Saturday, April 24, 2004

There is always one more story...

So... there we were... victorious... ecstatic... content... and broken. We looked up at the path leading us back to the place where our car was parked. It was quite a climb... and we had to carry our luggage as well. All of a sudden, two boxer shorts, three T-shirts and two shorts seemed to be quite a load.

Then we paused, and looked up, it was still quite a climb.

Then Shilpa shouted, "Hey, we have some chilled beer!!!” just what was needed. We stopped, went back into the shade. I brought the bottle along with me to the foot of the climb. After a few big gulps, I again looked up.

It was still quite a climb.

I looked at the bottle, and then I heard voices in the distance. Actually, they were only ten meters away. "Share the beer, you idiot." and I remembered there wasn't enough beer, and that once I got back to Delhi, I'll be meeting up with these people quite often. So the angel in me vanquished the devil, but not before I was able to take a few huge gulps and finish half the bottle. I gave it back to Viju, "It's half full!” trust me I had the straightest possible face at that time. I again walked back to the foot of the path going up. Looked up.

It will always be quite a climb

I turned around, walked back into the shade. If only one of them would say, "Harry, I'll take your bags, you take a rest." But, obviously, no one would and no one did. To add to my misery, we had just met the girls in the morning. Chivalry, it seems, is on life support. I just wish it would die, but it's a tough S.O.B. Then, everyone got up to leave, and one of the ladies was actually carrying two bags, for a two day trip. I shuddered, "What if she had to go somewhere for a fortnight?” That will surely pull the plug on Chivalry... Anyways, I picked up my bag and the spare bag of the lady and reached the foot of the climb once again. There was no looking back now.

I had no choice but to climb

"FORWARD!” I said to myself, and started making the climb.
This is torture, this is pain,
I think I’m gonna go insane...

I was singing to myself, and then I noticed Preeti climbing right behind me. She decided to strike a conversation at that time. If only she would realise how difficult a task I was handling. We started exchanging pleasantries.
"Doctor, the heart beat is picking up, I think Chivalry is finally gonna make it."
I just kept wondering how long am I gonna be able to talk and climb together? Stopping either one of the activities would send a very wrong signal. Then, I confirmed my worst fear. I am my own worst enemy. Because, now I had very conveniently added a third task for myself. I was cursing myself for not being in shape, although I am a firm believer that round is also a shape, but that wasn't the shape I wanted to be in.

“That was quite a climb!!!”

Then I realised that I had finally crossed over onto the side of the multi tasking people. I was beaming as I loaded the luggage into the boot. Then it happened, the longest shriek I ever heard, not the loudest, but the longest. Viju had closed the door, and Preeti’s finger was getting crushed in that door. Viju was probably telling the driver to switch on the air-con or the stereo, because she seemed to be least bothered about her roommate shrieking outside, then, she locked the door. Preeti was delivered from her pain after 30 – 40 seconds. That too, because Viju must’ve started wondering why everyone was gathered around her door and also why someone was banging on her window in sync with the beats of the song playing on her stereo.

“Ooh, that must have hurt.” Someone said.
“Let’s stop somewhere and buy a pack of smokes.” Someone else said.
“And buy her a bandage or something.” I said.
Collective nodding of 6 heads followed. Then the drive started. We were following the ladies’ cab.
“I think anyone can drive faster than 35 KPH.” Gaurav said, while staring at his dashboard, “Their driver is an idiot.” Thankfully, the smoke shop came in 10 -15 minutes. We all got down, and I suddenly realised no one was buying the bandages. I rushed into the chemist shop, and bought the bandages and gave them to Preeti.

“Doctor, the patient has come out of the coma”

Then, the agony began, very patiently Gaurav started following their driver. After about half an hour, he decided it was too much. First, he overtook him, and then he simply disappeared. Actually it wasn’t his fault, the traffic and GD’s natural driving style just kept on pushing him forward. Once, we were sure that we had left them far behind. We stopped by the road because Neenu decided to answer the whisper of nature. Then we waited, and then waited a bit more, and then a lot more. After a good 15-20 minutes, they finally turned up. We started our car and unanimously decided to follow them no matter how slow they were.

Gaurav really needs a few lessons in patience. He overtook him again… and sped away. We stopped after half an hour. Bought some cold drinks, and again waited, and then waited a bit more, and then a lot more. After a good 15-20 minutes, they finally turned up. This time we told them to keep on going. We spent another 10-15 minutes finishing our drinks and the smokes, and then we answered a few more whispers. Then we started the chase.

“We must’ve overtaken them and didn’t realise it.” Gaurav said.
“No, we didn’t.” said Vishal.
“Now that jerk decides to drive fast.” Gaurav was shaking his head in disbelief. It took us another half an hour before we finally caught up with them. He was actually driving at 60 KPH. His face was beaming. He looked like Juan Pablo Montoya after overtaking Michael Schumacher (that too in the pits!!!), and then Gaurav overtook him. He still looked like Juan Pablo Montoya; after being overtaken Michael Schumacher (on the race track). Then we messaged each other to stop for a cuppa. When we stopped, their driver had such a sad look on his face that he could have made angels cry. It seemed we had broken his concentration. I felt like telling him, “all good things must come to an end, and so did your spree.” Gaurav got out of the car, the look on his face said, “You were good kid, but as long as I am around you will always be second best.”

The dhaba we stopped at had a very funny way of spelling its menu, it was actually quite phonetic. Patty was spelt as paytee for example. Some words would have a letter, and the dhaba didn’t have milk for our tea. So we moved to the next dhaba. Here, the great mystery was solved by Vishal. He struck up a conversation with the driver. It turned out he hardly drives. He actually owns a fleet of cars, and that the original driver had to go to his hometown due to an emergency. So he was just filling up his place so that he wouldn’t lose the business to a rival. Hmmm… smart man!!!

Then… the night fell, and his driving style came into its own. It was amazing, it was astonishing, it was a spectacle, it was… oh well forget it… it was totally out of this world. I had never seen such a brilliant display of indicators, brake lights and overtake-me manoeuvres. He was driving us nuts, and since it had already turned dark, we decided not to overtake him, and leave the ladies far behind.

“You know, when anyone tries to overtake us, we should tell them, this is a sale; you get to overtake two cars for the thrill of one.” Vishal said.
“That is only possible if he drives on the left side of the road and not in the middle!!!” Gaurav replied, “Turn around and see the train of cars following us.” This was a long highway, but not lonesome, and definitely not east of Omaha, and it wasn’t the engines but horns of the 20-30 odd cars which were moaning out as one old song. Did you always wonder how jams happened?

“Let’s stop at Cheetal for dinner.” It wasn’t far off and would definitely get this guy off the road and give relief to the poor souls behind us. Once at Cheetal, we all got together again, looked at each other, everyone had the look which said, “Yes, I am thinking exactly what you are thinking.” Smiles, nods and we went in. When we came out, I decided to take the back seat and doze off.

“Get up” Neenu whispered to me. I realised we had reached Delhi and it was time to say goodbye to the fine ladies we had met. I was too groggy to pass any more comments. We discussed another vacation, some other time, and I quietly slid back into the car and went back to the never-never-land.

Well that was quite a lot of typing, I have a lot more to tell, but my fingers hurt. So I think I’ll save it for next time. Till then, go to a driving school and learn to drive properly.

Luv ya all,


Monday, April 19, 2004

You need bad days to appreciate good ones

"FORWARD!!!" shouted the instructor, and she turned around and snapped back, "we won't row any more, what are you doing just sitting there and whiling away, now you row!!!" and the entire raft was silent, even the water seemed to have stopped splashing against the raft. Then a giggle started from the front of the raft... and percolated right down till the instructor. Then another one said, "We want a smoke... we can't row anymore... we need a smoke to recharge ourselves!!!”


"No smoking till we catch up with the other rafts"... once again there was silence all around... we looked ahead... the other three rafts from our camp were almost a 100 meters away from us... then we turned around to look at our instructor (by the way his name was Drona - named after the Guru of the Pandavas and Kauravas in the Mahabharata). He was looking like a rooster in heat... i thought his life jacket would burst open if he tried to broaden his chest a bit more. "You also have a smoke.” I said, even though I don't smoke, I just needed the break. I had been rowing for four hours the day before... I certainly needed all the rest I could get and I was sure the same was the case with the remaining seven souls on the raft.


There were initially just four of us. Me (Harry), GD, Vishal and Neenu. The previous day had been quite a sad day... we were teamed up with a bunch of horny morons... whose idea of white water rafting was watching blondes in bikinis and not the adventure of taking on a rapid. As you would expect from such higher mortals... they refused to row for the better part of the run... and when they would actually get down to rowing... they'd stop within a few seconds to look at another bikini. I was amazed; these guys would keep staring without even blinking for seven minutes. And, then came the icing..."look, look... tits!!!", the most irritating one said whilst being bang in the middle of 40 odd people.


Embarrassed, disgusted and definitely not looking like fresh daisies we made our way back to the camp. We took the manager aside and told him we won't do the run next day if we were again teamed up with those guys. I think it worked... 'cause he immediately suggested that we team up with another group of four girls, who'd just come in after we had left for our run. Then we thought... "What the heck? How bad could it be?? Couldn’t be worse than these guys."


So, the next morning the morons had a sulking face. They wanted to go with the girls... I think one of them was actually heart broken and was trying hard to hold back his tears. I felt sorry for this deprived soul... I wanted to tell him that it's OK, Life's like that ... you are a pathetic excuse for a man!!!


But then, I kept these thoughts to myself... I am an evil man... but true evil hurts though inaction. Well, the morons were soon forgotten, and the introductions started... their names were Shilpa, Vijeya, Neetan and Priti. Nice peeps, and guess they had a similar story to tell about their run on the previous day.


Well, coming back to the smoke break on the raft. Drona said, "okay, those who are not smoking will row the rest can take a break.” Me, Neetan and Preeti protested... you idiot... what do you think we are??? Then the rest of the smokers joined in...


I was so proud of my friends; I almost had a lump in my throat. And then he realised that actually no one was rowing anymore, so, to save his face, he said, "all of you take a break, but after that we have to catch up with the other rafts". That sounded like a fair deal. So, while they smoked, I rested. "One more smoke, said Neenu" and the anger in Drona's eyes could have turned into supahman's heat vision and probably toasted Neenu alive.


So we immediately got back to rowing and man what an effect did the nicotine have on these guys brains... they were rowing like mad. Only to realise that, the other three rafts had stopped at the next beach and were patiently waiting for us for the last 15 minutes. Obviously, we wanted our pound of flesh as well, actually an ounce!! Because we got to rest on the beach only for five minutes... and during that time we basically overturned the raft to throw out all the water. So no rest as such. The other rafts now seemed to be ready to move...


After a few more episodes, most of which involved all of us jumping into the water and then me drifting away from everyone else and many exciting rapids, we got back to our camp... exchanged no.s and headed back to Delhi. The drive back to Delhi is another story... which I’ll tell you some other time.