Khopoli: Nature’s Beauty Spot

Khopoli is located on old Mumbai Pune road. Konkan region which begins from Panvel in Maharashtra India along the Western Ghats of India is full of geographical features. It is studded with hills of peculiar shapes, rivulets, coconut palm trees and grasses and shrubs. Still unspoiled, the region bears different hues in different seasons. The land is not flat and not much area is arable.

The region being adjoining to the Arabian sea receives copious quantities of rains in the Monsoon season. Everything turns vivid green and hills which were in summer parched are draped in the greenery. You can see farmers tending cows.

We usually went out in this region in the car. If you travel on old Panvel-Pune road, after Ambani School, there is a road from Panvel Chowk towards Matheran. After you go about 5-6 kilometers on this road towards Matheran, this road is bifurcated and the road emanating from there, goes across the countryside and emerges just near Khopoli on Panvel-Pune Road. The Konkan area is naturally endowed with great features and trees and shrubs. Beautiful indeed.

Photos Taken During Wanderings

Nature never ceases to surprise us. Most of the times it is benevolent and spreads its unlimited vistas before us. We see its different forms in hills, mountains, rivers, gorges, woods birds singing in them. Even the prospect changes with change in weather. The lush green hills during the rainy season turn into drab dry scenery in the summer. Once I asked my wife while we were roaming in car in the beautiful surroundings of Konkan hills and I tried to give her my camera and asked her to take few photographs. She being no enthusiast of nature, not directly turning out my request, try to tell me that you have taken the photos here many times. No I wanted to tell her that though the location is same but scene is different. The nature has dressed the area in different garbs.

So, if you are interested, you can never get bored in the same surroundings. Something or the other will be offered by the nature as novelty. I went for a drive through the villages near my colony. Scenery is always very beautiful. There are craggy hills. Roads pass through them and suddenly the view is lost due to a sharp turn. Here are some pictures.

Ganapati pule and Ratnagiri

Ratnagiri as everyone who loves mangoes knows is famous for fabled Alfonso mangoes. It is the coastal district of Maharashtra state in India. At the time of our visit in January, the mango trees were in full bloom and the fruits becomes ready by March end and April. The tree though does not give any impression that it yields such delicious fruits, it seems very modest. There are hundreds of varieties of the mango on India. This mango is not the original inhabitant of India. It was brought here by Goa’s Portuguese governor .

The Alphonso Mango is named after Afonso de Albuquerque. This was an exquisite and expensive variety of mango, that he used to bring on his journeys to Goa. The locals took to calling it Aphoos in Konkani and in Maharashtra the pronunciation got further changed to Hapoos. This variety then was taken to the Konkan region of Maharashtra and other parts of India.

Ratnagiri has beautiful sea coast dotted with rich coconut trees, mangoes and cashew nut. Fishing is the main occupation of people here. When you enter the city from jetty side, the streets reek of fish smell. The fish is spread over large area for drying. You can see the big storage houses for the fish with special trucks standing outside them for taking the fish to ports for export.

In Ratnagiri, we went to see the Ratangarh fort which is built atop a hill and very tortuous road leads up to the entrance of the fort. There is temple inside the fort. It is called Bhagwati temple. Outside the temple gate is a bust of the great sea commander Kanoji Angre who ruled the Indian ocean and the British were so frustrated by him that they labeled him a pirate. The people in the coastal Maharashtra think otherwise and he is held in great esteem. From the ramparts of the fort, one could see the blue Arabian sea sprawled over a vast area and there is a jetty in which small ships were being loaded with cement. This is the same temple where the exiles Burmese king Thibaw Minh used to come and pray with his family.

From there, we went to visit the Thibaw palace where the exiled king was confined by the British along with his wife and daughters. My interest to see the place had arisen after reading the “Glass Palace” novel written by Amitava Ghosh. The story of the king occupies many chapters in this book. That how the British had their eyes on the vast teak forests and crude oil in the Burma and when they failed to convince the king into agreeing for the exploitation, on some pretext or the other defeated the king and arrested him and his family. That how they were shipped to Madras and then finally to Ratnagiri, thousands of miles away from their country.

