[This post uses several images of locations and properties in Matheran – a hill station near Mumbai – as available on the Internet. I would like to acknowledge sources of these images. These images have greatly helped me in creating the setting of my “story”]
Matheran is a hill station in Karjat Taluka of the Raigad district in the Indian State of Maharashtra. Matheran’s proximity to Mumbai makes it a popular weekend destination. Matheran, which literally means “forest on the forehead” (of the mountains) is an eco-sensitive region, declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. And It is Asia’s only automobile-free hill station.
I always wanted to camp in Matheran for couple of weeks to write stories of my life. A friend of mine recommended a bungalow that I could rent near the Charlotte lake. I chose the period right after the end of monsoons and before the Diwali vacations to avoid the noisy tourists. The location of bungalow was in the woods. Besides it was just 2 km away from my favorite Louisa Point – that has a cliff resembling lions head. I always drew inspiration and solace sitting alone at the Louisa Point in the morning. I decided to take early morning walk on the muddy road from my bungalow to Louisa. I knew that this walk in the woods followed by a majestic view of the valley from the cliff would help me to brew my “stories”.
Cliff with Lions Head at Louisa Point and Panoramic View of the Valley
On the very first day when I started to walk towards Louisa, I noticed an old Parsi bungalow. Matheran is known for old Parsi properties. Today, these properties are not well maintained, and several have been deserted due to family disputes. But this bungalow looked rather majestic and seemed well maintained. There was a watchman at the gate who looked friendly. He smiled at me. We chatted a bit. I told him about purpose of my stay in Matheran. When he learnt that I am a writer and camping in Matheran for three weeks, he said “Sir, why don’t you meet the owner of this Bungalow Dinshaw saab. He is a great person to be acquainted with. He loves meeting people like you. See he is just outside watering the trees”
I looked where the watchman pointed and saw an old Parsi man watering the trees with a hose. He seemed to have noticed me too as he waived and walked towards me.
We spoke and in the next 5 minutes we were sitting in the main hall of the “Dinshaw bungalow”, Mrs. Dinshaw joined us with a warm smile.
Drawing Room at Dinshaw Bungalow
After brief introductions and few pleasantries, we got along very well.
“Dr Modak, why don’t you join us for a breakfast?” Mrs. Dinshaw seemed very hospitable.
“Sohrab, you better shave and be more presentable before you sit next to Dr Modak” Mrs. Dinshaw got into the kitchen and Mr. Dinshaw (Sohrab) walked to the adjoining room to shave. The room had a closet and a large washbasin with mirror on the wall.
I sat in the drawing room and picked up a newspaper that was lying on the teapoy. This newspaper looked very strange. It carried a mast “Tomorrow” – a title I had never heard or come across. The date on the newspaper was March 15, 2018 when todays date was September 15, 2017! I was simply aghast to see a Newspaper what was printed six months earlier and was essentially carrying news of Tomorrow!!
The newspaper carried stories such as
Smog kills 3000 in Delhi
Chromium found ingested in the rice crop of Tamil Nadu
Flamingos in Mumbai displaced
IT industry in Bangalore city shuts down – because of mounting waste, traffic jams and flash floods
I found the news very disturbing. Is this the future we see and future we want? I said to myself.
There was no name of the Editor and publisher of the newspaper.
“Sorry Dr Modak – it took me much longer than expected” Mrs. Dinshaw appeared with a masala tea with Brun muska (butter) and placed the tray on the dining table that had a marble top. She noticed that I was reading the Newspaper “Tomorrow”.
“Sohrab – the breakfast is ready” She yelled while taking the Newspaper away from me. She carefully folded it and placed inside a tall camphor chest that had a top carved with a Spanish ship with pirates.
Masala Chai with Brun Muska for Breakfast at the Dinshaws
I thought the Newspaper must be somebody’s prank. But I thought that I must still ask the Dinshaws about this strange Newspaper and where did they get it.
But when we started the conversations, I simply missed asking.
Dinshaws were explaining to me their philosophy of life. The bungalow was more than 150 years old and was a heritage property. Dinshaws moved in after parents passed away some 10 years ago to look after the property and live life in peace.
