(Group trip to Kanvashram-I)
At regular intervals, a few of my friends have suggested that I should give up journalism and start some independent setup for adventure tourism. This would mean that I organize trekking, river-rafting and other such adventure excursions, which I love so much, along with some amateur enthusiasts and make my two ends meet as well. On the face of it, the advice seems reasonably fair and economically sound. All of us would like to choose a vocation where one could mix business with his or her personal passion. Consider, for example, a movie buff who has chosen to be a film critic for a media group. Or a foodie who became a chef and other such fairy tale stories.
Now, wake up to look at it the other way. Since you love trekking or nature excursions, on bona fide advice you start a small venture on the dotted line. First, where do you find a bunch of enthusiasts who will pay for a guided trip and other such related services? Especially when all the entry routes to Himalayan getaways are dotted with such "expert" tour agencies? Taking an initiative, you go to various corporate houses, sell them your idea, haggle over the prices (feeling like a sales executive all the time) and finally secure a contract to win your seasonal bread.
But the worst part begins hereto: Half of your “corporate bunch” has never been out on an adventure trip and hence considers it a laid back holiday tour. Which means, ordering Coke-Pepsi at will in high altitudes, throwing tantrums for morning tea and nag about living in a tent, or the sand in his slippers. If you thought you have chosen a profession that suited your interests, good luck.
Instead of doing what I love, I shall opt for loving what I do – as far as making money is concerned. Pray, why I am sharing this with my friends! Well, I have been at the receiving end of such a bunch more than once when I thought it prudent to inject some fresh air into armchair intellectuals. I know better now: If one has a spark for adventure, he or she won’t need to show the light. Fire will catch up on its own. I have already described one of my hard-learnt lessons in this post. Here is a relatively milder one:
Circa 2000: I was working in Encyclopaedia Britannica and had already taken a brief trek with one of my colleagues. The stories, which Sukriti (my co-trekker) must have recounted to the vibrant women at Britannica, repaired my reputation at office. Some of the colleagues who arched their brows at my shabby jeans began to see an Edmund Hillary in me.
After being badgered on my mailbox about the next brief outing, I flashed a long-weekend plan to go to Kanvashram. For the interested, there is enough material about the historical relevance of Sage Kanva who, as folklore has it, set up an ashram there. I had chosen the place merely because I had organized, along with Wilson John, a similar trip for a bunch of wannabe trekkers in The Pioneer (a morning daily I worked for six years) earlier. All the thrilling elements were there around the Garhwal Mandal Nigam tourist lodge to lure a would-be trekker into the Nature’s trap – a mini waterfall stream; a small river barrage; barricaded lawns to discourage a drunken fall and a small but slippery uphill route. It would never be a disappointing outing for an amateur.
As was the case in other things Britannican, women exceeded the male participants (this was a comforting thought since I was then wedded to the bottle alone). In all, there were nine heads to beat the October humidity and head for Himalayan foothills. However, the final list had me in splits; there were too many violent eggs in one basket, from Geetanjali Chauhan and Sabarinath, to Jaichandran to Kavita and Sudipta. The only three worry-not souls I relied would be Shikha, Sukriti and Nisha. I thought and thought for the right kind of vehicle to suit this kind of “close-knit” group and decided it had to be a Mitsubishi Voyager.
Voyager is a sturdy nine-seater carriage, most suited for a gang of under-ten highway riders. There are no ooh-aah-ouchs from the backbenchers (something which deters me from hiring a Tata Sumo or Toyota Qualis) and its low suspension makes it a safe highway carriage. I also knew a travel agent who had this safe vehicle and a similarly safe driver, Premji. When I say safe, it does not limit the virtues road negotiations. Premji had proved himself to be the kind of person who wouldn’t look at a girl twice, whatever her attributes were. Nor would he ever think ill of a mini-skirted dame inhaling a poison stick. He believed in “to each its own” principle and bothered more about his van than its occupants. Fiercely possessive of his Voyager, he winced every time he saw the vehicle being used roughshod. Trust Britannica Babes, therefore, to spoil his day from the word GO.
(The journey and the problems begin in the next post)