My Himalayan Odyssey Part 8 – Lil Brown Mouse and Some Unwelcome Rain

We just dumped our bags outside our respective tents and headed to the rickety plastic table and chair arrangement outside the dining tent for a few beers. The local beer that we had purchased in Solan from a local shop (the plan to buy it from the brewery had amounted to naught as it was closed on that day) is called Lion. I am not much of a beer drinker but according to the other three extremely knowledgeable parties the beer was strictly m-eh.

The view more than made up for the not so great beer we had bought in Solan.

The view more than made up for the not so great beer we had bought in Solan.

 

Perfect setting to swap ghost stories :)

Perfect setting to swap ghost stories 🙂

We also braved our way down in the gathering dusk to the port-a-loos. (Word of caution – at these heights toilet seats are cold, so prepare yourself mentally for the shock of sitting on it). The kids (including the baby) made their way to the kitchen tent and warmed themselves at the choola (brick stove that uses wood for fuel).

The tents looked very picturesque and romantic... from the outside.

The tents looked very picturesque and romantic… from the outside.

Warming Up By The Choolah. That was the dal (lentil) being cooked.

Warming Up By The Choolah. That was the dal (lentil) being cooked.

It was at this point that we were told the bad news – Thakur had not organized the chicken for dinner. Apparently we were supposed to pick it up along the way and bring it for him to cook. A minor detail lost in translation, which meant that dinner was again rajma-chawal… all of us being hard core non-vegetarians, we were getting a bit tired of the rajma by then. But given that there was no way we could get a chicken at this point of time, we trudged to the dining tents and ate our dinner rather glumly under those gloomily lit bulbs that remind you of Malayalam art movies from the 70s.

Reva had to hang on to Yugi to keep the spiders safe. That fellow is fearless!

Reva had to hang on to Yugi to keep the spiders safe. That fellow is fearless!

Dinner was quick as everyone was tired. It was at this time that we began to notice the bloody spiders. For some reason, Himachal Pradesh doesn’t have small spiders. They are big! Crazy big! The mountain air apparently suits them! The girls refused to touch the tent flaps or sit too close to the wooden tables. With Yugi we had the opposite problem. We had to stop him from grabbing anything and everything. I did not take any pictures of those spiders for obvious reasons but if you are the sorts that really wants to know how those spiders looked, click here… I would suggest you don’t but…

The next day Surya, Suresh and Reva told me that they had seen a huge black snail on the tent’s ceiling. They had wisely refrained from telling the same to the girls and me cause altitude sickness or not, mountains in the dark or not, the three of us may have just run down screaming all the way to Chandigarh.

Outside it was pitch dark. It was a new moon night, so we only had the stars and the silhouettes of the tall trees and the mountains for company. It is a sight that should strike terror, but while one did experience a frisson of fear the main emotion was awe! The silence interrupted only by the chirping and buzzing of some bugs partying away in the grass added another layer of depth to the overall awesomeness of the place.

The sun had set and instead of the moon and stars we got rain clouds...  After a while I quit wiping my camera lens.

The sun had set and instead of the moon and stars we got rain clouds… After a while I quit wiping my camera lens.

After dinner we all trooped to our tents. It was still drizzling. The interiors of the tent may never win any Good Housekeeping awards but it was clean if you disregard all the moths that were attracted to our lanterns. We dusted the bed and the blankets to make sure that no other creatures had settled in for the night.

Parisa was searching for bugs n spiders, I was trying to tempt Yugi away from the snack bag with a lip balm (don't ask!) and Sakshi decided that she had had enough of the great outdoors and wanted some TLC time with her iPad.

Parisa was searching for bugs n spiders, I was trying to tempt Yugi away from the snack bag with a lip balm (don’t ask!) and Sakshi decided that she had had enough of the great outdoors and wanted some TLC time with her iPad.

After Parisa and Yugi went to their tent, Sakshi managed to remove her hiking boots and crawled into the middle of the bed and was out cold in the blink of an eye. Surya called out from his tent and told us to hang the plastic bag with the chips and snacks on a coat stand just to keep any pests out. These are instructions that would have normally sent me in to shock but I guess it was a measure of how tired I was that, I didn’t give a fig. I just took the bag and hung it on the topmost hook in the stand.

Sakshi out cold! She was too tired to even bother with the spiders and bugs.

Sakshi out cold! She was too tired to even bother with the spiders and bugs. And yes, I know the picture quality sucks… sorry.

We got into bed and I turned out the lantern. By now the sporadic pitter-patter of the drizzle was replaced by the continuous rhythm of a steady rain. I began to worry about the mud road above… how will we drive the car out and get it to the top! I really did not fancy staying at the camp for one more night though that was an eventuality we were all warned about. Later on I learnt that this very thought of the difficulty of driving on that mud road had kept Surya awake most of the night too. The earlier experience of sitting in a car while it skidded around a bit was not something any of us wanted to re-live.

