Sunday, 31 July 2016

Out of this world!!!

What a different feeling it is when you feel out of this world! When you feel above your capabilities, when it is difficult to explain whether you are feeling good or bad, when the whole world is revolving around you and you can't think straight, you get out of this world feeling. Why the hell are these lights flickering so much, a pain in the ass, sorry eyes. 

I have been socially awkward my whole life, right from my childhood. I always felt out of place when I had to go to a marriage or someone's home for a function. The only social gathering I ever loved during my school days were birthday celebrations. I even felt out of place when friends would gather together for new year celebration and dance till the countdown began. Those were the times when I didn't like the company of even those close friends with whom I lived and enjoyed every day. I never would have thought that this social anxiety would not leave me even after college. Why the hell are all these people jumping and hopping so much. What the hell is the occassion to dance so much, its just the company's annual party. 

The matters became even worse after college. Earlier it was awkward in front of friends I knew, now it was with people I didn't even know that well. May be this society does not belong to me or I don't belong to this society. Funny thing is everytime I promise myself I won't get into this situation again but yaay, here I am, again! Why the hell are these people trying to pull me to the crowd. How many times do I have to remind them of the song - "Rakesh can't dance saala!", perhaps the only thing I can't do. Manchanda, are you listening, Rakesh can't do everything. 

The floor is really dancing, I think that's why it is called the dance floor. Ohh, now the room has also started spinning. DJ wale babu, mujhe dance floor se utarne do, dance floor se utarne do, dance floor se utarne do. Where the hell has my sofa gone where I was peacefully enjoying the cheeseballs. Why the hell am I writing all this, hey wait, why the hell am I saying 'hell' so many times. Am I drunk? No way, I don't drink. I am just feeling out of this world!!!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Story of a stalker

Everyone's minds have some deep secrets hidden deep inside several locks. Today, I open my gates for everyone. Hello common folks, you are most welcome inside my brain. Let me show you some deep hidden rooms of my gorgeous mind-villa. 

It all started with her. She was standing next to the History section in Crossword, browsing through some ancient stuff. It was not 'love at first sight', rather I totally ignored her but she had this killer smile which caught my attention for the first time. Next day, I saw her again in the mall standing in the next line of movie tickets engrossed deeply in her mobile. I couldn't take my gaze away from her innocent face. She looked up, her kohl lined eyes met mine and she gave her mesmerizing smile. A week later, I ran into her in my building's lift. Both of us smiled and acknowledged our 3 encounters within a week. The serenity in her face suited her name - Reena.

Her friend lived in the flat next to mine and I have lost track of how many times I would have thanked her friend in my mind for being sick. She had typhoid and was in bed rest for 2 weeks. Reena used to visit her friend daily at 7pm after her office and I made sure that I run into her in the lift. I was not in love, I just liked her company and i didn't want to miss that smile. A month later, I saw her at the coffee shop right across my office. I couldn't resist myself and sat on the next table. She was waiting for her friend and I was waiting for mine(that's what I told her). Our friends didn't show up and we ended up chatting for an hour sitting on different tables.

Next weekend, we went on a shopping date as her friends were out of town. It was a lovely July morning with a little drizzling making it awesome for being out of the rooms. We went to Phoenix mall, did some shopping, had lunch, watched a movie and enjoyed bowling without realizing how the day passed. I think I had started to love her. Next weekend, I gave her a small teddy which said 'I Love You' and her smile made me think the feeling was mutual. I was on cloud nine. 
Let me tell you somethings which happened within this last one month. She used to leave her building exactly at 8 am. I followed her from her building to the coffee shop near my office. Here, she would have her daily cup of coffee. Occasionally, I would also join her. Then, she would walk to her office and I never missed an opportunity to give her company in these leisure walks after coffee. In the evening too, I would wait outside her office and follow her to her building. My flexible office timings and her fixed routine gave me many chances of interactions with her and eventually, we became good friends. I always remained online on gmail, facebook and whatsapp, she would ping me and then we had our long conversations. After a couple of months, I even shifted to a building right next to her. On the weekends, I would wait the whole night to see her beautiful face in the morning holding a cup of coffee in her balcony. I think these might be my first little baby steps in the world of stalking. 

