HOME GROWN STORIESThe Sahyadris are my home. I am fortunate to live in a section of the
Sahyadris that was once the abode and lair of the great king,
Shivaji. His famous fort, Sinaghad, towers above my
farmhouse. Torna, another impregnable fort of
his, is just a couple of valleys south.
I also share a fence with
the National Defence
Academy campus, and the
deer and peacocks that inhabit the Academys forests often cross into my garden.
It was in these mountains that as a teenager I ventured forth on my first trek. That trek kindled something deep inside me, setting off a spark that still flames. I have followed up on that first walk with hundreds of other forays into the Sahyadris. Even today, I venture out into these fabulous hills as often as I can especially during the monsoons.
Mumbai is my other home. It is the city where I spent my childhood. Both Mumbai and the Sahyadris are at the core of my Sahyadri books. Unlike my other stories that describe far away lands, this is the first time I have written one that is set in my home territory.
If ever you venture out into the Sahyadris during the rains you
will see what inspired me to write these books. The Sahyadris are
wild and beautiful mountains. The rains enhance their rugged charm,
adding clouds and the mists and waterfalls. The mountain slopes
turn green and the wind is so strong that it can sweep you off your
My Sahyadri stories are inspired also by Mumbai, particularly a great mystery that lies at the very heart of the city. This mystery has been around from the time I was born and from well before, as I was to discover. The mystery is to do with this place in Mumbai called ‘Fort’. When I was a child growing up in Mumbai, my father worked in this Fort. Every time I visited my dad’s office I would look for this Fort but I never found any traces of it – there were no walls, no ramparts, no gates. Yet, despite the absence of any signs of a fort, this area of Mumbai is still called Fort. When I delved deeper into this mystery, I discovered this Fort. I found that it is a piece of our history that has simply vanished from public consciousness. In the process I discovered also a beautiful, genteel city (Bombay of old); a city that fascinated me so much that I had to tell its story…
This name was coined by my friend, Ashok Captain. Ashok, for those
who don’t know, is one of India’s foremost authorities on snakes.
At one time Ashok would visit the fort of Torna on a regular basis
to search the fort’s walls (particularly at night) for a certain species
of snake. There is one ridge on the climb to Torna which if you traverse
on a windy monsoon day, you are most likely to be blown off your feet.
The wind strikes you from one side, assailing only one of your ears
– the one that faces the wind – much like a cellphone which also troubles
just one ear. Ashok always felt as if a cellphone was attached to
his ear while crossing this ridge…hence the name ‘Cellphone Alley’.
SHIVAJI, the DECCAN PLATEAU and SAHYADRI GEOGRAPHY
off the western coast of India runs a knife-edge like divider, separating
a narrow strip of coastal lowlands known as the Konkan, from an extensive
upland plateau called the Deccan. The border between the Konkan and
the Deccan Plateau is definitive, like the wall of a cliff: one moment
the traveller is journeying along an elevated tableland and around
a bend there is a sharp fall to distant plains far below. The roads
that connect the Konkan and the Deccan are called ghats a Marathi
word for mountain roads. Drawing their name from the same source,
the mountains that fringe the Deccan Plateau are called the Western
Ghats. Another name that describes them is Sahyadri.
WESTERN GHATS – World Biodiversity