Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Queen of the Sahyadri Hills: Mahableshwar

-         Brian Mendonça

I wish I had more time to stay in Mahableshwar. It is a world of its own, even though the mall can be unbelievably crowded. It is a remnant of a colonial legacy and has played host to many a British sojourn. Ensconced in the hills I felt like Ruskin Bond in his hideaway in Mussoorie.  I am sure I could settle down and write an elaborate novel here about the place.

We hired an Innova and proceeded to Mahableshwar from Pune. Our destination was the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) resort.  The journey was somewhat dramatic with our driver spurning the highway and preferring to take the ‘short’ route to Mabi – which I came to realize was the short form for Mahableshwar. It may have been a shorter route but it was also a steeper one with many perilous descents. The missal-pav we had at a wayside shack was out of this world and we took some gorgeous photos when the little one was throwing up. One of our group was in constant touch on social media giving a blow by blow account of the dire proceedings. The advice at the other end  -- Why did he take the short cut!!! – was duly conveyed back to us in the car.

The MTDC cottage had some beautiful, if old (some would say tatty) furniture. The mirror, the wardrobe, and the cupboard seemed to harbour the secrets of yore.  The veg. thali was sprightly at the MTDC cafetaria but they could not make French toast to save their lives. And the monkeys! They stopped just short of being a menace, but their leaping on the rafters made us very wary. The next day a pony trotted by and baba was up on it in a trice! As I ran alongside him I felt this was a good way to bond with my son – if I was game to shell out Rs. 100 for every ride!

The quaint Holy Cross church in Mahableshwar, built by the British in 1831, could almost be hidden among the looming concrete jungle around it. It serves as a welcome refuge for weary travelers who literally lay their bags down and rest or wait for others to catch up before they head to their next destination.

On the way back we stopped at the Mapro farm and picked up a lot of squashes, jams, and pulpy fruit chews. A lot of their produce comes from Shendurjane, Wai. The items are sold at factory price and are a little cheaper here.

The way back was a lot faster – we took the highway – and so uneventful. Zipping along frenetically from one destination to another seems to miss the point of discovering a new place. Pratapgarh Fort remained to be seen, as the deal was Rs. 6000 for 300 kms. It was at this fort in 1659 that Shivaji plunged his tiger claws (wagh nakhas) in Afzal Khan’s side even as the latter raised his sword to kill him.
Pix courtesy mahableshwar.com. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 12 June 2016.

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