I love to travel. Each time I blurt out these words, I’m asked, “So what is the best thing about travelling?” Tough question, but I had an answer. However, it’s always more fun to create some anticipation. So I frown a little, then nod and look upwards to complete my rendition of ‘the thinking man’. Five seconds later, I smile and reveal, “It is the list of stories I return with.” Happy smiles are duly exchanged.
I’ve realised that the best kind of stories are the ones often start off with “I got lost…” or “So I missed my train/flight…” So here are some stories that added flavour to already charming destinations.
The dark night
One cold dark night in March, three girls and a guy (my buddies and our driver) were driving up a narrow road towards a small hill station called Kalpa, in Himachal Pradesh. The darkness was set so thick that we couldn’t see the ravines that were deeply seated on one side of the road. As if the fear of dropping into nothingness wasn’t enough, there was barely any light all through the drive. So we’re slowly moving along, higher and higher, with prayers playing on repeat in our heads and positive statements being thrown into the universe hoping for a conspiracy to ensue. Now even the day-time jokes on “If we fall into a ravine, we’ll just hold on to the trees and branches and hang till we get saved” seemed foolish, considering our vision was restricted to a black bowl.
We finally spot some lights in a hotel. My buddies go to check while I stay in the car with the driver. Two minutes later, I see an empty driver’s seat. Suddenly, my usually foggy memory is able to recollect every horror movie it has seen. With darkness all around me, I get back to praying. Five minutes later, my friends return, unhappy and scared. Thankfully, so does our driver. They say we need to look for another hotel. I ask why and soon regret it. They say, “We went inside and saw smoke, half-filled glasses and heard distant voices. Since the lights and fans were on, we proceeded to the other room to check if anyone was there. But not a single person was seen or heard. So we split!” We rev up and look for a hotel, never to turn back.
The solo express
For my grand solo trip debut, I chose Kerala. My over-enthusiasm and unreasonable determination convinced me to travel in the General Sleeper compartment on an RAC (unconfirmed) ticket to Ernakulam. I end up sharing the seat with two men. So another passenger graciously offers me his seat in exchange with mine, suspecting mental instability to be the cause that led me here. So, I stretch my legs, read a book, listen to some music and wait for the stipulated 24 hours to pass me by.
As the time for arrival grows nearer, I pack my bag and begin staring outside the window in gleeful excitement. I smile and chat with a co-passenger about my first ever solo trip. He begins to laugh. Then it gets louder. I look at him stunned. He stops and speaks, “This train will reach Ernakulam only tomorrow at 4a.m.” My mouth opens. It stays that way for 15 seconds. My jaws loosen up and I scramble to locate some words. Finally, “Are you sure??” is all I manage. He confirms. Another passenger nods in agreement. I open my bag, start to read; I now have to wait another 12 hours.
Photo courtesy: Guy-Claude Portmann, Stock Xchng
Published in iDiva's April 2011 issue.