Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chachan and I went Trekking...(Part 4)

For @ and the rest of my already-family...
PART-4
Dreams that won't go away...
The next day I woke up to an altitude-sickness-free morning. I rubbed my forehead in glee, it had probably gone away sometime in the night. It was then that I remembered something-the three dreams that I had had the previous night. The 3 dreams that had woken me up and that which I had gone over again to relate to Chachan in the morning. For they were so strange that I felt I really had to tell him. But that could wait-first I had to find the watering hole for some urgent business. Someone had drunk my precious 'essentials' water and I shuffled my way over to the stream uttering some choice curses to the chill mountain air. It was so cold that the tents, the boots that lay outside were all covered with ice. The dew had frozen. The lichen and the small grass on the ground were all covered with ice. The ground was a thin layer of white under the rocks, on the grass, everywhere. I found Chachan by the stream by a gutter he found filled with- ice, that's right, and we broke the ice and carefully collected the water underneath. I once again found a beautiful spot behind a rock to take a dump. Why do I find such awesome spots? Awesome view of the mountains all round, really if someone could give me hot water, I bet there was nothing to beat the experience of taking a dump on the mountains. After the morning chores me and Chachan got talking on a rock near our tents. I told him about the dreams.
"Did you dream yesterday? I had the most astonishing dreams yesterday-and 3 of them can you believe it?!
"Did you?..Ente aliya yesterday I had a very terrifying dream. I have never been this scared about anything for a long time."
"What was it about? I will tell you about my dreams after you say yours-in a stretch."
"Onnum parayanda(Don't even ask!) I dreamt that I was re-admitted for Sunday Catechism in 10th standard!! "(For those of you who don't know. Its just religious education for an hour or so every Sunday. No big deal-even a lot of fun. We meet our friends there and its always a chance to see the girls in the neighbourhood.)
"What! that's what scares you? Harmless Catechism? What's scary about that?"
"You don't know. I have always been scared of Catechism and I have never gone after 10th."
I had visions of Chachan's dad tugging a very reluctant 'small Chachan' to the Catechism class and of an older Chachan who dragged his feet to the class while the rest of the class was perched on the church boundary walls keeping a sharp lookout for the neighbourhood beauties coming to church. Poor Chachan!sniff!-no that was just me clearing my nose.
"Well yesterday I had the most beautiful, yet strange dreams of my life. All about @. Each continuations of the one before it. And it was so clear that when I woke up in the middle of the night, I decided to go over the story again so I could tell you."
"Really! My God! all about her?"
"Yep all about her. All taking place at our insti. Each in perfect correlation and  even having direct references to what has already taken place. But there was one main difference."
"What was that?"
"There was a character who doesn't exist in real life. There was a villian in the story, a guy who challenged me."
"That's ruddy brilliant! Never heard anything like that. A guy who challenges you...one who doesn't exist..Mawe I don't know a lot about this whole dream business, but you know I do read stuff about psychology right?"
"Yeah what about it?"
"Well what if your brain is taking all the obstacles in your path and giving it a human form? You know the rest of your story fits in real life even though some of it is yet to occur. But this particular character..what if it is just your brain talking to you? There's talk of that kind of a thing happening, in psychology lectures..."
We didn't speak for a while as we thought it over. Damn that sounded fascinating, I hadn't thought of that. But the more I thought about it, it could be have been possible, my brain picturising my obstacles indeed..and what if things ended the way it did with the guy?Oh my God! I felt a warmth running through my veins!!...
By now guys had woken up. I could see Kaanta2 coming out of his tent. He had braved a lot of boils on his feet on yesterday's walk and was a real hero in making it, the way they hurt him. There was Dude limping about, his face a sorry Monalisa-he had a lot of boils under his feet too and some had broken. There was Trekker running about with toothpaste- I reckon he was the only one with toothpaste atleast enough for a month in the mountains. I could hear someone shouting to check in on DS-DS was a late waker, a bit shy to wake up, but once on the road there was nothing late about him. Did he get altitude-sickness? From the shouts I heard there was nothing wrong with him. It felt good to be in the world of the healthy again and I was looking forward to the hike. Very soon I could Jhansi and c.o fooling around and the sun stepping up over the mountains. The ice on the tents started dripping, and we had our breakfast.
Hike:Nandanvan-VasukiTal (approx. 6kms 1-way, max. alt. approx.4900-5000m)
We set off after that without our rucksacks-phew! across a valley that lay to our left with Shiv-link behind us. We followed the stream a long way, and the path slowly climbed onto a ridge that lay as long as the eye could see-long and winding and climbing. I was enjoying it, what with no altitude-sickness and no rucksack I was very happy. We climber over more stones and were walking on the ridge both sides of which had begun to fall sharply to rocks and crevasses. We must have gone half an hour when Shuttle clutched onto a rock and sunk to the ground.
"My head is killing me!! I cannot walk"
Altitude-sickness again. Shuttle joined Bob at the end of the queue and someone gave him water to help reduce the pain. We carried on, Shuttle and Bob struggling along and still keeping up. As we walked we saw glaciers far below. The water collecting in big pools, the sunlight glancing off the melting ice. We were walking on a ver narrow ridge as usual and sometimes there was no way but to walk on the slopes, slipping and sliding, with sheer falls on one side. We must have walked for about three hours and we had a glacier ahead. Huge rocks lay to the bottom with loose sandy and rocky slopes to get to them. The ice in the rocks was melting at places and there could be rockfalls at anytime, the guide had cautioned. From this point on no one who wasn't sure of his bearings could go, and we had to leave the ones who were ill behind. They had braved a lot of pain to reach here with us, but it was too risky to take them further. What followed was more slipping, sliding on the slopes, nerve-wracking jumps over rocks and sure-footed landings on some. We finally reached the side of the mountain we had to climb to reach VasukiTal on the other side. There was a slot in the mountain-side and since it wasn't high enough to walk in, there was a rope strung through it and one had to catch hold of the rope and walk slanted on the mountain-side. There was a sheer drop to huge rocks in the glacier for a lapse in concentration.
Cats have nine lives.I have used up one of mine.How many have I left?
We began our journey upward. I caught hold of the rope and tried my first footholds. The mountain-side was slippery what with there being loose sand on a rough surface. It was one step at a time. And every step with the utmost concentration. We were walking slanted on an already inclined surface. On the way my bottle slipped out of my pocket and fell away. I could hear it thudding away a long way below. No just concentrate in your next foot-hold. As we reached the top about 10-20 m. below the rope gave out. THERE WAS NONE OF IT. EITHER IT HAD WORN AWAY OR SOMEONE HAD TAKEN IT OFF. SO WE HAD 20m TO CLIMB ON A SLIPPERY INCLINED MOUNTAIN-SIDE AND NO ROPE. THERE WAS A GLACIER WITH HUGE ROCKS UNDER US AND WE HAD NOTHING TO HANG ON TO. What followed was the most nerve-wracking, gut-trying, tense period of my life till then. We clutched on whatever we could get. We made hand-holds, dug our fingers into the sand and found surfaces of rocks to hold on, found niches in the rocks, burrowed our hands into the sand groping for hand-holds, searching for footholds, testing some to see if they would hold-and praying. I prayed to God with probably the most intensity and frequency during that period of my life till then. Finally after pulling our bodies,climbing over the surface we made it to the top. 13 of us 14 of us with the guide of the 16 made it to the gentle slopes of what was VasukiTal that lay below. There was delirious joy having made it risking our lives and with much difficulty, everyone mad with joy. The lake was beautiful, the calm green waters a sight to remember, in that valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. We ate our lunch remembering to keep some for the ones left behind and drank water from the lake. There was a photo-session of the victorious group.We decided to make our descent in order that we get back in time before sundown. And that's when we understood what we had put ourselves into. To climb up without a rope was o.k compared to getting down with gravity forever willing to take you down faster and the slopes as slippery as they were. Blood drained from our faces as we set about to do it. We descended, trying to gain footholds but this time facing the deadly drop below; we lay on the ground pasted on the mountain-side and gripped whatever we could trying to make our way down. That's when the guide reappeared by my side.
"Daro math.kade hoke neeche utharo..la apke haath deejiye..mein aapko jaane nahiin doonga agar mein chala gaya fir bhi.."(don't be afraid.Descend down standing.Give me your hand I won't let you fall even if I fall) With that he showed me how to do it.M'God! this man was a goat..so nimble..so sure.
But that showed me how to do it and I mustered courage and descended standing up. We reached the rope section. I must have taken a few steps down when it happened- I slipped, and for a few seconds I hung by the rope-the whole bloody ravine below me. My grip on the rope was always good and that saved me, as also did God's grace. I regained my footholds and made my way down. Cats have nine lives. I had used up one of mine on our way here and I had used up another now. Damn how many have I left? From the rope section it was back acrooss the glacier. More precision jumping, slipping, sliding and climbing up to the ridge. We made our way back to the campsite-a victorious and happy lot, we had made it to VasukiTal-and back too, to tell the tale and our joy knew no bounds. On the way the Kaantas and me had the fortune of seeing a stream start to flow right before our eyes. Ice had probably melted somewhere. It was evening by the time we reached back at Nandanvan. And the sun was just saying goodbye. We set about gathering the dried grass and whatever dry that could light up for a bonfire.
The night is ablaze
That night was a night to remember. 16 guys and a guide who were deliriously happy and a blazing fire that sometimes smoked our eyes off. All of us took turns on tending to it but DS was 'chief fireman'. We recounted old insti stories, girl-friends too were remembered. HALL-2 anthem was proudly sung atop Nandanvan-but what happened to Hall-3 anthem eh?(hahahaha)It was some night, 16 guys around a blazing fire the light dancing on our faces, us standing with our arms outstretched to get them warm. It did get us warm pretty quickly and at times made us cry too-ohh that smoking grass! Remo on his ingenious ways of getting the fire to burn right...Jhansi in a desperate effort to get his bottom warm..Laughing,cracking jokes...DS swaahaaying to the fire..what fun! Oh..we had a night to remember-Kaanta was supposed to park his arse on the smoking ashes after 1 hour to see if they were still hot, and if it was and he lost the Hall-3 guys had to sing their anthem in jubiliation. We know that Kaanta lost for sure-na Kaanta? but still no anthem?? Apparently that's only for 'special' occassions eh Hall-3 waale? Lets leave them to it..
To be continued...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chachan and I went Trekking...(Part-3)

