A quick drive from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai brings you to the enchanting hills of Mahabaleshwar and I took a weekend journey to quite simply fold up and relax in the hills. Called Vithal, the caretaker and he welcomed me in an exuberant and happy voice. He was happy to see a face in his otherwise lonely existence. As I got to the retreat, a large Alsatian blocked my way but it very quickly turned to a friendly gaggle as I got out of the car and played with him for sometime.
The bungalow itself had an old world charm and faced the valley and one could hear nothing but the fierce wind from the balcony. There were innumerable books that filled every nook and corner of the house ranging from yoga, travel, birds, fashion, dogs and fiction. Susan is an avid reader and books are her favourite pastime. Her husband Pratap was a writer and had penned quite a few books and were also found in the collection. The bungalow was tastefully done and had a very relaxed feel about it. I looked around for books related to trees and found one with the title “Jungle Trees of Central India” by Pradip Krishen that turned out to be a breezy read. Identifying simple and compound leaf’s and identifying the tree was very crisply explained. I put my newly acquired knowledge to use on the trees in the farm with satisfying results. The bit about bioluminescence in mushrooms and the phenomena happening only in the dark and their ability to attract insects was new to me.
My room itself overlooked the valley and had a breeze that could blow away a badly attached wig. It was splendid setting for a “do nothing” weekend. The furniture was tasteful and the summer heat never felt overwhelming. Chikki, the Alsatian was great company and curled up near the chair. Lunch was simple but tasty and I gorged on rotis, chicken curry, salads and some rice while indulging in chit-chat with Vithal. A hot cup of tea and a book made me doze off in next to no time and when I woke up it was evening. Quickly made my way out and walked to the valley side for some pictures and to also see the vegetable garden.
I then ventured out of the farm and walked towards the village and had a very energetic Chikki leading the way. He was so fond of walks that the very prospect of someone stepping out made him come alive. I could see a stupid construction taking shape down the road and realized that the tasteless builder coterie had reached here too and was probably salivating at the prospect of the rich city crowd falling over each other in grabbing a farm-house in this heaven. The construction was such an eyesore that it felt cruel to dot the scenery with such crap.
My walk took me to the nearest village where I took a call to head back for fear of running into dogs and the Alsatian running amok. The evening was so quiet that it took some time for me to get used to the silence and solitude. I felt more happy than ever to have chosen this place for my weekend than the crowded hill station that was not too far away.
Woke up early the next morning and went for a long walk and when I got back, there was smoke all around the property. The dry grass had caught fire and it was spreading like crazy. There were fire lines to prevent it from spreading but the wind was so strong that it carried burning leaves and got the fire to jump the lines and spread. It was a scary sight to see the property burning from all sides and we engulfed in smoke. Vithal told me that this was a yearly phenomena there was nothing they could do about it. The dog found the heat too much to stand and sat in my room quite perplexed. After reducing everything in its path to ashes, the fire finally subsided leaving behind a trail of destruction, but it would take just one spell of rain to make the grass grow back. Nature’s gambit was truly awe-inspiring.
After two days of doing nothing, it was time to head back to reality and I decided to pamper myself by having a hair cut in the small village close to the retreat. The charm of such a place is indescribable and one even gets to partake in village gossip. By the time the hair cut got over, I got to know that the barber was from the next village and would take the ferry and cross the river to open his salon everyday. His lunch was from any of the village homes that dotted the scenery and he knew everyone there was to know in the village. Life was very uncomplicated for him and he discussed Virat Kohli passionately as his scissors made patterns on my head.
The drive back was brisk and the duster was in its elements. The Khopoli-Pali road is designed by some driving God and gifted to humans and the joy of weaving through the countryside made the drive back fun. Entered the city quite late and made my way to Bade Miya to grab some mutton and then home.
This post was originally published on 'Little Things'.