I wasn’t looking for a Diwali weekend getaway.
But a getaway was something I wouldn’t look away from – especially one to a lil’ rural pocket ensconced from the maddening life in the city. That’s how Dehena happened.
I was at work one day when I received this newsletter in my inbox from Grassroutes – a Mumbai based social enterprise whose work I’ve been familiar with since some time now. [Read: iGlow | A Date With The Fireflies]
Having ticked the Purushwadi box twice already, quaint Dehena seemed rather alluring. A day and a half with village locals graciously allowing us city bred folk a sneak-peek into their lives and the chance to commune with nature met with an immediate nod of agreement.
N.B.: Through this initiative Grassroutes enables us urbanites to help:
- Increase their average household income by 25%-35%
- Reduce migration by 20%
- Revive culture & tradition
- Create over 6500 employment days annually
Did anyone say ‘getaway’? Hell yeah…
Dehena is accessible via Mumbai’s local trains — hop on a Kasara bound local and get off at Asangaon station. You could consider driving too. Prior contact with the village folk ensures you have a pickup from Asangaon – Dehena is an hour and a half’s drive from there.
At the village we were greeted by our ‘guide’, Raksha who took us to her house and offered us tea and goodies prepared for Diwali. In the course of our conversation I had to reconcile with the fact that this ‘confident’ girl was all of 16 and appearing for her Std. Xth exams this year.
|Meet the ‘guide’ P.S.: She aint to be messed around with|
Our cosy tents were a stone’s throw away from there; right in the midst of the paddy fields. With our bags carefully dumped inside we followed our guide for a little exploration of the village. In hindsight it didn’t seem to bother us that we’d left our ‘valuables’ (read: wallets) behind in the tent that wasn’t going to be locked.
|Our tents and the 360 view from around it|
|Idyllic rustic happiness|
The sheer expanse of open space – just fields and fields of grass growing wild along with paddy speckled with villagers toiling on them, bordered by hills as the outline to a canvas – is the only thing that hits you (and stays with you) for a very long time.
Sitting by the dam being surprised by the different forms of life prepares you a little on how to simply lose track of time. What a thing to learn! Until of course your tummy begins to (g)rumble and you decide it’s time to grab a grub.
|The two blackish dots towards the lower half of the image are
of fishes that jump (not swim) against the force of the gushing waters
through the dam and latch on to the stone walls. Quite the sight, this.
Lunch is arranged with a family who acts as your co-host who though you don’t live with provide you all your meals during your time in the village. Its almost akin to going back to your native hometown and having relatives waiting on you. This ‘adopted’ feeling is just beyond words.
Over lunch (and the consequent meals) you learn a little more about the lives of your host and the other villagers – the hardships and the unadulterated moments of joy. In turn you look a lil’ inward and begin to appreciate the simplicity of the rural life as well as some of your own blessings from back home – easy access to education, steady jobs and even things we take for granted such as electricity, water…
But what stayed with me (as with every other homestay I’ve done in the past) is the humility, the openness and willingness to play perfect hosts to random strangers. The sense of belongingness created is almost instantaneous. You feel more welcome here than the places you’ve frequented often in the past.
The charm and lure of the village along with food that was cooked directly over the flames (and not an LPG cylinder) had a certain hypnotic effect that noon. So powerful was its effect that I couldn’t wake up until it was time for our next meal – dinner.
I don’t recall sleeping this peacefully for a while now.
Needless to say I slept off for a straight 9 hours that night only to be woken up at 7 AM the next morning
|The bane of everyone’s existence. There seems
to be electricity for every alternate three hours
Day two began with sumptuous breakfast comprising of river fish cooked and served along with rice bhakris. This feast of a breakfast was prelude to a trek we would be embarking on.
Ajobagad/Ajaparbat is one of the highest peaks in Sahyadris (4511 ft.) and Dehena serves as its base camp. The approximately 2 hour uphill trek takes you through the forest to a temple that’s believed to be the ‘samadhi’ of Sage Valmiki.
Further beyond the temple we were told is the cave where Sita is believed to have given birth and then raised her twins Luv and Kush during the intial few years.
|Eerie may be but magical most assuredly|
|Meet my newest friends|
|What I wouldn’t give to freeze time and just be. BE.|
The trek is beautiful simply because the sights are simply gorgeous. The thicket of trees and the sounds of insects and birds intersperse with each other to create the most beautiful symphony of its kind.
And all the while you can hear your wheezing chest and thumping heart adding to the music.
The thing about treks is that you don’t know how much of a sedentary lifestyle you are living until you decide to be tamed by a hill. Another lesson learnt (for the nth time) – never let anyone tell you that it’s easier downhill than uphill!
Needless to say this day and a half escape from the noisy smoggy city was a welcome relief. Further accentuated by the fact that there is no network coverage in the village.
|Reminds me of Savage Gardens ‘Animal Song’ for some reason|