In the Ghats for a day

When you live in Pune and it rains and you want to get away, there is a beautiful getaway called Lonavala that beckons you. Problem is, it beckons majority of the population around. Net result is chaos.

Last week I got an invite to spend the weekend in a resort at the very top, somewhere in that city and I jumped at the offer. Already dreaming about the rain and clouds and waterfalls and cool breeze, I wondered how to go, since taking the car was not an option. Well, driving on winding broken single lane mountain roads is not something I do very often, but the excuse I have is better- my car was being used by family so…So. I decided to take a train. Not having ridden in a train for quite a few years now, my first thought was, how difficult can it be, it is just about an hour and a few minutes away, with trains almost every hour, all I need to do is reach the station and board the next one.

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A view from the train

But then wiser and saner thoughts prevailed, maybe I should get a reservation. A dialogue with the hubby resolved the situation and he booked a ticket for me. So far so good. Reached the station almost 45 minutes in advance, years of non-practice does that to you. Waited with stamping legs and straining ears at the entrance for about half hour till the platform was announced. Managed to board without any incidents, just observing that the platform was decidedly cleaner than what I was used to in the yesteryears. Provided you don’t look out when the platform ends.

The train was cleaned twice in that small journey- nice. It was decidedly hard to resist the constant chant of “sabudana vada, veg cutlet, sandwich”, but the most interesting was “water pani” which I realised meant plain water and not “chilled pani”. Now, not having travelled this route before, I wondered how I would know my station was arriving and how long would it stop for and will there be enough time to get down. Yeah, I know, I am a totally inexperienced traveler. But outwardly, I was cool, even though I was doing the math in the mind, so many minutes from Pune, shall I ask Siri, what was the last station that went by and so on.., I did manage to get down at the right station quite safely. It is a different matter that after that, I had to climb up and down the bridge multiple times to find the driver. I mean how was I supposed to know “towards the city” didn’t imply towards the platform no 1.

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It is gonna pour

Sitting in the cab, with cool breeze blowing my hair, and rain drops down my cheeks, well, I was smiling away, I had arrived, and the rest was going to be a cool breeze (literally). Till I found traffic jam and jam and crowd and hawkers and no one following traffic rules. Well, this feels just like Pune, I thought with a grimace. Small congested roads, directionless people and honking all around. A little more than an hour, a packet of chips and several bumps and potholes later, I reached the resort.

It was as beautiful and serene as expected. Ah the beauty of a hill top resort when it is raining is beyond compare. Gorging on good food, good company, love and laughter. Even in 45 acres of property, we could find hordes of people coming from the dry state and debating whether to be upgraded to purple from white and other such nonsense. No, this is not a gyan session on Club Mahindra.

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6 am from the balcony
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Ah the colours

A day of relaxation, chai in the balcony, long morning walk, lot of selfies and a huge breakfast spread. We hogged so much, needed to lie down awhile. But then finally it was time to leave. The lime water in the tummy kept bubbling up and down as we encountered the familiar potholes again, somehow kept it from overflowing.

We stopped at the tiger’s point, or was it lion, or jackal, not sure. Some animal, definitely. Any self-respecting hill station in India has to have a Lion or Tiger’s point, and a sunset and sunrise point. Amidst a mass of humanity and cars and a breathtaking view, we too decided to do what the tourists do, walk, eat and click pictures. All around us were couple with the girlfriend perched on the boyfriend’s back, posing away, and few I-am-a-cool-dude guys posing on the cliff edges. Thankfully nobody fell off during our watch. After about an hour of touristy thingy, we followed the bro, the leader, who kept going in weird directions till we realised he was looking for relief and so we hastily retreated and went back to the car, relieved.

