Shivneri diaries

While we travelled to Bimashankar and back we stopped at Shivneri. Shivneri is the place were Chatrapati Shivaji was born.

With every pool, puddle, railway station, airport named after the gent, it was but natural that we went to see the place where the man was born. Shivaji was a childhood hero for me. Many thousand kilometers away, down in the deep south, goose bumps used to show up like mushrooms in the monsoon, with the mere mention of his name.

These days however, especially since the time we have been in Mumbai, while all what he has done still stand tall, there is a mental fatigue at the mention of his name. For, sporting his name, is every other building, bridge, bench, pool and puddle (not to mention of airports, railway stations, ports, mountains, apartments and so on), ranging from the superlative to the sub optimal.

Given all of this, It was only apt that we would want to see where it all started.

Besides with his elevated cult status, who knows, tomorrow politically vacuous minds could come up with a wise idea and a consequent agitation : Only those who have visited Shivneri will be allowed to buy Pizza in Maharashtra. Or something like that. Possible. No ?

So we went. We were told by fellow travelers with a rather straight face and straighter voice that ‘its not a tough walk up’. We trusted those folks. Such trust sometimes has disastrous consequences. Like what we discovered.

Shivneri is close to Junnar. It’s a winding road up a hill. The car takes you a fair distance. So we thought. Then a trudge begins. A flight of steps. A steady stream of entrances. A temple. Our ears should have perked hearing the huffs and puffs of all those sweaty figures on their way down. But we were blinded by confidence in our physical strength which soon began to recede like a middle aged man’s hairline. A married middle aged man’s hairline. That sounds more real.

We climbed. Walked. And climbed. Finally getting to what remains of a yesteryear residential quarter, dating back to the 16th century. Slightly ahead there is a rather pedestrian hall, with a grill gate enclosing a statue of Shivaji and his mother built in 1970s. Which was closed to visitors.

The 16th century one was open and the 1970’s one was closed to the public. Scratch scratch. Well. No reasons come to the mind. Scratch. Scratch. No result yet. Suggest you try.

The reconstructed residential quarters where Shivaji is supposed to have been born

There is a cradle with light streaming in. If only they had a lullaby coming in, the orchestration would be 100 %. They are getting there folks! People respectfully leave their footwear outside the place and every now and then, somebody rents out a cry of ‘Shivaji Maharaj Ki Jai’! Its surreal.

A narrow flight of stairs lead to a small hall, fantastic windows and some breathtaking sights.

For many, this seemed to be a ‘pilgrimage’. I cant think of a single king who has stayed on in the imagination of people for this long, inviting such passion and looking upto.

The fort has other stuff. If patience and persistence outbeats the huff and puff. There are caves. There are tanks filled with greenish water and empty plastic bottles. But the most important element is the Khadelok point.

While it could look like any other part that gives a breathtaking view, it is said that criminals were, hold your breath, ‘tossed down from this point’.

‘Tossed down ?’ asked the kid standing next to me to his mother who was half exhausted from the climb and whatever was left in her was gone in answering the kid. Two more questions and she would have jumped from Khadelok point. She looked it.

“Like this lollipop wrapper” said the kid, tossing down a lollipop wrapper, which until then held a lollipop in tight embrace. I watched as the lollipop wrapper wafted about in air perpetually, blown in different directions by a persistent wind.

This ‘Khadelok toss’ strategy was slightly befuddling. For instance, the missus would tell you that the climb itself was a punishment of sorts for her. Which was well accentuated by seeing some of those that seemed to climb as though it was a walk in the park.

Khadelok point from far down below

But then, looking at a body come hurtling down this hill would be some spectacle of sorts. Enough to inject integrity into a crooked spine.

We huff-puffed back, stopping to have ice-cream, sold by an elderly gent, sitting there and solving a crossword puzzle. The name of the ice-cream company…you guessed it right…Shivaji Ice Cream !

