Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Panchgani: A Few Stray Thoughts

A Few Stray Thoughts

Farzana Contractor | Saturday, July 21, 2007 12:55:37 IST

I know from time to time, I wax eloquent about my second home, which is Panchgani, but this time I won’t. I am miffed. No fault of poor Panchgani though, just that I haven’t been able to get there and the monsoon is half over. Sigh.

But allow me to recommend to you another getaway. And the sooner you get away to there, the better. However, there is one condition. You have to love the rains, and have a sense of fun and adventure about you. And you must like to walk. And you mustn’t mind squishy, wet mud.

It’s a hill station, very close to Bombay, very charming and surprisingly very overlooked. It’s Matheran. The same. Of red mud, toy trains, horse rides, long walks, deep forests and no cars!

I have never been able to understand why Matheran has been such a poor cousin to say Mahableswar and Panchgani, or even Lonavala and Khandala. In fact distance and time wise, it is more convenient. By car, it takes just over an hour to reach Neral, the base. And another 20 minutes to the top, by road. Then you park your car at Dasturi Naka and walk three kilometers to the main street. Or you allow yourself to be hand pulled in a rickshaw, or you ride. All of which have their own charm.

Once there accommodation options are aplenty. But I have my preference, Lords or Verandah In The Forest. Old world charm personified. I can’t believe we have such nice places literally within a stone’s throw of Bombay, and we don’t make the most of it.

This, according to me, is the best time to be in Matheran — when the dust has settled, and the leaves on the trees are smiling, when the tourists are gone, and only the locals are hanging around, when rooms are not only easy to get but you pay far less, when there is peace and quiet and you sit in solitude in common verandah and mull over life’s intricacies with a hot mug of chocolate warming your hands, watching the rain dance. Oh, for simple joys?

I have memories of this place associated with the different times of my life. When I went there with my parents and sisters, chugging up endlessly in the toy train, when I climbed up via ‘Shivaji’s Ladder’ with my trekking group From St. Xavier’s College, when I drove up the treacherous road (now it is far improved, in fact too improved, takes the fun out) with my husband soon after I was married – when we ate a lot of super Parsi food at Shirin’s Hotel, and then of and on with different friends. And subsequently now to write about it in the best magazine there is: UpperCrust!

Yes! Ladies and Gentlemen, mein Damen und Herren, Madames et Monsieurs, UpperCrust, the magazine that I have the pleasure and honour of editing, has in it’s latest issue, plenty of dope on this wonderful hill-station that I simply exhort you to visit.

As UpperCrust Destination it gives you a visual treat in 45 pages, bringing alive the hills through pictures and informative text. It tells you where to eat, where to stay, it talks about the flora, fauna, the walking trails, the numerous points. It walks you through the main street, discovers the fudge shops, unravels the market place, and stumbles upon a parsi graveyard. And if that’s not enough, it takes you through, ‘a day in the life of a horse man’- Salim Bhai, and more importantly, it even gives you his mobile number. Yup, you can actually call and book a horse, make sure one’s waiting for you. But for that you have to first get hold of UpperCrust! Enjoy.