Friday, February 02, 2007

SOJOURN - PUNE


Five years after the wish was first fostered, it finally materialized last weekend. Someone has said that the most fun trips are those which are planned on the spur of the moment – impromptu. And I wholeheartedly support that someone’s view. The trip to Pune was conceptualized in such a situation.


Owing to Republic day, a long weekend lays ahead. Initially, I do not have any concrete plans. Then on Wednesday, my good friend Pooja, from Allen mails me about possible plans to trip it out in Pune. We were at school together & its been years since we met or spoke. A golden opportunity to re-kindle old memories? You bet! The problem, of course, is the availability of any form of transport to Pune. Considering the much awaited 3-day break, almost everybody was moving in and out of Bangalore, which meant all buses, flights and trains were already overflowing beyond capacity (and this is probably the only disadvantage of planning late). I try some sources but to no avail. A tout at the Govt. bus service claims he can manage to get me a ticket if I pay him a bit extra. He never calls back (he didn’t take the money either). I call a travel agent and he assures me that he can use his sources to get me a train ticket. This all happens on Thursday, a day before the intended travel. Frantic calls follow over the next 24 hours as I see no signs of an assured travel ticket. The time to depart closes in & there is still no sign of me getting onto that train. I’m desperate enough to attempt a bike ride of 835 kms (!!!!) if this doesn’t work out. Pooja is freaking out at the other end from Ahmedabad because we were supposed to take the trip together. I am already having palpitations!!!!


And then, half an hour before my departure, the agent mysteriously re-appears (after the verbal lashings we had between each other over the phone) – the ticket delivered, the money received, we depart with smiles (and relief). The hours fly by. I entertain myself with this paranoid Marathi family who are trying to shield their daughter from what they suppose are my prying eyes(!!!) So everytime I look in their direction and speak, they keep telling her to move out of my sight or cover herself up. So amusing! Pity I couldn’t laugh out loud. There were also cheap thrills of checking out girls my age on the reservation chart (Now don’t get me wrong – I am not a chick-freak. This is just something me & my pals used to do a long time ago when we’d travel home together by train. It was more for the sake of nostalgia than for thrills). I finally get that call from Pooja I’m waiting for, and I store a few numbers.


I reach Pune by early evening the next day. The initial impression of Pune is sorta depressing. Crowded, hot, dry, and very, very dusty. The first people who I talk to aren’t very friendly and I wonder if the sense of Mumbai has somehow perverted Pune too. A call later, I am a bit disoriented. Pooja’s friend’s mum has offered both of us accommodation in her house, instead of looking all over for guest houses/hotels. The only problem is, the house at that time has 5females, (which is very, very awkward for me, no matter how brave I might try to sound ;) 4 of them are going for a movie, so I meet them at the theatre, straight from the station, luggage and all. A gap of many years does tend to put initial barriers and some strain, and Pooja & me find it difficult to get a decent conversation going in spite of us having been good pals in school and she having been in Bangalore for a few years as well.
To get rid of the cobwebs, we call up Gaurav, another Allenite residing currently in Pune. 3 heads are better than one, and the conversation flowed a bit more smoothly, if not without minor bumps. That same evening, we also meet up with Pushkar and Rahul, our juniors in school. It is a heartwarming re-union, most of us meeting after 6 long years!

