Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai - Book Review

A few weeks back, I had an email from Rishi Vohra, the author of Once upon the tracks of Mumbai, asking if I would be willing to review his debut novel Once upon the tracks of Mumbai. After checking out his website and reading the blurbs in it, I agreed.
The book has a well though out, robust plot. The story revolves around the protagonist - Balwant Srivastav aka Babloo. "They" said that [Babloo] had psychiatric porblems. That [he] was autistic. "They" said that [he] was schizophrenic and psychotic. That [he] had split personality disorder. "They" stand for every one in Babloo's world - his parents, his brother, his doctor, his neighbours. Every one, that is, except Vandana - the love of Babloo's life. Vandana is a modern day woman who yearns for the typical fairy tale romance. She waits for the Prince Charming who will take her away from her dreary life at the railway colony.
Into this simple love story, enters Railway Man - a real life hero whose mission in life seems to be the prevention of crimes along the railway tracks of Mumbai.
Will Vandana find her Prince Charming or will she, like millions of her country women, settle for a person of her parents' choice?
What about Babloo's love for her? Will it succeed?
Who is Railway Man?
To find out, pick up a copy of the book today.
What I liked about the novel:
The crisp narrative and the robust plot.
The way in which the characters have been sketched. Every character is well thought out and readers will be able to identify with the characters and the situations that the characters find themselves in. The girl with dreams in her eyes, the middle class parents who worry about what their neighbours will say, the hurry to get their daughter married off before she becomes "too old", the rich road side Romeo and his side kicks, the parents who make no attempt to understand their autistic child - these are people that exist outside the realms of this book, in the world around you and me.
The unusual choice of protagonist. I have rarely come across an Indian author who chooses as his protagonist, a person with a mental illness. I laughed and cried with Babloo, feeling sad that he existed only at the periphery of his family's everyday life and felt happy that he felt strong enough to ignore what everybody said about him.
Overall, Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai is a wonderful, breezy read and at a price of Rs 175, definitely value for money - a purchase that you will not regret.
For more information on the book/author, please visit 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Murud - a travelogue

If you like the kind of vacation that is packed choc-a-bloc with things-to-do and sights to see, if you carry lists where you tick off what you've done and what you are yet to do, stop reading right now. This post is not for you. This is for the relaxed traveller - the one who lets a holiday play out as it will, the one who is not in a tearing hurry to get to the next tourist destination that is marked out in the guide, the one who is willing to live in and savour in its entirety, every moment that presents itself.
If you are still reading this, despite that rather lengthy warning, allow me to tell you about this beautiful slice of paradise right here on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Located in the Raigadh district of Maharashtra, Murud is roughly 160 km from Mumbai.
Getting there:
We drove down from Navi Mumbai and took the Panvel-Karnala-Pen-Alibaug-Revdanda-Kashid-Murud route. The Alibaug-Kashid-Murud stretch offers stunning views of the coast and you will be tempted to stop at quite a few place just to take in the beauty of the sea. Trust me, give in to that temptation and stop as many times as you want to. You will not regret it. It took us close to 5 hours to reach Murud, mostly because there was road work going on in several stretches along the route and traffic moved very slowly at these places.
One of the things that can make or break a good holiday is the place that you choose to stay in. The Golden Swan Beach Resort which we stayed in at Murud made our vacation absolutely delightful. One of the major plus points of this resort is that it is located right on the beach. There is a little gate that opens out from the property on to the vast expanse of water. At high tide, the water comes right up to the steps that lead down from this gate, leaving behind a beautiful expanse of patterned sand and shells of various hues at low tide.
Our private gateway to paradise

The resort offers water sports in the form of jet skiing and a banana boat. There is also a horse and buggy ride available during the low tide.
 AC and non-Ac rooms as well as small cottages are available at the resort for a reasonable price. For the three of us, with all three meals included, it cost a little over 6000 Rs inclusive of taxes, for a stay of 2 days and 1 night.

Food was decent, though not exceptional. It would have helped if the fare had offered more variety. Also, the rooms were a tad small for my liking. Considering that we live in space starved Mumbai, we like to have a little more space to move around in when we go out on a vacation. That said, the resort has made effective use of the space it had by providing a loft bed in the room which the little girl enjoyed immensely. Service is impeccable and the staff were very helpful and cordial.

What to see:
Disclaimer : We didn't see any of the 'sights' listed below. The beach was so beautiful and so close and so tempting, that we spent all our time being total beach bums.

The beach itself - Unlike the crowded, touristy beaches of Kashid and Alibaug which are close by, this one, especially the part of the beach you enter from the resort, has very few people in it. The beaches of Kashid look cleaner because of the white sand, but once you decide to look past the colour of the sand, you will realize that the Murud beach is beautiful. It is not very deep in most places, the water is clear and the sea is calm enough for you to sit/stand/jump around in it for as long as you please.The little girl has a decent collection of shells now, including a small, perfectly shaped conch shell.

The main beach is about a kilometre by walk from the private entrance that our resort offered, but it is not as clean. So, other than taking a walk to the main beach early in the morning, we decided to stick to our private expanse of the water for the duration of our stay. Fishing boats can be seen in the distance, as can the silhouette of the invincible Padmadurg fort. We were told that at present, people are not being allowed into the Padmadurg fort as parts of it had broken off and it wasn't safe.
The Padmadurg fort can be seen in the distance in this pic
Idgah - About 2.5 kms from the resort, this is the highest point in Murud and offers a spectacular view of the entire town.

Janjira fort - The name Murud is closely associated with the Janjira fort which can be reached from the Rajpuri jetty which is about 5 kms from Murud. Very often the town itslef is called Murud-Janjira. We were told that old fashioned sail boats take you to the once-invincible fort.

The return journey took less time as the traffic was much better. We stopped at a store selling Konkani foods and bought coconut chikki, mango wadis, different kinds of papads, kokum agal, some konkani spice powders which I need to google to find out the uses of  and lots of farm fresh mangoes.
If at all you plan to visit Murud, I would highly recommend staying at the Golden Swan beach Resort. This is not a paid promotion or advertisement, but a highly satisfied customer opinion.
This goes to Patricia's Weekly story - Week #15 at her beautiful blog Colours Dekor.