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. There is though a trade off. In Panvel colony you have big area for walking and also lesser pollution. It is a gateway to Beautiful Konkan region as well as to Pune. There are a number of good natural spots nearby Panvel. We landed at Santacruz airport from Delhi. Temperature was 29C and as usual humidity was very high. The same stuffy weather which we have become attuned to during our long stay here. In fact, I loved this city for its oddities. But like Saleem and his sister in the Salman Rushdie‘s Midnights Children, I did not shouted back to Bom. We hired a taxi and soon we were lost in the sea of people on the roads and vehicles. The familiar Udipi hotels, vegetable vendors on the roadside selling their vegetables and ubiquitous Coconut sellers and Koli women selling the sea fish, prawns were before eyes. There were same black and yellow taxis. Many new flyovers have come up in the city’s struggle to ease the traffic pressure. It seemed as if we have not got left the place for good and have been out of station.
Although now I have gone far away from Panvel from where Ratnagiri was not far, the memories never die. Many times I have been to Goa where my son was studying, Ratnagiri was on the way and train halted there for sufficient time. I read about the city and particularly about the King of Burma Thibaw Minh who was confined to this place by the British after he lost the to battle to them and Burma was annexed to British empire. I don’t know how they thought to bring him and his family at such a distance away from his home. He was not old and his whole life was spent in Ratnagiri in a palace called Thibaw Palace. He was very much respected by the local people. Since his palace is located at a lofty place, he would sit with his binoculars and watch the Arabian sea and boats coming and going to the various landings. Area being the coastal, the main occupation of people was and is fishing. They waited for the fishing boats coming home. The king would announce the arrival of the boats as he was able to spot them through his binocular and people would then make for the landings.
Also it was the habit of the King to visit the Bhagwati temple which was located on another hill. Only for this activity he went out. All this information excited me to visit the place and see for myself. So once we decided to visit the place while returning from Goa. This has been described in another entry. From here we went to see the Ganapati Pule which is religious place as well as a beautiful beach. In fact whole area possesses breathtaking beauty. There is blue Arabian sea and coconut groves. There are cashew trees growing in the wild and the world famous Alphonso mango tree orchards. Here are some beautiful pictures.
Whenever I saw these trees in my neighborhood, I was surprised by their odd features. These are very upright and very tall trees. There are four or five trees in our area at Panvel near Mumbai. There are big ball like fruits of khaki color hanging just below the main canopy, very near to the beginning of the trunk. Some of them are as big as musk melons. I am sure that if it hit someone who happens to be under the tree, it may cause a grievous injury. Ants gather on these fruits. Big shoots come out which are bend downward and have many buds of creamy color. Very beautiful pink color flowers come out of the buds.The flowers have six petals which are thick and waxy in nature. I did not know the name of the tree then.
Today, as I was passing underneath one of these trees on the roadside, I noticed that tree is in full bloom. There is strong fragrance all around. Bees are hovering on the flowers and enter the flower and fly over to another one. They are helping in the process of cross pollination.
After some search on the internet, I came to know that the tree is commonly called Cannon Ball tree because of those big and heavy ball like fruits. Its scientific name is Couroupita guianensis and it is said to the native of Brazil, a claim which may not be very true because in India these trees are growing for thousands of years.
The trees in India have various names according to the states of their habitat. It is called Shiva Kamal or Kailashpati. In Tamil it is called Nagalingam. All these names suggests a relation to Shiva. Due to this, these trees are revered and are found near the Shiva temples. The flower shape resembles the hood of Naga, a sacred snake. In Kannada it is called Nagalinga Pushpa and Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu. Even here, I saw many people gathering these flowers in the morning and upon asking told that these are offered to the God Shiva.
Buddhists also plant this tree at Buddhist temples. The fruits fall down with a great force when the stem is unable to bear its weight. It cracks on falling and emits a foul odor. The ants however like these fruits and gather within no time after the fruit has cracked and split apart.
Here are some pictures, I took with my htc mobile camera. I think you will like these.
The coast of India adjoining the Arabian Sea looks on the maps like a moth eaten book page. All along the coast are numerous beaches. The region possess extraordinary physical beauty. There are small hills with very beautiful summits of varied shapes. Some look like a plateau while others like the sharp dagger like cliffs. Around Mumbai there are many good beaches. Farther you go away from the metropolis, the better are beaches.
