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- The Making &
  Other Miscellanea


The 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 Academy’s 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 feet.

There is adventure, romance and great beauty in these mountains. Unfortunately few youngsters visit and sample what the Sahyadris offer. The books are an attempt to inspire you to discover and enjoy these mountains.

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’.


Just 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‘.

Geologists are of the opinion that the Deccan Plateau was forged 65 million years ago during a period of unprecedented volcanic activity when a plume – a fountain of molten rock several thousand miles wide – parked itself beneath the Deccan, spewing lava and smoke for many million years. The intensity of the eruption is said to have devastated the earth, wrapping it in a veil of volcanic ash so thick that it blocked the rays of the sun, triggering, as many scientist believe, the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The volcanic origin of the Deccan is evident when one travels in the Sahayadri Mountains. Instead of sharp peaks several of the mountains possess long tabletop summits girdled beneath by endless bands of sheer black rock, many hundred feet wide, each inch of their fearful faces equivalent to several thousand years of eruption. The enormous flat summits, ringed as they are by perpendicular cliffs, manifest in themselves perfect conditions for erecting fortifications that can be defended in times of war and Torna (a fort described in the books) is one of many forts that straddle the summits of the Sahayadri.

Just a shade beyond cannon-fire range of Torna, a few kilometres east as a bird flies, is the fort of Rajgadh and visible from both their summits are the forts of Sinagadh, Raigadh, Kinjalgadh, Pandavgadh, Pratapgadh and Purundar – evidence that the geological cataclysms of prehistory benefited the later settlers of the region. Selecting those mountains with a tableland on top, encircled by cliffs beneath and possessing an assured supply of water, the settlers of the Sahayadri fortified them, converting them into havens of safe retreat from marauding armies that plundered the area, an occurrence not uncommon in those strife-burdened days.

Through the ages the forts of the northern Sahayadri have seen innumerable chieftains, rulers and sultans, but none among them stamped their authority on the region in the grand manner the great warrior king Shivaji once did. Though several of the Sahayadri forts predated him, it was Shivaji who elevated their station by strengthening and refurbishing their dilapidated fortifications. Availing his extraordinary military acumen he brilliantly exploited their strategic potential to repulse and rout vastly stronger armies. The Sahayadris were the home of the great king. Their peaks, ridges and valleys were his childhood playground and it was in their embrace that he had achieved his manhood.

WESTERN GHATS – World Biodiversity Hotspot

Our Western Ghats (the Sahyadri) have been designated as a ‘World Biodiversity Hotspot’. There are only 25 such declared regions on our planet. This is a recognition that the Sahyadris possess an invaluable chunk of the species (both plant and animals) that inhabit our planet. But there is more to this. Being recognised as a biodiversity hotspot is also a warning that the rich species diversity found in our ghats is under threat of destruction.