He looked forward impatiently, as one might look to the moment of a journey that one does not particularly wish to take. And like any traveler, he felt that there were many things he had to do before he left, yet he could not think what they were.
~ John Williams, Stoner
I am at home right now, courtesy Holi holidays (Holiday to be precise, clubbed with weekend). We are continuously chasing deadlines, trying to squeeze out few days in order to escape the loop. I have been home for Holi for the first time in last 5 years.
I had just entered the loop of the professional life and was still stuck in chasing targets. I was in Mumbai, with my cousins and Sam. I was walking from Pedder Road to Priyadarshini Park, taking in all the visuals that filled up the surroundings. This was the first time I was seeing how the city looked like in the festive season. There was a sharp contrast with “UP ki Holi” – No one attacked me with a barrage of color balloons. I could not see shirtless, silver faced humans, tripling on a bike, shouting out their ecstasy to the other members of the silver-face community. It was all quite civilized and I reached PDP safe and sound, although I did not wished for the same. I missed my city and this was one of the very few things of the Maximum city that did not appeal to me.
Have you ever felt numb? I mean, the peaceful kind of numb? When you are glad that there is no thought running across your nerves. You feel and understand the things as they look. Take them for that face value and nothing else. Look around you and there is no particular direction you would rather go to, or not go to. Everything feels the same.
I stood right next to a broken bench. The blanket of rain and mist had taken over the place. The grass looked fresh as ever, the birds chirpy as ever. I looked at the lake, staring back at me from far away. I felt numb, looking at it, as everything in the surrounding settled down. I had just arrived at this place and I wanted to do nothing but to sit down and look.
I was lying in my tent. The rain had picked up in the last half an hour. It was getting cold. I peeked outside the tent if the lake has risen. But it was too hazy to see that far. This place reminded me of my village. How everything came alive when it rained. And also how everything became quiet. I laid on my back, closed my eyes, and decided to live in those memories for sometime. It started a chain reaction, and I kept on jumping from one memory to another, in an attempt to find something I had been missing. I remembered a few things, alright. But I also understood that there were so many gaps created along the way. I remember that one incident when I fractured my leg, and a few incidents in that timeline. I remember how getting into a new school everywhere was so tough. It is only the initial few days that I remember. It feels “fun” was not a part of my primary curriculum.
I opened my eyes. It was almost dark. The candle had almost burnt out and crickets and fireflies had took over the place. It was dark, yet the place shone with enthusiasm. I could hear a cuckoo singing somewhere in the distance. It sounded tired, but calm. I lit another candle, rolled another sunshine and went across yet another trip into my mind.
The birds had started making their way back home. I had sneaked into the fields. It was cooler there. I could see sunlight quickly receding towards the horizon. It was my favorite time of the day. Fresh from the afternoon sleep, I set for my destination. I had to come back before it was dark.
We had our summer vacations. And as a ritual, we were spending it at our Nani’s village. Most of my profound childhood memories are marked by this place. It was so beautiful and unpredictable. There were so many things that fascinated me. The fields beyond the mango farm was one of those things. I liked walking on the ridges of the irrigation canals. They connected the entire farm. I looked at the sky. The hues were shifting with every passing moment. All the different shades of red. I rushed forward as I crossed the jackfruit trees. It was the end of the farm, faced by a mini jungle of Bamboo trees. They made all kind of noise when the wind blew hard. The constant shatter and struggle, and yet they survived together for years. There was a hill to be found if you went a little deeper in the trees. Everyone at home told us the stories of snakes infesting that hill and how it was completely forbidden to go the Bamboo trees. I promised myself to keep that adventure for another day, and made my way around the trees. I kept walking for 10 minutes when I finally reached the fields.
It was a vast plain. There were patches of green and brown, stretching all the way to the horizon. A railway track cut across far away. A serpent was sliding over it. We called it “Paanch Pachhis ki Gaadi” (train of 5:25). It was one of those elements that made this place I used to so look forward to. Marching forward the field, looking over the few farms that appeared and faded away, I walked with the train whistling in the background. I could see that Babool tree. The lonely tree that stood in the west. With the Sun setting in the background, I imagined the tree with the Halo. Can trees have Halo? Though I was rushing towards the tree, it was not the tree that I was most interested in. It was the Maina’s nest on that tree. A raw structure of brown pulp, devoid of any green, the tree protruded out of the ground like a huge thorn. A thorn that was home to someone. I found it so ironic when I first found the place. But I realized later what it really was.
Magical Me. I started this blog almost 10 years back. What started as an experiment to get some Adsense revenue, quickly became my hobby. Blogging was cool back then, as it was not a mainstream thing. May be the most important factor that kept me going at that point of time.
Time passed by, as it always does. I had started enjoying writing by then. The interesting conversations with the friends in my sphere. It was a welcome getaway from the real world. And I found a new hobby.
Fast forward to today. I have been on and off here for quite some time. Writer’s block? No. Apathy? Maybe.
What has changed? Nothing. And everything.
A tender stroke of brush across the life’s canvas. A reservoir of beautiful memories. And a few unpleasant ones. I strongly believe that every single incident in one’s life, even the most insignificant, has a say in the way tomorrow will shape out to be. But I will save that story for later.
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.