Sunday, 22 November, 2009
The Winter Cometh
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
The age of the hill station mirrored the period when seaside resorts, spas and the great mountain lodges were built in Europe and the United States. In some case, the style and atmosphere of these European or American mountain retreats were consciously copied in the colonies. The Adirondacks influenced a planner of Baguio, in the Philippines for example. But in colonial Asia, the relatively high altitude hill station, usually at 5,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level, always had to be more than just a resort. The hill station was also a genteel fantasyland, a retreat from reality where the homesick colonial could be cosseted by the atmosphere of a European hometown, down to its familiar institutions: the club, the library, the village church. The hill station at its homiest was and is a phenomenon most often associated with the British in India, but the French, the Americans, and to some extent the Dutch also endowed them with similar properties. As Indians, we must now take pride in announcing to the world a completely made by Indians – Hill-station!
If you're looking for an exotic winter vacation with clouds in your hair and memorable nature trails, Lavasa as a hill-station is hard to beat. Citrus Citrus has pulled together some ideas for adventurous types more interested in exploring the rain forests of Lavasa or the rappelling off Ekaant than hanging out in the shopping malls of cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Even so, the Lavasa resort selections offer all the amenities one finds in major urban centers. Here's a sampling of what Lavasa has to offer this winter vacation season.
The best time of the year for water-sports activities is now! Lavasa is turning out to be the water-sports capital of the country – with personal water jets, speed-boats, pontoon boats, inflatable dinghies and a water-obstacle floating dock! Again the winter months will be the best time to see the almost-extinct fresh-water crabs & the fruit-bats of Lavasa. For the trekking enthusiasts, the nature trails are full of flowers & butterflies the next 4 months! For the adventurous types, go rappelling with the official adventure co of Lavasa – Z-bac! I can bet my last penny that someone who steps foot into Lavasa for the first time will skip a heart-beat! It is a mini-Switzerland in Maharashtra! Its not only tourism that is being promoted – the Lavasa Corporation is also supporting traditional crafts of the villagers around and the first cooperative for bamboo weaving is called Bamboosa!
By now all of us have heard (too often) the old Proust line about how the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new places but in seeing with new eyes. Yet one of the subtler beauties of travel is that it enables you to bring new eyes to the people you encounter. Thus even as holidays help you appreciate your own home more—not least by seeing it through a distant admirer’s eyes—they help you bring newly appreciative—distant—eyes to the places you visit. You can teach them what they have to celebrate as much as you celebrate what they have to teach. This, I think, is how tourism, which so obviously destroys cultures, can also resuscitate or revive them, how it has created new “traditional” handicraft outlets, and caused craftsmen in villages around Lavasa to pay new attention to their works. If the first thing we can bring the Indians is a real and balanced sense of what contemporary Lavasa is like, the second—and perhaps more important—thing we can bring them is a fresh and renewed sense of how special are the warmth and beauty of this town or hill-station, for those who can compare it with other places around the globe.
Thus travel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a new place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that we’d otherwise seldom have cause to visit. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, “The Philosophy of Travel.” We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”
Welcome to Lavasa!