From Bhaja to Bollywood

We make an early start to the day to beat the sweltering heat of the sun as we climb the large uneven steps up to Malavli’s Bahja caves. The caves were carved from the rock face over 2000 years ago by Theravada Buddhists and remain to this day a sight of grandeur. There are 29 excavations in total from a grand hall to monk’s cells, to a water well that still holds clear water, all adorned with intricate carvings and stupas of varying sizes.
While we sit down on the ledge of the caves to rest we can see the Shikshan Gram orphanage we visited yesterday and slightly closer a line of colourfully clothed children making their way through the fields towards the caves. When they arrive they climb up to join us sharing mangos they picked on their way, for some the mango tree was the main reason for the trek.Mangoes We continue to explore the caves with the children often being coerced by their smiles to relinquish our cameras and let them put on the director’s hat


telling us pose. Finally we take one last group shot and pry our cameras out of their hands and make our way back down the stairs trying not to panic as they careen down the beside us, jumping down the four feet gaps of the side rails. When we say goodbye and head back to the guesthouse it feels like an entire day has passed and we haven’t even had breakfast!
After we have eaten we catch the 11:30 train to Dehu Road, seven stops northeast of Malavli, where Sadhana human rights organization is located. Arriving to a warm greeting by its founder Savita and a song about Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti, who was integral to the Indian constitution after independence. Savita tells us about the many changes Sadhana has affected and their current goals before we tour the Dehu Road cantonment area (definition) and slum. Inside the cantonment there are several communities one that works in metals making jewelry and small tools for their livelihood, another that makes brooms from the surrounding trees. Metal WorkEach community is industrious in it’s own way, yet still condemned to the open sewer systems and limited rights of the cantonment. We conclude our tour by speaking with women who have been able to overcome some of the conditions of the cantonment with the help of Sadhana and continue to push for their rights, whether for themselves or for the next generations of women who will be living where they are now. Listening to their inspirational stories we lose track of time and find ourselves running to catch our train but we make it in plenty of time as it is operating on ‘Indian time’.
As we walk back from the train station it feels as though several days have went by over the past 12 hours but as we shower and rest on the balcony watching the full moon we look forward to our Bollywood movie night and the special treat of street-food style Potpuri to finish off a eventful day.