Finally, we were in Yedakumeri. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express that feeling. So in the interest of finishing this story, I’ll just skip that part.
The damn rail tracks finally ended. So we were finally relieved of our shameful position. After a long time we held our heads high and looked around.
It was a cute little station. It was about 3 am I guess. Jeeva flashed the torch around to show us a glimpse of our home for the following two days.
A tiny platform on one side with a few benches. A ticket booth with ‘Tickets’ painted above. Two loos with “Gents’ and “Ladies’ boards painted above them. An enclosed area with 3/4th wall, which I guess was the waiting area. And other railway signs all over. And a wash basin that still worked.
We untied the rope on our waists, flung our bags as far as we could, and tumbled into the platform. And rolled on the floor from one side to the other, making orgasmic noises, like we were enacting the role of slaves, in a music video on God Channel.
Bonda hugged a pole like it was his mother’s bosom and cried like a baby, making some embarrassing sounds for his size.
Jeeva opened a quarter of rum, and downed a quarter of it in a gulp.
Aslam sarcastically remarked “Uski maa Jeeva, woh chinaal ka photographer ko bol , uska bhayankar machine ko assemble kar leku, photu kheenchne ko….ek chodku sab kheenchne ko bol, manje uska ek photu kheenchne ka bas, uski maa, usko maarke haar daalne ke vaaste ek photu hona manje bas.’
Bobby: “What’d he just say?’
Bonda cackled like a hyena. Bobby picked himself up and kicked Bonda inaccurately on his groin.
Aslam then turned towards Guru and continued: “Oye student, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, le ba torch, jaake padh…wahan peepal ke ped ke neeche jaake padh beta. Tere pappa ko first rank leke dikha……suvar ki chuth…..’
After a long time, we remembered how to laugh. And we celebrated this discovery. We laughed and laughed and passed out abruptly somewhere in the middle.
We slept through the cold. The hunger. The wetness. Hoping that somehow we would remember to not die and wake up the next day.
I think we slept for about 12 hours. When we opened our eyes, we found ourselves in weird positions, shamelessly revealing the designs and holes on our underwear.
We now got a complete glimpse of the station, that we had only seen in portions so far. We ran around like kids, displaying all emotions that we failed to display on arrival.
We stood on a parapet that was hanging at the edge of the cliff. And screamed any bullshit that came to our minds.
Soon we got down to making the rest of the stay pleasurable and set up our kitchen. We found a dry corner in the enclosure and arranged all the goods there. A good one hour was spent in re-assembling the stove that had dismantled itself like a Lego toy. And each of us were assigned one spare part which we scrubbed till it was dry. After about an hour we finally managed to light up that stupid kerosene stove. (Yes, we carried a conventional kerosene stove on a trek, but I think I already explained how senseless we all were).
And soon we had our first cup of steaming coffee and some toast, that brought us back to our senses.
It seemed like Yedakumeri had a lot more variety than bridges and tunnels. There were narrow openings between the bushes that led to infinite such openings.
A lot more living beings apart from bats and snakes began to show up. Strange birds that seemed ordinary in the distance that they kept, frogs, earthworms, butterflies, snails, grasshoppers and other such insignificant creatures. We expected to see elephants, boars, panthers, dolphins, white peacocks, polar bears and a nine coloured rainbow after all this fuss.
Just an ugly dotted frog stopped by to be photographed by Bobby. I guess even he was not patient enough, and Bobby spent half the time chasing him with his tripod.
We forced ourselves to appreciate what we saw. The beauty of nature and its creations, to justify the torture we’d been through to get there.
We posed before every little trickle of water between the rocks. We examined every wild flower. Every leaf. Every tree. Every little thing that had poetic connections. We kept searching for valid reasons and larger meanings to be there. And continued to try being one with nature. Forcing ourselves to react to them like William Blake and Wordsworth, and elevate them out of their ordinariness. The sound of birds chirping, the rustle of the leaves, the morning dew and all these wonders of nature had little effect. We had lost all judgement and appreciation for such worldly desires, that even Sri Sri Ravishankarji couldn’t have revived it back. But we explored further hoping to find a new shade of crimson in the sunset, a melody in those noisy birds and a breath of fresh air in the fresh air.
Just for effect, Bobby oohed and aahed about every frog and spider he saw. Bonda would scare them away by making silly noises. And Neil would stand in place of them, and get himself clicked not losing focus of the purpose of his visit.
We couldn’t help wondering how and why did we get ourselves there. This nonsense continued till the sunset relieved us of this drudgery.
We returned to our base camp, took a good look at each other, and faded into darkness. But we were so sick of seeing each other, that we were quite pleased with this impairment.
