Read this, please.
Maybe, we need to stop publishing angry tweets and facebook statuses and start working collectively on making our country a better place to live in.
Maybe, we can make a difference. Yes, WE.



<EDIT>: 20th December, 2012: Please read with the caveat that I am very much a North Indian male living in Delhi. You may consider “North Indian male” short-hand for the guys brought up in families with outdated notions of honor and masculinity. Nearly all of my good friends are in fact North Indian men who are some of the kindest, most chivalrous people you had meet. But let’s face it, in NCR, we would be a minority. </EDIT>

As people across the country try to make sense of the ghastly gang-rape of a paramedical student, here’s a short explanation: it’s because of the North Indian male. What exactly is wrong with this guy? Plenty: brought up on a steady diet of patriarchal superiority and misogyny, he is yet to come to grasp with a simple fact; that when it comes to women, his mindset is still medieval. In spite of…

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Climbing to the heavens – at Kalavantin Durg

Yun hi chala chal raahi, Yun hi chala chal raahi
Kitni haseen hai yeh duniya
Phool saare jamele, dekh phoolon ke mele
Badi rangeen hai yeh duniya … 

Trekking, for me, has never merely been about conquering the peak. It is all about being one with Mother nature, about feeling the wind, about introspection, about rediscovering myself, about making new friends, about enjoying freedom and about breaking free.
So when I read about a fellow trekker’s experience at Kalavantin (read here), I knew in my heart that this was one place I had to visit..and visit soon!
After almost a year of Kalavantin being on my wishlist, I jumped with joy (yes, literally) when Rushikesh (Our Man in-charge a.k.a. MIC) informed me that the next trek was going to be to Kalavantin Durg! So after a week of restless planning, excited phone calls to Rushikesh to inquire about when the event would be updated on FB, and asking friends to join in..December 15 finally arrived!


Mumbai. 0445 hours.

After setting off the alarm (and the other six alarms that I had set – to be on the safer side, you know) I was finally awake at 4.30am on a cold December morning! Dressing up as fast as I could (Of course, all the food, water and snacks had been packed on the night before!), I waited for a heads up on whether or not the Breakfree Bus was leaving on time (We have a lot of these nocturnal species as our trek mates. So the early morning calls to the MIC are customary.) Rushikesh confirmed that the bus was very much on time and I’d be picked up from the Kalanagar bus stop at 5.30am (yes, this was supposed to be one of the earliest starting treks.)
So I reached Kalanagar just in time for the Breakfree bus at around 5.40am (Thank god for that! You don’t want enthusiastic trekkers cursing you that early in the morning for being late and delaying the most eagerly awaited trek!!)
Once into the bus, began the usual search for the best window seat and eager HIs, hellos & wassups. We had set out on our journey to Thakurwadi – the base village of Kalavantin – at a distance of around 15-20km from Panvel (and around 60km from Mumbai) . Yes, the journey to one of the apparently toughest and most memorable treks had begun on an extremely vibrant and positive note!

Yeh raasta hai keh raha ab mujhse
Milne ko hai koi kahin ab tujhse
Dil ko hai kyun yeh betaabi
Kis se mulaakat honi hai
Jis ka kabse armaan tha
Shaayad wahi baat honi hai

The morning was cold & beautiful..and the next stop was at Sion. Now Sion is known to be the place where most of the trekkers..sorry..punctual trekkers board the bus at. At Chembur, the bus was almost full with trekkers (three more were going to join us – from Vashi and Panvel. Like I’ve mentioned in all my earlier posts, you *will* find us everywhere!)

sai prasad

Enjoying the banter and the falling dew drops.

Once everyone was in, the Breakfree bus was buzzing with energy and chit chat! The misty morning only contributed to the trekkers’ enthusiasm and made us even more eager about the path that lay ahead of us! A quick break at the McDonalds outlet of Kalamboli (located just before the Pune expressway) awaited us (at around 6.45am), for that was where another trekker was going to join us at. After breathing in some cool and fresh morning air, we headed for our next destination – The breakfast place!!
Thanks to Mr. Sawardekar’s (the bus owner and adventure lover who was driving us to Kalavantin that day) exceptional driving skills, we reached Hotel Sai Prasad (on NH17: The Mumbai-Goa highway) in no time! Quickly getting off the bus, the hungry trekkers took no time in choosing heir breakfast menu from Kanda poha and misal pav. While the breakfast was under preparation, we couldn’t help but notice the fog coming out our mouth as we spoke! Also, the fresh dew drops falling off the gigantic tree right outside the hotel made us feel divine! Random jokes were being cracked among the endless cackling of farm hens kept at the hotel.

The chai/coffee and Kanda poha/misal pav were relished quickly by the enthusiastic trekkers (by around 7.30am). The filled stomach only added to our zest and made us even more enthusiastic about the trek that awaited us. Why not? Wasn’t this supposed to be our first winter trek? Wasn’t this supposed to be our first trek after a very long time? Didn’t we have every right to excitedly look forward to it? 🙂

Post breakfast, we rushed into the bus again. Panoramic views greeted us on our way to Thakurwadi. After another 45 minutes of travel on the highway, the Breakfree bus finally approached the base village. One shout from Rushikesh, and all eyes looked outside to catch the first glimpse of Kalavantin Durg – the beautiful sister fort of Prabalgad. The MIC explained to us the structure of the peak and thought aloud about where we would break for lunch and some much needed rest.


