Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It happens only in ‘India’?

We keep hearing this statement almost every day from some or the other person. And I keep wondering how can they say this? May be they have travelled to other countries or they know very well about other countries. It sounds negative, anyway! But there is absolutely no reason to take it positively.

Saturday, being the hot day as it was the previous day of Ganesha Chaturthi, most of the market areas were chaotic. People were scattered on the main roads; not allowing vehicles to move freely; flowers, and banana plant stalls, fruit stalls and many more were just on the roads. In a way it was good to see the festive spirit, but, at the same time, it was absolutely annoying to travel from one place to another. If you are on a four wheeler or a two wheeler, you will encounter many traffic inspectors on the road who will show you the stop signal and walkover in front of you. You will be ignored to the extent that you will get tired by the time you cross the road. You cannot say anything because there is a very good reason and you are also a part of the festive spirit.

With all this chaotic state of affairs, Harish and I were very busy attending to our regular work at the school. Harish also wanted to book his bus tickets to Pune. So we had to go to one more hot spot of Bengaluru – Kalasipalyam! While I was riding my bike, we were discussing on some issues and were totally absorbed in our discussion. Suddenly I realized that we are amidst cows and buffalos! If someone would’ve taken our photograph, that would’ve won the photo of the year contest! That funny the scene was. I could not raise the accelerator and at the same time, I could not stop because of these new four legged commuters encircling us. It was so hilarious that both of us just kept laughing at our movement and we thought ‘this happens only in India’. To our surprise, there was a Traffic guy with the mask on! (Not the regular Traffic Police mask, but the Swine Flu mask). He was talking to some lorry driver and even though he noticed the scene, he did not care about who is on the road or check whether they are eligible to be on the road or not!

I shouted at him asking him to clear this wonderful traffic jam first and then carry on with his time-pass session. For which he did not even care and he acted as if he did not hear what I said. But the woman, the owner of those four legged commuters, heard what I said and she shouted back at me referring to the Traffic Police, saying “What can he do? Let him come near us, he will be pulled and these cows will take off his cap and send him home. What does he thinks about himself? He drinks milk every day, so he is not supposed to touch these animals.” And she moved on to the next road leaving us at peace.

Wow! We were totally shocked by those heavy words of that woman. And, again we convinced ourselves with the hottest line – ‘It happens only in India’.

Now, what do you think of this act? What is it that we see every day? Is this the arrogance that is developed just because the woman is doing a great job of making people drink milk every day? Or is it the carelessness that is developed in the system that traffic police did not bother about cows being on road? Or is it that festive spirit which allows such things to happen and disturb the smooth transport? Or it is just that we are in ‘India’ and anything can happen here?

I do not know!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

My story with Ganesha!

How many of you are fans of Ganesha? I am asking about Lord Ganesha. I am a big fan of him because he was the one who gave me moksha in life! He was the inspiration for me to follow my dreams. Ok! Now I know many of you may be thinking why am I talking all these. I will now tell you my story with Ganesha!

I was born as a Brahmin! So you can imagine the rituals that a Brahmin family sincerely follows. They are pretty consistent in following whatever their ancestors have left for them. They do not even think twice on why is it required or why should we do it? Well, questioning itself is not followed in such families. So I was lucky to take birth as a Brahmin and thanks to my mom and dad who made me follow whatever they used to follow since their childhood. It was more than a practice and hard work that goes in to the system that is being followed. I was made watch and learn from them doing all the religious stuff; celebrating each and every festival in their own way with the help of all puranas; following blind beliefs and managing life with such beliefs without assessing whether it is right or wrong; and many such non-scientific practices. Few of them were good and few of them were meaningless. But who cares? If they ask me to do something, I had to do it without questioning back to them else I would be punished for disrespecting elders. So I learnt saying ‘Yes’ for everything!

Because I was born as a Brahmin, my parents made me follow everything they used to follow when it comes to God. Sometime during my Pre-University 1st year, I was made to take up Upanayana (Threading Ceremony). I knew there were many gods (countless) and because our god was the richest of all and he is on top of everyone, we had to go to Tirupathi for his blessings during my threading ceremony. I was supposed to get dressed in a funny way with all the Namas and Juttu (red and white paint on my forehead and my hair looking like a fountain). There were many relatives who attended the event and blessed me religiously. I was only happy for whatever gift money that I had received. From there my tough time started; I had to follow all formalities mandatorily on daily basis which looked like more than having the food on time. I had to chant prayers everyday holding the thread in my hand. I had no options but to follow whatever I had to follow. Else my dad would’ve beaten me up and down. I learnt how to be more disciplined in life.