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At the animal point

Next stop was Bhushi ghat. Now that is a place, I would absolutely not recommend unless you are drunk and rowdy and enjoy sitting in dirty slimy water and throwing it around on yourself and others. The walk is long and bad, uneven stones does wonders for your back, the place has some broken steps with no railing and a sure chance of falling on the rocks, stairs that lead nowhere and a lot of smelly people sitting in smellier water, on the steps and throwing it around. Just not worth the time. The river on the other side that overflows at times. Not for me.

Came back to downtown, tired and happy and in dire need of ginger chai. Unfortunately, my train mode of transport did not work this time, simply because I did not get a reservation. Too many people, too little time. How will you go back, maybe come to Mumbai with us and then go back Monday. No way, I want to be back tonight. So, a cab, me and a 60 km drive back to home. With memories. And an agreement to go back again, with kids.

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The memory

 

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A license to drive

31-Oct-2017- It is almost 10 pm and my flight to Pune is delayed. Amidst the tantrums thrown by passengers, the tearful attendant, the abusive fellow and a lot of noise, my musings and imagination starts working overtime and the best way to spend my evening- beyond wa and fb is to write. The flight was delayed at 21.10 from 21.10 to 22.10 (a mouthful) and finally took off at 22.50. So, a story I had been meaning to write for some time was born.

Part 1: The beginning

13-Jun-2017 – My driving license expired. I was blissfully unaware.

20-Jun-2017 – I don’t know what made me look at the booklet. It was made in the era when the license used to be a book. In the 20 years I had it, some of its pages were torn off and my photo didn’t look like me, primarily because I had aged and the photo was still in twenties. But it still served its purpose when the guy in white wanted to check, they would look at it disdainfully like it came from another planet and give it back reluctantly. And then phew, it was no more even a saving grace, it died.

I was about to travel to Bikaner and it was earlier renewed in Bikaner, cool, I could get it done in a week. Problem solved.

22-Jun-2017 – Oh no, it was renewed in Barmer. Now where the hell is Barmer on the map? I don’t recall ever having travelled to the godforsaken place. Doesn’t matter, it is still in Rajasthan, I should be able to renew it in Bikaner, it is the digital age, I thought with all the confidence of a person with little experience of sarkaari daftar.

25-Jun-2017 – Back from Bikaner. Laws are laws (and in-laws are by-laws- no relevance, but J). And the law says that once a license is made in Barmer, it can only be renewed in Barmer. And if you want anything different, you require a complicated document called a No-Objection-Certificate. Really? Who and Why should anyone have an objection? I can drive.

I wondered how I ever got it renewed there? Think, think. Am I a time traveler? Of course, my dear mil was posted there hence I got it done in absentia (shhh, proxy used to work in those days)

Now how do I get a NOC now? I am sure mil knows someone who knows someone. Found the “someone”, and went a call, sms, wa, reminders and more.

30-Jun-2017- I am getting fed-up, why am I not getting a simple thing called NOC?  Someone please remind him again.

5-July-2017- I got it, looks like an NOC. Read it with the reverence it deserved. And reread. What was this again? They got my date of birth wrong? (How can someone sitting in an unknown RTO in an unknown city get her highness’s DOB incorrect?) How did they dream up this date? But then I can’t use this. When I go with my id proof which mentions a different date, someone is going to throw this NOC out of the window. I need to start the process all over again.

6-july-2017 – Now I had to find someone really jugaadu, who could undo this atrocity. So found a twisted friend who just happened to be posted at the B city. Told him the whole story. He just said, ho jayega with the nonchalant confidence of a Government officer.

15-jul-2017 – wa- anything happened on DOB. Friend: hold on, I am busy.

18-jul-2017 – wa- a gentle reminder. Friend : kal pucca.

20-jul-2017-  Friend: The RTO guy is adamant. He says his file has this DOB so it must be correct, his file is nothing short of the Bible. hence all the id proofs must have goofed up somehow. That lone guy knows that the world is wrong about when this diva was born. So what next. I told him, I don’t care. Clean up the mess. Twist the tale from the tail. I guess he smiled. And said something like- I must sit with him till he solves it. Will he take money? Maybe, we will find a solution, thus spoke the guy with 6 pack brains.

