Mullickghat, Kolkata

I have lived in Kolkata for 20+ years, most of it when it was still Calcutta. The photography bug caught me while I was still living there, but I never got a chance to shoot the city’s markets, which are a favourite subject for photographers, especially street photographers coming to Calcutta.

This changed in 2013, when Abhishek, with his new DSLR, planned a trip to the flower market at Mullickghat. He had been there a couple of times, and thought I’d enjoy it too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the early morning trip, the bustle of the market, the burst of colours, the various facets of everyday life, the cliched, the interesting, the faces, the crowds, the merchandise, the congestion, the energy, and our typical Calcutta breakfast after the shoot – hing kachori at one of the sweet shops.

So here it is, finally, the photo set from Mullickghat, Kolkata, 2013.

500px.com/photo/142258663/the-chaos-that-is-calcutta-by-amit-sharma
500px.com/photo/153709217/old-city-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/old-city/
500px.com/photo/203802019/the-day-begins-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/the-day-begins/
500px.com/photo/204456751/priest-by-amit-sharma ~ recaptured.in/priest/
500px.com/photo/209951107/centre-of-everything-by-amit-sharma
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~ recaptured.in/march-2013-calcutta/

The Speck of Red: Shooting the Fiat Punto

In 2012, Shreyas, Rajat, and I picked up our respective cameras and took Shreyas’s latest new Fiat Punto for a spin around the greenery in Pune.

We had a great collection of pictures between the three of us, which has managed to stay in our respective hard drives so far.

Finally, I publish part 1 of my album from the day’s shoots.

Now I challenge both Rajat and Shreyas to publish their sets.

Sort of a Review: Yoforia Pune

Back in October, a chain of shops (cafes?) selling frozen yoghurts opened up, in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata. Back then I was living in Vimannagar, Pune, and the closest one was in Phoenix Mall, which was, well, too close to ignore. During those last few weeks in Pune I visited that outlet quite a few times, and recommended it to my Pune friends. And once, I visited it with a camera, looking for the store manager. Why? Because I had been asked by their marketing team to visit and write about it.

Write I did. But quite a few months late (yes I am a lazy blogger). So here goes.

Yoforia is a unique place. It’s a frozen yoghurt place. A place where you can walk in and eat a big cup of frozen yoghurt and no one would stare at you for eating only a big cup of dessert at lunch time. It is a new concept in India. And it looks and sounds cool.

As I entered the place, I noticed a few things – the colour theme of the wallpaper, the furniture, the huge and deep counter on the right, with a waffle maker, an espresso machine, a microwave, and a weighing scale among other things, and the insets in the wall, where I could see machines with snouts, that looked like ‘softy’ machines.

Once inside, and having seen around myself, I was, frankly, a bit clueless about what they offered, what would I have to pay, and what was I doing with my life.

But pretty soon, the people manning the counter decided to get me out of my conundrum, and asked me if I had come there for the first time. Then he offered to help me. By first showing me their menu, which, for some reason is placed right over the entrance, and is set in I think 14-point type. Well, the menu would look good as a spiral bound thing that I could hold in my hand. Sadly, they had not thought of that. So I went to work trying to figure out what’s on it, like you would try to read the names of soldiers on the India Gate.

The Process

After explaining the menu, he showed me the 5-step process:

  1. You wash your hands (the outlet had a bottle of hand sanitizer instead of a washbasin),
  2. select the cup size,
  3. select the flavour of the yoghurt,
  4. choose your sauces,
  5. choose the toppings (fruits & nuts),
  6. Then you pay by weight. The cup’s weight is standard, so that’s deducted from the total weight.

It’s similar to Subway, in that there’s a process, you select your components, and the main product is a customisable-from-a-fixed-component-menu item. Different, in that it’s not a sandwich, but yoghurt (duh!), you don’t pay a fixed price for each flavour/type of the item, but pay by weight (so, get more toppings, and you pay more, and if you just want one dollop of yoghurt, you don’t run a big bill), and, it’s you who is doing all the work of getting the components, and making your dessert.

Pretty cool.

