Mumbai Memoir 109- In search of freshness, greenery & Duke’s Nose!
The arrival of monsoon in Mumbai is a huge relief from the heat & humidity that is experienced during the summers. Every Mumbai’kar wishes to embrace Mother Nature when the showers from heaven fall on its lap! This year a new destination was planned for the family’s annual monsoon getaway trip. Though initially we planned to go to Ratnagiri (approximately 340 Kms away from Mumbai), but since Mumbai-Goa highway got closed due to over-flowing rivers on the Konkan roads, we decided to visit a destination which was near to Mumbai. Lonavala and Khandala were the two tourist destination options that were worth considering.
After a lot of thought, we zeroed on Khandala because of its proximity to Mumbai (80 Kms from Mumbai) and also as compared to Lonavala, Khandala’s natural beauty is still intact with less commercial enterprises around. Though the search of the over-night hotel stay was random, but I must say ‘one must trust the randomness of the universe’ because our stay at the Deluxe rooms of ‘The Duke’s Retreat’, Khandala, was a pleasant surprise. It was nothing less than a visual treat to our nature loving eyes! The moment we entered the room I was mesmerized with the view outside the huge window. It was overlooking the valleys, mountain and waterfalls! I felt as if ‘the Divine Painter’ (who we call God) was displaying one of his ‘live’ scenic painting outside the hotel window for us to appreciate its beauty and enjoy!
The Duke’s Retreat Resort is located on a hillock and due to the elevation, the views from the hotel room offers an aerial view to the Old Mumbai Pune Highway that is seen far away and also the valley and the mountains that surround the hotel. The resort’s restaurant and bar named ‘Empress’, has windows overlooking the valley, mountains and waterfalls and it’s a delight to have one’s breakfast, lunch and evening cocktail in the midst of nature.
The lush greenery outside, the fresh air around, the white streams of water falls in the distant backdrop, the feel of the rain drops on our palms, put all of us in a mesmerizing trance till we headed back towards Mumbai the next day.
Munching of spicy roasted corn in pouring rains, nibbling ‘chikki’ (sweet snack) and shopping ceramic pots and kitchenware at Khandala, has made a special memory of this year’s monsoon in my mind.
On our way back to Mumbai we stopped by the road to get a close view of the Duke’s nose rock structure that juts out of a mountain top. The name of the rock structure on the road signs triggered curiosity in me. It was amusing to know that the structure is named with reference to the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. The rock structure resembles the nose structure of the Duke!
In the colonial days of India, Khandala was a well-known destination where many Britishers visited it for various reasons. The extension of the railway route from Mumbai (then Bombay) to the city of Pune happened via Khandala. The civil engineers that laid the railway tracks were mostly British.
There was a prison at Khandala where British Prisoners of War from the 2nd World War were kept. Because it’s a hill-station, Khandala was a place where the British officers, wealthy Parsi community people and the other elite class of Bombay use to unwind from their regular matters of life. It was nice that my family too chose to unwind in the arms of Khandala which really helped us de-tox our lungs. As we admired the Duke’s Nose rock and took a deep breath of fresh air, I felt as if the nose was hinting us to make the best of the fresh air around and breath to one’s fullest and then return back with a rejuvenated spirit to spend the breath qualitatively on things we love doing in Mumbai!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar