Thursday, October 31, 2019

Monkeying around and horsing about on a hill station

While going through my old stuff, I happened to find some pictures of a trip which I had been meaning to write about for a while but didn’t come around to it anytime. Murphy states “Anything that can go wrong, will”. This was a trip where several Murphys were working overtime and I was mainly at the receiving end.

It was in the summer of 2006 (or around that time –plus/minus a year or two) that me, Ash and Mike decided to head to the hill station of Matheran for the weekend to escape the heat in the city. It was late evening that we reached Neral station and we started our trek to Matheran without sparing a moment so we could get a place to stay. Adventurous that we were, we had not pre-booked our stay and the convenient apps to book a stay didn’t exist during that time. The trek to Matheran was pretty uneventful and though we reached the Matheran gates around 11pm when everything around was pitch dark and all places closed, we found some locals who directed us to someone who had rooms to let. The room that the person offered was small but it served our purpose since it was enough for the three of us to get through the night; not to mention the slim chance we had of finding another place. This was a non-AC room but the weather was so pleasant that we threw open the windows and the gentle breeze was enough to keep the room cool. Since we had to rise up early the following day to go exploring, we decided to hit the sack early too. We patted the mattress, got the Old Monk Rum out along with the finger food and fixed our drinks… before we could call it a day. And when we did, we left our windows open to welcome the first of the disasters waiting to strike. The owner of the pad had not warned us about the monkeys that attack a room with windows open. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of monkeys  screeching. There were about 7 to 8 monkeys on the table next to the window where we had left our unfinished food.  I looked around to see Ash was snoring on his side of the bed and Mike who had decided to continue drinking for some more time was slumped in a sitting position with his glass of drink still in his hands resting on the bed while leaving the lights in the room on. My immediate reaction was to shoo away the monkeys; however instead of scooting, they got annoyed and took an attacking stance, to which I backed off. I slowly moved towards Ashwin and shook him, slightly at first and then a little more violently. He opened his eyes, looked at me as if to ask ‘Why the heck have you not gone to sleep yet?’ I whispered to him “Don’t panic, but take a look at the table yonder. He shifted his gaze and he freaked out only to realize what I did earlier that the monkeys get annoyed with any action directed at them. Of all the breathing creatures in the room, only Mike was at peace with himself oblivious to the action scene brewing about. He was also closest to the door and Ash nudged him so he could wake up, open the door and we could bolt out but any effort to rouse Mike paid no dividends. Finally Ash slowly crawled across the room and opened the door. The moment the door was open, all the monkeys dashed out of the window with whatever food packs that they were holding. I jumped at the window to close it, but in jumped one huge mo’fo, grabbed the only pack of chips that was left behind and bolted. We kept the windows shut for the rest of the night, only glad to escape without any monkey attack.

Mike was the first one to be up and in good spirits (pun intended). He got us up and didn’t seem interested at all in the narrative of the night before incidents.  Once we had freshened up, we headed to one of the sight-seeing points that offer a wonderful view of the expanse from the hill station. Little did I realize that I was welcoming another disaster-in-making when we hired horses for going trotting about. We selected our horses; the owner of the horses told us the names and asked us to speak to the horses for some time to get accustomed to them. My horse was Raja and I spoke to it about the weather, its well-being and what-not for a considerable time. We mounted our respective horses but were soon wanting for some more adventure and we requested the owner if we could get the horse to gallop. After much cajoling, the owner relented, on one condition (Thank Heavens) that he would guide the horses on a gallop while we enjoy the ride. He briefed us that we should not be seated and should be literally on the stirrups with knees bent slightly while the horse gallops. We said “cool”.

Mike displayed exceptional talent as he completed his ride and I was all kicked about my ride. I spoke a few gentle words to Raja again and I was ready for my ride. The first 10 to 15 seconds were phenomenal and my adrenaline was all pumped up while Mike, Ash and other passer-bys cheered AND THEN, Raja skidded slightly on some gravel on a bend. He regained his composure in a moment, but I got a little thrown off balance and the reins slipped off my hands. With nothing to hold, I grabbed Raja and hugged him around his neck while he continued his gallop. Before I realized, my legs were out of the stirrups and I tightened my grip around Raja holding on to dear life. It was only seconds but it felt like a lifetime when the owner brought the horse under control and to come to a standstill. I was shivering as I dismounted, when Ash comes up to me guffawing, pointing out to me that my legs were flapping about furiously when they were out of the stirrups and gave the impression that the horse had sprouted wings to transform into a Pegasus gearing up for a flight. I looked at him and if my eyelids weren’t shivering too, he would’ve recognized the intensity of the glare, but it evaded him and Mike joined him in in laughter too. I thanked God silently. We decided we had enough excitement/sight-seeing for the day and we headed to a restaurant for food and Old Monk Rum to set the evening up before we leave homewards.

