To hell and back-The final post

We took the turn that the hunters prescribed. A narrow opening just before the first bridge. The hunters had put it across very mildly. 

It was not a turn. It was an incline that was almost 90 degrees. Like 89 or 88 maybe. Ok not less than 87 for sure.

Even Jackie Chan would have used a stunt double for this. It seemed like a joke. We threw another glance at the other way out. The monotonous rail track which we were familiar with. The very idea of walking back 13 kilometers like a herd of sheep seemed worse than death. 

Jeeva decided to give this escape route a fair chance. And ventured first, followed by Aslam. The rest of us waited for a few minutes. And as expected the two of them came tumbling down. 

“Ok guys. We gotta choose. Either we go on and on, on that same wretched rail track. Or we somehow cross this nonsense, and get the fuck outta here as quickly as possible. What do you all want to do?” Jeeva took charge, reminding himself and the others that he was the leader of the pack.

Thoughts crossed our minds. Maybe the incline was only in the initial stage. Maybe after that initial bit, it might suddenly clear into a plateau of greenery. Maybe the highway is just around the corner. Maybe we could end this nightmare in a few hours. We knew we were fooling ourselves into believing all that, but we couldn’t help being tempted that it might just turn out to be true. It was difficult to get rid of our foolishness so fast. So we motivated ourselves by remembering poems from our English class like ‘The road not taken’ and shit like that, took a deep breath, and embarked on this height of stupidity.crossroads

“OK. lets go for this.” we echoed, trying to gather enough conviction to match the volume of the chorus.

We jumped and clung on to the first rock in that opening, pulled ourselves up and crawled on our bellies, scratching our faces and rubbing our noses to the moss and mud. We heaved and puffed and pulled our bodies with all might. We exerted so much that we could taste everything that we had eaten in our lives with our nostrils. 

A few metres above and it was too late to give up. We were all hanging, clinging on to some tree, shrub, creeper and anything else that our hands could reach out to grab. 

I had no idea how Bonda was managing, but he somehow seemed to be doing it.

After sometime, the incline did reduce, but it was still steep to be fully relieved.

We progressed with an amazing speed of 100 metres an hour. 

Guru stopped and leaned against a tree. He opened his bag, took a good look, and made a decision that he should have made earlier in life. He realised the key to survival was to get rid of physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and other bullshit that weighed him down from leading an assured life. He understood the difference between wisdom and knowledge.

One after another, these worthless pieces of information went rolling down the cliff, making him lighter and wiser, and giving his life a second chance.

Further down, somebody else took a leaf out his books. And soon we heard the kerosene stove rolling down, without even an explosion to give us a momentary thrill.

The wisdom was infectious. The utensils followed.

Everyone started reducing their load, merrily polluting the environment that had been unkind to us. 

Clothes, undergarments, tiny sleeping mats, leftover food…we renounced anything and everything to feel lighter. 

We gulped the last few drops from the final bottle and flung it far away to degrade a thousand years hence.

After this small display of magnificence, we continued our journey with rejuvenated sprits.

But by then, we had lost track of each other. Separated by our varied degrees of agility. 

Each person followed objects that were renounced by the previous guy, hoping that whoever is leading this trail, has attained nirvana somewhere up above. 

We were all alone. Breathless, panting and crying in pain, under some tree. Fallen on some rock. Bruised and bleeding all over. Even the joy of seeing your fellow mates groan in misery had been taken away.

Now and then the skies would echo some familiar voice screaming in pain, and we kept ourselves engaged in a little game by guessing who it might be. 

It was gloomy and it began to pour. Thankfully, we had set out early in the morning, and it was only noon. So, we still had the entire day to figure out the way to freedom.

After about 4 hours of solitary meandering, we miraculously congregated at one point. Each entry, swaying and staggering and finally collapsing on a rock, facing some random direction, exposing their backs to the rain like stray donkeys.

Noone spoke to each other. We hadn’t communicated to each other for more than six hours, but allowed the silence to exchange the mutual misery without seeking any solace in return.

We were drenched. We were sick. We were hungry. We had nothing left. No food. No water. No cigarettes. No bags. No nothing. Just ourselves in some wrecked clothing. The only thing that still remained was Bobby’s equipment, which he chose to retain, over common sense. 

All our parent’s and teacher’s advices started to find meaning here. We secretly decided to become ‘good boys’ when we returned. 

The reason why everyone stopped here was because it had a reason. It was at this junction that life decided to offer us an unwanted choice. The path diverged into three narrower paths, each promising to be more unpromising than the other. 

Arrows“Fucked trekkers you all are. I am a chuth to come with you all.” Bonda uttered his first sentence with utmost clarity.

