Tuesday, October 7, 2008

MISAL IN THE MONSOONS




Now that you and I, and the rest of Pune, are soaked way beyond the skin, you may naturally assume that I would rather spend my weekends curled up in bed, reading a comic book, sipping chai, drying out my waterlogged brains, like any other sensible forty year old. Ha! Think again! All it takes to get these creaking joints rushing out of the front door these days is the lure of Pune’s misty mountains in the monsoons, garam, garam chai and a plate of spicy misal.
Before you fling yourself out of that chair and throw your back in a fit of inspiration trying to keep pace with Pune’s middle-aged trekkers, there are a few tips I’d like to share with you…

  • First, park your Merc at home. You’re going to need a Scorpio to dirt track your way out of our potholed town into the Sahyadris.
  • Next, head out as early as you can. Anything closer to lunch time and you’ll be road raging with a hungry-as-hell Mumbaikar intent on grabbing his Toni Da Dhaaba spot.
  • Now as you get onto the highways, don’t fall prey to any ‘Ati kya Khandala (let's hook up)’ proposals.
  • Deliberately take a detour and head towards any obscure sounding village with a bigger chicken population than that of people!
  • Please note, if the friendly villager speaks Marathi/Hindi with a smattering of English thrown in, you can bet your chai will be triple the normal price. So quickly brush up on your Marathi and bond with him before the misal costs you more than the blessed chicken.
  • As for the dress code, it’s a smarter option to go really rugged. Coz then dahlings, you can safely skid down a slope, plaster yourself in muck and still trek another mile without wishing you had left your Chanel top at home.
  • And finally, be prepared to come face to face with an inquisitive bovine while answering the call of Nature.
    Now that we’re all set and ready to climb that magnificent mountain in our quest to be closer to Nature, turn off the engine, switch off that radio, take a deep breath and relax.... Let your senses soak in misty valleys, gushing waterfalls, and sheer expanses of green. Enjoy, for you are in heaven. That is till someone’s brat shrieks, ‘Mommy I’m hungry, I want Bingo!’ There’s really no point burning up diesel trying to find a dhaaba in this wilderness, you’re better off taking your chances in a run down shack manned by a gnarled geriatric whose sunny smile lights up the overcast surroundings.

‘This is sooo quaint!’ coos your friend, ‘I wish I could live here!’ she declares flashing a Colgate smile at the toothless geezer.

‘Are you nuts?’ hisses your other city pal, glaring angrily at the gaggle of kids who gawk and gape at her as if she were a Martian.

You can hear tummies rumbling, feel tiredness seeping in, the need to get out of the unfamiliar, when the real magic of the monsoon begins. Seductive spices rise in the air, your senses reel, and your tongue begins to water…out of the dinghy corner, strides up the geezer.

‘Misal Pav and shyample, just yenjoy!’ she smiles and disappears into the pouring rain, luring you to escape the city’s monsoon madness, this Sunday...

(DNA Pune, 'Funny Bone Column, Sunday, August 24, 2008)