2 months later, I got the terrible news - she got transferred to Delhi. The day she was going from Pune, I proposed her on the railway station. She said long distance relationship won't work. The weight of rejection was heavy but I still managed - "Ja Simran ja, jee le apni jindagi. See you again in nayi Dilli." 3 months, 2 days and a dozen received and unreceived calls later, I was in sapno ke seher, Dilli, to meet the queen of my dreams on the Christmas eve. Ye IT wale bhi bade namune hote hain, Holi, Diwali ki 1 din ki chhutti dene me nani yaad aati hai but Christmas, New year ki hafte bhar ki dete hain. 

She was stunned on knowing my presence in Delhi but Jab We Met, we had a beautiful Christmas together. It was just like reliving Pune. We met everyday, roamed around various parts of the city and had a blast - there really was something magical between us. She was still new to Delhi and I showed her all the places I had visited during my school and college trips. I stayed everyday at a different friend's place and asked everyone not to tag me on facebook. So, I met many but no one had the slightest idea for how long I stayed in Delhi and friends seldom talk these days to spill my secret.

It was 31st December. I spent the whole day with her roaming around the isolation of Qutb Minar. In the evening, we went to Select CityWalk, Saket to have the New Year blast. As the countdown of the new year started, I proposed her. She was stunned. Everyone started wishing Happy New Year and I was still waiting for her reply. Although I knew the answer by seeing her startled face, the optimist inside me kept the hope alive. She didn't say anything and I dropped her back to her place without even a Happy New Year wish. 

In the morning, she didn't pick my calls but sent a message that we should not meet. It was a crazily deadly start to a new day or rather new year. I went to her place and messaged her I would wait outside her building till she came out to meet me. Now let me tell you something - you will never understand the pain of hopelessly waiting for 6 hours for just a glimpse of someone or the happiness of meeting her/him after that wait, if you have not done it yourself. Finally, she came out only to say that this would be the last time we ever meet. I was heartbroken. I bid goodbye to her and returned back to Pune. 

One month and 8 days have passed and we have not contacted each other since then. I still remain online everywhere in the hope that someday she will ping me to ask how I am. But I can't just wait for her. So, I have taken transfer to Delhi and hell yeah, am currently aboard a flight ✈ to the city of my lady. Wait a minute, are you calling me a stalker after roaming inside my mind-villa and going through my beautiful secret. Stalker, Me? No way! I'm just boundary challenged!!! 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Leh Calling !

Jullay! Hello! If Kashmir is the heaven on Earth then Leh is unarguably the paradise for bikers. Every biker on this planet dreams of driving on the beautiful terrain of Ladakh at least once in his lifetime. I am no different at this. It was October 2014, we were discussing about Leh and Gaurav told that we don't know where we all might be next year, who might get married and not be able to go. So, this is the final chance we have and we made a deal that whatever happens, we will complete our bike trip to Leh next year. At the start of the biking season in June 2015, only 4 of us were left to go (and lets not discuss about how our friends ditched us at the end as always) so, we joined 'Ride of my Life' group for our trip. I had read about Gaurav Jani, the founder of this group and his passion towards biking and Leh attracted me to join him for my adventure.

On 3rd August, we reached Manali, met the ROML team and our fellow bikers. That day we were introduced to each other, briefed about the next 10 days and were provided our Royal Enfield 500cc bikes for roaming/shopping around Manali. The view of the valley from our hotel, the first look of our bikes, the roaring of all the 16 Enfields at a time, the excitement and happiness on our faces - I knew I was going to love and cherish this trip forever. We were about to reach Ladakh or the land of high passes and to drive an Enfield on some of the highest passes of the world was like a dream come true.

