I’m writing this a few days after coming back to Bangalore, because I had to get over my holiday hangover. It seems unfair to gain so much, make so many new friends and have so much fun, and suddenly let it go, and that too, back to the daily routine life.
The trip was centred around attending the YHAI National Himalayan Winter Trekking Expedition, although it turned out to be the Dalhousie picnic because the trek was easy, but that little dampener didn’t stop us from having a great time.
It all started a couple of months ago when Niara and myself wanted to go to the Himalayan trek organized by YHAI in December, and we started planning.
Then, I remembered that I had inquired about the same trek last year and had got my friend Abishek (who is into making movies and graphics) interested but he got an offer to do a Nokia ad and he said he didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So, I had to shelve my plans that year. So, I soon started reading up the official YHAI website and was glad to be planning for it this year. We did plan a lot, and WriteBoard came in handy so that we could coordinate ourselves, from booking train tickets to getting medical certificates.
The trip started on the evening of Christmas Day of 2005, when we boarded the Rajdhani train to Delhi. It was going to be a 36 hours journey.
We were travelling by AC 3-tier in the Rajdhani. In the Rajdhani train, they just keep feeding you throughout the day, and the food is quite good. The next morning, we wanted to visit the pantry, and we were able to get inside thanks to an enthu attendant whom we knew from the previous day when he was serving us food. The head chef was furious saying that we should take photographs only after all of them have dressed because he didn’t want photos in any compromising or bad-looking situations. We waited for a while when they got dressed and soon after that, everyone was happy to picture in the photograph. We saw how the food was being cooked, prepared and packed.
We came back to our seats, and that’s when all of the cabin mates really started interacting and started to have fun.
Paul was an air force pilot who has driven all sorts of flying machines but is now in a managerial mode and was soon going to an IIM for a 6-month executive MBA. He was the perfect gentleman. Seriously.
JP and Yadav were two army jawans who were PA(personal assistants) to senior army personnel. They were so prim and proper, that it’s hard not to be impressed with that.
There was an aunty and her two daughters – Soujanya and Sowmya. Aunty was so proud of her kids and their achievements, although she was really pushing her elder kid Sowmya to study better than the 90s that she gets currently so that she can get into IIT. Soujanya was a josh girl, and her mom had a tough time trying to keep her calm.
The previous night, I had asked Paul on how to play Sudoku, and so he showed me that the game was rather simple to understand and asked me to get started. Then, all of us got into Sudoku-solving mode. Niara looked like she had solved it before. Either that, or she had a natural knack for it. She showed us the way, and then Sowmya and myself got into it. Paul helped us out of tough situations. He was solving the advanced puzzles in the meanwhile.
We were able to collectively solve the easy Sudoku and the medium ones as well. It was a long time for the hard Sudoku, we took breaks in between and were even finding excuses not to look at it. The Sudoku puzzles were from different newspapers, it looks like all the newspapers had jumped on the sudoku bandwagon. Paul had brought quite a few sudokus to solve so that he wouldn’t get bored in the train. Later, he said that he was glad that he didn’t need it because he found such good company to talk with.
Later in the evening, Paul showed a few card tricks which were fun. Sowmya’s interest was peaked and we had a tough time controlling her. One of the tricks was how Paul “magically” shuffled cards to bring alternately-placed cards in order. He made us try to guess how he did it, and finally revealed that the magic was that he had already chosen the number such that the order would be correct. For example, if the third number in the pile of cards was 8, he would pick out 8 and proclaim that he would magically shuffle them. Then, we would place one non-8, an 8, a second non-8, a second 8, a third non-8 and an 8 separately, put it in somebody’s hands, magically shuffle them, and when he reveals each card, you find three continuous 8s. That was a simple trick in hindsight but was amusing and intriguing for all of us for quite a while.
There were a few other tricks he revealed as well, and then the topic veered off towards Simla where aunty and the two kids were headed… It was amazing how quickly 36 hours flew by. Next day morning, we didn’t have time to exchange phone numbers. I knew I should have taken it the day before itself. I was very interested in meeting Paul in Mysore and taking a tour around the air force facility. Anyway, I did give my visiting card to all of them.
