We lived in a usual 90s middle-class colony. Colorful blocks arranged in a neat pattern around a park. It was like one of those monopoly boards. I was just learning to ride a bicycle then. My father used to help me mount and dismount the bicycle. The rest was taken care of by me.
I used to take rounds of the park. The difficult part was the turn. Four of them in a lap. I used to go completely mental on the bell at the turns. Because God forbid if I had to apply the brakes, I would have come crashing down. After 30 minutes of paddling and executing the plan perfectly to avoid the brakes, I was helped to get down. And there ended a session of me practicing to ride the bicycle.
I was too short then to do all of it on my own. But that was not the only reason I was not learning. I was too scared to give it a try. Even when I did try, it was only when I knew there was someone who would hold me if I fall.
This July, we found a beautiful place to get lost – Ladakh.
Coordinating with friends for a few months. A Whatsapp group. 13 members. Few sneaked away. Few stayed.
And on a overcast Saturday afternoon, we all met at My Bar at Rajiv Chowk to kick start our journey. A journey we have been looking forward to for some time now.
There were six of us, to be precise, in a place which was flooding with rucksacks. There were so many travelers in My Bar at that time that one would believe it was a base point for everyone who was starting to Leh from New Delhi. We had our share of discussions and drinks and left for Manali at 5 in the evening.
I remember someone quoting this to me on a stormy morning during our Har Ki Dun trek – “Red sky at night, traveler’s delight; Red sky in morning, traveler take warning”. The sky that evening was crystal blue, with puffs of cloud someone painted across the canvas. We all had our doubts of weather during the journey as it is usually very unpredictable at this time of the year. But the awesome weather gave us the confidence. All is well that ends well. But a good start never harmed anyone, has it?
After around 5 hours of music, we reached Chandigarh, where we crashed at a friend’s for dinner. The cab that we booked from the online cab booking service Gozocabs was very reasonable and kept their promise of no hidden cost. The driver was a little cranky though, but we gave him the benefit of doubt. Anyone can be cranky if they would be driving for 30 hours straight without getting a proper sleep. Tobacco was what kept him running. We didn’t mind it though, he promised us a touchdown in Manali at 6 in the morning.
We managed to find an open petrol pump near Kullu
But what’s the fun if everyone go as per plan? It was around 4 in the morning. There was an argument going on the cab, regarding which song to be played. And suddenly the music went all loud. I don’t know if it was the volume, the lights or plain dumb luck. BOOM. Our back left tyre just burst. Everyone did their bit by inspecting the damage and helping in the getting the tyre changed. By helping, I mean getting the flashlights of our phones on while our driver set up the OT.
It was just before the dawn. The time when night is at its darkest. We were standing next to a dam in the town of Mandi, observing the silhouette of the distant peaks, when the news struck us that the spare tyre had negligible air in it. Great. Talk about plan B. We were stranded in a place where you can only see a truck once in a while, with no sign of any inhabitants whatsoever. Need to wait for the morning, we thought. But the driver still had his part to play. “Jump In. We would try to make it through with the flat one only.” We followed. Being engineers, we had to do our bit as well. We loaded an extra man on the right side, making it uncomfortable for everyone and we kept on going on for an hour or so, where we finally found a petrol pump which had the air machine working.
The damage control was done. It was already dawn. And we were in the heart of Himachal. Manali was just a few hours away. The toll of the night took over us and we gently passed into sleep. A beautiful sound woke us up. Beas river running forward with an ecstasy. The trees waving by as the clouds blocked the Sun. We entered the city of Manali, which was as beautiful as always. Google Maps came to rescue as we bunked in our hotel, had our lunch and decided to catch some sleep. It had started raining by then.
It’s still raining here. Monsoons have been with us for almost two months now. They will be leaving soon. But until then, the city will continue to be at it’s most beautiful.
September is here. That part of the year when you take a pause and think – “Wow!! The year has almost ended. But it started only some time ago”. That’s the beauty of time. It runs as fast as a Gazelle when it wants to. Otherwise, it just drags along link a stoned snail.
But when you know that it’s galloping away, you should make sure to hold on as tightly as you could and just enjoy the ride 😀