Aslam lifted himself up, took a small run up and kicked him hard.

Bonda rolled down and screamed in pain.

“Maathar chodh…..” Aslam gave him another kick.

Nobody knew why Aslam reacted like that. But Bonda’s pain came much later in our long list, after our aching body parts, for anyone to be bothered.  

Bobby put down his tripod at the junction, pulled out a gigantic binocular and peeked into them.

He rotated his head and peeked into it again.

And then rotated it further pointing it to the route of the first path and peeked into it once more.

Since nobody seemed inquisitive about his queer behaviour, Mr Sherlock Holmes decided to divulge the findings of his little experiment, himself.

“I have just seen all the three paths. I think we must go down this path.” Bobby declared, pointing to route 2.

“Why?” 

“I can see coconut trees at the end of this direction.”

“So”

Bobby: “You ignorant asses. Coconut trees only grow in civilisation.”

Aslam: “Balls to your theory man. The first route seems most clear. It seems most used.” 

The rest of them found it appropriate to spend some time in depression than debate. As expected, Jeeva decided to take Bobby’s path, as it at least made sense in the long term. We chose to keep our opinions insignificant, and blindly went with Bobby’s recco.

A kilometer down, the path ended at an elephant trap.

Aslam snatched Bobby’s tripod and flung it into a bush, inviting him to participate in a wrestle match behind it. They both disappeared and for sometime nobody cared to intervene.

Soon, Jeeva realised the importance of his role, and reluctantly went behind and brought them back alive.

We retraced our path back, and this time, we went with Aslam’s choice.

The path ended at a violent stream.

Aslam and Bobby continued their unfinished match behind a new bush. This time Jeeva intervened earlier as he had discovered that Bobby needed faster help. 

We retraced our path back, and finally chose the least chosen path.

We walked and walked. And walked. And walked.

And came back to the same spot where we started from.

It was 3 pm. We had reached a stage where we were willingly preparing ourselves to end our lives. Balls to our conviction. Balls to the brave and mighty. Balls to Wordsworth, Frost and their kind who decieved us into this. Balls to Mother Nature and her tricks for wooing us into this mess. 

We formed a huddle and cried together. 

“Ok guys. I have given up on my life. I don’t care if I live or die anymore. I cannot think of anything else but crossing that stream.”

“Ya, atleast let’s die trying.”

“Think about it. Its 4 pm. Soon it will be dark. We have no torches. No food. No nothing. It’s do or die.”

Neil came staggering back with a huge branch fallen nearby. 

“Lets hold on to this and walk. If we make it, we make it. Or we die.”

Jeeva removed his jeans and wore it on his neck. A gesture which was once a symbol of guts and glory, had now become a uniform for suckers. 

We all followed. In tandem we removed our jeans, and adorned it on our necks, and proceeded towards the stream, moronically marching in our undies.

The roar of the stream didn’t frighten us anymore. We stepped into it with an attitude of suicide bombers. 

Jeeva stood first. Followed by Guru. Then Bonda. Then Bobby. Then Neil. Then Aslam and me. This was decided according to our swimming capabilities. 

Jeeva, Guru and me knew how to swim. Aslam and Neil thought they knew how to swim. Bonda and Bobby were sure that they didn’t.

The stream was about 200 metres wide and gushing wild with rage.

Jeeva had a stick that he checked the depth with. The rocks were slippery. We took measured steps and waded into the danger.

I think we walked further with the power of our eyelashes, hair and stubble as they were the only parts in our body that were not yet aching.

We took that huge branch and chucked it in the middle of the stream till it got interlocked between the rocks.

We muttered a hurried prayer and clung on to that branch hoping that it would not give way and waded through the ice cold stream lashing on to our bodies.

The branch gave way every now and then making us lose our balance, and choke out water from our nostrils.

Once we covered the length of the branch, we’d lift it and push it further ahead, and continue on this death mission.

In about an hour, we managed to get over to the other side. Surprisingly, the head count remained the same.

We hugged and celebrated like as if we’d swam the Suez canal.

A few yards down we spotted a little hut. A 60 watt bulb flickered, dimly lighting up the courtyard that had been flattened and plastered with cow dung, with an elaborate rangoli inviting us. A few plantain trees, and a guava tree laden with fruits stood at the entrance, waiting to be devastated. 

Our eyes were filled with tears of emotion, accompanied by a vague sense of deja vu on seeing these evidences that belonged to a civilisation, that we were once familiar with.  

In less than a minute we were on top of the tree. We spared no fruit, not even the ones that were on the way of becoming one. 

A young lady opened the door. And she was shocked to see her flimsy tree infested with seven malnourished monkeys in underwear, raiding her fruits of labour.

