My Kingdom Awaits

Since I’ve come back, I’ve been struck by the lack of enthusiasm on my return. In fact one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked by family and friend is, Why have I come back? I’ve always given similar pithy answers that I recently gave to my dearest friend, ‘Because I belong here’.

My mother poignantly pointed out that I went to America, 9/11, tech crash and the housing market collapsed. Now when I have come back, the Indian rupee and economy are crashing as well. There is a term called ‘panvati’ used in Mumbai referring to a person bringing bad luck, so the term might be apt for me.

I can see the reason for despair in India. The economy is in shambles, people are being killed for standing up for truth, women are harassed/raped, jobs have disappeared and the country is in the hands of people who don’t know the meaning of Raj Dharma. There was a time when my ancestors would spend their lives dedicated to acquiring knowledge while begging for food, as earning money would take them away from their quest. Now everyone’s standing in life/marriage is how much you make and how you show it off to the world.

I’ve always considered myself a pessimist in life. The general trend is people growing up as optimists and then turning pessimistic as life wears you down. Now as I ponder over my actions of the last few weeks, I see myself going in the opposite direction. I’m being more optimistic. But the question is what to be optimistic about?

If you see BBC’s ‘Story of India’, the one thing that might strike you is historian Michael Wood’s infectious exuberance every time he talks about India’s past dedicated to acquiring knowledge. What if you change your life back towards acquiring knowledge instead of material gains.

When I went to America the economy crashed but by the time I was ready to leave, the economy was flourishing again. So this ‘panvati’ might have the same effect on India’s economy. We just need to follow the path of dharma.

In a moment of megalomania, I’m now changing my pithy answer to what Skylar Grey croons in her song. I’m coming home because my kingdom awaits.

Matheran


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After Naneghat, My cousins and I decided to trek to Matheran. The last time I trekked to Matheran was 15 years ago. At that time Neral was basically a train station acting as a base for the Matheran trek.

A lot has changed in 15 years. Neral has joined the ranks of towns where growth has run wild. The road by the train station is filled with shops selling meat, it feels like suddenly neral is filled with a whole lot of meat eaters and all of them shop by the train station.

Once we crossed the town, the air started getting cleaner and the view better.

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Every week, I seem to start the trek confident on finishing the trek with no tiredness or soreness. Considering Matheran is basically walking up a paved road and I’ve done this before, I felt confident that this time was different….. But it wasn’t

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Once we reached the top, it was time to rest and enjoy the view. Matheran has now started collecting 50 rs per person to maintain the city, so the view comes at a tiny price. But I’m glad that Matheran still does not allow any motorized traffic so you can take in the nice clean air tinged with horse dung.

Naneghat

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Naneghat was the old route from Kalyan to Pune and was my first trek after coming back to India. I joined a trekking group from Thane, which had rented a bus to take us towards Vaishakhare. In the olden days, this particular path was a toll road (toll being collected at the top) for traders moving between Kalyan to Pune. There was a landslide at Malshej Ghat and most traffic was closed. Even though Vashakhare and Naneghat wasn’t affected, the “ever helpful” Maharashtra Police tried to stop us from going ahead with an eye for us to bribe them. On getting no money from any of us, they proceeded to check all our bags for alcohol. Being unsuccessful again, they stopped our bus from moving ahead adding another couple of kilometers of walk before our actual trek. Once we got on the trekking path, I assumed since traders with their goods could travel the route, I should be fine. Boy was I wrong as I soon found out my level of fitness level. There was a steady rain which helped keeping us cool but made the walk over wet stones particularly difficult.

1074896_393329257435359_1231579738_o        Not a waterfall but the actual trek path The rains and felled trees also made for some interesting route obstacles

tree Once my body got used to the altitude, the trek started getting much easier. We crossed a few small rivers where my trek mates shared an interesting story. In their last trek, a few kids from IIT Bombay joined them. The rivers they crossed were much bigger and fast flowing and one of the girls froze in the middle of the river. Too scared to go either forward or back, she decided to sit in the river. After trying to coax her to keep moving, 3 boys eventually went back into the river and carried her back. I’m kinda glad that I didnt make any long lasting stories in this trek. Half way up the mountain, the view was breathtakingly beautiful, even making me forget the pain for a short while.

1074870_393328730768745_1810094933_o   viewFromNaneghat

The rest of the trek was uneventful other than a few slips by my trek mates, nothing too painful. The top of the mountain was covered by cloud so couldn’t get any pictures from there, but the temperature did feel like someone turned on the A.C. switch.

1074361_10153058871265082_1630388049_o    Top of naneghat It was a wonderful start to the trekking season and as soon as the pain subsides I’m going for some more…