!!, horrific feeling of going by that ropeway which was inclined at about 60 degrees from the base if not more, anyways we went ahead and took tickets for the ropeway, not sure of the rates (we have managers for that :-)) but was about 150 bucks I guess, not more than that. Thing was that the there were just 2 rope buses going one way and another 2 buses coming from the other end and there were about 70-80 odd people ahead of us in the queue for the ropeway (no idea where did they come from). Now the calculations, 2 buses, 8 people at one time (4 each), approx 6 minutes for one round, 80/8=10, so 10X6=60 minutes maximum we had to wait.
For the first time in this trip I got my camera out (nothing till now was worth my clicks ;)). Pandey and I decided to get few snaps of the surrounding (remember two photographers in the group), rest of the team either went for some food or just waited out for our chance to come. Pandey and I went towards the jungle which I had described before, there was a faint trail (by the villagers there) which we followed for some time before realizing that we should not be going that far that my compass fails to show directions. I have only been to such a steep hill once before and the same sense of thrill and excitement was reminiscent of that trip. As I and Pandey were busy taking snaps at different angles as if we were thorough professionals, aren’t we anyways :-), we saw a village kid with a “tokri” on his head stopped near us and was keenly watching what we guys were doing. Just to make him feel easy (or rather make my self easy) I asked him if there is a way ahead, and if it all there is, where does to lead to. He replied with just two words “Hindi nahi”. Now that Kunal was not here I only had to speak some Marathi, at least to an extent that he can understand (and I too). Hmmm, I was really happy that he understood what I said in Marathi although Pandey was staring at me as if I have spoken in Malayalam or something (Malayalam is his mother tongue btw). The kid replied to my query by saying that the narrow path leads to a small pond from where these people get water to drink (“tokri” and water, didn’t get the connection, or may be I heard something else, Marathi after all). He also told us that there is another way other than rope way to reach the top and most of the trekkers do it that way (now I got how the Shivaji built that fort and how his horses went up the hill to fetch a…….). Before leaving back to the ropeway base the kid had asked us to take his snap, to which we obliged.

We were back with the team and our number 248-252 on the ticket was just 7-8 places behind means 5-7 minutes more. But something was changing dramatically in next couple of minutes, what was that??? CLOUDS, THUNDERS and finally DRIZZLE. God O God, that was truly awesome from bright sunny day to dark cloudy evening (it was around 4PM by then). As we were looking at the clouds, we saw something strange, or rather we didn’t see something, what was it. The summit, the peak, the other end of the rope way, yes!!!! One end was near us but the other end at the top was now invisible because of the cloud cover, it was like you can see the rope going from this end but where does it end is a mystery. All of us recalled funny news channels “breaking news” tags, “humne dhoond nikala hai swarg ka raasta”. We did it too :-).

