If only...

If only I had not been a fool…
If only I had done this earlier…
If only…

But then…
May be it was written…
May be it was deemed to happen…
May be…

My story is full of ‘May be’s and ‘if’s but so is life. Life is all about choices and as Master Oogway says “There are no coincidences in life.”. We all are slaves to the choices we make in our life, the choices govern our past and they chart our future. When I tell you my story, and in a way may be the story of all of us - the story of a broken heart, of withered smiles, of tear-dry eyes, of blurred memories – it becomes in a philosophical way the story of my choices.

I sincerely hope I am wrong but in every one’s life there come these moments of utmost frustration, despondency and of untellable suffering, moments that are indelible from the canvas of our minds, moments that scar us forever. I had been trying for the last ten fucking years to wash them off and prepare a new canvas to paint my life in colorful hues again. Alas! But all in vain.

I decided to tell everyone my story - the story of a boy and a girl who loved each other so much but couldn’t remain happily ever ‘after’. And why? Just because they never described to each other the extent of their love. They made the wrong choice of not vocalizing their love. And that’s why I feel, if only….

I won’t bore you all with the description of how the love bloomed, just because its all so typical - a boy meets a girl, proposes her, she refuses initially but then succumbs to the temptation later. I’ll show u the dark side of the moon - the side no one longs to see but everyone wants to hear about, this is a story of how wrong choices mar relations.

I had to travel far from her, not by choice but by compulsion; compulsion of my job, of money. Like an ancient mariner, in search of a Newfoundland, I traveled far and beyond. Always in pursuit of ‘our’ dreams where we can live far from the maddening crowd, my only delight was her who, like guiding star never faltered in showing me the right direction. I knew we had to be apart for at least a few years.

Initially, everything was smooth. For the first year we met daily, sometimes on the net and sometimes on the phone. Hearing her voice on the phone or seeing her face on the flickering computer screen made my day. Life was good.

The differences started to raise their menacing heads in the later half of the second year. She was craving to meet me and I was craving to meet her. The only problem being that neither of us had the resources to meet each other. She was with a manager with a news company and I was a struggling trainee in a giant software firm. She had the money to fly to me but not the time. I had time but not enough money.

She kept on calling me to Bombay and I kept on calling her to Bangalore. What the hell? I mean, anyone could have had come – it’s only a two hour hop from Mumbai to Bangalore. But these two hours cost me a huge fortune and for her it was her career at stake. She used to say I could come to Bombay and she would pay for it, I, being a true male chauvinist, kept on denying.

One day after a long heated argument I hung up on her. We didn’t talk for weeks after that. Though I longed to hear her voice, I couldn’t somehow dial the call. The dilemma was great, my heart begged for it but my mind cut short the craving of the heart. Looking back I can’t understand the reasons but at that time it felt like a game where I would be the looser if I call back first. I had always been a winner in my life and somewhere deep down inside wanted her to initiate. After all was it only I in love?

‘Some game and some winner’ huh!! The call came, but it was not her, it was one of our mutual friends who called perplexed as to why she was going around with her boss. I was devastated; feeling like a dumb asshole, cursing her boss, cursing the whole bloody heartless world. But curses don’t work today, do they?

I sometimes feel now she had made the right choice, choosing her career.

Anyways, this was my first tryst with heartbreak as she was my first love. I didn’t know what to do, whom to talk to, where to vent all this anger and frustration out? I struggled hard to keep myself afloat, but I was stuck in quicksand of emotions - the more I tried the more I drowned.

I pondered over the thoughts of calling her one last time, shouting on her, telling how much I loved her, cursing for what she had done… But then I couldn’t have called her, could I? How could my ego have accepted my defeat?

Today, after ten years, I met her again. It was at a party of one of my friends. Standing with a champagne flute in hand, she was a perfect harmony of poise, elegance and beauty. Age had only refined her features far from dampening her beauty. I felt the same butterflies in my stomach as I had when we first met.

My hearts skipped several beats when she turned around. I don’t know why but we both smiled at each other. It was just like the first time. I forgot all the long intermediate suffering years. She was standing there in the same way she stood some fourteen years ago, the same pretty smile, the same attitude, the same old sensible face - she was my same old love.

