It was 22nd of Jan 2010, around 3 PM. I was sneaking out of office to attend a friend’s wedding that night. Must have been about 6 PM by the time I got the gift, 7:30 by the time I reached her place, 9 by the time I got ready and reached the venue and midnight by the time we were done with greetings and dinner. Reached my place at around 1:30 AM and took as much time in getting ready for the bed as I did to get ready for the function courtesy the dress I was wearing for the second time in my life – a sari. Wondering why I am mentioning time all the time? Well that’s because this is how my nonstop, hilarious, amusing, wonderful, memorable journey as the one of the Nilgiri knights began!
I was headed to a 10 day camp to the beautiful Nilgiris. I was supposed to catch an 8:30 AM flight the next morning for which I started off from my place at 6:00 AM. I was frantically praying to God to help me reach the airport in time. But alas, God had different plans. My flight to Coimbatore was coming from Delhi in the month of January, which I conveniently forgot. The flight was delayed by one, two, three, four, five hours!! Waiting time five times longer than the actual travelling time after having been deprived of sleep and rest was adding to my irritation borne out of hunger as I had obviously skipped my breakfast. Just as I was about to bug the airport personnel for the tenth time in the last ten minutes, they stared serving McD burgers to satiate our anger more than our hunger. I happily picked up one and lo! There it was, my most liked, adored and admired part of food – an onion slice! I ran to the rest room to vomit gracefully and Spice Jet chose that very moment to land. I ran to the check in counter and was finally welcomed aboard! The travel time was spent sleeping and I woke up only when we reached Coimbatore.
In spite of this lovely start, the moment my feet touched the campus ground, I felt an insurge of energy and enthusiasm in me. There they were – forty odd smiling faces from ten different nationalities huddled together waiting for the next presentation. What happened in that presentation was – well never mind! My purpose today is to entertain you and not bore you to sleep. But I must say, presentations without Microsoft power point are the best. In there you can at least get away by saying that you had your eyes closed to concentrate better, but here you had to have your eyes peeled open for power point slides. However, what did keep you awake were the residents of our base camp, each one a unique personality.
- Neeraj from Nepal, who made sure everyone woke up at 5 because of his loud tooth brushing
- Mohammed from Libya, who could be seen drying his camera with a hair dryer after he accidentally dropped it in the loo.
- Shariar was from Bangladesh, but his telephone services were international, connecting people from UK, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Libya and where not!
- Keren from Sri Lanka would be seen capturing everything from her reflection in someone’s sunglasses to the anthills in the ground in the most artistic fashion in her awesome, huge, enviable camera.
- Larrissa from Germany was soon the most sought after girl courtesy her beauty and innocence.
- Zhao from China was a dear who would teach us saying Nihaal and other musical Chinese words. Once we had a camping lunch and unfortunately the spoons were missing. This guy would take rice in his hand and drop it from at least 6 inches above to his mouth. Obviously, more food was on the floor than in his mouth. Pitying him, our own Jagjeet singh Gautam, was about to teach him the mallu way of eating when we thought of a different plan. We told him to use his fingers as chopsticks and have rice grain by grain. Well you can imagine the lunch scenario 🙂
- Dina from Norway was a social science student and asked me the population of Coimbatore on our way back to the resort where we were staying when I realized it is advisable to be prepared for the camps you attend.
- Angshuman (popularly Angu) made sure everyone shed some pounds jumping up and down as required in Bihu Dance
We used to travel for hours in our two buses. PJs and self composed surangini song was the best time pass we could have ever evolved. Sashank first introduced the concept of PJ. Pointing to his left hand, he asked, why did Gandhiji never eat with this hand? His reply came, “Because it is my hand!” Whether you call it a phenomenal joke or a poor joke, it spread like wildfire around the camp. Bharadwaj and Archana had a whole library of PJs. Creative juices were flowing and people began composing their own PJs often reflecting the place we were in. At the elephant feeding centre in Mudumalai, Samhita came up with this little gem: “Q: How do elephants transfer data? A: They switch on their ivory tooth!” My favorite were Sardarji jokes. I started off with this PJ – Sardarji was sunbathing on the beach. Lifeguard asks him, “Are you relaxing?” He replied, “No I am Kuldeep Singh.” I remember Anu ma’am’s ant joke as it was super-duper cute. Three ants were walking in a straight line. The first one said that there were two ants behind it. The middle one said that there was one in front and one behind. The third one said that there are two in front and two behind. How come? Her punch line came, “The third ant was lying!” There were countless moments of fun between spotting bears, deer’s, elephants, peacocks and eagles on the treks, looking at the folded mountains with your own eyes with eagles reigning the sky, wandering in the virgin sholas of Nilgiris, treading the paths to Mukurthi, Ooty, Mudhumalai and what not. This experience was one I will never forget and will cherish throughout my life. I hope you get motivated with the same and plan an eco/ laugh trek soon!!