One such beach is Kashid beach which is 110 kilometers away from Panvel, 160 kilometers from Mumbai and 35 kilometers from Alibaug which itself has many beaches around it. On the way are beautiful rivers, woods and idyllic life. There are coconut and betel-nut palms. Bamboo also grows all around. Other bushes and trees, the names of which I am ignorant about grow all around.
We visited the beach. There were so many visitors. On the beach sand is very clean and white. The waves were gentle and sun shimmered on the waters and water looked like mercury. At other places where waves were absent, the water was beautiful green. There were horse rides as well horse drawn carts for joy rides. There were joy boats.
We took some pictures and these are shown here.
Presenting some pictures which capture the greenery and scenery around my dwellings in a place called Panvel situated near Mumbai in India. These are the months of Monsoon. Everything is drenched. The hills which were parched due to intense heat prior to the onset of rains, have worn the green outfit. Dust is washed from the leaves of trees which were wilting under the intense heat. Nature is celebrating and spawning the life. The frogs croak all night in the puddles of water. They mate and multiply.
There is a crossing in front of ONGC colony gate at Panvel on the old Mumbai Pune highway. Its purpose is to allow the safe passage to road users from colony to cross the highly busy main road while going in the Pune direction and coming from the office located opposite and from Panvel to enter colony. There are live signals on this crossing.
But your heart will start beating very fast and prayers will begin to be issued from your lips when you undertake any of the mentioned crossings. The time of signal is about 15 seconds. Even that is enough considering the small traffic as compared to the huge one on the highway. But no one on the highway heeds the signals. Worst offenders are the three wheelers and motorcycle drivers.
The situation is such that even in the green signal you will not be allowed to cross the road. Bus drivers of Mahrashtra state transport corporation with such heavy buses never bother to stop and have a look at the signal. When one breaks the signals others automatically follow.
The traffic police never posts anyone here for minding the traffic. They are seen here but not guiding and teaching the people but only booking the people for the incomplete documents. This exercise is always done just away from the signal and rule breakers slip away with impunity.
Although these pictures are not clear but they give enough indication about the fearless behavior of the drivers on the main highway. They disregard the traffic signals completely.
Not only that. There are big banners hoisted by all the political parties on all the corners of signal. These banners completely block the view on the road making the crossing even more perilous with the riders coming on the main road at neck breaking speeds. If you cross the road safely you consider yourself lucky. But luck is never the same for everyone. The need is to post a traffic constable on the regular basis and also educate the rural people who are major offenders.
I have noticed this bird many a times. They are particularly active during the evening when the light is barely present. They make very sweet sounds. The color of the feathers is black with white on sides and at the bottom side. It is slightly bigger than a house sparrow. Particularly it is very active in the evening catching the flying insects. If I am not wrong, I have heard their sounds at about two or three o’clock in the morning.
Little did I knew that this is the national bird of Bangladesh where it is called “Doel” rhyming with “Koel” the nightingale. It has been adopted due to its sweet singing. In fact, the bird belongs to passerine family which are perching birds and most of them are songbirds. That most of us take many birds, animals and trees for granted, we never care to know their names. Visually we know that it is a such and such type of tree: size, color of leaves and flowers, color of coat, beak and telons such like traits. The peasant does not know the names of many birds and animals living in the fields. This problem is very serious in cities where there is no way to know the names of trees on the roads because generally the trees are not named. Only in Dadar Mumbai I noticed the small metallic tags fixed to trees with the names prescribed on them.
