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Old 10th January 2016, 11:52   #46
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Default A Pleasant Sunset (or Observations on a Life Aquatic)

The boat arrived, docked and stayed put. It was in no hurry to leave. So much for on the hour, every hour, etc. Vehicular traffic was thin on the return passage – just a few bikes and scooters. This allowed for leisurely inspection of matters that concern the contraptions sea-faring. For example, the ramp of the ferry doesn’t stay down when it moves. It’s hoisted up just sufficiently to avoid friction with the water we’d traverse over using a chain and pulley mechanism that’s powered by a motor as well as a hand-wheel. It was minutiae such as these about the workings of this transport device that had me swooning till we left the shore.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9897.jpg

Which was only with a slight delay. For these sand baked eyes, the sight of water all around was a feast. [By comparison, if back in Rajasthan we find a waterbody with water level about one tenth this river, people file petitions for it to be declared a nature reserve, or something like it]. A boat passed us by – it was a fishing boat, from what I could tell, but I was so happy to see a boat of familiar shape and size, that I started waving at them like an idiot and in return, they grinned. Probably they assumed I had a nut loose somewhere and required encouragement through actions familiar just to get by till the next day.

The evening brighter than the morning, with a clearer sky, helped the sea reflect the gaps in the sky – both smiled a bit – just a little, but enough. The sand spit of tavsal appeared darker for the light came in from that direction and the clouds parted so beautifully. I couldn’t see the sun that I badly wanted to, just so I could photograph it setting. It was dark, a slightly cool blue -
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9905.jpg

On the boat itself were sights unfamiliar – on the upper deck the pilot was engaged in conversation with a co-passenger, probably familiar to him - instead of looking in the front - to avoid any wayward crafts from smashing headfirst into us blowing us into smithereens. I recalled the immortal verse -

"O captain, my captain /
Please pay attention"
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9903.jpg

Other passengers idled around, some sat on the benches on the upper deck. They didn’t share my concern that we were on water and were likely going to crash, or be boarded by pirates or meet some equally miserable end.

Looking down from the upper deck, I found some succor when i spotted an orange tube. One of only two, it was grossly insufficient for the number of people on-board. Very Steamboat Willie. For the rest of the journey I stood close to it to have a fair chance of grabbing it should matters go south.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9904.jpg

By then, nearly 6 pm, having been up since before 6 in the morning and riding what would turn out to be a total trip of 80 kilometres, under alternating light and shade, drizzle occasionally, helmetless on a moody scooter with barely sufficient brakes, I actually wanted the day to end happily – with a nice sunset. So when the clouds parted a bit more, I was optimistic but Indra was in no mood to let go of Surya.
I looked around and saw and photographed more of how people in this part lived, their lives dependent on the sea; something quite unimaginable back home. As I understood so little, I ended up with more questions than answers. Why are there tyres on the sides of the boats? Was that to prevent them from sinking? Or did these smugglers have other, nefarious uses for them? Must be that only, more than half the boat was covered with tarp -
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9920001.jpg

Another, smaller one, provided a better view of the affairs more mundane – an anchor to stop, reams upon reams of fishnets to catch what may be seen in a green plastic basket, twin colored flags mounted on bamboo poles that likely stay afloat using thermocol pieces – mile markers perhaps? A small cupboard – for essentials, even some cooking utensils when the catch is too small and the ride back too long, (or perhaps when their rendezvous boat doesnt appear). Often, though this one is an exception – colors of India as a flag hoisted or painted on the boat.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9900.jpg

Thankfully, boat ride ended without us at the bottom of the ocean or being boarded. After we’re let off the boat, I rode to the nearest petrol pump and having got some to top it up, continued onwards. Excellent surface.
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Like all good things coming to an end, the sky got darker and soon it’s drizzling. Given that the headlight didn’t work too well, I was not happy with this turn of events, especially since this happened at the same turn where in the morning I had barely avoided a collision with an SUV.
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Nandivade beach looked deserted – and had an odd companion for the designated bus parking – boats. Those off usage, were kept stacked inverted one atop other. The bus is on active duty but as it happens here in Konkan, on the rural routes, there’s often no depot or shed and at the end of day’s run, the bus would be parked anywhere the driver can find space.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9928.jpg