There comes the entry of Ganesha in my life! Because I was poor at prayers and Vedas, my parents decided to send me to the Ganesha temple near to my house in Bangarpet to learn Vedas and Mantras every day. The schedule was fixed and I was not supposed to bunk any session. I was posted on a part time duty to Ganesha temple and the guru (teacher) there was pretty close to my dad. So there was no option for me to play games. I thought that is the end of my own life and my life would be taken care by lord Ganesha going forth. So I started learning managing time effectively with multiple tasks.

So from there, my life was kind of living with Ganesha most of the time. I was very prompt in attending my sessions at the temple. Slowly I was made to do all the things a normal priest would do in a temple. Go to the temple in the morning, make Ganesha take bath in the dirty water, Clean him top to bottom and do the Pooja, attend to customers, learn some more from my guru, be with Ganesha for sometime till my guru comes back to temple, collect prasadam, then go back home and get ready to go to college. Again come back from college in the evening, go to my mathematics tuitions, rush to the temple, change my attire, be with Ganesha, attend to customers, wait till my guru comes, learn some more and go back home in the night. My tuition mates used to come to visit me at the temple and I used to feel shy to present myself in that attire. But I used to conveniently distribute flowers (preferably roses) to all the girls who used to visit the temple. I used to enjoy doing that and my guru used to tease me royally for doing that which eventually would lead to more learning on that day. But I learnt handling multiple clients anyway.

The same schedule and my life with Ganesha continued for a few months and I had become senior at the temple. I was managing all the customers alone and I was used to make Ganesha take shower quickly and get him ready in no time. I used to be very creative when it comes to Alankara (dressing Ganesha) and used to get good appreciation from my Guru. By the way, my guru was called as ‘Bhabi’ (I do not know why). I was made to attend to customer calls alone and I was sent out to their houses to process their requests during the festival season. That’s when I learnt customer service in life. With little service that I used to give, customers used get delighted and used to give me money as a fee. I used to get some part of it after handing it over to my guru so I was happy about it. I was not disclosing it with my parents about the money I used to get. But my friends used to get Masala dosa treat from me quite often. So I learnt how to keep customers satisfied so that I can earn enough money to take care of my college life. So eventually I learnt some business sense as well.

This went on for more than a year and my parents were happy about it. I was getting used to my life with Ganesha learning new things every day. More than anything, Ganesha taught me common sense to lead my own life. One fine day, I was reading a book sitting next to Ganesha and waiting for my guru to come. I was thinking about how my life has become so superficial that I am doing things which cannot be believed. Why am I here? Am I here to get some money by attending customer calls or am I here to clean up Ganesha every day? Am I here to distribute flowers? Am I here to keep myself busy with collecting coins in Hundi (a small iron box where coins are collected in the name of god)?

I looked at Ganesha; realized, even though he has taught me so much in life, he is just a rock inside a closed room. Spirit cannot be found in the rock. I used to find the spirit in every customer’s eyes and their belief in something that used to drive them to the temple. It is not the belief in the stone. It is the belief in self and belief in some spirit. My guru and my team members are working here to earn some coins to lead their lives. There is life beyond this and we have to believe our own spirit. We can create wonders if we just break out of the blind beliefs. So, that day, I decided to quit and resigned from the job. Even though my parents opposed on many occasions, I stopped believing in blind customs and followed my own self. Now I do not go to any temple, I have no religion, I do not do any Pooja (sometimes I am forced to do at home which I still refuse to do). But I believe in the belief that my parents have in Ganesha or any God. I believe in the belief that my friends and closed ones have in God. I do not disrespect them.

So I started believing in myself! And Ganesha remained as my good friend. He was the one who helped me to come out of the shell and lead my life with a clear purpose.

Hope you all have enjoyed ‘My Story with Ganesha’ and took it in a positive spirit. Happy Ganesha Chaturthi to one and all!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meruthi – The lost world!