Cooking dinner was an event in itself. We decided to make egg noodles, without the eggs of course.
The place was more windy than being amidst a hundred windmills. And we only had one mighty torch to deal with the situation. Everyone held on whatever remained of their sleeping mats, and stood in a circle, forming a wall around the stove. By this time, only Jeeva’s torch was functioning. And we had to use it judiciously. So, Jeeva would switch it on, and we would all grab the required ingredients for the dish and place it around.
Jeeva would then switch it off, giving everyone time to regain themselves in the darkness. He would switch it on again, till one of them took position with the knife and the vegetable that had to be cut.
The one of them was me.
Jeeva would wait till my cutting got into a rhythm. And promptly switch it off when he believed that I had got a hang of what I was doing.
Every time I cut my finger, Jeeva would flash the torch for a few seconds as a gesture of courtesy that he had to get over with.
The rest of the recipe progressed in this fade in, fade out technique.
Once the dish was ready, we would all seat ourselves around it, empty the contents on to the sleeping mat (we had forgotten plates), turn off the torch and grapple like blind men hoping to get a good handful of the meal. We ate mud, twigs, leaves, insects and if we got lucky, a little food.
Neil began another of his boring stories. We gulped down a few shots of the alcohol we carried, and left him like an abandoned radio that had picked up news of some inane station.
On day 2, we continued exploring the place for more exciting locations. We returned for lunch after wandering aimlessly.
On our return we found the shock element we were looking for, or rather not looking for. We were sick of each other, and we didn’t want anything now that demanded interaction. But this trek was a powerful curse.
The entire place was wrecked. Our little stock of booze had been ransacked. Our cigarette stock was reduced by half. Wrappers of the short eats we carried, were strewn all over. We cautiously followed this debris to its terminus, and froze.
Two veerappan look alikes were seated on the corner of the platform, drinking from one of our bottles, smoking our ciggies, munching our snacks and conversing in a strange dialect of Kannada.
They were wearing tiny shorts, hawaii chappals, torn t-shirts and carried a gun each.
They spotted us spotting them.
We did not know how to react. I guess even they didn’t. The only difference was that we were scared, and they weren’t bothered.
One of them took a gulp of rum with no remorse, and asked ‘Ee samaan nimmade?’ in a strange kannada dialect that meant ‘Does all this belong to you?’.
We nodded and let them take another shot, to appear hospitable.
They had no qualms in accepting the invitation. They downed another quarter of rum in a few minutes.
They were curious to know what we city breds were doing in their province. Bonda said something that we didn’t understand, but they seemed to.
We stood at a distance gaping at them like dumb spectators. Neil returned with another bottle of rum and graciously bribed them with it.
The alcohol bridged the friendship.
They were local bushmen, who were out to hunt some wild boars or deer. What was amazing was that they seemed so unprepared for it. All they had was a little cloth bag with some rice in it, and a small steel vessel. A tiny bottle of ground spices in one of their pockets. A belt around their waist that contained bullets. And a torch each.
“Leeches?” We questioned.
They explained that they already had smeared salt on their feet and they were quite use to it. If it still bothered them, they would simply burn it down.
We were enchanted with the way they had reduced this macho hunting game into such a casual chore that they had to perform once in two months.
“Won’t wild animals attack you in the night?”
“Oh no!! We can sense them from far, and we know how to avoid the paths that they usually prowl in.”
“And what do you hunt?”
“Boars. Deer. Bisons. Rabbits. But we try and get something big that could sustain us for atleast a month.”
“And how do you carry them back?”
“Once we are done, we get back to the village and collect a few others, and carry it back it on a wooden pole.”
This seemed straight out of an asterix comic, without the glamour of the gauls.
“Would you like to join us?’
“Oh yeah! but we have to be back by tomorrow morning. We’re leaving.”
“That we cannot promise. We never return empty handed. So, if we don’t manage to get anything by then, we go deeper into the jungle.”
By now we had a better idea of our fitness levels. We realised that being adventurous without the stamina was nothing but plain stupidity. Any ideas that remained were dropped, the minute we saw Guru, Bonda and Bobby sweating in their brow.
“We are bored with this trek. Can you tell us a more exciting route to get back. We don’t want to do this rail track anymore.”
“Ya there are ways to get out. But it is a little steep. Will you be able to manage? Ya, it is shorter. Only about 5 kms.”
That sounded easy. We jumped at this escape route.
“After the first tunnel, you’ll find a narrow path on your right, between the bushes. Get into it. And just follow the path. You’ll reach a highway after about 5 kms.”
Bobby assembled his evidence machine. And took a group snap for posterity, just in case we were venturing into a path of no return.
To be contd….