Tag Archives: Maharashtra

The Last Generation

Marine Drive

Photograph taken at Marine Drive, Mumbai, India

The Holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said ‘What have we ourselves done?’ One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied, ‘We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.’ The others replied, ‘And those who come after us, what will they do?’ He said, ‘They will struggle to achieve half our works.’ They said, ‘And to those who come after them, what will happen?’ He said, ‘THE MEN OF THAT GENERATION WILL NOT ACCOMPLISH ANY WORKS AT ALL AND TEMPTATION WILL COME UPON THEM; AND THOSE WHO WILL BE APPROVED IN THAT DAY WILL BE GREATER THAN EITHER US OR OUR FATHERS.’ – From ‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers’

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Murud Janjira: The African Connection

I have been to quite a few places in and around Mumbai but this one clearly stood out as one of the most memorable ones. Maybe it’s got to do with my penchant for beaches but more than the beaches, I believe it is the history of this place that enchanted me.

Murud is situated at around 175 kms from Mumbai on the Konkan coast. The drive involves a beautiful countryside and some breathtaking views of the open ocean.

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We reached Murud at around 11 am after having started 4 hours earlier ( Thanks to some one ways in the city). The primary interest was to laze on the beach and so we decided to view the Janjira fort first. 4kms ahead of the Murud beach is the fort and a glimpse of it convinced us that we had made the right choice.

A Glimpse of the Fort
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The fort is situated right in the middle of the ocean. Strong walls of stone stand tall, protecting the fort. The only access to the fort is either taking a public ferry( motorized) or taking a private sail boat. We chose the latter, not willing to wait for 25 more people for the ferry to move.

The Sail Boat
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After around 15-20 minutes of sailing and a brief description of the fort by the oarsman, we reached the fort. The fort has an entrance which from afar is totally invisible to the naked eye. So much so the fort was never conquered by the British or the Prtuguese or the Marathas…Yes, this is a region that was ruled by the Africans!!

The Sidis, as they are known were soldier slaves brought in from Africa ( The Somalian region). Slowly and steadily they grew and started occupying positions of power, especially in western India.The sidis are also referred to as Abyssinians, from which is derived the Urdu/Hindi word “Habshi” used to refer to someone who looks big and ugly.

Janjira was one such region, ruled by an African nawab. Janjira jal Durg ( Sea fort) was built in the 17th century. The fort itself is spread across 22 acres and was a living fort till the 1972 when the Govt. of India shifted the entire population to the mainland. The fort holds 2 freshwater ponds and some huge cannons which successfully thwarted any attempts of an attack. Witness to this are the remains of a fort built by Sambhaji, Shivaji’s son. The fort lies right across the bay, in three pieces.

One of the freshwater ponds in the fort
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A tunnel, under the sea, runs from the fort to the mainland and leads to the Nawab’s palace in Murud. The palace is still the private property of the nawab’s family.

A view of the mainland from one of the fort’s spy holes
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The economy of this “African Ruled” state was primarily run through piracy and the loot from these “pirate attacks” added to the military might and splendour of the fort.

To tell us all this was an interesting character who, with every description of the fort had a ‘sher’ of his own to share.We thus moved from wall to wall, enchanted with a history that didn’t make its way to our text books.

Our “Animated” Guide
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Each corner of the fort had a story of its own, which needs to be seen to be believed.

The Ammunition hall
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One of the many cannons

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After spending an hour within the walls , we made our way back to the mainland, hungry and exhausted. After having a sumptuous lunch of pomfret, mutton and rotis, we decided to move towards Kashid, around 15 kms enroute to Mumbai. A hot day, none of us were quite willing to move into the water, fearing the sand and the water would be as hot.However the cool sand and the sea was a relief and we were soon running around playing with the waves. The water was crystal clear and the sand soft and laden with shells and different kinds of stones.

Kashid Beach
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The evening was fast setting in and the beautiful sunset, captured in our cameras, was a grim reminder of next day’s tensions and the rush filled city.

Sunset on Kashid Beach
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Four hours later, we were back in the city, back amongst the maddening crowds.

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A high point in the Sahyadris

Saturday, 2nd August,2008: We woke up to another overcast, wet morning in Mumbai. It was early morning and we were still pretty much sleepy. After our mandatory chores we waited expectantly for our hired Chevrolet Tavera with the driver, supposed to report at 5:00 am. Timeliness is a virtue rarely found in the Indian subcontinent and so when the driver called us at around 5:10 am we were pleasantly surprised. However, soon to our dismay, we realized that the driver was not very direction savvy. It is after 45 minutes that we finally managed to spot him wandering around our society.

