Staying at City of Child, Kasurdi: An Experience

You think we were this excited?! :P
You think we were this excited?! 😛

The bus must’ve started at 10AM from Pune and I had expected it to reach Kasurdi by 11. Kasurdi was to become my first village stay experience. Thanks to SPJIMR’s DOCC program which mandates each of its student student to a five week rural internship. Coming back to Kasurdi, well, it’s a small village 40kms off Pune on Solapur highway. Majority of the people here are employed on huge farms owned by middle class farmers.

So the bus dropped us at Kasurdi phata at 11:15AM and from there an auto ferried us to our stay in Kasurdi. We were to stay at Deep Griha Society’s (DGS) City of Child; home to over 40 orphans.

The Place 

A beautiful walk outside. Calm and peaceful :)
A beautiful walk outside. Calm and peaceful 🙂

City of Child (COC) is surrounded by huge farms growing onions, sugarcane, wheat etc. A bore well nearby is the source of water for these farms and COC. There are only 5 departmental stores in a radius of 2kms where one can get basic utility stuff like soaps , shampoo sachets etc. Most of brands these stores carry are either unknown or are in small quantities.

COC has close to 10 cottages spread over an area of four acres and a dining area with a kitchen where Maharashtrian food is made for the children, staff and volunteers.

The People 

With Kishor Dada at the center!
With Kishor Dada at the center!

The place is minimally staffed with one manager, three caretakers and one guard. The manager has a small office within COC where he sits for all his official work. He stays with his wife and son in one of the cottages. Harshal, his son adds so much life to this small place; always dragging everyone to himself with his adorable gestures and contagious smile.

Two of the caretakers help kids in studies and also cook food for everyone. The third caretaker is responsible for bringing ration and other essential items for everyone. He’s incredibly strong and is also responsible for maintaining strict discipline. The guard uncle is a weak old man who is also responsible for getting milk from a nearby cow-shed every morning.

The Weather

Rains at COC
Rains at COC

 We visited this place in the month of March. The mornings and the nights are cold while the afternoon is warm. It becomes impossible to take a bath after 12 noon as the water in the overhead water tanker becomes boiling hot.

During our stay there it rained on a few days; reducing the temperature but destroying the wheat. Smell of the mud and cool breeze blowing over the farms makes you want to come out and enjoy.

The Retreats 

Surrounded by mountains from two sides..
Surrounded by mountains from two sides..

Seriously? Initially I thought that there could be nothing near a place like COC. I was proven wrong when Pratik Torane; a 10th standard student staying at COC, took me me to a nearby lake. The lake is quite big. Even though I visited it during the evening I’m pretty sure that the best time to visit this lake would be the morning; as it will be picturesque to see the sun rise from behind the mountains and cast its light narrowly on the lake.

The Dogs 

Rocky attending nature's call!
Rocky attending nature’s call!

Yes, without them this place will loose half its liveliness. There is a no fixed number except a few constants. Bunty the dog with beautiful white fur and aggressive facial expression is the one which bites and that’s the reason why he’s always tied. Rocky the other German Shephardish dog is over friendly and loves to lick just about everything. He sleeps throughout the day and barks stupidly throughout the night; and also gets beaten up for the same by the weak and old guard uncle.

The Food Options

There are not many food options around COC so one has to compulsorily eat the food prepared in the kitchen. I’ll admit that it becomes boring after some time. To fight that we made an arrangement with a dhaba at the highway to deliver food at COC. One can call this place up, tell that he/she is calling from Deep Griha Society’s COC and request him to deliver. The places name is Shivai Restaurant and the contact number is 09730088703.

Volunteer and be here: http://deepgriha.org/

Eye on the Tiger..! Who is to Roar?

Eye of the Tiger

The Tiger is a symbol of power, unbridled, elemental… And he lives alone, unblemished, unmarred. The more you know about him, the more he gets into your imagination.

 

It was in search of this beast that we drove into the jungles of Ranthambore. Sawai Madhopur, the place where Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is situated has a rich history to intrigue. This region of India was ruled by the Chauhan’s, the great Agnivanshi Rajputs born to wipe out the evil from face of this world. Do check out the history by clicking on the links!

A beautiful bird which came and sat on our canter..
Wings of nature..

We couldn’t get a sight of the beast but we did take some pride/ grief in missing him by just a few minutes. While our canter drove through the deciduous forest I realized how animals; tigers in this case, today have limited or no privacy. One can find the past life of most tigers present  in the reserve over the internet very easily. The write-ups are comprehensive, and are indicative of a loss of privacy inflicted upon our wildlife in an effort to improve tourism. For instance, entire mating life of Machhli; the tigress of Ranthambore, has been given over the internet. On similar lines, tourists; which definitely includes me, tend to leave no stone unturned to just get a glimpse of the tiger. They try to do multiple safaris and wait inside the forests with engines killed & lips zipped.

Now that's real angry..!
The Angry Bird..!

Is this good, or for that matter fair? Aren’t we the ones who hail Edward Snowden for unveiling US governments massive snooping program? The answer to this rhetorical build-up is, I believe, another feather in our cap of hypocrisies. If we believe in privacy then our beliefs should be universal and not selfish. The tiger also deserves its share of privacy. Thank God that Tigers don’t have access to internet or else we would have seen another upsurge, maybe this time at Ranthambore Square; on lines of Tehrir Square and all.:P

With all being said, one can also attribute our double standards to our better brain and ingrained curiosity..! So, the tiger might be the boss of the jungle, we humans sure are the emperors of this world..!

Some irrelevant links: 😛

  • Katy Perry’s song: Roar!
  • Where to stay: Vinayak RTDC is a really great place to stay..!
  • Must wear: A cap is a must else the dust will get you bust!

