Peth – a hilarious account… 

Karjat Station.
It was 2am and we were on a desolate railway platform with a solitary tube light which glowed on its own will and even dimmed on its own , a closed tea stall as last passenger has passed an hour ago and some suspicious employees of railways for company.

Stretching away on both sides as far as the eye could see, which wasn't far in the darkness, were dense ink-black thickets. With clouds pulling a veil over the moon, light was at a premium.

"Why are we here at this godforsaken place at this time?" Kiran screamed with more than a touch of accusatory inflection in his tone.

I and Amit smiled enigmatically, and Kiran got the answer

All three of us were feeling dizzy but were, trying hard to talk to each other and maintain as cryptic a tone as possible. I sighed.

Plopping our bags down, we propped ourselves and waited. Soon enough, like flies zeroing in on a box of goodies, the nosey cops came. And they were full of questions.

Who were we? Why were we here? Why were we alone? Did we know the place? Were we aware of a recent murder in the thicket to our right? Where were we headed? When would we be back? ... The never-ending questions tumbled out.

All of us drifting quietly into sleep; none of us answered the questions from the cop properly. Looking at us pitifully and giving huge amount of strain to the wrinkles on his forehead he finally decided to leave us alone.

Three of us sighed in chorus

"I am hungry," Amit's voice unnecessarily interrupted my forty winks. Bleary-eyed, Kiran and I popped out stuff from our sacks and started eating without considering Amit as if we were just set free from a month long hunger strike. Worried Amit snatched a packet from my hand and asked me to share some biscuits with Kiran. After that it was time for tea and we crossed the rails as the tea stall one the opposite platform was getting ready with his tea-gear.

We went to him and asked for tea and he started imagining something. Desperately in need of tea I reminded the absent minded about the tea which we ordered. May be he was also in same state as we were.

After taking all the time available in this world he gave us our tea, but only two cups instead of three. With lot of pain in our eyes we looked at him but finally, in unison decided to share the two cups.

Tea was wonderful and after some time we headed towards bus depot, for a bus to Ambewadi.

Though unconsciously, the spine jarring journey and all of us still feeling sleepy helped us to have some warm up before the actual trek could be commenced.

I sighed for the umpteenth time, and slept again.

We reached the Ambewadi and were delighted to see the country side beauty.

A pink glow began to creep in, slowly obliterating patches of darkness as the sun rose leisurely.

We walked along the kuccha road stretching away towards Peth village. We reached the village with all the village dogs barking at us as if they were here to greet us but as we moved closer we realized that they had some indecent plans and frightened by their behavior as well as their long teeth we moved ahead silently.

"They won't bite," I murmured, seeing Amit count as many as he could without breaking into a sweat. He swore at me under his breath and kept walking, with snarling dogs keeping me close company. Reaching the outskirts of the village, we paused, looked around, and then nodded towards a small gully that seemed to be ensconced towards a small hotel in the village.

Soon it was around 9 am, and we had been walking for almost two hours without a break.

Cow dung was used to floor the ground, a frail old woman in a dark green sari doing it patiently.

Ahead, a still narrower path was a way which an old villager prescribed us.

We stared at each other blankly. I don't know what happened but we started walking again.

By now, the sun was well and truly awake. Looking up casually, I saw a small pinnacle that resembled a finger, trying to reach tufts of soft white clouds.

Peth; An incident in our history when the Killedar of the fort mistook the Mughals as his own people and permitted them to come in and then all the Maratha soldiers on the fort were slaughtered. This sad incident made us feel very sorrow of the mistake made by the Killedar.

"Peth is a small fort," said Kiran, reining in my galloping thoughts, as we negotiated our way through the thick, green brush. As we climbed, slowly, steadily, the landscape slowly turned into the familiar look of the Deccan; Long stretches of flat ground, dotted by summits, slopes and sudden bits of uneven terrain.

I thought of the Mother Hirkani who climbed the shoulder of a difficult mountain at night time and we all are tired of walking on this path which is without any risk

In the distance, hills rose, some over 2500 feet, all black basalt and sparse vegetation. Each of them a stronghold that laughed at the need for artificial defenses.

We followed the barely noticeable trail that narrowed steadily as we climbed. We stopped, and rested, while I and Amit started shouting at Kiran for allowing us to eat some thing.

Instead of feeling pity of us He asked us to shut up. I did, but Amit went ahead with his sentences. Ignoring Amit's mach-mach Kiran continued to walk ahead, Sweating profusely, I started off again, getting to the base of a flight of steps in which were the rock cut caves.

Taking a deep breath, we climbed them and reached the caves. Near the Bhairoba's cave there was a tiny temple and a small water tank, both in a state of ruin, turned bald by centuries of wind, rain and sun.

We rested for a while inside the caves and after noting down all the possible details of the cave we decided to climb up to the summit.

Poignancy, the windows of the cave were used to throw all the garbage by the trekkers, which was accumulated outside the cave disturbing the dignity of sanctum.

The climb towards the summit was a celestial experience and seemed as if we were ascending up on a tower.

At a height of around 1500 feet we came on very small plateau, sheer drop on all sides and the gravity defying gorges made us feel exhilarated.

With capturing the seraphic views of Bhimashankar, Kalwantini's Mahal, Nakhinda in our eyes and cameras we decided to have small nap.

After an hour of rest, punctuated only by Kiran's snorting, we began our descent.

On the one hand, the crumbling remains stood testimony to one man's power; on the other, it spoke volumes of his helplessness and desperate need for protection. The price one had to pay for another man's freedom.

Harshal Ravindra Mahajan.