Category Archives: Travel

Hero’s journey comes to an end

When a hero dies, as much as one mourns his death, one also celebrates his life. In the nearly 16 years that Hero was in this world, there was much to celebrate. He lived a life full of action and adventure, with panache and joie de vivre. Words won’t suffice to talk about the place he had in our lives, so I’m going to let pictures do the talking. In the first of this three-part recounting of his life, we’ll focus on the travels that were such a defining aspect of it.

Pictures in this and other posts on him are from his many friends and admirers – in particular, Anuradha, Gurpreet, Madhura, and Srijit – besides Anjali and me.

Two Scorpios, one Alto, five other dogs (not all of them visible here), two humans – the ingredients of Hero’s travels

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“I call shotgun!” “Oh wait, the driver seat’s vacant. I’m taking over!” Bottom: Hero pretends to drive, on a tricky descent from Mandu down a rubble-filled dirt track.

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His preferred vantage point was the middle of the centre seat, from where he could survey the road ahead, and quickly dart to any of the side windows if there was anything worth barking at. Once in a while, the burden of holding his head up would get too much for him, at which time the driver’s shoulder served usefully as a chin rest.

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But any location and position in the car was fine…

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..as long as he got to check out the sights. Clockwise from top left: passing a herd of goats near Gwalior; looking at monkeys that had been chirping at him from the ramparts of the Agra Fort; “What on earth are those things?!” mystified by camels on a village track in Gujarat.

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And, of course, give passing dogs a piece of his mind. Yelling at Suzy, the Alsatian at the Hotel Haveli in Ajmer.

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Going places… top to bottom: at Deja Vu in Naukuchiatal, UP, on his first trip ever, 2005; in the shade of an ancient wall on the edge of a gorge in Mandu, MP, 2006; taking a sip from the Narmada at dusk, near Khalghat, MP, 2006.

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In Pratapgarh, Maharashtra, 2006 – walking down the unending staircase inside the fort; running around where Maratha soldiers once patrolled; more monkey business through the window of the PWD Rest House where we stayed inside the fort.

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The first sight of the sea, at Ganpatipule, 2006; Hero, of course, vaults right in!

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Doing the raja thing in the excessively pink bedroom of the Royal Mandwa Suite no 1 at the Chanod Haveli in Gujarat, 2006; later, checking out the Narmada nearby.

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Taking in the view from the first-floor balcony of Bhakti Kutir in Palolem; and playing tug-of-war with Bhaloo and Jaya, while Anjali struggles to hold it all together along with her skimpy bikini on Agonda; Goa, 2007.

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In Suntikoppa, Coorg, 2008: seeing Bhaloo hitch a ride on a coracle with Anjali, Hero decided to try and scramble aboard; having nearly capsized the craft, he was pushed unceremoniously overboard, and returned to the shore sneezing with indignation.

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Wildernest, Chorla Ghats, Goa, 2007: merrily trotting along on a path made muddy by the monsoon; and later in the room, washed and dried, enjoying the view of the jungle from the bay window.

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Mount Abu, 2008: At Trevor Tal (where rumour has it there was a crocodile); and at Roop Mahal, which was my home for the first 8 years of my life (Hero couldn’t care less for the personal history!).

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Surla, Goa, 2009: Tugging me and the rest of the dogs along on the rocky plateau; and later, on a dry river bed nearby, deciding to take matters and the leash into his own mouth as it was troubling him while trailing behind.

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Changanassery, Kerala, 2009: Hero got a ride on a houseboat and was fascinated with the water rushing by, and things and people on the shore (the curiosity was mutual).

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For the next couple of days, whenever we sat on the canalside platform, he would stare wistfully at boats passing by, big and small. Sometimes, it was clear to us that he was judging the distance to the boat and whether he could make it across, and we made sure to hang on to him when he did that.

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When we had to leave, he got his chance to be on the water again, as we had to travel by boat from the island that the resort was on to where the Scorpio was parked. He was happy!

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Back on the beach, in Kannur, Kerala, 2009.

In 2011, during a trip to Off The Grid, a resort near Castlerock in Karnataka, Hero had the adventure that defined his life. While we were trekking at the top of the Dudhsagar Waterfalls, he decided to take off on his own.

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Frolicking with the other dogs in a pool on the dry riverbed above the falls; and later, sitting on a ledge way down below, overlooking the train tracks where the water flows down. This was our last sight of him. The next time we looked, he was gone, where we had no idea.

This blog started with my post about Hero’s disappearance: https://apnapun.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/heros-way/

Astonishingly, 22 days later, we managed to find him and bring him back. That story is told here: https://apnapun.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/the-return-of-hero/

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When he returned from his epic outing, he was little more than skin draped over a skeleton. But love and a lot of fat-rich foods got him back in fighting form quite quickly.

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Around Amboli, 2013: on the way back from a trip to Girivan near Pune.

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Amboli, 2019: at a resort called Mrugaya.

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Vengurla, Maharashtra, 2019: he loved the beach trips.

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Hero’s last time at a beach, in Morjim, November 2020.

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Master of his domain. In the sea at Hedavi, near Chiplun, Maharashtra.