Just the next moment we saw the rope bus (I really don’t know what to call that thing) coming out of cloud, and we were then next batch to go in. Nereous, Hemal and I were in the Red color rope bus and ahead of us were Pandey and Kunal in Green color bus (sort of traffic signal). And it started, we were not actually tense coz we had been to ropeways before in our last trip in Saputara, but we knew that half way across we will be witnessing something that none of us had witnessed before. There came the moment, and believe me (this time at least) this will go into my top ten memorable moments till now. I was not able see anything other than two idiot friends of mine, absolute nothing and the worst thing is that you know you are moving ahead but don’t know what is ahead. Silence for few minutes, from this height you could see the entire Raigad district but was hardly able to see the green rope bus ahead of us. I had never felt so close to God before, that was bliss (can I have the moment again!!!) “Tham ja Zindagi, Tham ja” was in my mind, and sincerely hope that was the case. Finally we were able to see some blur images of the summit, yellow flowers all around just made the view even more elegant. We stepped out of the bus (rope bus I mean) and followed the signboards and other people there. It was really misty and visibility was hardly 20mts. Though it was not drizzling now, still the air around was so misty that we could feel the moistness on our bags and windcheaters. What we had heard from the locals was that the fort is so big that we will need 2 days to actually visit each of its corners, we didn’t care now as only one corner was visible now (one which we were entering from). As we approached towards the main entrance we saw few bungalow type houses supposedly for people who wish to stay there for night (2 days after all). We started with our photo shoot, with each of us posing at different angles and sometimes for different people too. Black, green and white was the color all around. Suddenly we experience a gust of wind rushing across, cold and wet. We knew that the rains are not far and we need to wind up soon, also we had promised our tempo driver that we would be returning back in an hour (it was already hour and half though). The visibility was decreasing at an alarming level, at one time it was hardly 2-3mts. We were told that the fort is spread over a large area but no one dared to go ahead as we were not sure if the path ahead is a valley, pond, ditch or something else for that matter. We made sure that we remember the path we have taken till now, else my compass would have to come into play :-). For a small duration when there was breeze along, the clouds cleared up somewhat and I leave it your imagination when you see something which is actually so beautiful but you could not appreciate it only because you could not see it, although it was next to you (I know those pics will remain with me for ever). Now we could hear the thunders aloud and felt as if it struck somewhere behind us, and thus made our mind to leave for the base, although no one wanted to. In the end we are professionals and had our plans in place for the show ahead (when things go well you can obviously boast of your prudent plans, wasn’t the case till Kolad though :-)). It was around 5PM when we reached the base.

We were thinking of some excuses that we might need to give to the rickshaw driver, the poor fellow must have been waiting for us for a long time. Surprisingly the driver was calm and enjoying the view around. We didn’t waste any time neither did we discuss with him the reason for we being late and sat inside the rickshaw. It had again started drizzling. This time the evening was looking bleaker and gloomier than before and as we started our descend towards Mahad it was already pouring. At first we were enjoying the icy cool water drops by letting them strike our body, soon as the intensity of rain increased, we realized that this water was gushing inside the rickshaw and its was really freezing when a gush drenches our body, we put on the side plastic covers of the rickshaw, it was absolute dark inside. Along the way the view had completely changed by now since afternoon, flowing streams from the near by hills had erupted at many places, the surrounding more quit and serene. The driver was using the wiper from inside the rickshaw, arms extended outside to clear the front view (wiper was broken). In next 10mins or so the rain had subsided a bit and this was the time for some photography of that wonderful landscape. Pandey’s and mine cameras were already out and shutter bugs already bugging. Our next destination according to our plans was to be Harishareshwar by bus from Mahad.

We were at Mahad bus stand in another 15mins, we paid the driver his rent and then ran towards the enquiry to know the timing for the bus to Harihareshwar as we were expecting it to be in next 5-10mins. It was a setback when they told us that the bus we were seeking had already left. Not again, we dint want the good momentum we had acquired to wane out. Anyway we decided to take a bus to Mangaon (the controversial place before) and from there another bus to Harihareshwar which was scheduled at 7:15PM. Without wasting any time we took the bus which was leaving the next moment.

All of us sitting at back of the bus feeling bit tired were waiting for the place where we could just drop and go into deep slumber. It was around 30mins travel from Mahad to Mangaon so we had not much time to relax but also we needed to be alert as no one knew when would Mangaon come, it was pitch dark by now. It had again started to pour outside and this time we could also hear the monstrous thunder accompanied by blinding lightning. To make the matter worse the power in the entire area seemed to have gone off. This was real adventure now, script of a perfect movie :-). Soon the bus became crowded, at one of the stops Hemal and I (sitting together) saw three woman, one of them suffering from some case of XYZ were struggling to keep their balance (ST bus drivers as we all know can be sometimes errant while driving). At one point one of the woman almost fell on a fellow passenger, I and Hemal turned towards each other and got up immediately for the ladies to sit :-). They thanked us, and we were lucky enough to find place at the extreme end of the bus where Nerous and Pandey were sitting, they called us immediately and we obliged. After all what goes will always come back to you and believe me its true. In few minutes we reached Mangaon, the conductor was generous enough to tell us that our destination had come. Luckily the rain had again abated (confirmed that God is with us) and it was just drizzling a bit, but the lightning was still profound and still no power. It was really a breathtaking view to see the entire area around us whenever a lightning occurred, for a moment the entire landscape was visible and gone the other moment. In that single moment you can just hold your breath and forget everything but the mesmerizing view of the beautiful landscape and clouds at the extreme end of the horizon with mountains all around. AAAhhhh….

