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Direct from Heart
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Sunday, 3 May 2015

A solo-cruise into spirituality and natural beauty

2 days. Cruising on road for 12 hours in those 2 days on my bike. My trip started from Thane (Mumbai), via Shirdi, Sani Shingnapur, Malshej Ghat and back to Thane.

May 1st, 2015. 6 AM. Took me about 4 and half hours to reach my 1st destination, Shirdi. Most of that

road is good. Most of it is National Highway (NH-3) and about a place which happens to be near Devalali AF station, a right turn from NH-3 takes one to Shirdi. Now, this 2nd leg of the road is cranky for about 25 kms. Still, a rider's religion is to cruise past all these. Pleasantly otherwise, the scenery on both sides of the road is that of good ol' countryside, which invites one with open hands and is downright heart-warming. My energy was constantly replenished by the energy of those walking devotees, in hot-parched road, in bare-feet.

At Shirdi, the place is so commercialized, that in 1st look it looks devoid of anything called spirituality. Everyone is caring to cater, only, if money in good amounts is brought to the table. However, as they say, if you look enough and deep you may find the unthinkable. Met some kind people who instantly offered me help without any exchange of favor, while I was lost to spot the shop where I parked my bike and luggage at. Out here, some people still care for those who travel miles to visit Shirdi.

Stayed about 4 hours at Shirdi to visit the temple and attend the archana, and to consume life-saving curd rice. I also happened to find out from locals that it is best to travel and stay in Sani Shingnapur the same day and visit the temple there next day morning (which happens to be a Saturday). Without any further ado, I started for Sani Shinganapur. The road was again smooth in most of its portion; construction, on top of plying of heavy vehicles, delayed carving it to all smoothness. On the way, this time, it was the celebration of mother nature that took my heart. Under the shade of trees,  men wearing, mostly, white-colored garments and supported by the ladies of their families were attending to their bullocks to carry out some work; so different from the temperature controlled offices. One can also see aplenty Rashwanti or sugar-cane juice vendors to quash your thirst from the risen mercury.

I reached and found a place to stay for overnight. Very economical with reasonable offerings. It was, however, something else that was different about this place. No doors in most of the houses; the rest had only sliding doors without any locks. Also, not to mention the innocence in conduct of the locals. I felt like I belonged to the place. The locals have a very deep belief in their grama-devta, Lord Sani. Local dialect, typical of that place, sounds so different from the usual marathi, I have heard,  in Mumbai or Pune. Sugar-cane seemed like the crop for this season and place, and sugar is the main produce out of it. With the help of the house-keeping person, I rode through the place for having a sumptuous supper of dal and roti. The place is so calm at night, in contrast to the usually noisy cities.

I fell asleep easily and woke up early to the usual business of a religious place. Devotees from all around the places thronging to visit the deity. I visited the temple; here the deity doesn't stay inside doors. He is out in the open, in the middle of temple's premises. I spent some time, appreciating the soothing calmness of the place. About 9 AM, after having my breakfast of poha, I set off for back to Thane; however, I took a different road, which is directly led from Sani Shingnapur. This route is through Ghodegaon, from where one reaches Ahmednagar bypass that leads to Kalyan, i.e. the outskirts of Mumbai.

This road is comprising of State Highways and village roads. It meets at Kalyan, but not before the long and strenuous journey through the beautiful ghats, most amazingly the Malshej Ghat.  A 30 kms ride through this ghat would take you passing by beautiful gorges, through which river Pushpati (as told by locals; name, as found, on internet is Kukdi) flows. A bifurcated road, in opposite direction (to my destination), also leads one to Fort Shivneri, which is the birth place of great Shivaji Maharaj. Also, on this ghat's road, one would see local tribes selling forest's outputs to earn their livelihood; around this time, most of them were selling karwale (more popularly called as jamun or Indian blackberry). The topography on both sides of the road is a beautiful sight for any passer-by.

As the sun was hot and blazing, the clutch of my bike, which was coming into contact with my skin, gave me an indication of how high the fahrenheit is; everything else was well-shielded against the razing sun. I rode till Kalyan without any long pauses. At Kalyan, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I took a break for lunch, where I relished curd-rice one more time. About 5 in the evening, I started again for the rest of 25 kms, which the city traffic caused me to take about an hour and quarter to cover.

This trip was a re-affirmation to the fact that countryside of any Indian state that I have seen, most specifically in the deccan plateau (Maharashtra, united AP, Odisha), have the same topography and set-ups; the difference is just in terms of the wearings and food-habits, not to mention the language and dialects. I also happened to have some time, while on this trip, to self-discover and introspect into life from a spiritual stand-point.

Last, but not the least, I thank to my lovely partner, my Avenger 220, without whom this whole trip wouldn't have been possible; didn't ever give me the usual strains from a long journey in the toughest of all climates.