Read the prologue HERE.
When you cook your dish longer than it is supposed to, you lose its texture, flavor & the real essence which you try to get, which is exactly what started happening. With almost a year of planning behind us, the entire trip is now in jeopardy, courtesy cyclone Vardah. A few more drop outs at the last moment and now the final figure stands at 10. As always, I reach my boarding station, Whitefield well ahead of time to indulge myself in trainspotting and feeling the typical vibes of an Indian Railway Station. I had a full 2 hours to kill and warmed up for the next day’s trek with long walks on the platforms spotting and capturing trains at extreme angles. Just a few days after Cyclone Vardah had its impact on Bangalore, the entire atmosphere had a surreal calmness associated with it, only shattered by the whines & screams of Chennai – Bangalore Intercity, Tirupati – Mysore Intercity & the Chennai – Vasco Expresses. Chennai – Bangalore intercity was led by a typical whining Royapuram kiddie WAP-7 while the other two were led by macho & muscular WAP-4s.
I am well balanced, socially sensitive, always in tune with current affairs who fights for women liberation & rights and every other social cause. I fight against child labor, child prostitution, revolt against corrupt politicians, take the fight back to the authorities be it pantry car overcharging or a speed bump missing on the road. I voice my balanced opinion and fight for justice at every opportunity. I fight for the betterment of the society. I change my social media DP to support various causes. In fact all terrorist activities have stopped all around the world ever since I started changing my DP. Too bad no one does this for attacks in India which has the potential to stop any further attacks. I am a typical social media darling doing all the right things to project to the world on how the world needs more responsible and genuine citizens like me. The levelheadedness, patience, understanding, maturity & a few more good adjectives you can think of, with which I handle issues in my virtual social world is beyond unreal. In the real world, I am just a normal ass who doesn’t give a damn to anything unless it really affects me personally & the real me is now real pissed.
I was supposed to take the 16526 Island Express from Bangalore to Salem and board the Nilgiri Express (The official connecting train to the Nilgiris), locally called as “Blue”, to Mettupalayam. Two of the team were supposed to enjoy my esteemed company up to Mettupalayam. With a few moments left for my train to arrive, the group gets a Whatsapp message indicating that one of them (PKV) had missed the train by a whisker. A few frantic calls went unanswered and I am now convinced that this is supposedly a game. Minutes later, PK informs me that he would now not be able to make his train at Banaswadi due to heavy traffic and planning to give this trip a miss. Since he was anyway looking for just any inconsequential excuse to miss this trip, I was pretty convinced that this is the end of the trip. However, I had to think about the immense pressure and bureaucracy the organizing team had to undergo to get this planned and abruptly disrupting this plan did not seem to be a fair thing to do. Added to that, it had been a while since I had met the rest of the group and wanted to meet them anyway. My current state of mind : I don’t give a damn anymore. I am genuinely pissed. Called up Dr Nazeer, one of the organizers that I would be there at Mettupalayam on time. Sent a message to the group that I am going back home and stopped answering any calls. As the Erode P4 glided into the platform, I boarded my coach to see PKV with a half worried look wondering if I had really gone home. Oh, come on folks. I can play this game too. Now, I am at peace. I have accepted the reality. I can only control what I can do, which is, I am doing this trip.
The Yesvantpur Howrah express trailed us all the way until we took a right towards Salem and the former took a left towards Jolarpet. Unlike the last time we were not on a rampage. We were cruising steadily at a sedate 90-95 kmph until we reached Tiruppatur right on dot. With great optimism, I was now looking out of my window for the mainline signal turning green and have the legendary Trivandrum mail overtake us again. However for some reason, which I would know once we reach Salem, we got a line clear and moved ahead. With this only action missing, we retired for a short midnight power nap and woke up as we were pulling into Salem. Stepped out of the station for some light snacks and tea. Meanwhile, I get to know that PK had managed to board his train and on his way to Salem. Having attained nirvana by now, I just waited for my “Blue” and drifted into dreamland humming Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be, before the Blue could pull out of the station.
Mettupalayam has always been a quaint laid back station since ages, the only excitement being decking up the Nilgiri Queen for its daily ride up the hills. This Saturday, 17th of December, 2016 was a disappointment to all the “OOTY RIDE” aspirants. Nature had played spoilsport and a landslide just beyond Hillgrove had suspended services for the previous 3 days and possibly for the next couple of days as well. Folks like us who were aware of the situation had alternate plans in place, but the rest who were unaware of the situation had disappointment evidently written on their face along with a temporary phase of being absolutely clueless. The MG platform which usually had the little toy train charged up for the ride is now ready with equipment and tools and all set to to climb up to accident spot for clearing the landslide.
It was actually good to see finally that all the 10 have actually made it up to Mettupalayam and ready for the adventure. Two of our organizers were on their way and should be with us within the next half hour. To recollect, exactly a year ago, we had trekked the 10kms uphill from Kallar to Hillgrove. The target this year was to cover the remaining part upto Coonoor by foot. Since the landslide was just ahead of our proposed starting point this year, we had 2 options. The first one was to trek down from Coonoor to Hillgrove. Get down to the road from Hillgrove along the same path we had done last year and proceed by road to our resort. The second option was to climb up to Hillgrove from the same point we had got down in December 2015 and continue on trekking upto Coonoor. I was in favor of the second option inspite of the extra effort that would be required. It is my strong opinion that climbing up may be a bit more exhausting but much safer and easier to control than a downhill trek. While this discussion and arguments were running back and forth, a few of us had a quick breakfast at the station, while a few others decided to try their luck to see if the breakdown special could take us upto Hillgrove. We had verbal permissions from the railway authorities about our trek. We had informed the station masters of NMR about this. A few of the workers know most of us from the trek last year. With all this background and attaching a significant weight on the permissions obtained for the trek, we once again contacted officials stating our predicament and after a long winding discussion and negotiation on no of passengers, we were allowed to board the breakdown special upto Hillgrove or upto the landslide area. It was a record of sorts. It took just 2 minutes to get the entire team transfer their required accessories, gobble up their breakfasts, dump their remaining luggage in the car, assemble quickly and board the BDS, which is ready and waiting just for us to get on. A simple call and a one liner did the trick. “You have 2 minutes to board the BDS upto Hillgrove, failing which we shall meet you at the resort in the evening”. PKV, though young at heart, was rightly refrained from doing this strenuous trek and decided to proceed towards the resort in one of the 2 cars which would meet us at Coonoor railway station later in the day. Man proposes and God disposes. Sometimes everything happens for a reason. With this thought and jealous looks from confused passengers, our queen whistled and started pushing us towards Hillgrove.
To be continued …