Monday, February 27, 2006

Moonlight Sonata

It’s been long since I saw the amazing video of that Bally Sagoo remix, “ Chandni raatein..Chandni raatein, saara jag soye hum jaaghe, taaron se Karen baatein..Chandni raatein..”

It was around 9.45 on Saturday night, the 12th of Feb. It wasn’t all that dark, so things were visible to the naked eye though for me it was through my spectacles. We were in front of the Leech rock, now just a rock and leeches will appear once monsoon comes. Suddenly, we see something crawl up the rock and reach the top in less than a jiffy. This left mine and Mayur’s jaw dropped when we realized that it was our Manja who had accomplished this feat. Personally this was the scene-stealer of the whole show.

Circa 2000, Hyderabad: Four fresh grads just out of college in an apartment. All had similar backgrounds except a vertical divide, a chasm separating them. One had done ‘it’ and the remaining three had not even heard about it. A Man among the boys!

The events that were to ensue on the fateful weekend of Feb had all the makings of a potboiler. It was destined to have its fair share of heroes, emotions, item numbers, a couple of ‘rapes’ and even a guest appearance and of-course naach-gaana what with Chandan resembling an old gramophone stuck at ‘Tinka tinka zara zara’ .An edge-of-the-peak suspense thriller with happy ending and group photo and all!

First week of Feb: I was still nursing my injury from the bike trip when I got a call from Chandan asking whether I was game for a moonlight trek to KP. Boy, it’s KP! The chasm suddenly appeared to be a ford. A trek to Kumaraparvata (KP for trekkers) that too during a moonlit night doesn’t happen too often and I agreed with glee.

The trek was planned for the second weekend of Feb the 11th and 12th.The full moon day was due on 13th.

Now that you know what to expect from this article, some terminologies/phrases one should be acquainted with, before going ahead with this travelogue (incidentally, all terms except one owe their origin to Kannada):

· Bhattara mane: A quaint adobe on the way to KP, which also doubles up as guesthouse cum restaurant.

· Mantapa: A dilapidated structure half-way through to KP where usually people relax before deciding whether to continue with the dirge or play cool and go home.

· Patch haakonda: Used alternately with ‘Hoge haakonda’ has no relationship to the biggest snake, Anaconda. The phrase just means that some fellow trekker has developed some malfunction because of which the buffer time has to be used up.

· Dinki-pataar: If you are in the habit of using the word ‘ damaar’ here’s a word, which packs more punch but almost means the same. It means one’s body has gone for a toss. (Somehow, the term ‘oosht’ has lost its charm these days)

· Kozhikode: My personal favorite and my brush with the word happened during this trek. Sivaram, the mallu machan used this word after seeing the thunder thighs of Ranjan. The word is colloquial for homos!

We were nine members who eventually took the bus. Ones who missed the bus and were missed by the team were Mukunda, Hunter, Chandru (Jai Maharashtra), Sudheer, the Man and Hampi; these were not the only ones who were missed but I chose to take their names. The other veterans like Bori were equally missed what after hearing about his escapades!

The nine were: Aravind GJ (Gundumane), Shakil, Amin Bhai, Krishna, Sivaram Subramani, Ranjan, Mayur, manjunath and naga.

GJ, Chandan and Krishna had twice done KP earlier, Mayur had attempted twice but had not completed it and for the rest it was the first time. To use a cliché, it was a mix of experience and young blood, the word ‘young’ being subjective.

Kukke, the temple town in Dakshina Kannada, is well known for its Subramanya temple. We land here after a last seat ride on KSRTC red bus in the wee hours of Saturday, the 11th of Feb. We had all the time in the world to take some rest before starting the long walk towards KP since we had to reach KP only at night.

After some struggle to get the rooms, we managed to get a family room in one of the lodges (Apsara?). After the daily ablutions, we left towards KP full on enthu less on gas. More than anything, the stories I had heard about KP – how first 4 kms test the steely nerves of best of trekkers; how teams split up at mantapa due to difference of opinion and moreover, how many had missed out to reach KP after staying put on Sheshaparvata only to lament later, had formed a kind of mythical imagery in my mindscape.

The advantage of going on a trek with ppl who have already done it is that you know before hand what to expect. They are your Linda Goodmans, Bejaan Daruwallahs, Maa reetambaras. (With her in the fray, Cricket could be reduced to Book-cricket- only way you can score an odd run is by opening the page no. 8!)

So, once you know what’s gonna happen with you, you like Boy scouts will Be prepared. So were we.