PS: We did 2 safaris and we couldn’t spot a tiger..! Still, it’s worth it..!!

One Night, Two Days trip to Udaipur – A weekend getaway from Jaipur

We planned a two day trip to Udaipur a few weeks back in December, 2012. The trip was planned in an extremely superficial manner with only planning done in advance being the booking of train tickets.

We were to leave for Udaipur from Jaipur on Friday night by Khajurao Express which made us wait at the station for an extra 1 hour; thanks to Indian Stretchable Time (IST). Luckily the train pulled in to Udaipur station right in time; must be around 7 am in the morning. No sooner did we get out of the station did we find a motley of Autowallahs and Agents. These people promise you the stay; rather trip of your dreams. A typical monologue of an agent would entail display of a business card of some hotel with photographs of the amenities offered by it and an articulate description of its superior location & quality service which no other hotel can possible offer in the city. Piece of advice(POA), never fall for them. We; thanks to our last minute research, had booked a hotel just 10 hours before arriving in the city, so we took an auto and reached the hotel in 20 minutes. Hotel’s name was Roopa. It was very well located; with all places to see within 4 Km of radius, had a small garden and decent rooms at a great price J. The room was just 1200 Rs a night with 100 Rs for extra bedding with the best part being that the hotel didn’t object to more that 3 persons staying in one room. Most of the hotels we enquired at didn’t allow more than 3 people per room, so Roopa came as a sure-shot monetary respite.

So, after checking in we did a taxi from the hotel itself for the entire day; it was 1800 for a Tavera. We were supposed to cover the entire city on day one. We were not convinced, but to the driver and the receptionist it was every day business. We left the hotel around 10am and all of us were in a dire need of ANY edible substance to survive through the day. Our driver, luckily/unluckily was an enthusiastic fellow. He sensed our hunger and took us to a Paratha Stall in front of Vintage Car Collection. This stall, he took us to is a famous place. On one side is the glorious Vintage collection and on the other side is a stinking gutter in which one can make out mosquitoes enjoying a gala time. We, owing to our hunger, chose to concentrate on the former. Parathas; served with curd, butter and sabzi with each of them in abundance, were best in class. I can still recall how no one, absolutely no one wasted even a single second in talking or in looking anywhere else. All eyes, all hands on Paratha situation it was! 😉 When it came to making the payment, we were slightly taken aback as the person charged us 50 Rs a plate; remember it was just a roadside Parathewala. POA, your driver has a commission at all the places he takes you to, don’t get robbed in commissions.

Anyway, we moved on to Pichola lake for boating. It was 80 Rs/ person for a motor boat ride in the lake. The boat operator refused to acquaint us with structures inside and around the lake saying it’s not his job. Thanks to smart phones, we figured out all of that ourselves. But all-in-all it was simply not worth it. It would have been much better had we just stood by the lake side, munched on some peanuts and looked at others burning a hole in their pockets. Alas, that was not an option now. So, we again moved on, this time to Moti Magri. It was a ropeway; overlooking lake Pichola, which takes you to a temple of Karni Mata. But yes, the temple was several thousand years old. Our expectations, after the disappointing boat ride were very high from this ropeway. Yet again it was a disappointment.

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View of Pichola lake from Moti Magri rope-way

After Moti Magri, out next stop was City Palace. Now, entry to this place has a catch. If you enter from the front side, you pay Rs 130 per ticket and if from the back side you pay around Rs 80. Our driver, a smart-ass that he was; probably another source of commission for him, chose the former for us. What more could we have asked for?! So, we enter the palace and start searching for a guide. Think he took Rs 200 for showing us around. That was fine given that he was a complete entertainer- entire package I mean. He was a short guy with long hair and a moderate built. His accent was part English, part Udaipur, part French; I guess. For instance, he repeatedly pronounced Chetakthe king’s horse- as ‘Shetakk’. When he walked, his arms swung in to-and-fro motion like that of a pendulum. Ok wait, too much on guide! J Coming back to the palace, it is a huge structure, split into primarily 3 parts, one open for public, second given on lease to a hotel and third still inhabited by the King’s progeny. The façade of the palace is imposing, and yes inside it has everything what a palace should have. Best thing about it is the lake view bar and restaurant. It’s really awesome. Guess a pint of bear there was around Rs 200.

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City Palace

After that we went to a zoo-cum-park-cum-toy train place, whose name I thankfully don’t remember. Try to avoid visiting places which sound similar to the above combination at all cost. Next we went to Saheliyon ki Bari. A sure shot must-NOT-visit place. Some 100 silly fountains spilling water here and there. Avoid please. The truth is that our driver fooled us into above to places and as cost we had to skip Sajjangarh Fort. Clever bastard! Now this fort, from what I’ve heard again has nothing worthwhile to offer. But still it would have been better than the fountains or the toy train.

We were brimming with disappointment, when our driver suggested that we move to Fateh Sagar. So, we reached. It was pretty scenic with sun seeking shelter behind the mountains and parts of lake being illuminated by patches of dispersed sun light. You can do boating here. We went for a speed boat ride which was quite exhilarating. It’s worth it. You can also try to bargain, like 3rd person at a discounted ticket or something. There are a number of eateries, juice centers by the side of the lake.

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Sun seeking shelter behind the Arravalis..

It must be 7 pm when we realized that there wasn’t even one place through the day which was worth our precious time, but then it was till the time we reached Bagore ki Haveli. This haveli situated by the side of lake Pichola is an epitome of Rajasthani culture and architecture. Entry is Rs 70/ ticket, but entertainment is unbounded…… To be continued.. 🙂

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City Palace during night by the side of Lake Pichola