In Delhi, we headed to India Gate. The main stretch of road between India Gate and Rashtrapathi Bhavan was breathtaking. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen this road so many times for the Republic Day Parade that we see every January 26th on TV.
India Gate was huge. The monument is a tribute to the unknown Indian soldier, and it has names of many soldiers from many different regiments that layed down their lives in various battles and wars for India. The names were scribed all over the monument. There were smart well-dressed army men guarding the India Gate and it looked like we were not supposed to touch the monument.
Next to the India Gate, there was supposed to be an eternal fire burning, but we were aghast to find no such fire.
From India Gate, we went walking on the long road to the other side. There was the long benches where the public sits for the RD parades. We wanted to sit and take snaps, but the security didn’t allow us. It was probably because RD was just less than a month away and there were security precautions.
On the way, we came across the North Block and South Block which holds many offices such as the Defence office. When we reached the other end, we were disappointed that the Rashtrapathi Bhavan was so far from the gate, and we couldn’t get a clean shot from the camera. Anyway, it was still good to see it. I was hoping that we could bump into Kalam bhai, heh. Next to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, was the Parliament house, although we were not sure that it was the Parliament House, mainly because of the seemingly minimal security around it.
Then, we came back to the place in the road where we had started, and then on the spot, we decided to go to Lotus Temple because we still had time. I just loved this part of deciding where to go next only after we were thoroughly done with one programme. This was much more relaxing and fun.
We had thought the Lotus Temple was a Hindu temple, because it is always mentioned as a temple which generally means a Hindu temple and the Lotus is associated with Hinduism (think BJP and Hindutva). When we reached the place, and read the introduction plaque, we were surprised to find that it was actually a Bahai temple, and Bahai is a faith followed by many people around the world that advocates that all religions are equal.
We stood in queue to get inside the temple. The volunteers there gave us information about the Bahai temple and asked us to maintain utmost silence inside the temple. Photography was prohibited inside the temple. When we went inside, we sat on the benches and prayed. There were some interesting designs in the centre of the roof. It looked like a combination of all the symbols of various regions (like Om, etc.) Then, we went around to read the various plaques that Bahai sayings written over them attributed to the BahÃ¡’u’llÃ¡h.
One of the volunteers asked if we wanted to visit the information centre and we were definitely interested. When we entered the information centre, all we could say was ‘wow’. The place was so well-organized and well-maintained. They had information on the Bahai faith itself, the history of the faith, the various Bahai monuments in numerous countries (we thought that the Lotus Temple was the best-looking monument among all of them), the numerous projects taken up by the Bahai faith to improve the situation of many communities, and also there was a section dedicated to the construction of the Lotus temple and they even had photos of ordinary construction workers carrying material for the temple, which was heartwarming to see.
When we came out, we realized that we had spent nearly an hour inside. It definitely didn’t seem that long. It was nice to get good knowledge about this faith called Bahai, which I probably would’ve never come to know about otherwise.
One thing I really liked about Delhi was the smooth roads which were so good. It was a pleasure to travel around Delhi, which was so unlike Bangalore these days.
We took our baggage to the Old Delhi Railway station cloak room, and wanted to deposit our luggage, but the person insisted that we had locks on our luggages which we didn’t have. A short while later, the person put our luggage near the closed window separately and gave us receipts for it. We went outside, and crossed the road and went through a narrow shady street to reach Chandni Chowk on the other side. At first sight, it wasn’t so impressive because I had heard about the place quite a bit, but then realized this was the Chickpet of Delhi.
We went to one of the shops in paraTeywalli galli and had paraTeys. My mouth is watering now simply because I recollected about it. It was that good. Then, we went out and had fruit chaat on the way. We were not able to appreciate it fully because our stomachs were full, but it was tasty nonetheless.
Then, we got on the Pathankot train in the 2-tier AC bogie. In our area, there was a 40+ year old man in the opposite berth, and there was a family supposed to be sitting on the opposite side but instead were occupying the whole area.