“We seldom go out Dr Modak” Mr. Dinshaw said. “We do what we feel is best to do and what best should be done. We like to help as much we can. Future ahead of us is troubled and does not give us a good feeling”
Mrs. Dinshaw smiled “We get a lot of satisfaction when we do something in time and find that we are still useful to the society” She said this while pouring more masala tea for me. I noticed her wrinkled face. The Dinshaws must be above 70 years I guessed.
“Come Dr Modak, let me take you to a tour of the bungalow” Mr. Dinshaw invited me after we finished the breakfast. I was most pleased with this invitation.
The rooms in the Bungalow were elegant with antique parsi furniture with old chandeliers hanging on the ceiling. But I was shocked and surprised when we reached the verandah on the rear side of the bungalow. The verandah faced the valley and it was so close that you can almost jump or fly out if you had the wings!
When I spoke about this feeling to Mr. Dinshaw, he said “Why not Dr Modak? Stretch your imagination and you may really fly – you just need to be inspired enough”. I thought Mr. Dinshaw was right.
Valley View from Mr. Dinshaw’s Verandah – You will be inspired to fly if you have the wings!
It became a ritual for me to say hello to Mr. Dinshaw during my morning walks to Louisa Point. There were occasions when Dinshaws would invite me for the breakfast. I would look for the newspaper Tomorrow and get disappointed when I would see instead todays edition of the Times of India lying on the teapoy.
Only once I found the mystic newspaper lying on the top of the camphor chest. The news of July 15, 2018 and it carried headlines such as
Road alignment changed to save trees and reduce resettlement and rehabilitation
Landfill mining – pilot projects mobilized that were earlier stuck
I sheepishly stepped aside when I saw Mrs. Dinshaw walking towards me with a tray with Masala Chai, Akuri (spicy scrabbled egg in Parsi style) and Muska Pav (thickly buttered bread). The newspaper was taken away, folded and kept in the mysterious camphor chest.
These headlines looked good and showed some signs of hope. Mr. Dinshaw was a municipal engineer of repute with a degree from Harvard and had strong ideas and views on the management of solid wastes in cities and building of environmentally sound and socially sensitive road infrastructure. I thought for a while that Mr. Dinshaw must have influenced some of these decisions in the interest of doing something good as he knew the “problems” in advance or ahead of time !
“You are hallucinating Dr Modak”I said to myself.
In the next week, I missed taking my morning walk as I was in a fervent mood to write. I did not want a break and I continued pounding keys on the keyboard of my laptop. Finally, I could complete my “story” by late afternoon. I decided to walk up to Louisa and drop in to say “hello” to Dinshaws. It was late evening and an unplanned visit. The watchman must have gone home as there was no one at the Gate. I walked in.
Gate of the Dinshaw Bungalow in the late evening – A strange and mystic feeling
I reached the drawing room. There was no one. A copy of newspaper “Tomorrow” was lying on the dining table this time. The Newspaper was dated for September 25 while todays date was September 22. Future but not too distant – I thought. A prominent headline was “Water supply to Mumbai under threat – A new form of terrorism”. I simply froze and shuddered with the thought what if someone does contaminate the reservoirs holding Mumbai’s water supply with toxic chemicals!
I called for Mr. Dinshaw. No one answered. So I went to the verandah on the rear side. I saw Mrs. Dinshaw standing there on the ledge of the verandah almost in a trans. It looked as if she was to about to jump and “fly” out to some destination on a mission. Her eyes were shining, and it was the first time I noticed that she had Vulcan ears!!
There was a hallow around her with a shape of wings.
Mrs Dinshaw with a hallow
I looked into the valley beneath and I saw a humanoid bird with large wings – flying. Was it Mr. Dinshaw? And was he waiting for Mrs. Dinshaw to join?
Where were the Dinshaws expected to fly? Perhaps to see the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai? and warn him that such a sabotage was going to happen.
To do something good and in time.
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Picture of the “Dinshaw Bungalow” is taken from https://www.saffronstays.com/view/the-parsi-manor-a-100-year-old-quaint-heritage-stay-7LAWThR4QHMDBIEH. The property is called Parsi Manor