25th January 2011
It is inevitably disappointing a bit when you’ve been dreaming of living in Mumbai, and end up in the outskirts of Mumbai. (And so outskirt that we rarely get to see any skirts!). But then we have some luxurious accommodation and food, at negligible costs. And a petty excuse such as distance can surely not come in the way of ‘Mumbai’, what with the nearest local station being at half an hour distance.
The place is called Karjat. Though it appears like quite a forgotten place, what baffled me was reading the footnotes on a film news channel- ‘ Ajay Devgn celebrates his son’s four month anniversary at his Karjat farmhouse’, ’Imraan Khan’s sangeet ceremony held at Avantika’s karjat resort’, ‘Sanjay Dutt shooting for Double Dhamaal in Karjat’ ! I asked the local guys here, and they are as clueless as us, perhaps more. But I have to find out someday for sure. Well, the stars’ coming here for a chill out is understandable, given the seclusion of this place. Set amidst all the forests, mountain , rivulets it provides quite a picture of the not rural and not urban living. Women, with that ring on their nose and that peculiar style of saaree, small kids bantering indistinguishably in Marathi, calling to their ‘aai’ and amidst it, a child breaking into ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ on a loud note! The local market is all clumsy and clattered with almost zero clearance between the shops and well…people. Right from the local train station exit, the shops start and so does the crowd, thanks to the huge and fancy liquor shop – which is the first thing one sees when out of the station. Then there are those must have ‘Vada Pav’ and other snacks points. Though I have had Vada Pav once before coming here, (in Pilani, regional assoc grub) but the difference was that this time I actually liked it. There are two types of vendors- one who give you a vada and a piece of pav, and you are left wondering what to do with them, and the other who prepare it before handing over to you. The second ones are less though. One might wonder, its just the regular potato mashup between slices of bread, but is tastes good, especially when hot, and with that red powder kind of thing which they give. There is something different about it, and I would prefer it against the McDonalds burger anyday. (Admittedly I have never been much of a fan of the McD’s Burger. Mind it, just the burger, rest I dote upon.) Though I knew that Vada Pav is the staple snack of this state, still I expected to see the samosa somewhere, but didn’t. There was a ‘special jalebi shop’ though, about which the only special thing I guess was the timing- fresh hot jalebi in the night! A happy surprise was the sight of a kachaudi vendor, oh wait…not one but many…and oh , Panjabi choley, dosa and others were there too. Well , I guess that’s why they call Mumbai the mosaic of all the cultures! The kachaudi tasted quite like the one at Pilani bus stand, making me realize how much I miss that place.
Unassuming, an observation is that literate people here understand and are comfortable with hindi more than the lay or less educated men. We always have a tough time communicating with the sweeper of our quarter.
The nearest urban station is Kalyan, about quarter of an hour by local. It is also at this station where the Central line locals divide into slow and fast, i.e. the ones which stop at every station and ones which only on a select few. For the western line this occurs at Borivali. The harbor line locals only have the slow track. (The locals have three parallel lines, interconnected at a couple of stations like Dadar, Kurla). The local travelling through the mountains and forests feels breezy, and quite literally. Standing on the gates (yes I tried that) and letting the wind wash away the creases on your forehead feels so filmy yet very real. If it is not crowded to saturation, one finds a variety of vendors in the local. From books to balms and sonpapdi to bhelpuri, all are there. I tried a cheeku, though didn’t like it much.
Kalyan station was quite big, and the exit marked by number of smartly constructed skywalks, which are abundant in Mumbai. After enquiring we took an auto to the nearby Mall. The driver for a change was a Marathi manoos, and had that oh-so-famous tapori lingo. Kidhar jane ko mangta? Kya mast mall banayela hai! Though his claim of the mall (Metro Mall) being the largest in asia was hilarious, the mall was a decent one. It had a really cool Bar, with the typical inverted hanging glasses, and colorful bottles decorating the walls and a dim lighting creating a surreal ambience. I wished I could see that fire on the counter thing which is so common in the movies. Looking on the menu card, I chose one from all the attractive and fancy names and was about to order as my phone displayed ‘Mom calling’. Ah…well in a sporting rage I told her that I was in a bar. Her loud Kyaaa is still ringing in my ears. Though I told her I was there just to ‘experience’ a bar and nothing else, I couldn’t later dare to order. Not that day atleast. *wink*. Next was a lounge. Completely unaware of what to expect, I entered the place and felt as if landed at a set of some gangster movie. With smoke all around, wooden carvings of the walls, very dark lighting, and people with long hairdo (guys) and couples sniffing the hookah in turn, I actually felt guilty, stupid as it may sound. Somehow the smoke emitting things whether it is the cigarette or the hookah never appear tempting to me. The drinks do, often. There were some pretty faces in the lounge but honestly seeing them smoke the thing was a complete turn off. Though rest of the mall was a total let down in terms of pretty faces.
Kalyan has this feel of cut-out-of-a-mountain town, with steep elevated areas on the sides of road, on which dangerously the slums are built. The other side had a stream of water flowing, which on being asked if a river, the taxi driver told was a sewer flow! Again a U.P. wala, he also shared some useful insights about the Hindi Marathi fiasco. He blamed the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as the root of all problem, and praised the Shivsena. He even cited instances when some of the MNS guys would not even sit in a taxi if the driver was not Marathi, or uttered a word in hindi. Sigh! Though he said, proudly, that despite being here for 13 years he never felt the need to learn Marathi, for the people here are very tolerant and it hardly matters to them.
We narrowly escaped missing the last company bus from Karjat station to our ‘forest house’,(which would have meant a heavy fare for taxi) thanks to some breath taking running by me the moment the train stopped, and a stroke of luck involving the bus getting a punctured tyre hence delayed.
Running. That is probably the pace of this city. And some luck is all that one needs to stay afloat here. So have I heard. So will I see. Till then back to my peaceful abode of the forests, while the RJ belts out – Ye Sheher hai aman ka, yahan ki fiza hai nirali, yahan pe sab Shanti Shanti hai!
Quite true, if only for me!