Dil Chahata Hai….

The Calangute

Ever since we watched the movie, Dil Chahata Hai in 2001, we had been yearning to clinch a ‘Dil Chahata Hai Moment’ journey right there in Goa and around, with college time friends. In the movie three protagonists played by Aamir, Akshay and Saif go on a road trip to Goa from Mumbai and learn various lessons of their lives including some hard lessons including one literally by Saif after his hunt for ‘beauty’ lands him on an hard truck journey back to Mumbai.

Tomar

Tomar

The plan to see ‘Mumbai to Goa’ famed road through Sahyadris and Konkan had been brewing for long, but professional commitments and personal issues had not given us enough liberty to plan together and that too, solo. Any travel plan made by a married man going solo is judged with suspicion and amusement. And, if you have kids aged 10 or above, they too would not fail to remind you that it’s unethical if not anti-social to leave those innocent souls behind while you aim to go for a furlough in a far off land and that too as naughty as Goa.

Dabbu

Dabbu

Facing and in fact confronting all these dilemmas, innuendos and questions, we a group of four(Raja, Dabbu, Tomar and Myself) decided to steal few moments of ecstasy and camaraderie with each other over next 4 days in Maharashtra and Goa. This trip was being done in month of July, the month of Monsoon and lush green hills in Sahyadri hills. The mid of Monsoon in this area leads to greening of every single blade of grass and every single millimeter of area of otherwise rugged zone. I had been to Goa earlier and so were my friends too, but none was with friends alone. My earlier three trips were with family and kids. The feeling of being alone with friends leads to birth of a sparkle in your eyes and the possibilities of naughtiness just overwhelm you. You start planning all otherwise impossible things and the talks of the friends get loaded with smileys and winks. We were really happy to start with, even if the ‘youngest’ in the group was forty years old!

Raja

Raja

The fun of journey started right from Lucknow, as while boarding, Dabbu scampered ahead to take the window seat. He perhaps at age of 44 yearned to have a bird’s eye view of his own city. It’s always a  fun to watch your city from a height. The desire to see your own house and your own city, from the plane piercing the monsoon clouds, is a great moment really. You eyes look far and wide and before you could identify your own house, the plane flies well above the visibility heights. The process however is so sweet that you want to do it whenever you get a chance.

Jitendra

Jitendra

The flight to Bombay, sorry Mumbai, is of two hour only and before we could prolong our post breakfast naps, we were asked to fasten up our seat belts. We landed safely and were picked up by the vehicle sent for us by a relative. I was feeling a bit hungry but to reach our first destination near Lonavala, but had to sacrifice lunch. Two of us made even a bigger sacrifice, their otherwise at-regular-interval- smoke-puffs.

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Travelling through fast track Mumbai-Pune Expressway was a particular enchanting experience in the Monsoons as the hills on both sides as well as the fields near and far, were so lush green that you feel like having green eyes only. The small streams of water sprouting from many unlikely corners of smallish hills were giving the perfect picture-postcard look to the Sahyadri hills. Mother nature was really at its best. All of us were really pleased to start off our journey on such a high green note. I could not resist myself from taking few shots on the way.

The Green Galore

The Green Galore

To Be Continued……

Aati Kya Khandala?

View from Khandala

View from Khandala

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.

Panaromic Mumbai-Pune Expressway

Panoramic Mumbai-Pune Expressway

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.

Tunnel at  Expressway

Tunnel at Expressway

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.

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The views were even more enjoyed by my exuberant kids and they posed along with me and helped me to pose as well.DSC_4019 IMG_4795I 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.IMG_4800Now, 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.

The Imagica and I-thrill at 43

final_imagica_compositeThe adrenalin pumping thrill rides of a theme park are not for faint-heart and for a 43+ years old like me. I learned this only recently, but only after screaming from the deepest depths of my throat during my maiden visit to the Adlabs Imagica theme park situated at Khalapar, along the scenic Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The theme park spread over 300 acres of rugged terrain was inaugurated in 2013 and boasts of the top of the class international standard rides available in India. On a recent trip to Pune, I was literally, duped into visiting this park. I was told by my kids, that this park, was only like few other adventure parks, I had been to, and that I was young enough to enjoy the fun rides. I had been to one such theme park; Esselword, near Mumbai, but that was 12 years ago, in 2003. I thought or I should admit, that I overestimated myself. The hubris in me, that I had the zing thing in me to enjoy rides at Imagica, caught me at the wrong foot. So, one fine morning I traveled all the way up to this place from Pune.