What Else

In addition to the frozen yoghurt, I could order waffles, crepes, cold drinks (like iced teas & coffees) and hot drinks (chai, coffee, latte etc).

I made a modest medium cup of yoghurt for myself, with two base flavours, some pistachios & almonds, and some chocolate sprinkles. After I weighed the cup, the store manager Mr. Shiv, refused to bill me for it. It was, he said, on the house.

After a while, he whipped up a delicious number for me, complete with candy sticks, cherries & mangoes, and the beautiful yoghurt swirl on top. I could not eat any more, but he insisted that I take at least one bite, which I did. And then the staff there shared it amongst themselves on my insistence.

Ambience

The decor came across as a bit confused, what with the wallpaper’s colour scheme (pastel) not going with the furniture and cups’ designs (more primary colours). I kept thinking about sci-fi movies from the 70s, because of the stainless steel, and the insets in walls – this could have been a Stanley Kubrick style dessert bar on the moon.

It’s a bit stark, because there’s nothing on the walls apart from a. the 5-step process (placed so high that I had to crane my neck to take a look at it, b. the menu, and c. a big softboard, where patrons had stuck Post-It notes with praises & suggestions. The wallpaper is nothing but a cacophony of vertical coloured stripes, with silhouettes of animals, birds, trees & flowers in reverse. The silhouettes make it a bit interesting, but I am forced to ask – how is this connected to the brand, product, experience?

What Works

The product. The yummy, chilled, delicious, creamy, yoghurt, with the assortment of toppings, sauces, and sprinklings. It’s delicious.
The concept is new, so that’d work for a while.
The idea that I pay by weight, works for us Indians. Because we won’t feel cheated. Yes we could freeload by taking only the expensive toppings and still paying the standard 79p. This also works for us 🙂
The soft board. It’s of course a tertiary concern, but when you walk in somewhere where you see people have shown their love for the place, you feel like you have come to the right place.

What Does Not Work (For Me)

The process. It stands out so much. Because you are supposed to follow that process (total self service) for only one product on the menu, never mind that this product is the reason for the existence of the store. What are the staff supposed to do when you are making your yoghurt? Guide you through each step? And it’s not like I’m guaranteeing a return visit. So much of process learning and knowledge transfer to a customer for one cup of yoghurt seems a bit too much. So the staff has to do this hand-holding for almost every cup of yoghurt they sell.

The menu. It mentions everything else in a properly aligned set of columns, save for the hero product, which is mentioned last, in one multi-lined entry – “by the way, frozen yoghurt is 79p/gm”.

And the placement of the menu. It’s not the first, second, or third thing I saw. I had to turn 180˚ to see the menu, and that, when I was told to look for it. And well, they could maybe add a telescope to the existing decor, so that patrons could see what’s written on the menu.

The staff. They are courteous, they are helpful, they are sweet, and they know the products well. But they didn’t come across as much trained & polished. Also, they could do with a smart uniform. That would add to the credibility of the place.

I got talking to the store manager, and had an enlightening time. The Vimannagar Phoenix Mall store got anywhere around 45 to 200 walkins every day according to him. More on public holidays, and business was good, even though I only saw two other customers during the time I was there. Maybe because it was a weekday afternoon.

What They Could Do Better

Apart from what I’ve mentioned above already, I think there is a need for the walk-in customers to be given a clue. If a customer has to prepare the dessert by herself, how about putting up a big sign at the entrance and on the facing wall with the instructions in big bold letters? Nowadays, you also have the luxury to play a looping movie on a TV screen, where someone is demonstrating the process for the benefit of customers. Unless something like that happens, I think the staff could be a bit quicker and more proactive in asking customers if they need help, and showing them how it’s done.

It’s a new process. You’d need to educate the customers.

But despite these concerns that I’m sure they’d be working on anyway, the place is a must visit, because a. you now know the process (you’re welcome :)), and b. the yoghurt is really really really delicious.

Word of Grace: Photoessay

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Word of Grace is a growing congregation of Christians in Pune – what we generally call a Church. They don’t meet in a Church building. Their Sunday get-togethers are held in a hall in Pune’s Camp area.