Suddenly there was another layer of sound added to the beat of the rain! My heightened senses could clearly hear something rustling around. I asked Suresh if he could hear it. He was almost asleep and muttered ‘must be a mouse’ and fell asleep. Nice! Very nice!

I decided that I would turn the lantern on to drive the pesky mouse away. I quietly reached across… a part of brain busy praying and hoping that no creepy crawlies were resting on the lantern for warmth… and turned the lantern on. The sight that greeted me must have inspired the creative brains behind Tom and Jerry. It must easily have been the cutest, little, light brown field mouse, in the world, sitting and nibbling on a piece of cheesy Cheetos. It was standing frozen in the sudden light – reminiscent of the Bajaj ‘meri chori pakdi jaati’ moment. It looked so adorable that I turned the light out thinking that something that cute deserved all the Cheetos in the world. I just made a mental note to throw the bag in the bin the next day.  It was with this background of a cute little mouse nibbling at Cheetos and worrying rhythm of rainfall that I finally managed to fall asleep.

This trip taught me that there is a very thin line between adventure and terror, as the recent horrendous death of 24 students and a tour guide reminded us again. Are these things fated? We went to Himachal Pradesh a month after large swathes of Uttarakhand were swept away by torrential rains, so there was a very real sense of fear that the rains could become a source of terror instead of just a minor inconvenience. However throughout the trip, except for one or two nights of heavy rains (in Jalori and Manali) we had lovely weather. We had prepared for the worst but at the end of the day, we were just lucky that we had such a smooth, adventurous, challenging yet uneventful road trip, despite ‘driving’ on the edge.

Edge of the road.

Edge of the road.

 

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Another Poem

IMG_7221Wake up!

WAKE UP!

Do this

Do that

Comb your hair

Learn to tie your shoe laces

Do your homework

Chew with your mouth closed

Talk softly

Don’t scream

Run

Run carefully

Don’t trip

Don’t lie

Study well

Write neatly

Tell them I am busy

Keep your room clean

Don’t overeat

Eat your veggies

Don’t eat your hair!

Be tough

Be kind

Read more

Go to bed.

But have I ever

Have I truly ever

Told you the stuff

The important stuff

The truly important ones…

Daydream a bit

Lie back and watch the clouds

Count the stars

Smell…

The rain in the air…

The rich wetness of the earth…

Be proud of your body

Learn to listen to your body

Lick the ice cream bowl clean

With your fingers

And your tongue

Do something silly

Every once in a while

Run for joy

Don’t be afraid to love

With a pure vulnerable heart

It will hurt

But it will hurt more

If you don’t

Have loads of friends

Who you can laugh and

Have fun with

But have at least one

That you can cry

And be miserable with

Be brave

Be strong

Read more

And then some more

Write your thoughts down

Smile at the world

Trust your instincts

Daydream a bit more.

Ahem! I am writing… again!

Ask a writer, “Who is a writer?” or “What makes a writer?” and he or she will say, “Writing.” Guess who has not been ‘writing’. Don’t get me wrong. I have been writing. In fact I’ve been writing so much that I have sprained my right wrist! I have been meeting bi-weekly deadlines with regularity. But have I been ‘writing’? Writing the things I want to write, crave to write? No. And I really have no answer as to why not. So here I am trying (yet again) to address this issue. I have decided that I need a map, a guideline to get me ‘writing’ with more regularity. And being a writer, what can be a better map than one that is constituted of the alphabet. Every third day (that is me being lazy, I assure you I will try to do it on a daily basis or even on alternate days) I will write on a topic inspired by the English alphabet. Being an organized and logical sort of person (on most days), I will be progressing in an orderly manner from A to Z. I am listing below some of the topics that strike a chord with me. What I would really appreciate is for everyone who is kind enough to read this blog or FB and Twitter posting is to write back to me with topics that they think are universal in their appeal or even thoughts on the list below. And here is the networking spiel – please recommend the blog to your friends if you like it. After all another more practical answer to the above question ‘what truly makes a writer?’ is ‘A reader.’ Tally-ho!

 

TOPICS:

AGING

BOOBS AND BAUBLES

CANCER / CARBS

DAUGHTER / DREAMS / DEATH

EMPTY

FREEDOM / FRIENDS

GRANTED / GAL PALS (SAME AS FRIENDS?)

HOPE / HAIR

INTUITION / IMPULSE / I

JEALOUS

KILOS

LAUGHTER / LOVE

MOTHER / MONEY / MARRIAGE / ME

NEGOTIATION

OBEDIENT / OBSTINATE / OBEY / OBJECTIFIED

PARTNER / PRAYER

QUIET/ QUIRKY / QUEER / QUEST

RAGE / RAPE

SUCCESS / SEX / SELF / SCARS

TIME

UGLY

VAMP / VAGINA / VIRGIN / VIXEN

WEIGHT / WIFE

X – EX / EXCESS

YES TO LIFE / YOU / YOUTH / YOUNG(ER) / YUMMY MUMMIES

ZZZZZ / ZEST / ZANY