Horses of the table land of Panchgani.

If it was not for the mighty Himalayas, the Shayadri/ Western Ghat range would have been the most celebrated stretch of upward folds in India. Except for the snow, it's got its own endless list of wonders. And somewhere in the middle would be the rock called Laterite.

From the Konkan to the Cardamom Hills down south, those living along the Western Ghats will know this red rock that's commonly cut into bricks and used to build homes. They are usually cut out to create large pits close to the place a home is built.

The table land of Panchgani, like the name suggests is an extremely large plateau, entirely made up of Laterite. It's one of the largest such formation in the world. It's filled with a fine, red dust kicked up by the horses that provide rides to tourists who come to see the formation and the majestic view of the Krishna Valley from the edge made famous in hundreds of Mumbai movies.

During the monsoon, it turns the brilliant Sahayadri green.

Tired horses rule the tableland, all year round. Like horses all over India, they look like retired racehorses, they have names like Don, Raja, Rangeela and Saddam. They seem to have all gorwn up receiving whiplashes as an excuse for training and taming. It's written in their eyes that they see humans the same way we Indians see them, animals. If horses had wishes, I'm sure they would like to exchange places with their masters.

The owners of these horses look and talk like extras from B Grade Hindi movies. It works like a charm with the tourists who like to be shown where a scene from a certain film was shot sitting on a horse or in a creaky horse drawn cart.

More than the poor food and beatings, it must be listening to the guides and tourists that must have sucked the soul out of these tired horses of Panchgani table land.

Trust Indians to turn any beautiful place into Mumbai's Chowpatti. A beach aptly named after the four drains that empty into the sea here.

Tembhli (Sahada), Nandurbar Dist. MH

Ranjana. India's first Unique ID holder.

It looks like she's holding a darbar in the veranda of her modest 2 room home. Ranjana. She's not the first woman to do something in India, she's the first Indian to get the Aadhar UID. I'm not going into the politics of how she was picked from among a billion people but the selection changed her, her family, village, community and more. This photograph is a reflection of one such change.

Off NH 49. Pamban Village, TN

Spit Image.

Why do we spit all the time? This little fellow who had come to the beach for a swim with a friend and who enjoyed posing for the camera kept spitting. It seemed like almost involuntary habit like breathing.

Even Zaheer Khan, the cricketer who features in the poster used by the Maharashtra Health Department for the anti-spitting campaign (Spitting Spreads TB) is seen spitting all the time on the field. I guess it's because the mouth becomes very dry out there in the field.

When I used to live in Bangalore, I used to use the sound 'Thoo' as a word, as an exclamation. My wife used to hate it when I did that. It's an accepted and often used Bangalorean word.


Style Bhais of Kutch Part 3.

There are colours and style in the traditional everyday dressing in the Northern Part of Kutch around the Rann that will make the most colourful birds of the region feel inadequate.

Rapar, Kutch

Style Bhais of Kutch Part 2.

Raipur, Ahmedabad

Indian women know how to dress.

Wai ( वाई), Dist. Satara

In the foreground: Beds of the homeless.

Wai ( वाई), Dist. Satara

The older temples of Wai, on the River Krishna.

The older and beautiful stone temples of this town in the Krishna Valley are in various stages of neglect. It's the new concrete temples that the people prefer to visit.

However, they make perfect backdrop for small town India, by the river. That's the reason this town is the favourite haunt of film makers.

Mapro Village, Panchgani - Mahabaleshwar Road

Strawberries: How a fruit colonised a Hill-Station and why no one is complaining. Pictures and story in

Wai ( वाई), District Satara

River Krishna, at Wai, Maharashtra.

A man prepares a bamboo pole to make the Gudi ( Gudi Padwa - Maharashtrian New year) near the Ganapathi temple on the banks of the River Krishna

The main ghat at Wai.

Shiva Shambo! A "Very Happy" New Year this Gudi Padwa.

Happy Gudi Padwa!

But my story is about a group of friends who meet every morning at a Shiva temple a couple of hundred meters downstream on the steps of an other old Shiva Temple.

Ganapati and Shani are the more favoured gods these days and Wai is no exception. There are many new concrete temples with heavy hundis celebrating their prosperity. Good old Shiva is slowly being associated with the warrior king Shivaji in Maharashtra. My prediction is that in 20 years, an average kid in Maharashtra will believe that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is an incarnation of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. But that's a different story.

3 friends meet at the Shiva temple, the first thing, every morning. They are Bade, Rajendra and Ghatge. They meet to smoke ganja and the morning on the banks of the River Krishna that gives life to so much of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra is a lively river here. The river is dead where it meets the sea. We have collectively sucked all life from it by then.

Bade is usually the first to arrive. Rajendra then comes with his arsenal. And finally Ghatge arrives with his grandson to complete the trinity.

This is what they do.

Shiva Shambo!


The preparation.

And finally, Ghatge's grandson wondering what's so interesting.


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