“You went to the valley of men?!”, said one of my friends when I told them about my visit to Purushwadi. It’s an interesting name for a small sleepy village in Maharashtra. But a visit up there at the onset of monsoon can be as exciting as it can get. We never expected it to be a little adventurous too.
As always, this was an unplanned trip. Only thing we knew was that we are going to some place called Purushwadi, somewhere in Maharashtra. The first thing I checked was Maharashtra map to locate this village and thankfully I was able to find a landmark called Bhandardara where I have been before. With the confidence of some familiarity, we left from Mumbai in a hired cab with Bhandardara as destination and the hope that the rest couldn’t be difficult to find if map says its 28km ahead. How completely wrong we were!!
We did all things wrong on this trip; everything that two women travelling alone shouldn’t ideally do. We left late from Mumbai; we reached Bhandardara late in the evening. We didn’t book a hotel in advance despite it being a popular picnic spot in a lovely weather; we ended up in a safe looking but really bad hotel. We left late from there when it was almost dark. We were trying to search for Purushwadi village on the basis of instructions from electronic maps and locals. Nothing wrong with that. But of course we didn’t consider the fact that there was little habitation on the way, villages tend to sleep earlier and our mobile network went on and off in that wilderness. So there we were, two women with a driver, looking around for some place called Purushwadi somewhere within 28km radius of a popular dam called Bhandardara. And of course, we had no clue where exactly to go once we do manage to reach Purushwadi! Only thing we knew was that we were hoping to see some magic. And hopefully some 30-40 more people would probably be there on the same quest and perhaps we can just follow them.
With dreamy eyes, excitement of a kid and just a little sense of thrill, we were off on our way to Purushwadi from Bhandardara, with a quick stop in Rajur to visit the only ATM out there. Of course that’s another wrong of the trip; we didn’t leave Mumbai with enough cash, knowing that the moment we step out of Mumbai, we would be on a highway and then a village. Nevertheless, we found our ATM and started towards Purushwadi. What we didn’t realize was that our driver was on his way back to Bhandardara. Somewhere after 10km, it dawned upon us that we haven’t reached Purushwadi yet because we are off track. So we, like sincere sheharwallas, started our gadgets and Google maps to check the route and found that our little arrow on the map is moving in opposite direction. We stopped the driver and told him you are on the wrong route. But he believed and said that we are on the right route; this is how you reach back. “But, hey, hold on, we want to go to Purushwadi.” “What, at this time, oh ok… but what’s there?” And we are like, yeah!! Let’s just turn the car around please. And hence got added another 45-60 minutes to our journey. Back in the wilderness. We decided to keep checking our maps this time. And yes, the network went off sincerely just then.
So back on the road, we kept going and didn’t know how long we are supposed to continue to drive. The locals kept pointing and we kept following. And then we reached the critical point, end of the road! We were now on a kachcha road with bushes on both sides; it started to go slightly downhill and we couldn’t see a road ahead; just this something which looked like a bridge which would probably collapse the moment someone steps on it. And of course there was no one in sight but stars and the bridge in the distance lightly visible in the car headlights. The driver by now completely freaked out. “Where exactly you want to go in this wilderness and there are no ‘gents’ with you!” We vehemently told him to just check once more with the villagers. So we went back some 5 km where we last saw habitation; the kids on the road pointed us back towards the bridge and assured us that our small car can cross that; even SUVs do. And we made the driver go back near the bridge and check. I wonder if he was abusing us under his breath. Nevertheless, we went back to the end of the road and my friend with all her courage stepped out of the car to survey the bridge and decide if we can indeed drive on it. She came back with conclusive looks that we can and we will. So we did.
And now what? The locals said purushwadi is just a km ahead of the bridge. We kept going on. By now, we had decided amidst the driver’s cribbing and his worried looks that we will return back if we don’t find something within the next 5 km or so. Just then we saw some 3-4 foreigners with flashlights in their hands walking down the road. That was reassuring, we were close! And a few steps ahead were this bunch of people also trying to walk down the road. We stopped to chat with them for further instructions. And we realized that we are right there, at the very spot we are supposed to be; no further drive or walk is required; just switch off the headlights of the car! And we did, and there it was… one of the most magnificent sights I have ever seen. And it was drizzling. Weather couldn’t get any better to add romance to that view. With impatience, we gave instructions to driver for the parking area and after how long to expect us back. Right after the car left from the scene, the place turned into what we expected to see. We walked a few steps ahead and I turned around to look at the landscape in front of me.
I was surrounded with millions of fireflies… million of flying little dots of light blinking in an inexplicably beautiful rhythm. It was almost lyrical. I felt like I have just stepped into a magical kingdom where all trees in a jungle are lit up with Christmas lights just hanging together, flying here and there, flashing on and off in beautiful patterns. I was mesmerized; I was delirious. I had never imagined this scene even in my dreams. The light drizzling, the cool breeze, millions of fire flies and the in the midst of it all I was standing with my eyes wide open and my entire being transported to a place I didn’t even know exist. I felt disconnected from the real physical world for that very brief moment. I felt like I have entered a fantasy land; and my belief in the nature and its magic strengthens. Magic exists; I have seen it.