Red Earth

At the market place At the market place

You will be attracted if the blurbs read: “Only hill station in India – No traffic”

I had to check this out for myself.

At 2500’ in the Sahyadris, Matheran – literally ‘forest on the top’  – is 110 kms from Mumbai. You could reach it by rail or road but all vehicular traffic must halt at Dasturi. Pay an entry fee here before going ahead by shuttle, on horseback, Ghora Gaadi or foot.

(A shared taxi from Neral the nearest railhead to Dasturi takes 25 minutes / Rs 70 per passenger

Traffic free Matheran Traffic free Matheran

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The 2 hour ride on the narrow gauge track from Neral to Matheran is not, at any cost to be missed. The engine huffs & hoots at every scenic bend & turn, cheered on by monkeys snatching at food while, a lone guard flags the  way.

Train timings vary according to season with services shutting down altogether during the monsoon. There is a general bogie with 124 seats/ Rs 65 & 2 first class bogies (6 seaters each/ Rs 265)

Matheran is a sleepy town where one wakes up to the sound of hoofs on red sand & stone paths. It is essentially a place for quiet walks & hikes. Of solitude, golden sunrise & purple sunset. Any wonder that it attracts so many honeymooners. Snatches of old Hindi film songs fill the air – “begaani shaadi mein Abdullah deewaana…..”  Even this is soft & mindful. Not blaring.  Like the place with its pretty colonial cottages. Shops open early & shut late.  Most sell forest honey, chikki & leather goods.

 

But

( with due apologies )

There is nowhere to go

When the sun goes down

In this one horse town.

 I go a lookin’

No restaurant,

pub or bar to be found.

In this mean ole town!

Chess Field at Lords Chess Field at Lords

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Lords hotel, owned by a charming Parsi family has an old world aura & ambience. The food here is good but it is for in – house guests alone. The best view of tabletop Matheran is also from here.

Walking to Charlotte Lake I suddenly hear a strange unfamiliar sound & turn around to see a car. Whatever happened to the ‘no traffic’ rule?  I accost the driver in my best aam aadmi style & am relieved to find it is an ambulance – the only one here – not some Bloated Ego bending the law.

Be Aware  It is one among many of those suddenly multiplying places that have an unwritten code against accommodation to Singles

However, as every well heeled traveller  learns _ there is always a way.

Bandra by Night

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Bandra Worli sea link

Bombay, a city of dreams must see over a billion footfalls a minute, with every mode of transport jostling for space. How nice then – in the dead of night – to be able to take a quiet walk through the cobbled streets of its most famous suburb, Bandra. With film star mansions atop Pali hill, on to Carter road promenade via the 400 year old fishing village of Chimbai, Hill road & Bandstand. The promenade at lands end that boasts, the Salman – Shahrukh Khan mansions at either end with the best of Bollywood thrown between. Groups of people keep constant vigil outside the Khan homes hoping for a glimpse of their favorite star. Who knows when they may get lucky & see Salman rip off his shirt & display a Fab Ab

This is Bandra, in all its wild colors, as the graffiti boldly proclaims. Once a tiny fishing village it is full of restaurants, pubs, bars & high-end stores.

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Outside Mount Mary Church

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Sandra from Bandra

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old homes

old homes

christian neighbourhoods

christian neighborhoods Chimbai village

A walk through the narrow by lanes is a joy & a must. It has many quaint & charming bungalows with tiled roofs, verandah & porch. Most of these are over a hundred years old & belong to the Catholic East Indian community. Bandra was indeed a Catholic suburb not very long ago. There is Mount Mary’s basilica, several churches & schools & over 100 -200 crosses & candle lit grottos at various inter sections of the road. But the skyline is slowly changing because of the land sharks buying up property for high rises.

The opening of the 8 lane Bandra – Worli sea link has contributed to escalating property prices. It is however both, a beauty & Bombay’s’ pride. Zipping through it past midnight can be a fun filled experience.

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Every Mumbaikar to my mind appears to be living a fantasy filled existence. Ask a simple question & get ready for a captivating narrative.

I called up the plumber to find out why he hadn’t come to work. “ I am under tension “ he informs, “ I cannot come today “

The next day he was busy doing a round of the temples. “ Right now I am at Siddhivinayak…. so you can imagine…”

His neighbor had committed suicide by hanging, on the third day. “ Therefore, we are all at the funeral & cannot say when we will be free”

Namaste

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Room with a view

India exists in several centuries simultaneously. These 2 pictures epitomize the stark reality. They were both clicked in the very heart of urban India. Not in some remote, dusty outback as one might imagine

The first belongs to Mumbai, the commercial hub of the country. Standing on my balcony & sipping a morning cup of tea this is what I espied – an elephant go majestically by.

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Rush hour traffic

Dashing to work, in the national capital Delhi, and what have you? A traffic jam revolving around a pachyderm, camel, bus & a car.  All merrily blocking the way.

This is co existence.

Laugh as you may, it is also beauty in chaos. Hardly to be noticed or commented upon. An everyday thing that we take in our stride.