The first glimpse.

Once at the base, the trekkers quickly made ready their bags, food, water, trekking gear, etc. and assembled for the traditional Circle of Introduction.

Post the introductions, at around 8.30am, the trekkers finally set out on the muddy path that lay ahead.
As the morning sun shone, the fog had begun to disappear and the trekkers were awed by the picturesque surrounding. It almost felt as if the mountains were coming out of their hiding place in the clouds to greet wish us good luck for the 2300 ft steep climb that awaited us.



Dekho jidhar bhi in raahon mein
Rang pighalte hai nigaahon mein
Thandi hawa hai thandi chhaon hai
Door woh jaane kiska gaaon hai
Baadal yeh kaisa chhaaya, dil yeh kahaan le aaya
Sapna yeh kya dikhlaaya hai mujhko

What lay ahead, was a long walk on the mud road, followed by a climb on rocky terrain. This was one area that most of the first timers found difficult to climb and put our stamina to test. After almost an hour of brisk walking, we finally reached a small clearing and decided to take a quick break. The water bottles and Gatorade quickly surfaced. The trekkers were already tired for the sun shone on us – as bright as ever. The cameras were out while we waited for those trailing to reach the clearing. The trekkers indulged in random small talk during the wait, but more importantly, we gaped at the beauty of nature of nature from that height.
Soon, the remaining trekkers reached the clearing (evidently exhausted, but most of them were either first timers or were trekking after a very long time. So we can’t blame them, can we?) Once everyone had arrived at the clearing, a small group of trekkers started walking towards the next destination – Nilesh Dhaba – where we had to arrange for our lunch (A dhaba on top of a mountain! Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?) It took us hardly 10 minutes to reach another plateau-like clearing on the top. Nilesh dhaba was located at the end of the clearing. We rushed to the place for that was where we’d be having our lunch and also the place where our guide – ‘Kaka’ – would be joining us at. Soon, the others arrived and Rushikesh quickly arranged for our lunch. The carnivores rejoiced when informed that non vegetarian food would also be available!

The Guide.

The Guide.

This was a defining point in the trek as this was when we decided to form two groups – one that would lead the trek with Kaka (reaching the peak first and enjoying the panoramic is a good bet, no?) and the other that would trail the trek at a modest speed. Needless to say, the first timers decided to trail and so those who wanted to capture the beautiful moments spent with Mother Nature on their cameras! Soon, we restarted our journey to the top with the help of Kaka (the trekkers were in awe of his speed, strength and stamina) as he made way for us by chopping the wild plants with his enormous sickle.
(Please to note: All this while, anecdotes & travel tales were shared, biscuits surfaced and the photographers were in their element!)

Mann apne ko kuch aisa halka paaye
Jaise kandho pe rakha boj hat jaaye
Jaise bhola sa bachpan phirse aaye
Jaise barson mein koi ganga nahaaye

After what felt like ages of walking, we realized that we were finally ascending the steep peak. There was a point during the walk when we had to choose between two routes – the first one long, yet easy AND the other steep and tricky. Needless to say, we chose the latter (yeah, ‘shady’ is our middle name ;)) This part got a little tricky, because the mountain was so steep that were places where we had to crawl our way up.
The path kept changing from muddy to rocky but the trekkers diligently marched ahead. Finally, by around 10.30am, we reached a point on the mountain that had stone steps carved all the way to the top, as if to welcome us to the peak. Looks can be deceptive, it is said. We experienced it. As easy as the steps looked to climb, the trekkers found it extremely difficult to climb the stone steps! The terrain was uneven and steps, high. The ascend to the peak became challenging, thanks to the scorching heat, uneven terrain, steep hill and the continuous climb. It was a stamina test, more than anything else. Beyond a point, even water breaks proved to be of no help. However, the


trekkers marched ahead in zest. To reach the peak, was the ultimate goal for the day. Soon enough, we noticed the stone steps coming to an end. With renewed vigor, we marched on, waiting to see what the peak looked like! By 10.40am, we had managed to climb the steps and reach the top. However, the joy and excitement had eluded us once again. We hadn’t reached the peak. The last leg of the trek (and the most difficult one) was still pending. Rock climbing. The peak was nothing but giant rocks placed together, with no path to

The last leg.

