When you are so grounded in your life that you forget what exists beyond it, the biggest thing in your life becomes scheduling baingan ka bharta for Saturday night dinner. It's not half as bad as it sounds. It implies that I'm cooking my own meals now, which makes me content. It also means that I can enjoy spending time at home, which is essential for my peace of mind. The problem with contentment, however, is that it makes you stop yearning for the other things beyond your spectrum. So you decide to do something contrary. Take a trip to a hill station in the rains. You know it'll pour the whole time. That it will be cold enough for you to say 'The cold is in my bones, IN MY BONES, MAN!'. But that doesn't deter you either. Your enthusiasm envelops not only you, but your roomie (Roomie), normally sane close friend (RK) and The Boy (A). You and your motley crew will now take a trip to a tiny hill station with no cars or any vehicles whatsoever, where you walk to get around. Or ride a horse. A hill station with no paved roads, only mud paths. Paths that become slush in the monsoons. Ah, finally, a challenge.
You wake up late, but not too late. Rush through the bathing and the getting dressed and leave the house, only to be surrounded by a gang of extremely effusive dogs, all ready to become Best Friends Forever at six in the morning. You finally catch an auto and switch to a taxi midway, reaching Dadar station without further incident. While the boys go to buy tickets, you stand and wonder why there are already a zillion people at the station. And then you realize that the train is at 7.03, which isn't too far away from 6.57. So you run, jump down the stairs, look around wildly for the first class compartment, all the while being obstructed by all the Israelites fleeing Egypt. The boys in the meantime are already in the correct compartment, yelling and waving you over. You and Roomie run, push, shove and exhale, and get into the first class. Except is the first class ladies only. You jump out again and put your feet onto the correct compartment just as the train begins moving. The resulting adrenaline rush makes you woozy for twenty minutes.
The train ambles along. It's cool and there's already a chill in the air. Increasingly random conversation between sleep deprived adults is punctuated by 'I need to pee' and 'I'm hungry'. Then the green fields and the hills come into view. Faraway hills with threadlike waterfalls making their way down. You stand at the door and sigh, the same sigh usually reserved for Shillong. And there's a hug; momentary and brief, but warm enough to leave you smiling for three minutes. And then you wonder why people stare when you smile.
The station is reached, and the walk to the cab is laced with crisp vada pav. Then as the cab makes its way up the serpentine road, you notice waterfalls on all sides of you, even splattering some of the raindrops on to your arm. The taxi stops at the car park and you enter the town where time stopped a hundred years ago. You begin walking, and it rains, rains, rains. Mud in your shoes, and you're one with the rain. There's no difference between you and the water anymore. On the way to the hotel, you buy the long plastic sheets and sombreros favoured by the locals. At the hotel, there's steaming tea and breakfast. And lots of rounds of Uno, where you lose because you just don't remember to say Uno at the right time. Then there's lunch and a protracted argument which ends in you sending the boys to the market to buy you shorts to wear when you go trekking. You haven't packed enough clothes, you see. In the evening, you're all wearing shorts, plastic sheets and sombreros. The companionship in being silly together is wonderful.
You walk through the little mud paths, up and down, this way and that. The lake comes into view, along with the monsoon clouds moving at a terrific speed all over it, and all around you, lashing and caressing. There's the spot on the edge of the cliff where you sat the last time you were here. Now it's the edge of a roaring waterfall that looks like the end of the world. It's easy to imagine that the world was primal once, before people, before friends and neighbours and dogs and goldfish and baingan ka bharta. Then you go back to the hotel, piggybacking for a minute or two. You're on holiday after all. There's some more Uno, presided over by an old monk (very old, vatted seven years ago). Then the electricity goes off and you go to sleep. You wake up after some time, and it's pitch dark. So dark that if you put your hand in front of your face you can't see it. And it hits you how much you miss that, because it's never really dark in the city, even with the lights off.
The next day they serve you the most fabulous lunch, as if to make you feel even worse for leaving. You have nothing to wear, so you have to make do with the giant pair of shorts belonging to The Boy, tightly belted up and making you look like a havaldar. Your friends are too tired to walk all the way back, so they make you ride a horse, even though the mere thought turns you to jelly. It turns out to be a better experience than you'd imagined, mostly because the horses are really docile and you're looking at the mist above the little brooks babbling away on both sides of the path. Then you reach reality again, and this time you're too cold to be emotional about it. You've just had the definitive weekend.
Favourite moment: - standing above the cliff, looking down at the end of the world.
The moment I won't be allowed to forget: - We're walking our way up to the hotel, and someone asks me for the time.
Me (looking at my watch with great concern): -"OH NO! My watch stopped at ten o'clock!"
RK: -"It is ten 'o clock, you idiot!"