The third semester, after two months of practicals and written exams, had finally ended. Everyone was in a miserable state and were raring to go to their respective holiday destinations. I was headed to Igatpuri with eleven of my friends. Do not be mistaken, we weren’t going there for meditation or spiritual enlightenment. 4 kms. before Igatpuri on NH3 there is a place called Manas Resort. That is where we were headed.
On the 7th of January 2009 we took the 7:17 Kasara local from Dadar. Had the train been scheduled for 7:16, we would have missed it. After a two hour journey, we got down at Kasara. From there we were trashed into a jeep for a 14 km. ride through the ghats to Manas Resort. Even vegetables are given more breathing space. There at Manas resort the 12 of us – Sahil, Omkar, R.V., Raina, Mulye, Don, Chitale, ‘Shah Rukh’, Tejas, Bagez, Jawan and I-were determined to have some great fun.
The first two days, we had some typical fun, which does happen when friends meet up. Playing cricket, football, cards, swimming, dance, sleeping in the terrace, scampering on the roof at midnight and other such senseless activities were part of it. But the third day was different. Some of us had planned to go trekking on the second day but that plan had been shot down because everyone had been tired. So on the third day we decided to walk all the way down to Kasara and see what happens.
We planned nothing except for the fact that we had to catch the 6:15 from Kasara. We decided to let things have their own course. So at around 1:15 pm. , with all our bags and baggage we began the downward journey on the ghat road. The first three kms. went away easily but after that the time taken for each passing km. seemed to be increasing. But the scenic beauty of the valley on our right, seemed to fuel everyone to keep walking.
Endlessly long container-trucks rumbled on our left and the beautiful and deep valley plunged to our right. Jawan made it appoint to wave out to every truck driver passing by our side. As every passing kilometer started gaining unprecedented importance, we started taking photographs of the milestones which showed that our destination was getting nearer.
Gradually the group split into two – the swift walkers and the not –so-swift walkers. The swift walkers reached the foot of the ghat first and ordered for food at the ‘Baba da Dhaba’. By the time the food arrived everyone was present and we feasted on the lunch. After the 8 km. walk all of us were hungry. An army marches on its stomach, doesn’t it?
It was already quite late, around 5 pm and we were all tired. We knew that we couldn’t make 6 km. in 75 minutes. We were told at Baba da Dhaba that just a short distance away we would get some vehicle for Kasara. So we kept walking. The short distance turned into another kilometer and the haste turned into desperation, but we found no vehicle. Finally out of pure luck, we saw a rickshaw that had some space. Four of our friends vegetabled into it and headed for Kasara. They would also buy tickets for us.
Eight of us remained stranded on the national highway. With 50 minutes and all our luggage in hand and 5 kms. to go it seemed impossible. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We started waving out to any and every vehicle passing us and asking for a lift. After 10 minutes, which felt like an eternity, a truck driver actually stopped! Before he knew it the eight of us were in his cabin. This time I did not complain about the lack of space. That was indeed one of the fines moments of our life.
In the next 10 minutes we traversed 4 kms. till where the Kasara road separates from the highway. We thanked Sitaram for the truck ride and forced a 50 rupee note into his hand. We took a photo with the truck and sped off towards Kasara. We were eight 19 year-olds, tired as hell, walking an uphill road, with all our luggage, 25 minutes in hand and 1 kilometer to go. This is when I understood what they mean by ‘So near, yet so far.’ But after making it so far we couldn’t let it go could we? We strode onto the platform at 6:14 and sat down with our four friends just as the train began. Those were moments of pure unadulterated unforgettable ecstatic joy. All is well that ends well.
I will surely call this an adventure.