Thursday, April 19, 2012


You have to know that Sinhagad is to Pune, what pani is to pani puri.

Earlier known as 'Kondhana', the fort was renamed as 'Sinhagad' after Shivaji Maharaj's troops captured it. One of his trusted men - Tanaji Malusare, was killed in the battle, prompting the words, 'We got the fort, but lost the Lion', and hence it was renamed as Sinhagad (Lion-fort) to commemorate Tanaji.


A friend called me up on Friday, wondering if I was interested in a trek to Sinhagad on Monday. I was reclining on the couch, reading 'The Scarlet Letter', as Graham Norton embarrassed the hell out of his guests on the television. I cleared my throat, looked at my calendar and said, "Okay, I guess" (What she didn't need to know was that I was doing the macarena and cartwheels inside...)

We decided to meet up at the Swargate bus station at 5 a.m. and I kissed my DIo goodbye and asked her to be safe as I parked her in the Swargate parking lot. We finally boarded a bus to Sinhagad after a long wait at the stop. I felt like one of those crazy bouncing balls I used to play with when I was a child, as the bus braved on through potholes and irregular speed-brakers

Now, if it had been a normal day, we'd have reached the foothills of Sinhagad without any further ado. But nah, it was torture-Pooja-day, so the bus had to hit a tum-tum and of course, we had to wait till the next bus came. That meant we had to trek in the sun, something we'd tried to avoid (hence the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.)

Two people from our group decided to get a trax that would deposit them to the fort, while the rest of us trekked. And so we started the slow journey upwards with the early morning sun threatening to burn our skins off. Despite the frequent stops for water, I still managed to feel dehydrated. And as soon as we reached mid-way, my phone network bid me goodbye.

We made a halt for a glass of limbu-serbat and chatted up the woman who owned the stall. Just then, Shruti made a statement which confirmed that this was not my day - the trax were not running the route today, so the two ex-trekkers were now stranded at the base of the fort.

Just our luck, I tell you.

Despite that, we plodded on. It was close to 8:30 now, and the sun seemed a bit too harsh than on most days. Rivulets of sweat were streaming down my neck and I closed my eyes and dreamt of a tub full of ice, and cold serbat, and ice cream. Dejected and worried about our friends, we walked the last arduous steps and plonked on the protective wall that lines the road.

Just then, a trax came barelling up the road, with the two girls waving out of the window and laughing at us.

And finally, we reached the fort and threw ourselves under the lush shade of a tree. The rest of the morning was spent in laughter (I heard the most hilarious tales that are making me laugh as I write this) and napping.

We walked over to Kalyan darwaza

and without even realising it, I was singing 'Kadhi tu' (that's the effect movies have on us!)

(as you may have guessed, I'm crazy about this movie...but then again, who isn't?)

Sinhagad = dahi, tak, kanda bhaji, pithla bhakri

So we stuffed ourselves full of kanda bhaji

pithla-bhakri and dahi

And finally, it was time to undertake the downhill journey. The weather was oddly stifling, and the sun beat down upon us.

But my troubles were far from over. I kept slipping. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I slipped over the rocks and the dry soil(awww fuuuu-dhad-dhad-dhad-dhad-dhad-aggga aaai gaaa....)

We were halfway down when it started to rain. The first rain of the year! The smell of wet soil rose in the air and I drooled over it, greedily stuffing it in my lungs and saying 'brain, you better remember this beautiful smell, because ain't never gonna smell anything like it!'

The rest of the trek was quite okay. We reached the bus stop to find that there were twenty minutes to the next bus, and dark clouds gathered overhead, rumbling and thundering like the belly of an instantiated beast.

We boarded the bus, and the clouds kept gathering and when we got down at Swargate the sky had darkened and it looked like it was late in the evening, even though my watch showed ten past five.

Just as we bounded to the parking lot, big drops of rain began to splatter on the road, and within a minute, we were dripping wet. The rain raged and continued and there was hail (oh, yeah) and my journey home was torturous. The hail hit my arms and face with a force that left my skin stinging, and despite taking shade twice, the rains showed no signs of abating. I rode home nevertheless.

 My sister opened the door and stifled a smile. I looked like a drowned rat. Maybe worse.

She made me some coffee. We sat on the terrace, watching the rain fall, and the smell of the soil and coffee intermingled, and then the day was perfect than I had ever hoped it to be.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Green vinyl sofas and antiseptic smell

The light was blinding me, and involuntarily, I closed my eyes. She held a long shiny instrument in her hand, behind her plain sterile mask, I could have sworn that she was grinning.

In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if she had two long incisors too that glinted in the dark.

Or maybe not.

Her assistant shoved a long tube in my mouth that robbed me of the ability to speak, and by that time, I was truly terrified. In order to gain some sort of moral support, I looked over at my father (I'm still a child even though I may be eighteen!) but he was flicking through a gardening magazine.

Fathers, I tell you.

The assistant loomed over me and the single squeak of dissent that I emitted did not seem to register with either of them. With a satisfied smirk, he moved away.

I shut my eyes, and as the whirring contraption drew near, my hands grabbed my own jeans in an effort to brave it out and not run away screaming bloody murder.
The ordeal lasted for half an hour and by the end of it, I was too tired to protest anymore.

Her assistant shut the light, and pushed away the evil arm of the chair. I jumped out, a bit unsteady on my feet.

She looked over at me and said, "You need to take better care of your teeth." (It was bound to happen. I am irrevocably in love with choclates, ice cream and pani puri.)

I smiled, showing off the newly-filled cavity and said 'Thank you!' and before she could ask me to confirm my next appointment at the desk, I hightailed it out of there.

It would have worked, had I been alone.

But my Father went over to the desk and got me an appointment for Monday. He read magazine the entire time, took another appointment(I mean, come on!)and sat behind me as I rode the bike because his arms were aching. He did offer me ice cream, I guess, a tradition from when I was ten, but I was still too miffed so I refused.

So on Monday, I'll be sitting on those green vinyl sofas, amidst howling children and greying geriatrics who have come for their dentures, waiting for my turn and hoping to get over the worst as soon as possible.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Every Day You Play

Pablo Neruda has to be one of the most prolific poets of the century. The last line of this particular poem makes me want to turn into a cloud and float away in sheer delight.
Hope you enjoy this poem.

Every Day You Play
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.
The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda

Only a week

My exams came to an end on last Monday and I let out a big whoop of joy.

There is untainted joy in eating icecream and pani puri, waching your best friend fall on her bum, and the best of all, when exams end. It's sheer relief and you can shout all you  want and nobody will utter a single word against you.

I discovered early on, that to intensify this joy, you have to study hard. There's not any other option. Because you know, you'll look up from a particularly hard chapter and see your brother in front of the TV and say to yourself in a voice worthy of all Bond villains, 'Someday, it'll be my turn.'

I console myself with thoughts of long, languid days spent lying on the floor reading one book after another, with a secret delight that my mom won't be able to shout at me for that because my exams are over! I'll stay up until three watching television and when my sister will stumble out for a glass of water, she'll only glare at me and not say a word as my exams are over!

 It's exactly been a week. I have read 3 books (The Christmas Thief, Don't Look Down, Collected works of O.Henry ) and many episodes of the usual fare (Supernatural, How I met your mother, Friends, Cougar Town, The River) and today, I'm bored.

I think I'll take a mid-morning nap (just because I can!)