Summer Vacation 2018- Guhaghar and Kudawale!
The year goes by with routine, 5 am mornings, bus, school, classes, exams, work, commotion, stress, and a myriad of questions, as to why we are doing all this. Come April end, the speed suddenly eases off. Things seem more enjoyable and people around happier. A month goes by floating in the swimming pool, watching movies and sucking mangoes. It’s May end - summer at its pregnant peak, with heat scoring at unbelievable 40s, humidity percentage crossing the 80 mark, and hot winds hitting the face right from 7 in the morning. Despite all this, we are ready to brave the heat and step out of our home on a road trip to make the maximum of the last week of our vacation! I am looking for a place where there is no crowd, where I can be myself and where I can experience something new.
Like how most of us in a restaurant spend a long time looking through the menu and contemplating about the various different dishes on the menu, and then quietly end up ordering the same dish we did the last time we went there; we too did the same for our choice of destination. After a barrage of choices, we chose to go to Guhaghar a small village in Konkan, our favorite destination in the Konkan region. We decided to stay in Guhaghar for couple of days and then move on. While driving to Konkan, we usually don't plan a detailed itinerary. We just pack and set off.. The home stay options at all the villages ensure a quick stop over anywhere. So off we went on a hot, humid Sunday- the 27th of May.
We reached Guhaghar late at night and were surprised to see the usual quite and relaxed Guhaghar, bulging with cars and people. Despite the rush, we found a home stay that could accommodate us for the night- basic 10x12 room with 2 windows, 2 beds, a bathroom and an Indian style toilet. We seemed to have brought the pre-monsoon blessings along with us. Through the night it thundered, discoed with the lightening and poured heavily. The rains in Konkan are torrential, thus not making it fit for tourists. So we woke up to a quieter Guhaghar, the kind we usually go to. The next 2 days was only 'beach' on the agenda. Sunishka my 9 year old daughter and Sagar my husband go crazy and excited at the sight of water. For me, quite the opposite, the magnificent stature of the sea, brings along with its enormity a calming feeling of making me insignificant and little again. Irrespective of our frequencies, we spent a lot of time with our sometimes crazy, sometimes violent, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes all encompassing partner. The home stay was merely a place to bathe and sleep. Rest of the time, we were either relaxing in the coconut orchard of the owner playing board games, or reading books on the hammock strung between 2 coconut trees!
We could have spent the whole week there, basically doing nothing externally productive :) However I felt, I could do with more excitement my way. Excitement of going topsy turvey on a roller coaster ride cannot be compared to the excitement you feel when you get to meet someone you look up to. But both make you feel elated! Seeking that elation, we chose to connect to a couple who had influenced a lot of our thoughts and actions in the past 6 months. Sagar and I had attended a workshop by the environmentalist couple Dileep and Poornima Kulkarni last December. A well educated and city bred couple who moved to a small village to be with nature, 25 years ago. Now in their late 50s, the couple have raised their 2 kids being with nature and have a whole different view towards living one's life. Dileep Kulkarni has authored a lot of books on the topic of Sustainable living and holistic development. He also publishes a Mararthi newsletter every month, delivered by post to all the subscribers. A 2 day visit to their place, felt a right continuation to our journey and we left from Gugahar driving now to Kudawale, to the abode of the simple couple.
There are some guiding philosophies this couple has lived with and continues to live on:
- Nature and its cyclic working: Nature in any of its facets completes its cycle and we as humans being part of this nature, have a moral responsibility to complete the cycle in any activity we undertake. The house they stay in is completely sustainable in every aspect. Pollution of any kind is at a negative. Human waste is also composed and the water from their bathing is used for the plants and trees in the backyard.
- Energy: Energy being limited needs to be wisely used and for this the only logical way is that of reducing consumption. When they moved to this house, for the first 4 years they did not have electricity. Today some lights at strategic locations are used, when it is REALLY dark at night :) The couple have never owned a vehicle. They travel by public transport, that too in the very basic ones- regular red coloured Maharashtra State buses and 2nd class railways! They claim an energy that is being taken for granted and underutilized is that of our own 'body'. The couple showcase this human power, by managing all the chores of the house on their own. They begin their day with yoga and the fact that the family has not visited a hospital in the last 25 years teaches us something!
- Pace: Their life at Kudawale goes on at the pace of the environment around them. The life is slower, calmer and more peaceful. They rise with the sun and finish their chores and are ready to rest at dusk time. This reduced pace, ensures a prolonged sense of being in tune with things and the constant feeling of having missed something (which exists in cities) is non- existing here!
Dileep Sir is a small built personality- trim and fit with no extra fat in any part of his body, long flowing white beard, and sparkling eyes. Eyes that have so much of energy in them, that they convey to the onlooker the sense of purpose in his life. He is a Diploma in Engineering who quit his job with Telco and decided to move to a village life and made 'being one with nature' his dictum of life. Poornima Tai, his wife, is a Ayurvedic doctor, who concerted with his views right from the time they decided to get married and continues to be Dileep Sir's best friend.
As we park our car, we enter their house, crossing a handmade gate of branches, twigs and thorns. This gate is basically for the goats that barge in and create havoc when they are not around. The house is a simply made one with mud and laterite stones. The walls and ground are smeared with cow dung paste which is a natural pest control and also acts as a temperature controller. The cow dung keeps the home warm during winter and cool during summers. Natural air conditioner! They physically spread the cow dung paste every week. Only asset that the house resonates with is 'books'. They are just kept stacked one over the other and at least thrice in the 2 days we were there, Sir picked out books from different corners of the house addressing different topics, exactly knowing which book was where!