At Imagica

At Imagica

The first ride I drove into was, Nitro. It is a roller coaster ride on patterns of big amusement parks worldwide. It carries 24 pax at a time. I too sat in it. It started by trudging up the trolley slowly to a good height to gain momentum, but hell was let loose after that. It was running almost at the escape velocity. The pressure on my tummy and shoulders was unbearable, as the upside turning and twirling ride hangs you in air like anything, literally. I started to scream, to move away my mind from a sinking heart. While every body else, and kids in particular would have thought that I was enjoying, I was cursing myself for that self inflicted punishment. I did not want to learn Physics this way for sure. Don’t trust me? Just see the picture below.

Nitro Ride

Nitro Ride

I took a deep breath, after emerging alive out of this. I decided not to come any near, this ride in the remaining part of the day and cajoled my kids to other rides, which I thought, might be gentler. I reached out for ‘Dare To Drop’ ride after seeing few children doing it. It was again a big mistake. In this ride using big hydraulic machines they create pressure and then shoot you up and down like a half volley in a tennis match. I prayed God from that exalted height, believing God was closer to me at that great height and some how managed to land back safely. I was facing one unique problem in all these rides that, the safety gear and locking handles in all these rides were not for a wide-tummied mammal like me and I was almost pressing the locking handle too close to my body, to prevent slippage from those thrill spewing  machines. I had to still hold it tight close to me.

Dare To Drop Ride

Dare To Drop Ride

I decided to beat a hasty retreat from this ride too and landed now at Gold Rush Ride. This ride on the lines of Indiana Jones rides of Disneyland at Paris, was no less thrilling, and for me, no less threatening. I somehow managed to come out of this too, alive once more. I gulped few ounces of water and decided to go for kinder rides only. I reached out to queue for a very gentle looking ‘Tubby Takes Off’. It was appearing the smoothest, but kids preempting this kiddish ride broke away from the queue midway and galloped towards other riskier ones. I had to follow them.We now landed at ‘Rajasaurus Ride’.rajasaurus-river-adventure-is-a-clone-of-universals-jurassic-park-ride-big

The notice outside the ride was that, it was not for weak hearts and for persons with medical conditions. My problem was that, I could not say, no to my kids, or that I was a weak heart. Therefore, against my instincts, decided to follow my kids to the ride. This ride is about a journey in a boat, through the ancient inundated world when Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes roamed the planet. The highlight of the ride was the final fall of the boat from a big height into water below. As, the boat got readied for fall, I inhaled as much Oxygen, as I could and closed my eyes too. The boat slided into the water with ferocity and I landed with a thud sound of the boat into the water.Adlabs Imagica - Rajasaurus River Adventure (1)

I was alive, still. I just thought of running away from the park, but my kids would not allow me that even. I was feeling hungry and exhausted, but the kids were not interested in any food. They wanted to make a kill with the rides alone. I was having a bad time really and a prisoner of circumstances really.

The Hostage Me

The Hostage Me

The next destination was the ‘Wild West Mine Ride’. The ride is combination of high quality video game plus edge of the seat movement through a motorized platform. The ride was a good fun and was the most gentle ride till now. I came out smiling from the ride, for the first time.IMG_5064

The smile on my face lasted only till I entered the ‘Deep Space Ride’. This ride gets you through the dark secrets of space in a darkened environment. To much of my horror, my son forced me to sit in the front row. I closed my eyes and once gain inhaled the maximum oxygen, I could. Once the ride started, I knew that it was my biggest mistake. This ride twisted my body and paunch in all possible ways and that I am still alive and sharing with you my ordeal, is a miracle only.

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Deep Space Ride

The next in line was the ‘Mr India’, or we should say, ‘Mr Mogambo’-the eponymous villain of Bollywood movie, Mr India. This ride was a smooth one as it was an interactive video gaming with a moving platform, on which we were seated. It created illusion of navigating through the Imagica park, during struggle  to save the children from the clutches of a sickening Mogambo.

Mr India Ride

Mr India Ride

I, then moved on to a well deserved lunch break. While usually it’s the children who would demand food in the parks, here I was one who was demanding food. They were enjoying for sure and wanted nothing to come in between. I smiled at their enthusiasm and at the amount of energy they had to run across all corners of the park, to enjoy one ride after another. A few rides were repeated and I had to be literally dragged in to few, by the kids. I refused point blank, though on one ride-Scream. This was the real scary ride and later I heard stories about too many persons vomiting on this ride every time it flew past to extreme.

The Scariest, Scream

The Scariest, Scream

While I was scared for myself, I was nonetheless happy at the exuberance of the kids, in reaching out to all rides. They were having a great time of their life. I had lost my hubris but was still smiling,  just for the one great day in the life of three noble souls. Coming out of the park, I did not let go the opportunity to be clicked in front of the alphabet logo of the Imagica. I smiled finally and came out of the park, in one piece.

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