For the better part of an hour into the journey out of Pune, you think you're still in the outskirts of the city, for you never can tell when Pune ends. Greenery adorns the parallel set of muscular railway tracks - running along with the train like a fellow rider on a trip of discovery, the steel glinting steadily in the sun - from the very outset, and modern-looking buildings mark their presence at every stop.
You know for certain you are out of Pune at a station interestingly called Dehu Road, followed by Talegaon, where the delicate balance between nature and man tilts ferociously towards the former. The buildings are gone and lush greenery takes pride of place across the flat plains. The eye can see for miles; in the distance, hills and mountains rise up and interlink to form the edge of a very large crown.
However, this beauty is bested by what is to follow - the Western Ghats. First comes Lonavla, where a good percentage of the train empties out. Then comes Khandala, a favourite name with Roadside Romeos thanks to a popular Hindi film song. Immediately after these two stations, both of which are popular hill-stations and weekend getaway spots, comes the first tunnel, and it's a long one. It doesn't prepare you for the sights to follow.
You are suddenly staring down the side of a mountain as it falls away to plains, civilizations and more hills in the distance. The view is breath-taking and is continuously interspersed with tunnels. It made me jump out of my seat and run to the door, where I stayed for the next hour. Just as suddenly, the view shifts to the other side of the train, where one could see only rock-face. While one side looks onto the plains, the other side looks onto the Ghats itself; so, you are treated with a majestic, albeit short, vision of the adjacent mountain-face and the valley in between. Since this is still the monsoon period, numerous waterfalls line the mountain-face as they cut through foliage and curvily make their way down to drop splendidly a few dozen feet off a short cliff before continuing on in a similar manner to the next cliff.
Once you exit the Ghats and return to the normalcy of the plains, you begin to sense the delicate balance start to move towards man, as you see ever-increasing amounts of garbage and squalor. By the time Kalyan Junction swings around, you're convinced man has taken over and settle back a trifle dejectedly, when nature slaps you in the facewith two totally unexpected sights - a large inlet of water that looks like a river on which are parked ships (or very large boats), and a temple built half-way up a hill with a backdrop of hundereds of feet of perpendicular rock.
I was reminded of how man and nature live in harmony as I saw the healthy greenery, the squalor of the slums and the over-arching modernity of development and buildings, all peacefully co-existing with one another. It is up to oneself to choose one's view. After all, even Mumbai, a city with more people than Australia, has the splendid Arabian Sea as its wingman.