Drizzle turned to a pour and I was soaked. Cursing the mule, I pushed forward till the cloud passed us both overhead and it rained no more. It wasn’t hot now and hence no chance of clothes drying out – I was sure to fall ill by the night. And then, when I had given up hope of the day getting better, on my right, at a distance a few rays of sun shone through the clouds. Alas, on the right, sea-side, there were rocky outcrops blocking the view. So I drove on, looking for a clearing from where to view the sunset over the west coast of India only to come to the same bend I had taken in the morning and on the right therefore, there were only some green fields. Then, like a well designed course, on my right was the massive clear area and I was near the bay of Warvade. I had completely forgotten about it, but I was on the bridge already.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9935.jpg

The bay joined the sea about a kilometre outwards and along the bay on one side was a path – muddy after the recent rains. I drove the scooter on that, skidding a bit.
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At the end of it when the scooter could go no further, I asked this lady (she’s seen here with her son and one more person) if it was safe to go on (it looked very muddy).
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She led me, marking the path for me till the edge of water. The sand here was pitch black – from Mordor - and the little flags atop the boats contrasted handsomely.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9936.jpg

When I got close to the mouth of the bay, where land curved to the right, clouds overcame the horizon once more and I was frustrated, but then waited just a bit longer. And then, for just a few minutes, Indra smiled on me, the novice photographer and he let go of Surya. A single ray shone forth, slashing the dark purple hued frame, across a boat and I got what I rate as my best sunset of this entire year gone by.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9940001.jpg

This fiery show lasted barely a few minutes – water changed color from dark to purple to gold and lava and then – it was all over. I felt a bit blind after this to be honest. I just looked around a bit then while walking towards the mule.
Their houses were quite like any other you’d see and lives similar – women sat around chit chatting amongst themselves, clothes drying on a line. There was no intermingling (overt) of the sexes and men sat separately, a satellite TV dish, utensils drying. Just one key difference - instead of a car park, there were steps descending into the bay leading to where a boat was parked.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9951.jpg

There was scarcity of space here too, the community boat parking was strictly parallel to conserve space. In fact, they were parked so close that the flags, from a distance looked like bunting.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9957.jpg

Driving back to the hotel was not pleasant with the fading light in the sky matched by the nearly non-existent light of my mule. I was passing by Malgund, where I had ran cheerfully after seagulls in the morning. Now, a sea dark and evil, matched in ferocity by the winds that brought drizzle -
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After I reached the hotel, elder brother wasn’t around and I handed the key to the younger one only to take it back. I was too tired to walk to the nearest eatery. This time, I chose to go to another open small joint. The food was decidedly better, though a bit oily. It was a thali, they said Marathi but it wasn’t particularly so. From a shop next door, minutes before it closed, I bought some lime pickle that was sweetened with jaggery – very unique and also some local condiments. Exhausted, back in the room, I crashed early.
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Old 11th January 2016, 15:21   #47
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Default Re: A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond

Great going Vaibhav.Keep it up.

To answer your question regarding Tyres around the boat. Most of the times these boats exchange goods or people with another boats in the sea itself. Its a basic requirement and need to have both boats to park in parallel and close to each other. That's where these Tyres plays a vital role. They avoid the boats from collision or a hard hit as the boats are moving slowly due to waves. Usually fishermen use ropes which are thrown from one boat to another and tied hardly, that makes boats steady so that goods can be transferred from one boat to another easily.

Such Tyres can sink easily in sea as rubber density is more than water hence they can't be used as a life saver in case of emergencies.
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Old 13th January 2016, 17:13   #48
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Default To Ratnagiri

Up early again, this time to board the bus at 8 am to Ratnagiri. I was assured that the bus left ‘next door’ from the hotel, which was believable as it had dropped me two nights before at the same spot as well. I was at the bus stand before 8 am, dragging my solo wheelie. The early morning weather was superb that day – it wasn’t raining and a gentle breeze had set in. Carefully avoiding the puddles I got to the bus stand building. ‘Building’ is a euphemism for the corrugated steel sheet covered structure with additional protection given by a tall peepal tree.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_001.jpg

Bus stand serves purposes sundry – it is a place for people to wait and offers protection from the elements, houses a canteen that promises tea, coffee, milk, breakfast, Konkan products, colddrinks, lassi, etc. and warns locals to report any suspicious water vessels to the authorities.