The North Indian family had 2 nuclear families and one of the men was a vociferous angry man. He was apparently annoyed that the Railways hadn’t given him proper seats, although honestly, it was his mistake at not ensuring he got proper seats. We were sitting in the adjacent booth for quite a while. When that cabin started getting filled, we finally barged in and sat in our seats by opening the upper berth indicating that we wanted to sleep soon. Then, at dinner time, this family asked the man opposite us to give some space, and then he moved his feet. Then, the angry man started arguing saying that he should understand that they are a family and that he was being rude! The man then argued for a bit that he did give space, and then he decided that a fight was not worth it, and asked whether he should move to their seats until the dinner is over and the angry man agreed. This part was a bit scary.
I remember the angry man asking us something but we kept to ourselves. I was annoyed by this person but I thought to myself that barking dogs generally don’t bite.
Next day (28th Dec) morning, we got off at the Pathankot station, and we went to the bus stand nearby and then boarded a comfy private bus that will take us to Dalhousie. We reached Dalhousie at around noon. It looked like a rather micro city, but later realized that the city was spread out at different heights throughout, and not just one level-ground area. One of the taxi people recognized that we might have come for the trek and had already directed us to the YHAI base camp. A couple of minutes later, we arrived with our backpacks at the YHAI Dalhousie base camp.
We saw a board containing the schedule of the trek, and were aghast that things were so organized and so tight. We didn’t like that part and I generally get edgy whenever I see timelines and schedules of any sort ;-)
We were just waiting in the field, when the camp director Parvinder Singh Chauhan walked up to us and said hi. We didn’t realize that he was the camp leader then, though.
In the room, I met another person Atul Singh, whom I introduced myself to. He was doing Masters in Economics from the Mumbai university and had come to the trek alone because he wanted to see snow. That was just like me. Then, I met this old man who was surely 60+ years old. His name was Raghunath Bedre. He was from Sholapur, but originally from a place near Davangere and he spoke Kannada. Bedre told me that there were 4 more young people from Bangalore that were arriving and he had met them in the bus to Dalhousie. They were speaking in Kannada, so he had introduced himself and started talking to them. I was relieved because this meant a good gang of youngsters.
As I was going outside the room, I saw the 4 guys whom I recognized would be definitely from Bangalore, and they were going to the 203 room (opposite to 204 where I was staying). I smiled and they smiled back, especially the last person (who turned out to be Abhilash), and I instantly knew that this was gonna be a great trip.
It was evening tea time, and we went to the dining area, and saw the 4 guys, and immediately introduced myself. All of them were warm and friendly. So, there we stood 6 of us talking away, like nobody else mattered. It was amazing how instantly we took to each other. The 4 guys were from Socrates software and they were Amith, Mahesh, Abhilash and Chinmay.
Later that night, there was a campfire hosted by the DW-9 group. The campfire started off with a candle being lit – apparently, the campfire did not have a real fire because there was an incident the previous year where a participant lost his eyesight because of the fire. This was followed by a serious speech by the old person who was the Master of Ceremony followed by an okay set of songs, jokes and shaayari. I must say that the North Indians are very fond of shaayari, and I didn’t expect to hear so much of shaayari throughout the trip. If only I knew enough Hindi/Urdu to appreciate them, although I became quite experienced in anticipating the wah-wahs that followed the shaayari.
Then, it was lights off time, and we went to our bunkers to sleep, although I didn’t get sleep that well.
Throughout the night, Sushruth who was a mentally affected person, was shouting things. Sadly though, people made fun of him, in general. What was strange about him was that he was quite loud in what he talked and asked, but generally remained to himself. He listened to what everybody said, and was very polite. He laughed and grinned to himself, and he smoked a lot. Think 4 packs a day.
It was Day 2 of the camp, 29th of December 2005. The morning started off with an exercise session, and Parvinder took us jogging to Subhash Chowk where we did a lot of exercises. I didn’t like it at first but then got the hang of it. Then, we came back to the camp, had breakfast, and we had to take part in the flag-off ceremony for the DW-9 batch. We had to clap in the YHAI style which was repetition of two claps followed by three short claps. The DW-9 batch started off towards the next camp and all of us were shouting wishes of best luck for the trek.
By now, we realized that this should be an easy trek considering the number of old men that had come for the trek. I guess we should’ve expected since this was just a 3-day trek and you can’t have an ek-dum tough trek, there has to be a gradual increase and decrease in toughness throughout the trek duration.
