It’s Maharashtra Day, or Kaamgaar Din, we are off for an early morning family hike. The worker’s holiday marks the date in 1960 when the Bombay Reorganization Act separated the Gujaratis and Marathis into the present states of Gujarat and Maharashstra. The first day in May is also marked by a morning shower. Big white thunderheads in the east and then, for about ten minutes, water falls from the sky-the first we’ve seen since arriving in Pune. With thunder in the distance, and dissipating clouds, we hop a rickshaw to the base of Vetal Tekdi and begin walking up the ridge. We stop for breakfast, watch clouds and listen to the cries of peacocks. I show the kids where we saw the monkey the other day and we stop-as I now do on my semi-regular runs up here-to water newly planted trees.
Further on, we talk with Pradeep, who introduces himself after saying his prayers. When I ask whether he comes to ridge often, he tells me that he has walked to the ridge every day for thirty-two years (“three hundred and sixty-five,” he says proudly). We talk about the changes he has seen on the Tekdi, and his daughters, both of whom are studying in England. Then it is up to Vetal Tekdi proper for prayers and a windy morning view. It actually feels cool up here, and we enjoy the views in all directions. We drop down to the quarry, and stop to look at the showy orange blossoms of a small gulmohur tree. The kids crack rocks and we inspect a termite hill.
On the way back we learn a bit more about the forest from a young man who stops to talk with us as we are watering trees. He is a former student of Dr. Pande, and has been watching a nest of spotted owlets in the quarry for four years. He tells us about the tree planting and he wonders with us about the seemingly early planting of trees. (The earth is parched, and the saplings are grateful for the water we offer.) And, according to our friend, the reforestation projects include planting acacia trees to accommodate firewood harvesting.
The sun is hot by the time we drop off the ridge. On the way home, we stop at a fruit juice stand and drink fresh mango and watermelon juice in the shade.