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
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
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
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
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
I am such a sentimental fool…