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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Little villages of India: Bordi and Manori

Slipping out of the city for a vacation seems almost as hard as getting up every Monday morning and trudging off to work. The bookings, the excuses and the expenses seem almost a good reason to stay at home.

There are a couple of places around Mumbai that can be visited in a day and Bordi is one of them. This is an idyllic little village situated about 3-4 hours away on the Mumbai – Ahmedabad highway. Depending on the condition of the national highway, driving to Bordi is the best option. The beauty of the place is that it doesn’t really have anything to recommend itself to the Lonely Planet guide tourists. No architectural marvels, breathtaking stone temples or even a Scandal Point, from where people can gaze at sunsets.

It does have a gentle, soothing everydayness to its earthy charm. It feels exactly like home but yet different. It does away with your cares and worries. You’ve only to look at the salubrious green fields in the midst of which sit two-storey bungalows, with gardens overflowing with flora of all type.

The ideal way to sit back and enjoy this place is to stay with the locals or to invest in a farmhouse of your own! The perks are plenty. The soil is fertile enough for you to grow your own greens, potatoes, garlic, spring onions, bhindi (ladyfingers), mangoes, chikoos and great bunches of green bananas. The seafood available is mouthwateringly fresh.

Since I visited a family friend who lives in Bordi and actually saw how self-sufficient they were, I know how comfortable they are with their lifestyle. They are miles away from a pizza takeout or McDonalds and ages away from the pub and disco culture. So, if that’s your poison, then avoid going here. But, if you just want some peace and quiet, want to curl up with a good book and spend some time in introspection, then this is the place for you.

If you leave around 7.00 am then you could be there around 11.00 am (depending on how fast you drive). Stopping for breakfast en route is a good idea. Nothing like the taste of country eggs and richly-buttered warm bread, adhrak (ginger) tea or coffee, which actually has the taste of fresh milk in it rather than the diluted version we have in the city.

On the way to Bordi is Manori. It has a river running through the village which irrigates the land. Manori is another quaint hamlet with great bushels of chikoos growing everywhere. Manori Locals let you pick a few and take some away. That’s because in many cases, the farmhouses and the land is managed by a caretaker, who has been instructed by the property owner to keep some for themselves and sell the rest. So a lot of the land’s produce is circulating within these small villages and sometimes (if at all) spilling over into Mumbai. The chikoos were extremely sweet, almost like they were processed in sugar water!

The adivasis (tribals) who live here and farm all this land are happy to be left alone but don’t give off negative vibes of any kind. They treat strangers with respect and don’t harass you for tips (I told you this was a different kind of holiday!)

I heard this story of a rich old Parsi man living on the other side of the river and ruled over nearly 500 acres of beautiful countryside. His huge house overlooked the river. So he had it all - the money, the estate, the house with the view but he didn’t have any eyesight! He didn’t have any family to call his own, so the tribals who worked on his land looked after him. Imagine that in Mumbai or any other metropolis, where greed gets the better of people’s sanity. I hope the tribals are left his property after he passes away – they deserve it.

From here, we continued on our journey. By the time you reach Bordi, it’s lunch time and if you are lucky enough to be staying in a bed and breakfast, then they really will put up a spread for you.

I’ve always loved experimenting with food and have found that I love Indian cuisine best with anything that resembles it on the international menu, coming a close second or third. So Mexican, Lebanese and most Mediterranean food follow on my wishlist. In Bordi, I rediscovered Indian cooking. The veggies retain that smell of the earth even after being garnished in style. As for fish, well, you get huge pomfrets for such a low price that within Mumbai they are just not available anywhere except in restaurants, where they cost upwards of Rs 200 each! I did try to enquire the price of this delicious fish from my hostess but modesty didn’t let her talk.

Post lunch, a siesta is in order and the garden hammock is a great place to snooze because it’s cooler here than in any of the guest bedrooms (the electricity plays hide and seek everywhere except in Mumbai I guess!) Then in the evening, we walk in the fields and in the little, untouched town centre with nothing to do and nowhere to rush. Such a relief, from the normal ‘tourist’ things that everyone is expected to do and experience, everywhere one goes. You just drift aimlessly and sort out your thoughts. Make peace with your demons and feel refreshed.

Later, when we have finished with tea and another round of gulping down hot and scrumptious vada pavs (the original Indian burger!), we set off on our trip back to Mumbai. Since it’s only a four-hour road trip, starting around 6.00 pm should get you to Mumbai by around 10.00-10.30 pm but the roads are our Gods in this country. They decide our fate and schedules!

This trip proved reinvigorating and I’m looking forward to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Expressway coming up (if it ever does)! If this can become a 2 hour journey, like Mumbai to Pune has become, it would be a godsend. Ironically, that also means more people will discover this hidden gem of a place and it may not retain its endearing innocence.

Written for www.dancewithshadows.com

1 comment:

Rajiv Wagh said...

I enjoyed reading about Bordi....!

Gr8 work ... keep up the good writing..!