The last leg.

climb. There were a few cracks and dents on the stones that we thought we could use to climb up the peak. So while one of the enthusiastic trekkers climbed up to check how feasible it was, the rest of us looked on with bated breath. All of us collectively heaved a sigh of relief when the fellow trekker safely managed to climb up the peak. Slowly, by 11am, each one of us climbed up the rock and with a little help from the others who were already up the peak and Sawarderkar sir (yes, he was looking forward to trek to Kalavantin, too and he managed to climb faster than all of us put together!) all of us (from the leading group) managed to reach the peak. Words cannot describe the feeling of elation on reaching the peak. The orange flag..the surrounding mountains..the blowing wind..all just too perfect to be true.
What followed was quick resurfacing of water bottles, cameras and a flurry of photographs! (Everybody wants to remember the wonderful time spent on the peak!)
While we sat there, enjoying the magnificent beauty from the peak, plenty of travel experiences were shared, jokes cracked, photos clicked and philosophy discussed. Mountain peaks do make one contemplate! We realized that it would take quite some time for the trailers to arrive and so the time spent up there on the peak proved to be a major ice breaker for most of us.

Yunhi chala chal raahi, yunhi chala chal raahi
Kaun yeh mujhko pukaare
Nadiyaan, pahad, jheel aur jharne jangal aur vaadi
In mein hai kiske ishaare 

By around 11.45am, the remaining trekkers finally reached the peak (Thumbs up to them! They endured major cramps, extreme fatigue, nausea and the steep hills to finally make it to the top. For first timers, it was a commendable effort!) What followed was a long photo session (multiple group photos included), catching up, sharing of experiences, some great fun and banter!

The mountains looked upon us lovingly.

The mountains looked upon us lovingly.

As always, time flies while you’re on the peak! Even before we knew it, it was 12.30pm and the MIC called for everyone to start descending.
Slowly, one by one, the trekkers started climbing down the tricky rocks. With a little help from the others, the trekkers were able to climb down safely.

Helping hand.

Helping hand.

Soon, the trekkers disintegrated into small groups and started on their journey to Nilesh Dhaba (Read: hunger pangs and survival of the fittest!)
The journey to Nilesh Dhaba was more or less uneventful, except for the beautiful scenery and the fact that we almost lost our way and the other trekkers. Making our way through the wilderness, we reached the dhaba by 2.15pm. A few minutes later, a couple of  fellow trekkers reached there, too. After one whole minute of debating about whether or not we should start eating our meal, we mutually concluded that it would make more sense to start eating in lots.

Lunch included some delicious bhaaji, rice rotis, papad, achaar, dal and rice. What completed the meal was some deliciously chilled nibu paani! The hungry (obviously!) trekkers finished eating in to time! The remaining trekkers arrived soon, and relished the delicious meal.





Amidst some much required rest at the dhaba and plans for the next trek, we finally started to descend from the dhaba at 3.30pm. Descents are always quicker than the climb. They’re a wonderful opportunity for introspection, and give us some good time to spend with ourselves. We were familiar with the mountain by now, so climbing down wasn’t as difficult. That probably explains why we managed to touch down to the base by 5pm.
Awaiting the others’ return, we had a good time chit chatting, joking and discussing other trek experiences. Soon, the remaining trekkers arrived and we jumped into the Breakfree bus. We took a small halt at a chai tapari in Kalamboli at 6pm for some evening snacks. Before we knew it, it was time to return to the monotony of our city life.

I’d refuse to say we ‘conquered’ Kalavantin Durg. We, at Breakfree, don’t believe in conquering peaks. Kalavantin was an experience..a unique one at that! It was one more beautiful mountain that we were fortunate enough to visit and it was a day well spent in Mother Nature’s lap.
Trekking is not so much about reaching the peak as it is about enjoying and feeling happy about every moment spent in freedom.
At Kalavantin, we crossed all barriers, pushed ourselves to the limit, introspected, contemplated, hugged the wind, saluted the mountains, touched the clouds, experienced heaven, felt Mother Nature’s loving care. At Kalavantin, we did break free. That is probably what differentiates us from the rest.

Yun hi chala chal raahi, Yun hi chala chal raahi
Kitni haseen hai yeh duniya
Phool saare jamele, dekh phoolon ke mele
Badi rangeen hai yeh duniya … 



A big thank-you to Ameya, Abhay, Abhishek, Swagata, Rajiv, Nitin, Vipul, Aishwarya for capturing the beautiful memories on camera! We owe you one! 🙂
You can check the pictures out here.

Thank you, Breakfree Journeys and Rushikesh. We had a wonderful time!

A.R. Rahman’s composition – Yun Hi Chala – from the movie Swades was stuck in my head throughout the trek. I thought including it here would be a nice way to remember how I kept humming it in my head during the trek! 😉


The tiny eyes, at night, they shine bright
Working and toiling and studying, to get that maths sum right.
In the rain or sunshine or in severe cold
The little hands plead to let them pencils hold.

‘No Ma, I want to go to school’, we hear her voice
But by birth, for her, they have already made another choice
Every day she fights her wars and battles and other pains
Praying to let her touch the sky and not tie her up in chains

She doesn’t mind taking efforts to learn the A and B
The future that lies ahead; she wants to be able to see
They tell her that she is now of marriageable age
Without her permission, they trap her in society’s cage

‘You can take some effort for me’, she silently pleads
With her fury and pain, her little heart bleeds
She would have been different had they let her be
One day, she has decided, she will break free.