A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_002.jpg
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_004.jpg
There’s a choice of authorities to report to – Police or Coast Guard – it doesn’t say who to call under which circumstance but am being nit-picky here. Apparently the Ratnagiri area is a hotbed of smuggling activity and any boat not carrying the correct ‘papers’ or not lit up at night is to be considered ‘suspicious’ and will be stopped [flashes of yesterday’s tarp and tyre covered boat – what a narrow escape we had had, I knew it!]
To the canteen then – popped my head through the little window only to be told there’s no tea as milk supply appears delayed this morning due to ‘paus’ (that’s Marathi for rain). No point asking for coffee either. However, they did have these –
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_007.jpg
Piping hot vada pao with delicious red chilli and garlic chutney. This chutney is the pin of the whole vada pao ensemble, it’s the magic dust of tinkerbell, it’s the …. never mind, am sure you get my drift [No no not that methane drift, that’s for the morning after]. Anyhow, I fed the methane plant. Twice.
Minutes later there was engine noise from behind the building. It was a bus, hiding there between really tall coconut trees.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_005.jpg

Maybe they watched over it through the night and ensured its safekeeping. I ran to the door only to be told that this wasn’t the bus going to Ratnagiri. Oh.
Another bus came pronto and this was the right bus. As I was about to get on-board, I thought of checking if I had sufficient change and my wallet exhibited a certain lightness of being. Turned out my driving license was missing. Neither had I remembered to collect it from the hotel while leaving nor had the brother on station bothered handing it back! I couldn’t take the bus and did the only action logical – I panicked and started whining about missing my bus. The conductor said, you can board this bus in another half hour when we return from Warwade. Evidently, panicking works.
After collecting the DL, dragged back the wheelie to the bus stand and waited under an increasingly darkening sky. It was really closing up badly and the tall trees looked ghoulish.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1wp_20150809_008.jpg

Drizzle picked up and seven of us huddled under a thatched roof of a still closed convenience cum betel leaf store. Then, the returnee bus screeched to a halt and I barely got on-board as it pulled out again.
Aarey-waarey is a beach that lends its name to the coastal route between Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri. Buses take one of the three routes between these two towns – the coastal route is the shortest and takes just about an hour. So, when we left at half past eight am, I expected to be in Ratnagiri by 9:30 after a smooth ride as the road was said to be good and largely devoid of traffic. As it is billed as a ‘scenic’ route, I chose a seat near the window that had ‘journalist’ stencilled in Marathi and kept my camera ready.
I shouldn’t have bothered. The driver tried his best several times to take off but failed to achieve escape velocity. He did manage to get several milliseconds of zero gravity on each attempt. Sample this photograph of the verdant greenery seen through the window – the unique composition was achieved as I was momentarily airborne.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9988.jpg

Maybe I was missing something? Maybe this man’s real job was to provide zero gravity training to aspiring astronauts. I recall reading somewhere that a NASA flight simulator costs 4 million American dollars to build, is maintained periodically and even then it is eventually decommissioned. The MSRTC bus costs a fraction of that amount and evidently requires no maintenance and is definitely never taken out of service. Looks like they are run perpetually till they fall apart – sometimes mid-flight and passengers complete the remaining journey on individual wheels, using sticks for navigational support. Please enjoy this video (with sound) to get some idea –

That seat handle with the rusted loose bolt sticking straight out is missing a ‘Tetanus’ label, but other than that, it’s all good. Here’s a photograph of the interior. My Nikon's autofocus was no match for the situation.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9971.jpg

In about fifteen minutes we were at aarey-waarey beach. I agree that if you’re in a car or on a bike and if the weather is better, this would be a scenic-route. On that day, it was more like lonely-depressed-jumps-into-the-sea-and-is-repeatedly-smashed-against-the-rocks-by-raptor-velocity-waves route.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_9977.jpg

Perhaps because it was such a perfect setting for ‘Final Destination’ series that there was a film crew shooting that day. I couldn’t see who was portraying the girl who meets her gruesome death though.
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The weather at that time can best be described as ‘weepy’. And I thought, hey, if they can get a video in this weather, why can’t I? [And the answer is they’re not inside this bus]

I’d like to admit that it’s not as if the MSRTC folks don’t take prisoner safety seriously. There are clear instructions that those who trust their lives to the minders of the red box of courage are not to stick their hands outside at all times so as to avoid the risk of accident, and I suppose, dismemberment. An attempt is made to lighten the resulting morose atmosphere by juxtaposing a cheerfully painted tea advertisement close by.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0001.jpg

Exactly an hour after leaving Ganapatipule, my wheelie bag, small daypack and all of the two hundred and six bones in approximately but not exactly the alignment they had started their journey in were deposited in Ratnagiri. I sat down for several minutes if only to get the resonant frequencies to die down. A large black statue staring at me against a dull sky didnt help either-
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0003.jpg