By the time, we checked out it was 6 and the sun was almost down. We decided to trek it down to the Neral railway station as well, since we had plenty time on our hands to catch the last train to the city. We prepared our ‘Tribal Mixes’ for the way back. Now, ‘Tribal Mix’ is a term we use among our circle and it refers to Old Monk mixed in the Coke pet bottle. Darkness set in rapidly and we were enjoying our ‘Tribal Mix’ and conversation on our trek down. We even stopped to enjoy a waterfall and by the time we were back in dry clothes, we were pretty buzzed. Somewhere along the way on a dark patch, Mike claimed that he saw a ghost-like apparition and that he sensed it following us. I told him that it was all rot and very soon we were arguing whether he was bullshitting or not while Ash remained neutral. Mike challenged me to walk behind away from them if I rubbished his ghost instinct. I said okay, simply turned and started walking in the direction that we had come from. Now, Mike was holding the only flashlight that we had and just to prove myself I continued walking even beyond a bend in the road. I stopped when I realized that it was way too dark and sat down by the side of the road chasing my Tribal Mix till these guys came to fetch me. In ten minutes, when they still weren’t around, I decided to walk back to them. In zero visibility, I didn’t realize when I had reached the far side of the bend and suddenly the gravel beneath my feet gave way, my Tribal Mix shot out of my hand while I slid on the slope from the edge of the road and I grabbed the first thing that my hands could grab and it turned out to be some root of a plant or a shrub (I do not remember which) and my fall was halted. I could sense that I had hurt my ankle in the fall. I didn’t venture to climb up because I could not see a thing. I shouted “Help!, Ash, Mike” and when no response came back, I decided to wait it out. I was filled with disgust that I had also lost my Tribal Mix that could’ve eased the anxiety while I stayed put. After about 15 minutes, I saw a flicker of the flashlight in a distance and then Mike and Ash calling out to me. I responded till they found me sprawled over the edge. They leaned and pulled me up. I had hurt my ankles real bad and limped across all the way to Neral station with support from my friends and sips from their Tribal Mix. We missed the last train and had to wait at the railway station for the first train next morning.

When we got back to the city, a visit to the doctor confirmed a hairline fracture. I was and am still grateful that nothing really bad happened during the trip, when things could’ve taken a turn for the worse on many an occasion. Ultimately, the trip felt like a pilgrimage where I had atoned for my sins with some penance albeit in the form of some bruises and a broken leg. And despite many a fight/argument during that trip, the bond of friendship between me, Mike and Ash was strengthened and we remain thickest of friends till date.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finally Ozzy-ed… Almost Timberlaked

At last I get to watch the legend Ozzy Osborne perform live. I just cannot control my excitement as each passing day gets me closer to the event.

I was the last in my group of friends to book the tickets for the Black Sabbath concert to be held at Abu Dhabi, as it almost seemed certain that I would not get to go. However things fell into place and I grabbed the first opportunity to book my ticket. However, when I tried to book my ticket online on the site, I just kept getting an error that my ticket could not be booked. Out of desperation, I reached out to the ticketmaster team on their Facebook page and they got back to me promptly. A customer support executive called me up and took down my details on the phone and after confirming the personal details he said ‘Ok. So I am booking your ticket for the Justin Timberlake concert on 23rd May ….’ The words left me stunned for a moment, but I finally found my voice and bellowed into the phone in a pitch I didn’t know existed. ‘STOP. STOP. STOP.’ I cried out and proceeded to tell him that it was not Justin Timberlake but Black Sabbath ticket that I wanted to book. The CS executive coolly replied ‘No problem. Please wait’, this without probably an iota of an idea of the havoc he had wrecked for a moment unintentionally. Got to admit though that he was helpful throughout and finally here I have my ticket for the concert.

Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Beery Merry Christmas of 2011

With Christmas 2013 just around the bend, I was reminiscing about the Christmas 2011 celebrations in our office and I wondered why I had not blogged about it earlier. So here goes. Now, if you are wondering if the intensifier in the title was meant to be 'very', you better have a beer and come back.

Just days before Christmas, someone among us suggested that we build a Christmas tree with beer bottles. 'Why not? Why not? Why not?' was the general consensus and you can't blame anyone rooting for beer when opportunity knocks. That's where it all began.

We decided that we'd consume Beer as much as required to build the Christmas tree... and we did. Come 23rd December, we stacked the office refrigerator with beer bottles and it was only after work when 'we' started chilling. When we began, every beer we drank contributed to establishing the base for the Christmas tree, and as the tree shaped up, we drank more beer to complete it.

Our creative team came up with an idea that we should reward a crate of beer to the people who guessed the number of beer bottles that the Christmas tree was made of. Since I was instrumental in building the tree, I was the only one who knew the correct answer.

Of course, yours truly didn't participate and nor did my colleagues; the contest was thrown open to our clients and our friends. We had filmed the making of the tree and the edited version (the video in this blog) was displayed on our site to the people at large. We created an emailer for this contest (also included in this blog) and sent it to all our clients and friends. Though we kept this fairly within our known circle, we received over 1000 entries. I had many friends who tried to bribe me with sharing the beers (prize) for disclosing the true figure, but to no avail.

On 29th we disclosed the number and it was just as surprising that among all the entries, there was only one winner and he turned out to be from among our clients. We announced the number of bottles and the winner: the crate of beer promptly sent to the winner. There is no doubt he had a blast for the New Year 2012 celebrations. As for us, we enjoyed drinking the beer while making the Beery Christmas Tree.