1-Aug-2017- wa- Friend: yeah, got it done, sending it soon.

16-Aug-2017 – Finally I got the godforsaken paper once again and it was correct this time. Ah bask for a few minutes in the glory of having fought a govt system and having won!

Part 2: The Conclusion

Visited the nearest driving school. Can you get the license made quickly? Yes we can. It will cost. That is fine, my time is costlier. Deal done.

8-sep-2017 – I get a call from the driving school. You need to go down and get a backdate entry done since your license is an alien one. Why is that my responsibility? I am paying you. No mam, you have to do it yourself. Sigh, ok.

11-sep-2017 – drive down to RTO (without a license). Reach the specified window. Nobody there (at 11.30 am, I though office started at 10.00 am) but several folks queued up. Waited for a few minutes twiddling my thumbs and toes. Finally, someone took pity and told me to go to another window, where a harassed looking woman was noisily sipping her cold saucer of tea and doing what looked like sorting papers. After a few minutes of watching this, I looked for the opportunity to tell her, excuse me and parroted the issue to her as she deigned to look up from her busy schedule. She disdainfully took the papers and stowed it away in one of the many piles. Come after a week. Why, should be a minute’s job. She looked at me exasperated look there is something called backlog. I will get to this in due course. Phew. Ok, can I get a receipt? She gave me a what-is-a-receipt-look and decided not to respond to the superfluous and silly query. I was mortally afraid she would lose the holy grail called NOC.

18- sep-2017 Went back and lo and behold, she had got it done. Promise was a promise. I got a 12 digit number. Wow, looked at it with even more reverence, a number after a week of effort (more than a month, but what the hell).  Went and gave it back to the driving school. Ok, that out of the way, we will submit everything and call you if needed.

29-sep-2017 It is needed. I got a call. Please show yourself for the biometrics. Third visit to the RTO and got my thumb printed and mug shot taken. When do I get the license now?

Soon, he promised. (No driving test, do note)

29 Sep-2017 Called up the driving school. Where is the license? Oh, you don’t have it yet, we will check and revert.

Two days later, I hear some music. It is processed, will come by speed post, Can’t I collect it? No madam, that is the process, the driving school receptionist was also exasperated by this time.

23 Oct-2017 Got a tried-to-deliver note at the door.

24-Oct 2017 – went to the Post office and got what is finally looking like a license to drive.  Just in about 3 months and a few days later. Man, aren’t we efficient.

PS: An intermediate visit to the RTO on a working Saturday revealed locked doors. Maybe it was a achcha din.

 

