We all often have our places. Places, where we go and dream!
Growing up, this spot for me was my rooftop, by the chick door from where I could see the full, waxing/waning – fourteen shades of moon! Being from the latchkey generation, my mum paa weren’t around for most part of the day owing to their jobs so they had to ensure that I was protected. Chick doors were hence my safety net. Within their confines, I could sit by the porch and gape at the skies. As I waited for them to return from their jobs I would imagine my freedom from behind these meshes, travel to far off places, live my Hollywood style fairy-tale, sign-off my imaginary books, tend to a zoo with a few lions, penguins, giraffes and dolphins.
I was bound to this pattern even after growing up, all through my college days and post finding a job. My work got me away from home, replacing the moon with city lights and the chick doors with the flat’s safety doors. The corporate life offered an open culture that ensured zero privacy and the high rise flats surrounded by other high rise flats ironically induced claustrophobia. Finding a spot for myself, hence, became a major weekend project. This restlessness would often lead me to explore newer places, but with friends. Being from the deserts, the night and the moon were my tranquilisers. But as I came to Pune, this dear companion was visible only during my drive back home from the office, and I would often lose track of it given the constant honking, traffic and rains.
Since things got complicated with the Moon, I decided to move on and find solace elsewhere.
Surrounded by the Western Ghats, Pune soon led me to the discovery of my new friends – the mountains and the mist. With Mahabaleshwar, Lavasa, Lonavala, Khandala – in its close proximity, every weekend was spent going around these places. But being popular locations, all of these places were mostly bustling with the city crowd, both from Pune and the bigger Mumbai, everyone wanting their own piece of peace from the cityscape. The spot was still amiss.
One day as we were securing a place for ourselves to stand at the famous Lion’s Point at Lonavala, I narrated my dilemma to my bunch of new found friends. Surprisingly nobody laughed. They even agreed to the point that these trips weren’t serving their purpose. These trips weren’t helping us de-stress. The Bushi dam, the Lion’s Point, and other famous points at Lonavala were more crowded than the clubs at Pune with free entries and cheap liquor. There were people everywhere, the noise and the crowds left no place for us to relax or chill. And that is when we decided to drive off further from the Lion’s point donning explorer hats. We had rode just for a few meters, when we saw a Qualis standing in the middle of nowhere. There was a lone “tapri” selling off steamed corns along with tea and pakores. Famished that we were, we decided to get off the bikes and help ourselves with a serving.
The weather too was perfect for this. It was cold and misty, lush green mountains all around, with air that felt like 90% oxygen. No sign of civilization, no clutter of traffic, no honking, no smog! We shared this with the vendor who was happily serving tea to this unexpected entourage apparently thanking his stars that someone braved to get past the famous joints. We got a little chatty with him and narrated the dilemma of the crowds at all the famous points. He laughed and told us that he was glad that we came looking around. He asked us to keep our vehicles where they were and took us down an untreaded trail. We followed him.
It was like walking through a fairytale land. Engulfed by mist, the trail we were following was hardly visible. The ground was slippery, owing to the creeks, but we had tiny crabs as our companions, moving along with us, although laterally. Our shoes were soaked, and soon we were drenched in clouds, teeth clattering to the sudden coldness around. After walking, slipping, falling, skidding, and a few ouches and a few ooiis later, we finally reached the edge of the cliff to a view, that was worth it all. We stood facing the valley, surrounded by hills, smothered in mist!
The man chuckled at our expressions. He told us to wait there for some time as he headed back to his store. We were surprised to see a few other people around, probably the ones who had driven down in the qualis that we had seen parked at the clearance. From our excitement they understood that we were first timers, and so one of them shouted to us that we should stay to see the mist recede, and return again. He told us that it was a sight to behold! And indeed it wasn’t just a sight, it was an experience in itself.
Henceforth, we made a ritual out of this unnamed cliff. It witnessed us evolving into the closest bunch of friends. A bad week, a good week, a celebration, a new friend in town, a breakup, a new relationship, being cheated on, getting a new job, getting married, getting dumped – we had the cliff to go to! We bought new people along sometimes, and would let them stand at the edge to witness the charm themselves. Over a period of time now, newer people have started to discover this fairy land, the tapri owner has expanded his shop and now keeps Lays and Kurkures and Maggie too and a lot more cars and bikes are now parked at the clearance. Probably this cliff will be the new “lions point”. Probably as life goes on, we will find and foster a new relationship with a newer place. But for the love of dreaming, and for the occasional solitude and solace seekers in us, this cliff, even today, has magic to offer!