It was a very dark horror night and I looked at my wrist watch, it was almost 8.30 Pm and freezing cold. We are sitting in front of a departmental store at Basrikatte waiting for our other six team members to join us. I said ‘hey let’s see the photos in our cameras’ and Srivathsa said fine. We went back to the previous night when we started our journey; Black Panther drive in the night; taking long breaks; having coffee and tea during the breaks; cracking PJs and a lot more. It was the Independence Day and we were on our regular freedom trek plan. This time the place was Meruthi Parvatha near Kuduremukha. We had planned for this since a month and uneventfully we succeeded executing the plan. Eight of us totally that includes seven men and one woman reached Basrikatte in Mudigere taluk of Chickmaglur district on the early morning of 15th August.

What should we do and where should we go?
As we were going through the photographs, we did not realize the time. But by the time we finished it, it was already 10 Pm. It is 10 Pm and the others have not joined us. We were all supposed to reach this village after getting down from the peak. We convinced ourselves by thinking that they will be slow because of Sudhee and Divya or they may have their dinner on the way itself and come back. We carried on with our conversation. The reason why we were so early to reach was because of the conversation we were having about responsibilities and commitments in life. It was a kind of stories exchange mela! We ended our conversation abruptly as we did not see any signs of our folks coming towards the village. I looked at my watch; it was close to 11 Pm. This made me a bit nervous and we started worrying about what might have happened to these guys. I got scared and all types of negative things started revolving around my mind. We both did not have any other choice but for going back and searching these folks. We went a few steps forward and switched on the torch; but we hardly got to see anything because the light beams could not pierce through the fog that was created. We thought going inside the forest at this time is not a good idea so thought of shouting at them and even tried to wave the torch light so that they could see the light beams from wherever they are; but it was of no use. We were then sure that they have lost their way in the forest and they cannot make it to the base. The only confidence and comfort for us was that they had the tents with them and they can pitch them anywhere until they see the morning light.
But! What about us? Where should we go? What should we think about these guys? What if something would have happened to them? What can we answer villagers if they ask us? What the hell is going on with us? Why are we getting into all wrong things since morning? We were totally dumbstruck and started worrying about them. I looked at Srivathsa; he was equally tensed as I am and both our expressions were just not right! We thought it was not our day as this was the second disappointment for the day.
The first disappointment!

Yes! The first disappointment was even worse and horrible. After all the funny moments while driving down to Basrikatte, we reached the Merthi Kan Estate at around 10.15 am in the morning. As we reached, we enquired about the two routes connecting the peak: one through the estate and the other through the route from Basrikatte village. Many of the workers at the estate recommended us to take the route which goes through the estate. But we had heard from our friends that the route that connects from the village is good to climb and we will enjoy the climb in that route. So we told them that we will take the village route to climb and we will climb down through the estate route which gives us both the experiences. They all got convinced and gave us directions on how to reach the peak from the village. We parked our car at the estate office and packed all our rucksacks and left from that place by 11.15 Am. We had to walk 5 Km to Basrikatte. Even though we had enough delicious food stuffs for 2 days in our sacks, we wanted to have lunch and start the climb. So we finished our lunch in a small hotel (hardly looked a hotel) at Basrikatte and started our journey up!
We were all excited after looking at the peak from the base and the greenery around the place made us feel heavenly. We could see the mighty mountain ranges of Malenaadu that would create a new 2 day life for all eight of us. It was a very easy route inside the coffee estate up to 3 km and then a small mud route inside the thick forest. We were told that there are not many wild animals but there are many snakes and other small creatures. And the forest was full of leeches which made us climb faster. We enjoyed every step and there was no hurry in climbing as we had plans to stay at the peak itself for the night and we had enough time left with us to climb. Our target was to reach the peak at round 3 Pm and to pitch the tents by 4 Pm before the sunset. Well! Plan remained as a plan.
Where is the route?
We were almost half way as we could see the peak in front of our eyes coming closer and closer. We were over joyful that we will reach the peak soon.But with all this excitement, we did not realize that we have missed the actual route to the peak. We ran into a route which took us to almost a dead lock state and we could not find any way forward. We tried looking back but we could not connect ourselves to the point where we lost the route. Since the peak was in front of our eyes, TS and I thought if we cross the forest patch for the next 15 minutes, we can easily reach the peak. So TS said let us make our own route. Luckily we had taken the axe with us, so TS started cutting the bushes and started making the way for us. It worked; as in we could somehow manage to cross the forest patch and could see the peak more clearly. But the steep was very difficult and we started wondering if all of us can make it to the peak thinking about Sudhee and Divya. We thought let us proceed.
Even though the steep was very difficult, slowly we started climbing and started enjoying the scenery around. It sort of took off our tiredness of the climb. The steep was so tough that we could not stand at any place and we had to just keep moving making our way. We could see many rocks and we were sure that there will be many poisonous snakes. We slowly progressed and the steep was becoming much harder and we were finding it very difficult to climb. All of us were getting exhausted and many of us were not ready to climb.

