Everyone has certain expectations about this concept we call the ‘countryside’. Mostly, it is seen as idyllic and rustic and quite often it is. But honestly, after my trip to Dahanu, a small coastal town near the Maharashtra/Gujarat border, I can say that the countryside is lonely.
Though beautiful, there is something very isolating about the place. Perhaps I think so only because of the state of mind I possessed while I was there, but to me, that was what it felt like. Being alone. I always thought I was both a city and countryside person, yet I have come to conclude that the city is indeed where my spirits thrive. Cities have an indescribable depth. They flay out endless strings of stories within each crevice of their concrete corners and in a city like Mumbai, you’re blasted with a new kind of revelation every day.
The country, I would say, is more of a reviver. It digs up old memories, lays out the past and ties up loose ends of the story strings. This is all rather vague, but my metaphorical abilities only get this far. Charming and halcyon as it was, the vast bucolic setting made me a solitary pin point in its fields and grasslands. I didn’t enjoy it as I thought I would have.
: D I’m going to stop rounding up everything conceptually and will now begin narrating the details of the trip.
So my mum and I left the station at about 2:50 by the Sayadri Express. VERY unfortunately, we landed up in the 2nd class compartment because we had no idea how to book train tickets. (I was completely new to the concept of traveling by train and my mum, after spending more than 10 years in the UAE, forgot). My excitement at finally traveling on a fast train vanished (I admit, the moment it started going fast, I said – wheeeee!).
We had to stand the whole way, our air supply suffocated by smells of sweat, strong cologne and drying urine that wafted from the nearby latrine. To add to that it was afternoon, and we had no water. The only eatable we had with us was a cake we had taken for my grandmother, but it got squashed in the luggage shelf.
An hour and a half and 145 kms later, we got to Dahanu’s station and God must be kind because there was a coconut water vendor. Never has 10 rupees been SO worth it. I gratefully drank down about 2 coconuts. Then we got picked up by my aunt and walked into the small town.
Here’s Dahanu wikipedia-ed for you –
“The name “Dahanu Gaon” originates from the word “Dhenu Gram” meaning the village of cows. A lot of cattle, particularly cows were owned by the people in Dahanu. Today, Dahanu has become a major commercial and industrial town in the Thane district. It is well-known for the chickoo fruit and accounts for over 50% of India’s chickoo production. Rubber balloons, rice mills and manufactured goods, are major manufacturing products which are produced in Dahanu. There is also a 500-MW power plant that supplies electricity to Mumbai. “
We didnt see any cows till later, but man, when we did, they were everywhere. Mounds of cow poop regularly decorated the roads and the violators were never far off, chewing grass almost thoughtfully, then crapping it out again.
Oh someone should edit that wiki article because chickoo production is suffering now, because of the power plant. Chickoos require a certain type of air and the plant is ruining it. Sad really, because I remember the time i went to Golwad, a place near Dahanu, a few years back. I recall vast groves of chickoo trees and the trucks would be full of fruit, ready for the market. It’s not like that anymore.
After the station we caught a rickshaw (which, unlike Mumbai, didnt have a meter and since it was a small town, many people take a ride at once so you gotta save the surprise at having a stranger randomly jump in for something else). I was really tired, but no, we werent going to the resort we were meant to be staying at, we were going to buy FISH -__- So the rickshawalla took us to Dahanu’s ‘fishmarket’, meaning a line of 10 women seated with baskets on the road. After a purchase of 8 pompfret and 10 bombay duck (These aren’t ducks, these are fish known in hindi as Bombil and their flesh is like a cross between normal fish and squid), we headed to Pearline resort, a small house run by a Parsi woman (Dahanu boasts a variety of religious followers, but Parsees have a special niche here). My mum and I visited my grandma in her resort room (Where she’s staying for a while with my aunt to recoup from illness) and then I leave them all to chatter away and at about 6:30, I go for a swim.
The pool was beautiful, empty and the water was graciously cold. For a while I just stood there and watched the moon through the surrounding coconut trees in the grove. Then it got darker and the silence closed in like some kind of intrusive vacuum and I couldnt bear it anymore, so I left. The pool would close in a while anyway.
Back in the room I was pleased to see most of the 60+ mosquitoes had died (My mum and I had jumped around, spraying Mosi-Guard like savages). Unfortunately there was no shampoo, so I improvised with soap and a handful of moisturizing cream for conditioner. Didnt work too well =/
Then we went down to the outdoor restaurant for dinner at 7:fortysomething, had some steamy manchow soup (the kind with the lovely fried noodles : D) and left for a night-time walk. The air was rather cool, with a hint of warmth and moisture. The beach opposite was sublimely picturesque. Silhouettes of tall and spindly trees against a dark sky, beyond which a glassy ocean rose with heaving sighs. I decided to come next morning and shoot a few photos.
After a nice second dinner of prawn koliwada, fried fish and squashed cake, I left to my room, leaving the three women to talk amongst themselves. I watched Mr. bean and laughed like a 3-year-old, spoke on the phone. Then my mum came in and it was bedtime.
The next morning I was awakened at 6:30 or so and my mum and I set out for another walk on the beach. I spent most of the time taking photos, which will be at the end of the post. After the beach we walked along some nearby houses, all broken windowed and abandoned. Snapped those as well.
The resort owner’s house, seated beside the resort had a rabbit pen and for the first time ever, I saw those storybook rabbits ( I was like – omg BUNNNNNIIES!) they were perfectly fluffy and furry and hop skippy jumpity. I spent quite some time getting some shots of them. They also let the ducks out in the rabbit pen, so it was ducks, rabbits and one annoying little squirrel eating breakfast together.
Then it was my turn to eat breakfast; omelette, rava dosa, toast & masala chai : ) after that we set out helping my grandmother walk and then we all sat at the beach again. Then we went back, got dressed and packed, said our goodbyes and my mum and I made our way to the station. On the way we stopped to buy vegetables (To check if they were cheaper here than in Mumbai, but they werent xD We bought some anyway).
The bhajiwaali (Woman who sells vegetables) commented on my mismatched laces “Yeh ganga jamuna kya ho raha hai? Hahahahaha ishstyle hai kya?” ( Basically – What the hell is up with your shoes? Hahahahaha is this a style?) and I smiled and said – Haan (Yeah) and then my mum called her a Heroine and asked her to give us a good price. She said it was a good price XD So we paid her and left.
Got a good ticket for sleeper class, caught the train, argued with some man who apparently had our seat, and lazily watched the transition from village to city. I was exhausted, and really didn’t know why. All I could do was look outside and not say much. Occasionally I took a picture of the world outside (Golden fields, rivers, the harvest neatly stacked in hundreds of mounds, bails of hay, little villages, toy town orange temples on forest hills and a huge sheet of light blue sky) or smile at a woman and her son across; sweetly playing pat-a-cake or annoyingly ask my mum to let me eat the dirty bhel puri the vendor was mixing with his fingers. She only let me have the train tea, which was like strong tea and bananamilk A rather palette engaging flavor actually.
A few sleepy hours later we reach Bandra Terminus.
And yeah. That was it really.
I don’t think I’m that eager to repeat the trip. There was something rather…heavy, I could say, about everything there. Like everything was closing in. Anyway, I’ve written 15oo + words and would really like to go make some tea in 10 minutes. Here are the pictures though.