The landscapes of Maharashtra alone could depict the contrasts that are ever-present in India. As with the inner districts, the outskirts of Pune show grand, tall buildings and a few mansions, with a distinct oriental style. Underneath the larger-than-life billboards advertising for housing projects, electrical items and university courses, India’s rural majority goes on about its daily routine. The small slums on the road leaving Pune seem untouched by the surrounding expansion, hard to miss in a landscape filled by skyscraper skeletons.
Only a few miles down, quickly the city gives way to dry, brown mountains filled with green trees and bushes, a seemingly impossible sight in a heat of 35+ degrees.
A few derelict houses are scattered on those. And still more billboards.
Every once in a while, a man is waiting on the side of the road, sitting. Then a hut, underneath which another three are chatting, legs up on a table and barefoot. A man sleeping under a tree.
While the mountains seem to have receded, halfway through the journey a residential area pops up. The small, one storey houses scattered on the plains remind of the cottages of the south of France. Most are similar, if not identical. Back to green, natural land. A few mansions. Unfinished construction sites.
A billboard. More colour pops up in the form of yellow flowers on the trees. On the bushes, the flowers are pink. Sometimes, the highway to Mumbai seems to be the only man-made feature disturbing the natural landscape, now filled with vegetation: it seems clear we are approaching the coast, and the humidity will reach another level once in the state capital.
Palms trees have multiplied, the houses have grown bigger, sometimes turning into mansions turning their backs to the mountains.
The road gets tighter as we start climbing the mountains, and the tunnels multiply. The bumps shaking our coach get closer and harder.
As we approach Mumbai, the traffic instantly slows down and gets congested on in the opposite direction. It is not yet 9am; the sun is now high up in the sky, the heat fills everything around. Nature takes a step back to leave space for the city and its 20 million inhabitants, for whom the day is slowly starting, as a dense fog surrounds it.