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Shirota Lake

Shirota is a small secluded lakeside in Lonavala that is known for camping and a perfect weekend getaway. It is located 11kms away from Lonavala, surrounded by hills. It’s a short 7km trek up till the campsite and is absolutely worth it just to see the breathtaking site of the water body in the end.

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A panoramic view of Shirota Lake at the time of sunrise
We were a group of 17 that did a road trip from Mumbai to Lonavala organised by ‘Wandering Feet‘. After around 2hrs we reached our destination and walked along the rocky path to our campsite, greeted by young brown boys in their underpants rolling and sliding on the mushy mud by the lake, a few swimming in the lake. We set up our tents and ate our brunch that was prepared by the localites of Shirota. After changing into our swim wear we walked our way into the surprisingly cold water that felt so good in the February heat. The lake was filled with rocks making it very difficult for all of us to move around in the water. After an hour and a half we all were out drying our selves and changed into fresh pair of clothes and had lunch that was again prepared by the people living in Shirota (Bless them! the food was yum).

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The rocky lake
It was now about 5pm and we all spread out in the woods searching for dry wood that would be used for the bonfire at night. It being a first time experience for me I was very peppy about it. All of us after all the labour managed to find 2 small and 1 big pile of dry wood. The experts in the mean while set up three different spots for fire; 1st one for the bonfire, the other two for the veg and non veg barbecue. After the entire set up was done half the group took an hours nap and the rest of us who wanted to make the most out of this trip went around exploring the area.

we discovered a cave.
At 7pm we all were up and full of beans about the night barbecue and bonfire. We all picked up our stones and placed it around the bonfire, brought our jackets/shawls and sat around the bonfire with soft music playing in the background. We chatted away warming ourselves under the cold starlit sky while the chefs prepared barbecue for us all. We had some great paneer tikka, tandoori chicken and boiled potatoes with semi burnt onions and capsicum and a little alcohol to add life to the night. We sat around the fire till 12 midnight, by this time a few were snoring in their tents while most of us went on a night trek around the place. We went up and down the rocks in pairs of two, we got lost and found our way back to the tent but still moved further away from the tent, this time walking along the shore and stopped to look at the constellations above us. It was around 2am when we came back and passed out inside our sleeping bags covering ourselves with as many layers as possible.

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The rooster woke us all up at 5am, the majority still in their deep slumber. The feel of waking up inside a tent instead of a room was extraordinary! We lit the bonfire again warmed ourselves in the dewy morning and went to the rocks near the cave to get a clear view of the sunrise. Saw the silver lining and the first ray of the sun that passed through the clouds and reflected on the lake giving the water a golden colour, we watched the sun until it found its way to the Olympian Heights brightening all of our lives and making it one of our best mornings!

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At 9am we finished eating our breakfast, cleaned the entire area and packed up our things. This time we trekked down the hill instead of taking the car. It was a sweaty 7km journey, surprisingly not very tiring and a lot of fun. This overnight weekend experience inside a tent, near a lake was thrilling!

If you too want to experience weekend getaways like this do follow ‘Wandering Feet‘ on Facebook!!

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An Unforgettable Indian Wedding

He whispered into her ear, “I can’t stop falling in love with you everyday” and he looked in front posing for the photograph and smiled a smile that made his eyes shine and face glow, without giving the slightest hint of what he felt inside, while she couldn’t stop her blush, unable to compose herself into position and stare at him with affectionate eyes and a girly smile while her heart ran at the rate of a machine gun.


Indian Wedding Introduction: 

A wedding is the celebration of the sacred vow that binds two bodies, minds, souls and families together. It is the occasion where we come together and soak up an ocean of emotions ranging from love, joy, happiness, and togetherness to separation and sadness of a departing bride. Traditional Indian weddings are characterized by a noisy baraat, people losing themselves to the beats of the dhols and shehnais, a spectacular array of delicacies, family reunions, the vibrant colours of the floral decorations and the blinding jewellery. They are a perfect blend of tradition, values and celebration.

Welcome: 

After the long and tiring five hour journey, we reached Aamby Valley- a beautiful hill station known for its calmness and serenity. The drums announced our arrival. The bride’s family stood there with broad grins and open arms. The two families hugged and laughed, filling the air with warmth and love. We then rode on a decorated toy train that took us from the main city gates to the town hall where rest of the family members were. At the entrance of the hall we were greeted again with showers of flowers, garlands and photographs, giving us all a moment of fame. We were then escorted to our cottages where we got ready for the next event of the evening- The Sufi Night.


Sufi Night:

In this function the couple had Sufi dancers dancing magnificently before them which was followed by a great Indian Sufi singer, Raja Hasan. The evening went on with everybody dancing and singing to the song Raja Hasan sang. The night was completed with the cocktail party that was held in another area.


Cocktail party:

The bride and the groom danced away to the music. Her lush teal gown swept the dance floor as she twirled. He wore a jet black tux and looked at her as if she was his queen, his everything, as she swayed with a carefree smile. While they were in their own wonderland, the rest of us partied like there was no tomorrow- getting drunk to the beat, and high to the rhythm.