Walking towards her I felt as if the floodgates have been opened. All the pain and longing which I had locked somewhere in my heart came rushing back. Tears moistened my eyes and I saw her like a dream, all blurred up.
The initial few moments were filled with an uncomfortable silence, the prelude of the storm to come. I dunno why but the first question I asked her was has she come alone. When she replied in affirmative I was delighted, a fleeting moment of sadistic pleasure. As I was pondering upon my selfish desires, we kept silent, stealing glances and saying ‘Hi’s to the plethora of humanity floating around.

She suddenly said in a very complaining tone, “Hey! Why didn’t you call me up? I was waiting for your call”. Never in my life have so few words arisen so many different emotions. I was feeling elated, disgusted, happy, sad and don’t know what else. I wanted to say “What the fuck? Couldn’t you have called me up? Why should I always call back to make up?” and a lot many more things.

But then I ended up saying, “Didn’t you marry your boss?”
She looked amused, “My Boss! Why in the world would I marry him?”
I smirked. As if I didn’t know what had been going on. “Why not?”
The reply shook the earth beneath me, “The last time I checked, I was in love with you.”

I was amazed. For a moment I felt like hitting her hard on the face and bringing her out of her romantic-make-believe world. She loved me, so what? What about the pain I had been through all these last ten years?

But then, I thought, what about the pain she had endured in the same ten years? After all it was I who had hung up on her.

I asked, “But then why didn’t YOU call me back?”
She said, “I didn’t want to. Initially I was hurt deeply and thought you wanted a break from me. There was a lot of conflict in my emotions. Then I decided to give myself sometime, never knew it would turn out to be ten long years. When I saw you today, it was like my long lost fondness and love rushed back, as though a huge dam has been broken. I just realized the fact that I loved you more than I love myself.”

I was dumbstruck. Not knowing how to react to such an honest confession, I was at loss for words. I just let the moment engulf us and feel the relief. I felt as if mountains have moved off my shoulders. The feeling was of sheer bliss. I didn’t want to know if it was because she loved me. I just wanted to savor the moment.

I knew it would take more than ten minutes of talk to heal the ten years of suffering, but a start was more than welcome. I asked her if she would like to join me for a cup of coffee at someplace where we could be alone. She readily agreed.

While driving to the coffee shop, I thought…

If only I had not been a fool…
If only I had done this earlier…
If only…

But then…
May be it was written…
May be it was deemed to happen…
May be…

Conversations

5 Years ago

Friends

He1: Hey dude… wassup?? Chal chai sutta maar ke aate hain.
He2: Chal. Abe pata hai Rakesh ne Simran ko propose kiya. And she accepted.
He1: Kya baat kar raha hai! That bufoon got her. Very sad man! Apan dono ghans char rahe the kya?
He2: Chod yaar… Lets enjoy our tea. Lecture starts in the next 5 minutes.

Lovers

He: Hey Dear… wassup?? Lets go for a coffee.
She: Why not! I would love to have ice cream as well.
He: Sure.. Lets go to the movies afterward, what say?
She: Cool! You know what, you always make my day.

Now

Friends

He1: Abe tu!! Tu yahan kya kar raha hai? Mindblowing man!
He2: I work nearby dude. Too good yaar, meeting after so long. Lots to catch up with. Chal sutta marte hain. You haven’t given up, have you?
He1: Nahi yaar.. Biwi hates it a lot but still can’t give up. Khair aur suna. Are you in contact with anyone else?
He2: Hmmmm… Ya, a few of them. In fact talked to Rakesh yesterday. He married Simran. Dil to toot gaya hoga nahi tera sunke? He he he…..

Lovers

He: Hey sweetheart… Wassup?? How was your day at office? Ek cup coffee pila do yaar. Office was too tiring for me today.
She: What! I have just come back from office… Why do you always expect me to do things for you? And why are your shoes lying here?
He: Why do you always start shouting? Such a nag you are.
She: What did you just call me? What….

Terror

[This is something I wrote after the 9/11 incident. Though it has been ages now since that fateful day but I still feel this piece remains very much relevant.]

The skies were trembling down and deep

The crapers were down on their feet

The crying everywhere was clear and loud

The hell hath come out from the clouds

Someone asked – ‘Was it the Armageddon?’

Some prayed – Have mercy, O Lord

Some brave tried to help the saved

But what everyone knew and acknowledged –

Was that terror had hit and hit HARD.