And when we saw him we were not quite sure if he was of an eligible age as well. So much so for a good start to the day.

The previous evening my office team(my boss Deepak,Aparna and me) had the spent the evening buying accessories and food. Shorts,shoes,jackets,chocolates,chips,bread,juices and bread spreads formed part of our travel basket. All the food along with the rain gear now formed part of our backpacks.

We had to pick up Aparna from Borivilli. After some struggles with the routes,the accelerator and the gears, we somehow managed to help her aboard.

It was already close to 7’0clock and we had a long drive of atleast 200 kms ahead of us. Telling the driver to speed up seemed futile as the consequences could be fatal. Neither did we know the route,so in essence we were left at the mercy of the driver and the ever helpful Maharashtrian Public.

The driver was an interesting personality in himself.He seemed new to the wheel and the city but would not bend to ask directions from us or the public. This trait of his soon found us racing towards Mumbai on Nashik Road from Thane instead of going the other way towards Kalyan and Igatpuri. If not for the signboards on the highway we would have soon found ourselves outside Victoria Terminus.

After a dose of anger and frustration, our driver seemed meeker and ready to move in a direction which we decided on. And so we were back on the highway,this time racing in the right direction.

One stopover for breakfast and we were back but soon were stuck in a traffic jam that seemed to stretch for miles. The location however was scenic with streams on one side and the railway track on the other. 1 hour and 2 chocolates later the traffic jam seemed to be thawing away.The culprit: an oversized iron part resting on a puny Volvo truck.

The Traffic Jam

We finally reached Igatpuri at around 1:00 pm and took the first detour towards Bhandardhara at a village called Ghoti. A densely populated village, the thick iron spoked umbrellas with spear like extensions were showcased throughout the marketplace.

The route beyond Ghoti remains one of the most enchanting sights. We stopped at multiple points enroute simply to gaze and take some snapshots of the beauty around.

Drive to Kalsubai

The view of the Sahyadris

The hills
Our destination was Bhari, a village at the base of the majestic Mt Kalsubai. With lots of school children around, our spirits were a bit dampened as the trek seemed to be an easy one. It is later that we realized that generally,people walk till a temple midway to the top.

At 1696m or 5400 feet,Mt Kalsubai has the distinction of being the tallest peak of the Sahyadris. The first few steps involved passing through the slush of mud and goat dung to reach a furiously flowing stream.

Off we go

The Village

After crossing the stream began our trek with each step increasing in complexity and requiring more movement of the muscles.

We moved our way up with the rain slowly gaining momentum. With increasing gradient,the views also just became better.

where the heavens meet the earth

The hills and the springs

Just another view

Kalsubai Springs

A look above would reveal some gushing waterfalls and the imposing head of the mountain. “would we manage to reach the summit? and that too before night?” was a thought that started to bother me. However, we kept on moving till Aparna’s muscles said no. Tired and too fatigued to move after some slips and a long tedious walk, Aparna told us to carry on . Two village kids who had been accompanying us stayed back with her while we pressed on.

The incline became steeper and at times it was tough to find a firm footing. We soon reached the base of the stairs that were leading to the summit of the mountain. Climbing was slowly taking its toll on me as well. I was dragging myself with constant breaks in between. Gasping for breath I would at times sit in the mud itself. Deepak,with his regularly exercising frame moved on with me following a few minutes behind.

The stairs gave way to metal ladders where there were straight rock faces.These metal ladders had bars so thin and slippery(owing to the rain) that one wrong step and you could fall into the depths.

It was after a while that we could finally spot the summit. A fresh surge of adrenalin ensured that I climb the final few steps and be amidst the white mist which were known as clouds to the people in the valley. We had finally made it to the summit and the view was well worth it. The waterfalls we had seen in the distance were now flowing besides us and the clouds covered us in a white blanket. We could soon see nothing beneath us but a cloud cover that seemed to extend for miles.

The springs at the summit

The clouds and the springs

The climb down was another story altogether..We had to hold ourselves from looking down at the valley.The ladder bars made my legs shiver and the slippery terrain made me miss a beat quite a few times.

But we made it and soon we were back with Aparna,happily munching away at sandwiches and wafers.

Another 15-20 minutes and we were back in the village and in our car,hoping that our driver would be safely able to reach us home to Mumbai.

Need some more dope on our trek and the place.Heres Aparna’s post on the same

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Videos of the Narel Matheran Railway

Snaps : still images which capture a moment in your life….Videos : Capturing moments in motion and so I present to you some moments in motion of the Neral Matheran toy train



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