On the 30th of September, we set off on a week-long road trip to Bombay via Pune. Hubby had a day-long training session in Pune and we decided to tag along for a much-needed break. We were on a dual mission – to enjoy ourselves and to drop off my helper Pushpa, who was off for her own holiday with her family after a year apart. I was on my own secret mission, to see if I could manage Ishaan on my own, amongst people who to him were essentially strangers in strange surroundings. It was a test I set myself. A test of patience, creativity and my coping abilities…a test of whether I could look after my boy, on my own, without losing a major chunk of my sanity. I think I passed the test…but I’ll let you decide.
We set off from our home ‘Omkar’ at 9 am, with a fully loaded car and 4 happy people 🙂 Ishaan has been a great traveler so far by which I mean, he slept peacefully on our previous two road trips to Bombay, getting up at meal-times and dozing off again as soon as the car set off 🙂 He was younger then. This time was a little different. He slept, but was awake much longer and every time we left the car for a break he howled his head off ‘coz he didn’t want to get in again! Don’t blame him, it can be awfully cramped in a car-seat on long journeys and he’s old enough now to register protest! Loudly. And I mean LOUDLY! Still, between us, we managed and in general had an interesting journey. We saw a veritable menagerie on the way…herds of cattle & goats, all manner of fowl that streaked across the road in an alarming manner, dogs by their dozen, a few cats, horses, donkeys, bold troops of monkeys and two camels on a road trip of their own!! Ishaan was fascinated by the camels but terrified of them when we stopped to get closer!
The first pit-stop on our 9 hour-long journey was Amboli, a tiny hill station, in our neighboring state of Maharashtra, discovered by the British (who else?!) and famous for its narrow winding road that hugs the very edge of the Ghats, one largish waterfall, fabulous views, hoards of brazen monkeys, misty mornings and hot & spicy corn on the cob 🙂 Ever since we’ve started taking this route to Bombay, Amboli has become a mandatory stop and we never tire of the views, the roar of the waterfall (especially after a good monsoon like this one) or the monkeys, who snatch bananas from your hand and raid open-windowed cars with characteristic monkey-boldness! They are a favorite of Ishaan’s (I wonder why? ;-)) and he would have been happy to spend the day watching their antics! We took pictures and then it was time to move on. One spot was rather frightening – it was the site of a major landslide this Monsoon season, and although the road had been cleared, the ton of debris still piled to one side and the eroded mountainside on the other were pretty scary. It’s a long way down to the valley!
Next stop, the McDonald’s on NH-4 @ Kolhapur for lunch, again a favorite. It has food that we can rely on and clean loos!! Ishaan of course ate only the French Fries and a spoon of vanilla ice-cream (he’s not into sweet stuff!) and refused even a single bite of our burgers. Tummies sated, we were off again and except for short stops to look at the animals and tea, we didn’t stop again until we got to my aunt’s place on the outskirts of Pune, to a grand welcome I might add 🙂
Our stay in Pune was wonderful! My aunt’s home, ‘Keshvai’, is cozy and her garden though small is both restful and exuberant, if you get what I mean 🙂 The roses were in full bloom and her ‘Chikoo‘ tree was laden with fruit, although not ripe. Her rustic brick-red ‘Tulsi‘ on the tiny patch of green lawn made a pretty picture and the swing outside the back-door offered a shady, calm chilling-spot. Next door, in her neighbor’s garden, grew a Fig, untended and covered with figs! We plucked them off the tree, from her terrace upstairs and munched happily on their juicy sweetness 🙂 Ishaan took to the house like it had always been his 🙂 wandering around the lower floor, exploring the kitchen and the ‘Puja’ room, where he would ring the silver bell used during worship, playing cricket with my aunt and Pushpa on the patch of lawn! While there, we visited a ‘Shiva‘ temple, in an ashram, close to my aunt’s house. In the compound were giant statues of Shiva, his consort Parvati and their son and my favorite deity, ‘Ganesha‘ with his vehicle the mouse. Ishaan recognized them all and was very excited to see them in such huge avatars!
We also visited the Pune Zoo, where we saw a white tiger, a normal tiger, two leopards, two elephants, a peacock with several peahens and some owls! It’s a large area that includes a lake where they have boating, but as always in India (sadly), poorly maintained and in need of better administration. Still, Ishaan enjoyed the trip and the animals, although most of them were sleeping off the afternoon heat.
We left Pune on Sunday morning. I was loath to leave, truth be told, both because once in Bombay, Pushpa would finally leave; because I had such a wonderful time catching up with my aunt who is a true ‘kindred spirit’; and because Ishaan had adjusted so well and I was worried whether he would do so again in Bombay.
Our time in Bombay in the next post. Suffice it to say…I needn’t have worried 🙂
p.s. A word on Pune city…not very complimentary I’m afraid. It has the worst and I mean the worst traffic I have ever seen and that’s saying something considering I’m from Goa where the driving is atrocious!! Nobody obeys rules and it’s a free-for-all, with no traffic police in sight! The roads in the Katraj-Kondwa area, where my aunt lives are non-existent and one is jolted from one pothole into another! A crying shame!
Punctuality is NOT a strong point either…the ticketing booth for the car-ride through the Zoo, that was due to re-open after a lunch-break (they haven’t heard of shift-work apparently!!) at 1.30 pm, didn’t open until 1.50 when the girl sauntered in, completely unaffected by the long queues of visitors who had forfeited their lunches and braved the afternoon sun to get tickets!