We made our way to the campsite with our new partners after the game. Dharmik and I started chatting. Riddhi was paired up with one of the ‘Family’ members, the wife ‘Kayalvizhi’, I remember when Tirth said to pair up and walk together, Riddhi optimistically went in search of her to walk with her.
Dharmik came from a Gujarati Jain family and of course a business family. And he was from Secunderabad! This is an inside joke guys. Basically Hyderabad has a twin city Secunderabad. The latter is a proper Cantonment area with wide spaces, and it’s where all culture, cosmopolitan crowd was.
I am from that side too and we would turn up our noses at Hyderabad because it was ‘dehati’ old city with nothing else. In Mumbai lingo for Mumbaikars, it’s equivalent to Secunderabad being ‘Sobo’( South Bombay), you get it? So yup there is always a tussle there. So I was glad he was from my side!
We got talking and he shared about his life. He was 20, studying and helping his dad in business, a Pakka Hyderabadi( more on that later) and he knew where his life was heading. His folks might get him engaged this year, in a couple of years would be marriage and he wanted to live his life to the fullest. He wasn’t complaining about it either, he knew this was destined for him. He drank, he smoked, he ate chicken and of course no mention of it at home. He was as he said ‘ a Sanskari boy’ to his family. He also said he asserted himself his own way, he went to Bali with Tarang and another cousin and he didn’t tell his folks where he was going. As long as he was in touch with them, it didn’t matter. There was a pragmatist in this guy. He knew his realities, the pressures of his business family, it was in his blood and yet a rebel inside.
Slowly we reached the campsite of Deorital and it was kind of disappointing. It was tiny, cramped and narrow. And no, I am not complaining about the accommodation, it was still luxurious with tents and 3 beds joined with each other and four could comfortably sleep on it. There were sleeping bags too. Bhim, Riddhi, Navadeep and me were in one tent. The rest were finding their spaces. The site was too narrow to do anything. In the end, I was thankful for the views. A little walk back and we could see Deorital below along with a few camps set up by others. There was an abandoned camp site. Full tents and all but locked up by some trekking company.
I felt happy there were not many rules laid here. I still remember during the previous Deorital trek, a couple who were in a relationship weren’t allowed to be in one tent even though there would be another person in it! ‘Boys’ and ‘girls’ were demarcated. Seriously guys, In this day and age? Now I know it depends on the trek lead, after the first Deorital trek, pretty much every trek lead was chilled out.
We didn’t want to be cooped up in the tent, so Bhim, Riddhi Navadeep and me were in the dining tent. But once the trekkers got into their tents, they were refusing to come out. Tirth was like where are these guys, come out! But nope, all were inside, tired. Bhim started playing some of his coin tricks! Well he had already done it on Pankajji our guide. Slowly he was making his way with this trick with the other trekkers. If I tell you the whole sequence which I can’t anyways, it will be boring. So am only hoping next time if you ever trek with me and my mate Bhim, rest assured you will be targeted 😁
Tirth got into it and of course he burst out laughing after he realised he was conned! Slowly Bhim made his way through the Gujju boys Tarang, Dharmik and Tarang’s close friend, or as Bhim calls him, ‘The Silent killer’ Anuj ( a Marathi Jain btw) with the coin toss. Anuj was the quietest among all three. But he had a depth about him. Keenly observing everything and a lovely energy about him.
There was also an instant when Bhim took out his ‘air pillow’, yup those portable old ones I used to see when people travelled in trains. He was blowing air into it and it was just not happening. Riddhi and I said, blow hard man, he was laughing and it wasn’t working, so I said, ‘the story of our lives’ and Riddhi got it just like that and started laughing! Then Tirth took over saying Bhim it’s not working with you, let me try it and then the way I and Riddhi teased him, come on Tirth you can do it, blow hard, keep it going, your stamina is this much only?? The man went red while Bhim couldn’t control laughing. Yup we can be that shameless 🙂
Bhim and I already decided we are gonna do our nature’s calls in the open spaces away from the camp and the lake. And yup no dumping near a water source! This was outmost important. No way was I getting into the toilet tents which were below, slippery and at an angle. Riddhi was saying, It’s like a balancing act while trying to do our bit and not fall into the pit!
How did the weather look like? As the altitude increases so does the weather change. Even though there was not much of a difference in the altitude at this camp site, one could feel the chill, the mountains surrounding us seemed closer and what a view! We had our chai and snacks and decided to hang in the dining tent only. It was Riddhi, Bhim, Navadeep, Tirth, myself and we managed to pull in the gujju gang boys albeit a lot of pressure. Tarang always wanted to sleep, so we would get into their tent and urge them all to come out.