Anish took me there. He has been a part of Word of Grace, and wanted me to help him in making a video for the Church.

That Sunday I met all these really wonderful and warm people, who come together to share their happiness & sorrows with each other, sing & laugh with each other, and welcome anyone with open arms and a heartfelt smile.

Bloggers, alias Hoggers

A very dear friend of mine had once described a good span of time as one where at the end of it you don’t remember the exact details and what-happened-after-what, but just experience a mellow happy feeling. And several days later also when you look back at that time, the first thing that hits you is the same happy feeling.

The afternoon of the eighth of September is almost in that happy place in my mind. Thanks to an impromptu blogger meet, which comprised of a few bloggers from Pune like Purnendu, Ekta, Maansi, Nilanshu and yours truly, joined by Biswajit from Mumbai. It was Biswajit’s brainchild, to get us all together, to have a relaxing conversation over lunch where we’d get acquainted and have an exchange of ideas, stories and whatever we felt like exchanging. And few places in the East of Pune are better suited for such a huddle as The Cafe at the Hyatt Regency.

The Cafe is Hyatt Regency Pune’s multi-cuisine restaurant, with a really soothing ambiance, with cuisines from the world over, right from salads to the Mughlai to the Oriental to the Continental to yummy desserts and enticing mocktails, and it’s all served in style.

I’m not really qualified to pen a review of a Hyatt restaurant. I barely tried more than 2 dishes, so engrossed was I in trying to take pictures of whatever I saw around me. After what I think was 3 rounds of taking pictures around the restaurant & the kitchen, and 2 rounds of serving myself some of the food, I started catching the drifts of conversations that were going on around me and tried to join in wherever I could – about blogging in general, about each other’s blogs in particular, about Maansi and Purnendu having read Fifty Shades of Grey and not having liked it, about Minoti having a blog which she doesn’t maintain religiously, about Maansi having decided never to read Harry Potter (shocking!), about Hindi literature, about contemporary literature and the latest films.

I’m sure there were various other topics we discussed, but I don’t remember all of them now.

All that I remember from that afternoon is that same mellow feeling that one gets after having spent a relaxed afternoon indulging in discussions over what excites them with really cool, dynamic people.

Day 6: The Day My Ladakh Trip Ended

Apologies for not updating the blog live after Day 2.

I have notes for every day after that till the time my ride ended, but could not post anything, owing mainly to the lack of network access, and also to the fact that we were tired and slightly upset about the progress at the end of each day, and needed to catch up on sleep.

I plan to share the memoirs of those days soon. But today it’s about the one incident that cut short my trip by half, gave me my first fracture, and got me to my first ever proper operation.

Day 6 began early for me. I woke up at 3 AM as we had planned. We wanted to hit the road at the earliest possible, and wanted to cover the 250 odd kilometres to Leh by sundown. The planned take off had to be delayed because there still wasn’t enough light outside. So we started riding at around 7. After having scaled up the Gata Loops, we took a short break at Lachulung La. I sped off from there after clicking a few pictures, leaving the others behind.

We reached Pang at around 10 after passing through some intimidating, gigantic and impressive rock formations. We had thukpas for breakfast at Pang, played with the local kid who wanted to drink Slice from our glasses but his mother would not let us feed him, and met our friends from Bangalore once again. Having left Pang at around 11, we took another 25 minutes to reach the cold desert: Moray Plains.

It’s a stretch of land some 50km long, which is surprisingly flat, considering that it is between the Himalayan peaks. It’s mighty, it’s scary and it’s beautiful. Most of the beginning of it is covered with juniper shrubs. One track with a signboard marked “Diversion” goes amongst the shrubs, where we took our bikes for around half a kilometer, stopped, posed and took pictures. Then we decided to turn back and take advantage of the immaculate tar road that evidently was not a ‘Diversion’. Getting such a road after the kind of ride we had done for the last 3 days, all four of us felt like kids in a candy store! We started riding at 80-90 kmph like there was no tomorrow! And the road did not seem to end. Except that it ended. We came across a heap of rubble, around which there were a few people working on the construction of the road. That was the last we saw of the tar road. After this spot, it was either a shadow of the road covered in stone chips and rubble, or dirt, or (god forbid) sand for as far as the eye could see.