It was worth it all.

Salted history

I used to hate him. Hate him with the bottom of my heart. For what he did to his father. For what he did to his brothers. For what he did to many many thousands of people who he killed and mowed and so on.

Yet today, i want to see him. Kind of go stand where he lies. Its ironical. For my friends don’t want to go anywhere close. Not because they hate him as much.

But today to go close to him, you have to go to a small nondescript place. A place nondescript enough that without direction and desire to get there, missing it would be normal ! He perhaps had all of India under his thumbs. Palaces were built and minor empires destroyed with a casual wave of a hand.

And all who talked thus far, about him, talked with a sense of borrowed spite and frown. The eternal bad chap image stayed fixed. Today, the simplicity of what i hear moves me to think.

Today, another man gives us another angle:

Imagine being born in a royal family. Imagine seeing your head of state dad, spend crane heaps of government money on a tomb for his wife. Imagine you having consternation about it. Imagine having the resolve to fight for simplicity yet scale. Fight anybody.

From an aggressive neighbour to your own father. Imagine ruling the land with great simplicity and methodical precision. Imagine living a simple frugal life when surrounded by royal splendour.

Imagine stitching caps and writing the holy scripture. The proceeds of which, you mandate, is all that would go to making of your own tomb ! I

Imagine, first of all, mandating that there wont be a significant tomb, despite being the emperor of India ! Imagine Aurangazeb.

As the shudder runs down the spine all the way to the left toe, he adds. “History is written by the victor. Its never factual”. The tourist guide moves me.

In some time we reach Khuldabad. In what appears to be another mosque in a predominantly muslim neighbourhood, Aurangazeb’s lies at the feet of his guru. No grand structure. Simple and quiet.

The Taj loses sheen in the mind. Think of it this way: Shah Jahan built the Taj out of government money and emptied the state coffers. His son threw him in jail ruled the land ably and died a simple man.

Well, i dont know what the truth is. None of us will never ever know. But then, i have resolved to read history with pitchers of salt by the side.

And as Dylan says, “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie”

Nat Geo

Silvaasa. A three hour drive takes me here. This is a resort they call. The night we arrive in is too dark for any kind of soaking up of the place. Except perhaps of the night air. Other thoughts keep me occupied. For i am here on work.

We stay in a ‘resort’. ‘on the banks of the Daman Ganga river’, it was announced with pride. When the first rays of the sun sneaked past the cloud and the December darkness, the river showed up too.

Actually, a huge river bed shows up. The river itself is a trickle of a mix. Of water, chemical, detergent. Largely stagnant. Flowing in parts. Thats a subject for a different post though.

A few meters from the river is this huge banyan tree. This is what it says.

Eye squinting wonder pops in the mind. For this tree must have been witness to life before the Portugese came here. Of portugese rule. Of British rule. Of Indian rule.
There is wonder at the depth of the history that India holds. Every other sundry rock and seems to have along history beneath it !

Coming back to this tree, perhaps in its tall structure and broad all encompassing expanse lie stories of valour and passion. Of kindness and joy. Of meditation and activity.

How must it have been a 200 odd years ago ?

The river would have been flowing in full speed. Taking with it dead leaves and dried wood, perhaps ! The birds would have been chirping. There would have been no need for the bridge across the river.

No vehicles. No building. No resort. Perhaps some monkeys. Some snakes. But then..No TV. No multiplex. No cinema. No Facebook. No EMIs. No newspapers. No traffic jams. No border crossing. No strategy meets. No publicists.

Sitting under the banyan tree and watching the river and the world go perhaps was a National Geographic special of that age !!

‘Sage’, they say. Hmm. ‘Knowledge worthy of Gods’…Hmm !

Pune Residues

Pune. That was where the car nosed to. The reasons were simple and straightforward.

1. There were kind souls who offered to host. Providing us with bed, food and some love. There needn’t be any other reason.

