A bit of Parsi heritage near Mumbai.
This week, we move west. I’ve lived in Mumbai long enough to have become an honorary Mumbaikar, and one of the privileges of this position is that I have access to a host of weekend getaway destinations.
There’s the tried-to-death duo of Lonavla and Khandala, the seaside distractions of Kashid, Alibag and Murud-Janjira, the hilly pleasures of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar and various other well known places. As nice as these places are, sometimes you need a change of scene. Allow me to suggest just the thing.
If you point your nose towards Vadodara on NH8, preferably by 6 am in order to beat some of the infuriating truck traffic, you’ll eventually find yourself on a broad, superbly-surfaced highway on which you can really let fly.
The only problem is, truckers often amuse themselves by driving on the wrong side, so be very, very careful. Keep going till you reach Charoti Naka in Kasa, at which point you take a left and head for the charming seaside hamlet of Bordi. The road’s lovely, winding its way through sleepy villages and the relatively large town of Dahanu before joining the coast and ending up in Bordi.
Be forewarned: there’s absolutely nothing to do in Bordi. If you’ve taken the trouble to come here, you’re in dire want/need of rest and relaxation, straight, no soda or ice.
The beach is fabulous, calm and usually deserted, so you can lie there all day without a care in the world, generating enough energy to lift yourself up only for food and drink. The best place to stay is at the MTDC resort, bang on the beach (Rs 300 onwards, Ph: 022-22026713, 22027762, 24143200), or at Hotel Pearline (Rs 500 onwards, Ph: 02528-222442) in Dahanu, 20 km away.
The area is famous for chikoo cultivation, so you could stop at some of the plantations for a visit and to fill up your boot with the delicious fruit. You could also visit Dahanu’s small fort, the hand-built Asavli Check Dam and the Bahrot Caves, a holy spot for Parsis.
Not, however, anywhere as holy as Udvada, another 125 km from Bordi. This little (and little-known, among non-Parsis) town is the holiest spiritual centre for Zoroastrians all over the world. The fire temple here, the Iranshah Atash Behram, is thus the most important of its kind in the world.
Even the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Hormuz in Iran, the birthplace of the religion, come here on pilgrimages. The town is both beautiful and tragic – the houses here are from another age, one where space wasn’t a concern and building a house meant building a HOUSE, not a matchbox.
But, as usually happens in these cases, much of it is slowly crumbling away, abandoned by younger generations of Parsis who feel out of place here. As a result, you’ll see mainly elderly people here, and there’s barely a sound to be heard most of the time. All this might sound depressing (and it is, a little), but it’s also fascinating.
The place fairly reeks of history and culture, so it’s well worth a visit. The small hotels here also serve absolutely lip-smacking Parsi food, which is another reason to come here. Kheema cutlets, freshly fried bhoi fish, dhansak, pulao dal, you’ll get the lot here. Don’t forget to have the hand-churned ice-creams either.
Hotel Mek (Rs 350 onwards, Ph: 0260-2345463, 2345679) and Globe Hotel (Rs 350 onwards, Ph: 0260-2345243, 2345474) are the best places to stay here. Mind you, this is Gujarat, so if you’re in the mood for a bit of the amber liquid, you’ll have to cross the border into the UT of Daman, 10 km away, and tank up, as it were.