For you @, though it will be sometime before you read this..
PART-3
Day-3 Trek Bhojwasa-Nandanvan(Approx. 14 kms,max alt 4500-4700m. odd)
Breakfast on the third day was a solemn affair for me and even though Kaanta urged everyone to eat more and finish the dhaliya and maggi, I took care not to eat more. 'cos this was the day that it would 'f@tegi', in short we would have to sweat it out. The day involved a massive climb till 4700 odd m. and a distance covered of nearly 14kms which was no mean feat. But we would get further surprises from the terrain later on. I got into my 'harness' 'cos that's what it was-my left shoulder-band tied firmly to my waist-band, and once in, I was in for the day; and we set off. The path began a steady climb and at times it would fall for a respite(in the mountains its always like this-the guide explains). We walked in single file, some impatient to move on even disobeyed Kaanta's orders of no-overtaking. DK Bose and Trekker were members of this category, but a new member would join them by the end of the day. The wind was a constant companion, harsh and unfriendly, but still sticking to Hutch's philosophy(the network always follows). I wished it would push off really. What with 6-point something kilos in rations alone, I had enough trouble to cope with without the leaky and sore nose that the wind was bringing in. The nose felt like it would break off any minute. The terrain changed rapidly- now there were rocks in the path, all with undisturbed edges. Now the style changed to walking on the rocks..selecting edges to walk on. This must have gone on for a couple of hours and I was just settling into a rhythm when we reached Goumukh. We saw the icy-rocky cave from which the Ganga supposedly originates. The board near the small hut of a temple announced-Goumukh(4000m.). We had jaggery and channa and Gluose-D and I rested my bag against a rock and sat stretching my legs. We resumed again cursing the stop 'cos it broke the rhythm and our leg-muscles felt like they had frozen stiff. More rocky terrain followed and gradually we got accustomed to walking on the rocks. There were couple of times when I would bless 'em hunter shoes for preventing a sprain as these would hold the legs quite stiff. I was dragging myself-a towel tied across my fore-head to beat the wind, and before long I found myself towards the back with Kaanta who was there to encourage people along. It was him who perfected the theory of walking on the rocks-never use your hands, don't be afraid of them, walk right on the edges if you can. With him back there encouraging it was easier, for with nearly 4 hours of continuous trekking things were getting monotonous and blurry. We rested for a while in a valley finding shelter behind a big rock. More jaggery and channa followed-I have never had so much jaggery in my life but it was for sustenance and no one asked questions, just shoved it down their throats. Water we got from way-side streams-crystal clear and ice-cold. The guide pointed out Nandanvan for us-ahead of us and to the side, up and behind a mountain range. It looked like another 3 hours of climbing. We set off and must have gone about half an hour when the terrain again changed. We were surrounded by mountains, barren and solemn, towering custodians of-something, what we couldn't figure. It was like they were watching as you passed amidst their midst, the silence was quiet eerie. But that was not what I meant; the terrain had pulled up a surprise-ahead of us lay what was probably centuries of rock-fall. Big huge rocks the size of rooms to small ones that rolled away when u stepped on them and our path was through them. I was walking at the head of the line with the guide infront of me and we started making our way, climbing over rocks, jumping from rock to rock, landing on edges, running over them, squeezing between them- I was enjoying this part, I was putting to practise Kaanta's theory and I was loving this. There is something in knowing which rock to land on and where to land on. I must have cut my fingers a couple of times in the process, but I didn't care. We must have gone about 15-20 min when the guide announces "halt! the normal way is gone..there must have been another rockfall.We will have to go around, figure our own way."(what way had there been?it was always clambering on rocks in a general direction.) So we 'de-toured' not that it made sense to any of us, but he probably knew where he was going and that was enough for us. There was more climbing on rocks, more jumping like goats a la commando style from rock to rock,slipping,sliding. We walked on ridges with a melting glacier on one side and a sharp drop to rocks on the other with hardly space to lay a foot-it was just a pointed ridge of loose mud and rocks; we just walked on the slopes and on it whenever there was space. Sometimes it was a steep climb over the rocks with people stopping to catch their breaths-and it was probably around here somewhere that Pack Mule showed his identity. As I said there's nothing wrong with this fellow he's just impatient to move forward, doesn't understand anything else and doesn't understand any language that's being spoken to him when he's doing so-all he wants is to move forward-as stubbornly and as bluntly as any pack mule ever born. He cared little for Kaanta's stern words of no over-taking and wouldn't care whether people were waiting for people ahead to catch their breaths-as far he was concerned he wanted to-that's right keep moving forward. But he was a great chap mind you and was always giving out words of encouragement whether people needed them or not. So with Pack Mule butting about we clambered over more rocks,climbed down many and finally climbed the steep climb to Nandanvan and stood at the far end of a huge meadow. Meadow 'cos there was some wild-grass/lichen growing and lichen everywhere..on the rocks,under them-some life-form in this barren world. We walked to the far end of the meadow where there was a rock that would offer little shelter from the wind and set up camp near it. We were on a table over-looking the valley we had passed and surrounded by mountains. Peaks Shiv-link, Bhagirathi 1,2 and 3 stood majestically around us filling us with awe. Their snow covered peaks and slopes were majestic in the evening sun that was setting over the mountains. With passing time the clouds that had begun to form since afternoon began sweeping around these mountains and slowly began to envolope them and by dusk they would have hidden them from view.
Bluuurrrgh!! and more news:
As we pitched tents I started getting a headache and a heavy feeling in the head accompanied by uneasiness.Jeez! don't let this be altitude-sickness-but it was. It began to get worse,the heavy feeling and the dull throbbing in my head. I shut my eyes and rubbed my head fiercely wishing I could crush the pain. It did offer relief but the situation didn't change. I crawled into my sleeping bag in the tent to escape the biting wind and wondered why I was sick even though I had tied a towel around my forehead. Chachan got me soup that was already cooking in the 'kitchen'. Kaanta poked his head into the tent-opening.
"Oyye no one in the tents. Come we are going for a walk".
"Oh c'mon Kaanta a little more time. I'm sure this headache will go away then".
"No, no it will not go away. You have to come with us. It will go away only with acclimatisation. Come I will give you medicine too later."
So saying he dragged me from the tent. I joined the others and we had a walk around where we spotted wild-goats-these are the only animals found at this altitude except for a crow-like mynah which is found in these parts. The goats are sure-footed devils and they go about prancing as though the steep slopes and the sheer drops mean nothing to them-indeed that's the case. So it was that our li'l party thought a bhakra(goat) or two for dinner wouldn't be out of place, and set about trying to catch them, me watching from a distance, Pack Mule-kind soul that he is, giving me company. As far as I could see even though Remo, Jhansi and Kaanta ran helter-skelter with the others giving them ample support our gang of fourteen(excluding me and PM) couldn't round up a single goat. Those nimble things were too good. After dinner channa where Chachan tried his maximum to help me eat(bless him!), we settled into our tents. Oh! one word about the water-the only source of water here was a stream that would flow in the afternoons and freeze over-night. Even in the evenings water would be found only in the gutters in the stream-bed. This was probably fed by ice melting in the afternoons somewhere. So it was that everyone remembered to fill up water for their essentials in the morning-one bottle-full. Kaanta gave me a Dygene just before sleeping and asked me to wake him up if the situation went seriously bad(I don't know what we would have done without this guy). We went to sleep in prior fashion; sleep being an extremely scarce and coveted commodity on the mountains. I don't know what time it was when I heard a shout and someone clambering over us from my left. I tried to make out who it was-either Bob or Shuttle. Shuttle was a regular case of altitude-sickness and Bob had complained of stomach troubles the previous evening. He burst through the tent opening(thank goodness one of the zippers was gone) - and not a moment too soon.
Bluuurrrgh!!!(Iam not trying to be gross, just trying to paint the scene in the tent.) Blaaarrrrghhhh...
I felt sorry for the poor guy. He was probably puking his insides out. Chachan gave him his 'essentials' water to clean up. I squirmed in my sleeping-bag with each out-burst and tried not to think about it. I felt that I had to be the next customer, I had altitude-sickness didn't I? Bob clambered back in saying he was very relieved. Through the night my headache had kept increasing and between patches of sleep I became more and more tensed-what if this thing didn't wear off?What would I do for the hike the next day?I must have been sleeping for sometime I guess-when I woke up feeling a sudden urge to pee. Remembering the condition I was in I checked myself by standing in the tent-nothing. I stepped over Chachan and out of the tent-and I felt myself reeling. I still don't know how fast that feeling came, with the first blast of the chill mountain air, I felt the blood in my head draining, the world was going unsteady under my feet and I knew I was nearing a black-out. I clutched at the central tent-rope and hung on to it-literally hung on to it-my feet were useless, and I called out to Chachan.
"Chacha..da thala karangunneda..enne pidikku!.."(Chachan Iam feeling dizzy. Catch me!)
"Eda athu ullatha ii altitudil..ni kurachu neram avide irikku"(Its usual at this altitude. You sit down for sometime, you will get well.)
"Ok."
And I sat. Now why hadn't I done that in the first place instead of hanging by the rope? 'cos that was all the sense I had at that time and just hearing his voice was probably a reassurance. Chachan would tell me later on in the morning that he didn't remember a thing and that he had probably sleep-talked.
Anywho after sitting for sometime, I felt the situation return to normal and found a spot quite close-by to pee. As I peed I raised my eyes to look at the sky. And oh my God!! I have never seen anything like it. The sky was so clear here that I could see millions, millions of stars. The sky a deep black and the stars a sparkling deep-blue -like jewels scattered on a dash of velvet. It was like I was at the centre of a black, glass dome with millions of brilliant blue jewels strewn across all over. I have never seen anything more brilliant. I clambered back inside only 'cos I was wary of my condition. I slept peacefully after that but not without incidents but that was for discussion only the next morning.
To be continued..