I somehow managed to take the steepest path and climbed up easily with the help of rocks as I could easily get good grip for my climb and Srivathsa followed me in the same route. I reached the first peak soon and dumped my bag. The peak top was very small and had less space as it was made of rocks. We waited for the others to join us at this peak so that we can climb the next one. Then we realized that we are at the last peak! We were supposed to climb from the east but we are climbing from the west side of the hill. And the main peak was the third peak and is at the middle of the range. We were in a very bad shape because the peak we had climbed was the wrong one and we have to climb the 4th peak to reach the main peak. But climbing the 4th peak would’ve been much worse because that was much steeper than the one we had climbed. So we waited for all others to join us first.
Sudhee Rocks again!
Sudhee Rocks! Again! Yes he could not climb up. He was finding it very difficult to climb up with the heavy rucksack on his shoulders. So he dumped his bag at some point and started climbing without any weight. In a way it was hilarious that he said ‘I cannot get the bag; see if you guys want to get it or leave it’. Since TS was near to him, TS picked his rucksack and fixed it to his front (he was climbing with two rucksacks!) and started helping Sudhee to climb the peak slowly. They were shouting at me to get down and bring Sudhee up. So I got down some distance and took Sudhee’s bag from TS and started pushing Sudhee to climb up. Finally I managed to bring him to the top. All of us made it to the peak and rested for a while. They all looked at the next peak which we were supposed to climb and they immediately decided they cannot do it.
We were at a point where there are no other options left with us but for climbing that to reach the main peak. TS and I discussed on how to proceed from there and where can we find it difficult to climb. But we realized that we took more than 4 hours to climb so far and we are still not even near to the destiny. It was 4.45 Pm in the evening and we had to take the right decision before we could proceed from there. Doc and few others suggested that let us get down from here and reach the safe point so that we can pitch our tents. Else we may have to sleep at this place without tents and proper flat surface. Sudhee and Divya both did not agree to our idea of continuing our climb to the next peak. So the ultimate decision was to get down. It was 5.30 Pm by the time we decided to climb down the same way.
Climbing down was not all that easy. It was much difficult than climbing up the hill. But Sudhee did his best to climb down in his own easy way. He just sat down and started skidding. It was kind of sliding down the hill. He was so good that we could see a clear sliding path down the hill as he was moving with his ass jammed to the hill. Whoever climbed down after him would have fallen many times because of the slider route Sudhee had created. It was absolutely hilarious the way he climbed down. TS and Divya were very good as they climbed down the stretch very fast and reached the route where we can easily trek back to the village. Srivathsa and I waited for others to join us so that we all can walk back together. Sudhee again gave too much work to Raghu, Doc and Krishna as he was totally exhausted and was taking good amount of time to even slide down. By the time we all got down, it was very dark so we had to turn on our torch to see things. There were too many leeches and hence we were not even comfortable waiting for these folks but we had no options left with us. But Sudhee made his mark both on the peak and on the clothes he was wearing!
The lost six!
With this disappointment, we all walked back and reached a safe point where we could see the mud route which takes us back to the village. We decided to go back to the village and reach the place where we had parked our car and sleep there for the night by pitching tents. So we started walking down the hill with the torches in hand, the disappointment in our faces and the horrifying forest route in the night. We were again somehow unlucky as this lead to the second disappointment of the trek.
Srivathsa and I were discussing on some issues, so we were very fast in walking back and we reached the village at 8.15 Pm without missing the route. But the other six could not find their way. They got lost in the forest. We waited till 11.30 Pm in the village but we could not see any signs of these guys returning. We were scared and could not think of anything but for worrying about the lost six. The village was absolutely silent and if we talk, it would be audible enough for the whole village. We thought of waking up the departmental store owner and ask for place to sleep as we did not have tents with us. But the guy did not open the door. So we were even more worried as to where can we go and what can we do at this point?
I decided to go back to the place where we had parked our car thinking even if these guys get their way, they have to reach that place somehow. So Srivathsa and I started walking towards the estate at 11.30 Pm and it was a 6 Km walk from Basrikatte. It was horrible enough in that dead silence and allowing the wild dogs to bark at our torch lights with heavy luggage fixed to our back! We finally made it to our car and with the scary feelings; we sat inside the car and we could not stop thinking about the lost six.
6.30 Am in the morning, we decided to go back to the peak in search of the lost six and drove down to Basrikatte. Villagers were staring at us and they were curious to know on where are the other folks? We explained them the story and they all started worrying. But we gave them the comfort by saying they would have pitched tents and will be safe during the night. So we started walking up the hill again and walked very fast shouting all names all along the way. TS, Raghu, Sudhee, Doc, Krishna, Divya… my throat went for a toss!
We went all the way till the place we all had climbed down in the night; we did not see anyone nor did not hear any response for my shout. So we got down from there and took the route where there is a deviation from the original route. That route connected to a village and we enquired in all the houses about these folks. Nobody had clue about it. We were totally lost and did not know what to do but walked up the same route till it connects to the road which goes to Shringeri. This junction is 7 km from Basrikatte. We did not find them yet. We walked back the whole 7 km on the main bus route thinking we would get them, but no! We finally reached the village.
We were worried like hell and many negative thoughts started coming to our minds. By then the whole village got this news and they were trying to support us. Finally one of the village guy said they are walking back on the same bus route which we had took just now to walk back. With the sense of relief, we drove down the road and saw TS jumping from the estate gate!
Meruthi – Washed off with rains
After all the fighting on the lost event, we were back to the normal state and decided to spend the second day at peace. But we were somehow unlucky again because we could not find the correct route to the peak even from inside the estate which is supposed to be the easiest route. Villagers said, ‘because of the heavy rains, the routes have got washed off and it is very difficult to search them’. The only compensation for us was that we had at least climbed the last peak!
But we did not give up! We wanted to atleast climb up till the Ganapathi Cave.

