Friday, November 26, 2010

Twilight- Once upon a time in Mumbai

So...a couple of years back I guess... it was one more of the pre monsoon evenings in Mumbai... e, e's wife Vibha and their friend Chetu took me to watch this play in Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai.

To those of you who are unfamiliar with the place, the theatre is absolutely vibrant... colourful...bright... young people all around... a nice canteen and a fragrance in the air- actually a mixture of different frangrances...

We entered the theatre premises, some 2 minutes before the start of the play that we had gone to attend... there is this tree as you enter- on the right... and there you had a lot of youngsters talking to themselves...amongst themselves... and there was an old man... dressed in white...kurta-pyjama... seated there, alone and staring at nothing in particular... I could notice, even from a distance, he would have been strikingly handsome in his times...

The four of us rushed to join the queue that would take us inside... I glanced again at the old man- I'd seen him somewhere...It was Shashi Kapoor...

I would have wanted to walk up to him and tell him that I loved Deewar and Kabhi Kabhi... and that Kalyug happens to be one of the most under rated films in India and that I loved him in it...

As I stepped into the theatre for the show, was wondering had this been 20 years back, people would have mobbed him... today he was sitting there alone. The vagaries of life...

The song from his jab jab phool khile played in mind- Kabhi pahle dekha nahi ye samaan, ye maen bhool se aa gaya hun kahaan...yahaan maen ajnabee hun...maen jo hun, bus vohi hun... yahaan maen ajnabee hun..

Post Script- I walked to the place where he was seated, during the interval. He'd left by then.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sanjay Van- The Jangal Odyssey

The most ancient reference to Delhi, they say, is about this forested area called Khandavaprastha, which, with the help of Lord Sri Krishna, the Pandavas converted into the coveted city of Indraprastha. According to the legends, this ancient city is very close to or perhaps contained in today's Delhi.

As a believer, my belief is aligned to this legend. The shrubbed vegetation inside the ridge and the wild growth of plants and trees in the mini forests in the city have often made me feel that this is what the Khandavaprastha of Pandavas would have been like.

So, when four of us (Pank.., Doctor, Doceee and me) decided to go on an unguided trip into Sanjay Van (also known as the Kishangarh forest), it was more than just an adventure for me. It was also a trip into history and hmm....dare I say mythology as well.

It has been over 3 years since I last went into this place. Given its huge extent (626 hectares) , chances were that I would still go to places inside that I had never been to.

We parked outside IIFT in Qutb Institutional Area, had our parathas in the dhaba next to Laxman da Dhaba...bought a bottle of water...and walked in through the entrance diagonally opposite to IIFT.

We walked into find the walking area with signs of “This Way”... Well, this was meant to be an adventure trip. So we walked the other way into the vegetation struggling past creepers and thorny plants, ant hills and spider webs. The chirping of birds and the rattling of insects was constant and provided, perhaps the best background score.

Our first “sight” of the day was the erstwhile canal that flows through this forest. This canal is now no more than a long drain, the water here borders dark grey and black. Michael Jackson’s words from ‘Earth Song’- “...what have we done to the world, look what we’ve done...” played on in my mind. Years back, this would have been the source of drinking water for the living beings here- today it flows there in stink and as a sight of repulsion.

We trudged along and to our disappointment, every now and then, we would spot the walking pathway (that would reduce the degree of adventure). Our next “sight” inside the forest was a non-descript structure that was conspicuous despite the shrubs and its own small size. As we walked towards it, a large group of peahens, sensing danger from us flew to safety in the trees causing a huge fluttering noise. We walked to the well only to realize that it was real deep. We could not see the bottom of the well, throwing stones into it only could make us know that there was some metallic mesh somewhere deep down below.

One could see peahen feathers around and there was one, lying some 2-3 feet away from the mouth of the well. An endearing scene was the almost 6 foot tall Pank.. using his height to good effect to pick the feather and give it to Doceee who seemed really excited at seeing the feather. Pank.. has always been chivalrous.

We walked along...amongst the trees and the plants, spotting the odd peacock/ peahen, some amazing butterflies, more ant hills and chirpy birds...sometimes on the pathway and sometimes through the vegetation.