Misery loves company, but they are often aided by their mother – bad planning. The man next to me on the bus ride was evidently wrong about the area to look for a hotel in Ratnagiri. I was recommended the bus stand area and as foretold there is no dearth of hotels nearby. They are of two categories – seedy and unspeakable. A kindly policeman suggested that I go towards Juna Mal nakka area where several big luxury hotels stood. Yet, the same policeman refused to instruct any auto driver to go by meter or even charge a reasonable fare, instead of double. I hailed one, got to that area and found no rooms less than two and a half thousand rupees. Breakfast is included! Beamed the manager.
Went out to find an auto driver who suggested that I look for a hotel near the station. The thing about Ratnagiri station is that it’s well outside the city limits – and on a rainy day, this stretch of road that passes through an industrial area can seem a bit desolate. So I agreed and we drove to a hotel that the driver claimed was walking distance from the station. It was only logical that I stay close, my train out was at 7 next morning.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0005.jpg

The hotel was nice and shiny and if they had asked for what the previous hotel guy had, I would have paid even though that was clearly over budget. However, I was taken to a ‘suite’ room that was occupied. After some tantrums, I was taken to another room and that was also occupied (neither room had the guest inside at that time but there was luggage, soiled sheets, etc.) So I went back to the reception to ask why I was being shown rooms that were occupied.
The shy girl responded ‘Sir, we don’t have any rooms available’.
“Then why were you showing rooms to me?”
“Because you said you wanted to see a room.”
After this near mystical occurrence that I’m sure has a deeper meaning – still not clear to me – I gave up.
Rakesh, the driver, and I exchanged names and numbers and I engaged him for the day for ‘’all sightseeing’’. We started towards the city when I spotted a hotel at the junction of station road with the main road.
At the reception, the lady in charge was deeply suspicious about a single man wanting to see Ratnagiri and refused to negotiate the price. Must be my beard of four days. The room was the most expensive of the trip so far but also the cleanest. After dumping the bag, it was almost eleven am when auto driver and I set out.

Last edited by vaibhav_a_a : 13th January 2016 at 17:15.
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Old 13th January 2016, 19:03   #49
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Wow. Your narration is amazing. Feeling right inside the story as you take us ahead.
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Old 15th January 2016, 19:22   #50
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Default Burma's last King

Back in the early 2000s, when I had purchased a Lonely Planet map book for India, looking at Konkan region the name Ratnagiri used to evoke visions of a shiny mountain made of precious stones. A bit of reading reveals descriptions of mango orchards and that the town gets its name from the precious stones that were mined here. A quick walk outside jolts one back to reality – it’s a busy, polluted industrial town. The showers that day had helped settle much of the dust that would otherwise pervade the atmosphere but not all the smoke and the traffic was quite bad. It was for me to salvage the day, and I tried my best.
First sightseeing stop was Thibaw Palace, well documented in guidebooks as the refuge for the exiled ‘last king of Burma’. It’s hard to do justice to this place via a detailed description, so I won’t even try- you could read Amitav Ghosh’s ‘’The Glass Palace’’ where Thibaw is one of the few real characters. A rambling mansion, with sloping red tiled roofs, resembling a colonial hill station bungalow from the top – but four times the size of one. The façade is not a bungalow but a palace – arches top the colonnaded veranda that runs through and through. Look a bit closely and the conical top of the central cupola resembles a Chinese building more than anything else; and yet this building with its large laterite stone blocks could have stood only here – in Konkan.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0030.jpg

We drove to the back where the site archaeological museum stands and I received some heart-breaking news – the palace is closed for repairs.
“How long?”
“It’ been going on for two years. The timber used had got completely rotten.” Informed the Bihari contractor. “At least 3-4 months more”
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0038.jpg

From the missing glass panes on the door panel, got a view of the refurbished wooden ceilings of the palace and of the staircase running to the upper floor.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0037.jpg

At the time of Thibaw, the British had imported Burma teak for the construction of the palace – the same teak that Thibaw had caught the British embezzling and consequently tried to throw them out of his country. Instead, they had managed to do exactly the reverse. It was all fading away, the palace, the stories, all of it.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0032.jpg

Last kings of any dynasty are always a subject most intriguing, partly because of their tragic end but more so because their lives, most than other members of the same dynasty are put out so shamelessly for public display. Tales of Romanovs of Russia and Puyi of China are great tragedies of the twentieth century. A man used to receiving everything that he desired and much that he did not reduced to a status of having to ask for everything. Thibaw’s tale is one such but has a much greater parallel with that of the last Mughal emperor – Bahadurshah Zafar who was also exiled by the British and ironically in Rangoon.
I went to the back of the palace where lies the entrance to the ASI museum – on the upper floor. (seen below).
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0041.jpg