Next day, we were taken for a test ride around Manali to get to know what shall we expect in the coming days and get accustomed to our bikes. We started early morning, the weather was good, the roads were narrow but fine, sometimes the gravel was loose but we were still managing well until there came wet mud on the road and all the hell broke loose. Our bikes started skidding; sometimes we got stuck in the middle of one feet mud lying over the whole road. Once I put my feet down to balance the bike, my shoes got stuck in the mud and damn those heavy Woodland shoes, I had a high time just lifting my feet up. Some riders couldn't handle and even fell down. Every step in the mud felt like crossing a mile. At the end of just 70-80km of the total trip, we all were exhausted with the worst driving terrain experience ever. Whether it was the worst road ever or not, now we were mentally prepared for whatever might come in our way to Leh.

Day 3 - August 5 - We started early in the morning from Manali with our road captains Manish and Sachin. Soon, we reached Rohtang pass and it was one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen. Though we were only able to have glimpses of the valley due to the heavy fog, it was an awesome start to our closeness with the Himalayas. We stopped at the top of Rohtang pass for photo break as fog had cleared with the sun and the view was amazing. We easily reached our destination Keylong in the evening. We were warmly greeted with Jullay by the hotel staff. We left our bags in the hotel and explored this small town on foot, even tried momos and 'thukpa' there which was not a very good experience.

Next morning, my brother was down due to the thukpa effect and had to rest in the carriage vehicle for the day. We were told that we might face a few water streams today. The first stream we encountered was over 1 foot deep with water flowing at a high speed from the mountain with valley on the other side. Although water at freezing temperature entered our boots, we all crossed it safe and sound. We faced 2-3 more water streams on the day but managed to cross all with ease. We came across Baralacha pass on this day and the snow covered peaks in the background made the view mesmerizing. I guess that's why we call it 'The majestic Himalayas' coz you are spell bound by the beauty of the mountain ranges and the valley. We reached Sarchu after lunch where the Swiss tents were waiting for us.

Sarchu camp was at a height of around 15000 ft and some of us were feeling altitude sickness here. Souvik and I took a stroll to see the surroundings and it started to rain. We made a dash to our tents and Imran bhai stopped us saying it is better to get drenched than wasting our energy and we should save our breadth at this altitude. In the evening, I even went down the valley to the river and then climbing that mere 100 ft at that altitude felt very exhaustive. This was our first day in Kashmir and our phones had only one use left now – clicking pics. We also got the terrible news that there was a cloud-burst before Leh, the roads were washed away and we might have to cut short the trip and return back to Manali. We had to wait till the morning to get this confirmation but I was confident of going forward: “Nothing will spoil my Sunday”. We might be in tents but the stay was warm and cozy and food was delicious. May be that’s the beauty of travelling – you tend to love almost everything that comes in your way. Even the night sky was so clear at Sarchu which we don’t see in cities; the only problem was it was too cold to be outside our tents in the night.

Next Morning, we decided to move towards Leh and would see if the roads clear by the time we reach there. My bro was fine now after a day’s rest and he was ready to drive. We encountered Gata loops early in the morning, a succession of 21 loops in the valley which immediately elevated us from around 15000 ft to 17000 ft. We crossed Nakeela and Lachungla to reach a path where there were trucks with supplies from both sides and the roads had only space for one vehicle but hats off to everyone’s coordination. Then we reached Moore plains which is a beautiful area between the valleys. High mountains on both side and the absolutely straight roads for the entire distance our eyes could see – it was a lovely view and a speed ride. My bike even crossed 120kph and I enjoyed it to my core. Next we reached Tanglang la which was the third highest pass of our trip at 17582 ft. After riding 60-70 km more, we were on the checkpost before Leh and we got the news that the roads were cleared and we would reach Leh. While crossing Thiksey, we saw loads of mud dumped on either side of road which might have been washed out from the mountains by the cloudburst and blocked the roads but it had been cleared and we got our passage. Finally, we reached our hotel Leh-Chen where we had a nice steam bath and the much needed rest after our 250 km ride of the day.