Was she to be blamed?

[I wrote this piece way back in my first year in college. This maybe somewhat rustic as this is one of the first pieces I have written. Yesterday, while going thru my old files, I saw it and thought of posting it here.]

Sitting in the local train alone
she was happy, dreaming of her fiancé.
Suddenly the dream broke, her station had come;
Stepping down the train too, happy was she.


On the road back home, though she was alone,
she was happy, dreaming of her marriage on the day to come.
In a dark alley, she saw some loafers loitering around;
She smiled at them, she never knew why.


One shouted, “Oh! Look th’lass’a inviting”
She knew something was wrong for sure.
She tried to run but couldn’t cover more;
They forced her down in the streets beside her fiancé’s door.


They tore her clothes and tore her body.
The hyenas had come to feast.
Rough as they were, they caused her a lot of pain;
“Help! Please!”, she shouted and shouted, but in vain.


And at last when each one was done
they left her there, lying on the road.
Tired and ashamed she cried and she cried;
When tears stopped she slept, naked on the road.


How she came there, she never knew
but she came up in a hospital, that she was sure.
On the day of her marriage, the dailies had written of her fate;
People were talking and talking full of hate.


No one came to see her, to get her discharged
Her near and dear ones were too ashamed to be seen with her.
Her fiancé started seeing another girl, and that’s when she gave in;
She tried suicide but even God wouldn’t take her in.


And then lying in her hospital bed
all tubed up and filled with lot of pain;
She kept asking her lord –
“Dear God! Was I really to be blamed?”

Aero India 2009, Bangalore

Well, coming back from night shift at 8 in the morning and starting for Yelahanka at 10 was never a good proposition. So, I had almost decided upon passing on the tempting offer to visit the "Aero India 2009" air show, that too on the inaugural day with a business pass in-hand (well not in my hand exactly, but in my dear friend Tarique's hands but that doesn't change the equations, does it?). I had asked Neha to accompany Anup to the show.

However, when today in the morning she said that she won't be interested (to go without me, and I, the big fool that I am, took it to be a simple denial attributed to the lack of interest. So stupid of me!! I am so sorry dear.) I gave a second thought to the whole situation and thought "What the heck! I sleep 8 hours everyday, the sky won't fall if I don't sleep today". I called up Anup and asked him to give me a call as soon as he was ready. I went for a powernap for about 2 hours when he woke me up at 11. Did a hasty shave, brushed my teeth, took the customary bath and lo I was ready.

I met Anup near Forum, and we kick started his Pulsar 180 for the long ride to Yelahanka. The ride was pleasant and ordinary (unless you call dodging a Traffic Police checkpoint as extraordinary in Bangalore). We reached the venue well in time and Tarique welcomed us with the passes.

As soon as we entered, I started looking for the mean machines. I mean, I am a grown up adult but who is not fascinated by the look of a Fighter Jet standing just 5 feets from you. When we came out from the maze of stalls, I saw a beautiful UMV (Unmanned Vehicle for the uninitiated) standing in front of me. It was a great sight and I stopped to take this pic.

Tarique started laughing and said, "Thoda idar aa aur dekh".



Man!! I was awestruck,
standing before me were
scores of planes. I felt like
Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.

There were planes of all sizes and shapes and all nationalities. The sheer number of aircrafts standing there and the potent sonic booms of the planes doing their display sorties made my adrenaline rush high and I went on a snap clicking frenzy.




Following below are some of the best that I could muster.

This one (MI 35) was my favorite, a perfect beast for the war. Though slightly old model attack Helicopter has been my dream "flying tank" since I first laid eyes on its predecesor(MI 24 Hind-D) in Rambo.
The formidable one from another angle.
The Mirage 2000, another mainstay of Indian Air Force. It did a commendable job in the Kargil Conflict and I paid my homage to this old faithful one.
The MIG 35 is a strong contender for the 42000-Crores-for-124-aircrafts deal IAF is mulling upon. I saw the aircraft fly and was amazed by its capabilities. Not that I am an expert, but as a layman, the vertical climbs and the fast maneuverability reeked too much of raw power.