Rahul & Pushkar offer to take us around to Panchet and Khadakwasla the next day. It is a long bike ride to a picturesque lake, replete with paddle boats and power boats (Rahul and me let Poo & Pushkar be the bakra and paddle the boat (trust me, it’s a lot of effort) The motor boat ride is fun – the manner in which the boat swerved and swung, I was so certain we were gonna go overboard (and I have Hydrophobia since the Goa incident a year ago). Some pakodas and bajjis later, we head back. But of course, why come so far when you can’t get into the water? On our way to Panchet, we had seen a good enough spot. It being running water, we assume it to be clean and dive in! Hydrophobia set in again, and it is not until I have gauged the depth of the stream with a loooooong stick that I venture in without fear. The coolness of the water refreshes mind and soul, and gives respite to weary bodies. That evening takes us to Lush, one of the supposedly happening places in Pune. Some friends from Dhanbad, my home town, currently residing in Pune join us. It being a weekend, the crowd is overwhelming, and the capacity – buckles under its own weight. By 11pm the place is so packed that one cannot dance anymore, only shuffle, get pushed and shoved around. I still have my fun, coz I refuse to let this get me down. We dance the night away and get home pretty late – aunty is already asleep and it seemed a shame to wake her up, but we have no choice.

Sunday takes us to Infosys, Gaurav’s work campus, miles away from the city. We hire a bike and boy, did it come handy! The Infy campus was huge, lush, with all amenities and incentives present on campus. The main office area looks like a massive space ship, or a techno-formulated egg. The food courts resembles those found at International airports – massive and all gleaming metal (too artificial for my taste). But overall, the amenities available at the place were impressive. Back in Pune, I meet up with friends from Mumbai. Winna travels all the way to see me which was very sweet of her. However, time constraint assures that we are unable to spend much time together and in a few hours it’s time for them to leave. We are still on MG road when this cute li’l kid comes up to Pooja and relates an amazingly elaborate story about himself & goads her into buying, or at least partly funding a shoe box so that he can generate better earnings. This “little squirt”, as she called him looked to me like another one of those kids with stories to fool people. And although Pooja doesn’t fall for it, she gives him a handsome amount nevertheless – just for trying and being so darned cute!

Dinner time and we are at Soul, ABC farms with Gaurav & Ankita. The place is overflowing with foreigners and smooth, mellifluous music by a live band pervades the atmosphere (too bad they don’t have them much in Bangalore anymore). A quick trip to the station is followed by desperate attempts to find our way home – there are hardly any auto drivers, let alone common populace to help us out at 1 in the morning. We finally get home, wake up aunty yet again, and if aunty's looks were daggers, I think I died that night ;)


A fitful sleep of 4 hours is what clouds my mind next morning – we are going to Lonavala, and early mornings are the best time to leave via local train. The fatigue & daze of last night makes it impossible to catch the local on time and we are forced to take the express general bogie. The experience is hellish for my companions, but I’ve had much worse in the Mumbai local, so this is chickenfeed, to say the least. An hour’s journey puts us in the awesome weather of Lonavala. The short trek to Lonavala caves is invigorating.
The caves were built by Asoka after he embraced Buddhism. The caves are segregated into many small chambers which look like mini-bedrooms (for the sages perhaps?) and is said to have been carved out of a single stone. On the face of it, the caves looked incomplete, as if the construction had ceased for some reason and never taken up again. They have been branded as a protected monument by the Archeological Society of India, but unfortunately no information was provided regarding the monument. What I have related so far was told by a local.


There is a long stretch of Fort wall on the adjoining hill, said to be one of Shivaji’s many forts. Lack of time & estimated long distance prevents our sojourn to these majestic heights. Next up is the Tata Dam. As in Panchet, we are expecting a place to take a dip but we are utterly disappointed with the lack of a common place, and the utter lack of manners on the part of the dam guards. We leave in a huff, chaffed and unsatisfied. A much emptier local train carries us back to Pune, where we spend the evening relaxing and preparing for the last day of our trip.


The morning is to be spent at the Osho resort, which offers a video viewing of the resort’s facilities, and a 15minute “silent” walk through the compounds of the resort. It having given refuge to so many foreigners, they are adamant on following strict time-tables, very much like western countries, and a delay of 5 minutes costs us our silent walk. Walk we do, and silently, but away from the resort.
The video session, however, is impressive. It provides a virtual tour of the resort & the facilities available inside. The resort is mainly known for its lush green gardens & parks, and for its world renowned meditation centre, with a difference. You see, this place is unlike traditional meditation centres – it inculcates all forms of enjoyment & self-indulgence as well. Parties and the like are held often and the resort boasts of food courts & a discotheque as well! No wonder its called Osho park and not Osho Ashram, because that it isn’t. But then Osho was loved by some & critiqued by many for his brand of spirituality – his belief that spirituality & materialistic pleasures can well be bedfellows, if channeled in the right manner. Commercialisation? Could be.