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chachan and I went Trekking...(Part-2)

Dedicated to you @...
Part-2
LAMKHAGA?
For sometime on the bus it was carried around in whispers, but by the time we arrived in the hotel in Uttarkashi it had become clear-we were not going to Lamkhaga. Long story short, DS had been trying to get the permit for a month and it still hadn't seen the light in the District Magistrate's office. How quickly we process things in our Govt. offices! After much swearing and debating on what was left in this trip(where nothing had gone to plan), it was announced that we would be going to Gangotri instead and make our way up from there. The news was that this was an easier trek and all of us felt let down. This was not what we had taken DS's morning p.t for and not what we had dreamed of. But Kaanta made it clear that this would be a proper trek and though it would not be that difficult it would be worth it. We went to sleep at Uttarkashi on that.
Day-1(Gangotri-Chidwasa,9kms,max alt-3500 odd m.)
We took another bus in the early hours at Uttarkashi to reach Gangotri. On the way Jhansi and c.o entertained the group with their hilarious accounts and also held an informal get-to-know session with the juniors. Trekker and Bob shared their life-stories. I think Bob did really have a life-size story 'cos I could hear him for so long. After a quick lunch at Gangotri we set off at approx. 2.30 p.m., and that was when I got the first lick of what was to come. On a full stomach with 7.9kilos in rations alone(rucksack totally might have been 17odd atleast), climbing up from Gangotri felt like pulling a cement-truck up the incline. But not to be outdone and swaggering like a veteran I chatted with Chachan as we climbed up the hill-side towards-Chidwasa we were told. I couldn't guess where we were going. Names like Chidwasa,Bhojwasa,Nandanvan,Tapovan kept floating and from what sense I could make of it the first stop was Chidwasa, so Chidwasa it was. After about 15-20min. we reached the check-post and rested for a bit. I grounded my imaginary cement-mixer and panted like my neighbour's lab-remember him? Chocolates(mango-bites) were passed around(mango-bites? where were the glucose-drips and a protein shot too while you were at it?). I took a healthy swig from my water-bottle remembering that too much would add to my 'cement-mixer', and ate the mango-bite in silence.
"C'mon,move forward guys!!" it was Kaanta who reappeared from the check-post.
And move forward we did, me walking just ahead of Chachan. As we walked we started noticing the terrain. There were sal/pine trees all around and the path was littered with stones. The soil was loose and it was sandy most of the time. The path climbed quickly and we soon had the Ganga roaring furiously far below. Taking care not to trip on the stones I walked bent forward as I pulled my 'cement-mixer' forward. Words were scarce and were just passing references between Chachan and me as both took notice of the heavy loads they were carrying. The terrain was beautiful, littered with sal trees on the hill-side and the Ganga flowing turbidly below, that it was a shame that we had to deal with the weight also. Very soon we made aquaintance with a new member-the wind, it blows down the valley at speeds ranging from a breeze to a small gale. The local people regard it as a life-force but I in my present condition could hardly figure out how that made sense. It was chilly and bit into you and also carried the loose sand of the valley along with it. As I moved forward, it pushed into my lungs and the sand stung my nostrils. I looked around at the others. Except me and Chachan most had the new rucksacks, a bit heavier, but in better condition. But maybe that hardly made a difference as some were struggling while others pushed stubbornly forward. We walked forward for what seemed like an hour or two, I don't know-I was scared to look at the watch, just wanted it to be as long as it could be. On the way we met a group of lawyers on a trip to these parts. These lucky guys had given most of their luggage to porters.
"Hello where are you guys from?" I asked the nearest one.
"We are from Chennai and you?"
"We are from Kanpur. What do you do?"
"We are all lawyers. Me and my friends are on a trek to Goumukh. What do you guys do?"
"We are from IIT Kanpur"
"Oh so you are engineers? That's great"
"Aama engineers than. Aana ipo eruma-maadu mari sumandhittu irukkirom..(Yes engineers, but right now we are carrying loads like cattle) I said laughing.
"Oh Tamil theriyuma? Where are you guys from? And is this trek voluntary or a course?"
"We are from Kerala"I said pointing to Chachan"And ya Tamil konjam theriyum(I know a bit of Tamil) and no this trek is voluntary."
"Appo pinne then you have to carry. Did you have training for this?" (then you have to carry) he said laughing.
"yeah..haha..We did 1 month conditioning for this."
"Oh..that's good..c'mon then you can do it"
"Thanks..yeah I will"
In a short span of a few dialogues exchanged we became friends with these people and we would later meet them at Chidwasa and on the road to Bhujwasa as well. We had until sunset to reach Chidwasa and since we started out at 2.30 that was give or take 4-5 hours in these parts. The walking was always in a fast pace then and my breathing laboured. With the cold wind to aid, my nose started dripping like a leaky tap. I just kept wiping it with the back of my hand and it soon became sore-who cares, I just thought about moving forward as that was all I could think of. We passed several people on the way, most old pilgrims, many families, most of them on mules, others walking, carrying a stick. Tottering along would be the proper word for these people didn't walk, they just waddled forward ever so slowly. I felt sorry for these poor people-so much to gain moksha. Most at an age when they should be sitting in their backyards watching the sun set over their guava trees, here they were trying to gain that extra bit of moksha huffing and puffing the lives out of them. There were foreigners too, walking along with sticks that ought to be of use to serious climbers, but now looking comical being used on dry sand at far less an altitude. There were couples along the way and they were probably the only ones who lent a bit of colour to the scene apart from the rich canvas spread out by nature herself. We passed over two streams with logs across them serving as bridges. It was fun to walk balanced across these logs(max. 3) with the stream rushing furiously down the hill-side. Somewhere in between a rhythm had bulit up and we walked mechanically-some like Trekker were filled with enthusiasm and kept overtaking people. Very soon the heavy-rucksack-to-personal-weight ratio started taking its toll on me, and my old worn-out rucksack didn't help the cause. Me and Chachan were careful even in shifting the load from shoulder to shoulder-there were already rips in the rucksacks and we didn't want it to split open by a sudden jerk. So it was that with around two hours of walking, I found us towards the