The waiting Robot of the Konkan Strip.

Since I am the Prime Minister of the Vengurla region, let me tell you a story. For those of you who didn’t get it probably should read further only at their own risk.

The coast of Konkan has a long history of migration, a migration of a very different kind. When North of India had land invaders Konkan had its fair share too. But it was also a route for persecuted communities especially out of the middle east. Bene Israels, Parsis were a few of them.

But their was also a unique being who was never spoken about. A being who was promised to come and wait here till his friend arrives. He awaited since time immemorial for his friend but to no avail. When you go and ask him, he doesn’t reply but looks at the horizon as if his friend is about to emerge from that curvature in the distance, with his boat waving his robot flag. He is the ancient Robot of Vengurla.

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Time had forgotten him but Bhavpreets lens discovered him. Completely merged in the rocks of the port he sits and exhibits the same anxiety he had centuries ago. But he doesn’t utter a word as though having infinite faith in his friend, he makes us look at him silently and makes us fail to judge what he is thinking of. And as we stare long enough, our thoughts become his or is it vice-versa? He compels us to look into the horizon for his friend, our friend, who we lost in time when we hit the cricket ball for a 4 and he chased it to the boundary, and disappeared.

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Those horizons are mute, they don’t give us an explanation why our friend went beyond, never to return.

A wave dashes into the robot as I come out of my trance. Such frivolous thinking i say. So I go and grab a candy, talk to people and sit in the car. And as I adjust my rear view mirror I see the sun setting on the horizon and a thought hits me- What if the friend who chased that ball beyond the boundary, is sitting beyond the horizon waiting for me?

I hit the accelerator in denial and drive away leaving the Robot of Vengurla alone to spend another night in the waiting.

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The underworld of Malwan

Well not literally, I meant the under(water)world of Malwan!

We started from our Farmstay just outside Swantwadi after a hearty breakfast, The Dwarka Homestay, and headed to Malvan. We decided to take the route through Vengurla, and would return through Pinguli route. This was purely for novelty sake, but also we wanted to check the traditional puppeteers of Pinguli (also their police patil) who, we heard, has now opened up a museum.

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The Sindhudurg Fort- It amazes me how this defense against the invading navies from around the world today serves as an icon, paradoxically, of dropping your defenses- against inhibition and against fear. Sindhudurg Fort is an exemplary structure built by the mighty naval fleet of the Maratha army. Most of us feel that the coasts of India, historically, didn’t take as much pounding as the border kissing states, but let me assure you it is quite the contrary. Sindhudurg is only one such symbol of might of the Indians against invading forces and today it stands as a beautiful jewel of the Malwan.

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Now since we do not have the threat of invading forces, this fort has opened up its surrounding vicinity to a variety of activities. One of this is scuba-diving. Licensed scuba experts have started their little businesses of scuba training and diving to interested seekers and I will tell you they do not disappoint. Again, to connect with them is to try and speak their language, and treat them as equals. I keep hammering on this point is because you will get so much in return if you treat them as a partner in your beautiful adventure rather than just a “service provider”. Being quintessentially local, these lads have grown up literally swimming their whole lives and have an indepth knowledge of the waters- literally and figuratively!

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After a brief acclimatisation practice we set out to explore the underworld. My wife, Bhavpreet, who is a non-swimmer took merely a couple of minutes to start going underwater and there she was posing for photos next to the corals. While I, a swimmer since many years, found it hard to fathom that I have to both inhale and exhale from my mouth. In addition, I have swam underwater holding my breath, but the fact that a cylinder was pulling me down made things a tad bit difficult. My primal fear took over, even though the instructor assured me to bring me to surface in a fraction of a second, and I swallowed some sea water as well. I must say that you need to take the sea very seriously, your previous experience not necessarily helps, but your presence of mind surely does. It took me several attempts to do down under, which is when I finally succeeded.

The under(water)world is something else. Your worldly corporate rules don’t apply here, and I am so glad they don’t because it just made this space so much safer since there were no corporate sharks ;). But this was no time to be anti-capitalist, the biggest challenge I felt was trusting your instincts, don’t forget we are built as highly intelligent social animals. Animals! Our brain and body can easily adapt to circumstances imposed upon us by nature, we just have to trust our instincts.

So I went under, temporarily petrified, to experience a world I can’t make an opinion of. More than being in a new physical space, it about about the unexplored mental space that excited you the most. It is about maneuvering across the space in your brain which has been lying dormant, possibly since your birth.

We were lucky to have done the diving that day, as a storm hit the coast the very next day. Astonishingly, on the way back to our farmstay in Sawantwadi, we caught a lighting crash feets away from us. It is, by far, the most powerful piece of nature we have experienced- hands down!

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If you look at Konkan on the India map, it is this tiny strip of coastal land bordering Maharashtra and the Arabian sea. But exploring it bit by bit reveals the enormity of pleasant surprises it has stored in for us.

And I only hope I have done some justice of showing you my own subjective perception.

Intimate roads between Sawantwadi and Vengurla

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Konkan can be enchanting in many ways but it demands one thing from you- your time. If you are going to zoom past every village in your SUV and incessantly flash your car’s headlights then you are in the wrong place. Many a times when we travel to these intimate places, and I am only saying this out of observation, the urban traveler tries to be imposing. It is this sense of superiority that impresses no one.
Once on our way from the outskirts of Sawantwadi to Vengurla we stopped to ask directions on a small bus stop. Instead of taking a right we had almost gone straight. After being corrected we reversed our car and my wife asked me to stop while she took a photo of the person who gave us the right directions. His unpretentious nature brought to surface his shyness and he finally mustered courage to ask us a few times whether we were heading to Vengurla. After giving the same answer twice I realized they are too modest to ask for a lift. What ensued was a pleasant little conversation and some hardcore local knowledge of the region, something we do not find in guide books.

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After the short visit to Vengurla port we headed back only to see the streets, that looked so intimate couple of hours back, transformed into lines of Diwali earthen lamps. Konkan Diwali evenings are something else. They are quiet, they are peaceful, untouched by the Diwali marketing of our urban’s. Bhavpreet took some photos on the way and was met with shy smiles, which we realized are a unique and cute signature of the Konkani people.

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