Into the Lights – Part V

It was almost 7 pm by the time we started off. Mayank, Vishwanath and Pankaj in one car and Babubhai and myself in his precious SUV.

It was dark by now and we had to cross the highway and drive up the valley going towards Amby. The first task was to actually get through the highway and drive up. With rains all day and  fog covering almost everything, visibility was zero and I mean a big Zero.

We literally couldn’t see anything even 30 feet ahead, the fog lights were not helping either. Even with the blinkers on, it was getting very daunting to drive ahead.

One had to watch out not only for the oncoming cars ahead and the cars behind, but the road itself was getting blurred and sometimes the car was too close to the edge, we had no idea if we were far too left and tottering on the edge.

The car was going at a 20 km speed and this was a good 3 hour journey if one drove in daylight, what chances did we have of even getting there halfway? Too many curves and bends and sometimes we would be too close to the car ahead. It was painstakingly slow, getting risky to drive up the valley at this time of the night.

I could sense Babubhai’s nervousness now, he couldn’t see anything ahead and neither could I. We couldn’t see where the road was turning or taking a bend and the fog was completely covering EVERYTHING.

There were people flagging us suddenly  from nowhere. Babubhai sensibly did not stop. That particular pitch looked particular shady with tents/shacks. It looked like a tourist hub as he told that there is some view point. But who would be at this view point at this hour in this darkness? And what tourist attraction could happen now?

Later I  came to know they peddled drugs and that spot was popular for that. So they would stop cars and deter anybody from going forward and with the excuse of a chai at a shack the hustling would start.

Finally Pankaj got out of that car and came into ours and now the question was should we continue or should we turn back? Mayank was brave enough to say We can carry on but ask others. Instantly Babubhai said NO, it’s impossible to drive at this hour. And this farmhouse was way away from it all. Just searching for it in daylight was a task.

No one had an idea about the location as it was a first time for all of us. So Pankaj called his friend through patchy network and said Sorry we will come tomorrow morning and I could hear his friend Vinay’s voice saying Arre!! this fog only lasts for sometime then it’s ok! Go right NOW!!

But honestly all were tired after the trek and it was showing on us now. To be alert, to drive for another 3 hours deeper into a region at night with fog  and really bad road patch was too daunting.

Then the unthinkable happened. Babubhai moved back and allowed Pankaj to take control of the steering wheel! Pankaj and I looked at each other and laughed! How the mighty can shake, it’s all circumstantial isn’t it?

We still had to turn around and the road and fog was not helping us see anything. So we had to keep going further until we found a wider bend to turn around. It seems so much fun right now but when I look back at hindsight, we made one of the wisest decisions that day because you will know in the next blog about the journey to the farmhouse .

Pankaj was behind the wheel and Babubhai was sitting behind  constantly reminding him to be slow, to WATCH OUT, to be CAREFUL 🙂 Finally after what looked like eternity we got out of the valley and the fog and descended to earth and drove all the way to Pune.

It was such an impromptu decision to go there and believe me this happens to be one of the cities I was really wanting to visit for many years.

First, my partner Srini spent his college years in Pune and he had wonderful memories here. He would always say, if there is any city I can move to in a heartbeat it’s this one. I had heard enough stories from him, his student life, the cafes and the places he used to visit and the girls he used to ‘patao’ from Fergusson 🙂

Pune has an awesome student culture, a cosmo hub if you lived in the right neighbourhood and yup recently I came to know from a dear friend that Pune had a thriving Experimental Theatre. This city had culture, colors and class.

Another big factor were the two people who are let me put it this way, very important in my life. Srini’s niece was doing her undergrad in Pune and she is one girl I adore to death. I feel a connection with her that goes beyond just this life.

A spunky awesome girl who was slowly making her own unique imprints in today’s bubble gum world. The other person is, how do I put this? He started off as an intern in our cafe, he was a classmate of her’s who did designing work for us and joined us as an intern this summer.

What can I say about this boy? He weaved his way into our hearts  and he became family to me and Srini. Quite mature for his 20 years, focused, determined and had a sensitivity that I wouldn’t find even in the 30 and 40 year olds today.

So I was super excited to get to Pune and I was determined that no matter what time I reach there I am gonna meet them.

We reached the city around 10 pm directly to a restaurant in Kalyani Nagar. As we ate, I called my girl and I could hear her scream when I said I was in Pune. She just said tell me where you are and am coming!

Things like this bring me so much joy. When was the last time we showed or seen such an expression of our emotions to someone? To feel wanted and to know that somebody wants  see you? Maybe when we were their age? Why did we lose it over the years?

I was freaking tired and I looked around, all of us were tired but these moments are something I will never get back. I was ready to spend an all nighter if it was meant to be that way.

My gentlemen friends insisted they would stay until she turned up and no amount of pleading, forcing, budging, pushing them to go away would work. I took the address of Mayank’s place and the thorough gentleman he is, he even said I will pick you up from wherever you are, don’t worry.

Finally my girl arrived with a big tight hug as I said goodbye to my friends. Pankaj asked me where the hell do you get the energy to still do this?

The first thing I told her I don’t have time and am off as early as 6 am tomorrow so not much  sleep either so where can we hangout with some beer?

And right across the road was this cool place Elephant & Co. So off we went as she called my other kiddo! He was gonna join us there.

Here is where I stop and say this, no matter what I do and where I go, once a restaurateur, always a restaurateur and being disillusioned by the state of so called hospitality affairs in my city, I was looking forward to check out one place at least here. And let me tell you that aspect won’t go away till I die.

The place was buzzing as we walked in. Stylish, casual, classy, chilled out place. The buzz and conversations were drowning the music. The music was not so loud that you had to scream your lungs out.

It felt like I belonged and I could get a little as to why Srini loved this city.  It had a vibe and what sort of people are in it matters. No flashy cars, no gaudy brands, no dressing up like Christmas trees and look at me kinds! This was different from Hyderabad!

I saw my other tall kiddo rushing smiling waving and giving a big Hug. We chugged beer, spoke, laughed until it was past midnight and most places were shutting up. Yup this was Pune and so are most metros who shut up at this time except my city where even lounges and bars run till 5 am every night and think its cool and happening!

They dropped me off at Mayank’s place and as I walked in to his lovely apartment, I saw all of them still awake listening to music. Babubhai and Pankaj with Whiskey and Beer waiting for me.

It felt beautiful to end this day like this. Dim lights, soft music from different genres with our drinks as we all soaked in.

It was 1 am and I was all set to crash. We had to wake up early again to get going to the farmhouse. Mayank and Vishwanath decided not to join us the next day as they had some pending work .

As I slipped under the blanket, feet aching and sore, body feeling tired and yet so alive I looked out at the window towards my side.

It was still raining…

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