Symmetrical staircase runs on either side of a desk behind which sat the man who was the ticket dispenser cum watchman for the museum. Upon my admission that I do not have the exact amount – rupees three- he waves me through along with a stern admonishment, no photography anywhere in premises. Dejected with the turn of events, I went upstairs – to the corridor that’s a mirror image of this one and therefore not seen in the photograph above. The first room lifted my spirits – there was nothing worth photographing. There were some statues, antiquities but badly worn out and wouldn’t make for very good photos.
The second one, had me wishing for the restriction to be lifted – even momentarily would do. As I recall, in the room from right to left (counter clockwise) were the personal effects of the king – including his mirror, his wife’s vanity kit and a description of events from his protected childhood to his ascension to the Burmese throne. In the centre sits the throne that the king used here, in exile, over two thousand miles from home. The red tapestry, probably refurbished, gives a tantalizing sense of someone who was here a short while ago.
Thibaw is portrayed in the events outlined to be a popular king, one who listened to the general administrative council of the country, who decentralized administration. He is also shown to be a nationalist, and from the British standpoint, a subversive element who connived with the French. The British were rude to him, intentionally. Their dignitaries refused to remove their shoes when entering his court – the episode remembered as “The Great Shoe Question”. They deposed him but didn’t kill him – fearful that a public execution would lead to a general uprising and Burma was too valuable a country to lose – its jungles laden with Teak of the highest quality and mines yielded rubies of first water. So they exiled him, here – in a country he didn’t speak the language of, or understand religion of, and land most unfamiliar. Facts are stranger than fiction and Thibaw’s life in those dozen or two points outlined, in a palace with rotting timber and fading facades sounds more tragic than it probably was.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0039.jpg

After this sad place, it was with drooping shoulders that I got onto the small diversion that led me to a place that’s often not mentioned in guidebooks. It’s called Jijamata udyaan (named after Shivaji’s mother). I got to know about this place thanks to a map that I saw at the eatery I went to at Ganapatipule. First thing spotted, as I entered, was this scary clown toy train.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0014.jpg

Next to it stands this ATC-like watchtower, sans the lights or the accompanying runways or the height.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0017.jpg

Behind the watchtower, a tremendous sense of discovery as I looked down upon a sweeping panoramic view of the Kajali river. Forming a gorge that’s covered with evergreen forests and coconut groves, the river makes a graceful curve before meeting the Arabian Sea in an estuary formation.
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Right bank is teeming with houses, most retaining a traditional Konkan architecture while few owners had fallen prey to the lure of climatically unsuited ‘modern’ construction. Several flat roofs and reinforced cement concrete stuck out in-between the traditional houses of ceramic tiled roofs that topped laterite stone block walls. Lining them at a slight gap was a row, sometimes two abreast of boats, all made of wood and sporting flags.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0026.jpg

Nearer the left shore of the river stands an island, wholly covered with mangroves. This shore has a few mosques.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0007.jpg

It was a spectacular view, one that the exiled king likely had – the place is marked as Thibaw point. Hopefully it made him happy. The viewpoint wasn’t far from the palace – did he ever think of leaving? There are boats here, today, that probably wouldn’t have looked very different back then. They have a crow’s nest, hatches leading to the hull, a cabin fit for a few. It was no match for his royal barge, shaped like a dragon, but still, it could have been his freedom.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0021.jpg

Thibaw is said to have been a recluse in his exiled years and rarely left the palace confines. I like to imagine he was as heartbroken as Zafar- Kings with no home to go back to. Circumstances do more to a man than perhaps anything else.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0022.jpg

The wind picked up and I went back up the tower to do a video -

As I was leaving, spotted an American toy under that watchtower. The americans have managed to get it into the olympics and it's a competitive sport now - but so is ping pong. The rails of the toy train were rusty and looking down from the tower, the enclosures of the fountains were ill maintained with paint peeling off but this toy, in the impeccable wisdom of the civic authorities, looked brand new. And, there were safety nets around it!
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0016.jpg

Chuckling, I left
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Old 17th January 2016, 03:09   #51
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Default Re: A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond

Your story telling skills and photography are a notch above. Really am enjoying the read. Hope you get to go many more places once you return from this. Keep writing.
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Old 17th January 2016, 11:38   #52
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Default Re: A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond

Originally Posted by vaibhav_a_a View Post
I was in Konkan in August, just a couple ferries, nothing fancy.
Quoting you from my thread, "nothing fancy?", you absolute rascal!! . The deftness in your writing and the subtly woven humour, hats off. I also like how you've managed to draw out the unseen from the oft-seen which is what makes it "fancy" in my opinion. I read the whole thread start to finish and can't wait for the next installment. Thank you for a wonderful tale well told.
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Old 17th January 2016, 16:30   #53
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Default Re: A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond

Thank you for your kind words. Next post coming soon.
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Old 18th January 2016, 10:49   #54
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Default Temples by Nationalists, of Nationalists

Ratnagiri, present day, is known for fishing industry and smuggling, also a form of industry involving boats depending on which side of the law you stand. Ratnagiri, about a hundred years ago was a hotbed of Indian revolutionary nationalistic activities – the part of India’s freedom movement that finds tremendous local support but few in other places understand it.
Of the many different individual led and collective movements that amounted to the movement for freedom in India, a fair number were on the extreme right – these advocated any and all means necessary to rid the country of what they saw as a yoke of a foreign power. The better known, peaceful Gandhian movements were also aiming for the same objective, but through exclusively non-violent means. Leaders that emerged from Ratnagiri, some which did work closely with Mahatma Gandhi himself, didn’t always agree to a benign approach.
The man who started the mass movement, well before Gandhi was Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He held the honorary title of ‘Lokmanya’ or People’s Leader as accepted by them. The British authorities called him ‘father of the Indian unrest’. He was the earliest advocate of ‘swaraj’ (self-rule) for Indians and the famous quote ‘’Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”. For the first ten years of his life, this stalwart lived in Ratnagiri, in this house made of Laterite stone and roof tiles – an example of the increasingly rare Konkani ‘’wada” (house).
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0120.jpg

It is a simple, unassuming structure – painted a dull yellow and sans any decorations, quite austere. Out front I was asked to take off my shoes by the minder who spoke only Marathi. I shouldn’t have been surprised given how revered Tilak is today, nearly a hundred years after his death. On his statue out front, people leave flowers – like he passed away not long ago.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0121.jpg

Inside, some try to touch his photograph – instructions to the contrary abound. Also photography is not permitted inside but what I remember best was a complicated family tree and a very spacious kitchen. From the outside, looking at the back, the house has a veranda for perhaps the days when it rained the hardest or was too sunny to do much and one needed some shade. This part leads straight (on the right) to the kitchen.
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The backyard has very tall trees – this one a mango.Later, coconuts line the path that goes through the spacious garden at the back.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1ratnagiri.jpg

I couldnt resist one final photograph before I left - it is the perfect example of Konkani architecture that's now getting rarer as ugly concrete housing takes over this part and the sameness merges it with rest of 'modernizing' india.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0133.jpg

From the house of a radical, I went to a place more unusual – a temple supported by a revolutionary freedom fighter – Savarkar. Again, it was the map that led me there. I hadn’t heard about Savarkar’s association with Ratnagiri till I arrived in Ganpatipule. I must admit that till I visited the temple, I didnt know much about the man himself.
Like all important men who have left a stamp on a country’s founding, any country’s perhaps, Savarkar was a man of contradictions. He was a Hindu reformer – set dead against the caste system – though he was a Brahmin of the highest sub caste (chitpavan). At the same time, he was a pre-eminent leader of Hindu Mahasabha, a right wing political organization. In his own way, he sought to welcome the castes that were then regarded as untouchables and under his influence was built this temple called ‘Patit Pavan’ – literally the fallen pure. In today’s environment when political correctness can sometimes override the intent, the name itself would attract controversy.
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When I went inside the temple, there wasn’t a soul about. The interior is very cheery and the ceiling is decorated with cut papers.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0055.jpg

It was impeccably clean though – pointing to continued patronage from the general public perhaps as the temple cum museum is funded by a trust that accepts public donations. I found the interior of the temple a bit odd, for it had portraits of people hanging (including that of Savarkar) at a location whereby if one bows to the deity, one is accidentally also bowing to the man.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0056.jpg

The Port Blair airport is named after him ‘Vir Savarkar’ airport for he was incarcerated at the Cellular Jail by the British – they considered him an extremist. He was tortured there – tied to an oil mill – as this exhibit shows.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0071.jpg