The bus depo quite big, bigger than the Mahad’s one. There were small shops brightened with lanterns and candles, we bought some snacks to eat. Also ate cucumbers laced with black salt, had a distinct taste. It was just five minutes to 7:15 and we were expecting the bus to come soon. Since this was a major bus depo, any bus going by the NH-17 used to stop here for a minute or so. In the hope finding the bus for Harihareshwar we asked many such buses which used to come there but all in vain. Only after 30 more minutes our bus came with destination written as “Baghban” which was actually few kms ahead of “Harihareshwar”. All of us boarded the bus and most of us took a window seat this time, as the bus was completely empty. Harihareshwar was about 65kms from here and according to our plan we would be there in next 2hrs of so. That comes out to be 9:45 or max 10:00PM. No problem for we Mumbai guys as we are used to sleep after 12 or so.
This particular bus was in a far better condition; actually it was a new model from the State Government (seriously!). More cosy and comfortable. Very soon we were out from the town and into some place where we could just see few shimmering lights at some far distance (power might have come back, or may be lanterns). I was sitting beside Hemal at the back of the bus. He was listening to his mp3 (and I sharing one of the earphones) at the window seat and I was ready for a nap. Nerous, sitting left to me was almost snoring. Kunal and Pandey were sitting somewhere in front and doing something, don’t know what!!!. Almost after an hour and half (don’t know why I can’t sleep while traveling) I asked Hemal to ask the conductor as in how much more time for Harihareshwar. Hemal obliged and came with a shocking answer to my query, “more than 2hrs”. OMG, how was that possible. We came to know that Harihareshwar lies at other side of the western ghats, so the bus would be cutting between the mountains to reach that place and we all know that traveling a km on hills is as good as couple of kms on planes. We could actually feel the bus going up and then coming down several times in the night. Hemal and I were actually wondering how anyone can drive on this dangerous stretch that too in that pitch darkness. After half an hour or so when we reached a place called “Srivardhan” for a break, there was some long discussion going on between the driver, conductors and few other people. The power was still missing; all we could see from the window was damp roads and puddles all around. The driver and the conductor boarded the bus again and then started having discussion with the fellow passengers sitting\sleeping in the front rows of the bus. Pandey and Kunal were also involved in the discussion. After a while it came out that a huge tree had fallen on the highway and thus bus won’t be going by that route. Almost a heart attack for us, what the hell was going wrong? Then the good news :-). The tree had fallen just after Harihareshwar, so the bus will be going till that place and will then take another route, how on heaven can we be so lucky!!!

Around midnight we reached our much awaited destination “Harihareshwar” and believe me we all were taken aback when we saw the place (saw means it was pitch dark we could only sea a small one floor hotel and could hear the splashing sound of waves). Just for the convenience of the people who doesn’t now about Harishareshwar, it’s a beach, details coming soon.