Day 6 – August 8 – Rest day. We were given a day’s rest in Leh which was necessary as some people in the group were having health issues from Sarchu. After a good and long sleep, we moved out of the hotel to visit the Leh city. We went to the Leh Palace which was not as lavish or big as we see the palaces in Rajasthan but considering the altitude where we were, it was a unique architecture in itself. The view of the whole Leh city and the surrounding mountains was amazing from the palace. Then we strolled around the streets of the city and did some shopping. In the evening, we went to the Sanchi stoop which was near to our hotel. The setting sun made the Leh Palace glow and the 360 degree view of Leh was mesmerizing. Finally, we were ready for the big day.

Day 7 – August 9 – Sunday – The big day had arrived. We had to ride to the top of the highest motorable path to reach Khardung la at 18380 ft and the best thing was it was my birthday. This was one of our reasons to choose Ride of My Life group to celebrate my birthday in a memorable way, at the top of the highest motorable road. We had bought the cake the earlier day to be cut at Khardung la top. We were given local Leh bikes in the morning as bikes from other regions were not permitted in Ladakh for tourism and these were no match to the bikes which we had driven from Manali to Leh. We set out from the hotel and the roads were a disaster. Sorry, did I say roads. There were absolutely no roads after the checkpost for Khardung la, just rocks and gravel which made it too difficult to handle the bike throughout to the top. Finally, we reached our destination Khardung la which has its own importance as the roads connect to the Siachen glacier. I celebrated my birthday at Khardung la top and everyone took loads of photos. Finally, we decided to move back from there before altitude sickness could take its toll. We reached Thiksey in the evening, a small town 30 km from Leh, where we had our second encounter with the swiss tents.

We all were pretty exhausted from the rough terrain we had traversed in the day but our spirits were still high. The tents were comfortable and had all the basic amenities. After dinner, we made a bonfire and everyone gathered around it. We played ‘Antakshari’ for quite a long time; my brother showed his poetry book and shared some of his poetry. We cracked jokes, pulled each other’s legs and shared some of our experiences. Finally, when there was no wood left, we decided to retire for the day.

Next morning, we headed towards Pangong Lake. On the way, we crossed the second highest pass of our journey, Chang la at 17688 ft. We also crossed an army base on our way which reminded us of the dedication of the Indian army to serve the country at any place, altitude and climate. The roads were mostly good today and we had a smooth ride. We knew that there were few wooden cottages and more swiss tents at Pangong and we were pretty much done with the tents and no longer wanted them. So, we rushed ahead to reach first at our camp site where Manish told us that cottages would be occupied by the couples and rest of us would take the tents. Now we were thinking why the hell did we drove crazily to reach early. Anyways, we kept our bags in the tents and rode towards the spot of the lake where the shooting of ‘3 Idiots’ had been done. The view surrounding the lake was mesmerizing. We could see the sunlight throwing all its beauty over the mountains and every peak was a shade different. The rainbow in the distance was like our childhood painting where we used to draw the rainbow spread above the mountains. The water of the lake was crystal clear and the breeze was making waves in the lake. It was too calm and soothing and our hearts were overwhelmed with the beauty of nature. We even rode our bikes to the lake side which was tough in the sand. After spending some peaceful time near the lake, we decided to head back to the camp before sun would leave us and descend behind the mountains. There was again a bonfire in the night but with fewer people than yesterday.

The following morning, we started our journey back to Leh. Continuous bike ride for the last 8 days was showing its effect and we were getting a little restless to end our journey. This was our final ride before leaving Leh. Gaurav had some pain in his hands and hence, Souvik rode with me on the last day. Now, I realized that riding solo was a lot easier. Hats-off to all the riders with pillion on this tough track. On reaching back to Leh-Chen hotel, everyone started their packing for the return. The time had come for the adventure to end and go back to our normal routine life. Thanks to the Ride of My Life team - Sachin, Manish, Imran, Dorjee and all the fellow riders, I had a great riding experience in Ladakh. The adventure seeking person inside me was satisfied but had a yearning to ride once more. Let’s see what’s in the store of our future – Be it trek to Everest Base camp or Europe backpacking tour. A New Year has come; May it bring new hopes and adventures. Till then, Jullay!