“Hey, it’s 6:30! Wake up guys! It’s 6:30 already!“.. shouted Deepika as she knocked on our door, and went off waking up other guys in the nearby huts. None of my roommates were awake yet, and I shouted “Okay, okay!” as I fumbled around looking for my glasses on the bed. Apparently, even folks ready to climb the toughest of mountains are not very amiable to suggestions of getting up early in the morning. This was the second day of the trek and the previous day we had climbed almost all the way up a nearby peak called ‘Amedikallu’.
I found my glasses and very carefully placed my feet right into my sandals as I got down from the bed., wary of leeches. Leeches! Those buggers in the forests had a big fiesta on our group the previous day and I was determined not to let them have any more. I slowly wound my way out of room, careful to avoid anything that didn’t look like the stone floor, I stepped out into the chilly morning breeze. The huts were a part of the ‘home-stay’ – an interesting concept which merges guesthouse with homes and provide a lovely atmosphere for a vacation. ‘Stream of Joy’ home-stay, aptly named courtesy the small river flowing next to it, gave a homely feeling despite being in the middle of the jungle. I could hear the river gushing nearby, probably with water so cold that stepping into it, and feeling a shiver down one’s spine would just be a plain fact, and not an idiom.
Our plan for the day was to go to a nearby temple before setting off back for Bangalore. After a couple of delays (ranging from people not waking up to missing bus driver), we finally departed for the ‘Fish temple’ at Shishila. The temple, located on the banks of the Kapila river, is known for its ‘fish spot’ where hundreds of fish accumulate and are fed after daily pujas (prayers). The fish here are known to be sacred and it is even believed that they can cure skin diseases. A few meters away was the entrance to the temple and we were instructed to remove our shirts before entering the temple. Since we were a bit late in reaching the temple, the daily pujas were over, and the temple was very quiet.
A temple, for me, is a place to clear my mind. To think, to contemplate, to plan. So, I search for quiet and calm. During college days, I used to go to a temple after the exams were over. I used to go in the middle of the night, when the shrines were closed but the temple compound was open. The temple in my college in Bombay, was located on one end of the Powai lake, very far away from the chaos of the hostels, which were along the other end of the lake. I used to sit on a bench there, feeling the breeze gently caress my face, feeling rejuvenated after the tiring days of assignments and exams. At times, I sat there for hours, almost falling asleep with no disturbances around.
“Hey Abhijit, could you move a little bit towards the right? You’re blocking the angle“.. an enthusiastic photographer shouted out to me, as I came out of my reverie. I moved away and feeling a bit bored, I was out of the temple within a few minutes. Though this temple offered me the quiet time I look for, it wouldn’t last forever. There would be more tourists and more prayers. It was time to move on. So, after some more photographs, we also set set sail for home, for Bangalore.
When we stopped for lunch, there was a buzz going on in the group on how to thank the coordinator. That’s when the topic of ‘bumps’ was started. ‘Bumps’ is a tradition, mostly taught (unfortunately by bitter experience) in college days, when you get beaten up by your friends on your birthdays. Or when you get a job. Or sometimes for no reason altogether. Not my favourite sort of celebration though. It does leave a strong memory behind (and an impression on your behind!). I guess that’s what friends are for.
Bumps were another reason I used to go to the college temple. An hour before midnight, the day before my birthday, I would escape the clutches of my friends to avoid getting bumps. Literally, saving my ass. I didn’t mind the peaceful time spent at the temple either, at least 2-3 hours, before things would quiet down and I could slip back to my hostel unnoticed and unscathed. A good start to the year ahead.
So, right after lunch, as a few folks were grabbing last-minute ice-creams, we moved in swiftly to say our ‘Thanks’ to the coordinator.
I know we went very easy on him, after all, we did feel grateful to him for organizing the trek perfectly. We had a great time trekking. I know he didn’t mind it much either, for we were all good friends now, and each kick to his bum cemented our friendships. It was an unforgettable trip, after all, it’s not easy to forget the image of smiling coordinator, getting kicked by a guy holding an ice-cream bar in his hand.
(p.s. In case you were wondering about the title, let me make it clear – leeches do not have anything to do with inner peace. Something I am very sure of, after this trek.)
Photo credits: Author