Nestled in a secluded corner in Maharashtra’s green hills lies the quaint little town of Panchgani. As it turned out one evening last year, there was much morose speculation about the absence of prospects for the long weekend to come.
“I need to wash clothes. I always scrub them well enough to last me a week.” said Miss Royally Smooth Hands, who has never touched detergent all her life.
“Maybe I’ll sleep in till noon and order in lunch or something later.” added Mamma’s good little boy, who wakes up at the crack of dawn each day.
More heavy sighs were doing the rounds when cool dude across the block called out. “Good luck people. I am off to Panchgani. Need I bring back some strawberries for you?”
Four pairs of envious eyes probed into his beaming demeanour and before we left for the night, we had got him to book us road transport for five. Early the next morning, packed up in a comfortable van, we watched the sun wake up. The suspended shoe in front of the car went in for a fair amount of frantic movement as we scaled uneven pathways.
It was still young in the day when we arrived. Getting off the lavender coloured seats, we looked around to see stunning hills that ended in plateaus. “They are called flatlands,” cool duded knowledgeably remarked, “and have witnessed several cinema shoots, including your favourite Raja Hindustani flick.” I made a face; I had caught the dude on YouTube with the need-I-tell-you-scene not just once but twice.
Our plan for the day was visiting the famous caves of the flatlands – a school friend of mine had vociferously tele-promoted them the night before. And I had spread word. “I am guessing they’ll be down there.” I said to the party, pointing towards the base of a narrow flight of stone stairs. “I am not going in if it’s too watery or has the remotest hint of a creepy crawly.” said the Princess. “Oh come on, no sane creepy crawly will waste time with your Sugar Free Gold blood.” grinned another, pushing her down the stairs.
The last stair descended, we stood in front of a doorway. It opened to a restaurant that served tea and wafers and boasted of rocky chairs and tables. A little way inside was the opening to The Caves.
Torch in hand and jeans folded to avoid being inundated with stream water if it suddenly arrived, we crept in. Our single torch lent an interesting gleam as we huddled inside, anticipating the length and depth of the place: the restaurateur hadn’t said.
“Ouch!” I screamed, accidentally scraping my hand against a rock. “Watch where you go.” said the veteran cave-people. I hung my head and turned to proceed…but voila! The ‘cave’ had ended! We stared at daylight staring back at us from the doorway. There was no one else to be seen. We ended up posing for photographs with the ten rupees torch before the battery wala magically emerged to reclaim his rented product.
Though the adventure quotient sure flopped, we managed to have a good time nevertheless, feasting on strawberries and riding magnificent horses.
As for my school friend, I will get back at her some day. Maybe by inviting her over to a dinner party at my place.
I hope she doesn’t cross check on my culinary skills.
— (an entry to the “Cleartrip “My Purpose” Contest”)
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