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The Red Road to Matheran

October 11, 2009

My hands are freezing and my head is boiling.  I opened my eyes shivering and alone waking up to an unfamiliar room.  It was that feeling you have when you stare up at the ceiling first thing in the morning and you suddenly realise…its not your ceiling. I found myself in a dingy excuse for a hotel.  Fear strikes you when you least expect it.  My blanket lay at the foot of the bed – just out of reach.  It was five thirty in the morning.  The guide with whom I’d made arrangements with to bring the horses would be here in thirty minutes.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but that was yesterday evening before the fever set in.  I knew I had to compose myself.   I reached for the blanket and made my way across the room to the bathroom.  The cold morning air sent chills through my body from the bathroom window.  Congested and quivering, I caught my reflection in the mirror, “This is it, Prasheen,” I told myself, “..this is what you signed up for.”  Sifting through my stash of Canadian drugs, I was pleased to find I had 2 Tylenol cold’s in the mix; I took both.

Body temperature is one of those things I think is half mental.  It reminded me of a childhood tale of Birbal (click for the story).  The moral of the story was that although you can’t generate any actual heat from a light that is miles away, the thought of it can keep you warm.  I closed my eyes and went to a warm place…a place more familiar.  It was back at home – not my condo, but home home.  It was a time when I was sick growing up, except that’s when I was a kid and invincible.  A fever meant great news – no school for the day.  Instead of cold shivers, they were jitters and excitement.  The warmth of my suburban waterbed and bratty luxuries scattered around my room comforted me.  My mom came in with hot tomato soup and too much food to even eat if I were feeling well – –

* Knock * Knock *

It was our guide, punctually at the door for exactly 6:00AM.  With three layers of shirts and a scarf around my neck I was out the door.  In the distance, I could see the sky illuminating.  It was a quiet morning at the hill station known as Matheran.  During the British occupancy, hill stations were built in mountainous regions across India as a place for the British to escape the heat and the hustle of city life.  As one of the few places in the world where motor vehicles are barred from, the hill station can only be accessed by foot or horse.  I remember thinking about how peaceful the lack of car horns were when we arrived the night before.

I mounted the horse and off we went heading to Matheran’s eastern edge to a viewpoint called Rambaug.  My horse was oddly named ‘No Comment’ which would later prove to become the theme of my morning.  There are few things in life that truly leave you speechless.  Every so often you find yourself in one of those WOW moments.  It could happen at a coffee shop, on vacation, in your backyard – or anywhere for that matter. And in that moment, whether it is a thought you are enjoying, a sight you capture, or an interaction you share, the only thing that comes to mind is WOW.  As I trotted my way down the slippery slopes of the cliff, the sun caught my eyes in an opening between two trees.  I neared the edge and jumped off the horse, and walked straight toward the sun.  There it was – my wow moment.  I stood there overwhelmed.  There was a small nearby waterfall which added a soundtrack to the ambiance.  I chose to find a rock directly against the waterfall and sat down to bask in nature’s glory.  It was then when I took out my journal to indulge in my thoughts.

Writing on WaterAs I look ahead to the landscape in font of me.  It’s a collage of earth, water and sky.  The sun emerges from the mountains in the distance and hits you with life.  The peaks and valleys stretch across infinity.  My hands fall to my sides and kiss the water trickling down the rocks.  Taken aback in awe, I am serenaded by a single bird in the distance.  Caught in the moment, fever out of sight – out of mind, only my horse had foreshadowed how speechless I would be. No further comment.


Laughs in the GreenOnwards we continued, through deep trails of red sandy terrain.  Each upcoming viewpoint was remarkably more pleasant than the last.  The next point yielded a small clearing through lush greenery.  The villagers residing in the valley below were hiking up for their morning routines.  I encountered two children staring at me with big eyes.  Children have the fortune of doing as they please without reserve or social etiquette impeding their actions.  I waved and they waved back.  I stuck my hand out to give a high five.  Then a low, and then too slow!  They giggled with purity.  I took a handful of pictures and showed them afterwards.  Even the slightest gestures would entertain them, and I laughed along enjoying their amusements.

The last point we arrived at yielded 360° of panoramic splendor.  I climbed a bare tree, which was erected at an altitude of nearly 3,000 ft.  If life is a one way ticket to the best show in the world, then this was the best seat in the house.

Best Seat in the House

After a seemingly endless journey to the train station, I continued to battle my fever in the overcrowded train back to Mumbai.  The claustrophobia and the scorching heat was enough for me to make my way to my first Indian hospital.  After falling asleep waiting to see a doctor, I woke up being patronized by a nurse.  I wasn’t surprised by the blanket solution they offered – antibiotics.  Well, I’d rather not chance it anyways, so I obliged and paid for the drugs.  Time focus on recovery, but what an unforgettable morning it was.  Thank you India.

Stay Tuned: Family and Diwali in Mumbai

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