Now, how could I have missed these three cute little planes. They may have been very potent and lethal in their hey days, but today they were serving as mementos of the early flying days where air warfare was about skill and not technology, of man to man fight where the best man came out alive as the conquerer of the skies.
Seeing the mean machines together gives you feeling of power, as if you come to know how man has built these iron birds to reign the skies.
And then there was this small ALH Dhruv from our very own HAL. Initially skeptical about the capabilities of this aircraft, I was blown away by the group formation sorties done by the four brave test pilots.
If you see closely, you can see the sides of the chopper are painted like a peacock. The group's name was "Sarang" a sanskrit word which means "Peacock" in English. I hope you got the connection.
I missed clicking a snap of the F-16 Raptor, as it was stationed towards a no access zone, but was delighted to see it doing all the loops and flips during its sortie. I was disappointed to know that B-52's were not there coz it would have had been to see them too.

The best moments during the sorties were when the ingeniously developed (by HAL) LCA Tejas came in to do the sorties. It did all the maneuvers which the big boys from US, Russia and France did. As I stood there witnessing a marvel of Indian avionics, I was proud to be an Indian.

The Surya Kirans were also a point of high during the show, the way the six planes zoomed above our heads, leaving behind them a tricolored smoke was an out-of-this-world experience. To see these acrobatics on TV and to witness them first hand are on two different planes altogether.

After the air show, it was time to go and have some fun in the stalls. The first stop was at the HAL stall where I got into a fighter jet cockpit for the first time in my life.
I learnt all that here was to learn and finally came to a conclusion that flying a plane was much much more complicated than flying a kite (silly me!!).







So I finally came out of the cockpit and went to have some net practice first. At the boeing Simulator, the kind instructor tried to teach me everything in just a few stroke of keys.









And when I couldn't land the plane correctly in Mumbai, he tried to get me to take off a plane from Hyderbad and that too in the night. Poor choice, I would say, for I again crash landed the plane from where I started it.

So after dashing his dreams of getting a talented pupil, I came out.






Still eager to find something to take from there, I ended up inside the gorgeous belly of this fabulous bird. It was simply incredible to see that such a luxurious space can be created inside such a small plane.









Whatever happened to the cramped leg spaces of the passanger liners.












But this baby must have to wait for some time, I have something else too on my wish list.

Before I got out my credit card and swiped (against its non existant credit balance) to buy one of these boy's toys , I knew I had to get out as soon as possible.

So it was time to go home now. Satisfied with all that we had seen and done, we started back on the long voyage back home. Another day at fun for the Tiger!! Till the next time, Ciao.

Backpacking Waynad

[The following incidents took place on the weekend of 26th Jan.]

The Plan

Finally the so-called long weekend had come. Slogging through the last couple of months had taken its toll on me and I was desperate to let go, to go out and experience what the world had to offer me apart from the usual daily dose of Tickets and resolutions. We had been planning for like ever, for this trip to Waynad. Initially “we” composed of three of my school friends (Anup, Pratyush and Saket), my wife and me. The plan was to leave early (4:00 AM) on the 24th morning by my car. But as the old adage goes “Man proposes God disposes”, on 23rd evening I got an SMS from Pratyush saying that he and Saket won’t be able to go due to some emergencies. I was shattered, having waited and planned for this much needed break for the last few weeks.

Dejected, I was chatting with biwi about the vagaries of my friends when she suddenly proposed that we go backpacking. This would increase the thrill and be different from all the breaks that we normally take. I talked to Anup who agreed to the idea. Well, he is a veteran of many such trips and also has trekked in the mighty Himalayas. I, on the other hand, was a naive backpacker as I usually love driving my old, faithful 800 wherever I go. But after a strong show of support from biwi, I decided to let go of all my inhibitions and to “enjoy simple unexpectedness of life”.

To make the trip more exciting, we laid some ground rules for the journey:-

  • We will use the public means of transport, i.e. buses, as long as possible (this was to make the journey more exciting than the destination).
  • We will enjoy every minute of the journey come what may.
  • We will not have any particular expectations from the destination as we didn’t know where we may land up and this trip was solely about the journey.

The Bus to Waynad

To add to the mysticism of the trip, we decided we will catch the first intercity bus which we get from Majestic. I picked up Anup from his house on 23rd night itself to have a better coordination and we ended up discussing various options and biwi preparing snacks for the trip till around 3 in the night. As I woke up next day at around 7, I was wary of what to expect on this unplanned trip. However, when I boarded the bus to Majestic, I decided to give up all my apprehensions and to go with the flow.