We had watched TV9 news on Ganapathi Cave and the fact that no one knows that it exists in this peak. So we enquired with the estate workers, they gave us the directions to reach there. Sudhee, Divya and Krishna wanted to rest and were not ready to take any more chances with their lives. So only five of us, Srivathsa, TS, Doc, Raghu and I started climbing the hill again. This time, fortunately, we were moving on the right path and after a while, we discovered the Cave. We enjoyed being at the cave and after some time and we headed back. On the way, we could even discover amazing water streams and many waterfalls which were a spectacular sight for our eyes and great captures for our cameras. So finally we came back with the sense of achievement and started driving back to Bangalore in the night.
Extremely delightful takeaways from this trek to me was the steep climb up and climb down the same way; thriller night experience; searching for the lost six in the night and the early morning; awesome shots clicked by my shooter and Srivathsa’s golden eye and experimenting with our cameras; Trek to the Ganapathi Cave and discovering a few waterfalls; my non-stop talking throughout the camp; Eating Neer Dosas at Kottigehara; driving in the night with PJs cracked by me (the co-driver) to make sure that the driver is attentive while driving.
So that was our dreadful story of our Independence Day - freedom trek to Meruthi Parvatha. Although we have walked round the peak, climbed up and down the other peak, Meruthi Peak (the mainpeak) is still the lost world for all of us. But I am very thankful to it for giving me this Thriller-Killer experience in life.
THE PLEASURE OF GETTING LOST - Written by Doc Manju (one among the lost six)
We had a tough time descending from the first peak at the last stage.Sudhi was tired and darkness was approaching fast.Srikanth had his leg sprained and was walking with weight on his other leg.I asked if he wanted to be picked up by the car as soon as we reached a pickup point, but he said he can walk alright if he reached the jeep track in the coffee estate.I waited untill Sudhi,Raghu and Krishna came close to me and we descended with torch shone brightly on the bushes.Raghu and Krishna backed me up to bring Sudhi to safer place.As none of the others were sure of the route to descend I took on the responsibility to get us all down.Sudhi wanted TS to come and help him but our shouts could not reach TS nor anybody.We were very happy when we soon found TS,Divya, Srikanth and Srivathsa.Little did we know that our joy was short lived!
We again lost track of Srikanth and Srivathsa who were a bit in front of us and we realised that the jeep track we were following was not the track on which we had ascended.We tried to go back and looked for the turn from where we had lost track but nobody was sure of the tracks and from where we came from!.Our minds were working slowly as we all were tired and drowsy.As we realised that we were lost and could not find the original track, we woke up from the drowsiness to the bitter reality!. Everybody now looked at TS as if he was the leading light who would lead us from darkness to light(literally!!) and TS showed us all at the end that he was truly the leading light we had expected out of him.
Sudhi and Krishna were the first to voice concern as we were lost.TS was in his best as usual and cracked jokes(which were his past experiences in trekking in jungles, and the jokes were mostly boothwala jokes or wild animal jokes).I think nobody enjoyed the jokes except TS! We all felt uncomfortable and some of us requested TS to stop joking.TS showed real concern when he repeatedly worried for what had hapenned to Srikanth and Srivathsa.Initially we tried to put TS back into his good old spirits by telling him that as we were lost, most probably they must have found the right path.TS began to shout for Srikanth and Srivathsa in the coffee estate.Not hearing any response TS's voice(we could not see each others face until somebody put his torch on that person!) showed concern.I think that was the point where the rest of us felt as if now was time to worry, our pillar showed chinks!!
After we walked for some more distance, once trying to follow distant lights as per TS's instict, but the track ran parallel to the lights and it was also ascending,and Krishna,Raghu and I felt that that was not the route to be followed.TS hastily decided to take a path which would descend and which would and felt, should lead to the Basrikatte-Sringeri main road.Some of the group members felt tired and wanted to rest and wanted the rest of us to go in search of the road.I wanted everybody to stay together whatever the circumstances and got suppot from TS on this point.It was already past 9pm.The point was agreed upon by most of the members, so TS asked if everybody was fine if we camped at that spot overnight.Taking everybody's consent TS searced for a place which was dry, flat and where it would be less windy.We soon found a spot and Raghu unpacked the tent he was carrying.Sudhi unburdened his bag with a sigh.