We rode for an hour or so on the plains, trying to keep each other in our distant vision. At times I would see a SUV going parallel to us in the dirt at quite a distance. At times I would see some makeshift cabins near the foothills, presumably there for the road construction work. And at times I would see my friends approaching me.

Our riding skills were being tested, and we were having fun.

I don’t remember what happened after this.

No, seriously.

My entire bank of memories of what I think were the next 20 minutes consists of a frame, a vision of a splitsecond, where I am falling on the ground, and I can see the bike fall from under my feet.

The next moment I remember, I was being woken up by my friends. I felt dizzy. I felt needles all over my body, my brain, and my eyes. I presumably was dreaming while unconscious. Of another ride. Somewhere else. On being awaken, I felt like I was suddenly transported to somewhere unknown. I asked Siddhu who he was, and where we were. Everyone who had stopped to see and help were shocked. I wanted Siddhu to drop Anish a message, not realising that we hadn’t seen what a network signal on the phone looks like for 3 days now. I thought we were in Panchgani, though I kept saying Mahabaleshwar.

After about 10-15 minutes, my memories started coming back to me and I realised that I was in the middle of my long awaited Ladakh trip, but I still was baffled about how I fell. Somebody rode ahead and got Anish back with him.

Anish started questioning me about where we are going, where we started from in the morning, what we ate for lunch (trick question!), presumably to check for any damage to the brain. I took off my jacket to relax, and felt a searing pain in my left wrist. When I saw the wrist I was taken aback! The palm had twisted, and the bones were bulging, making it look weird and scary.

I would have gone under a panic attack, had it not been for Anish and his first aid training. Promptly he covered my entire arm, from the palm to beyond my elbow, with his sweater, used one of our knee-guards as the splint, covered it with crepe bandage, and warned me not to try and move my hand. To make sure, he made a sling with his scarf and hung my arm in it. Then he asked me to press his fingers with mine as hard as I could, just to make sure the fingers were alright.

I kept asking him what the date was, and how I would reach Leh, and he kept assuring me that they will get me to Leh, no matter what.

Lucky for us, a mini-truck was not far behind. This was part of the convoy of the foreigners riding Bullets who had started from Manali, and whom we kept meeting on our way so far. The driver, Sunil, let me sit in the shotgun seat and took me to Leh, all the while conversing with me, giving me things to eat and drink, and in the end dropped me at the Snow View hotel, where I waited for the rest of the gang.

We were so far thinking that it’s a displaced wrist, and that after setting the bones right, I could go to Khardung La and Pangong Tso with a cast on the wrist, sitting behind Anish on his bike. But that night, after seeing the doctor at the SNM Hospital and getting the X-Ray done, we were told that my wrist has fractured.

We met the orthopedic doctor the next day, and he confirmed it was a fracture, though a unique one, and advised surgery within 10 days. I decided then to drop the trip, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, the Hemis festival, Kargill, Drass, Srinagar, and returned to Pune the next day.

It’s been a month since the surgery and I am well on my way to recovery, what with snapping fingers and playing open chords on the guitar, but I shudder to think of what would have happened to me if Anish or anyone with knowledge of first aid wasn’t around to take matters in his hand and immobilize my wrist – which, even according to the doctors at SNM Hospital, was the absolutely right thing to do.

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Dahanu Madness

We’ve spent 7 hours on the road so far. Through highways, crowded towns and unbelievable traffic, 3 bikes, all with pillions and the customary luggage sets – saddle bags, tank bags, and other types of bags tied with bungees – had just crossed probably India’s busiest and most crowded area. And we still had a long way to go.

We left the beach town of Dahanu at 4.30 in the afternoon. That was because the working ones amongst us wanted to reach home and sleep before midnight. Good luck with that now.