As luck would have it, the first bus to leave which had seats available was destined to Sultan Bathery. This was the cheapest of KSRTC (mind you, here K stands for Kerala and not Karnataka) buses with “leather shutters” instead of glass windows. Three of us dug into our seats ready for the next 6-7 hours of bus ride.

Journey to Waynad

The journey till Karnataka border was on the verge of being boring (apart from the fact that it was one of the longest bus journeys we were undertaking till date). I personally think that the bus driver was wary of Karnataka roads, because he took almost 4 hours to reach Mysore. But once he crossed the Karnataka-Kerala border, he was in a zone of his own, negotiating the sharp mountain turns and hairpin bends on a relatively high speed of 60 odd Kmph. Not that we were complaining, I was actually trying to draw in as much pleasure from the ride, drinking in from the natural beauty that the Tiger reserve forest was abundant in.

The roads in Kerala are much better maintained than in Karnataka and I drooled on the fact that we are coaxed to pay much higher road taxes here in Bangalore.

The road to Sultan Bathery was a very scenic one and when we were nearing it, we came to know that the bus would go to Kalpetta, the district head quarters of Waynad. Also, another friend (Abhinav), was supposed to be in Waynad on the same day. Not ones to miss any chance for socializing, we called him up and found out that he was also staying near Kalpetta. As we had not got any hotel reservations done in Waynad, we decided we would stay together in the same resort (provided we got rooms). In any case, we thought Kalpetta would serve better as a base camp to explore the whole district. So we duly checked with the conductor, had the tickets changed and waited for Kalpetta.

The scenery changed as we neared Bathery, the forest changed into areca nut plantations. Tall, swaying areca nut trees, growing on the hilly slopes are a feast for eyes. We were also amazed to see the unusual hues the houses were colored in. I noticed a purple, azure, yellow, duck-egg and myriads of other colors on the hills. Well, “Welcome to God’s own Country”

The Big Confusion

We got down near Kalpetta bus stop and called up Abhinav for the contact number of the resort and he passed on the number of Nisar(supposedly the contact person from Vythry resorts). I was delighted as I have heard quite a lot about this resort and it was supposed to have tree houses and cottages based deep in the jungle. I promptly called up Nisar and he asked if I was a friend of Abhinav. I replied in affirmative and he confirmed that he had two rooms empty. We were all very happy at this point and rushed to Phookot late where he was to meet us.

When we reached there, we had some local lemon tea, which was very strong and I loved it. Nisar took us to the resort and there we were struck by the realization that it was not Vythri Resort but some non-descript homestay called Lakeview Resort (though it was just a single house with only 4 bedrooms, talk about branding!). Also, there were only two available rooms, the other two being booked by some family coming in from Mysore that very night. Now, these rooms were reserved for Abhinav and his group of four guys and three gals. We were additional 3 and that made 10 claimants for 2 rooms. The mathematician in me tried all possible permutations and combinations but couldn’t come to a feasible solution for this LPP.

To add to this misery was that it was already late and dark (we had obviously roamed around in Kalpetta enjoying the city as we had become sure about a place of stay). We were deep in the jungle where the only possible way of coming out was trekking back for almost 3-4 kms. Leaving the place was not an option for both of us guys let alone when we had a girl with us. So like true backpackers we started looking out for other viable options. After pondering much over the situation and going through all possible courses, we came to the conclusion that we had to adjust with Abhinav’s group so that Neha could sleep in with the girls. Anup and I had to sleep on the couches.

Then Nisar bhai came with a brilliant suggestion, he showed us the dormitories (looked more like the servant sleeping quarters) and asked us whether we would like it there. I, on my part, instantly fell in love with the idea of sleeping on a real bed instead of on a couch and I think Anup was also of the same view. So we both readily agreed.

Now that we were settled with a roof on our heads and a bed behind our bum, we ordered food and started waiting for Abhinav’s group to come. The food was delicious Kerala meal and we simply loved it. In the meanwhile, Abhinav arrived and we asked Nisar to provide for a bonfire and some hot coffee. The cardamom-flavored coffee was amazing and so was the bonfire in the jungle. We all sat around the bonfire and enjoyed for almost 2-3 hours. The girls were accommodating and agreed to have biwi in their rooms. We had loads of fun and the theme of discussion veered from ghost stories to the condition on IT industries in India.

