Ever since Amir Khan invited her muse Rani Mukherji in Hindi movie, Ghulam (1998), Aati Kya Khandala?, I had been having an urge at the back of my mind to see the place. It took me some 17 good years to do that. I was curious to know, what the place was all about? How does it look like? How come, it became such a catchy line for a song? Where it was? Since the movie was released in non-smartphone days, I could not Google at that time, to get the instant gratification to know a place right there in the movie hall. The life kept on moving, but I did not land any closer to the Amir-Rani town. So while travelling to Pune this year, when my driver driving full throttle on picturesque Mumbai-Pune Expressway, told me that, we would be passing through Khandala, my memory cells got charged up and I felt a sense of deja vu. I requested my driver to take a break and let me enjoy the bonus of this trip. Yes, I was about to see the town, which had caught the fancy of all Bollywood fans, some 17 years ago.
I was right there with my kids in next few minutes. The access to Khandala is from 93 km panoramic Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The journey on this way, with open fields and hills on both sides is in itself a pleasing-to-senses experience. The expressway is dotted by many tunnels on the way and the tunnels are on both sides of highway and well lit. Probably they are one of the best tunnel experiences in India.
Khandala at the elevation of 1800 feet is situated on the top of Bhor Ghat and is a mini hill station connecting Deccan Plateau with Konkan Plains. It is 3 km from the small town of Lonavala, on Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Though Khandala is not big in size, the views from Khandala of a waterfall at some distance and of valley are breathtaking. I sat there along with my kids and enjoyed the scenery. You can have a look at the expressway also from the top and you feel elated with views of hill tops of not very high hills, from there. It’s a pleasing and soothing experience altogether.
The views were even more enjoyed by my exuberant kids and they posed along with me and helped me to pose as well. I spent some time there and proceeded to Pune, but not before taking a break at Lonavala, situated at a short distance from Khandala. The town apart from other things is famous for its ‘Chikki‘. It is prepared from jaggery and peanuts primarily, with cashews and pistachios also thrown in sometime. I went on to buy some for my group. Interestingly almost all the shops along the road and in fact upto Pune sported only one name, ‘Magan Lal’s Chikki’. All of them claimed to be original. There were hardly any shops in any other name. I chose one on the highway and bought some. I also noticed one cocoa colored semi solid liquid, sold as fudge there. I bought it too and got it neatly packed. The fudge was really delicious and finger licking, literally. The Chikki was good too but as a Lucknowite I have tasted better ones in Lucknow.Now, after satiating my desire to view Khandala and thus meeting Amir’s 17 year challenge of ‘Aati Kya Khandala?’ and also satiating my appetite by polishing a good portion of Magan Lal’s Chikki and fudge , I pushed on to our destination, the city of Pune. Thanks Amir and thanks Rani for getting me to this place.