With sun beating down on us, we started ascending at 10.15 AM. First few steps and it was apparent that this was not going to be an easy-meat though we were blessed since the initial walk was in the woods. I was huffing and puffing when Mayur came to my rescue with his ‘ tallu naga, tallu ‘ chants which somehow bucked me up to walk till our first break at a rock. Having known that the next big thing would be Bhattara mane, I looked around to see the scenes just in case I had to write the travelogueJ. We decided looking at the shredded leaves that we were in the deciduous forest.

It exactly took us 2 hr 13 mins to reach Bhattara mane, which I suppose is very good timing. By this time Ranjan had already patch-haakondidda. At Bhattara mane we did what all other trekkers have been doing – took rest, hogged like wolves and went on a long siesta.

BTW, the whole trek could have been in jeopardy if not our negotiating trio of GJ, Amin bhai and mayur had not smooth talked and greased the forest dept official at the check post just after Bhattara mane! Apparently, there is a directive from the forest dept not to allow anyone to go past the check post during evening after an untoward incident involving a pigheaded researcher losing his way in KP happened sometime back. “There is a little bit of the whore in all of us, gentlemen. What is your price?"” – Kerry Packer during World Series Cricket.

Here comes the guest appearance part, which I had mentioned earlier. We met this middle-aged man whose name no one knows and was referred to as ‘uncle’ all along who suddenly had this idea of having his tryst with his destiny and started doing KP. He tagged along with us and didn’t speak much but followed us just like our shadows. With his neatly tucked-in shirts and leather slippers he looked a complete misfit. Ram Gopal Verma would have loved this!

We now were in the scene, which had not much to crow about but for tufts of burnt grass and it’s demoralizing to see mountains after mountains having nothing but burnt grass. Streams were also dried up so the water scarcity stared directly in our eyes. With all things including one’s cloths feeling heavy we made it to mantapa. It was around 5.45Pm and so we had ample amount of time for some time pass and tea. After the beautiful sunset, appeared the item number of the day on the firmament – the moon. The entry of the moon was not less dramatic than any hero in an Indian film. First we could sense the moonlight but could not see the moon itself as we were behind a mountain that was blocking the appearance of the moon. Stars too were aplenty.

Torch in our hands, we left towards Sheshaparvata. Couple of raping sessions and we were on the Sheshaparvata. Only now we had a glimpse of the reason for which we had endured much. Ah, KP at last some 1640mts (?) above sea level!

An underdog going against all odds and making a mark makes a hit filmy story. The last hurdle on the way to KP is a rock popularly known as the Leech rock. The way Chandan or Krishna or GJ climbed it didn’t mean much to me because it was expected of them. But, what left us dumbfounded was Manja’s sortie. Here’s a man whose vital statistics could put Olive Oyl to shame and who always demeans himself with a purpose, suddenly makes mockery of the dreaded rock! Unbelievable.

The baptism by fire at last happened at 10.15 PM on Saturday. The road to perdition had led us to the Mecca of trekking (I am known for using hyperboles). It was cold and windy on the peak so much so even sleeping bags proved to be of not much use. Spare a thought for the uncle who had to sleep in the open. Sivaram gave his jacket to him. This perhaps was the gesture of the trek.

On KP one can see horizons after horizons of Western Ghats and it’s such a humbling experience. (This line was added as an afterthought).

With so many Philipos, Murphy’s Law had to come into play and it did. We came down, though reluctantly, not because we loved to stay up there but because our limbs had stopped listening to us. Dinki-pataar. It was a photo finish to our 3.15 PM Rajahamsa.

Now that we have done the moonlight trek, Chandan’s mind has started to go in what Calvin calls ‘irrelevant tangent’- KP during monsoon and amavaas ki raat! Hazaaron khwaaishe aisi ke har khwaaish pe dum nikhle;bahut nikhle mere armaan phir bhi kum nikhle.(If there are still someone to whom I and Mukunda have not advertised ‘Hazaaron khwaaishe aisi’, go grab a DVD) Chandan send me the dates.

If I were a Marquez, I could have turned the whole experience in to a magical realism or a Gulzar I could have at least penned a beautiful nazm on the chandni raat. Since I am neither I will sign-off with my favorite lines from ‘Mysore mallige’-

‘…Hunnimeya raatriyali ukkuvudu kadalaagi ninnolume nanna kandu…ninnolire nanna manasu..” (Hunnime= Full moon day)


At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:44 PM, Blogger gagaN gowdA said...

hii. moonlite trek seems to be interesting, but we had trekked on amavasya day it was too scary.. anyways we'll try on fullmoon night next time around


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