In the course of discussions, we came to know that Waynad had little to offer in terms of places to visit and it was all about trekking. As the best trek in Waynad was the Chembra Peak, we three decided on a one point agenda – to conquer Chembra Peak. So late in the night we crashed in thinking about the beautiful views from the peak.

Early Morning Walk

I was deep in slumber, when I heard my phone buzz. It was biwi and the time was 6 in the morning. I got up lazily and woke up Anup. We decided to go on a morning walk before leaving for the day long trek. That was the best decision of the day. As we were living near the lake, it was all misty with thick fog hanging around. The serpentine jungle road was tempting us to come out and explore.

The place is kinda see-it-to-believe-it, so i don't think I can do justice to the beauty of the place by my words. From now on, I will let these snaps describe more:

The road was a ribbon of moonlight, err sunlight seeping in through the mist.

A house in the middle of the areca nut Plantations

The lone warrior standing tall.

Flora up the hills. These flowers were in abundance there.

Dunno the name of the flower but loved it.

Some more flowers, we call these putoos at home, dunno what they are called in these parts.

Can you notice the bird on the roof top? Well, the snap was supposed to be of the bird but by the time my clumsy hands readied the camera for the shot, the bird flew away :(

This house was unussually named as “The Lovenest”, dunno what it was used for ;). BTW there was an autorickshaw proudly standing in the garage.

This wayside teashop was so colorful and bright that we knew we had to have tea over there.. talk about the effect of ambience.

These kids were truly amazing. They came up to us when they saw us shooting away snaps to glory and got their snaps clicked. As soon as one snap was clicked, they all ran to us to see the snap. It was lot of fun to interact with these kids.


Neha with the Kids.

Back on the kuchcha roads in the jungle near our resort.

Coffee Shrubs in front of the resort.

The Chembra Peak

After a long refreshing walk we came back to the house to have a filling breakfast of home-cooked Idly, Chutney and some more coffee. After the breakfast, we loaded up our bags on Abhinav’s cab, thinking to trek with such heavy bags was impossible and that we will pick up our bags from Mysore on our return trip.

Sticking true to our resolutions we refused the offer of a Jeep ride to the Chembra Peak base camp. We shook hands with Nisar and thanked him a lot to save our bums the last night and started off to Chembra. We took a bus to Chembra and sitting in front of the bus had never been more fun:

We even saw this local league football game in Kerala.

All along the road, the both sides were flanked with tea plantations. It seemed as if all the hills were magically covered with a carpet of tea leaves. The feeling was awesome.

We reached the base camp and took our tickets which were quite steep at Rs 500 for the three of us. I don’t understand why do we need to pay such a fee at all. I mean, there was no facility that the govt. was providing us, even the guide was to be paid by us. The high handedness of Govt!!

The base camp was a tea plantation and the veiw all around was great. For the first time in my life I saw a tree plantation from so close.

Seeing the peak towering over majestically above us was awesome.

And so we start...

A few hills are conquered but the mountain remains....

Here was where biwi started feeling tired. As she still wanted to go further, I decided to stay back with her and asked Anup to go ahead. We started climbing slowly and with every meter climbed, I could sense that she was becoming more and more uncomfortable. I saw a group coming down and one of my friends from office, Jassi was in the group. I asked her to go back with them but she was adamant that she would go with me. Well, as we went further up, her energy was drained out and she finally decided that she couldn't take any more. I was on the horns of dilemma, whether to trek ahead or go back with her. She pushed me ahead and said that she would be fine with my friends. So I went ahead, though with all my thoughts upon her safety.

Further up I met again with Anup and we started climbing slowly. The terrain was excruciatingly painful with every feet of ascent to be negotiated with loose dirt and huge rocks. Finally we reached a point where we could see a small chunk of plain land and a very beautiful heart shaped lake in it.

We were excited and tore off our shoes and jumped into the cold water. There very tiny fishes in the pond which came around and nibbled on our feet. It was a very satisfying and amazing feeling.

The edge of the world.

Suddenly my phone started ringing. It was wifey. She said my freinds have left and she was alone at the base camp. I discussed with Anup and we decided to forego the peak and come down the hill. The wish to conquer Chembra Peak was unfulfilled but not foregone. We will go back during the camping season and camp overnight on the top.

