There are no eternal gurus. There are gurus of the past and there are gurus of the present. I have outgrown many gurus as I grew up, but there is one who I find difficult to match up to: Jugal Rathi. He is the one who got me away from soap a couple of decades ago. He is the one who got me hooked to public transport. Hard as I try, I have no chance of matching his sense of humour. The other day I was sharing with him the story of my sandals. How I was thinking of finally disposing of a loyal set of Adidas sandals – that had lasted me 5 years. His sage advice – keep them. It will be useful for the better half. Of course for Pinki to beat me up with!!
Got a call from the guru on Wednesday evening, inviting me for a public transport fuelled trek to Sinhgad. Jugal ji is a very active member of the PMPML Pravasi Sangh. And he has managed to convince our local transport undertaking to undertake a trip every Thursday from Aundh Gaon to Sinhgad Paythan. There are two trips. The first trip starts at 0445 from Aundh and goes via SB Road, Law College Road, Kothrud, Warje, Uttam Nagar, Khadakwasla dam and reaches Sinhgad in about 75 minutes. When the bus reached SB road there were 5 people in the bus. Was happy to note that by the time the bus left Warje, there were actually folks standing!!
There is a strong trekking culture in Pune – and it is unfortunate that I have never been part of it. Sinhgad is the mecca of this culture. Saw people from ages 7 to 70 on the trek. Each one climbs at her own pace. There are quite a few shelters on the way. We reached Sinhgad at 0550 hrs and immediately started the trek. There are two tracks that run in parallel. The comfort and the challenge. Given the fact that I locomote all over in sandals, I took the easier path most times.
Sunrise on Sinhgad is amazing, especially in the monsoons. Stopped to take photographs, but more so to record bird sounds. Bird watching requires a lot of patience – bird hearing much less. But the problem in bird hearing is traffic. The entire trekking community likes to land up at dawn. And there was a Laxmi road feeling that one gets as one made the ascent. The stomach was on its early morning rumbles, but was afraid to let the gases out, lest they suffocate the crowd of trekkers who were following me.
Jugal ji made the trip to the top in 50 minutes. It took me 10 minutes more. He had given me a 10 minute handicap, so we both reached the top at the same time. What amazes me about him is that here I was catching up on my breath – and Jugal ji was having continuous conversations with the trekking fraternity on the way up. He is a cult figure and I realised that when I saw a queue of auto-photo-graphers waiting for him near Pune Darwaza of Sinhgad fort.
In life, going up is always easy, getting down is not. So I budgeted 75 minutes for the return journey and started back within 5 minutes of reaching the top. The return bus was departing at 0830 hrs – and I planned to have breakfast once I reached base camp. Reached as per plan and found a good vantage seat close to the driver with a good view – and good legroom. We started back at 0845 hrs. At Uttam nagar, was surprised to see Jugal ji getting down. And so did the conductor. They returned 5 minutes later with patties – for the entire bus! Jugal guru never ceases to amaze.