Mumbai Darshan via Local Bus

Day 6

The day was spent planning for the Great Shopping and we started so late that the Arien fretted that the shopping may not happen. But it did. We shopped for all his nieces and 1 nephew and my aunt breathed a beeg sigh of relief tht the shopping was finally over ūüôā My feet were killing me and so I was really glad to get back in the car. We also tried to finish packing because we were leaving to Bengaluru the day after tomorrow via an early morning train and tomorrow was the Mumbai Darshan day.

Day 7

All I remember was that everyone¬†insisted that we had to be at the bus-stop at 7 am or we wud miss the bus. We were there at 6:45 am after a lot of tu-tu main-main.¬†The bus arrived leisurely at 7:45 am. I think I was not the only one angry ūüôā My aunt, with whom we were in constant touch via phone,¬†was sure that we had missed the bus. So, I was real glad to see the bus. We got on, full of enthu but were a little put off with the inside of the bus – no AC, seats were barely okay. Soon, more people were picked up. An old couple with a young kid joined us. A newly wed couple joined us. A motley bunch of folks joined us and there was a major dis-connect.¬†I was having second thoughts ’bout this trip – Maybe we shd have taken the car instead.¬†Tooo late.¬† Anyway, after a leisurely drive that seemed terribly aimless¬†– we¬†managed to doze off a bit- or at least, I did. ¬†I think¬†it was the side-effect of the early start on a holiday.¬†Anyway,¬†we realized that we¬†had not yet reached the first place when it was around 10 am.¬†The¬†commotion from outside was really loud and the Sun’s¬†rays was surprisingly warm but what woke me up was an announcement tht we were finally going to the first stop of our 1 day Mumbai Darshan.

The plan had been to visit the famous Mahalakshmi temple first but the traffic was soo bad that the announcer changed the plan and we arrived at the Nehru Science Center. At any other time, I guess, it may have been okay but there was this huge school bunch (arnd 200 students at least) that I had to yell to be heard by the Arien. I was completely and surely disappointed. We could not summon any interest and walked back to the bus. The next stop was the Atria Mall that was near Navnit Motors. Navnit Motors was the only dealer for BMWs in India and apart from Mumbai they also had a showroom in Bangalore. The Atria mall had this 4-D theatre and we sat and watched a 4-D movie that was not too gr8. We were taken to the Nehru Planetarium that was pretty close by.  That was actually impressive. But, we were so happy to escape the heat of Mumbai tht the AC at the planetarium was a big distraction. 

This was followed by a series of totally forgettable darshans – Taraporewala’s Aquarium, ¬†Hanging Garden, Boot House, Kamala Nehru Park and Lata Mangeshkar’s house. Now, I am not too sure that was her house but we zipped past it.¬† We had managed to have milk, chips, ice-cream for lunch because the “complimentary” lunch that was part of the darshan was simply to scary to partake.¬† The newly wed couple had started a fight at lunch where the guy refused to order lunch for his wife and instead asked her share his lunch. We were drinking milk and trying not to stare.¬† It was evening, by the time we finished with all the darshans.¬†¬†I think the best stop of the day was¬†the Gateway of India.

 We all took snaps in front of it and stared awe-struck. Ob. we also stared at the Taj hotel and took crazy snaps in front of it. The newly wed couple had by then made up, I guess. She was smiling as she posed for a snap that looked as if she was holding the hotel by one of the domes. The Arien was trying hard to take a nice snap of the pigeons. That is the snap, I have used for the banner. And then, he actually asked the photographer to take a snap of the two of us in front of the Gateway of India, in typical romantic style and surprised me! In fact, the snap taken by the photographer is way better than the ones that we shot all day. Amazing!

The next stop was the Mahalakshmi temple. I decided that that was the last stop of the craziest Mumbai darshan we had sigend up for. The last stop was supposed to be Juhu beach but we both were glad to get off. We opted to take a taxi to the nearest station and take the local train back to Khandivali. Travelling by the local train was an entirely new and alien experience for the Arien. We reached home dazed, tired, and really happy to be home. We started to pack almost immediately because we had another one of those early starts the next day. 