Car-rey Night

This is set in 2011 when I had just moved to Pune. Lacked the secondary necessities of life like a car. This is set in the pre-ola days, when people normally used buses or autos. Soon I realized that the अॉटो रिक्षाs in Pune have a major problem, their drivers, who don’t want to make a fast buck. Invariably, when you need an auto, 1) you will not find one, 2) if you find one, you will not find the driver, 3) if you find the driver, it will be his siesta time, 4) if it is not his siesta time, he will not want to go where you want to go. After a few days of facing this, I decided to take the easy way out- buy a car.
Let me not delve into the steps and the documentation it needed, that is for another time. Let me directly jump to the day the car was ready to be brought  home and the incidents surrounding. Before I go further I hope that the reader does not form an unfavorable opinion about my driving skills on this account. Let me state on record that I am a good driver.
I had an Airtel network – legacy from Delhi and the coverage in Pune was/is माशाअल्लाह!. And being new to the city, I did not know any routes. Being ultra smart, I took a few pages of google maps print that would help me find my way to the showroom and back home. 3G never worked on my phone in those times, hence the जुगाड. Took an auto to the showroom at around 5 pm.
The car wasn’t ready by that time. It took them another hour and a half to have it ready for takeoff. At around 7 pm, I finally got the car. It was already dusk, early January and I had no idea of the route back home. Great.
Started the car. As soon as I put it in the gear, it stopped. Repeat a few times. Finally I realized it wasn’t my old Scorpio hence I needed to press the accelerator more, else it would not pick up. (A few minutes later I also learnt,  unlike a Scorpio, you can’t raise a Linea in 2nd gear, and you can’t see the road beyond the car in front, sigh). Moved out from the showroom. I had memorized the route to certain extent. But the first intersection and I was hopelessly lost. The road the map told me to take was one way- and the wrong way at that. Within 5 minutes, I knew the maps were useless. Lesson no 1. Google maps for Pune did not tell you one way routes in 2011. I kept on driving in the general direction of where I thought my colony would be. I knew I had to reach the railway station, from where I knew the way home.
I stopped at one intersection and asked a fellow driver, भैया, स्टेशन के लिए किधर से? He tchched. अरे, आप तो बहुत दूर आ गए। ऐसा करो, red light से reverse लो, फिर आगे से left, फिर right and then I lost him.
A few minutes and meters later, asked another भैया. He also tchched me in a similar manner. I am sure they must be thinking in their minds- अगर रास्ता नही पता तो गाडी लेकर निकली क्यो है?
Not to forget the blinding headlight, horn blasting, omni-directional Pune traffic that makes you feel right in the center of apocalypse. Why did I ever choose a sedan?
A little ahead, the road diverged, and I thought I should verify before taking the road more traveled. So got down to check in the local shop. As I was asking him, he asked me, पीछे वाली गाडी आपकी है?  I turned around to see my car driving itself in the reverse. There was a slope and I had not put hand brakes :-). Lesson no 2. If you want to learn how to stop a moving car which is locked and moving steadily back, I am the woman. Thankfully it did not hit anything or anyone on the road.
By this time it was almost 8.30 in the night. I was sweating in the month of January and I was tired. And I was hungry and I wanted my mommy. The 12 km journey was a never ending one. Finally reached home without any more incidents at 9. Parked the car and drank a bottle full of water.
Writing this reminded me of the ten commandments I had drafted in my pre-blogging days and decided to add as epilogue.
1) left and right are just ‘मोह ‘ and ‘माया ‘. We think left, go right, turn left from the rightmost lane, give an indicator and not turn. वैराग्य के बाद मोह और माया में क्या रखा हैं .
2) we are enlightened souls and we enlighten our paths with full beam, low beam may misguide. If it troubles you, you are in need of enlightenment.
3) we understand the full circle of life. Sometimes we take that circle right in the middle of traffic., especially when we are on 2 wheelers. Brakes and screeches don’t sway us.
4) We prefer to take the road less-traveled when on 2-wheelers, like overtaking from the left or crossing the street in transverse at full speed. Breaking rear view mirrors and causing accidents are minor hazards but we always get our own way.
5) Our struggle with life begins as soon as we land on the road. Saving the potholes and protecting the manholes is the mission. Hence we drive in s-shaped curved paths. Impacted passerby’s are just collateral damage.
6) when on foot, we meditate. Sometimes we meditate on phone as well, so we cross roads when and where we want with total disregard to the rest of the material world. Sometimes we get deep into in right in the middle of the road, oblivious to the chaos we have created.
7) Honking feels like the temple bell, we ring it all the while. It gives us divine happiness.
8) we are not followers, why follow when you can be a leader. Our way to go is opposite to traffic, full beam, horns blazing and all of you can follow your own sedate path at your own risk.
9) we have true democratic thoughts, lane and speed no bar, treat every pedestrian and vehicle equally with the same amount of disrespect, road is my own property.
10) If you follow any other traffic rules, designed for mere mortals, we will give you a glance of pity and contempt and roll the mouth to express the deepest abuse in Marathi and you can’t even retaliate.