Unlike his contemporaries in the congress (most notably) who sided with Nehru, Gandhi and essentially followed Gandhi's lead for approximately last twenty years of the movement, Savarkar wanted the British to be driven away at all costs. He led his revolutionary followers to burn mill cloth – a symbolic act that, in the heat of the freedom movement assumed more serious overtones as large quantities were burnt.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0072.jpg

At a personal level, Savarkar lived simply and one can see emphasis on a disciplined life in aspects such as maintaining good health. Amongst his personal effects exhibited is his revolver but also his walking stick and an exercise weight called the ‘mudgar’ (center).
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0105.jpg

The exhibits, all are sadly labelled only in Marathi. If only they were labelled in English, they would have been very valuable in understanding the revolutionary undercurrent that pervaded the Indian freedom struggle through and through – starting from the first war in 1857 till the mid twentieth century episodes – portions sometimes glossed over by historians chronicling the events. On the walls, one can find every major freedom fighter, from Laxmi Bai of Jhansi to Ramprasad Bismil and Acharya Kripalani.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0083.jpg

Savarkar’s admiration and support to the revolutionary elements is said to have stemmed from Tilak’s teachings – the two houses are close to each other. Ratnagiri, back then, was a hotbed of revolutionaries and this museum today seeks to preserve and glorify their sacrifices. Every single one of these men below were either hanged by the British or died in jail. Gandhi, on the other hand refused to condem the hanging of Bhagat Singh as the mahatma believed that the means to achieve independence were as important as the achievement of independence itself.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0098.jpg

Savarkar met Subhashchandra Bose as well, the other Freedom fighter who bothered the British greatly, in 1940. This photograph appeared in a paper in 1961.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0077.jpg

The most notable omissions were Savarkar’s political opponents – Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. The principal disagreement between them was what Savarkar saw as a policy of appeasement towards Muslim League and later, Gandhi’s support to the creation of Pakistan. The disagreements became so extreme that when Savarkar died, not a single minister from the central government went over to attend his funeral.
After Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Savarkar was charged with the murder of Mahatma Gandhi along with the other conspirators who all belonged to the fringe party ‘Hindu Mahasabha’. Unlike most others, he was acquitted, for there was no evidence. This entire episode left a scar on his image and it is too detailed for me to deal with here. However, those interested can look up Gopal Godse’s interview (available on youtube) as well another that appeared in the Time magazine.
Even more interestingly, the man who presided over this trial (as law minister) was the man who gave India its constitution and championed the cause of the lower classes (Dalits) – Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. We can see his palm prints on the wall, preserved and displayed. All these prints (original) are from the collection of one Anant Vithal, of Ratnagiri, who adopted the pen name Dr Dhananjay Kir and wrote biographies of Tilak, Savarkar, Ambedkar and Gandhi. Kir was awarded the Padmabhushan by GoI.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0070.jpg

I asked the museum caretaker as to why Gandhi and Nehru were omitted from the display (completely unaware of the historical events in the preceding three paras). I must say the man was very nice about it and simply smiled and said ‘they had their differences’. As I was about to leave, I looked at the set of palm prints closest to the exit. Right under that of Sarojini Naidu, poet who bore the sobriquet ‘Nightingale of India’ were of Nathuram Godse – the man who shot the mahatma.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0066.jpg

I stopped momentarily and then asked the caretaker if this indeed was the same person’s. He nodded. I then asked if there was a reason to display these to which I was told – ‘’He (Godse) was also a Pandit.”

Numb with this information, I went out into the slight drizzle which felt refreshing.
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Old 22nd January 2016, 13:45   #55
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Default Fish!

Famished, I looked at Ramesh for lunch suggestions. Beaming, he said he knows a great place and drove me there pronto. Excited at the prospect of sampling some Konkani fare, I entered a dimly lit eatery near the Tilak museum area. The place was so small that I could touch the coconut tree that was contained within the corrugated roof enclosure that passed for the dining space.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0142.jpg

Right behind was a delicately positioned aquarium – the fish acutely aware that it was only few missing burners that saved them from turning into soup.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0140.jpg

The staff spoke Marathi, mostly but understood that I wanted a thali meal. I was served this, clearly nothing local about it, but very good nonetheless.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0143.jpg