TS knew to set a tent but a 'dome' tent was new to him.TS got inputs(Divya providing 'technical' details was very much useful) from the rest of the gang members and in the next hour set the tent up.Though Krishna and Sudhi wanted the tent to be built quickly as they were hungry and tired,I wanted to make the tent survive the night and pegged the metal pieces deep into the ground and put the ends of the metal pipes of the dome into their sockets at the corners(this took most of my energy!).It was 10.30pm and we were having hunger pangs and getting dizzier from drowsiness!.I had never seen a tent before and was happily surprised at the tents simplicity and comfort it provided.TS was a through gentleman as he removed his shoes, folded his pants up and searched for any leeches on his legs and pants, finding everything clear he got in and cleaned up the floor of the tent and put sleeping pads to cover the floor.Divya wanted everybody to make sure of themselves that they dont carry any leeches inside the tent!.(She said she could tolerate lizards and cockroaches but could not tolerate leeches!).

Grand dinner with Camp fire: I was hungry but TS and Divya wanted a camp fire! We all searched for some twigs and leaves as TS and Divya tried to build a fire going.We burnt some paper, lit a candle, and finally put some 'theertha' into the 'homa' but the fire would not build and a lot of smoke erupted.TS said "benki illade hoge baralla....andre illi benki ide antha!",everybody laughed and TS continued to make fire.After trying for some more time TS and Divya stopped playing with fire and everybody opened their bags for food items.We drank whatever drinks we had carried.We ate chappathis with Sudhis pickles,jam,sauce and chatni pudi.I had taken dry oggarane avalakki and Krishna gave us all some buns.Snacks were there too,cup cakes,bingo and dry masala peanuts flowed into our tummys.After packing all the remaining food into our bags,each us moved into the tent after being inspected for any leeches.
Sleepless night: It was a four men tent and we were short of space, so we all had to sleep on our sides!As we tried to close the zip of the entrance of the tent it would not approximate the two sides (as the tent was streched and taut) and a hole was created just above my head! If any animal came it would first catch my head in the hole! It took some time for all of us to settle down(in side positions!) in the tent and I kept listening to all the jungle sounds.I remembered some old hindi movie with that typical night sounds.
Waiting for the dawn: I woke up suddenly as I felt droplets of water on my face.I soon realised it was raining a bit.As everybody was asleep I tried to wake up Raghu and said 'Raghu, male bartha ide', Krishna answered me 'Male alla adhu...manju, eega karagi beeltha ide', Sudhi asked what time it was and Krisna said it was nearly 5am. At that time somebody gave a shreik 'yehhh...belakagthide", another voice came up and said to hush up! I asked Raghu if he would come out of the tent with me, I kept quiet as I did not get a response.Now everybody was silent and waiting for dawn.Every body was sleeping!
Granny and the UFO!. I woke up at about 6am and took a walk along the jeep track for some distance.This was a very good feeling as I saw tiny streams crossing the track and heard chirpy sounds of the forest birds among the freshly washed up coffee bushes.I walked in my bare feet(keeping myself away from any leeches!) and sensed the feeling of the moist earth.It was a wonderful feeling and I clicked some snaps with my camera. Now in a short time I was already feeling hungry.Divya,Krishna,Raghu and Sudhi had woken up and as we were all talking near the tent a granny came till the curve of the road and seeing the tent and feeling as if some alien object had landed on the track, was about to run back when she noticed us sitting around and looking at her.She approached us hesitantly and