back of the queue, Chachan there because I had begged for him to be there for moral support(folks remember I had shown-off back at SAC for having had 7.9 kilos in rations alone? I repented with my whole heart for the act, and wished many times that it had not been the case.) In such bad condition was my rucksack that the band which is supposed to be around the waist and take some load off the shoulders was flapping around just above my knees, and I was staggering forward. Chachan noticing the poor state I was in would proceed to lift my bag for me from the back many-a-time so that I could have some respite-bless him!! I still don't know how I could have made it that first day without him back there for moral and physical support many times. We trudged forward for what seemed like hours, the gang eager to make it before night-fall. After many episodes of physical support from Chachan, Kaanta who was at the back of the queue took notice of the situation. He rushed forward and tightened the stuck bands of my rucksack so that it was bearable. It was 6.30p.m when we stood over Chidwasa-our first camping spot.We descended to the banks of the Ganga to the sheltered spot of Chidwasa.
It was a relief to set up camp surrounded by trees and on the banks of a younger Ganga. We walked on to the pebbled banks and drank in the beauty of the dusk falling fast. It was fun that night to rub our sore-shoulders and thighs and sit in the middle of the camp-site and relate stories in the darkness while the cook got stuff cooking-the kerosene flame lighting up the kitchen area. It was during this story-session that Kaanta told the others how I was walking in 'flash-back' and how the nick-name stuck(@-I owe that to you,who else). Jhansi,Brainy and Remo had cool stories to add of treks they had and Kaanta too joined in with witty old details. We had dinner of rice and dal where I lost a few odd kilos from my rucksack. Everyone was conscious of weight reducing from their rucksacks-every 100 gram gone was met with delight. We went to sleep in our tents with DK Bose sticking his elbows into me and Chachan shivering on the other side.
I woke up early and went on a recce to the river. It was a wonderful scene, sunlight just breaking out on the farther slopes and the river flowing busily on in the virgin dawn. I sat for a few minutes drinking in the view. Then I hurried back to find a spot to take a nature's call. Its fun to shit out in the open-really, the view is so magnificient compared to the graffiti we have back in the hostel "flush you @#$%"- you get the idea..it was probably the best spot I had of ever taking a dump-surrounded by bushes with red,yellow flowers, leaves..it was a hue I can't forget..and ohh..the view ahead-the mountains standing majestically ahead, the sunlight still not having reached them. Its just that each time you wash your hands on the mountains you feel like they will sever off and fall-the water is so frigid, it feels like you are gonna get frost-bite. We had coffee on the banks of the river, me having found the 'mermaid-stone', lying on it in a mer-man pose. Brainy and c.o going bare-chested in a photo-session.
Day 2: Chidwasa-Bhojwasa(distance-5kms,max alt-3700 odd m.)
We had breakfast of dhaliya and maggi(someone's rucksack was lighter and Shuttle sneaked out a Glucose too-so his was lighter too). Immediately after breakfast(note that), we packed our tents and set off for Bhujwasa. This one was easy and we had plenty of time to make it compared to the 9kms in 4hrs. that we did the previous day. We again trekked up a steep incline from the campsite that took our breaths away and having got back on track walked to Bhujwasa. DS was leading and from what I heard Shuttle and his crony Bob tried to match his pace, but even though Shuttle had spent hours telling us how he had won the x-country when Kaanta was in it, he was no match for DS on the mountains. So after a while Shuttle took his place behind DS and stuck to it-DS had gone on a terrific pace. The terrain changed as we walked-the trees gave away to bushes on both sides and the wind was a constant companion. So was the leaky nose. The load was probably lighter by a kilo-and-something but since Kaanta had tightened it, it felt better. The stones on the road also changed, they were no longer rounded-off by passing feet but sharper. There were fewer passers-by here. It must have been an hour into walking and we were passing through boulder-strewn area that it happened-the left strap on my rucksack finally broke. Remo rushed to my side and helped tying up the strap to my waist-band so that I was in a sort-of harness. But it made it easier to carry so I couldn't care less. We passed over another small bridge and climbed over boulders and rocks in valleys. It must have taken 2-3 hrs. to reach Bhujwasa. This was an open camping spot, open to the wind with the river nearby. We descended to Bhujwasa.
We set up camp and the guys started roaming around and finally got playing volleyball. Me and Chachan went exploring and found a sheltered cove under a huge rock,by the river, sheltered from the wind. There was crystal-clear water in the cove fed by branches flowing into the river and this would become our watering-hole. After a dinner of rotis and dal I guess we fell asleep in prior fashion(DKB digging his elbows and Chachan shivering away). Sleep is a scarce commodity on the mountains-you barely get 3-4 hours of decent sleep. The rest is troubled,twisting,turning,waiting for dawn to break, the cold seeping in through the cracks in the tent-opening. In our case to poor Chachan's discomfort the zipper on the lower part of the tent-flap broke off leaving a gaping hole for the cold to flow through. That was also the night when DKB kept us all awake with a series of tales through the night. He tells a lot of stories that kid, but DKB I fear I was the only one listening in the end. And yaawn..I trust myself to have heard the last of em. We don't know what did it, but we dreamt a lot in the mountains and it was in that night that I probably first dreamt of you-@. Nothing that I remembered later-that would come later. In the morning, again I was an early bird and this time I made a bee-line for the cove and to the first sheltered place, 'cos here at Bhujwasa hiding places to take a dump were scarce. Again I found a spot that offered a majestic view of the mountains, but I also had to keep a look-out 'cos I knew it was quite near to where a baba who prayed at the nearby, small temple lived. You can't be too careful about these babas waking up early you know. I finished my chores just as baba came out for brushing, and after a friendly wave with the bottle as I walked by, I walked down to the river-side for some introspection. I found that Chinky had already beat me to it and was introspecting in earnest-so I joined him from a farther stone. Some time later Chachan also joined me and after enjoying the dawn breaking over the valley we had a photo-session with Shuttle.
TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chachan and I went Trekking...(Part-1)

