Maybe I am biased, just because I was born there and I have loads and loads of memories linked to Vasai, but over a period, again and again I have fallen in love with this place. The charm continues and the vicinity to Mumbai could not really erase the originality of this place, till date. We keep talking about Konkan and its coconut greenery, but I remember my good old friend Sumant Juvekar, who spend most of his childhood in Dapoli saying “It’s no less than Kokan dear, you are lucky to be born here”.
The small-town charm, the scattered villages, the farm based society, people relying on growing and trading flowers and vegetables, it has that quaint look and that attracts me a lot. I know many cruise lines in US, making trips to Caribbean and Central American islands for the same coconut greenery and exotic flora and fauna. Well we have it all very next to our door. Scattered between Vasai and Virar quite deep into the interior sometimes touching the shoreline, these villages have their own unique characteristics.
The construction and movement towards cities might have changed the geography a bit, but even today, it’s nice to see those red roofed thatched houses, relaxed families swinging on the wooden swing in the porch, while the kids enjoying shared front yards. The weekly bazaars, the coastal seafood delicacies, the Portuguese influence, blending with the thousands of years of history gives this place its interesting heritage and that’s explains its cultural diversity.
Although at some places, these houses have been replaced by bungalows, most of the time, they gel well with the surroundings. It’s nice to watch those cute houses peeping through the tall beetle nut and coconut greenery as you feel relaxed watching humble backyard farms of banana trees.
This takes me back to the days when we would steal mangoes from neighbour’s mango trees and enjoy the partially ripe mangoes along with masala, salt and sometimes tamarind. The term we used was “Kusmur”, I think fits very well for that dish.
The smell of ripened mangoes and jack fruit fills the air and the kids beat the heat by soaking themselves into the greenish water of nearby “Baokhal” (Large version of well). This is how we all learnt to swim and the paired dry coconuts were our floats for all those adventures.
I still remember my dad’s jugglery to cut the Jackfruit, with minimum mess and the sticky rubber like liquid oozing out of each cut would make the job more and more tough. A gleaming satisfactory smile on his face once all the edible portion is separated out would mean a job well done and guaranteed praises from those enjoying those shiny yellowish, savoury jackfruit portions.
The Kookoo’s rhythmic singing gets me up after a peaceful sleep at my Mama’s (Maternal Uncle) place in Umbargothan and then the day continued with chirping of birds. The evening is characterized by noisy parrots flashing their green colour as they enter their nest on the tallest coconut tree.
The roads get really narrow here and the cute, well designed houses keep appearing through the huge tamarind and mango trees. They all have wider front yards and beautiful flowers telling the story of care and love.
The priciest or rather priceless novelty in today time is nothing but “TIME” and people here seem to have ample of it. The time stands still for a while and savouring the spicy meal with the taste of homemade masala’s makes you feel lethargic and pampered.
Everything again gets down to relations, people and the stories that you share with all of them. The spirits are high and the feeling is of being blessed, loved and cared. It’s a bundle of joy, you get it all at once and can’t really carry it, but it stays with you always and provides reasons to go back and be one with that nature, culture and traditions.