My curiosity arose when an incident happened. There was a small baby of this bird which was floundering and was caught by an crow which are so mean and ruthless in killing and eating the weak and ill and injured. They are the efficient agents of Darwin for sparing only the fittest of the living beings like the nature. The fledgling was about to torn to shreds when luckily it escaped the clutches and fell on the ground. My wife who was looking at this drama, immediately rescued it and brought it to home. It was wounded in one leg and was not able to stand properly. We were at loss how to feed her something for its survival. I dipped its beak in the water and it reacted positively. Then I opened its beak and my wife put some water with a spoon. Then I thought that it must get some food but what?. We broke one egg and were able to push small quantity into its mouth. First night we left it as such in our bathroom. In between, we noticed that it was answering calls of its parents who were outside in the trees where they are the regular visitors. But during night we were worried about its survival. Next morning, we again gave it some food and wet its beak with water. Then we put it in a cardboard box in which we made some holes and placed this box outside in our balcony. Our surprise knew no bounds when we saw the strangest thing happening. In general, it is believed that the baby birds which are touched by humans are shunned by the parents. It proved to be totally myth. The parents located the child and began feeding it through the holes with insects. Whole day this went on. In the evening we purchased a cage from the market. It was very good cage but it proved useless for feeding. This was because the baby bird was sitting inside out of the reach and it would not budge from where it was sitting. It kept opening its beak and as the feeding failed the sharp noise of desperation was visible. We again had to put it the cardboard box.
In the night we brought it inside putting it into the cage. It was sleeping peacefully even as the lights were on. Due to care and feeding by its parents it became strong and there was great action it made inside the box to break free. In the next morning, I put it outside in the balcony and its parent began bringing the insects. It was making so strong efforts that it was coming half out of the hole. I began becoming ready for morning walk, but when before leaving for walk, I noticed that the bird has flown out. We looked for it in the outside trees where the marauding crows usually sit. After sometime we were relieved immensely when we noticed that it has joined its parents and was flying freely.
The bird is found throughout the world but most commonly in South Asia. It is not in the endangered list of birds but in Singapore its number has greatly declined.
The memory of flash flood on the evening of July 25 2005 and destruction in its wake sends chills in the spine of anyone who had witnessed it. Although it was raining very heavily for three days continuously, although a thick solid sheet of rain was battering the land, no body expected that it would turn into a nightmare. Within minutes the area around Panvel was under 10 to 12 feet of water. It looked as if the Arabian sea has expanded and and gulped the pieces of land lying in its vicinity. The loss of property was huge though human lives were spared by the nature to some extent.
Many a times afterwards, I wondered where did so much water come from. I did some analysis thanks to Google Earth imagery. The area around Panvel is full of geographical features with uneven landscape and so many hills all around. Just after the Panvel town flows a river called Kalundre so named after the village on its bank. It seems like a sinuous ribbon of uneven thickness in summers and winter. It is season river. On tracings its source, it is found that it flows from the hills and is made of two rivers joining together. One is Kundsar lake and another is Panvel lake situated under the foot of Gadeshwar. Water is fettered at both places by barrages. Beyond the Gadeshar are Chanderi hills and one can approach Matheran through this area on a road leading to Dhandheri village from Panvel.
There is another very insignificant river which is known by the name Kirki the origin of which I could trace only to Shedung. I am not sure of that. Many people believe that ONGC colony which is like an island between these two rivers was inundated by this river. This may not be very true, because the capacity of this rivers is very less. I surmise that very heavy rains threatened the dams up the hills and their gates were opened. The another factor was that Panvel being very close to the sea, in the event of high tide which was there at this time made it impossible for the area to bear the brunt of so much water coming like a demon on the town.
Next few days were so bad and depressing, that many people left the colony and searched for the safer houses on the upper floors. It is also a bitter truth that we are ourselves responsible for these disasters. By snatching the land which belonged to sea, where it dumped its extra water in the times of high tide through a network of channels of water all around. We have filled these channels and constructed the houses. Nature does not care about the differentials, its justice is done on an integral scale. Builders make profits and enjoy at safe places whereas the poor people bear the brunt of nature’s fury.
There is no doubt about the fact that Shivaji was a great hero. Why I am saying was, he was, he is, and always will remain in the hearts of Indians. Some say he was Hindu king but that is not true. He looked upon his people without any discrimination. But the qualities I admire him for are his bravery, fearlessness and presence of mind. Otherwise, who can even imagine that any person who is in clutches of such a mighty emperor as Aurangzeb at Agra could make his escape good from a place which is thousands of miles away from his home. My heart is always full of praise for the man who had the prescience of what the towering and powerful Pathan Afzal Khan had in his mind when Khan invited him and planned to squeeze him to his death while hugging him. These traits do not come by education, they are inborn.
