Mesmerizing Malshej – DU Picnic June 24th to 26th 2010

It was after much thought and change of plans that Malshej Ghat was chosen as the DU picnic destination for the April-June 2010 quarter.

The ‘Why did I say Yes’ Checklist:

1. Two full days of vacationing and goodbye to office? If there is bliss, it is this!

2. Didn’t they say the Ravan climax was shot there?

3. Duh, it’s a free trip. I would be a fool to not go!

ICC got to witness a smiling set of faces on the morning of the 24th of June. A welcome change from the bedraggled, feet dragging, another-day-at-office medley of expressions!

A 17 seater had been booked – a cute little ‘Traveller’… and thanks to early riser Shrikant Bhoyar, we got plenty of time to stand and ogle.

Breakfast was a poha and idli affair at a rather fly-infested roadway halt called Vedant. Once enroute again, it was movie time. Bachna Aye Haseeno emerged winner amongst tough competition from Golmaal Returns, Firaaq and Rang De Basanti. As Ranbir wooed one girl after another, the sights and sounds of Pune gave way to hills, streams and clouds.

We arrived at the MTDC resort in Malshej well in time for lunch. To hell with equality, being a girl rocks when its accommodation you’re talking. The four of us ladies got a fairly nice room to share, unlike the clinical dormitory that lay in wait for all the guys – with a single bathroom to freshen up.

The MTDC guys deserve accolades for the choice of location. Nestled between lush green hills and miles and miles of valleys, it boasts of an infectious serenity… The kind of quiet that makes you smile and dream, sing and believe life is beautiful.

Vivek Sir presided over our lunch order and bowls of baingan, paneer, bhindi and chicken soon made way to the dining table. Perhaps it was because we were hungry – breakfast suspiciously reminded me of a previous birth – or maybe the food was delicious indeed, but it was one of the most satiating lunches in ages.

Stomachs pleased, we embarked on what I call our Jungle Expedition. What began as an idle stroll through ‘Shooting’ and ‘View’ Point, not to forget (Butter) Fly garden, soon changed into an adventure trip of sorts. It began to rain and the already dense mist deepened further. There were puddles to splash in and waterfalls that could be. Crabs in bright orange costumes followed us with their serious brown and rather ugly counterparts.

A magical three-fold flower – courtesy Farhat Ma’am, sugary sweet bird calls and snaps in the wilderness later, we retraced our steps.

There is something supremely romantic about rain. Especially about the big rounded rain drops that go pitter patter when no one is around. Sangeeta Mam had a full on blast instructing our driver to play peppy numbers and dancing to the same. Short lived indeed was her pleasure for the ‘Tale of the Stalking Phone Call’ ensued that evening and went on unceasingly all through the trip. The guys of course could not be distanced from their precious volleyball. Much the same was the case of Jatin Sir and his camera – soul mates!

As evening descended, it began to be cold. But the quest for the mythical tunnel led us on. We probably walked a good couple of miles in the cold and drizzle but the tunnel we had seen in the morning stubbornly refused to emerge. Tired feet trooped into the cafeteria for dinner, fully prepared to doze off soon after.

Sleep was however, flown away and over the green hills, chased off by the foot tapping beats of a DJ. It was another story that DJ wasn’t part of our agenda but we easily gate crashed into the party of another group at the resort. They couldn’t do anything but look on helplessly as we took over most of the dance floor.

An 8 AM departure to Bhandardhara was fixed. But plans on a holiday are indeed made to be shelved. It was past 11 when we finally started off the next morning.

The skies had never seemed bluer. We stopped on a bridge which overlooked a quaint little stream. With Ganesh Sir leading the way, we climbed this rock and stepped on that pebble to come to a gurgling mini canyon – absolute picture postcard material. So much so that when we actually arrived at Bhandardhara, the dam didn’t do much to match up to that midway halt. But it had its charms, to say nothing of its fruits – mangoes and jaamun galore.

Lunch – if I can still call it that at 5 in the evening – was exotic: pakores and chilies! We had plates and plates of them from a roadside vendor, much to the pleasure of some starving dogs who looked up expectantly.

I should have thought we were all too drained out to do anything much on the trip back to the resort. But there was something about the Sajna-ji-vari-vari track that was irresistible to Arun Sir. With him setting such a charged up beginning, the bus soon shook with everyone shaking a leg, err, hands and heads to be more precise. If I say it was fun, that would be the understatement of the year. When Shafiq Sir joins in the dancing, you know you’re on a roll.

I never knew of Pawan’s secret talent for brand marketing. Right from the Nirma jingle to that of Fair and Handsome cream, he had it all by heart. Likewise for Varun Sir’s collection of the gloomiest songs in the history of Indian cinema.

We started on time the next morning…relatively.  Through breezy winding lanes, food and music, we had to a paradigm shift to the grime and heat of Pune. Mobile networks came back on and ICC B Wing zoomed into the frame.

Fun and frolic for the quarter behind us, Monday smiled an evil Chesire Cat grin.

Ah, heaven.

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