Thursday, December 30, 2010

A nights ordeal en-route a holiday....

   It was Christmas eve (24.12.10). The day was just perfect. I had planned a holiday for my parents (and myself of-course) to Dalhosie and Dharamshala. We had to take a bus that evening to Pathankot air-force base, around two hours away from Jammu. All plans set, we started off from home in a taxi at around 5 PM. First came some of the most gloomy and not happening places in Delhi, the roads along the official residences of MP's, the BJP party office, etc (my journalist friends would disagree though, they generate their roji roti from these streets). There were infy NEWS channel vehicles in front the BJP office, probably contemplating another BJP leader popping out of it and trashing the raids on A Raja's houses' that day (can't think of anything else so contemplative). Then came some of the most happening places of Delhi, the La Meridian, The Tajs, Santas all around, some of the famous Pubs here, etc. Everything was fine till then, when suddenly, my mother exclaimed, rather shouted at me "u forgot your jacket!!!". Oh shit!! That was real bad news for me. I was to face Punjab di lassi errr thandi (Bus was to go through Punjab) with just one sweater in my armory, when I suddenly remembered that we were going in a "volvo", ab Punjab ki thandi toh kya hum Greenland ko bhi jhel lenge... but probably I was getting little over confident...

    After some time we reached the bus, from outside, it looked swanky and attractive, proudly showing off the Volvo logo on the front. But when we entered inside, it somehow didn't feel like how it felt from out. We sat and I happened to overhear the discussion in the rear seat. They also seemed to have felt what I felt of the bus from inside. As time passed, the whispers grew and turned into a huge discussion, people proposing theories after theories, most common being the bus being a duplicate Volvo, after-all it was heavy tourism season and anything was possible. Then came in my antiques of taking things light. The seats were more or less comfortable, enough leg room (something I generally crib about), the climate control working fine, with the display showing a modest 20*C, compared to a definitely single digit temperature outside, and the discussion growing unbearably boring now, I thought, hatao yaar, Shakira pe errrr mera matlab hai gane pe concentrate karo...and I got lost in my world of music "whenever wherever....Tumse hi Tumse...roop husn ka deedar hua...Bahara hua...pocket full of...Hips Don'tzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZerrrr what..Pick urself up and dust urself up "for Dinner" waka"...oh yeah right. The bus had stopped for dinner. I had already made plans to eat in a proper Panjabi Dhaba, some awesome Parathas (makkhan marke) with Dal Tadka. But when I saw out, it was an absolute wrong number....Cause it was Haveli, a hotel recommended by the Kingfisher cookbook, and Highway on My Plates (NDTV Good Times)...a proper hotel but not a Dhaba...(Yaar ye mere saath hamesha ulta kyun hota hai???). But I was probably unaware of the fact that this was gonna be the best part of the whole journey...Had some regular vegetarian dishes and of course Punjab's very own Lassi.

   After the awesome dinner, we started off lost in my world of music...and eventually asleep. When suddenly, "crawlin..."   not the song but the bus. The bus was actually crawling.... and finally stopped. It was around 11:30pm, everyone half asleep, I check Google maps and we were on NH1, very close to the historic grounds of Panipat, yes the very place where three deadly battles took place, two of which during the rule of the mighty Mughals and last one during the Durrani Empire. After around 15 minutes, the cabin door opens and the driver comes in with a gloomy face wakes everyone up and speaks; "the bus engine is blown.... another bus is coming from Delhi and its not a volvo." (not exactly....but he essentially this is what he meant..). "A bus coming from Delhi" meant at least 2 and half hours. But amazingly every one kept their calm probably seeing no other alternative, but to wait for the bus. Time passed by very slowly. Each moment growing more restless than the previous. To top it all, my mind thinking little extra, Panipat, Battle, NH1...these words kept making rounds in my mind... actually thinking what would happen if India and Pakistan went on a battle, the first missile from Pak would land anywhere on NH1 (Delhi-Srinagar) for sure. Somehow I kept distracting myself, music, blogs, facebook, twitter, buzz  etc, jeopardizing my phones balance, which was already on roaming. Finally the bus turned up at around 3:00am in the morning. and we all disembarked from the bus, and damn....20 odd *C to definitely sub 5 in just a step...shivering like a perfect sinusoid, I bet some of the best wave generators and oscilloscopes would have felt ashamed of themselves. And then came the first view of the bus, and the first word W.T.F... we knew it was not a Volvo, but we were never told it was non-AC. Now everybody was actually angry...Non AC meant, sub 5*C at least for next 6-8 hours, that was absolutely unacceptable. So began, Dhishoom! Dhishoom!!, bechara driver, everybody pouring their anger on that guy... but finally, everybody, not seeing any other alternative at that point of time, better sense prevailed, and the bus began to move. The whole bus was like an extended family now, everybody helping each other and trying to make the environment lighter....We closed all the windows, tightly covered them with whatever we had, shawls, blankets, and some looted window screens from the previous bus. Trying to sleep, but the cold not letting us do that. Me and my mom holding each other tightly, and still shivering, father taking the whole wrath himself (he was in a different seat). Somehow we managed to stay alive. The bus moving slowly, fog playing the spoilsport. Finally, at around 8 we saw the sunshine. We stopped at Haveli Ludhiana at around 10 for breakfast, and reached Pathankot at around 1:30pm instead of 5am. Some awesome sceneries, and hopes of exciting next few days, consoled me. And as expected, next three days were wonderful. Some breathtaking sceneries, scary roads, views of green mountains, and snow covered peaks pre-dusk and star-like twinkling nadirs post dusk, and of course the sanctity of his holiness, the Dalai Lama's Temple and residence.

  Dharamshala (famous for its pastries and cakes), McLeod Gunj(famous for its Tibettan products and temple and residence of Dalai Lama), Dalhousie(famous for its jams, jellys and Lord Dalhousie, one of the so called good British Administrators), and of course Pathankot Airforce Base (One of the most strategically placed airforce establishments. This was the most interesting part of the whole trip, seeing some of the movers and shakers of India, its foreign diplomacy, and defence policy, and the very base of Indo-Ruso relationship, the Migs and the Sukhois. Obviously couldn't take any pics but did take some audio clips of the jet flying. It was awesome seeing fighters fly at supersonic speeds....) were all on our menu. It was great spending so much time with my parents and uncle, aunti and my 7 year old cousin, and ll never forget all the cricket, badminton, bonfires, shopping with my family.
ps: the above mentioned places might be famous for a lot of other things, but i wrote whatever was important to me :)...and you can see some of the pics of the landscapes there, on the first slideshow  to the right top of this page.

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