After the flag-off ceremony, it was time for the acclimatisation walk. We had to stuff the two blankets in our ruck sack, and carry it along for this walk.
The acclimatisation walk was pretty much on the road. We got to know more about the Socrates 4 as well as Atul and Satish. Satish was from Behtul, Maharashtra and was involved with YHAI for quite some time. We reached some sort of landmark structure and there was an empty field on the other side. Vikram Rana, one of the base camp volunteers, took us there and got everyone to introduce themselves – name, place, hobbies and special interests. After that, people were expected to come up and sing, tell jokes, tell shaayari and other things. I told the Infy-Wipro-TCS-and-the-monkey joke.
When we came back to the base camp, lunch was served, and it was makhi ki roti and sarson ka saag. It was so good. I repeat, so good.
Atul and Amith had pink mugs each which they were both proud of, and we were pulling their legs about it.
After lunch, it was orientation time where Parvinder sir gave a lot of details on YHAI, its history, about this camp, the schedule, the trek itself, the route, places, what to be careful about, the dos and don’ts and so on.
It was at this orientation meet, that we met two new joinees for our batch – Ashish and Belmeera. When I introduced myself, Ashish sort of recognized me and asked me whether I had given any talk at Linux/Bangalore and I said I had talked on Python, and then he gave the ‘oh yes’ reaction. I don’t think anyone would have believed me if I said that someone recognized from Linux/Bangalore in a trekking camp in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh!
Then, it was time for us to prepare for the campfire because it was our turn to present.
Samira, a Mumbaite (who runs the Le Mark Institute for fashion) took it upon herself to organize the campfire. We got into the act pretty soon and lots of items came up. Santhosh suggested to Abhilash and myself, to join to sing Dr. Rajkumar’s famous “Huttidarey” song, and we readily agreed. Then, we also joined Raghunath Bedre avaru for a rendition of “Oh Mere Zohra Zabeen”, although Abhilash and myself knew only chorus and we were going to sing only that part. Amith, Mahesh and Chinmay were planning a skit and they had gone back to their room to plan it out. Amith even called up his sister in Bangalore for ideas.
The campfire started at 8 pm with the lighting of the campfire candle by our group leader, Anil Naik. Then, Samira, the Master of Ceremony, got the show started with a prayer accompanied by Raghunath Bedre’s flute.
After that, there were jokes, mimicry, songs, and more songs. Atul and the Indore Ashish’s elephant and mouse jokes were good. Then it was the boys vs girls singing songs. It was like a question and answer session through songs. Shrilatha’s software engineer jokes were funny. Sathish’s shaayari was well appreciated. The Kannadigas gang rendition of ‘Huttidarey’ went quite well especially with the circle of dance bit in the end. Sagar’s Nana Patekar speech as well as the politician speech went non-stop each for a couple of minutes and were totally hilarious. Satyajit’s “Pehchaan Kaun” was a hit because of his mimicry of a woman’s voice, although people couldn’t generally hear his talk because of his low volume. We supported Santhosh and Bedre in singing “Oh Mere Zohra Zabeen” which the crowd really liked. Sushruth took off with “Yamma Yamma” and the crowd joined in.
Then, it was turn for Amith and gang’s skit. It was more of a collection of jokes that were enacted. They had no prior rehearsal, so they were deciding on the spot on which jokes to enact and just doing it. They were a big hit and sealed the deal about the success of our campfire. The campfire ended with a song and jokes from the DW-11 batch. It was a fun night.
Next morning, it was Day 3 of the Trek – 30th December, 2005. It started off with breakfast and getting packed lunch, and then it was time for the morning gathering. The morning gathering started off with a prayer led by Belmeera, and then a Dalhousie trade association leader who was the chief guest who offered 2-3 sentences of speech. After that, it was time for our flag-off ceremony.
The DW-11 batch people clapped and sent us off for our first trek from Dalhousie to Kalatop. I was quite enthu about the start because I was longing for the actual trek to get started. After all, that’s what we had came here for.
The first day’s trek was disappointing because it was just walking on road the whole way. As Amith put it later on, it was as if we missed a bus and we had to walk a bit of distance. However, we had fun in our ways, talking and yakking and joking all the way. We got to see some good scenery as well.