Getting away from Ganesh

Rackety processions blaring music that go by late in the night, accompanied by firework explosions that sound like a mini-war, make the Ganesh Chaturthi period hellish for the non-human denizens around here. On the animal welfare groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, the days around Ganesh result in a deluge of posts about pets that have run away, strays that have gone missing from their usual spots, injured animals, and other tales of woe.

Visarjan nights are terrifying for our dogs, too, who spend them trying futilely to find some shelter from the storm of noise. Over the last couple of years, our tactic has been to try and take them to quieter spaces during the period. This year, we chose two places in southern Maharashtra, just across the border to our north.

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Let’s go already!

The first couple of nights we spent at Golven Resorts, a set of 10 beachside huts in Vengurla. The wigwam-like cottages are built in mildly landscaped grounds off the Sagareshwar beach, set back the CRZ-mandated 500 metres from the waterline. They are well-constructed using wood, bamboo, thatch, cloth and mud, and are very comfortable, if a trifle cramped. But our priority is simply that the place allow us to take dogs — they don’t care much about the amenities.

What they do get excited about are the surroundings, and Golven generally had the right elements. Wild, green patches to sniff around — and pee and crap — in. A comfortable walk, no doubt replete with scents for them to pick up, to the beach. The beach itself was quite uncrowded at this time of year, and the gently sloping sand allowed us to walk quite a way in without overwhelming the dogs.

About the only challenge was the presence of a pack of dogs in the grounds, but we didn’t mind that. In fact, we like places where they let the strays be — in our eyes, it speaks of their tolerance and compassion. How it affects us is that we have to put up with a bit of a struggle keeping our pack and theirs from going at each other, but that’s something we have learnt to handle.

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The Golven pack takes a stroll

From the point of view of us humans, the resort has the most comprehensive menu we have ever come across — it was a veritable book. The food — we stuck to the local Malvani fare — is good, and though there’s a dining hall, you can be served in the huts if you want. Given that it was raining, even if mildly, most of the time we were there, that helped. The young chaps manning the place were very nice, and really took pains to ensure we got what we needed.

 

Besides spending our time lazing around, walking on the beach with the dogs and eating, we also took a drive down the coastal highway, which is a picturesque road to drive on.

After two nights at Golven Resorts, we drove up the same highway to Bhogwe, where we had booked a stay at the Aditya Eco-Village. Run by the Samant family, this is a bunch of huts perched high up on a plateau overlooking the Deobagh and Tarkarli beaches and their backwaters. The view is spectacular, and it would be very pleasant to sit out on the deck of the hut gazing down at it, but because of the rains, we had to largely stay indoors — and keep the door closed because of the dogs.

Arun Samant, whose son Chetan runs the place (he was away at a relative’s on Ganesh duty when we arrived), pointed out to us when we arrived that one could even see, deep in the distance, the island fortress of Sindhudurg and the town of Malvan from this vantage point.

Chetan’s wife Ashwini and his mother organised a sumptuous thali lunch for us on arrival, made entirely from locally grown ingredients — Anjali got a fish thali, while I had a vegetarian spread. Ashwini’s daughter Dhanashree was quite mesmerised at having dogs as guests. We learnt later that she had called up all her aunts and uncles and told them that Hero, Sungta and Soulkadi had come visiting their place. She had also taken the opportunity to tell them that she had a dog named Melya.

In the evening, as we were having dinner, Chetan came home and it was a delight to spend some time talking to him. Like his father, he’s very knowledgeable about local matters — ecology, wildlife, agriculture of all varieties, food. Gradually, as it’s wont to, the conversation drifted towards politics, and we were quite pleased to find that, in the midst of what we assumed must be a BJP stronghold, Chetan and his father were quite outspoken in their views against the right-wing party. Though they would intersperse their sentences with “we are not for or against the BJP, but…”, it was clear their sympathies didn’t lie with the policies of the ruling party.

We were also later joined by a couple of other members of the extended family — a father-and-son duo — who had been enticed by Dhanashree’s account of the travelling dogs, and come to see them. They came and checked them out through the glass doors to the hut, which of course, sent Hero into a paroxysm of angry barking.

“Dangerous, hunh?” the older man asked, evidently quite pleased at the prospect. He was a little deflated when I said they weren’t, and that the barking was because it was dark and the dogs didn’t know them.

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The dangerous dogs in the hut

Though we had planned to stay a couple more days, we curtailed the Bhogwe stay to just a day. Because of the wet weather, we were being constrained to quarters, and that had begun to tell on the dogs, who were becoming rather whiny. We gambled on the possibility that the main Ganesh celebrations and visarjan ruckus would have happened on day two, and what remained wouldn’t hassle the dogs too much. (As it turned out, there was just about half an hour one night that was disruptive, so not too bad a decision, I would say.)

We drove back via Kudal. The landscape around the Vengurla-Bhogwe area is quite unusual. You’ll be travelling on twisting ghat roads through thick forests, and suddenly breast a ridge to find yourself on a vast, flat plateau with the road a long, straight ribbon slicing through. In both circumstances, there were many good spots to stop and give the dogs a walk, and use the opportunity to take some photos as well.

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Flags flourish next to a temple in Vengurla

Some more photos, if you’re interested, on my Flickr feed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11052243@N02/albums/72157686143776483