(written in May 2009)
The conclusion of my extended leave found me getting re- acquainted with long winding empty roads, soulful music playing on the stereo and invigorating conversations. Mahesh had to drop off his daughter Anyushka at their “native place” — Ladghar. Daddy had some work in Ratnagiri.
The Konkan beckoned and off we went, our merry band of 4. Started off at around 6:45 a.m.; driving on empty roads in Mumbai is a rare treat. Zipped past Vashi and other assorted suburbs to reach Panvel in a good 90 minutes. Breakfast halt at “Shanbar Vishranti”, a shade prior to the Karnala Bird sanctuary. After demolishing some “mendhu vadas” washed down with tea, we proceeded to Mangaon.Halted at a smallish tapari for some bhajiya pav, after a failed attempt at finding tea at what turned out to be the local bar. Man, people were downing bagpiper at 9:00 in the morning.
We made our way to Dapoli (roughly 160 kms from Mumbai) accompanied by some truly moving Marathi bhavgeets. the songs made even more memorable with Daddy reminiscing about musicians, singers and poets of an era long gone by.
There is something infinitely peaceful about a long drive (out of the city); believe me nothing better than this to take your mind of the daily grind. I must thank Daddy and Janaki (my better half) for having me learn how to drive a car. I must also thank them for getting me acquainted with the Konkan region. It is a fantastic combination of surf, sand, clear blue skies and sea food. I have traveled toGoa (my home town) many times without ever saying hello to this wonderful place. Bachpan mein, bus mein baithe around got off in Goa around next day. The Konkan would speed by during the night, unnoticed, silently.. I guess I am making up for lost time; I have explored various parts of the Konkan in about 7–8 trips in the last four years and have always returned exhilarated.
Cut to the journey, Ladghar is about 8 odd kms. from Dapoli, a newly reinforced bridge appeared like a sentinel zealously guarding paradise. Over the bridge, just beyond the local school, an almost invisible turn off the main road and a rakish one thereafter found us at the ancestral home of the “Bals”. Mahesh’s moms place, now tended to, by her brother. I am pretty sure that 99% of all people polled would choose “mama” as their favorite relative.
It’s a typical Konkani “kawalaru” house, built some 60 years ago, surrounded by coconut and supari plantation. The sheer hard work put in by mama and his family has indeed borne rich fruits. We proceeded to filling our stomachs with an absolutely delightful meal. Daddy and mama got along lke a house on fire, exchanging thoughts on mango cultivation and some serious politician bashing. Mahesh and I spent the afternoon lazing in the aangan watching some ladies thresh rice and anyushka gambol about with the house cat. Cutting through the plantation, we made our way to the beach just about a stone’s throw away. Caught Daddy in a reflective mood, quite easily photo of the trip…
Mahesh and I visited the local school. Pretty neat, portraits of the only heroes we have adorned the walls. Bahar baith kar (always the outstanding kinds), we had a long chat, the longest in years, caught up on a lot of things and still had more left. Dinner beckoned as it got pretty dark, rapidly as it does in rural India.
Next day we proceeded to Ratnagiri, got there in about 3 hours, just in time for lunch at “Amantran”. Just next to hotel Vihar Deluxe, Maal Naka. Heavenly, ghar jaisa khana, highly recommended for sea food though the veg section is pretty good as well. We shacked up at Daddy’s place. Shyam ko thoda marketing kiya, Mahesh took time off to catch up with relatives. Dinner at Amantran, uske baad Mahesh and I had a long shaayari, old songs session. Really felt like old times, missed the cutting chai at NIASA though.
Janaki and I have known Mahesh all our adult lives. We have managed to remain in touch with each other despite our jobs, transfers, multiple residence changes, the traffic in Mumbai. I guess you make a lot many acquaintances in life and very few friends. We are indeed lucky to have Mahesh inhabit the latter category.
That brings us to the 24th of May. After a quick breakfast, we purchased some fruits, collected some stuff from Mahesh’s relatives and started back to Mumbai around Daddy stayed back. It was fun coming back, I have noticed that the journey back home always seems shorter. Since we did not have any fixed plan in mind, took a short detour upon spotting this bridge. Snacks at Chiplun, followed by an unsuccessful attempt to get some lunch at a charming restaurant just by the river. Do not know the exact spot though. We reached Nagothane at around , stopped for a quick bite and then did the home stretch to reach home around .
The best part about the trip was as always the journey, frankly the destination is immaterial. Got to renew a long standing friendship. Will always remember Mahesh singing Caravan Guzar gaya, made even more sublime by the pitch darkness and absolute silence of the night in which it was rendered.