On our way down our water reserves were finished. The sun was on the top and my head started spinning dizzily due to thirst. I knew there was a water source nearby as Jassi had aleady told me about it. We searched for it and finally when we found it, it was a tiny trickle of water with a small plastic pipe thrown in to harness it. We filled up our water bottles somehow and boy the water was chilled and tasted like heaven. True mountain stream with purest water in the world!

Satisfied, we started our long trek back and resumed our photography sessions. Here are some of the amazing snaps we took while coming back:


Main aur meri tanhayi...The view was simply amazing, worth every sprained muscle and rattled bone.

So close yet so far... we had to reach the base of this hill.

Back at he base camp. Whooh!! What a long(by my standards) trek.


A Few Good Deeds

If I ever thought that there were no good people on this earth then these restored my faith in the basic goodness of people, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them all:

While coming back from the base camp to the main road, we couldn't find any conveyance. The thought of walking back all 7 kms of the road made me shiver. Walking back slowly, we flagged a TT for lift. Unexpectedly, the vehicle stopped and the guys in drove us down to the bus stand. No questions asked. Thanks a lot guys for making us strangers feel so comfortable!

As we had no water with us, we stopped near a government tap to clean off and drink some water but to our misfortune, the water stopped as soon as we started washing our hands. There was a kid washing his bicycle there; he invited us to his home and gave us some refrigerated water, much to the annoyance of his shopkeeper father (who for obvious reasons wanted us to buy the water from his shop). We bought some water over there to keep the kid out of trouble. I can never forget the selfless act of the kid. God bless you dear!

After coming back from Chembra, it was already very dark and we decided to return to Mysore as we had nothing else to do there. First we had to have food, and we searched for a good restaurant and had some Dosas and uttapams there. After filling our stomachs, we started the hunt for a bus to Mysore. We waited for some 2 hours on the bus stop. There were buses to all kinds of places but to Mysore. Everyone we asked confirmed that we would get the bus from the same place, or at least that was what we understood with our negligent Malayalam. Then we asked an elderly couple about he bus. Though they had no knowledge, they went around and confirmed about the timings and came back to tell us that we will get more buses from Bathery than from Kalpetta. Though they had nothing more to do in the market, they still waited till we got on the correct bus to Kalpetta. Thanks a lot Sir, Ma'm!

Finally we got the bus for Mysore, but that didn't have any seats. We negotiated with the conductor and he gave one seat for Neha and we both again had to satisfy ourselves with the secondary mode - sitting on the footboards. Anyways we finally reached Mysore at around 2 in the night, called up Abhinav and reached his home. Despite the fact that he had to go to office early next morning, he got up and prepared Maggi and tea for us. Thanks a lot bro for all that you did!

We had the delicious maggi and went off to sleep.

The next morning when I woke up, Abhinav was gone and I saw his flatmate, Venkat Sir. Now, Venkat Sir is a SPM at Abhinav's workplace and very senior to us. When I went down for tea, I didn't know how to strike up a conversation with him. However, he turned out to be such a nice and warm personality that within a few minutes we finished having sutta together. We talked a lot and he told us all about himself till we finished our breakfast. Finally when the time came to leave, I thought I had known him for years. Thanks a lot Venkat Sir for making us feel us so comfortable and for giving us such a warm treatment!

The Return journey

When we started back for Bangalore, it felt as if we had been holidaying for years. It was so very refreshing to go back after such a great break. To refresh us further, we had nariyal-pani from a street side vendor.


The train journey was also very different because we had tickets for a second class compartment and the whole train was full of people. As it happened everywhere in the trip, Neha luckily got a seat and Anup and I were left to fend for ourselves. We did quite well as per the situation and had our empire built up at the rear end of the compartment. We sitting on our bags and our subjects sitting on the floor.

This was not "our" train but some Shatabdi standing on the platform while we waited for our train.

When we reached back Bangalore and caught the Volvo to SilkBoard, I was overwhelmed by all that had happened last few days and was too tired to talk anymore. As soon as I reached back home, I had to get ready for office. I had night shifts that day. So back to work and back to the same grueling routine, but with a renewed energy and vigor. I hope I can have lot more of such trips in the future.