Late Thursday night, chetan, chechi and gudiya push off to Mahabaleshwar. I am at the end of my tether. A bit later, a miracle occurs. My shoot gets postponed. Friday turns out to be free for both of us. Hurray! i shout, and immediately decide to hit Matheran. Friday Morning. No rooms are available. Yet we stuff our bags with a day’s wear, pick up our cameras, and simply decide to get out there.
Matheran is technically the hillstation in ‘our ‘backyard’. And many of my friends have atleast one favourite Matheran story to narrate. Here is one from the 80’s. Chetan comes back from college late in the evening, and tells me, “We went to Matheran today.”
“Matheran?”, I exclaim. “Is it not too far? In the mountains?”
“No, we just pooled in 5 rs and went there.”
I struggle with thoughts of being able to go to a “hill station” in one day and back, and then give up.
1991: P is a year senior to me. She is in the 10th std, and our school takes them all to Matheran for the annual picnic. Beforehand, they have been warned : “Boys in separate dorms, girls in separate dorms”. Later P shows me some dried flowers, coloured majenta and pink, brought from Matheran. “It was very cold, and we had lots of fun”, she says.
1992: I reach Std. 10th and promtly pay up for our picnic in the hills. S’s father refuses to send her, despiteTeacher’s assurance, “boys in separate dorms, girls in separate dorms.” But we are all excited at our first overnight picnic. In chilly December too.
Then the blasted BJP and its karsevaks decide to bring down Babri Masjid. Matheran fades into the mist.
2004: My favourite story is when Pr and An took a trip to the hills with their son Sachi. The boy had been looking forward to the trip, especially the part when he would ride in the toy train. In a burst of parental protectionist feeling Pr booked a ticket in the (only) I class compartment of the 4-bogie toy train. But clearly it was no joy ride. The three of them are all alone in the I class compartment, while all the wild boistrous singing and laughter, the epicentre of fun is in II class dabba. The poor boy gulped down his disappointment, An tried to smother her laughter, while Pr wondered yet again, “now what did I do wrong?”
For S & R, Matheran seems to have been a world away from home. R’s orkut updates, every two months, is a photo from Matheran. Its the same ‘day-trip’ business my brother took ages ago.
It is indeed a paradise for people seeking some uninteruppted space. The hitch if any, is getting back home within your deadline. While returning home, our Taxi contained a fretful couple. The break was over, and they had to reach back to the respective homes in time. Now Neral and beyond has train services to VT every one hour or so. Despite hurtling down the hills at record speed, the couple missed their train. An hour later, the girl was stil tensed and worried. As luck would have it, that train was delayed by 10 minutes. Poor girl, those minutes must have felt like eternity…. In anycase, I hope they reached home, and not many feathers were ruffled. :).
So whats the big deal about Matheran, you ask? Why do people keep coming back in its misty folds? The really big deal about Matheran is that there are no motor vehicles allowed in the place. no bikes, no cars, no auto rickshaws. nothing. Probably the only such place in India. The only dust you may have to breathe is the one kicked up by horses. It’s quiet, its pleasant, still densely wooded, and even at the peak of the holidays, chances of bumping into people depreciates considerably as you walk away from the central market.
We spent the day walking from point to point – without getting to any. We were lost. But the day was fine, the earth red, trees thick and leafy, locals friendly and unassuming. Even taxi drivers. (suprise suprise). The only irritants were the weirdos walking with songs blaring from their mobile phones. I can never understand this idea of talking a break for solitude with a lousy soundtrack for company.
In anycase, this was just a recee. A longer holiday is waiting in the wings. 🙂