She retreated with a piercing scream that summoned the rest of the inmates which included her mother-in-law and two kids.

They surrounded the tree looking at us like we were aliens. We were unmoved. We continued eating. We couldn’t have cared even if they had guns.

After some heated exchange within themselves, they finally settled at being amused.

The lady took pity and asked “Coffee kuditheera?’

By then, Neil had had his fill to answer that. And with an untimely display of politeness he replied…”Illa aunty…it’s ok. No problem.”

The ladies shrugged their shoulders, went back inside and slammed the door.

Soon, we dived down and six of us threw Neil on the ground and were all set to slay him alive.

Just then the lady opened the door again and was shocked to see this sudden repositioning of the primates. 

monkeys

Jeeva sheepishly looked up and begged “Seven cups coffee. We haven’t had anything since last night. Sorry……….aunty.’

The lady returned with seven steel tumblers of steaming coffee.

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We plonked ourselves on the courtyard and sent out a strong signal by sucking the last drops as loudly as we could, forcing the lady to bestow more kindness.

She returned with a plate of bananas.

As we were busy gobbling up the bananas, we heard a honk.

It didn’t strike us at first. Then suddenly Bobby jumped up and shouted in a banana voice…

“Did you hear that?’

“What?”

“You asses. That was a truck man, a bloody truck. Which means we are next to the highway.”

It then slowly dawned upon us. 

Jeeva collapsed on the floor.

Aslam did a war dance.

Neil combed back his hair.

Bobby finally dismantled his camera.

Guru secretly pocketed a plantain or two.

Bonda gurgled his saliva

And I was drenching in jubilance.

We couldn’t believe that this journey actually had an end. 

Hitch_Hike_Alright_by_tizzy_busy_idiotSoon, the seven of us stood again in a single file, holding our thumbs out to hitch a ride back to earth.

Ofcourse, in our underwears.

(It’s a different matter that we hitched a ride to the nearest bus stand, and waited for 13 hours at the bus stop to get a bus back home. Ya, but i don’t want to spend anymore time reminiscing this trip. I just want to get back to celebrating that I’m alive.)

To hell and back-Part 4

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. TrekkingProhibited

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.

But no.

ugly_frogJust 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. 2335093350059349299lRSmYZ_phWe 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.

2323697-Kerosene-Stove-1

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….

To hell and back – Part 3

The day ended exactly like the way it had started. Seven of us huddling in darkness.

blackness-1

Atleast, we all remembered to carry torches. Except Guru, since he was already on a path of enlightenment to his professor’s house. Bonda carried a pen torch that was enough to light up a button hole. Neil had a torch with some stock of Eveready batteries that were purchased by his grandfather during independence. I carried one that never failed to switch off at the right moment. Jeeva was the only one who had a massive torch that brought some dignity to this trek. Bobby had a decent one as well. And Aslam’s torch had conked in the rain.

So, we switched on our torches and entered into an argument that was long due. Jeeva flashed the torch at Bonda and yelled. Bonda yelled back flashing his pen torch on Bobby’s eye, rather pupil. Bobby punched Bonda on his chest. Aslam intervened, and calmed Bobby down. And turned to Bonda and gave him a punch from his side, that was twice Bobby’s might. Guru quickly slipped into a dark corner to remain inconspicuous. I kept fiddling with my torch to get it working before I picked my victim. This torch pointing game went on for quite some time, till everyone had finished flashing blames on each other. Soon, we realised that we were wasting precious energy on this pointless argument. So, we switched off our torches and continued with this fight in darkness picking an approximate blind spot, and hurling abuses at it. 

Bobby blamed Bonda for forgetting his bag.

Bonda blamed Bobby for his selfish long drawn photography breaks.

Guru concluded that this was a stupid idea to begin with.

Neil turned philosophical and blamed destiny.

I blamed my shitty luck. 

Aslam blamed everyone.

And Jeeva blamed his brainlessness for being a part of this shameful gang.

The only bright spot that remained was the deadlinelessness of the situation. We had already screwed up. We could think of nothing better to do, than remain in our positions and scream at each other. Which we did till the sounds of the jungle started getting louder. Strange sounds from every corner merged into an eerie cacophony humbling this petty scrap. We started feeling the wetness in our underwears. Now and then a cold wind would tingle some forgotten body part. And we started coming to terms that we have to move our asses, if we still want to keep them. 

There was a brief silence that made everyone believe that someone around was developing a plan. 

I heard the rumbling of a plastic cover. I was trying to decipher this familiar sound. It was Jeeva who was rummaging his bag to pull out some boiled eggs. This idea seemed great to our blank heads.

Soon, everyone attacked the packet like Darwin’s salivating dogs. The eggs that were planned out for next 2 days disappeared in 2 minutes. My hunger humped my ego aside, and I dived right in. Ok, I admit that boiled eggs never tasted so tasty before. 

Neil used this replenished energy for giving a small motivational speech, in a feeble defeated voice “We can do it guys come on. We’ve covered half the distance. Let’s finish it off guys. This is the test of life. We will not give up. Let’s go…..” or some such nonsense.

Nobody budged. And Neil quickly returned to the eggs that were fast disappearing.

We had just flung ourselves on a cluster of bushes on the left of the railtrack. There wasn’t even space for squatting. We just leaned on them with our bags on the back, sinking into it gradually, deforming ourselves to stand in peculiar poses, stuffing our faces with egg. It was thorny and we were bruised all over, but we were learning to vulnerably succumb to it. 

A whooshing sound that could have nothing but a snake, instantly kicked us all back into track.

Jeeva fished out a rope from somewhere and said “Ok. I’ll lead. The rest tie this rope around your waist and follow.” We got into our positions behind this self-appointed torch bearer. The balance trustable torches were assigned to every alternate member in the queue. And we were back on this eternal journey to nowhere. 

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What was worse was that, earlier we could atleast stop to see things around, but now the vision was strictly restricted to that ring of torchlight on those monotonous railings. We held our torches, tightened the rope on our waists, and relied on a mysterious force to pull us along. And walked like immune donkeys on semi-effective anaesthesia.

To keep himself going, Bonda strung together names of all his favorite gods and composed a meaningless prayer with a lifeless tune. And we all marched to this irritating chant.

Nobody had a perfect idea of how much we had covered, and how far we still had to go. After a few steps Bonda felt that we had walked over 5 kilometers, and Jeeva vouched that it was not more than 500 meters. We had to find methods to keep our bodies disengaged from the mind. And fool it to keep it going. 

“I’m fainting”

“I think I’ll die”

“Aojboaffvapsda”

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh”

“Mummy Daddy ki pasand. Bhaiyaa Bhabi ki pasand.”

“Vicco turmeric nahin cosmetic….”

“Tip tip barsa paani…I am your papa johnny”

“Humse kya bhool hui jo ye sazaa humko mili…..”

“HARE aknanaihipaiop RAMA askdnakne KRISHNA bmxncvnhsef ALLAH aihdaisc JESUS aksdkahad NAAM bhjmkbfasld HAI uabsdouasfas SHAHENSHAH”

“Twinkle twinkle little star…”

“FUCK YOU ALL”

We garbled anything that came to our mind to continue this journey in a state of mindlessness. I guess we were slowly turning mad. We walked mentally spell-checking our epitaphs, weighing our chances in heaven and picturising the various reactions of people when they get to know the news.

a-night-of-batsSuddenly Jeeva stopped and took off his jeans and strung it on his shoulders. The wet jeans had ruptured his skin. Jeeva resembled a ragpicker in this get up. Jeans on his neck, an oversized bag on his back, a dripping underwear on his bottom, and a piece of sleeping mat on one of his shoes. But at that moment even Russel Peters couldn’t have made us laugh. Seeing him, we realised that we all suffered from the same condition. Our thighs were severely wounded, and the idea of exposing it to the cold wind, seemed blissful. In a moment we all stripped down to our undies, and ungeared ourselves to complete the rest of this torment. Neil however took a little more time to aptly undress for this occasion, still managing to find his own style statement in the hour of desperation. He tied back his hair. And buckled his belt over his long shirt. Flung his jean on the neck, and casually tossed back one half over his shoulder, to make it seem like an impromptu stole. And ramp walked like he was in a show that had ‘Spartacus’ as the theme. 

Bobby carefully scrutinized his thighs to find any traces of blood, so that he could repeat his fainting act more convincingly this time. Fortunately, the leeches and his denims were kinder to the rest of us.

And after this brief makeover, we resumed that painful parade in our liberated uniform. 

Now and then, we would wait for Jeeva to replace his shredded sole with a fresh cutting of the sleeping mat. Eventually he had no more mat to cut, and slowly moved on to sizing down every other mat that he could lay his hands on. We walked with alternating interruptions of Jeeva’s sole changing pit-stops and Guru’s squeals, everytime he spotted a twig that resembled a snake.

For sometime, Neil kept us engaged with some story of a fashion show that he had participated in. The story was disjointed and meaningless, but noone bothered to clarify. To everyone around, it was only a reassurance that we were still a part of this world. We were still alive. We could still hear. We were still walking. It was just comforting to hear a human voice around, to assure us of our existence. 

We subjected ourselves to this unique test where on one end, Neil’s humdrum was putting us to sleep, and on the other the rope that was tugging us on our waists refused to let us slip into his lullaby.

We endured this torture for about six hours, and in the dying minute of our lives, we suddenly spotted salvation. Jeeva flashed the beam on a railway board that read “Yedakumeri”.

(Oh yes!! This has a part 4. I tried my level best to edit out as much as I could, but I couldn’t. I have too many stories to tell. Not because they are worthy of narration, but just for the sheer pleasure that I’m still bloody alive to tell it.)

To be contd…..

To hell and back – Part 2

We waited for the sun to dawn upon us along with a few ideas. The setting that seemed spooky all this while, turned harmless in daytime. It was just an ordinary road in the middle of trees. Even the background score changed appropriately from frogs/ crickets to birds chirping. Probably, the overpopulated trees were stopping the sun rays from creeping in. At a distance was a little hut. An ideal setting that could allow this stuck-up screenplay to progress.

The dwellers there predicted that the bus must have proceeded to Shravanabelagola. Guru and me were nominated to hunt the missing bag, while the rest volunteered to look after the luggage in the meantime. Bonda was spared from the effort for the fear of his stupidity repeating itself.

Before we could debate this decision, they bundled us off on this brief pilgrimage, shoving us into the only bus that cared to stop.

We knew that we had to keep this very purposeful. We had a deadline to meet. To make it back before 1pm, as the trek to Yedakumeri was at least 5 hours. 

All this effort was not because we were concerned about Bonda’s bag. It was just that the damn bag carried the stove and a few essential utensils.

Soon Guru and me reached Shravanabelagola. While every other visitor there was seeking salvation, we cheaply seeked ‘Bonda’s bag’. With blinkers on, we passed by the most exciting part of temple visits. Stalls with interesting wares that reduced the heaviness of the religion to cool fashionable paraphernalia like bracelets, pendants, scarves, bags and other adaptable mediums. 

We resisted any temptation to take a detour and catch a glimpse of the gigantic Mahaveer statue that we had only seen as a pixelated picture in flimsy ‘What to see in Karnataka’ booklets. It was frustrating but we had little time to ponder on the idiocy of this visit. 

The conductors at the bus stand said that the buses usually went for a body wash at a nearby lake. We murmured a little prayer for finding the bag, to the top of mind lord at that moment, Mahaveer. We were surrounded with devotees who walked around in bunches with eyes closed singing long bhajans that probably justified the length of their wishlists. And hoped that that ours’ would be easier for the lord to sanction in comparison.

And surprisingly the excitement of this episode ended with no further surprises.  The bus was at the lake. The bag was in the bus. 

But, I wish my prayers were more generic than specific to finding Bonda’s bag. 

I was horrified on my return. I saw Jeeva sitting on a parapet, munching on a boiled egg, which was only a sample piece from the black aluminium vessel beside him that contained the balance 23 eggs in their new form.

“The swine had boiled all my eggs!!”

All those hours I had spent packing them, was reduced to this unimaginative dish in one stroke.

Jeeva beamed with pride on his stupendous idea. He cooly revealed the thinking behind this brainwave “I just thought that these were easier to carry. So I got the lady at the hut to boil them for us.”  

I wish he had atleast spared one of them, for me to smash it on his head. This trek suddenly had lost all purpose. The special omelette pan that I had purchased, poked me on my back mockingly through Bonda’s bag that was hanging on my shoulders. My dreams of sitting in the middle of the forest and listening to the sound of the batter sizzling on a pan, now stared at me in the shape of a boiled egg. 

And to aggravate me further Bobby had set up his camera on a tripod to take a shot of this prize winning recipe. And Neil and Bonda gulped an egg and posed adding the touristy touch to it, that must have invited some rubbish caption underneath later “Boiled eggs under the boiling sun”.

Aslam dismissed my desires with a sarcastic remark in chaste Shivajinagar urdu, that never failed to puncture the gas out of bloated sentiments  “Chod re, uski maa, Bangalore jaake main tumhe omelette banake khilatoon chal.” and murmured to himself “Uski maa, kya kya plan banaate ba sab, jungle mein omelette kethe….”

 

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A narrow path lead us to the track that headed towards Yedakumeri.

Though a friend who’d been here earlier had given us a detailed picture, it still seemed very different from what we had imagined it to be. 

One look and we knew that this was going to be a rather unusual trek. It was a rail track that broke through the hills. A narrow path that had thick bushes and trees on one side, and a giddy fall on the other.

The only way to trek was to walk in a single file.

So we had to carefully position our feet on the railings, look down and walk. And we could either choose to walk or enjoy the scenery. Never both at the same time. So everytime someone felt that he was passing by a beautiful sight, he had to shout out “STOP’, and then look, or the guy behind would could end up bumping into him and knocking him down. And to add to the drama, like most tracks in ghat sections, it passed through stinky tunnels and dizzying heights.

Further special effects were added by the rain gods. It started to drizzle. The kind that never increases or stops. Sprinkling mildly but continuously, slowly inducting us to the savagery we were getting into without a clue. 

Bonda had no qualms revealing his cowardice. He froze at entrance of the first tunnel. And stood there in protest, suggesting safer and better ideas to do this male bonding. We decided to overcome this gigantic obstacle on our path, by repositioning him at the end of the queue.  Soon, we discovered that it was only six of us who were trekking. We trailed back and positioned him right in the middle, so that the first three could help him overcome his fear, by leading with example. And the last three could shepherd him from behind. Bonda heaved and puffed and cribbed and cried and mumbled his way through into the first tunnel. We heard a deafening screech. At first, we thought that the railways had re-introduced the train, and then we realised that it was a thousand bats that echoed together flapping and flocking out, brushing our faces with their slimy velvety wings, in an ambience of stinking darkness. 

By the time we got out of the first tunnel, we were unified by a common emotion. But postponed any discussion of this mutual feeling to a later stage. It was 3 pm, and we still had 12  kilometers to cover within sunset.

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This sombre progression was disrupted by Bobby’s sudden attack of epilepsy, “bloo…bloo….blood” he screamed supporting himself on his tripod. Guru’s jeans were red. He rolled it up to reveal three leeches that were ballooning shapelessly in there feasting on his blood. Guru with an air of bravado, casually took out his pen knife and slashed them down one by one. And just before he could bask in the glory of this massacre, he fainted. He had just seen a snake glide past Bonda’s feet. Bonda turned around in time to see its tail slide into one of the bushes and swooned. We were barely 2 kms into the journey, and we had 3 paralyzed victims around. 

There was a moment of silence in the conscious crowd, who used this break as an opportunity to catch up with breaths they were running short of. Neil was the first to be reminded of his humanitarian duties, and rushed to help the casualties. He splashed a bottle of water on Bobby’s face, hoping that he would recover as he still had his portfolio to be completed. I placed my hand on Guru’s shoulders, which he mistook as an act of comfort, while I was actually supporting myself and panting silently. 

Bonda regained himself and announced his retreat with a parting shower of his spit, which by now failed to have its initial impact. Ya, we were use to it, but it now made little difference, as we were drenched with rain and sweat  and we could no longer differentiate between the three. 

“ffff…FFUCK MACHAAN….aapihdihar acandihaporp$%^&$^…..I’M badboaadugad ztyuioyuipiahr GOING bbbbbBACK.” garbled Bonda, stammering with fear, reducing the possibility of any comprehension that remained.

Jeeva took out a packet of salt from his bag. Applied it on his legs, and chucked it to the rest of them. “That’s for the leeches. Those who want to move ahead, smear them on your feet and get going. The rest of them can go wherever the fuck they want to. You all knew that you were coming to a trek didn’t you!! And not a stroll to a botanical park. So if you want to sissy out now, bugger off assholes. It’s frikkin 4 pm man, and we’ve got to cover 10 kms more. I’m moving on. Those who want to join me can follow, the rest can jump off this cliff for all I care.” 

And Jeeva walked away victoriously into a tunnel, chasing out a fleet of bats that echoed his sentiments.

Bonda by now had made a grand retreat to the other end, taking a momentary pause to muster courage to venture all the way back alone. He turned around to throw a parting glance to other two faint-hearted victims, giving them a final chance to realise the joy of this early freedom. 

I waited for Aslam to erupt and kick the daylights of everyone around.

And Aslam did. He flung his bag to one corner, ran all the way to Bonda. Next I heard a loud slap. And saw him being dragged back. In the same fervor he kicked Bobby’s tripod, and abused him in every language except English. Guru figured out that he was next, and picked up his bag, and got back on track before Aslam could assault him. 

Jeeva had stopped further ahead. Not to wait for us. His shoe had snapped. And he was cutting a piece of foam from his sleeping mat. He wrapped his shoe with that piece, tied it together with a string, and was back on his foot, all set to march any distance.

And soon, we were back like a herd of sheep walking at snail’s pace, moaning and groaning in a single file.

We had about 7 kms left. And Bobby suddenly stopped the entire crowd with an outburst.yedakumeri_tracks1

“I don’t care. I am not moving ahead without capturing this sunset. I didn’t come on this trip to stare at Bonda’s backside, throughout the journey. So, if you guys think that walking in a queue in the rain is a good idea of a trek, you can jolly well do so. I have a different agenda.”

He spread out his wares, and set-up his little toy, while the others patiently waited. Even Jeeva cocked up. He had to succumb to these tantrums, in the hope that this sunset snap will play its own tiny role in bringing him closer to his beloved.

Bobby brought out a hood, put it over his camera, and peeked into it, till we were convinced that he had gone off to sleep inside it. And came out of that pose, only after he had captured evidence of this nature’s marvel. But the scenery outside his lens had changed by then.

The sun had set.

It was pitch dark. We were wet. It was cold. We were famished. The surrounding was eerie. We were balancing ourselves on a rail track that had a massive fall below. The bags on our backs were soaked, and about twice their initial weight. And we had about 7 long kilometers to cover. 

Disclaimer: All pictures are from the worldwide web. I am unable to trace the owners of these pictures. I am attaching them here with due respects, credits and of course some terrifying memories.

To hell and back – Part 1

A decade has gone by. Everyone must have been through one harrowing trip in their lifetime. Well, this is mine.

A trek to Yedakumeri by Seven of us. This trip is a tribute to whoever coined the term lucky 7. Of course, the only proof of luck is that we returned alive, without killing each other.

Jeeva, Aslam, Neil, Bobby, Guru, Bonda and myself. It could probably be the worst assembly of people to embark on this splendid trip that was designed to attract any fuck up including those that aren’t covered by wildest imaginations.

Firstly a brief introduction to the trekkers.

Jeeva: Probably the most heartless, insensitive, pigheaded person I’ve ever come across on this planet. He could probably give Lee Ermey a hard competition as the brutal sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket’. His idea of trekking was to trek. Keep walking was his motto. To him, beautiful sunsets, stunning locales, stopping to enjoy the weather were nothing but a sheer waste of time. If you collapsed mid-way, and were waiting for death to take you away, he’d simply cross over you, say a little prayer and walk away, leaving you to deal with your fate. He considered this no less than a mission to Mt. Everest or The Moon. He was there to place his flag in a place where few men had treaded before. And nothing could come in between him and that calling. 

Aslam: He was the vernacular version of Jeeva. However, if Jeeva’s purpose was to ‘Keep walking’, his agenda was to ‘Keep mocking’. He minced no words. He spoke his mind. And just to make sure that it was not lost in translation, he was equipped with the richest vocabulary of abuses in every language possible. And he had just finished his worst engineering exams, and was here to release all the pent-up emotions of the semester that passed by. 

Neil: The philosopher, dreamy eyed fashionista who knew how to cut a short story, long. His stories would start in the morning and end at dusk, where the listener would have promptly switched off after about 17 minutes into the conversation. To him, this trip was an opportunity to enhance his portfolio pictures, to include some against the backdrop of nature.. He didn’t trek. He ramp walked. Tossing his hair to the imaginary cameras flashing around him. He used to take periodic breaks just to brush his long hair, adjust his belt, flex his muscles, and everything else to ensure that he looked his best even in the middle of the jungle. 

Bobby: How do I describe him? I didn’t know him exactly. Actually, noone knew him. He was accompanying us, ‘coz Jeeva had a love interest in his sister. He brought him along in the hope that he would be able to win him over by the end of this trip. Bobby brought his camera along. And Bobby’s camera brought along with itself, a paraphernalia that Prabudda Das Gupta could be envious of. He came prepared like he was covering a feature for Discovery Channel. His complicated camera took about 15 minutes to assemble and 25 minutes to dismantle. This trip got extended by 2 days, because of Bobby’s photographical expeditions. Bobby spoke only English. Not even slang. He never followed anything unless it was English, in the right grammar. Just to make things exciting, this scrawnily scrawny guy suffered from ‘hemophobia’, – the fear of blood. If he saw blood, he would freeze.

Guru: Here, noone knew him except me. No, I did not have any love interest in his sister. He tagged along just because he had nothing better to do. His parents would never approve of a trip like this. Even more so, if they knew the company he was going with. He told them that he was away to his lecturer’s house in Mangalore to seek further knowledge under a banyan tree, that was not possible within the confines of a classroom. His contribution to the trip was that he had ‘Ophidiophobia’ – the fear of snakes. And of course, a small bag that was filled with text books, which made its way all through the trip.

Bonda: No guesses for why he was called that. He was round, huge and walked around concentrating on his walk, so that he would not lose balance. He spoke at the speed of 300 words per minute, mixing 4 languages in it. And he sprayed spit liberally as he spoke. Nobody understood what he spoke. Either because they were too pre-occupied in dodging themselves from his salivating explosions, or because he just spoke crap. There would be exchange of glances every time he spoke, just to see if anyone grasped what he was trying to say. If this process took too long, Bonda would increase his speed of speech till you were drenched with his drool. And Bonda had totalophobia. He feared everything. Heights, water, snakes, blood, darkness, bats, shrubs, snails, earthworms, bushes, trees, birds, human beings and everything in general. 

I guess I need no introduction.

The place we were venturing to, was this abandoned railway station in the middle of a jungle, called Yedakumeri, somewhere on the way to Ghati Subramanya. Once upon a time, Yedakumeri was a tribal village that was soon spotted by civilisation, and Railways immediately connected them to the rest of the world, by installing a railway station. However, the few inhabitants in this area, primarily hunters found no reason to stay connected with the developed world. And the world decided to give them a cold shoulder, and the station was soon abandoned. Once that happened, the few people who were running the station also vacated leaving behind the bushmen and their bushes. So all that is there now is a quaint railway station in the middle of nowhere. It still has its ticket counters, wash basins, boards and benches. But just no people.

Soon someone re-discovered this place, and the word soon spread among a few, and it became a haunt for trekkers who loved renouncing their lives, to spend a few days in blissful isolation. 

The preparations for this trip started about a week in advance. After debating endlessly, we finally decided to make it a 4 day trip, a day to go, 2 days of camping and one to get back. 

We made a long list of stuff needed for survival. Sleeping mats, trekking bags, little stoves, pots and pans, kerosene, groceries and other supplies. We made an elaborate plan of what we would eat for every meal. Since none of us had previous trekking experiences, we narrowed down on meals that were similar to what we ate back home. And soon we had our bags loaded with noodles, rice, vegetables, spices and some readymade mixes like puliyogare mix, lemon rice mix and other fast to cook, good to eat goodies. And then we stuffed every possible inch of space with the miscalculated last minute purchases like alcohol, ciggies, torches etc.

Once we made sure that the bags were at least twice our weights, we buckled them up, till the zippers gave way, and till each and every person’s bag had atleast one object that was strategically placed to jab you on the spinal chord. To give you that needed push on a trip like this. We did a quick cross-check if the torture was fairly distributed across the luggage. However, Bobby’s bag only had space for a few onions, since he was an esteemed crew member who only carried stuff that didn’t demean his persona. Guru landed at the bus stop in the last minute, with his bag of text-books. Since we could not throw them away or find any alternate location, we let it be as an academic burden that was difficult to get rid of.

So after a few modifications, we boarded the local bus that automatically redistributed the burden, forcing us to alter that walking posture we had practised all along.

I had dutifully played my part in adding to the luggage and the confusion.

I had this fascination of making omelettes in the middle of the jungle. Since, none of them displayed the same passion for this dish, I decided to carry the ingredients myself. The problem was eggs. How the hell do I carry them? So I decided to crack this problem myself through some experimentations. I bought an egg rack, placed  the eggs in the them, locked them in by shutting the outer cover, and shook them with all my might. And they all cracked. Well, that was not the way I wanted to crack this. After breaking a dozen eggs in the process, I then wrapped each egg individually with paper napkins and bound them with cello tape, till they sat in the egg rack with no gap around. Finally, I managed to successfully pack in 24 eggs. By the end of this R&D, cooking omlettes in the middle of the jungle had became my new  mission in life, something I desperately wanted to tick off in my bucket list.

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To get there you start from this place called Donigal. And follow the abandoned rail track all the way to Yedakumeri. About 13 kms of walking on a rail track. 

At about 5 am, the bus screeched to a halt, and the conductor screamed “Donigal banthu, hiliree…..bega’. He hurried us out, and the bus sped away leaving us in the middle of pitch darkness, deafened with the sound of a million crickets and frogs.

Bonda said something: ‘what is this machaan…bloody apkndpnapnen apkndnasd’

We knew he was around us somewhere close, as we felt the dampness of his spit on our faces. 

And someone finally managed to locate a pocket torch in the bags lying down. Once the torch was lit, Bonda screamed again. 

‘asdknanne bag apknadnpn bag aknkdnpand bag’

Aslam: Nin akkan, kya re tera problem chinaal ke?’

Bonda: ‘MY…%^&*……BAG…. …….BUS’

Bobby: “What’s he saying?’

Aslam: “Uski maa, usne uska bag bus me heech chodh ke aaya re gaandu ke baalan.”

Bobby: “Oh no! Where did the bus go?”

Aslam: “To Mars. How will I know? Jeeva, yaaro ivana karkond bandiddu? (who the hell brought this chap along)

Jeeva: “Calm down Bobby.

I instinctively knew that this was one of those trips, where my fucked up luck was itching to take over. 

 

To be contd…