Day 8 

We took a taxi to Dadar and boarded the train to Bengaluru from Dadar. We were travelling II AC because III AC had not been available. There was one other passenger in the compartment and she was reading a book. The Arien fell asleep almost immediately – snoring away :O and I started reading my novel and did not know when I fell asleep. I woke up after I heard one of those really scary snores and I knew it was not me or the Arien. For a moment I thot it was the sweet lady at our compartment. Nope….¬† it was a fat guy with a tattered briefcase who¬†was sleeping in the side-berth and snoring away. 3 of us had this really puzzled expression until the train stopped and the fat guy woke up and nonchalantly left the compartment and got off the train. The ice was broken and we had this really looong nice chat for the rest of the journey. The Arien of course refused to chat and be friendly.

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Khandivali-Lonavala-Khandivali

Day 5

We had already asked our Arien aunt to take off today so that we could visit Lonavla. We set off at around 8:15 am. Because none of us knew the route, we drove for what seemed a loong time because we kept stopping to ask for directions. But, it was a nice drive Рvery scenic and all tht after we got off the main junctions. The Arien enjoyed driving on the wide roads after we moved out of the city limits and the shocking traffic. Soon, we were racing ahead. We stopped for breakfast at a local place where most folks heading towards Lonavla were taking a break. The food was ok but the break was totally worth it because we had been driving for almost 2 straight hours.

The first spot that we decided to visit was the Karla Caves which was around 11 kms away from Lonavla. We felt it was a lot more because we lost our way twice¬†ūüôā It was a not-s0-steep climb but most ppl encouraged us as if we were planning to drop the idea and go back home. It was funny.¬†The Arien saw a chameleon on the climb and instantly forgot ’bout all of us and started shooting various pics of the poor animal which was trying its¬†best to remain inconspicous.¬†¬†You can almost make out from its expression that it does not like being photographed ūüôā

The Karla caves were actually quite similar to the Kanheri caves in the fact that they were built by buddist monks.  There was also a temple at the base for a goddess, which seemed like a recent addition and was bang at the entrance of the cave. The Arien aunt mentioned that it was probably added to protect the caves from vandals. Well, it was preserved Рat least what was left of it.  As usual, the Arien climbed up some of the caves and I took a lot of snaps. We spent a lot of time at Karla Caves. 

Now, to the most important point – if you think that Lonavla is like any other hill station in the south – you may be in for a shock. In fact, I can say it is nothing more than a village or town with a few atms – maybe some hotels – and survives solely on tourists. The prices at these hotels are far from reasonable and I expect that is normal considering tht it is dependant on tourists. From all that we had heard – it was a rude shock and we were sorely disappointed. But, we had the whole day at our disposal and so we set out to see the next place on¬†the brochure. Oh ya – we walked into¬†the only ok-looking hotel at Lonavla near the bus-stand and after asking for the room¬†rates¬†– the Arien casually picked up the brochure meant for guests at the hotel and we walked off grinning. At last, we now knew what all places to visit. Or so we thot ūüėÄ

Next up was Bhushie Dam. The name made no sense¬†but was¬†actually a nice change. It had this step-like structure over which the water flowed and though it looked very calm – it was quite strong. Aunt had had enough already and refused to come and see the Bhushie Dam. She decided to stay¬†back at a very seedy looking restuarant serving¬†chai and biscoots while the owner yelled out “Chai Chai – biskoots”.¬†The Arien had on his “Et tu brute” look and so I decided to accompany him though I was very worried ’bout leaving my aunt alone in tht restuarant. When we reached, I totally forgot all ’bout my aunt – the place was very cool because of the water¬†and there were so many ppl standing on those steps and all arnd that we need not have worried.¬† The Arien was the first to stand while I was a little concerned that we may be swept off our feet. Plus someone had to hold our bags and so I decided to stay put. After a while,¬†I also decided to join him.¬† The water was cold to touch and it was an amazing feeling. We stayed for a loong time here.¬†The hawkers sold us Butta and sliced cucumber. Yummy ūüôā You can see the view from atop the step-like structure from the picture on the left. The Arien was initially standing atop that structure and water flowed down the step-like structure. The view was scenic and it was very difficult to get a shot of only yourself or only of the scenery that we almost gave up – wen these two snaps happened. We were simply lucky. We walked back and decided to have chai at tht guys place because my aunt had waited so patiently – she warned us that the chai was bad and so we purchased some biskoots and left ;p

