27 May 2007

Lonavala

Last week I beat the rains to Lonavala, when I was asked to go there without much fanfare. Well, Lonavala before the monsoon, is not exactly the best place on earth, so I decided to go around the streets of this "hill town" to find out what lies beneath the list of "points to see" and Maganlal Chikki hoardings. There are two sides of Lonavala station. The side on Platform No1 is more pompous in exteriors, cleaner and almost deserted. The reason, there is not much apart from the colony of railway employees, ST stand and the connecting roads to the Expressway and the Old Mumbai - Pune highway. Platform No2/3 exit is a different story. Most of the tourist traffic exits this side and this is where the hoi polloi of Lonavala live in its narrow serpentine lanes. First the Platform1 side. The entry to the station is a grand pink colored structure, a look alike of the chaitya hall at Karla caves some distance away near Malavali.

The chaitya hall entry to Lonavala Station



Walking a little distance further, are the old houses which accommodate the numerous railway staff. A little to the left is the ST Stand. Here you realize that Lonavala defines itself strictly into two parameters: Platform for Buses going towards Mumbai, more spacious but filthy and crowded and Platform for Buses going towards Pune, cramped and equally filthy and crowded. I reckon that since its origins this town must have looked upon these two cities in different ways for its survival. In some ways it is really the place where Mumbai and Pune tend to meet. As I walk further I meet a broad, busy road, which concretised, I guess that it must be the legendary Old Mumbai - Pune Highway. Legendary because legends abound about the numerous traffic jams on this road before the Expressway came into the existence. Now nobody talks much about it. The streets are lined with numerous Maganlal Chikkis each claiming to be the original and best.


Maganlal Chikki shops lining the Mumbai - Pune Highway

I quickly exited the road and ventured into the heart of Lonavala again and was rewarded by the site of these two beautiful trees:


Banyan Tree


Rhododendrons?! Much brighter than at Mumbai!

I will keep the next post for Platform No2/3.

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