Krishna asked her why she had stopped on the road, she flashed her betel chewen red teeth and tried to laugh and said she was scared to see the tent.We laughed and explained to her why we were there asked her the route to Basrikatte.She said it was close by and Krishna and I followed her for some distance so that we would not loose track this time too! We were very close by and about 200mtrs from the Basrikatte-Sringeri road and about 2kms(about 20mins) from Basrikatte village! Krishna and I came back and helped TS and the others to pack the tent.We left soon after and when we came close to the main road we saw Srivathsa's Black Panther comming towards us on all fours at full gallop!
Though not a thrilling experience, the night we spent in the tent was awesome and we certainly enjoyed the night to our full capabilities. Three cheers to TS as he was the person who made the night safe for all of us.I thank all my group members for supporting TS and each other to make the Independence day night a truly memorable experience in my life.
PS: I hope Doc or TS would post on their experience of the thriller night as a comment to this post.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Friendship Night Story!

‘Sudhee…What happened?’ I shout at him. There is absolute silence and no one speaks. ‘Sudhee…What happened?’ I shout again and passed the beam of my LED torch on his face in the dark. His closed eyes appeared as if he was unconscious. I saw his eye-lids making slow actions and opened to see the bright light on his face. “What happened?” I asked. ‘Nothing it is just the usual tiredness because of the continuous walk’ he said. His eyes were small and glowing like red hot balls and his bigger breaths sounded like as if he is suffering for Asthma or a severe respiratory disorder. ‘Give me some time’ he says. I asked all of us to be at one place. Sunil watching us with a What-the-hell kind of expression and was dumb looking at what is happening. I stopped Srivathsa from going up and asked him to come back for a while. It was absolutely silent and i could only hear the sound of cool breeze passing over my face and I could only think of ‘how to carry this poor guy down?’ I looked at TS and he just looked the same with the what-to-do-now look and we just waited.

‘Sudhee, you are vomiting?’ I asked. He could not stop the stuff coming out of his mouth for a while and got back to his normal position again. His face was almost sinking with the sweat and looked as if he will never ever make the mistake of coming with us. He did not speak a word after he said ‘give me some time’. I asked him to drink some water which he did and he started splashing water to his face. We were carefully watching him and his eyes were going to get some sleep. We all anxiously looked at ourselves and started worrying about taking him back down the hill and driving back to Bengaluru. I thought we made a wrong decision to come in the night. Sudhee still has his eyes closed and we all are waiting as to what exactly has happened to him. Is it his as usual tiredness or fear of night trek or because of the sad food at the dhaba? He opened his eyes and grinned at us giving us a hope that he is still alive and we can take him back. I looked at the sky, those twinkling stars thinking this is not my day and we decided to sit down for a while. As we sat down, I looked at my watch and shouted, hey folks! Its 00.00! HAPPY FRIENDSHIP DAY! As I shouted, all of us stood up and hugged wishing each other. May be it was this Friendship Night’s spirit or the energy I passed on with my shout, Sudhee woke up to wish us. He wished all of us and he said he needs to do the nature’s call. He took the water bottle in one hand and torch in the other searching for a proper place. I then got to know, it was neither my shout nor the spirit of the friendship day that woke him up; but it was the pressure! I looked at TS and he grinned back at me.