We have breakfast at the famous German Bakery, close to the resort – this place too, is flooded with foreigners and serves a lot of mouth watering bakery products. Greed is bad, and I stuff myself beyond my capacity!


Having over 5 hours to kill, we roam around aimlessly on the bike till we enter the old city. The Old City is akin to all old cities over the world – dirty, crowded, unplanned and haphazard roads, plenty of one-ways and shops offering amazing discounts. Shopping is definitely not on the agenda, and we visit Dr. Kelkar’s museum on the culture of Maharashtra,
and also the Fort at Shaniwarpet. An amusing fact about the old city is that it has seven distinct areas designated by the days of the week. So you have Somwarpet, Ravivarpet, Budhwarpet and so on. Lunch is relished at Marjorin, a restaurant with colonial overtones on its architecture. Throughout the entire bike trip, I have unconsciously broken a 1000 traffic rules, jumped traffic signals one too many. It catches up with me when I inadvertently venture into a one-way and end up paying a fine for it.


Time to leave, and just when Pooja and me are finally warming
up to each other… Goodbyes are always depressing, and I hate long goodbyes. I get back home with Osho chappals and a heavy heart. The flesh is back in Bangalore but the mind lingers on in Pune.


I am such a sentimental fool…

22 comments:

  1. lucky you! advantages of staying alone?
    hey! i thought you were on retreat...what happened to serious studies?

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  2. Hello Meiyang
    I am Nisha from Mauritius, but currently studying in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
    I have seen you on Indian Idol 3. I have actually come across your blog through someone who posted it on the www.india-forums.com website. I am pasting the threads below for you to check out that u have got a set of fans already.

    http://india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=625816

    http://india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=625031

    Well, I guess that I am not the only one who is your fan. I must say when I heard you sing the first time, I was dumbfounded. The judges were so right. You do sing very honestly and your voice just touches the heart and soul.
    I had to rewind and relisten to your song over and over again.

    I wish all the very best in Indian Idol 3 and I hope that you come out in the very top. My sincere wishes to you.

    It might get hard and tough at some point. Just keep strong and keep faith. Believe in yourself and sing as if you are singing to reach out to every heart of the people who is listening to you.

    Ok enough of my literature. best of luck Meiyang!

    I would not expect you to email me back but it would be nice to receive an email from you if you get time to do it.


    From Your Number 1 Fan,
    Nisha.
    n_nisha1@hotmail.com

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  3. man u r the best....you are my favourite..i pray that you win the Indian Idol

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  4. hi i like ur blog good work meiyangji

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  5. Hey CHang .. I am a hugeee fan of yours after watching you on Indian Idol. I have been rooting for you since day 1. I am not in India but here is US, so cant really vote for you, but blackmailing my dad to do so :) Something tells me that you will do great in this competition. Now that I have come across your blog, I know that you are a great person too. BTW, I was living alone in Pune for 4 years and it was the bestest place I have ever stayed in. I still miss the place so much.

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  6. awesome aticle!i got so engrossed reading it that I missed out on indian idol. wonder how such a shy person as u would love to flirt!Anyway best of luck for indian idol.

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  7. hi..nice to read
    keep writing...

