Archive for August, 2018

Incessant rain, flooded roads, squelching mud, grey skies, dreary days, sometimes that is all we can see during the monsoon. How soon we lose our patience after the first relief from sweltering heat. Yet there is another side to the monsoon: waking to a world washed clean and bright after a night’s rain and breathing in the cool crisp morning air, listening to birdsong that seems to have a chirpier lilt in its merry notes, enjoying the sight of luxuriant grass growing by the side of the roads, and raindrops resembling dew, nestling on green blades, shimmering golden as they catch the sun that often plays hide and seek after a sudden shower. Nowhere is the monsoon more beautiful than on the hills and mountains that are so close to us. Khandala, Lonavla, Panchgani, Mahableshwar, all wear a glorious verdant look, with mountainsides lushly cloaked in green. Beautiful wildflowers in vivid hues cover hillsides and meadows and silvery white waterfalls gush down the mountainsides. The monsoons enhance the natural beauty of the Western Ghats tenfold, helping to hide the deep ugly scars of deforestation that show through most of the year.
I remember what a joy it was, splashing through puddles, during my school days in Mumbai, or walking out for miles as the first rain fell. It is impossible to forget the power of the winds that almost pushed one at Nariman point or the intense pleasure of meeting the rising waves on Marine Drive, Worli Seaface or Haji Ali, as we were drenched by the falling rain; salt mixing on the lips with cool fresh rain drops. A few days back we were back in Mumbai and woke to find it submerged in water. For working people it was an unscheduled holiday, time to relax, watch TV or just eat hot pakodas and watch the falling rain, or pretend the sun had not risen and go back to sleep. We postponed our departure from there, following the advice given on TV to stay indoors till 5 pm. Fifteen floors below we could hear the children from a nearby slum screaming in delight, looking out of the window we watched them as they played a tug of war. A little distance away we could see a group of boys, in a maidan, playing some game, while almost waist deep in water.
As we drove to the highway there was still water in places and youngsters were out in the rain without the protection of raincoats or umbrellas and little children were swimming merrily in the knee deep water collected on the side of the roads. Much later leaving Vashi, we were rewarded by our first glimpse of snaking waterfalls. Then followed the paddy fields between Panvel and Khopoli; a truly entrancing sight during the monsoon. These are small patches bordered by tall trees with wide canopies, and rain washed leaves, gleaming emerald bright. Once in a while we were greeted with the sight of a single tall palm or a small group of towering palm trees. The rivers flowing through were full and surging with power but rather muddy. Clouds half shrouded the mountains of the Khandala ghats. A little further we were rewarded by a sight of monkeys sitting on the expressway wall. A number of monkey families sat on or clambered up the wall. Mama, papa, baby monkeys along with aunts, uncles and cousins were all over the place. It was quite a sight. A few minutes later a policeman stopped us, very considerately choosing a spot from where we could spy a glorious waterfall, though shrouded in misty clouds. As the driver spoke to him, we took the opportunity of taking some pictures. We left the expressway at the Khandala exit and headed to Lonavla and Lion’s point which is on the way to Ambi Valley. We headed up the steep, curving road, and stopped at a spot where we could park the car and walk in the grass. Wild plants, cacti and wildflowers grew in profusion. Water fell from a mountainside close by and it was an idyllic scene. Walking a little further we came upon a brook singing its way down the mountain. Wispy clouds floated around like chiffon curtains. Reluctantly we moved ahead to Lion’s point, but we had lingered too long and it was dark by the time we reached it. Lion’s point is impossible to miss, due to its popularity, as there are always a number of cars parked there. It is blessed with a breathtaking view but more often than not, this is cloaked in clouds during the monsoon, yet it continues to attract people. The mist was swirling when we reached it and it was quite dark, yet there was a beauty in the scene. We parked on the other side of the road, where a dark hill loomed high behind us in the gloaming. Clouds added to the darkness and visibility was lessened, creating a strange unreal atmosphere. Passing car lights appeared eerie, diffused by the mists. A little distance away a reddish glow perhaps of a parked car, lit the silhouette of a tree, producing an unearthly scene. Carts of roasted corn on the cob or tea stood on both sides of the road, their fires adding to the mysterious atmosphere. People blended with the night, their faces barely discernible. Occasional showers of red sparks flew in the deepening darkness as the shadowy hawkers fanned the flames. There was neither view, nor light, nor colour, nor moon, nor stars, yet the rolling hilly mists, the growing shadows, the secretive night, all held us entranced.

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