Shivaji was the first Indian King who realized the importance of controlling the sea with systematic navy and ports. He had made many ports like in Panvel, Murud Zanzira. He also constructed a number of forts. Some of the forts are at such places which seem unassailable. Many are located on ridges overlooking the Arabian seashore while many are located on small islands. It is a matter of shame that such monuments which had so much history attached to them are lying in very ruinous state. Government of Maharashtra is planning to install a very huge statue in Mumbai costing crores of rupees. Instead of carrying out such senseless and ill conceived project just only for the sake of false admiration of the great man, it would be wise to restore those crumbling structure which are proud of our nation.
He was having very trusted and brave general and army under his command. One such person was Tanoji Angre who had a son called Kanoji Angre also known as Sarkhel Angre, who was the worked under Chief of Satara. He was so much bold that he had one of his bases at Andaman. He relentlessly harassed the British ships of East India Company, who were so frustrated, that they called him a pirate.
Kanoji Angre was born in Ali Baug town which is located on the seashore and these days a popular beach. It is connected by a ferry to Bhau Cha Dhakka in Mumbai. Most of the workers and stevedores in Bombay docks came to Bombay from Ali Baug by ferry. So being born in the vicinity of sea, Angre must have been very adept in seafaring and fishing activities. It is even surprising to imagine that such a person located in the Western Coast of India had such control over the sea that Andaman in Bay of Bengal was under his away.
Angre’s tomb is situated at the city of Alibag his birthplace. A statue of Angre stands tall in Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. The fort which overlooks the Naval Docks may not be there but the boundary wall is still intact and within it lays the Headquarters of Western Naval Command and is called INS Angre ( Indian Naval Station Angre).
We salute to these brave people who boldly faced the looter from Britain. Only regret is that there were not many of them, otherwise the history would have been different.
The coastline of India on the West side seems like the pages of book which have been chewed randomly by the termite. The water wedges deep inside the land in the form of creeks at so many places across the coast. Alongside the road to Alibaug from Panvel, one treads parallel to sea coast. There are small hillocks and the vista is full of features. The road is simply zigzag at many place. There are dense patches of vegetation on both sides of the road. Many small rivers which drain into the sea come across and there are bridges to cross them.
Monkeys can be seen right on the roadside near Karnala where a bird sanctuary exists. It is almost in the neglected state of maintenance. Only the woods are beautiful and have survived the human encroachment. Versoli beach is two three kilometers before reaching the Ali Baug town. You have to take a detour towards right hand to reach the village jutting the beach. There is a person standing at a crossing of the village charging money for entry into the town. On reaching the beach, another party of money collectors is standing. They explained that this money goes into the upkeep of the beach.
All the beaches seem alike to me except the difference in the cleanliness. People in India has typical attitude towards the enjoyment. It can be stated as “enjoy today and enjoy for yourself only”. Whosoever goes there thinks it as their right to litter the beach with polythene bags and water bottles. The aborigines are better than most city dwellers because they are not curious about the nature and think it as a part of their lives. They are not excited like the city people who start jumping and kicking and littering the place thinking that it is the authorities or other people whose duty it is to clean the house.
Anyway, we reached the beach. We took our lunch which we had packed from our home with us. We were particular about collecting the refuse into a bag and bring it back to properly dispose it. There are trees with coniferous leaves on the shore. These also are found on every beach near Mumbai. There was almost no clean place to sit. There are no benches erected on the shores to sit on and enjoy the spectacle of the sea.
It was a low tide and water has receded deep into the sea. The area exposed was almost blackish sand with clay. It is a beach formed by low energy tides. So you will see less sand more clay. The waves which were breaking at that time we went inside the sea were of very low height. They broke without causing any hissing sound. There were clumps of stones and pebbles hidden underneath the water. They are so sharp that they will cut your feet like knives. There are no warning signs. In fact, no attempts have been made to make the visit of tourist a pleasant experience.
Within half an hour, you will feel like going back. Many people because of lack any novelties resort to playing the cricket on the beach to while away the time. In my opinion, if you have visited one beach you need not to visit another one. All are same. Yes there are some interesting places like a Fort on the island near Murud Janjira beach. You have to take a boat to reach it.