The next pit stop was this mini hill, maybe, an excessively oversized rock. Even as I was clicking photographs of this, Pank.. and Doctor had already started their climb. Doceee followed them up the mini hill. Armed with multiple ligament tears in both my feet and some really awkward hill climbing skills I climbed up too.

These modified lines from Aby Baby were playing in my mind as I was climbing- “Eer kahe chalo pahaad chad aayin, Beer kahe chalo pahaad chad aayin...Patte kahe chalo pahaad chad aayin... Aur hum... gir-gur gaye”

Thankfully, I did not fall and my camera was not hurt during the climb :-)

The view from atop the hillock was amazing, the 360 degree view revealing nothing but the greens and some odd buildings at a distance. This would be a perfect spot to be to enjoy the Delhi monsoons- only climbing there would be a challenge.

We sat there... clicked a few snaps... pulled some legs and then climbed down, which surprisingly and sadly wasn’t much of an adventure.

We walked further into the forest, and there on a higher plan stood a mini-fort like structure. I call it that because all that remains are walls- structurally similar to those that you would find in monuments built around the 10th and 12th century. There was also this Dargah, right in between two distinct elevated wall like structures- almost as if nested in a valley.

The best sight of the day was a distant view of Qutb Minar from atop one of the walls. We sat and stretched there and decided it was time to head back to civilization. We walked past the Dargah, the area around smelt very sweet. I stood there outside the Dargah, praying to the saint whose name I did not know. All that I know is that this place in particular was peaceful and very pleasant.

We walked back along the pathway not knowing the direction back, just following the pathway. We eventually exited at the place outside the road which connects Aurobindo marg and Qutb Minar, adjacent to the Qutb Golf Course.

This post and the expedition of close to 3-4 hours are dedicated to my friends Pank.., Doceee and Doctor.

I think I will have a day long trip to this place in January... Joining me????

Additional Trivia:

1) Carry as much water as you can. Carry some things to munch too. There is nothing inside.

2) Go in a group of at least 4 people. You hardly sight human beings inside.

3) You can easily spend an entire day inside and still feel you’ve hardly seen anything of the place. Make sure you watch the sunrise or the sunset.

4) Wear clothes that cover up to your ankle, full sleeves and walking/ trekking shoes.

5) Go there only if you enjoy the feeling of being lost and do not go with expectations to see great sights. There is a lot of nature and some sights some of us will like.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting Ready

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving!!” Guess these are words of Lao Tsu.

So... where did it start?

Was it this that I was brought up in the most picturesque place on earth?

I was brought up in God’s own country and spent my first two years in Aranmula. Guess, it can’t get more beautiful than that. I think being able to appreciate the beauty of creations started there- it certainly must have started there.

Was it in the genes?

The earliest conversations I remember having had with Appa had elements of travelling and his having stayed in different places in the country. That he had a transferable job and we moved every 3 years made it more prominent. Amongst other things in life, rather, most things in life, he taught me to communicate with nature. He continues to do that...

Was it my own restlessness?

My friend once told me that and I have “Never Settle” in common. I simply cannot stay put in a place- literally and metaphorically. That is the etymology for my pseudonym Musafir. There is an inherent need to move on. Now, couple that with this that I am incorrigibly emotional (some call me Kilomental) and I struggle to let go. Deadly combo na...

They say that when you really really really want something to happen, the entire universe conspires to get you “that”.

Well, I always wanted a job where I could travel around. And somebody up above the world so high said, “Tathaastu” or “So be it”. By the time I was 26, I had travelled to 24 of the 28 Indian states and once to the middle east. I loved bragging about this until the day I met the guy, who at 18 had travelled across the 7 continents.
Let me take you to an incident that happened 8 years back. In the days when walking 15 kilometres in the day was effortless to me, I was struggling to take one step more after just 15 minutes of the trek up to Kedarnath. And then this elderly gentleman walks up to me, smiles and tells me, “You respect the mountains...and the mountain shall respect you.”

That message has remained with me ever since. Rather, I have tried to internalize it. The creator has been very generous with his creations. Let me share with you, through the entries on this blog, my experiences with some of His/ Her creations.

I shall try and make this trip enjoyable... Have fun :-)

As I sign off, these lines from a song play on in my mind, for more reasons than one- “Ek raah ruk gayi, toh aur jud gayee... Main muda toh saath saath raah mud gayee... Hawa ke paron par mera aashiaana”