Later, back in the auto Ramesh confessed that his idea of a ‘great’ place is one that served ‘tip-top’ tandoori food. Not the ‘same fare’ that he gets to eat at home each day. He further went onto explain his outlook towards life and that he was satisfied if he made over 1000 rupees in a day, upto 1500 sometimes. That was his ‘target’. The man was a born capitalist and sought to quit his ‘lowly’ occupation as soon as he had enough savings. Then, he’d go into ‘business’. Of what, he didn’t specify.
Lonely planet guide has an entry for the aquarium at Ratnagiri, if only to view the whale skeleton that’s displayed. The guide however, makes no mention of the staff’s peculiarities as this brief recounting shall show.
It had rained a fair bit by the time we reached the aquarium and I thought the weather to be pleasant. The man at the ticket window found it to be chilly and donned earmuffs.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0145.jpg
I waited patiently for him to stack his steel tiffin boxes in the carrier, wipe his mouth and clear his throat only to hear – ‘’Foreigner?”
“No, Indian. From Jaipur”
With a sheepish, characteristic grin given by an Indian to another after a presumptive question falls flat on its face, he doled out the ten rupee ticket. For the camera it’s a flat twenty five rupees.
The entrance was manned by guard who made no attempt to check the ticket – a smartphone was his source of much gripping entertainment on this rainy afternoon.
Business must be slow around here.
Inside, I found the premises to be blissfully empty. I viewed the promised blue whale skeleton, the star attraction – all the other aquaria are arranged around it and may well have been an afterthought. It lay within a specially constructed glass enclosure, possibly to prevent people from carrying off pieces of it. With age, the bones have acquired a wooden colour and yet it is spectacular to be able to see what essentially is the largest animal on earth – though sans flesh and somewhat ossified.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0165.jpg
On my left was a pretty little tortoise, trying his level best to escape, with limited success.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0150.jpg
The tank next to his had orange freshwater aquarium fish in a picture perfect setting, a bit too much so as the staff responsible had given it a painted blue background.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0149.jpg
It was only after this tank that I began to notice what was ‘off’ about the displays – the staff in-charge had clearly opted for visual dazzle over faithful depiction of the fish’s natural environment. Almost all the aquariums had a brightly painted baby blue background. There were a few other, choices made by the staff which suggested they ought to read an appropriate book rather than watch movies to get ideas on interior decoration for the fish-housing.
The freshwater community fish tank had large corals inside it.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0155.jpg
Another one had a face from Bayon competing with skeletor's head for attention.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0161.jpg
Technicolor pebbles reminiscent of Cadbury’s Gems.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1dsc_0163.jpg
The best one was certainly the ‘Nemo’ tank. It’s amazing how far the Disney Empire reaches in their influence.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1ratnagiri3.jpg
I wondered what they thought about the people who came to view them. Going by their expressions, it was clear they all resented intrusion. Almost all of them turned away when I pointed the camera, attempted to photograph. The electric eel maintained a cautious distance, an aggressive attitude, irrespective of the glass wall that precluded any possible contact. The lonely sea horse turned its eyes downwards. Most of them showed their tails, plain and simple. They tried to hide where they could and when there was no space, chose to face their own reflection rather than gaze upon the stranger who intruded.
A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond-1ratnagiri2.jpg
I wasn’t welcome here, in their homes, and so I left.
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Old 3rd June 2016, 19:33   #56
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Originally Posted by vaibhav_a_a View Post
Hey Vaibhav, I am still eagerly waiting for the next installment of your write up.
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Old 8th June 2016, 18:34   #57
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Originally Posted by vinit.merchant View Post
Hey Vaibhav, I am still eagerly waiting for the next installment of your write up.
Oh wow, Thanks! That does feel nice if someone actually waits to read what one has to write. Actually, I'm not a very focused writer and I write many things not related to travel. I am not sure if it's allowed to mention my blog's name here? It's indiahi.wordpress.com - it's not searchable as far as i know. I post pieces that would fit into different forums but since its a personal blog, it all can be at one place. There's some poetry, some travel pieces, some short stories, just about anything.

I do intend to finish this TR certainly, and will post here, but right now, am in the middle of some personal issues (health), etc so just doing more poetry and shorts.

Last edited by vaibhav_a_a : 8th June 2016 at 18:36.
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Old 8th June 2016, 19:29   #58
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Default Re: Fish!

Originally Posted by vaibhav_a_a View Post
, etc so just doing more poetry and shorts.
I like the way you write a travelogue very much. A very unique way.
Please do complete it at your convenience.

Last edited by vinit.merchant : 8th June 2016 at 19:33.
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Old 10th June 2016, 14:59   #59
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Default Re: A Monsoon Solo: Kolhapur, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri & beyond

Vaibhav, Please continue. You need to complete this. I am from the Konkan belt myself. Good to see it from your perspective.
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