The Parsik Hills Range that extends right from CBD Belapur all the way to Thane is one major travel destination as well as a hotspot for various flora and fauna in Navi Mumbai. This hill range also forms a wall for the valley city of Kharghar and is much know as Kharghar hills in this region. My relation with this area is quite old. I have been staying and visiting Kharghar right from the days when it was being made. Huge empty roads and vast building less plots made up most of Kharghar back in the day. But one part of Kharghar that was truly its asset was the natural beauty of the forest region. Pandav Khada was a less know attraction then with only the locals from the surrounding villages like Owe, grazing their cattle were the only so called ‘tourists’. But soon the evil hands of development and the never ending greed of so called ‘developed and civilized humans’ discovered this place and soon started clearing of the forests, heavily altering the natural balance. Pandav Khada soon became a overcrowded spot for kids who did drugs and drinks and also couples which in turn leads to some criminal cases after which the region came under the police radar along with restrictions of movement.
I have been travelling to the Pandav Khada Waterfalls and the surrounding regions for quite sometime now. The course has heavily being altered with all the connivence for man making way for the previous jungle trail which I loved. Anyways keeping all the frustration aside, I decided to make my annual pilgrimage to the place this monsoon. This time I decide to hike to different spot. One day as I was shooting time lapses from the hills near the Kharghar Valley Golf Course, I saw the lone peak which came out as a extension from the hill range with a ridge connecting them which served as a wall between a village below and the Pandav Khada meadow. So the next day, I packed up my equipment and set off to that region. Initially I went to the waterfalls and what I witnessed over there was a rather tensed situation where a lone cop was driving away scores of youngsters from the region. I quietly set up my camera and tripod and filmed the waterfalls. After few moments the cop, in rather heavy voice said “Don’t go up the trail leading to the waterfall”. “I am much aware of that fact and also I have no plans to go up right now” I replied. After a brief moment he asked me “Are you a film maker?”. “Yes I am. I am filming a documentary” I replied. “The reason I told you not to go up is because of those kids over there. They are mostly youth from regions like Mankhurd, Govandi etc who used to trek up to the region to smoke some weed and drink. And later they used to get into either fights or have an overdose or be poisoned leading to casualties” he replied is a rather tensed tone. I was startled to hear this and asked him “What about those who drowned and fell from the waterfalls?”. “No such incident had occured like you have heard. There was a case of poising but no drowning. But we need to keep such public away to prevent more issues over hear. That’s why such stories have cropped up” he replied. I was shocked to hear this. That’s when the kind cop advised me to switch locations. Taking his advice into consideration, I exited Pandav Khada and went towards the original plan of the lone peak. I did feel a bit sad leaving the cop like that alone but thankfully reinforcements had arrived the time I exited the place.
I went towards the base of the lone peak and scanned the area to find a suitable spot to start the climb to the top. Monsoon hadn’t lived up to its name and thus there was not much of mud or slippery rock. But there were a lot of flowers that had bloomed in the region and that sight was blissful. After a steady climb, I reached the top. Though the climb was simple, carrying three bags of equipments wasn’t so. When I had just reached the ridge that connected the main range with the solo peak, that’s when I realised that I wasn’t alone there as a cow started at me as I had disturbed its lunch. So I slowly made my way and went ahead. As I setup my tripod and as I was filming the Pandav Khada from the location, I could see a villager race his way from the bottom of the hill. I knew he was coming for me and so I waited to see what would be the scene. As he reached my spot, he asked “Press se ho kya?” (Are you from the press?). Most unaware people in India see other people with camera and tripod setup as “Press”. “Nahi uncle. Mei idar ka rehne wala huun. Aise hi shoot kar raha huun album mei daalne” (No uncle. I am just shooting for my album). After exchanging a few happy words and thus convincing him, he left me at peace and happily went down the hills gathering his cattle. After a few minutes, I climbed to the peak of the lone hill only to witness the panoramical view of the Kharghar township and the region around. And sticking to the rule I have made for myself “Pack your bags before 5”, I left the region, waving goodbye to the Shepard I had met on the top on the way home, happy and content.
I never intent to break or enjoy breaking the law of the land but I venerate the outdoors of any region and its always been a pilgrimage to climb Kharghar Hills and will do so as long as my health permits.
Because finally its one thing that gives me peace..