The tea has come, and we are waiting for the bread & omelettes we had ordered. As we sip our tea, one of the riders goes to answer Mother Nature. The owner of the joint got curious with our attire and paraphernalia. He came and sat on our table and started asking the usual questions we riders face everywhere we go. Are you professional riders? Where are you coming from? Which way are you headed? Is this a hobby? Are you a club? Do you do this often?

Ride In

It all began when Sagar suggested Dahanu as a riding destination. None of us had even heard of that place, so we immediately agreed – how many times do you expect us to ride to Mahabaleshwar and Lonavla?

After a few weeks of deliberation and preparations, the ride began early morning on Saturday. Everyone was asked to meet up at the Talegaon tollbooth at around 4 in the morning. At around 4.30, there were only 3 bikes there including mine, but by 5 we had the full quorum, and we started riding west.

The gang comprised of a motley set of riders: speed hungry veterans, riders who wanted to enjoy the slow thump, bikes with new block-pistons whose running in restrictions ensured that they could not cross a certain magic number on the speedometer. As a result, we hardly rode for long stretches, and the distance which should have been covered in 4 to 5 hours, took us eight!

But it hardly felt like a burden. For the fast ones amongst us, it meant stopping at eating/smoking/tea joints and waiting for the rest, and for the slow ones it meant stopping where everyone else was waiting for them, get a quick bite/fag/sip and getting back on the road without even catching a breath.

Riding in our patent chilled way, we reached Dahanu in clusters – the fast ones first, and the ones who had flat tyres or dry tanks the last.

Dahanu finally!

Once you reach Dahanu, all you see are uncluttered expanses of clean, good roads, with a minimum of people on them and a vast beach beyond tall trees on your left and grand looking resorts on the right.

We had bookings in a resort called Pearline. However, each of us was under the impression that we had to look for a certain ‘Pearl Resort’. Close enough! So most of us kept searching the beach road for an hour, and every time we looked at the board that said Pearline, we wondered how close these two names sounded and had a quiet giggle. We finally stopped when we saw familiar bikes parked in their parking lot and wondered some more.

After fighting with the resort’s receptionist, manager and the owner regarding our bookings and availability and rates of AC rooms, we settled in, had lunch, and crashed for a nap. After which, we did the most obvious thing – we headed to the beach with our cameras and bikes.

The beach is quite unlike anything I have seen before. The sand is a dark shade of grey, and the waves are docile, almost as if marching in files under a strict leader, coming to submerge our feet ever so politely. And with these waves come the tiny hermit crabs – those parasitic crabs who invade the shells of molluscs for protection and grow into them. All of this adds up to the serene & pleasant sunset experience.

Further up north from where we were put up, there was a small village market, where you get fresh sea fish amongst other things. And on the seashore, there were groups of fishermen working on their fishing boats behind the fishing nets which divided the beach from the road. I started wondering if this is the same place, same beach as the quiet and peaceful one I was shooting away in half a kilometre before.

While shooting the beautiful scene of fishing boats through fishing nets, I heard the familiar thump of a gang of Bullets riding by and turned. The gang had started on a hunt for a famous sea-food joint called Crazy Crabs. They went ahead and I saw them disappear in the darkness beyond the market, which evidently was defining the limits of the Dahanu village. A couple of minutes later, one of the riders called me up to apprise me of their plan. So I followed them.

But even after riding for around 20km I didn’t hit any decent patch of civilization or anything that looked like an eating place. So I stopped to click the beautiful row of coconut trees against the moonlit blue sky. I decided to ride further ahead to look for my friends, when I met up with some other Bullet riders, also from Pune, and got to know that this Shangri-La called Crazy Crabs is in fact in the next village, which is quite some distance from where we were. By then news was in that the gang also broke up, got lost individually in chunks, and were returning in chunks to the resort, prioritising the needs of the moment – hunger over taste.
And so we returned to the resort and had our fill under the starlit skies.

The next morning a couple of the guys wanted to go see the sunrise on the beach. After wondering for around half an hour where the sun was, they realised that Dahanu is on the western coast, which meant that their pursuit was absurd even conceptually! The disappointed lot returned to breakfast, and began planning the return. There were a bunch of students who had no worries in the world, so they wanted to stay back another day to catch another sunset. But the majority of us were eager to get back and catch a good night’s sleep in Pune before we went back to the Monday grind.