As we continued on our way, we drove along a road that was somewhat identical to the hair-pin bends from Masinagudi to Ooty but not as scary. We really had no clue where we were. We kept driving until we reached a kind of plateau or flat ground. It was very cool here and most ppl had stopped their cars and were taking pictures.¬† We also stopped and took some snaps here.¬† It was at that time that we saw a board that said Shivling Darshan.¬†The view was simply fantabulous and we stared awe-struck. We were as usual unable to figure out where the shivling was or if what we were looking at was the Shivling. We felt very dense.¬†After a couple of snaps, we noticed that there were very few folks arnd and also¬†we were rapidly losing light.¬†My aunt started¬†getting panicky and so we decided to leave. It was only when we came back, we researched and found out that the Shivling Darshan point is also known as the Lion’s Point. Of course, we looked at all the snaps and did not find anything resembling a lion either¬†ūüôā Meanwhile, we were hungry as we had totally forgotten ’bout lunch.

As we drove back ruing the fact that we may not find any place really suitable for lunch Рwe struck gold. From far, it looked like a weird shape and I was not too hopeful but it was a mall kind of place which was still not open yet Рor so it seemed. It had a food court that was offering Chinese food etc. and we decided to order before they were all out. The Arien noticed sm kids playing pool nearby and said that the place was probably a hangout for young kids.

Well, as long as they served food – we were fine ūüôā The Arien went off for a wash while we waited. We all tasted every item and while it was not yummy – it was not Yuck either.¬† And because we were very hungry – we ate it all up. We had ordered 3 dishes plus 2 side-dishes and all of that was wiped clean and my aunt was surprised at the way she had polished off her dish which she thot she will not like ūüôā The Arien, of course, was still hungry but for the moment he said he cud manage.

If we thot we wud reach home in a jiffy – tht was soon remedied – first all roads look alike especially after 6 pm. Second, we kept driving, driving, and driving – it was only when we reached malad that I felt that we were somewhere closer home. Of course, that jinxed it – there was a huge traffic mess up on one of the flyovers and it took forever for us to reach. It was 10 pm when we finally reached home. All of us were terribly exhausted and the Arien was ready to crash in the car itself. My aunt wanted us to book our Mumbai Bus Darshan tickets at the Grocery store opposite her apartment and we did that in a rush. Because my aunt had to go to work the next day, we had to make our plans rite then.¬†We had no major plans except to go to Linking road to shop. My aunt agreed to join us. She planned to¬†leave early¬†and so that was fixed.¬†While I was talking to my aunt, we heard this snore from the other room and knew that the Arien was in slumberland – I was yawning my face off and so¬†said Good Nite¬†… zzzzz!!

Mumbai Darshan Begins

Day 4

Kanheri CavesThe next day dawned bright and sunny and I was grateful. My aunt left for work around 8:15 a.m. and we were left to ourselves. After having a lazy breakfast, and getting ready, we decided to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali which was a hop-skip-walk away. It was almost lunch-time when we reached but because we had had a late breakfast, we were in good shape.¬†As soon as we reached the Park, we found out that the Lion Safari ride was not available on Mondays. This infuriated the Arien. ¬†Luckily, we had an interesting new option – Kanheri Caves.¬† The new option did a lot to calm the Arien.¬†However, it was a loong drive and there were times when I was sure we had lost our way but someone walking by the side of the road would tell us to go on ahead. It was actually just a 5 km drive ūüôā It just seemed like we drove for a loong time. I actually lost track of time especially when it started to rain again and the Arien slowed to a crawl.¬†We finally caught sight of¬†this board that said “Kanheri Caves”.

The Kanheri Caves were basically built by a buddist monk, it seems, and there are a total of¬† around 100 or so caves.¬† Some of the caves, have huge tanks underground to store water. At least, I noticed that they had water even before it started to rain and so these must be very identical to the Sintex tanks we have, to store water in ūüôā We started off at an even speed. It was a steep incline and the climb was not an easy one.¬† Plus, because it was a rainy season, you could see moss on most parts of the wall or cave which made the entire place quite slippery.¬† We stopped at the first cave which had an¬†amazing entrance and soon the Arien was shooting snaps left, right, and center.¬† This portion of the cave looked like a praying area. In fact, when we went in, we noticed a beeg stupa like structure. It had no inscriptions at all, almost bare,¬†and we could walk all around it. However, it was quite dark inside.¬† I felt that someone cud b hidden inside and so we did not walk all around the stupa. Most of the inscriptions on the walls were in a language that was totally indecipherable.¬†¬†

As we continued on our explorations, we met folks from time to time, some foreigners, some couples on a holiday and of course, more caves, stupas, and the like.  Suddenly,  it started to drizzle.  We took shelter in one of the caves.  Just as suddenly, it stopped raining and we were back to climbing.  There were policemen or ghurkhas guarding certain caves and these caves had a few inscriptions and stupas.  While we took more snaps, the Arien noticed that all the caves were numbered.