P.S.: the winner was one of our clients (name withheld on request) and the number of Beer bottles that contributed to the Christmas Tree was 134. And below is the mailer that sent to clients and friends inviting them to guess the number beer bottles that went into making the Christmas Tree.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Of all things yellow.

The yellow box in front of me is the only bright object that I can today. Everything is dark and gloomy. I stepped outside the office expecting sunlight and even the weather appears to be brooding. It’s like the sun has stepped outside wearing a cloak with the intentions of staying incognito.

Now I am back to the only object that appears bright today i.e. the yellow box and I am apprehensive of what it holds in store for me. I am sceptical in my approach to open it. I can only hope my mom has packed chicken or mutton … or egg for that matter, for my lunch in my yellow lunch box and that just might save the day.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

A tryst with the Dentist

I am very intimidated by dentists. So much so that every time I go to church for a confession of my sins, I pray to God beforehand that the priest may not send me to the dentist for my penance. I think I owe this unpleasant visit to the dentist to Preeti, my sis., who convinced me that, among others, we should also take good care of our teeth. I am still not convinced that I should thank her for the advice.  

However, I found myself waiting for my turn at the dentist’s hoping that it would never come. It brought back memories of another time and another place where I was summoned by the then Principal of my school for being caught while trying to escape the class with the intentions of bunking it. The wait outside the Principal’s office was more agonising than the juiciest of the cane hammering I was subjected to. When I began comparing, I preferred the waiting outside the Principal’s office to the one outside the Dentist’s. Finally, when my turn did come, I resisted the urge to gather my belongings and dash for the Exit door to the free world. The dentist welcomed me with a smile and when I told her that I had come for a dental check-up, she beckoned me to ‘The Chair’ and said ‘Let’s see what you’ve got.’ I would’ve misconstrued the statement altogether if I wasn’t so daunted by the sight of ‘The Chair’ that seem to come straight out of a sci-fi movie with all the gizmos attached to it. Once I was comfortable in ‘The Chair’ (I am using the word comfortable here for the lack of a better word; I should probably have used the word ‘seated’), the lights came on and I thought I saw horns popping out of her head. She asked me to open my mouth and when did, she peered in and after having a good look at the contents inside, she said ‘uh-huh’. ‘What do you mean uh-huh?’ I asked. She said I had more cavities than teeth. I said ‘uh-huh’ and she asked ‘What do you mean uh-huh?’ I said ok, to which she retorted ‘It’s not ok’. I wanted to say uh-huh, but I held back. She said a cave explorer could venture into my mouth for days altogether and still come out leaving unfinished business. And I think, just to prove a point, she prodded my teeth with some instruments which could just have well been a chisel and a hammer, for with every prod she created an intense pain that caused a convulsion so severe that I was rooted to ‘The Chair’ against my wishes of making a dash for the door. Finally when she was done prodding, she laid down the tools and started scribbling the notepad with a prescription for me before I could come to visit her next week. If I were to hazard a guess, she called me next week because she didn’t have the entire set of tools for cave exploring with her and she wanted to be completely prepared the next time around.

The entire ordeal was enough to give me nightmares. Yet, pay her a visit next week, I will. However, I am prepared with counter measures. On the evening prior to my visit, I will down a great deal of whisky. I will drink till my gills are pickled and I am sozzled. The hangover on the morrow should hurt more than what the dentist has in store for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gonna fly now

First weekend in December, I was at Kamshet at the site and while I was grounded because of an injured foot, Ash and Anand were up in the sky flying at will. I was reduced to taking pictures and videos while they enjoyed the wonderful weather in the sky. Come evening and I removed the bandage on the foot (am I glad) and when I felt much better and comfortable, I made up my mind to fly the following day. This was to be my first flight after the flying season had resumed. Though my flight lasted only for half an hour, good thermic conditions ensured that we gained good height at above 1000 mtrs. One that will be cherished for a long time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011: New Year’s Resolution

The month of December holds a special meaning for me. Anything I see assumes the colour of green, red and white. Cds, primarily of Boney M playing Christmas tracks, other artists playing Christmas Carols and the likes begin to reappear on the top of the stack. Not unlike any other, I think about Christmas celebrations with family, followed by New Year celebrations with friends. This year is no different. However, the other day, it reminded me that a resolution I made when the year 2011 arrived was yet to be fulfilled.

I welcomed the New Year 2011 among friends at Ramesh’s place. After the clock chimed 12 and we wished each other New Year greetings, I reached out for my glass of whisky. And as I tasted the woody blend, I decided to make my New Year’s resolution. I held out my glass, looked ruefully at the drink and declared to my friends that I resolve to get myself a drinking permit. My resolution was greeted with cheers and the frolic continued.

Over the months, I had completely forgotten about my resolution. It was on the arrival of December this year, I recollected the resolution that I had made. With the very first opportunity, I headed to the Excise Department and procured a ‘Life Time Drinking Permit’. Mission Accomplished :-)