2. Add in an expressway that’s smooth as silk at Rs.140/- one way, some scenic mountains and blue skies as freebies.

3. To that concoction throw in some ‘huge’ curiosity around Pune and it being spoken of as the ‘culture capital of Maharashtra’ and the like.

4. To that solution, sprinkle some details about the awesome weather.

5. If all that were not enough, look at the long weekend and spending time between fixing a broken computer and a run down body frame !

Of we went. To Pune. And loved every minute of it. And here is the first residue. Residual feelings ! More will follow.

At first look, Pune seems to be kneaded with the fingers of history and baked in the kiln of culture.

The Aga Khan palace stands in majestic stately grandeur, that almost obscures the pieces of history that it holds. Facts of it being a quasi prison for Mahatma Gandhi and the place where he lost his wife gives it a different coat.

Goosebumps pop at frequency of popcorn in a microwave oven, to stand in the very room that must have seen all these events unfold and think of those times. Kastur Ba’s samadhi right there.

Shaniwarwada is the other structure. Magnificent opulence from the 17th century. A building of great magnificence has to be imagined, for whats left is just the periphery wall and and a towering gate !

Its not too difficult for the imagination though. If the ‘compound wall’ is this opulent, the building must sure have been something. To look down at the modern day buses and city bustle through traditional arches was something indeed. And yes. Make no mistake. Look http://pharmacy-no-rx.net down it is !

The sights of the living times are no less awing. This White tiger at the zoo. Majestic in the stride and magnificent in elegance. Emerging from the undergrowth and just standing there, as the pictures clicked. Imposing in the posing. Moving away with an air that will get a bollywood star give her entire nose for. Plastic surgery and all included.

The essence of our love, seems to course in the city’s living. A city that is soothing yet burgeoning. Where, the divide between the yesteryears and the present day visible by the starkness of the difference. Yet, invisible by their seamless merger.

Its a city where tradition doesnt rub shoulders with modernity, but is infact the other shoulder ! Oh yes. Its a city where people are kind and the kinds that are ‘people’, well, very frequent !

We fell in love with the city. Chomping on what ‘German Bakery’ had to offer. Contrasting it only with Maharashtrian thali. Rounding it off with brun-maska, chai and Shrewsbery biscuits.

But there sure is more. Thats the feeling that permeates. Thats the flavour of the residue.

There definitely is more. A certain indescribable portion of the city that is seen, yet hidden. That seems easily describable yet remains elusive. Perhaps it is do with the understatedness in its existence. Perhaps it is do with a way of life that is free of hurried frenzy. Perhaps it is do with its people : gentle and mannered.

Or perhaps it is because of a certain beauty in its midst. The city that is ! The women are covered.

Perhaps protecting the perfect complection and their texture of their tresses, the missus avers. The helmets seem missing though.

More will be figured. Hopefully. For the car will be headed in that direction. There is much to discover. Pune is plain awesome, you see.

Meaning From Within

Please do take a moment read the post by clicking here.

It was two years ago. But the memory of it all is evergreen. I was particularly pleased with the way the entire activity galvanised the neighbourhood into action. We were like any other neighbourhood in modern day India. Ok, most other neighbourhoods. Middle class with aspirations, new money, apathy and focussed on self.

On this day, it all changed. Even if it were for a brief while, it changed. We found support from every quarter. And today, what was once a mound of garbage is a clean place with no problems. Most of the people who were involved arent there any more to enjoy the fruits of ‘labour’ !

That doesnt seem to be important at all ! We were part of a moment. An important important. An important moment where there was disticnt movment. Both for the world and for us. That activity showed us what was possible. And that it was possible to go beyond illusory borders in our own minds.

All this, a tribute to a man, who showed it is possible to go beyond ! Yourself !

Even as i write this, there is new found energy to do something. Far more deep, distinct and ‘making a difference’. There is a plan. And watch this space ! More on that, is on the drawing board !