A few trekkers were hoping for snow, Riddhi and I were so not looking forward to snow at all. So the entire group was divided between wanting snow to none. After the last snowstorm we had in Deorital, and the freezing temperatures in Sandakphu in winter, and walking in knee deep snow to the ‘dangerous gully’ of Rupin pass, I had enough of snow. Truly enough! Showmik the Bengali whom we started calling Rosogulla wanted snow. In his accent he would say, ‘ I weeeesh there was snow, ha?’ 😁
Later in the evening Tirth said we will get out for a small walk away from the campsite and away from the lake. He wanted us to see the sunset from there. There was a watch tower built quite high at this space where one could climb and get the entire view. I remembered this place.. I remembered coming to this same space for the sunset with the previous trek group and it seemed like yesterday. Pankaj my friend sitting there with Rudra and questioning his beliefs 😊 Gosh how time flies. As I mentioned this to Bhim, Tirth said you are getting nostalgic aren’t you? who wouldn’t? And yet so different now.
We played a game in a circle with ‘guns’ aiming at each other and all of us had to remember names! We couldn’t yet fully grasp everyone’s names but fun it was as people kept getting out. Finally it was Bhim and Tirth! Two highly competitive guys. An Aquarius and a Scorpio. And let me tell you Bhim is a sore loser! Really bad loser! He hates it so much and defends it so badly if he loses that every time I wanna kick his arse! This time Thirth won. Then came a game ‘virtual volleyball’. We were made into 3 teams. Being in the 3rd team we climbed the watch tower and saw the action below. The loser team eventually had to play against our team and Tirth was leading us and I must tell you we lost! So many zeros until we got a few points.
Then Tirth quietly told us to take a spot, any spot away from each other, and take a space, no talking, be with oneself and hear the birds. The ‘Family’ along with Laxman were clicking pictures, but most dispersed and found their spaces. I kept searching for a space to get away. There I saw Riddhi lying down content. A little far away was Satish C, and that’s where I went away from him to a space and sat. Quiet, so quiet with only the birds. I could still hear a group huddling and talking, previously I would have got irritated but not anymore. Each one to their own. Not everyone was the same.
I felt a quiet soothing energy from Satish C. Honestly I did. I felt good knowing I was away from it all but comforting he was around and in the same zone. These energies can’t be explained. The mountains were getting darker with the onset of sunset, and now different kinds of bird sounds could be heard. So many sounds, it was like a symphony. Then I heard a group coming towards my side, not wanting to break the mood I walked towards the lake, there was a path leading to it. As I sat down, I saw Rajesh- the loner and wanderer coming from the lake side asking if everyone had left, I just nodded No. I sat there and looked at the lake. So many stories, legends. Who knew what all they held. These trees and lake must have seen so many foolish human beings over centuries, maybe hundreds and thousands of years. We try to rationalise everything but some things require only faith not hard logic.
As I came back I saw the group was laughing and talking loud with Bhim around them, immediately I regretted coming back to the noise. So I sat at a distance covering my ears but in vain. 😊 It was time to get back to the campsite. Bhim told me he went really far away into the jungle to sit and at one point it was so quiet, that even a rustling sound was enough to shake him up, it was kind of unnerving.
We hung around, just a few of us. Tarang, Anuj, Dharmik, Tirth, Bhim, Navadeep, Riddhi and me. Later Naveen surprisingly joined us! Yup the coach from the family. Bhim guessed correctly it was because of Riddhi, he was trying to get her attention but in vain. I don’t think she even knew this guy was desperate for attention, any attention!
We were bonding big time guessing each other’s age to food we liked. And here is where Tarang made it memorable. He confidently said the best pizza comes from, wait for it, HALDIRAM’s! We were like what?! He was super proud of it, Haldiram originated from Nagpur and being a local lad he was representing Haldiram better than its owners ! The way he described the pizza from that place, the first time he had it there when he was 4 years old to telling us amidst loads of laughter as to how his mum used to get a pizza crust from Haldiram, put khichri over it and give it to him saying it’s a pizza when he was a kid 🤣🤣
Now that word became ‘the word’ for our group. It would be used in several occasions. And Tarang sweetly would say, No, But you must come to Nagpur for Haldiram’s pizza! And you know what? I have a sneaky feeling Bhim and I will visit Nagpur one day if only for Tarang and his Haldiram Pizza!
We played Chinese whisper followed by Japanese whisper(yup that’s right) which was hilarious! Tarang couldn’t whisper at all! We went at him saying man, we are actually hearing what you are saying!
Right after dinner, Tirth assembled us all and told us to prepare for an arduous 10 km trek tomorrow to Syalmi camp site. It was gonna be tough and hopefully the weather would be ok for us to trek. Already reports were coming in that the route to Syalmi campsite was not that favourable and we had to leave it to the Himalayas and pray for her benevolence. We had to get going as soon as possible. 8.15 am we had to start moving.
We got into our respective tents into our sleeping bags( which is another tough thing to do btw) and hoped for the best.
Little did we know a storm would be brewing…