What a way to celebrate the Friendship day? We do this religiously and every year we plan for the night trek. This time thanks to my friend Sujay's suggestion, it was a lush green hill near Kanakapura called as Bilkal Rangaswamy Betta. Sudhee came back saying his stomach is alright and he was lost in finding the actual reason for his sickness and he ended up saying it was just the initial tiredness of the lengthy stretch of the climb. Well! He gives this shock wherever we go. We are now used to it and he acknowledges it whenever it happens. After all this fearful drama, he says, he is fine and we can go. All of us looked at each other’s faces and started moving. This was the second shock for the night.

Our first shock was when we entered the village Konaludoddi at the foothill, it was almost 22.30 and we had to park our car. We reached the last house in the lane of the village towards the hill and decided to park. While on the way, we were warned by villagers that there are wild elephants in the hill and it is not safe to climb up in the night. Shocked by the news, disappointingly we looked at ourselves and then convinced them that we will see if we can go else we will hire a village guide who can accompany us. We reached the last house in the lane and parked our car in front of the house. It was very late in the night and all the house members had slept off. Luckily, Shivaraj the house owner came out and greeted us. We told him our plans and he was absolutely supportive of our plan. He even offered to send village guides if we require one. We said we will find our way and took directions from him. He did not speak much about elephants; but all he wanted us was to be very careful. Initial route to the foothill was very confusing and it was a scary walk through the fields and the stream.

As we took off from our second shock, we thoroughly enjoyed the moon light trek; slowly steadily with lot of PJs cracked by each one of us; scary and a meter-off state when we heard the sound that resembled an elephant's sound near the stream; teasing Sudhee on his every 5 minute rest; taking long breaks and sleeping on the rocks; experimenting with our cameras; hilarious TS’s talks; calls and SMSs on Friendship day to our folks at Bengaluru; watching the moon through natural frames of forest and enjoying its beauty; embracing coolest breeze which took off our routine office stress to show us peace; we reached the top at around 3.30 Am. By the time we reached, we saw our torch light beams did not even travel more than a few meters and suddenly realized that we were in clouds. We could barely see anything and it was very difficult for us to even find out where the temple is? Slowly we walked up to the big rock where the temple is built and got on to the veranda of the house built next to the temple. With the sense of accomplishment and having met our objective to celebrate every friendship day with the same spirit, we landed ourselves to the ground. We were so hungry that we ate most of the stuff we had bought and keeping a little for the morning. Within a few minutes, we hit our hard-beds of cement.

My eyes opened in to a foggy morning and saw Srivathsa roaming around. I guessed he would not have slept properly and it was right. We had also thought that we will get to see the sunrise at the peak but we were so unfortunate that we got to see the Sun only by 8.30 Am in the morning. We were questioned on how and when we reached the peak by few people who were at the house next to the temple, we answered to all their questions. We were asked to go around the place and visit all the main attractions (although for me, it’s just the peak I wanted to see and not the temples). So from almost 9 Am to 11 Am we just loafed around the place taking some good shots making use of each and every opportunity that was visible to us as greatest moments in life. We could hug the sky and wish happy friendship day to it. As we wished, it made a clear movement in front of our eyes as if we were seeing the screen going up in the cinema theatre, we could see the clouds moving and leaving our eyes watch the beautiful view. We could see many towns and lakes surrounding the hill and the vibrant green forest which welcomed us in the night. It was like – ‘hey I am not in the office today but in the heaven kind of feeling!’

We started climbing down slowly enjoying the lush green paradise thinking of going back to the same place every week or every month or every year just to make ourselves clear that there is life beyond office and traumatic, chaotic city life. We reached the foothill village by 12.30 and drove back to the usual chaotic world.