Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to School




Going to Jaya’s school in the monsoons is always such a treat.

Braving the rains on the Lonavala Ghats that puts you just so much on the edge speeding through the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, negotiating the truck-traffic and pot-holes of the Talegaon-Chakan section ( Pune’s new Industrial District ), as one turns off the Nashik highway at Rajgurunagar (Khed ) unending miles of green-hills greet us. Till just a couple of months ago, when we had gone to drop her off at the beginning of the term, they had shades of brown and golden yellow - still pretty like a dusky young bride wrapped in her Maharshtrian saree. But, now suddenly she was resplendent in green – the young wife in full bloom on the cusp of motherhood.

Finishing our mandatory stop for Poha or Chewda just before leaving the highway, we climb in soft pedal up the ribbon-like road towards Bhimashankar. As the town recedes, the population thins out and tiny hamlets begin to appear along the way, spaced afar from each other. It is hard to believe that so close to Mumbai – there can be a place of such unspoilt beauty, still untouched by the city marauders.

We reach the Chas-Khaman Dam which holds back the Bhima River from overflowing into the plains of Pune and get a first glimpse of the lake now full to its brim looking ready to spill over on the paramours lap. At this point one first sees the dots of the school dormitories up there, as if spying on the play at the banks of the lake – like the naughty teenagers who live in them - from a stealthy distance.

Going past the Shambhu Hill – which, as the name indicates, has Shiva temple atop nestled in the forest, we get to the fork from where the road to the school branches off, a short climb up the Tiwai Hill to the table-top plateau where the school is spread over 70 acres. Even in the last 2 years that we have been going there, the young forest – of teak and Jamul planted by the school - has thickened showing its first signs of moving from adolescence to maturity, though still someway from attaining adulthood. But, still it conjures up the feeling of driving through a light jungle.

Up there at the school, the rain-drenched trees and the slushy foot-ball and volley ball fields – with the boys emerging from them like little devils after a mud-bath – make another kind of a sight altogether. Though there are no flowers in this season and the fruits too are not in sight – the lush green all around gives it a certain pristine character.

Though the afternoons tend to get a little warm when it’s not raining, the mornings and evenings are invariably pleasant with a cool breeze coming up from the lakes wafting through the trees. And, an occasional light drizzle gently soaking the skin.

The sparsely appointed (basic yet comfortable) rooms in the guest-house, the home-style and near rustic food of the school canteen and the adds to the feeling of a holiday in the country side.

At sunset – one can walk across to the neighbouring Navalvirayatan , a meditation and retreat center, set up by a Jain foundation, and go till the right edge of the cliff to get an unhindered view of the Bhimashankar Lake – silent, calm and the ultimate picture of serenity - , while watching the sun set over the Lonavala hills afar. And, it’s then one begins to understand a little bit of what Krishnamurti meant by…. To live is to be related (and) there is no right relationship to anything when there is not the right feeling for beauty and a response to nature…


And then, suddenly the reverie snaps - as one hears that in just a couple of years the new Pune International Airport would come up in Rajgurunagar – when the school will be right on the flight path of the jets that would tear thunderously through the skies on their landings and take-offs. Land-sharks have already moved in grabbing the hill-sides smelling the opportunity of making a quick buck. And very soon, one won’t hear the tweeter of the birds and the rustle of the leaves any more. The children – looking up into the skies will count air planes rather than see shapes in the clouds or study the constellations at night. The sylvan landscape will make way for a concretized sky-line and the neighbourhood would be swallowed up by the swelling city of Pune as one of its newest suburb. The Tiwai Hills will be transformed for good. But one hopes that, Sahyadri will still remain a little island of tranquility where children can learn about the totality and the wholeness of life, just as Rishi Valley continues to be even after 75 years despite the onslaught of the environment around it.
Related Blog Post: "Masti-ka-Pathshala" (to read click here)