He insisted on seeing all the caves. I had by then lost interest. Kanheri StupaPlus, the rain was not helping matters.  The incessant drizzle completely killed my mood. Also, the climb to the cave was quite slippery.  Suddenly, we came across a bunch of men swimming in what seemed like a puddle of water. Both of us were totally embarrassed.  It was at that time that the camera conked off.  I was tired and foot-sore and so lost my temper at the camera conking off.  I decided to stay behind, and moved as far away as I could from those men.  The Arien was keen on looking at all the caves and took off on his own. It was quite a while later when the Arien returned. I had spent all the time keeping an eye out for those men who had been swimming and any other men. I was very glad to see the Arien. Now, both of us were ready to leave.

We had lunch at the Bayleaf Vegetarian restuarant and decided to catch a movie at the mall nearby. We decided to book tickets, pick up our aunt from her work place and catch the movie. It seemed like a gr8 plan. So,we booked tickets for the movie “Kaminey” at Fame Kandivali. We drove to the Bandra Kurla Complex where my Aunt had her office and as we drove back, I realized tht we may not make it on time. However, we made it – we missed the first few scenes of the movie¬†and yess… it was raining, yet again. The movie was different in comparison to most of the Hindi movies but the violence in the movie killed my aunt’s interest in the movie. You can read my review of the movie, Kaminey.¬†

Every place¬†was at a walkable distance from my Aunt’s quarters and after we reached home, we decided to eat out. We first parked the car and then decided to walk to the Shivam Sunderam resturant. We had rotis, palak sabji and totally pigged out on the different tastes. This was not like the regular¬†hotels, it had a Shiva temple on one side… Our holiday had finally begun.

Mumbai ‚Äď Andheri¬†‚ÄstKhandivali

Day 2

The bus stopped at Pune at 6 am by a road-side petrol bunk. Almost¬†everybody got off the bus. I¬†hesitated ’bout having¬†anything¬†to eat or drink without brushing my teeth.¬†Realizing that we were no longer in South India¬†and¬†chai in the North is def not be missed – brushed teeth or not – I decided to go¬†for it .¬†Because I was the last person to get off the bus, by the time I had¬†a cuppa chai, everybody was¬†back¬†in the bus and so I had to quickly gulp my first¬†hot cuppa¬†chai. It¬†was¬†yummy and¬†piping hot.¬†I¬†am lovin this trip¬†already ūüôā

We were dropped off at¬†Andheri arnd 9 am. I had no clue how far¬†away we were frm Khandivali but the driver said that it was quite close and we could take an Auto to Khandivali. It¬†was drizzling when we got off the bus,¬†there was no shelter around and we were lugging¬†two beeg suitcases and two bags –¬†when¬†an Auto found us. After being used to Auto drivers who can take you for a ride around town, I tried to keep track of signs. We kept going up and down flyovers and¬†it was a¬†straight road and I could not really see how he could cheat us and began to relax.¬†It continued to rain. Finally, we reached Khandivali. The amount displayed on the meter¬†was¬†760.¬†We had to pay Rs. 76/- which was pretty reasonable.¬†In¬†10 mts, we were at my aunt’s place and we spent the rest of the day relaxing, eating home cooked food, staring at the rain, and talking to the other family members over the phone. My aunt was very happy that we had come to visit and she had made so many plans for us, our head was reeling from her effort.

Day 3

We lazed like there was no tomorrow. The Arien ate constantly, he is like that wen we visit Chennai as well and so I took it in my stride. It rained incessantly and then let off – I was a lil¬†worried tht our holiday may end up with us staying put in the house. My aunt had told us that we cud drive her car as she usually took the company shuttle to work but with the rain and the fact that we were new to Mumbai, did not instill confidence in us, yet. I was praying for a change in climatic conditions. Sunday breezed past as we ate road-side dosas (Yummy), had amazing hot chai at home, and chatted a lot. Of course, I could sense the Arien’s restlessness and I had my fingers crossed for Monday!