I was actually expecting this place to be a town where we would find good hotels and places to shop. Though it was dark, with the only light from the hotel there (that too was running on generator), we saw that it was a forest like place with a small road cutting between the forest, the road that too, hardly 4-5mts wide (it was surprising that our bus came through it, all credits to the errant driver). We entered that small hotel and asked for accommodation and not surprisingly there wasn’t any left. It had just 6 Rooms and all were booked. Still we dint lose hope and continuously bugged the person at the reception to get a room for us, any type will work as we just wanted to rest for the night a matter of 6-7hrs. The hotel guy hesitantly told us that he does have a room with him but not in the hotel, it was little away from it and that too without electricity. We dint care and said YES. But before finalizing we wanted to see how far it was (the hesitant reply from the hotel guy had actually raised some concerns with us), it should not be in the midst of the jungle. So to check out the room Kunal went with one of the hotel guy on a bike. We were waiting at the reception when we heard some chattering from behind. Girls!!! :-). Two of them :-). One wearing mini skirt and top and other wearing boxer kind of dress and yes top too :-). Hmmmmm, finally some thing to cheer about. Cheer wasn’t for long as these two girls were immediately followed by two guys, most probably there BFs. Anyway we were happy that our next morning would be nice for bird watching (they raised our expectations). It was already 10mins since Kunal had left and we were too hungry and sleepy both at once. The hotel’s kitchen was already shut off so other than water we didn’t get anything else. We decided that we will go out and search for some other accommodations, who knows we might get a good one and also some food. Since this place was the end of the road, so we needed to go backwards and we knew that if kunal happens to come we would be able to see him.

Here was the real thrill, four of us in the pitch dark surrounded by jungle and what other things (would be clear only when the sun rises). We saw couple of houses which were still open and running on generators. We also saw a dhaba which was open too. From one of the house which was converted into small hotel we came to know that the owner has got few rooms which can be rented for the night.

As we were heading towards our to be “one night sleep” room we saw glaring light at our faces, which actually turned out to be of the bike on which Kunal had gone to see the other room. Great we said. He got off the bike as soon as he saw us, we told him that we might not be needing that room anymore as we have found one. He was looking the most relieved of the lot present there. Before we could enquire about the place for which he had gone, he promptly told us about the horrendous time he just had. The place where he had gone was actually way down from the place we were standing right now, and then there was a single room house surrounded by huge bushes and only way to reach that house was through those bushes, that too without lights. When he and that person on bike reached there, that guy realized that he forget to bring the keys for the room (so which keys were he carrying, the bike keys I suppose). The bike guy told Kunal to stay there till he gets the key and that was like lightning striking him, no ways!!! he said and ran directly towards the bike. We couldn’t stop laughing thinking of his state. Just joking around for couple of minutes we reached the guest house. It looked fine, better than what kunal had experienced. There were 5-6 rooms and ours was the one at extreme left, rest all were occupied (may be coz of the proximity of that room to the jungle).

So here we go, our resting place for the night. We opened the door and was quite amazed at the sight. It looked more of a classroom (old types in villages). There was a blackboard, some chalks, absolute no furniture except one plastic chair (most probably for the teacher). Then there was carpet laid at the center of the room (for sure it was for the students), the owner had already sent five beddings and pillows (most of them stinking). We didn’t had any options so no one cribbed about the situation. The room was quite big with two fans (non functional), three tubelights (functional) accompanied by spider webs, three switch points (all functional, yuppie…). There were two bathrooms (good news) but due to power outage (yup power hasn’t arrived yet) we had to make use of mobile’s illumination to properly adjust our bums to the Indian style commode and yes how can I forget about our companions inside. One of the bathrooms had couple of shining and glaring 2-3 cms long cockroaches and other one had colorful glittering frog. The frog was really very disciplined (may be he was one of the student), it never panicked at our sight and only used to adjust its position a bit when each one of us took turns to peep into the bathroom to see this beautiful creature.

12:30 in the night and we were really very tired and hungry. For me and Hemal the sleep took over the desire to eat and for rest of them, they went out to search for some food. I soon went into deep slumber and very vaguely remember something happened when the other lot came back.