Pool Party:

The POOL PARTY!!!!! Nothing could’ve beaten this one! This was the morning where everyone went young and wild! Family members of all age groups were present here. On one side there was the wave pool and beside it was the dance stage and a DJ. We danced under the rain, splashing water on each other. All of us had the time of our lives. The groom ,looking as handsome as always was wearing a blue linen shirt and white linen pants. The bride in a blue and white crop top and a long skirt in which she looked phenomenal.


Sangeet:

This is the function where there were dance performances by the family members of the bride and the groom.

It started off with a slow dance performance by the couple and then followed by a small game where the couple were made to sit on to chairs facing their backs to each other. The host asked them a few closed ended questions and they had to answer by nodding their head yes or no. The next thing that the groom did took everyone by surprise. He went down on one knee, and professed his love for her by slipping a glistening diamond ring on her left hand and pecking it. It was so romantic as it showed how he wasn’t shy or scared to show his affection to the beautiful woman he was about to marry, publicly.

Then we had a few spectacular performances by the family members, it brought out the life in people.

The night ended with a concert held by Salim and Suleman, the much renowned Indian Bollywood sensation. We had the entire crowd dancing on the floor and losing themselves to the pop music. She was resplendent in an orange and white sequenced gown as her eyes shined in the light of the diamond on her finger.

Haldi: 

This a small little function where the groom and the bride are applied turmeric paste with a bunch of grass and leaves on the head, shoulders, palms, knees and feet seven times each starting from the feet and once everyone is done they come back again dipping the grass sticks into the pastes and applying it again this time starting from the head and it is done again seven times. When it’s done the first seven times it means that they are applying it on him and the latter means that they are now removing it. This entire function is basically for enhancing the looks before the wedding. It is so that the groom and bride look fair and bright on their wedding night.


Baraat:

My favourite part in the entire four day wedding ceremony. This is when the groom is mounted on a horse with a small boy sitting in front of him who represents Lord Ganesha. In this we dance from the place where the groom stays to the place where the main wedding is supposed to take place. This is done to announce the arrival of the Groom with men playing drums and dhols and trumpets while the family members dance to those beats.


Main Wedding: 

Last, but not the least, comes the D-Day, where the couple are announced husband and wife once all the rituals are performed. The first ritual is when the couple stand on a circular stage and put a heavy well decorated garland around each other’s neck while the rest of us shower flowers on them in a way of blessing. She (the bride) looked absolutely stunning in the pink and white lehenga, the diamonds she wore adorned her neck. All eyes were on her as she walked down the aisle looking like a goddess. The groom on the other hand stood on the stage waiting for her in a Royal blue and white embroidered sherwani, thinking about what a gorgeous bride she was and he couldn’t stop his own blush from creeping into his cheeks as his grin became broader and his dimples dug deeper into his skin.

Then is the ‘shoe-stealing’ time, where the grooms’ shoes are stolen by the brides’ sisters after he gets them off to go on the wedding porch. The groom gets it back after the rituals are over on one condition that is, he has to give the sum of money his sister-in-laws demand of him. It is a ritual full of fun! Then comes the time for the wedding itself and getting it officiated, there are usually seven vows that the bride and groom each take that are accompanied with seven circles around the pious fire. The vows signify the promises each one makes to the other as well as the family. This is another reason weddings are so huge in India, it isn’t just a union of two people but it denotes a uniting of two big families and there is a lot of emphasis on this fact. The circling around the pious fire seven times, represents the vows. The bride and the groom hold their hand which is hidden inside the red cloth that is tied with a yellow string.

After the rounds are taken the groom applies sindoor or vermilion on the brides forehead using a silver coin, as acceptance of her as his wife. After this, there are a few more small rituals that take place and then is the reception.



Reception and Bidhai: 

Reception is the time when all the family members, friends and other invitees take photographs with the bride and the groom as memories. The reception stage was decorated beautifully, giving it a Canada look where the couple now live. The bride and groom entered the reception hall in a chariot that was pulled by six men and women in shimmering blue dress wearing headgear made of feathers dancing in front for their welcome. The reception is completed with a small cake cutting ceremony and dinner leading us to last and the most emotional part of the entire wedding, the Bidhai or farewell bid by the bride to her family members. As she now goes to her husbands household and stays with him and his family for the rest of her life as their daughter.

Washed away


The morning surprisingly was just the way I like it, the grey clouds spread across the sky and the droplets dripping off from the now evergreen leaves. It was a usual school day so I got ready and stood at the side of the road waiting for the red bus to arrive. Looking to my left I saw this black dog staring out at the empty road and small puddles and seemed pretty lonely, surprisingly I saw the same dog sitting right there in its same spot the next day.

Every morning on the footpath there are men arranging the newspaper ready to distribute it. Some old men walking around with their sport shoes on on this fresh morning.

The sound of the waves coming from the beach that I pass on the way and the salty sea smell coming from it is so refreshing that can’t help but get lost in a world under water where I’m a mermaid and I have fish for friends and live inside a coral plant. Right when I was about to drown in the ocean of my thoughts, a drop of rain fell on my head that brought me back to reality..

The exotic smell of the pakodas and ginger tea that the old man and his wife make at the side of the bus stop in a small stall on this wet cool morning. Some might think it’s unhygienic but to me its  the best that one could ever eat. 

It’s 7am by then and my school starts. And the perfect morning is over as I am then inside the four walls of the class room and not around the fresh monsoon air and bright green trees looking at strangers do what they always do. 

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