We reached Kudawale at around 3 pm. The rains had not touched this part of Maharashtra yet and it was hot. Sunishka who usually is the reserved kind, was for a change, very comfortable taking a tour of the house on her own. She came out running and whispered in my ear.. "Mama, they don't have a fan!!! " The whispering combined with shock, made the statement loud enough for everyone to break into laughter. We however were seated outside in the verandah with the kokam, ain and jackfruit trees surrounding us, making the ambiance very pleasant. Dileep Sir, told us that we would be sleeping right there on the verandah at night, facing the sky and its countless stars!! I was now looking forward to the night.
We decided to go a walk to the nearby forest area and do some fruit plucking, return and then make dinner. As I was freshening up, I heard Sunishka's loud voice .." Baba, Saap.." meaning, snake in Marathi. I came out shortly, but just caught the discussion of the baby Krait or Maniar in Marathi which had whisked past the left side of their entrance. Sunishka was excited and for a change not scared. She continued and had a long Q&A session with Dileep kaka about snakes. He spoke about how they are part of the area they live and don't harm anyone, if they are not attacked. He also said, they need to be careful while pulling the books out in their house, because, it is a favourite place for snakes to hide and sleep.
We soon went on a walk to the nearby forest area to do jamun and karvanda plucking. Well, the news in the real world was full of Nipah virus and how one must not eat fruits fallen down, and here in the lovely world of peace, we were exactly doing that :) Both Dileep Sir and Poornima Tai have been doing Jamun plucking since the past couple of weeks, as the jamun season has begun. They laughed at wondering how Nipah could suddenly affect them now! Fear of the unknown brought a lot of insecurity in us city dwellers and this couple seemed free of it completely! We were excited to see the tree, and were looking to pluck the fruits from the branches. But Dileep Sir's vision were neither at eye level nor above, he bent down and was collecting the fruits that had fallen off the tree. Suddenly I felt the stark difference in the way we look at things. We urbanites were looking at taking things off the tree and here were a couple plucking all they wanted from the ground, keeping the stock in the tree for the birds and the others relying on it. We were humbled and began to do the same thing. Soon realizing, there is enough for everyone, if we know where to look and how much to hold!
We returned home and all made dinner together, chatting and understanding how they live. We learnt how doing everything together with the principles they stood for, has taught their kids a lot more than the regular education and made them ready to face any situation in the real life. There are parts of the house that are rebuilt by the family on their own, learning and making mistakes and correcting the ones made. This has made the whole experience lovely and memorable. Dileep Sir makes sure every conversation or activity is done together. There is no discrimination of work based on sex or age.
We had dinner together under the moon light and also got to know tips of how dal if cooked without salt, remains fresh longer. Tips you need to know, when you don't own a refrigerator. After dinner, we cleant the place up and decided to go on a walk. Dileep Sir took his long stick along, banging it on the ground, making sure the vibrations keep the snakes away from our path. While looking at options of a holiday, I came across the 'kazhuva festival', which was popular at this time of the year. Basically the end of May, beginning of June is a mating season for the fireflies (kazhuva in Marathi). The current trend is that of commercializing this activity where the fireflies come out in the open and do the process of bioluminescence where the male firefly generates cold light to attract the female. There are packages of 2000Rs and + for this whole experience.
As we walked with Dileep Sir, within the first 100 meters, we saw the first tree lit up with all fireflies! Sunishka was zapped!!! She couldn't believe nature's Diwali decoration right there in front of her. I was smiling and thinking, how my secret wishes were coming true :) Our short walk by the road got us atleast 4- 5 groups of fireflies illuminating whole trees and twinkling away attracting their mates and making it an unforgettable sight for us!
We walked back, got home and got our beds ready. A jute sheet spread on the ground, followed by a thin cotton bedding and a simple bedspread. Sunishka dictated she is sleeping in the middle, lest the snake she saw in the evening would return. We all had our spots ready and laid down on our beds, eyes open to the sky and the bright moon lighting up the space for us. It was a beautiful feeling. I felt a huge sense of calmness within me and slept well. 6 in the morning, Sagar woke me up to see a huge hornbill right in front of my eyes. The huge wing span made a noise when it flew like a natural alarm. There were 2 hornbills visiting them every day. And today, they woke me up :)
In the morning walk to the close by Devrai (sacred grove) we spoke about partition, Tagore, Savarkar and the concept of exploitation that is synonymous to 'city'. In every conversation, we stopped with our argument somewhere in the middle and just listened; coming out richer in our understanding.
We sat to have our poha at breakfast and Sunishka, as usual had dropped some poha down by her plate. Sagar told her to pick the poha up, but was stopped by Dileep Sir, who pointed out to the ants that had come in from nowhere. He said, why are you taking their food away… wait for a few minutes, they will clean the place for you! Sunishka was very happy with this answer and continued to see where the ants took her poha to! This teaching of acceptance of every being's purpose in nature, by itself shakes the position we as normal humans consider ourselves to be in.
As every lovely thing comes to an end, so did our vacation. The way back home was filled with thoughts, evaluations, happiness and smiles. We began our wandering vacation at the arms of the huge Arabian sea, and seem to have ended it with an equally strong energy flowing from the Dileep Sir and Poornima Tai.
I am back to reality- 5 am mornings, bus, school, classes, exams, work, commotion, stress, my questions.....
However, hoping the energy this vacation transpired leads me to some answers this year...