The palace is now a museum containing art pieces from around the Ratnagiri and other districts of Maharashtra. There is only one room in the first floor building where king’s effects like his bed, a few photographs, and few other objects are kept. The area around the building is now completely filled with houses. In the novel, the time period  is is way back in the past, the area around was vacant and the king used to sit in the first floor verandah and watch the Arabian sea with binoculars. The people of the area respected the gentle king very much and depended on him for the information about the arrival of fishing boats into the jetty. He was also the first to announce the arrival of monsoons in the area with the clouds coming from the sea. I felt that people does not give this place much thought. May be it is not on their visit schedule. In fact, there is not much to see in the city. Surroundings are most beautiful.

Ganapatipule is famous for beach and Ganesh temple. From Ratnagiri the place is about 25 kilometers for most of the time road runs along side the sea coast and there are troughs and peaks all along the way. From my experience, it seems to be an odd combination because two mutually diverse activities are juxtaposed. I saw the liquor shop just outside the temple. Most people from cities like Bombay and Pune come here for enjoyment and to unwind. Temple visit is a bonus. The beach is very beautiful although sand is deceptive because it slips from under your feet. The MTDC cottages are just adjacent and rooms are good. Food though is just average. There is nothing else to see. It is a beautiful sight at the sunset when the sun becomes a progressively reddish colored disk and slowly and slowly it is going down and down to sink in the Arabian sea.

Here are some pictures of breathtaking beauty of the place.

Bombay Duck is not a duck!!

Guess what is Bombay duck?  Any normal person will think that it must be a duck living in the water bodies around Bombay. There is a surprise. It is a fish!!!

In fact Bombay duck or Bummalo is a fish belonging to lizardfish family. In the areas around Mumbai and Konkan, this fish is found in plenty in the Arabian sea and is very popular among the fish eating people.

The fish is often dried and salted before it is consumed. Generally it is consumed in the fried and curry forms. After drying, the odour of the fish is extremely powerful, and it must consequently be transported in air-tight containers.

Origin of its name as Bombay duck is not certain. Actually, according to one story, the fish was transported in the Bombay Dak train to Calcutta. Dak here means Bombay Mail. Its odor is so strong that Britishers began calling it Bombay Dak which became spoiled to Bombay Duck.

According to local Bangladeshi stories, the term Bombay duck called “Shootkie” by Bangladeshis was first coined by Robert Clive, after tasting a piece of it after his conquest of Bengal, it is told that he referenced the pungent smell to that of the news papers and mail which would come in to the cantonments from Bombay. The term was later popularized among the British public by its appearance in Indian restaurants (which are in fact, mostly Bangladeshi owned) across the country.

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Despite the rather unpleasant odour of the fish, it is often considered to be a delicacy by connoisseurs of Indian cuisine. If freshly caught, it is sometimes eaten fried in a batter; and in its dried form, it is commonly eaten in a curry. It is also prepared as a pickle. The bones of the fish are soft and easily chewable. Its body bones are very fragile and break on slight twist. So, special care is taken while preparing the dish.

Though the fish is mostly caught in Arabian Sea, small quantities are caught in Bay of Bengal. In Bengal it is called bamaloh or loita. In Gujarati it is called bumla & in Marathi it is called Bombil.

Once I was attending a training on sea safety at Coast Guards office situated near Mallet Ferry Wharf in Bombay (near Docks). Extensive fish catch in trawlers is unloaded here and distributed to Bombay. There I saw boats upon boats on which this fish was drying on the lines. It seemed that buntings are waving on the boats. I also saw how the baskets of fish were tossed from boats and caught up by the men on the wharf platform. This job was so much perfected by the fishermen. There were quintessential fisherwomen with massive buttocks and one end of saris tucked between them. For two or three days whenever there was a break from training I used to visit the wharf. There was a great hustle and bustle there which subsided only in the noon. There were fishes lying on the bridge road to wharf. Urchins wandering there were collecting them and I can safely say they had bags full of them.

Below is the picture of Ferry wharf.

Boats with Catch

Mumbai Again

After almost a year, I am in Mumbai the city in the vicinity of which I have spent more than 20 years of my life. I lived in Panvel where our company had constructed a huge accommodation. But most of the offices are in Mumbai and employees who live in Panvel have to spend at least 4 hours travelling to the work.