I am stuck somewhere. My head is full of images but I don’t know where to start. You know how when you see an object of unbelievable beauty, you are stumped for a while? It has happened to all of us, looking at a pretty girl or a handsome boy and not being able to say a word. And we had even been warned. The friends who went with us told us that the place was very scenic. Still.
We went to Nashik over the weekend, with the main idea being to visit a couple of vineyards in the area – Sula and York, and then just chill out. We were joined by friends who love to travel and had been to the area very recently, so we let them be our guide. We were not disappointed. The wine and the food I will leave for another day. Let’s talk about Anjaneri today.
Anjaneri is a little village situated in the hills about half an hour’s drive from Nashik. There are ruins of Jain temples in the village and it is supposed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman which is why it is on the tourist map. But if you keep driving through the village and beyond into the hills it is not the caves or temples that will hit you, it is the green. The fresh young green that grows when the Monsoons strike the parched earth. The glorious sunshine green that is visible all over Maharashtra in these four months, as if the sunshine goes straight through the clouds into the green. The kind of green that makes you forgive the rain for all the shit – the clogged roads, the lack of sunshine, the moldy walls, the damp stinky laundry. And then when you look up, the olive green on the trees, the depth which comes from having been around for several years.
I haven’t traveled a lot. But I have seen some beautiful things – I have felt the breathtaking power of Niagara’s waters, seen the time tested old rocks of Yosemite, admired the clarity of Tahoe’s lake amidst tall trees and even walked the rolling manicured hills of Switzerland. But this. This was old and young, unkempt and farmed, with tiny waterfalls of clear waters and a huge lake filled with the brown-grey rain water.
We parked our car near the lake and started walking. There was no fixed path; we walked where ever we could – in the rain water slush beside the lake, through the short grass in the fields, stepping on small stones, wading through mini streams, the rain drizzling on our faces and then suddenly stopping, the wind chilling our wet bodies. The baby was in his father’s lap, at first completely stunned by where he was. He lay quietly, looking around him when it rained, feeling cold. So he was wrapped inside a towel but still you couldn’t get him to say a word. Then when the rain stopped and we entered the fields, he became excited and started running around in the grass as we kept walking in search of view points. I am glad we did, because it is worth the effort to see things from different directions.
We were completely unprepared for the walk; that was the idea – to just go and see what life threw at us. I was carrying a huge diaper bag and wearing full pants (which I folded) and walking sandals. The husband was in full pants as well (which he chose to keep down so nothing could bite him) and black leather slip-ons. Our clothes became brown, our shoes wet, our feet dirty. But do you know how pleasurable it is, the feel of soft slush on your feet, followed by the cold water in which you dip them to clean them off?
We walked for about 30-45 minutes and then headed back to the car. Then we drove further down through the hills to the other side for more of natures grace. More lush green trees and plants, more little ponds and singing streams, more gentle hills. We passed through a little hamlet, ensconced in the middle of it all and our merry ride was slowed down by herds of cows, bulls, buffaloes and goats being taken out to graze in the pastures. Every time we had to stop and we got impatient, our friend gently reminded us that it was us who were intruding on them. This was their home; as we were reminded by the smiling children on the side of the road and waved to us. And by the teenagers wrapped in blankets substituting for raincoats herding the animals and the unimpressed ladies doing their washing in a small stream by the roadside. This was their land.
“What a life!” One of our friends remarked, referring to the beauty around him. “What? It’s a hard life.” His wife replied. It’s true. I was trying to understand what they do with all this beauty. What is the meaning of it? Do they even care about it? As we headed back and went through the village again, I saw half naked babies standing in the middle of the narrow roads inside the village. And on our car stereo Bruce Springsteen sang,
Ain’t no mercy on the streets of this town
Ain’t no bread from heavenly skies
Ain’t nobody drawin’ wine from this blood
It’s just you and me tonight
Tell me in a world without pity
Do you think what I’m askin’s too much ?
I just want something to hold on to
And a little of that human touch
Just a little of that human touch
You know why Anjaneri is so beautiful? Because it exists amidst human life; it is real, it is experienced, it is lived everyday. Not confined within the gates of a national park to be enjoyed on a long weekend or a perfectly maintained farming community. It is raggedy. Life has cropped up there in the way nature intended; and it keeps on growing.