We normally prefer leaving for Poona early in the morning. Over the years, our schedule has pretty much been the same. No, it has become a little easier. Instead of the very early Indrayani Express that leaves Mumbai CST station at 5.45 am, we now take the Intercity at 6.45 am. I get an hour of extra sleep. I am not much of a morning person. Even getting up at 5 am makes me feel as if I have done something great and deserve an award; it is that much of an achievement. Mother India wakes up at 4 am.
Earlier, i used to go down, fetch the cab, bring it up the hill to my home, load the bags and then leave for the station. Now I call Meru or Mega cabs. These radiocabs are one of the best things to have happened to Mumbai's infrastructure, that seems to have otherwise crumbled already in most other areas. Though if you actually go to other cities, like Poona, you'll slowly appreciate what we have here.
Our Meru cab arrives right on time. We get an SMS 15 minutes earlier informing us of our driver's name, number and the car number. Then, the driver calls asking for precise directions. Over time, these drivers have now become accustomed to Mumbai's bylanes, alleys and gullies. Earlier I had to break my head explaining to them precise directions. Go straight-look for a petrol pump-shop on the right-lane next to it-leave that and take the next-get in-come in straight. Now, some prompts here and there and they get the way. The cab arrives, bags are settled in and we are on our way, speeding past Marine Drive, taking in the cool and misty morning breeze, admiring the early morning walkers and joggers and wondering how the hell these spirited people can be up and about that early.
There are few things I must do on the way to Poona. One of them is to definitely get down at Karjat station and take in the aromas of the vada-pav. If you have traveled to Poona by train and have yet not heard of the Karjat vada-pav, you're not a traveler. Freshly made vada-pavs are bought and savoured. You get around five minutes to stretch here as the two engines get attached to your train behind, to help push the train up the Khandala Ghat that begins soon after Karjat station. I could spend hours and hours on the balcony of my Fariyas hotel room that overlooks the Mumbai - Poona railway whenever I go to Lonavala. I specifically ask for a room that faces the railway lines. The train slowly emerges from the tunnels, huffing and puffing, pushed by the two engines at the rear, the sound of which echoes in the entire area. You're lying in the bed in complete pin drop silence that envelops Lonavala in the night but you can clearly hear the sounds of these two engines, every half hour. They leave the trains and then return back to Karjat to bring another one. You may call this sound or noise, I call it bliss.