Characters making their appearance in this tale:

1.Drill Saab- no intro required,co-ordi,final yr IITian.
2.Dy. Drill Saab/Johny Depp/Kaanta- As the last name suggests, tough as a thorn.
3.Ration Kada(Ration shop)- He was the one who made our loads lighter.slip him a fifty and you could have 2 kilos off..kidding..nothing worked
4.Shuttle- plays the game.loves to eat.Loves to fib.
5.Bob-From wild-wild-west..shuttle ka sathi. Romeo..
6.DK Bose- He packs,unpacks,irritates,tells nice stories....yaaawn..
7.Pack Mule-the name has nothing to do with his IQ which is quite strong since he has cracked JEE..its just his other qualities..
8.Dude- the eldest member of the group. At 27 he is still romancing ladies in our French class.
9.Remo- old co-ordi...the kewl dude.
10.Jhansi- loves his food..senior to the btechies..with a kaamedy mind.
11.Brainy- senior from Hall-3..
12.Chinky- senior..jovial..wise..his wisdom pours out through his spectacles..
13.Kaanta2- very kaanta..finished 2nd in half-marathon..jolly guy..
14.Trekker- the future of trekking club. He has dedicted his life to trekking.
15.Chachan- IIT mein sathi..
16.Mawe- That's me.

Dedicated to @
I even earned a nick-name on this trip 'cos of you 

Part-1
THE FLARES ARE-A-FLARING 

"Bon@#$%%e what have you guys bought? Why have you bought Diary-Milk when I asked you to buy Five-star? And why is the channa all squishy? Cdn't you have torn some packets and eaten and checked? And where are you guys? Why aren't you at the SAC and packing?" it was Kaanta shouting through the mobile.
 I rubbed my head. Now what could this idiot want? Me and Chachan had finished almost the entire shopping-list for the trek earlier that day. The Lion(guide) was in his den and I was flooded with work. It certainly pissed me off. What Five-Star?What channa?And how the f#$k could this junior be swearing at me?
"Wait I'll come there"
Now to slip out without the Lion noticing. I pedalled furiously to the old SAC. I entered to see almost the entire gang present surrounded by rations. Kaanta was bent over a kerosene lamp pumping furiously.
"Bon@#$%%e tu kis ko gali detha hai re? Aur kya kah rahe ho? Hamne pura saman kareedh liya tha na?(#$$$ Who do you think you were swearing at?And what are u saying?Haven't we bought all the stuff?) I cdn't bear to think a junior could swear at me.
"Saale tum logon ko kisne bathaya Dairy-Milk lane ko?meine kaha nahin kya ki 5-star chahiye?Aur ye chana khake dekha kya?Saare karab hein"(Who asked you to buy Dairy-Milk.Hadn't I asked for 5-star?And had you eaten this chana before buying?Its all squishy)
Now how the hell could I know this guy had a fancy for 5-star? I liked Dairy-Milk. I looked around for Bob who had told me we could get anything. He was hiding and shoving in rations into a polythene, not even daring to look in our direction.
"Arre Bob ne bola tha kuch bhi la sakthe hain.Aur hum packet wali channa kaise kholke kha sakthe hein? Aur tumein kya lagtha hai?-ki mujhe aur Chachan ko koyi kam nahin hai.Udhar lion meri sir kha raha hai(Bob had told us we could get any chocolate.And how could we open the channa wich was in a packet?Do you think me and Chachan are jobless?) The voice levels were raising. We both were shouting now.
"Saale Dairy-Milk agar ek bar garam hota hai to karab ho jata hai..koi nahin kaatha use..feink dethe hein. Aur chana bilkul dry hone ki check karna chahiye.."(Dairy-Milk once it gets a little warm as what would happen when we set off would get bad..people wouldn't even eat it then. They would just throw it off. And the chana has to be checked to be perfectly dry)
More shouting. We were both eye-balling each other now. Ration Kada and DK Bose came to seperate the two of us. Ration Kada explained that in IIT gali-wali(swearing) was considered normal between senior and juinior either way. 
So much for my theory that Dairy-Milk was the better chocolate. We both cooled off and I realised he was probably right. I didn't know how Dairy-Milk worked after heating and cooling. Whereas he with his loads of trek experience probably knew. And if the 3 kilos of chana were bad it had to go. Trekker and DK Bose were asked to go return the spoilt items. Me and Chachan would again go the next day and finish the shopping-list.
Meanwhile now that our argument was over, I joined Kaanta where he was working furiously with the kerosene stoves. He showed me how to remove the dirt from the nozzle and get it working. We worked in the flares of the kerosene stoves. There is this thing about Kaanta-he is dedicated to what he does. Infact after the swearing episode, I learnt a lot from him and gradually felt my anger for him fading away. There was something about this trek. By the time it finished, I would come to be thick friends with the ones I hated in the beginning..We finished with the kerosene stoves and divided and packed our rations. I had a whopping 7.9 kilos. I showed-off my heavy ration packet. As far as I knew only Pack-Mule and Trekker had more. What an idiot I was to show-off.

SETTING OFF
Finally the next day we were all packed and ready. After seeing off the Roop-kund group we picked up our bags two each-one for the 'seniors' who would be joining us later on in Rishikesh. So carrying our bags and half-draging the extra-ones we waited for rickshaws. More than half the IIT-junta was leaving for mid-sem breaks and rickshaw wallahs made a bee-line for easier passengers. Who would want to take-on tons of camping equipment? So it was that most of us began our trek from the SAC itself dragging those heavy bags till the IIT gate. Lucky Roop-kund people-they got a damn vehicle right upto their buses.
RACE ON?
After waiting for nearly an hour the Qualis and an Omni we booked quite on-spot arrived at the gate. We got in and began the drive to Lucknow. Me and Shuttle with most of our luggage in the Omni and the rest in the Qualis. As we zig-zagged through Kanpur and out I could see half of someone's arse hanging out of the Qualis and few of someone's limbs hanging out too. It must be a tight squash in the Qualis I thought. I must be in a quite luxurious position even with the gear lever of the Omini being furiously shifted between my legs and Shuttle squirming with his long legs in the Omini front-seat. As we whizzed past what looked like a family on a motorcycle, with papa-jan trying acrobatics, I remarked to Shuttle about the poor state of affairs in the North what with no road-rules being followed. As we neared Lucknow it was all silence in the Omini. We were upto figures like 5 kms in 10 min.-in Lucknow traffic. It was a tight squash. As we neared the railway station with only seconds to spare, Shuttle offered to run and stop the train(do whatever he could). We screamed to a halt at the railway station and like commandos we burst out, each carrying a heavy rucksack and half-carrying, half-dragging atleast another. We ran to the 3rd platform to see the tail-lights of the train moving ahead of us and Shuttle screaming, and running alongside the guard-car, pleading, begging for the train to stop. Now when has that caused a train to stop?
It didn't and we were left stranded on the 3rd platform. Ration-Kada and me went to pick up the left-over bags from the taxi. As we trudged with the heavy bags we got a call from Kaanta to tell us that there was another train at platform 5. So it was more running like mad to platform 5, where we found a train-only it wasn't the one we needed.
"What?At platform 5? We are at platform 5.Where the hell are you guys?" Ration-Kada was trying to make sense of what Kaanta was bellowing from the other end.
More suspense as RK tried to block out the combined noise of the crowd and listen. He dug the mobile into his ears. I felt that it couldn't get more inside. I was wrong; pressed it in further.
"Oyye!! Mawe hurry up. We are on the wrong bloody railway station.C'mon" RK proceeded to run back to the exit on a mad run.
What?Wrong railway station?What the hell did he mean?Has RK gone mad?I followed him anyway and more running ensued. It was only as I ran that it dawned that there were indeed two railway stations in Lucknow. Which idiot designed it that way I wonder. And both having trains going whichever way. Not even the seperate one for local trains mind you. What bloody craziness. We found a coolie mid-way and shoving the luggage into his trunk we ran like crazy with him following. Everyone else was on the train weren't they and what crazy luck if we were the ones left off? All because some idiot had thought of two stations. As we reached platform 5 the coolie suggested we run ahead and stop the train for a few seconds. We ran like crazy, quite bollywood-filmy-like, arms-flailing..screaming for the guard to stop. He must have felt some pity 'cos he asked us to calm ourselves and get into the nearest compartment. We got the coolie to throw our bags in and we jumped in as the train started off. Seconds later we hear more shouting and see Kaanta again running filmy-like to our compartment. What drama. The guard must have seen enough for the night. He jumped in, took a few seconds to catch his breath.
"Are all of you here?" Kaanta asked.
"What are you saying? I thought all of us are on this train"
"Call the others to confirm"
"Wait I'll call Chachan". With that I dialled his number.
"Hello Mawe.You guys ok?Me on the train".
Thank gooodness, they were safely on. The whole gang was probably there with them.
"So you are all safe na? Which compartment are you guys in?"
"What do you mean all?Only Pack-Mule and I are here with three bags and a set of sleeping-mats. We are probably somewhere in the middle of the train. Are all of you towards the last compartment"
"WHAT??Only you and PM are there?Only me,RK and Kaanta here.Where are the rest of the guys.I thought we were the last to board?Are they in compartments further ahead?"
"Mawe only Pack-Mule and I are here. And no one has passed us ahead".
"Shit!!!..wait there then. I will call you when I know something".
I relayed the news. WHAT ON EARTH HAD HAPPENED? WHERE WERE THE OTHERS?KAANTA HAD RELAYED THE NEWS ABOUT THE PLATFORM TO EVERYONE.Another call confirmed it. The rest were stranded on third platform itself. I looked at my mobile. It showed 'DS calling'..
"Hello"it was DK Bose/Trekker on the other end."is DS with you guys?"
"What do you mean? You are calling from his mobile and you ask me where he is?He is not here. Isn't he supposed to be with you guys?"
"No he is not here. His mobile is with me. So he cannot call any of us. I thought he would be with you guys".
More drama. WHERE ON EARTH WAS DS?Kaanta had had enough.
"You guys go on. I will gather the others and follow somehow" he looked out. The train was pulling out and we were among a lot of criss-crossed tracks. It must have been somewhere on the outers of Lucknow railway yards. We were moving slowly. Kaanta jumped out onto the tracks and was lost in the darkness. I felt more respect for this guy.
In the middle of the night we regrouped us and Chachan and PM. They told us that DS had been found with the others. We went to sleep. Dude would be joining us from Moradabad. We were to be awake to show him the compartment. I don't know what woke me a few miles off Moradabad. I woke up Chachan and we had tea as the train rolled into Moradabad. The others were asleep. We saw Dude as the train rolled in and shouted out to him. As the train stopped he didn't appear among the crowd that rushed in.
"What's taking this idiot so long?"
Dude reappared at the window."Why aren't you guys getting out?"
"What the hell are you saying? Get in you idiot before the train leaves" I was sick of everything and didn't want further weirdness.
"What are you saying? DS told me I was to wait with you guys here in Moradabad?"
"We are going to Roorkee you idiot. What are you blabbering" By now the others had woken up.
"Iam saying the truth. DS asked me to wait with you guys here"
Ration-Kada took my mob and called DS. After a few minutes he bellowed.
"Everyone out! They are on a train right behind us. And it doesn't go to Roorkee. We have to wait for them here".
There was a mad scramble for shoes(damn them hunter shoes.They were always hard to be worn in a jiffy.),socks and our luggage. Within seconds four stunned guys and Dude stood on the platform with the luggage as the train started to pulled out. It was lucky that Chachan and I had been awake to see Dude and to get him to spurt out the news. WHY ON EARTH HADN'T SOMEONE CALLED US AND TOLD US ABOUT THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Maybe our mobiles were out-of-reach. Within an hour the other train arrived and the whole gang was together. We boarded a bus to Haridwar where Kaanta2 was to join us. We hired a bus from Haridwar to take us all the way to Uttarkashi, picking up the 'senior' gang on the way at Rishikesh.
A word upfront about the bus-drivers and conductors in Uttarakhand. They are about as devoid of a sense of humour as donkeys are of intelligence. I have never seen such sullen,surly idiots. I wonder where they have lost that precious factor. Maybe with each bump that their rickety buses take enroute, some of their brains and their sense of humour is knocked out.
We were enjoying the ride now, cutting jokes, even with the bus conductor trying his maximum to make the environ as sullen as the insides of his dull brain. We watched the beautiful countryside slip by and the bus started winding up the hills towards Uttarkashi. Valleys slipped by and we saw the Ganga far below winding down the valley. Grinding down hill-sides, twisting,turning, churning, in a hurry to get somewhere. Turbulent waters and torrid. The hill-sides were beautiful and everywhere there were beautiful flowers blooming. We passed a few suspension bridges too. Wonderful specimens of engineering.

CATS HAVE NINE LIVES...US?
The bus was taking a tight right-curve high up in the hills when we felt a violent shake and felt it come to an abrupt halt. The initial notion was that the driver had applied sudden brakes-for what we didn't know. We scrambled out of the bus and only then did we realise what had happened. The bus was indeed taking a turn, but as it had done so a bolt from the steering-assembly had fallen off and instead of steering it had headed straight off the road. The violent jerk we felt was not the brakes-the driver explained that he didn't get any feedback from the brakes; it was the bus hitting a cornerstone on the road and it had taken the full impact of the bus. The stone had split open and the bus lay with a wheel over the ravine below. It was a deadly drop down to the ravine, far,far below. But for God's grace there wouldn't have been enough left of us to put into coffins. I felt a cold chill down my spine. I thanked God that I was still alive.
"Aaaaawwwesome!!" that was the giggly chick who had laughed hysterically all the way. I wondered whether this idiot even knew what had happened or whether she cared to find out. Or was it that her vocabulary was limited to 'awesome' and 'chooo chweet'? She jumped out of the bus and proceeded to laugh hysterically and walked down the road with her seemingly lost-his-head boy-friend.
We sat on the road-side. The driver started to wrestle with a wrench. My attention turned to a 'trendy' baba who had moved over and sat on a stone further up the road. He had straight, white hair and beard, wore a pair of dark spectacles and had on Aiwa head-phones. Probably was a pilgrim. But it amused us to see a 'trendy' baba. Meanwhile the driver was huffing and puffing with the wrench. I knew nothing of steering-assemblies and stayed out of it. After a while we noticed 'trendy' baba had joined the driver and within a few minutes had the steering ready.
"What if the bolt again goes loose. Iam not getting back on this bus" it was an anxious passebger airing his views.
"Arre, you wouldn't understand it is being further strengthened by a double-nut. It will never come out. It is a matter of engineering, you wouldn't understand. I can assure you that you will come to no harm because of it" that was the baba talking.
I felt new respect for the man. He single-handedly gets the steering assembly ready and now he talks engineering too. This must be some learned person on a pilgrimage. I walked upto him as we were getting onto the bus and shook his hand.
"Thank you for everything".
"Why are you thanking me for?"baba asks
"Well for what you have done. What do you do? I mean normally"it semed stupid to ask a baba what he did. But I had to know who this man was.
"What I do? What I do is what you had to do and failed to do"
I wished I could evaporate. I had been in this position before too where I was found lacking in practical engineering knowledge. Its alright to be speaking of stress and fluid flows but if you have to call a mechanic to figure out what is wrong with your car I figure you make an oaf of an engineer. I had tried to bridge the gap before but it never was enough. I still had his hand in my grasp and it felt uncomfortable. All I wanted was to be miles away from this situation. My head hung in shame. I could see my friends noticing my predication and a few diving away to escape the same fate.
"Let this be a wakening call for you"the baba proceeded.I nodded.
"What is your name sir?" I simply had to know.
"My name?Why do you want to know my name? You would forget it after sometime anyway"
"No I won't. Not after what has happened anyway"
"What is in a name? A name is just a puff of air, right? A puff of air that is here now and then gone. If you want, to remember a name, remember always the name of God if you can-if you can......."
We shook hands on that and climbed back onto the bus, the words of the baba ringing in my ears. I returned to the teasing looks of my friends but those words rung in my ears far thence. I still remember them now and a promise to myself still pending...
We continued on our way and reached Uttarkashi after a break enroute where we had hot pakodas and tea. It was night by the time we reached Uttarkashi and we trudged up to our rooms and feel asleep...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chachan And I Went Trekking....

Prologue

"Fast...FFaaaaster... Full speed mein!!!!"

Drill Saab was crying hoarse. Like machines tuned to perfection the six of us  present in the circle swung our arms in 'a plane perpendicular to the plane of the body' (vertical circle for the aam junta). I looked at Dillu-mon. He was sweating profusely; it had not gone well for him at all. He had taken three days off the conditioning to organise the Onam celebrations and it had not gone well for him at all.  Not when after the seven initial rounds punctuated by two running up and down the steps, DS had announced a 'buddy-lift' around the ground followed by a rucksack lifting, up and down the steps. Pheww that last one almost took our lives away. It was decided to be stopped only when some imaginary counter in DS's brain told him to do so. And sometimes it seemed that his brain had gone to finish its night's sleep. Today as we swung into the last 10 rounds up and down the steps, Dillu-mon panted like my neighbour's labrador when it wound up on the final stretch on its routine run around the neighbourhood. Rivers of sweat running down his face, Dillu-mon hung his tongue out just like Gypsy(that's what we called the lab) and tried his hardest to take his next step from the bottom-step. "Nothing doing Iam not moving another inch", he mimed in telepathic gestures to me and Chachan and stayed on the lowermost step. As he painted a very vivid picture of the damsel in distress, DS took no notice and continued his count "FIVE..." and we climbed up the steps again.

So it was that after the steps and squats-yes, there were squats with a 20kg bar too (poor Dillu-mon), we resumed our stretching in the circle at the corner of the ground. And DS was working up our sweat. I looked at the others; the routine had moved onto 'hands parallel to the ground and rotating in small circles' and most had expressions of being hung on a cross. I looked at the French gal at the other end. She was the picture of everyone's attention it seemed; c'mon something to take the pinch off the morning-rape. The French gal and her friends would not be coming with us on our trek to Lamkhaga Pass. They had not done enough conditioning and would instead be going to Roop-kund which was considered an easier trek. Still they considered this morning-rape a better way to exercise than 'the stuff for pansies'-as many who had been thrown to the Roop-kund group called it, that took place at the football ground.

 As the day's conditioning ended and we walked off across the ground DS called Dillu-mon.
"You have been skipping a lot of conditioning. Aage se fraud math karna. Nahin tho is trek pe nahin aaoge"(Don't skip any more conditioning sessions. Or you won't be allowed to come on this trek)
"I had to organise a cultural function. That's why I couldn't come" Dillu-mon presented his case in his Iam-innocent look. The best he could conjure up.
"Usse koi farakh nahin padtha. apne priorities teek kar lo. Agar aap trek jana chahte ho to conditioning ana padega. No more skipping."(That doesn't make a difference. If you want to go for the trek, you will have to attend conditioning).
"Ok"

Two days later on Sunday there was Double-cross-country(running around the whole insti-twice.once wasn't enough). Dillu-mon overslept and so did Chachan as the Onam celebrations and the heavy Sadhya took their toll. I ran the first round in a daze. I had barely had three-four hours of sleep. My body was still in sleep-mode and several pain-centres and muscles presented themselves during the first round. But I was in a daze and I wanted to see off this damn thing, so I ran and it was like running intoxicated. By the second round my head cleared and I wished it hadn't. Muscles presented themselves which I had hitherto taken for granted and their fatigue put my brain on over-load. When I finished the run at SAC with a gesture like Bolt's I was deliriously happy. 
"Damn I have finished this thing"
"C'mon everyone start taking out the tents from the room" It was Dy. DS crying out to us.
For the next one hour we practised pitching every tent there was and rolling them up. As we were leaving DS called me.
"Tell Dillu-mon that he can take back the fee he deposited for the trek. He can go to Roop-kund if he wants. And tell Chachan not to skip any more sessions".
"But...he was responsible for the function like he told you and probably over-slept. Iam sure him and Chachan and can run the x-country later on today" I tried reasoning.
"No. Usually at this point of conditioning we don't let anyone out. But Dillu-mon has skipped far too much. He cannot come for this trek; he can go for Roop-kund if he wants to. And tell Chachan not to skip any more". There was a finality to DS's tone and I realised there was no point arguing.

We would realise it much later, but that was the end of proper conditioning as we knew it. The next week was just a teaser to get our bodies rested for the real-thing. And so it was that of the four of us who started for the trek-Unni, Dillu-mon, Chachan and me, Chachan and I ended up among the twelve that would leave from the insti.