Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yes, I am from Alibagh - 1

This was another completely random JLT trip that came up out of nowhere... a Ryze post, a phonecall, and suddenly I'm in a boat headed out; but you need to do this. Step back from your life, just drift for a while. You need to get perspective.

This is a group called the Nature Knights, organizing short trips out of Mumbai. Amit said they
have a reputation for making hard trips, but this one was an opposite - a deliberately chilled trip. I guess everyone just needs to
breakaway once in a while. Besides, it was too hot anyway.
Interesting group, too... once again, I'm in with a bunch of complete strangers, just like last year... interesting lot this time round, too. People working in a creative agency. People owning a creative agency. A guy who was owed money by my boss. A dog. A stage anchor. A lawyer. A reporter. A girl from the German consulate. Old hands and fresh initiates.

It's such a liberating feeling, watching those 5 little bars on your cell dwindle, flicker and disappear, and you're out of network coverage. A leash slips off. You feel like you could just... walk away.
Away from the plans, client calls, vendors demanding payment, bosses threatening dire retribution and making references to company's image in the market...
walk away from the 8:11 slow to CCG, the sharecabs and the traffic, the daily dabba and the 10-by-12 hall filled with newspaper, mattresses, beer bottles, and ash.

Walk away from the constant thinking, what's next.
Your mind suddenly sort of sticks its head up and peers around... and stretches. Incredible feeling, if you watch it. Thinking outside the usual.
We took a ferry to Mandhwa - or at least tried to - when you have 27 people gathering on a saturday morning at 7 AM, forget it. We collected at 8:30. Just in time for the ferry, if it hadn't already been booked by a corporate bunch - Syntel, I think (that's a weird name, now, brings in mind arch-villainesses with green skin and evil laughter and bodies that prepubescent fantasies are made of) - so we split up across 3 assorted ferries - Group 1, Group 2, and Vipin + Lara the dog cadging a free ride with Syntel.
Arrived at Mandhwa Ferry, lost network coverage and became liberated. Took a ST for Murud, and got thrown out by conductor who leapt a mile at the thought of allowing a pedigreed golden retriever from The City into his beloved bus. Never mind that he had just disembarked goats.

Took a bunch of TumTums from Muruda for Kashid. Passed by A Nawab's palace - Apparently he wasn't part of India till 1975, a colony of Ethiopia (of all countries). Didn't pack up and leave in '47 because of his spices business... Now there's a large rambling semi-palace gracefully and dignifiedly falling to bits. We tried getting a tour but the guard resolutely refused to grant us access, saying we need to speak with the manager. During this while, a guy on a bike comes up, exchanges pleasantries with hi, has a bidi, and goes off. Finally we give up arguing and ask where we can find the manager. Well, guess who the guy on the bike was? There is definitely a reason for the Alibagh reputation to exist.

Parked ourselves at one small hotel thing - had occupied 7 of its 8 rooms so it was practically a hostel already, even apart from it's disturbing similarity to GIM's OT First Floor. Had lunch. The usual Chicken Debate - to eat or not to eat- followed by a fish lunch.
Then head off to Janjira Fort. This is a really nice fort - and very unique. One, it's in the sea. Not on an island, but actually in the sea - no land at all. The walls drop straight in the waves. Zero landing area. Two, you can only reach it by boat. Three, it's positioned in a way (though this was probably lucky coincidence) that needs the boat to take a long dog-leg path (which would take it past the entire set of cannons on 3 ramparts not once, but twice. Nice target practice.) Boats were very Swades.

Again, the sight of the dog created much consternation. Don't know why - Lara's even lazier than Ruffles. Her most energetic activity during the whole trip was to give this pleading can-we-go-home-now look. Though she did compensate by barking at, and attacking, the small child of the family in the eightth room at the hotel, and sent him screaming in terror out in the road. Vipin told us she only attacks kids and chickens. Guess even she was bird-flu-conscious...
Anyway, she had to be cradled at one end, and cradling a plump golden retriever in the afternoon sun in April is no picnic.

The boat trip was fun, though. Just enough wind to make things interesting, and the boom swung out one time with one of the guys still hanging on it because we were sitting on where he would brace his feet, so we had to haul him back in.

Then it's hop off the boat and be sternly remonstrated by the guide for being late, gadding about and wasting time, didn't we know there was a schedule to keep? Abashed, we trailed behind him while he went from point to point, made us gather around, leaned at a boneless 45-degree angle on the wall with one hand wildly gesticulating and deliver the schpiel like a machinegun. It was so much a part of him, he could have been napping while he said it... the speech was as much him now as his vertebrae.
There was plenty of legend about the fort, though... the fresh water lake with a water level higher than sea level. Another one with a water level lower. (In typical Ugly Indian way, we found both lakes rimmed with a layer of Bisleri bottles at the edges.)

1 comment:

DeepBlueSea said...

A really nice post. I love Indian travel blogs... and this is damn cool. It has a traveler feel to it... not a touristy one.

Travel on... and keep writing.



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