We broke up in chunks again. A few left Dahanu just after breakfast, while the final bunch of six decided to head back at 4.30 in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch and a little bit of lazing around.

Head Home

So we did. The ride back from Dahanu till Ghodbandar was smooth as expected but we, being what we are, stopped even then for refreshments twice in that stretch. And then, we reached hell: traffic at around 6 on the road from Ghodbandar to Thane/Mulund is nothing short of hell. It took us 3 hours to reach Thane! By that time we were getting hungry and impatient. And we couldn’t agree on a place to eat at 9 in the night!
Anyway, we decided to ride’l on, get rid of traffic, reach Panvel and think only after that.

By the time we reached the Panvel end of the expressway, even a dinner at McDonald’s sounded like a gourmet meal. So we headed into uncle Ronald’s, unloaded our bags, helmets, jackets and the likes on an unoccupied table and went bazinga on the choicest of mass-manufactured burgers and iced tea.

When we started heading back, Nipun on his Classic 500 just took off on the expressway without even waiting for us. We waited for him in front of the McDonald’s, lest he realises his mistake and turns back, or he catches some trouble on the prohibited highway. But hardly ten minutes had passed when I got a call from him – he had reached Khopoli! Wow! I asked him to stay there and wait for us. We headed on the NH4 route, but on the circle at Panvel’s entrance we lost another rider: Yogesh didn’t bother following us towards the cleaner and simpler route towards Uran, and went directly towards Panvel town instead, despite our continuous honking, calling out, and calling on the phone – he conveniently ignored all of it.

So the remaining two of us went ahead on our planned route, resigned to our fate. But just where the roads merge again after Panvel, we chanced upon Yogesh, who was bewildered with the realisation that he and his pillion were riding all alone through the town! We went on to Khopoli to find Nipun waiting for us in front of a small restaurant. We went in, and ordered a round of tea for everyone.

And it hit me: we’d spent 7 hours on the road so far, and we are still around 90km from home!

Every minute spent in the restaurant was now making me irritable – I wanted the warm feeling of my own bed and my daily dose of Eagles to lull me to sleep – and it was getting pushed further and further by the minute.
We finally finished our tea, bread, omelettes, Nature’s calls, and Mr. owner’s questions and hit the road again.
Khandala, the Khandala Ghats, Lonavla, Talegaon and Dehu Road – all went by without any stops or eventuality – and we hit the last leg of our journey home.

Our last regroup was at the Wakad Bridge, where we exchanged pillions on the basis of proximity to our destinations, and parted with a promise of exchanging the ride’s photographs as soon as possible.

Solo Saturday Ride: Nighoj

A lazy Saturday and no friends around – what’s a rider to do? Ride of course. Solo.

So I did. 90km from Pune on the Nagar Road (SH 27), a certain SH 51 branches off to a village called Nighoj, beside which flows a river through giant potholes. I had heard about this place from Joseph, who showed me its pictures on flickr by other people. The ones that stayed with me were clicked by Suhas Desale and some other [email protected] members.

And ever since I had seen those photographs, I wanted to go there.

So this lazy Saturday afternoon (the 26th of December), after grabbing a bite at the FC Road Subway, I just rode off on Nagar Road. After around 70km of riding on the awesome 4-lane highway, which included a bit of ghats and loads of beautiful corners, I reached Shirur. Just when I crossed the Shirur town, there was the Ghodnadi river and its bridge which were my landmarks. I crossed the bridge and kept an eye out for a left turn. It is a sharp left turn, that comes just when the SH 27 is turning right, and can be easily missed.

So I took the turn, and realised that not all state highways are made equal. From a 4-lane Nagar Road, I was now on an almost one-lane “State Highway” to Nighoj. It took me another 20km of a mix of okay roads and almost off-road patches to reach the Nighoj village. The highway turns right when leaving the village. On the turn I thought it would be wise to stop and ask for the place I wanted to go to. The only problem was that I did not know what the locals called it. And I cannot speak Marathi! Luckily the two construction workers I asked seemed to be well-versed in Hindi, and they guided me in the general direction of the place, and advised me to ask for “Kundaa” (कुंडा).

