Not that we or any person of the family requires a reason to visit Dahanu, but taking time out of our busy schedules is always a hurdle. However this was an occasion where schedules had to be adjusted to accommodate for the celebration of my flamboyant uncle Sudhir Karandikar's (Sudhir bhai for the world) 60th birthday.
Dahanu is a small jewel of a town located by the Arabian sea at the north western tip of Maharashtra, bordering Gujarat. Dahanu and the surrounding areas are renowned for beautiful beaches, paddy fields and cheeku orchards. It is also the home to the warli tribe whose peculiar paintings have become a rage across the nation.
Sudhir Bhai along with his better half and my dear aunt (mom's sis) Sandhya (mavshi) Karandikar, live in a huge mansion and own acres of cheeku plantations called wadi's. In its hey days of joint family system, the Karandikar household boasted of several servants along with scores of cows, buffaloes, Mercedes, Java and horse pulled chariots. Since childhood I have fond memories of visiting Dahanu to my aunt, uncle and my cousins, Prajakta, Jui and Kaanchan.
I can take the liberty of claiming that my whole family on the maternal side visits Dahanu not just for physical, mental rest and peace but also spiritual.
So it was with excitement that Swati and I packed our bags in our Renault duster on the morning of 11th sep for a weekend of family get together and merriment. We took the Mumbai Pune expressway which treated us to some fabulous monsoon greenery and waterfalls as we descended the mighty sahyadris on to the sea level. As soon as you exit the expressway at new Mumbai you are greeted by swarms of unruly cars coupled with never ending road wotree,causing monster traffic jams, however to our pleasant surprise the work of the road expansion was complete and we literally flew through new Mumbai that too without any toll thanks to the looming state elections. At Turbhe we kept going straight in direction of Thane, where as expected we got traffic but still much less than what it has the potential of. The ghodbandar road which has been carved out of a national park got us to the Mumbai Ahemadabad highway. After around 1.5 hrs drive on this smooth highway we took the turn for Dahanu at Charoti naka. Although the road quality deteriorated immediately and drastically the scenic surroundings made up for it. It is a narrow single lane with lush green jungle on both sides dotted with mini paddy fields and rivulets. The local tribal people can be seen working in the fields still wearing clothes which their ancestors must have ages ago.
Prajakta had already come down a week before from Dubai where she stays with her towering and witty husband Mukul Bapat. Kaanchan had also arrived couple of days before from Mumbai, having put down her papers at work and was serving notice period. Other than these two sisters we were gonna be the first guests to arrive. As we approached the gates to the estate, out came 'bacchu' running, opening the gates as I parked in the veranda beneath the big tree, which is as iconic for us as the building itself. Prajakta greeted us outside on the front porch which was conspicuous by the absence of the huge swing it flaunts otherwise. Inside the house waiting for us were the host couple. We greeted each other as Swati and I seeked their blessings making them feel older.
It was lunch time and all of us immediately shifted to the adjacent dining room onto the gigantic dining table, as typical Maharashtrian dishes were laid in front us. It was a battle to keep my eyes open after an early morning drive and sumptuous lunch as I decided to surrender to my afternoon siesta which is a norm when in Dahanu.
When I got up around 1630 hrs I could hear the familiar sound of Jui, Sandhya mavshi and Sudhir bhais second daughter. Swati was still sleeping as I passed the adjacent bedroom where I could see that Jui's husband Akshay Raina flat on his back in a deep slumber. So it was the three sisters, Prajakta, Jui and Kaanchan and their cousin, me who chitchated and caught up on everyone's lives as the two in laws caught up on their sleep.
Around 1730-1800 hrs every one was up and assembled at the dining table which invariably becomes the family room. But for me the room is special during breakfast and tea time as along with our mug full of milk and coffee we get treated to awesome cakes, biscuits, cookies, chiwda etc. Today there was a new face amongst the usual, a wrinkled, puffed oat - walnut cookie which was rich in butter and perfect to be dipped in the coffee and had. I liked it so much that I would get a whole packet of it before going back to pune.
Generally late evenings are time to go to the beach to watch the sun set in the Arabian sea and gorge on some mouth watering, bhaiyyaji's shevpuri, but as most of the people were to arrive tomorrow we decided that can wait. As a consolation we decided to have dinner by the popular sea side resort called Pearline. Pearline is mostly a sea food cuisine restaurant but other stuff is also good. As always the vegetarians of the house, who are generally a minority, sat on one side while others got seated elsewhere. Surprisingly nobody, even Akshay, seemed thirsty that evening as it was just Sudhir Bhai and me who ordered for beer. We stayed there for around 1.5 hours and then shifted our base to an ice cream parlor by 10:30 hrs. The beer, the good food and now the ice cream worked their way in the usual manner and all wanted to do was just crash when Swati sternly reminded me that we will have to wait till midnight as it will be Sudhir bhais birthday. In small towns like dahanu the day gets over very early, so even 22:30 felt like midnight and to wait for 1.5 hrs more was a going to take big effort, that's when Sandhya mavshi informed that there is no need to stay up as the would be birthday boy was also not expected to be awake till then.
But the night would prove to be young with lots more in store for us before we could get that elusive sleep.