Saturday, January 22, 2011

DAY 113 – In Mumbai

Prakash Tendulkar was a dear friend and colleague. I got to know him in Mussoorie, where we were probationers together and shared accommodation in Stapleton Hostel. He was a master at Yoga and gave demonstrations in the Academy. He was such an avid practitioner that he trained fellow probationers and the Academy accepted it as an alternative to the morning PT when we came to Railway Staff College. A very simple human being with an insatiable affinity for trekking and mountaineering he underwent a lot of physical and mental stresses to pursue them. I learnt with dismay that he had lost his life in a car accident in June 2007, while returning to Ratnagiri from a temple visit close to Mumbai. I have known his wife, who teaches in KG Somaiyya, since my days as a probationer.  I have been to their house for a couple of meals. I vividly recall meeting him in April 2005 when I visited Mumbai with my family. He had come to the ORH and spent time with all of us. He always referred to me as ‘Fatso’. He was passionately involved in building an Ashram, where he expected to retire to after superannuation. Dreams and plans, all shattered. However, I was glad to hear from Mrs Tendulkar that the children are settled well, with the daughter working as a Doctor in the Railways and the son pursuing his Post Doctoral studies in the US.
I have been to Mumbai N number of times in the past but had never visited Elephanta Caves. Despite having to meet close relatives and friends I decided to go to the Elephanta Island today. A short taxi ride from the Budhwar Park (the small fishing ‘village’ in front of the Budhwar Park is where Kasab and his wretched colleagues landed in a boat for their ‘mission’) and I was right in front of the Gateway of India. The place was swarming with tourists and photographers. The latter buttonhole the former and they normally succumb, just as I did. Gopal clicked thrice with different backgrounds and produced instant photos using the portable Epson printer. Almost all the photographers carry these portable printers and churn out prints for Rs 30 apiece. While departing from the Gateway one gets a good view of the Taj Hotel and the yachts and boats parked in the waters close by. The boat ride to the Elephanta Island lasts over an hour. It was incredibly hot and the walk from the jetty to the Caves can be tiring. The steep climb on steps to the Cave can be broken by stopping at intervals to inspect the trinkets on sale. It is quite amusing to see the vendors warding off intermittent invasions and mischievous forays by monkeys.
The rock cut caves of Elephanta were excavated between 2nd century BC (the Buddhist Caves) and the 6th century AD (Hindu Caves). Apparently the Portuguese tried to destroy the Caves but certainly caused severe damage to the sculptures inside the Caves. The most important is Cave 1, which depicts Shiva in his myriad forms. Prem was my guide during the tour of the Cave. He explained the monolithic Cave and its contents in great detail, got me to appreciate the themes, the positioning of the sculptures and took some good pictures.
Mrs and Mr SCJ, Girish and self met in RDT’s house for dinner. The revelation of the evening was the artistic skills of Mrs Tripathi (Namitha). The oils and sand paintings she has framed and put up in the house are fantastic. The paintings have a depth and play of colors that are more professional than amateur. I wish she does an exhibition someday soon so that the pieces are appreciated by a wider audience. The view from RDT’s house is what people in cities will die for. The Sea, which RDT says is glorious during sunset, provides just the right setting to start the day or end it. I felt less sorry that RDT is on a month long leave to accommodate his junior colleague for he can slurp up the views for as long as he wishes to during the course of the hiatus.

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