Rain has always been synonymous with fertility and life, washing away the dirt and grime collected over time. The ability of rain to invigorate life is one of the major reasons for its universal appeal. It has often teased the psyche of people with its haunting melancholy, a leading a reason for it to be romanticized for generations. It not only shrouds the world in a blanket of mystery, but with its elusiveness, it gently stokes the deep inner passions and indulgences in many. One of the many indulgences worth mentioning – piping hot, light fluffy pakora! And where does the thought of a hot fluffy pakora take me? No it isn’t the warm welcoming house of my grandmother or any relative for that matter, but to the chilling hills of Mahabaleshwar.
Nestled deep in the belly of surrounding valleys, Mahabaleshwar is undoubtedly the most green, chilling and mysterious places to visit during the monsoon. With a setting straight out of the books of Ruskin Bond, Mahabaleshwar encapsulates a cryptic force that draws you to it and makes sure that you don’t leave without an everlasting mental imprint in your brain. Any person who has been there, swears by the endearing chill they feel that permeates straight to the soul. No amount of hot beverages or fried food can take that chill away, but then a plate full of golden, deep fried, “crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside” cottage cheese pakoras, doesn’t hurt either. A cuppa of warm syrupy tea to wash it all down with a panoramic view of the gray slippery roads snaking their way into the heart of the “cloud capped” mountain is a reason for delight.
Once up there, it is like a whole different world. One of the many reasons for this place’s popularity is the dream that mankind has always desired for – a walk in the clouds. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that you are literally walking into the clouds once you’ve reached the heights! The feeling of the cold, fluffy light clouds caressing your body isn’t just surreal, but it did give me the heebie jeebies as well! Also it would be a crime to go up to such a spot without a partner or a friend! If you are alone, the loneliness can get to you, making the place more haunting than it really is. Never a believer in traveling with the entire family to get the maximum joy, this place undoubtedly opened my eyes to the “ phenomenon” of traveling with a loved one to reach the crux of nature’s beauty.
Being a lover of berries, but with all the strawberry gardens shut down during the monsoon, I was disappointed when I couldn’t get my hands on the melting sweet, crimson red, speckled fruit in all its freshness and glory. There were indeed many other options in the form of jams and jellies, but nothing beats the joy of popping a fresh fruit in your mouth and experience a flood of tart and ridiculously sweet syrup ravaging your taste buds. It certainly beats the banality of the products that come straight out of a factory. But I could feel despair settling in my heart as we decided to pull out empty handed! Aware that we were burdened by regret and with better senses taking over, we headed back home with a carton full of locally grown fruit jellies, large bottles of strawberry jams and many varieties of fruit squashes sitting neatly in long slim plastic bottles.
As the cold monsoon winds swept across my face, the thought of returning to the humdrum of daily life brought forth a gloom mostly experienced at the beginning of another daunting year at college. But then as the tall trees and the mountains started to distance themselves from me, I moved forward with a feeling of hope incited by the beauty and the suspense of a place that I am longing to return to.
Text – Barkha Ravindranath
– Factfile –
Nearest Town – Pune – 120 km (3 hours)
Elevation – 1,353 metres (4,439 ft)
Transport – By taxi or local bus from Pune city
Place to stay – Regular hotels available
Other attractions – Venna lake, Wilson/Sunrise Point, Lodwick Point, Panchgani
Food – strawberries and mulberries.
Reference – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabaleshwar