29 December 2017 – last day at Home (Kerala)
30 December 2017 – Bangalore
31 December 2017 – Delhi
Another new year eve. Just another day on the calendar!
Vacant hostel rooms and solitude, a company. And such is the effect of this camaraderie, that it makes your dormant brain go frenzy. The aftermath was yet another solo trip.
I no longer remember the last time I did something this crazy. Nevertheless, I was done whining about what I didn’t do‟. So I grab my notepad, laptop, and phone, and make myself comfortable on my bed. Text. Text. Text. Call. Call. Call. Make some notes and strike some names. At last, Mcleodganj it is!!
Once I had my destination in mind, next came the real work. Fingers crossed, I started looking for train tickets from Old Delhi to Pathankot for the very next day. Indian railways and last minute bookings can be quite unpredictable. Luckily enough, I got myself a RAC ticket in the late night Dhauladhar Express’ sleeper. Next came a place to lie down. A few calls and Google baba did the job and got me a cheap bunker bed. And the rest as it said, shall fall in line.
As the new year kicked in, I leisurely enjoyed my slumber till the sun shined bright overhead. After lazying around the whole day, the essentials and necessities go into my backpack at the last moment. Yahoo! And I am off to begin a fantastic new year ahead.
This was my first stint with the famous ‘Purani Dilli’ railway station. Ancient and historical. The one with its own story and the stories it stood to tell. My carelessness took me to the station two hours earlier than the scheduled time. In a way for a girl from South, this folly was a boon in disguise. In the two hours leisure, I tried to make sense of how different platform numbers are extensions of the same platform, whether I had elayichi tea in the name of coffee and the confusing crowd.
Finally, my train arrives and takes me to Pathankot after a delay of five hours. It was noon as I reached the bus depot and I took an HRTC to Dharamsala. From there I took the last bus, a small rickety thing with humans stuffed in. It was indeed one hell of a bumpy ride.
The darkness took its toll as I reached the town of Fernweh. Again, Google came to rescue in the form of Google Maps to take in the right direction. For often, trusting in fellow beings costs you more than relying on technology.
The mysteriously lit alleys reminded me of the good old Diagon Alley. The aesthetics of the area seemed to be a product of deeply rooted love for wandering off. Every other shop, restaurant, and even monastery is a witness to the craziness of the scores of wayfarers who pass by every year.
Walking down the never-ending flight of steps, I finally get to my Zostel. Four new faces welcomed me. Two South Koreans, Yin and Hyung (whose name I couldn’t grab); an Italian fellow named Andrea and Pawan bhaiya from Vijayawada.
That night we had dinner from a Tibetan Yak café, a dingy room with delicious food. We chatted along until we finished thukpa and thenthuk. Exhausted and frozen, we all fell asleep.
Next day, after a classic English breakfast from the rooftop of Anonymous Café, I geared up for Triund. But a walk in the valley and a few chats with the locals told me my misfortune. Since I didn’t have time to waste so I moved onto my plan B, i.e. road trip. I went and checked on two-wheelers, which reminded me that Andrea had the same plan. On the way, I met him and he offered a company. Without much thought, I pitched in.
Our first stop was at Palampur, a major town with narrow lanes and curvy roads. Andrea wanted to collect some souvenirs, so we went along with the crowd bustling into the market. After lunch, next on our list was Baijnath, a small township in the Dhauladhar range of western Himalayas. With river Binwa flowing down the valley and Baijnath Shiv temple atop, I felt my mind go wandering and the soul mesmerized by nature’s beauty.
From there we stopped by at Tashi Jong Buddhist village. Each time I enter a Buddhist dwelling, an unnatural serenity sweeps in. As expected, it happened again. Standing in front of the monastery, with all the bright shades incorporated in one building and nature, taking it all in and radiating it out in zillion other manners.
But I should say, the roads are merrier than the stop. The snow-capped mountains, the winding rivers in the valley, tea and tree plantations and the sky up above. The only trouble would be, where to keep your eyes glued.
Between all the pleasure and mesmerising beauties, my sim card decides to abandon me. No network. No emergency calls. Unpredictable is the name. But oh yeah! Deep down I always knew that you couldn’t trust anyone (or anything). Duh! There came my jugaadu sim handy. I switch it once I return to Mcleodganj.
The last jeep to Dharamsala had left an hour before. As promised Andrea drop me off at the Dharamsala bus depot to catch my bus to Pathankot. I enquired about the last bus and realized that it would only leave by 11:30 pm. I looked into other options since it was just around 9:00 pm. Thereafter, I decided to take a bus to Kangra and from there another one to Pathankot. Meanwhile, I munched on my not-so-yummy momos.
It was nearly 10:00 pm when I reached Kangra. I asked the locals about the next bus and realized I will have to wait for yet another hour. I waited at a shop and got some candies to kill time and not to make the shopkeeper kick me out of his shop.
By 1:00 pm, I reached Pathankot. Freezing cold and foggy night. The road ahead was invisible. The bus had left me at the junction. Now I had to find my way to railway station without any technological assistance. As I looked around, I found a patrol vehicle with police officers. I approached them for directions. I thanked heavens for making me not geographically challenged and move ahead. Yeah! For a moment, I was terror-stricken. No sign boards, vacant roads, and zero visibility. Its creepy enough to scare the hell out of any human. The only prayer was that I don’t take the wrong turn.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t afford to look what I felt. So I acted cool and found what I was looking for- the railway station. I found a cold seat in front of the IRCTC catering services, a better option, with all the light and railway police as well as counter beside.
The railway clock read- 1:30. Five and a half hours more to go before my train arrived. I took out my diary and started scribbling. But the weather seemed to dislike what I was up to and started blowing chilly breeze. As if dropping as low as 0 degrees was not enough. I accepted my defeat and tried not to fall asleep.
Trains came. Trains left. The people beside me kept changing, while I remained static. I went to the counter again to confirm the platform number for my train and decided to sit there itself. Between finding myself a comfortable position and taking a nap, I heard someone calling out “gudiya” from the counter. I looked around and realized they were calling me. There were two female staff members who appeared to be in their mid-twenties. They asked me to join them inside. I went in and they pulled out a chair for me near the heater. We chatted for a while and then they let me doze off.
As the clock arm moved towards 6:30 am, my train arrived. I bid adieu to the good souls and stepped in for another long-delayed train journey.
Back in Delhi.
I slowly stepped into the huzzle. And as I tuned myself to the busy Delhi frequency, I lost myself somewhere among the fast footsteps and ear-bursting traffic. Joining the monotony, promising to keep this craziness alive and go back, again.
Here’s a glimpse: