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   Khandala was in its monsoon glory... (August 18, 2002)

Khandala was in its monsoon glory, chlorophy green forests running down into the valley and grey silver mists rising from it. this part of the western ghats is always at its best in the monsoon….it is the season for Khandala.

The sun appeared only once in the three days, a brief, hesitant appearance, then the clouds took over again. For the rest of the time there was only a gentle hint of a possible sun behind the mists as the overhanging ridges occasionally took on rich golden hues.

And it rained intermittently, not the heavy, clattering tropical rains of the city, but like silver cobwebs settling on the earth, softly touching the skin. With the fog and the mist swirling around, most of the time it was like living in the clouds, in a white cocoon.

Khandala, in many respects, is Bombay's hill-station; a short dash ur the ghats, near enough for a day trip and distant enough for a weekend. The weekend bungalows of the rich and the not-so-rich nestle among its hills, above the valley, above the highway and the railway line, above Khandala village.

And the hotels lie scattered along the highway linking Khandala to Lonavla, El-Taj and New Taj and Khandala Taj and Taj View. And a few higher up in the hills (on the rock) with a bird's-eye-view of the town. And Fariyas Resort, definitely the best-structured and run resort hotel in the country, land scaped into the curve of the valley, a blue swimming-pool right across the main lobby. I have always wondered how the same company could have designed such a beautiful hotel in Khandala and such an uninspired one in Bombay.

Fariyas was booked out, as were all the other hotels in town, because half of Bombay was there in its little Marutis, dressed in gartered shorts over hairy legs and those daring Metro shoes, designed for walking, or more likely, for five star health clubs.

The Marutis were all over the place, sturdy little cars nosing past the overladen trucks, displaying the Jaspanese genius of making things small but functional. I wonder when India will make cars like these, through the expertise of its own automobile manufacturers.

There was little to do beyond admiring nature. So I passed my three days counting things. How many times the sun made its appearance; how often it rained; how many waterfalls crashed into the valley; how often was the marble floor of Fariyas cleaned (it was cleaned all the time); how many people wore Metro walking shoes; how many red Marutis were standing outside the El-Taj Chicken Tandoori and Tikka Counter.

I counted 14 one afternoon, all red, and in the garden café of El=Taj, standing in the rain, their owners were eating some of the freshest tandoori chickens I have eaten, the birds brought only that morning, live in clucking, from Ashok Kumar's poultry farm near Karla caves.

 
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