Photopost: Monsoon hike at Rajmachi

We get onto a Pune-Lonavla local. No seats, so we have to perch ourselves on the luggage rack.

On the luggage rack in the train

Lonavla station is lovely, a little dirty with all the rain and grime, but the grass covers it all!

We eat lots of missal-pau and vada-pau while waiting for friends from Mumbai to show up. In pouring rain, we start the trek from Lonalva, near the Tungarli Dam. ( that explains the lack of photos, we didn’t dare to take out our cameras).

We walk for 5 hours, over hills and valleys, crossing raging streams. Along the way we meet bikers – they are carrying the bikes across the streams. What enthusiasm!  We see lovely waterfalls, and mist covered hills.

Rajmarchi finally appears at 5:30. its  a small hamlet of 20 huts.

There are 550 trekkers here today. We get our own hut – villa, as Sid likes to think of it. It has mud walls and a mud floor.

We are busy wringing out the rain from our clothes, bedsheets, everything.

Nothing like a hot chai in the rain. Food here is great – including the Pohas for breakfast.

The return is downhill to Karjat, a different route. We cross lovely paddy fields.

Our knees cry in pain on the steep path. Rija sits down, and gives up hope!

We finally are down in the valley. Some more hot chai, and kandha bhaji.

Then its back to the station at Karjat, and a train to Pune. A great monsoon trek, and recommended to everyone who loves the rains.

India Literacy Project: starting the new academic session

Today was the second class at the new school that ILP will be covering. I’m the first volunteer.

The school has been a pleasure to go to. I can see firsthand the difference that an enthusiastic headmaster, interested teachers, joining hands with corporates and well wishers ( Infotech has adopted this school), are making to the school.

As soon as I enter, I see this neat playground lined with young trees. The classrooms are laid out nicely, there is absolutely no litter around. I compare this with the school less than a km away where I did summer camp for the kids – lots of garbage, no place for the kids to play, no toilets – the school was even being used as a thoroughfare by people who wanted a short cut to the main road.

The teacher from the third standard is cooperative and enthusiastic. Not only is she helping me with translation ( most of the children are not conversant in English, not yet anyway), but she loved the way we were teaching and wants me to write down some rhymes for her. It is a pleasure to teach when the environment is so nice.

Attendance at the school is good too, and the children are enthusiastic ( that is true everywhere though). I am working out a program for them where I will supplement, through stories and rhymes, what they are being taught in school ( alphabets, words, sentences).

Enjoying being involved. I even got a rose today from a kid 🙂

A non-Tamilian’s guide to making the perfect chinna idlis

Step 1. Rummage through your MIL’s utensils – find an interesting looking thing that looks like this. On asking, find out that it is an old old idli maker that her MIL used to make little idlis for the kids. Anything old sounds good, so you ask her for it, and she gladly gives it to you.

2. One fine afternoon, you soak urad daal and when it is kind of soft, grind it. Add some idli rava to it, grind it all together. Leave it overnight to do its fermentation magic.

3. In the morning, add salt. Use the little idli stand and put small spoons of the mixture into it. Put in pressure cooker without the pressure.

4. After about 10-15 minutes, take it off the fire. and voila, perfect little idlis are ready.

5. Serve with dahi, and watch while lunch is consumed without protest 🙂