It was six in the morning, power was back, one of the non functional fan was running at its full speed, all of us under our blanket. It was 6:30 in the morning, none of the fan functioning, four of us under the blanket, Hemal was walking like zombie with brush in his hand. 7:00 in the morning, still none of the fan functioning, three of us under the blanket, Pandey following Hemal’s zombie steps. 7:15, I was out of my blanket, Nereus and Kunal still snoring. By 7:45 each one of us had regained our complete consciousness.

We made sure that we make maximum use of frogless bath room. Nereus was using his wildlife whistling technique to make the frog come out of the bathroom, but to no use. The frog maintained its silence and discipline. Good news was that the non-disciplined cockroaches had left the fort (may be they were night students, prodh-shiksha remember, ya right they were BFs and GFs, one prodh and other shiksha, laugh please ;)). We had planned that by 8:30 we will leave for the Harishreshwar beach after having the breakfast. So here we are, 8:30 on the clock, me coming out of the bathroom, Nerous and Kunal in the queue to enter. Finally we managed to leave by around 9:00.

We opened the door and felt as if we are witnessing the day after a fortnight of so, it was amazing day outside. Heavy clouds, cool light breeze, and amazing greenery. We went to the hotel were we had landed when we reached this place, ya same place where we saw those gals :-). Sitting around a table waiting for our orders to arrive, none of us could stop thinking of the beauty the place held. We could see the sea waves splashing the rocks with its full might. We could see the western ghats bowing to the mighty Arabian sea, the dense forest of the ghats, the fragrance of the fresh air. It had again started drizzling but it only made the view even more glorious. Never in my life had I seen this combination of mountains and sea, together shaking hands with each other. There was hardly any sand which we normally associate with any beach. Instead there were rocky terrain, hills and tall trees. We quickly finished our breakfast and went directly to the beach. It took us about five minutes to reach the point where we could actually see and feel the chill water splashing our feet while standing on the rocks. This point was actually where one of the many hills of the western ghats meets the mighty sea. You could actually feel the purity of that place. It was far cry from the hustle bustle of the city, absolute serene, a perfect place for a philosopher to come by and ponder on the thoughts pertaining to various aspects of life. We took few silent moments and just sat on the rocks looking at that the hypnotic scene in front of us. Last time when I felt this way was a day before, at Raigad fort :-). At around 10:30 we left for another tourist attraction (we saw many people going that way), it was at some altitude. Actually it was the same hill I have been talking about (mighty sea meeting the hill). We followed those folks, and within 10mins or so we reached at the top of the hill, since there were stairs to reach on top, you won’t feel tired and after all just 10mins of walk. From the top the whole view looked so surreal; it felt like as if I am in NewZealand or Argentina for that matter. Lush green grassland, hills, dense jungle, sea, mountains, cool breeze, overcast weather, drizzle (God, can I go back to that moment please). There was something more in store for us when we saw those folks (whom we were following) take a turn then going down somewhere, we followed, God O God, cancel my previous wish this time just drop me little further. There was two wings of that hill, left and right (what else were you thinking), between those huge wings of the hill was a way down, hardly 5mts width and at the end of the path was the sea once again but this was something special. You could actually see the white foamy water at the base of the hill with narrow passage, and then blue color water ahead. We went down, the waves were really strong at this area, oblivion of the danger I went bit ahead to take a close snap of the view at the base, I saw a pretty huge wave coming my side, it hit me and then retreated. Believe me I was really shaken by that wave and it was only coz of the rock ahead of me, the impact was not that furious. My heart was really beating fast at this moment, I remember my dad always used to tell me that never underestimate the power of three thing is life, Fire, Wind and Water(in any form). Anyways I didn’t share this experience with anyone of my friends (coz they had warned me before hand not to go deep). Anyways that was over, we took few snaps at the place and then after kidding around a bit decided to leave, say adieu to this beautiful place a hidden gem indeed. We went back to the base of the hill, there was an old temple there, had a short visit inside and took our stuff from the hotel, the frog had broken his discipline by this time and was absconding. We handed the keys, thanked the person for arranging for the place in mid of the night and LEFT FOR MUMBAI.