During the walk, we went past the Dalhousie school, I liked the map of the school that they had drawn. Then, we had a long rest at another junction… I always get the feeling that my mind is at its clearest when my physical body is doing a lot of exercise, especially trekking where you have ample time to “think.”
We started walking again till we reached another spot. This was where we had our lunch. There were quite a few hotels around, which spoilt the trek effect. We had such a long break that I actually half-slept for quite a while. Raghunath Bedre was playing the flute beautifully.
The next stop was a beautiful green place. I was really amazed. If this place had a little more grass, it would have been perfect, more than I could’ve imagined, although the photos don’t do justice to it.
While the others were talking, I got interested in what was beyond the higher ground, and on an impulse, started walking upwards. Atul spotted me and soon followed me. We went a little further and stood there. I remember saying the words “No camera can ever capture this beauty” and he replied saying “Exactly.” That said everything.
We soon got back, expecting a whistle, and soon enough, the whistle came and it was time to go. We reached the Kalatop camp soon. The Kalatop camp leader addressed us and informed about the water shortage, and where we were going to sleep. The womenfolk and a few old men get to stay within the main place. The rest of the guys get one huge bunker place to get in to.
We guys went and dumped our rucksacks in the mens bunker. Then, we immediately took off to the multi-level field to wait to get a view of the sunset. Nearby the field, the woods were really nice and this is where we actually could figure out why this place had the name “Kalatop.”
After that, we had to go back to the main place for an early dinner around 7. After dinner, it was time for another campfire. All 45 of us were stuffed into this one small room. Then the songs and jokes started and it went on and on. I was relieved when it finally got over because I wanted to get out of the stuffed room.
It was time to sleep, and we went to the mens bunker. We soon got settled inside our sleeping bags. There was some confusion over the number of sleeping bags vs the number of people and Anil finally gave up saying that he’ll look for people in the morning in case they were really missing. I didn’t get much sleep that night either.
Next day was Day 4 – December 31st, the last day of 2005. After breakfast, we took a huge group snap, and we were on our way to Khajjiar.
The Kalatop camp leader told us that the route was “easy” and we had to go through the forest. I liked this trek because it was through the actual forest although we had such a neat trail that there was no cause for confusion and we just kept walking on. That day’s trek felt like an actual trek.
The trek was good fun. After a few hours, we came across a small stream, crossed the bridge, and it was the place where we were going to have lunch. We had lot of discussions throughout, and during lunch. It’s amazing how much we could chatter.
Our walk to Khajjiar continued. I liked the forest trail, but we kept hearing vehicle noises towards the latter part of the trek which was kind of disappointing because it meant both that we were near the end of today’s trek as well as back close to civilization.
We soon reached the Khajjiar field, it was a huge open area. It wasn’t impressive w.r.t. the greenery, but we all expected that this place would be beautiful when it was full of snow.
Then, we saw something that interested us. People were getting inside a big plastic ball, and being rolled till the lake. That was very interesting, something we haven’t seen before, and never done before as well. So, we immediately set off towards it. On the way, we were convincing each other to join in, and I was game for it.
I still wonder how I actually went inside that narrow opening… we were then tied up, and then the ball started rolling, and we went up and down, up and down. We were screaming away, and totally enjoyed it. Alas, all good things come to an end, but a rather quick end in this case.
Then, we went to the Hotel Suneel in Khajjiar where we were to stay. All of us got into the rooms soon. In our room, we started a long conversation about anything and everything – from Rajnikanth to politics. The best part was that Ramesh, Umesh Deshmukh, Anil, Abhilash, Amith, Ashish, Atul, Mahesh, Chinmay and myself were all involved in the conversation. We were so engrossed in the conversation, that we didn’t go out at all. It was interesting to observe how the point of views of North Indians and South Indians differ. Maybe I should have found it interesting of how the point of views of non-IT people and IT people differ!
Then, we went outside, and instantly, a long Bangalore-Mumbai session started with the Mumbai gang. They were describing all their experiences of Mumbai – from the massive July 26th rain floods, to how they get conned in the market. Sagar was at his animated best. Atul joined in and described his experiences. Mumbai life is so different from Bangalore life.
