Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The trip (Phase-II Pune-Shirdi)

First part of this travelogue can be read at "trip-phase-i-bangalore-belgaum"

Early morning we reached Pune from Belgaum. I and Mukul realized, much to our consternation, there is no limit to being hospitable. Mani's Sister and brother came to pick us up from the bus stop. They themselves had reached Pune at around 3 am after teh marriage ceremony and now at 6 they are there to pick us up.

Uncle and Aunty (Mani's former landlords) boarded the Car and we took a rickshaw. We took the rickshaw directly to Mani's old family house. Uncle-Aunty would join us later. They had gone to Mani's other house. Here we freshened up and went downstairs. Hrishkesh (Pahadiram) was waiting along with his cousin 'Anirudha'. Hrishikesh had skipped Mani's reception party at Belgaum and had started from Belgaum early evening. So he had reached Pune almost 12 hours before us.

Anirudha is an architect by profession and for the rest of the day he and Hrishikesh were our guides and companions exploring Pune. It was there presence that made this leg of our trip more enjoyable. Just imagine I and Mukul roaming around Pune, the thought itself makes the plan so boring.

We boarded their Bikes and started for Sinhagadh. Ages ago in class 6 or 7 I had read about this fort of Shivaji. The name of the fort is in honour of Tanaji Malusare whose bravery and heroics fetched him the epithet of a Lion. He laid down his life in the battle famously known as the battle of Sinhagadh. I think I will try to blog that story some day. Our textbook noted that Shivaji on hearing the recapture of the fort at the cost of Tanaji's life uttered "Gadh aaya par Sinha gaya". In Marathi it is ""Gad ala pan Sinha gela".

On way to the fort we passed Khadakwasla. It's NDA area. Midway Hrishi's bike played tantrums. So Hrishi did a double ferry. First he dropped Mukul and me to the fort's doorstep and then went back to get Anirudha standing near the broken bike 8 kilometers down hill.

Once we reached the summit, we had refreshing butter-milk. The fort is in a very dilapidated condition; another pointer to our scant regard for history. Though Hrishi said the ASI is trying to beautify the place.

The view of Pune city was beautiful from atop the fort. Torana fort -another of Shivaji's forts- is also visible from Sinhagad. Though it being a peak summer season the place had a dreary dry look.

The highpoint of a visit to Sinhagad is the famous sweet water tank-the water so chilled, it can give you a shiver anytime of the year. In addition the curd vendors with their fresh and yummy yogurt stock , buttermilk, onion pakoda (Kaanda bhaaji) and Jzoonka-baakri (I am yet to come to term with the actual pronunciation). We tried all these things and can vouch for their taste and safety. Well I can do that because I have an ultra sensitive stomach and if I do not fall ill, the food is definitely good.

At peak sun we sat under a tree to finish the lunch and after recharging our internal batteries started for the journey downhill. On the way we had neera (date tree sap). Around 3pm we reached Hrishi's house and passed the high noon there. Incidentally his mamaji had sent Alphonso mangoes that day only. We tested those too. By five pm we reached our lodging place, picked our luggages to start onwards journey to Shirdi.

Lest I forget, we had in the meanwhile received numerous calls from Mani's sister urging us to visit their house. But we could not make it there. And anyway Mani had not reached Pune yet, so we decided, better next time.

At the bus stand we purchased tickets to Shirdi. The bus was at 6:45pm. We had an hour or so to explore the bus stand. We fooled around the place, purchased some snacks and came back to the bus depot. After sometime a dilapidated bus came to the Shirdi platform. We took our seats and tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.

Shirdi phase of the trip in here.

The trip (Phase-I Bangalore-Belgaum)

थोडी देर तो हो गयी। पर देर आए दुरुस्त आए।

I am bit late. A little bit only. Agreed that it is not by minutes...not even by hours or even days...only three or four months. But I really believe that it's better late than never (sorry for the cliché). But i am sure you will forgive me. After all I am solely relying on your benevolence to overlook this fault of mine.

So let me cut all this crap and directly jump to the real story or rather the travelogue.

During Feb-March Manish, better known as Mani, had informally extended an invitation to me and the lukhha gang to attend his marriage ceremony. A kind soul that he is, he had chalked out a tentative itinerary too, what with all the paraphernalia associated with a trip...what to see, what to do and the biggest of all, the mode of travel during the entire trip.

The moment I saw the invitation I knew I was going. And I found in Mukul and Sourabh the guys who shared my thoughts. Since May day holiday was around that period we wanted to make proper use of the holiday to cover Pune, Nashik, Shirdi as well during the extended weekend. The preparations began is right earnest. First and foremost, how and where? Well I do not consider myself a meticulous planner but try we must. After all a good trip depends on good planning. The execution rests on Gods will. And I did try to have a good plan ready.

The first and compulsory start point was Belgaum. After all we were going to attend Mani's marriage. But with due apologies to dear Mani, by the end of the trip the catalyst (the marriage ceremony) became the shortest event in the travelogue. An ideal catalyst...what say?

Before buying the tickets we decided on a tentative schedule. Mukul had already purchased the ticket along with Boss. So I and Sourabh also decided to buy our own ASAP. I left it to Sourabh to make the purchase And what a 'purchase' that was. Well, on hind site I should be thankful that he did not buy a AC First Class ticket. It was decided that except for the return ticket all else will be purchased in-situ i.e at the time of journey.

Now we started planning for the trip. Sourabh wanted to minimize the travel, specially bus journeys. We also wanted to optimally utilize our time. Keeping all this in mind we arrived at the itinerary as captured in the pic.

Although the itinerary looks hectic but we had tried to keep the journeys only during the night. We wanted the most comfortable journey for us in general and Sourabh in particular.

