Off to Poona
Some people may wonder where Poona is because officially it doesn’t exist anymore . If you look on the map , you will find PUNE ( which is NOT pronounced as June but is ” poo nay” ) 120 kms south east of Mumbai , on top of the Deccan Plateau
I’m making this trip by bus since I want to reach as fast as I can without driving at break neck speed In my not so peppy any more Santro. I’ll leave that to the reckless driver of the Volvo bus instead
As I sit in the bus ,I’m reminded of many trips in the past which took as long as 8 hours to cover this diatance. Yes, as Ripley would say,believe it or not . And this was because in the fashion of my father, we had periodic stops for breakfast,lunch and tea: stopping for batata Wada at Ramakants for Batata, Biryani at Taloja, rice at Wadgaon, chikki and fudge at Lonavala. We also had the numerous stops dropping by at various friends and relatives on the way not to mention the pee stops under the trees and the picnics of jam sandwiches and tea.
Besides, the highway as it was then, was a narrow , tree lined two lane road which barely allowed two cars to go side by side. More often than not , it had pot holes and diversions and at some spots was like a slush pond in the middle of the rains. Adding to the risk , were the huge trucks filled to teetering, with ear splitting horns careering down the road. Occasionally there would be a truck or two toppled over by the wayside, its driver cabin empty and its cargo all over the place .
As I whizz past the once treacherous ghats I am reminded of the temple of Shingroba half way up the hills. Just before a particularly steep and sharp bend the traffic would suddenly come to a crawl as truck drivers leaned out of their windows to throw a coin to land at Shingroba’s feet, thus ensuring a safe passage up the hill road.
This part of the journey is particularly fraught with dread as I can never forget the time when our car creaked up only to come to a halt at the top. Then as it hissed and spewed steam in sheer exhaustion , we scrambled out to secure the car with rocks stuffed behind each tire. The car now stationery and safe , my father gingerly opened the bonnet and put a damp rag on the radiator cap before slowly opening it to allow the steam to escape. For the next half hour or so I’d spend in silent prayer hoping that we wouldn’t have to push the car up all the way home or worse still be eaten by the monkeys who stared at us in bewilderment.
Lots has changed since those days . We do the journey in 3 hours or less, sometimes returning to Mumbai the same day.
Picnics are a thing of the past. Our friends and relatives are just too busy and don’t invite us in for a cup of tea if we drop in unannounced and as for a tree to pee? Forget it ! There are no trees lining the road at all.