When the road turns right, on the left you can see two big facades – the kind you see at the entrance of a locality or as entrances to “holy areas” surrounding temples. The roads beyond these gates are as good as dirt patches, so I braced myself (I forgot to wear my back-support when I left home!). I drove in to the second gate, and took the most obvious turns and corners, and conveniently got lost in the fields, all the while wondering if I was on the right track. I stopped on the way twice to ask people where the “Kundaa” was, only to realise that they were speaking such a dialect which even my Marathi flatmate would have trouble understanding. As a last resort, I brought out my phone and decided to do some googling. Now the phone I have, the Samsung Marine, is an excellent conversation starter, is very good with the waterproof, dustproof and shockproof thingie, and is good with the voice and decent with the messaging, but it’s not built for data connections. Three times out of four when I try opening a webpage on its primitive browser the message I get is that the file being loaded is too big for its teeny-tiny memory. Of course it’s a tough phone, don’t expect brains from it. But I digress. With my fingers crossed, I googled for Nighoj on it, and managed to load a post on a blog just enough to catch the necessary keywords – Kundaa Devi and Kukdi. So I asked another local, who spoke to me in Marathi, and I gathered from whatever I understand of the language, that I had to turn back, almost till the Nighoj village. So I turn back, and stop to ask a shopkeeper in the village, who literally walked me to the obscure looking exit on the left which would take me to the destination. This by-road made the road I was travelling on so far look like the Autobahn. Who would have thought that you would have to take such a road to reach such a popular spot? That too without any signage. Anyways, it took me another 3-4km before I saw another gate welcoming me to the Kundmauli (कुंडमाउली) tourist area. Another couple of kilometres, and I reached a plateau-like clearing, with a couple of temples. So I parked my bike, took off the bag from the tank and walked forward. And was amazed by what I saw.

The locals call this area Kundmauli (कुंडमाउली) or Kundaa Devi (कुंडा देवी), and there is a temple called Malganga (मळगंगा) over here. There is a temple on either side, and there is a narrow bridge that takes you across.

After I spent around an hour exploring one bank of the river and clicking pictures, I realised that I was losing light – it was sunset time. Since I wanted to catch up to SH 27 as soon as possible, I packed up, and rushed back to the bike. Then it was half an hour of almost off-roading, followed by an hour or so of smooth highway riding, and then another half an hour of moving through city traffic, before I had dinner and landed up in Aundh, drinking with a couple of Firelords. A perfect end to a day well-spent.

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Ride Wet

One has got to ride on the NH4 when it’s raining this heavily, atleast once!

The wet roads, the green surroundings, the fog, the constant prick of rain drops on the face, and the wet and squeaky shoes, low visibility, the constant worry about the contents of the saddlebag getting wet – all of this adds to an experience that is unforgettable.


The NH4 before it rained
Originally uploaded by recaptured

Yes that is exactly what the bloke would tell you, who leaves home when it’s overcast, on the way gets drenched to the bone, and takes five hours to complete a journey which he, with a good amount of pride, usually finishes in two and a half hours, and does not want you to think he’s miserable.

A trip that I had planned for 6AM today started at 8. Whom can I blame for the delay when the whole convoy consisted of only yours truly?

Anyway, the point is that Lonavla, Khandala and the Ghats look and feel breathtaking when it rains. When you are negotiating the hilly roads of Khandala Ghat in this weather, you can hardly see anything but the one vehicle ahead of you, and only because they have put their tail lamps on at 11am!

Apart from the awesome scenic ghats, it was the breakfast I had at Amber Garden a little before Lonavla that kept me going. Well, I waited there for over an hour, clicking the clouds, the water and the flies. And when I decided to move because the downpour seemed to be waning, it poured like there was no tomorrow shortly after.

Next time, got to waterproof everything when going on a ride.