Then, we had dinner under the night sky. Too bad that we didn’t get to see much stars, otherwise, the volunteer there would’ve given us some lessons in stargazing, which would’ve been fun.
After that, the campfire started late in the night, so that we could celebrate the arrival of the New Year together.
The Khajjiar camp leader started off with his shaayari. What is with YHAI camp leaders and shaayari? I mean, every single one of them. Anyway, he had this idea that each and every person should get involved and each should sing a song, or tell a joke, etc. When it was my turn, I started off with how Chaudhvin ka chand ho was my Dad’s favorite song, and I started. As expected, the North Indians took off from the few lines that I knew and they sang the whole song, I tried grasping the later lines but couldn’t understand it. Everybody chipped in with their songs. Ashish was the lone person to sing an English song, that too a Metallica one, and he sang surprisingly well.
Santhosh took one of the utensils in the kitchen, borrowed some coins from Amith, and started banging away, drumming in style!
Finally, when it was nearing midnight, the dancing started. The “Kajra re kajra re” song was morphed into “Khajjiarey Khajjiarey teri kaale kaale naina” and people started dancing. At midnight, everybody started shouting “Happy New Year”, the hugging and shouting started. The camp leader went around offering Gulab Jamuns to everybody. After that, we went outside, and started doing some more singing, but people were not finding enough songs to sing. The Khajjiar volunteer said that if the stars were not visible the next morning also, we should expect snow. Atul and myself got excited about the prospect of seeing snow.
Next day morning, it was the first day of the new year, January 1st, 2006. The day began with us brushing our teeth, and then going to the Jai Jagdambe Maathe temple next door. I was fortunate to get to visit a temple on the first day of the year.
After that, we were getting to see the snow-capped mountains using the telescope with the help of the volunteer.
Our walk to Mangla started off. It turned out that this day’s trek was rewarding because of the beauty of the surroundings we went through.
3 of us were completely in a singing mood, so I kept coming up with names of Hindi songs, then Bel and Atul used to sing it, and I joined in for the choruses. Throughout this trek, we were passing through a lot of hill peoples’ homes and the localites were very friendly. The kids used to shout “Uncle, namaste! Aunty, namaste!” very loudly. The women were very beautiful. Two kids even offered roasted corn to everyone that passed by.
We came across an old man doing terrace farming with his oxen. I had actually never seen that.
Most of that day’s trek was downwards, and this put a lot of pressure on our toes. My toes were aching badly towards the end of the trek, which again, came too soon.
We all rested on the roof of one of the abandoned houses and we waited for more than an hour for the trailing people to join. The old aunty took a little while to come, but strangely, the youngsters took even longer. A stone’s throw away was our final destination – Hotel Chamba View. After lunch, the plan was to go to Chamba City to visit the museum and other places. Most of the group was able to get into a government bus that passed by and was going to Chamba City, but about 20 of us didn’t have space to get on. So, we took the better route – we did a mini-trek to visit the city. I’m glad we went the trek route, because it was much more fun with lots of good scenery.
We entered the city, it was quite a small city, we soon went to the main museum. I was startled to find out that the museum was founded in 1908 by one of the kings! It never clicked in my mind that there were kings during those times and there were cameras during that time as well. The era of kings and courts and the era of freedom fighting always seemed disjoint in my mind.
The museum was quite nice with a lot of antiques. I liked the old paintings the best, though. Amith was telling about how Sagar joked about one of the really long pistols, saying that the pistol must have been adjusted on top of the victim’s shoulders and then kaan ko bajaane ka.
The buses from Chamba City to our hotel were available at only two slots – 5.30 and 8.30 and since we landed in Chamba City at around 5.15, we had to wait till 8.30, so our option was to roam the city! In any case, we had nothing to do once we went back to the hotel, so we might as well explore the city. We had Aloo Tikki from one of the pushcart hawkers, and it was delicious. We were walking around, when Anil and Satish decided to eat some fish fry. Satyajit was tempted but refrained because he was going to Vaishnodevi temple after the trek. The rest of us were sat down on the park boundary and were talking away.
I spent quite a while talking to Santhosh. I find this guy totally amazing. He studied hotel management and so he knows stuff from management to cooking chicken dishes even though he’s a vegetarian. He’s acted in Kannada films. Now, he’s training horses and waiting to get his jockey license. Wow! He was discussing marriage and there’s-one-for-everyone philosophy with two others and I joined in the discussion.