Day Start Time(hrs) Src Dest
30-04-2008 2100 Belgaum Pune
01-05-2008-Pune Halt
01-05-20082000Pune Shirdi
02-05-2008 1400ShirdiNasik
Nasik halt
03-05-2008 0700
03-05-2008 1100
03-05-2008 2000

Amidst lots of hungama finally the day of journey arrived. I reached office all excited. After all this is going to be my first ever outing with friends. But I had no idea what awaited me in the office.

Sourabh called me and with a grim face gave me the grimmer news that he will not be able to accompany us for the trip. Suddenly I went blank, all the planing, the ruckus, the excitement coming to naught, and for no fault of mine. Let me explain to you the reason behind my distress. As you may be aware IRCTC has (actually had) a rule regarding e-tickets. The primary ticket holder (whose ID is given during the reservation), if he cancels his ticket, the whole ticket stands canceled. And in this case Sourabh was the primary ticket holder.

I was aghast. Is it a joke or God is playing a game? But if it is a game then I am equally game for it. No point being angry; solution was needed and fast. But thankfully I was not the only one going through this predicament. Another group was in a similar dilemma (and I added to it...if not part of the solution part of the problem atleast etc. etc.). The only option I could see was a bus ticket. If it's gonna be a bus journey then be it. Any way Hrishi (aka Pahadiram) was going by bus only. But before reaching any decision I had to make a call. Rajani was up to it. She called Railway enquiry just to make sure... and, maybe seeing my determination, IR in the meanwhile had changed their rule. What a relief, a relief equaled only by the...well forget it. I immediately changed the ticket and got a new e-ticket.

How much work was accomplished that day...well do I need to tell that?

In the evening I started early from office, reached room, and started for the station. Black clouds were gathering in the horizon, the sky was gettign darker by the minute. And by the time I reached the bus stand it started drizzling. Kiran Lokhande (aka Loku) was waiting for me there. We took an auto-rick and started for the station. Negotiating the rain and a break down of the rickshaw finally we reached the station. But other group was conspicuous by its absence. And with 10 minutes for the train to start they arrived all huffing and puffing. We boarded the train and the journey began. After some light refreshment we sat down to gather some breath, and in the process left other passengers breathless, and all angry.

Till one am we continued our Antakshari, dumb charade and what not. Everybody contributed.
Finally all exhausted we moved to our respective berths. I went to 3-Tier along with Navdeep (aka Bhola) and Ram . If you remember, I had a booking in 2-tier AC, but I being a thorough gentleman exchanged my berth with a lady in the gang. Now I don't exactly remember who was it.

The train reached Belgaum on time. Nothing else worth narrating happened during the journey except for the display of "holier than thou" attitude of TTE, who asked us not to play Go-card. Pahadiram was there along with Mani's would be brother-in-law to receive us. We started for the venue in right earnest. There we had our breakfast.

The weather in Belgaum was pleasant, much like Bangalore. The place still holds that rustic feeling that is all lost in Bangalore, more like a bud that is all set to bloom into a flower but is still thinking if it really wants that.

The accommodation was in a government guest house. It was almost 9 in the morning when we reached there. The guys moved to one big dorm type room and the mademoiselles moved to adjacent room. We leisurely freshened up and then dressed up. Then another half an hour was spent for photo session. It was time for us to start for the venue. We got up from the self induced torpor to start, no not for the venue--far from it- but to wait for the Mlles' to come out of their room. After waiting for what seemed eternity they finally came out. Looking at them we realized that we are here to attend a marriage ceremony. I won't spend any time or effort describing it.

It was getting hot outside so the eves boarded an auto-rickshaw. We walked. The wedding hall was wonderfully decorated. Mani was all decked up in traditional attire eagerly waiting for his bride to enter the venue and consequently his life.

I made sure I did not miss anything going on in the Vivah Mandap. After around an hour or so we moved towards lunch tables. Special attention was bestowed on us...after all "हम बाराती जो ठहरे"।
Soumen had his almost one years quota of sweet (jalebi) served on his plate.

After a sumptuous meal, we bid adieu to the newly wed couple to move towards the guest house. After spending sometime inside the room, I got hold of Bhola (Navdeep loves to call himself so, though he is any but) and went out to explore the locality. I was walking a desolate, a rubble amidst a clean and neat town. The upheavals, the trepeditions going through my heart and my mind was unexplainable. May be I will never be able to put my deepest thoughts here. And there is no point to it either, it will unnecessarily complicate a matter. Though after so many days it really sounds so utterly ridiculous. Well some day I will write about it. As a matter of fact my last blog "drop-of-honey" is a cursory glance towards that only.

After 2-3 hours of loafing around we came back. I did not try to sleep, because it would have been meaningless.

After sometime we started preparing for the evening reception party. We reached there early and stayed for about 2 hours. We bade final good byes to Mani and his family and started for our second phase of the trip. Mukul and I had a bus to Pune at 9:30pm, the remaining members of the gang had return tickets to Bangalore at 9:00pm. BTW, our Pune bus reservation was also arranged for by Mani only.

We reached the bus stand on time. We had Uncle and Aunty along with us (They were Mani's former landlords), they were also going to Pune.

At 9:45pm we boarded the Volvo bus. I immediately pulled the quilts and with lots of anticipation, questions, excitement and anguish went to sleep.

We human beings have a tendency to turn blind eye to things we do not like to see. We overlook things we find difficult to accept and surprisingly we can go to great lengths to avoid being confronted with the truth. But that attitude neither turn the truth to a lie nor does it provide any solace when it tumbles out in the open. With this I will rest my submission for the first and so unforgettable day.

Next part continued at "The trip (Phase-II Pune-Shirdi)"