My brother JK and I shared the same passion for our beloved Bajaj Kawasaki RTZ bike like the Parsi Man showing his love for his Bajaj Scooter in the ‘Hamara Bajaj Ad.’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scltYH13uEY)
(Google Image of the bike – only, ours was black!)
On the 44th Independence day holiday, my brother and I were washing the bike when we were distracted by mother’s excited voice, calling us from the Balcony and we rushed upstairs.
The reason for her excitement was the telegram we received from SP Jain Institute of Management – Mumbai announcing that our youngest brother Mohan has got admission to MBA program and he was asked to report at 9.30 AM on August 16th at their institute in Mumbai.
Our joy knew no bounds. Only during his previous weekend trip to Pune, Mohan had told us that the list of successful candidates was out and he did not make the cut. He was then working in Mahad for Century Enka (a Birla company). The town was about 130 KMs away from Pune. He had given our address to the Institute as communication at Mahad was very primitive those days.
What would be a one minute affair today (just a phone call or SMS or WhatsApp) to convey the message took us the whole day on that unforgettable August 15th in 1991.
Since there was no STD to Mahad, we booked a call from home. After an hour, we got a message from the department that they could not connect to Mahad as the phone lines were down due to heavy rains.
We were desperate to convey the news to our brother as he had to prepare to go to Mumbai and report to the college the following morning. Then we got an idea which we thought would solve the problem. Century Enka had their head office in Pune and they had wireless and telex communication to their plant in Mahad. We decided that we would go there and ask their Head Office to help us out.
Well, to cut the long story short, we could not connect to Mahad even from their Head quarters. The Security Office at Century Enka tried his best to help us, but nothing seemed to be working.
We thought of making a trunk-call from a Telegraph office (10kms away in another end of the city and try again. We rushed there in the rains and we still could not get connected.
Our excitement was now turning into desperation as we were running out of time to convey my brother’s life changing news.
It was then we took the most foolish decision of our lives to drive down in the heavy downpour on our bike and handover the telegram. We were lucky that we could inform our parents about our decision and our mother was telling us to be careful as the rains were getting heavier and it would only get worse in Mahad.
I have to digress a bit here from the story and talk about monsoon rains in Konkan. The rainy season which starts in June extends up to September and beyond. The rains fall incessantly and the normal lives gets paralyzed as the rains fall in sheets for days on end.
We started by noon absolutely unprepared, and hoped to reach by 5 PM. Normally it’s a four-hour ride and we gave ourselves an extra hour. But by the time we got to Katrej (just outside Pune), we realized it was not going to be easy. The rain was making riding very difficult. (Other than two simple helmets and light windcheaters, we had nothing on us). To go from Pune to the coastal side (for example Mahad) you have to cross the Ghats. It does not matter whether you are going to Mumbai or Mahad or Chiplun, the Western Ghat divides the hinterland from the coast.
The Varandha ghat between Pune and Mahad is one of the steepest Ghats with just a one lane road. It stretches for about 20 Kilometers and most of the road don’t even have a fence.
It was difficult to cross the ghat on a normal day. With heavy rains, which made the visibility close to zero the driving was becoming impossible. Fortunately, our bike did not give up on us and was coping well with our little adventure. We were feeling as if we were sitting under a tap with full force of water.
It was then we realized that for more than an hour we had not seen a single vehicle. (the last bus from Pune used to leave at 2 in the noon, Yes noon, as it was dangerous to drive on the ghat after sunset) We were either too brave or too stupid to attempt this. We prayed to the almighty and continued. We could not enjoy the beauty of the Ghats as we could see nothing. It was just water everywhere.
The Varandha Ghat
The one lane road of our Adventure. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sp-b6boK70)
It was well past 7 in the evening, when we reached Mahad. The security guard at the company colony where my brother Mohan was living asked us whom did we want to meet and from where did we come from? When we told him that we were driving from Pune he was shocked. He said, “you guys must be mad! A bus with more than 20 passengers fell into the gorge only couple of days back and the bus services was suspended since then. The road has no protection and if you had fallen no one would have even noticed you for days.”
All the pain was worth when we broke the news to Mohan. He was ecstatic.
We dropped him in the bus stand to catch a night bus to Mumbai. (that drive was another eventful one, a story for another time).
The next day we had to come back on the same route (the rains had reduced a bit by then). My brother had kept the Passport and Foreign Exchange of his colleague in his cupboard and it was to be handed over to him by afternoon.
And Mohan wanted us to take his Kinetic Honda back to Pune as he did not want a bike in Mumbai. So, we drove in two bikes back to Pune. Mohan had removed all the guards on the Kinectic to make it look cute! We fixed them back in the dark, late at night, (it was more like Uncle Podger hangs a Picture – Jerome K Jerome) and as we were driving the next morning, they kept falling apart and we patiently collected each piece as it fell and kept them below the feet!!
We shudder now at the thought of what our parents would have gone through. They knew how dangerous the ghat section was as they had travelled to Mahad by the same road and the risks it posed. They knew nothing about us till we reached home 28 hours later. Salute to their guts and belief in prayers.
It was some ride and whenever we talk about this adventure, we always wonder would we attempt this crazy stunt ever again? We may or may not; but we don’t have to rush 130 Kilometers in heavy rains to handover a message. A simple SMS would do.
Stay tuned for more on The Adventures of Ramesh and JK!
(Note: All images have been taken from Google Images, as we did not have smartphones back then, and even if we did, we could not have taken a photo in those rains).
As of 2014, the road still remained the same – a 1.5 lane ghat road.