After the fish fry episode, we noticed that there was a huge fire in the mountains. We were wondering about it, and then another sweet shop owner called us in, and informed us that this was a traditional ritual where they burn the fields as a prayer to the gods for good rains. We were relieved thinking it might have been a forest fire.
After that, we went into a place to have tea and generally do time pass. Here, the conversation mainly revolved around photography after Amith took Satyajit’s expensive camera to check it out.
We went back to the hotel, and then Amith and myself went to the terrace, kept the cameras on top of the water tank, kept it with long exposure, and then got good snaps of the forest fire ritual. The view was beautiful, especially contrasted with the picture of the same hills the next day morning. The contrast of the lights at night and the foggy landscape at day was beautiful.
At night, a lot of the guys stood outside and talked and talked and talked. My legs were hurting so much but I was still there. We were all in the oh-it’s-almost-over mood, so everybody just wanted to prolong the experience as much as possible.
We finally went to sleep late, and I had the worst choice of place to sleep. First of all, my feet was to the door, and everytime the door creaked or someone pushed the door, I coiled my legs to make sure I wasn’t trampled. I was next to all the smelly shoes and bags. Finally, my head was towards the bathroom. Yet, once I was in the sleeping bag, and the blanket covered my head completely, I was in la-la-land immediately.
Next day morning, it was Day 6 – 2nd January, 2006. The government bus arrived which was going to take us from Mangla back to Dalhousie. During this time, we came across some beautiful scenery, I mean really beautiful scenery. The view of the valley with the dam on the left side and the lake flowing in-between the hills on the right side still flashes through my mind. It was during this juncture, that we got hailstorm and all of us got excited that we might to get to see some real snow soon.
We took a lot of photographs here and the whole group was in a josh mood all of a sudden. Soon, the home guards chased us back in side the bus. When we reached the Dalhousie base camp again, it was time to fill in the feedback forms and collect our certificates.
Amith was trying to find out if there was snow at Kalatop, and finally we did receive word. So, 10 of us made plans to hire a jeep and go towards Kalatop to play with snow. We had to have lunch in-between, so we went to one of the restaurants in Gandhi Chowk, and we had scrumptious burgers and dosas and chaats and everything. Sathish and Satyajit had also joined us for lunch. The lunch was my treat as part of the 1000 rupees I got from Abhilash for the Khajjiar-was-a-result-of-a-meteor bet we had.
Sathish and Satyajit left back for the base camp to board the bus. We went on our way to Kalatop. Unfortunately, our driver was khaDoos and refused to take us further up the hill and stopped at a bend in the road. We didn’t let that spoil our mood, and we stepped out. Atul and myself just lost it there. Snow! Snow!
We had a lot of snowfights, and we were like kids, targeting one at a time.
We finally had to get back and board the bus from Dalhousie to Pathankot.
From there, the gang broke up, and then we all went our respective ways. For the next 3 days, we had to travel and nothing but travel, from Dalhousie to Pathankot to Delhi to Bangalore.
In the Pathankot train, on January 3rd, 2006, I introduced myself to our neighbour, his name was Atul Tiwari. He and his friend were in a medical company working as marketers. He was a very knowledgeable person and he was very interesting. We talked and talked about so many things, especially about how this country was going to improve, the corruption levels, the right to information, his experiences, and so on. I even pitched him a few of my ideas as well as the ideas that I had come across and he liked the ideas since he believed that knowledge empowers people. I still find it fascinating on how immediately I hit it off with so many people just like with this person Atul Tiwari whom I met for only a few hours and we talked like we have never talked to anyone else before.
Then, it was back to Bangalore. Sigh.
I’ve left out many experiences and details because they are too personal to write here, and some of them were what made this trip so memorable. All in all, it’s hard to let go of the wonderful time I’ve had in this trip – the discussions, the jokes, the people, the snow, the camaraderie, the feeling of freedom and carefreeness that we seem to have lost, …. Life is a soul, heh.
The good thing is that we now have a group to keep in touch with the nice bunch of people that I met at this trip.
Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember – Oscar Levant