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  8. salam

    read ur opinion abt muslims
    ............... bt God bless u anyway

    take care

    Allah hafiz
    Allah ki rehmat ho!

    waleed

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  9. Hey dude!
    I liked ur blog.. just random reading.. but yah surely u've given me a number of places i can visit in pune when am there.
    While going thru ur blog i came across that u hired a bike in pune. can u please tell me the place where u hired it from and also if u have this person's contact no.
    u can email me at rishikumar.12@gmail.com

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  10. u are.....hmmm jus so amazing!
    luv d depth in ur writing....jus perfectly blended....
    keep ur wid ur singing sketching n fcos writing excellent stuff like d 1 uv written...

    luv
    cheryl :)

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  11. All the best for Indian Idol Meiyang. Im voting for you!!

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  12. I am so impressed by your writing...I want to keep reading...You are very good at everything you do...specially your singing and writing...I love your voice...

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  13. I know that if i write here I m expected to comment on ur writing but i couldnt think of any other means of conveying my message to you but this.yes i could do it on sify but i dont why i didnt feel like it and i know what i m going to say will probably be quite insignificant compared to all the love and prayers you've got from all the people for last couple of months.but i will say it anyway..Chang you really have been amazing and its hard to think of the show without you.infact i think i only watched coz of you.all i want to say that you are blessed because not all of us are priviledged to be loved by so many so faithfully.you are a true star to many of us and trust me uyou've inspired me a LOT..sounds a lil cheesy but trust me i am not lying.
    You are Fantabulous!! and i hope that you shine like a star that you already are(i m quoting my friend here because i m horrible wth my words =p)
    LOTS and Lots of love
    Shusmita

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  14. hi chang,
    i wud agree wid u to say unplanned trips are always the ones which never tend to leave our memories...and there is a fun element adding to it when u have a kinda surprised reunion...........
    .......back are those memories of friends with whom we spent days of joy,fun,laughter,nightouts,picnics & ofcourse not to forget the most important moments when they were wid us sharing our sorrow..giving a tear of their's and wiping one tear of our's.......
    these wud never erase from heart....only leave us with a few more emotional moments and a heavy heart
    we yet again remember some really sweet memories of old times
    ...................lakshmi swain

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  15. Cool..Chang..you rock in everything..reminded me my days in Pune and my school days.Miss India too much.

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  16. hey ...u extremely well...especially the choice of the words is awsome...beautiful....cool!!! waiting for ur next experience....
    BOL

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  17. Well Your Indian Idol status not withstanding, ur blog makes you soo all the more endearing!!
    a great read!( though i guess its not been upadted given where you've been!!!) , keen to read more ...you're begining to read llike mark twain to me!!

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  18. hey Meiyang... whatsup dude... I really like your blog, I mean the way you express you words are real nice bro.


    add me in msn dude, would be nice to talk to you

    anish_vince@hotmail.com

    cheers,
    Anish

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  19. Ohio Chang,

    Ohio is goodmorning in chinese(i guess ..:)

    I am an ardent fan of yours(feels wierd in writing this as i never wrote such messages ever in life) and have read almost all your posts in this blog after i started watching u in Indial idol....not bad ...u seem to be a good human..:)

    Good man....Keep up the spirit.If with out training u achieved these heights, then u can do wonders if u get some training.

    Good luck in all ur endeavours....and come back with a bang..:)



    -Misstyq ..:)

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  20. I been patiently waiting for your insights on indian idol- i hope you were keeping a journal; although I know you will find tons of pictures and video's to document your journey. It is sad but true, my friend the mind of viewers is quite fickle and ever forgeting, one must always strive to be in the direct line of fire to me remembered!!! so do what it takes and don't let this launch get fizzled away.

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  21. Chang-O!
    May I say that you look positively edible in these pics?!! Yumm-O!
    On an aside- don't get me wrong here. Just my way of expressing what a cutie you are!

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  22. Hi!!
    Came across your blog when I was looking for some treks in Lonavala.
    I might come to Lonavala from hyderabad or goa (not decided yet) and thought I should check out this place. I guess I will arrive at Lonavala by 11 am and am looking to take a train from Mumbai on the same night to somewhere north, most probably udaipur... Could you help me out here by giving me some suggestions?
    Thanks in advance...

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