(Group trip to Kanvashram-3)
The GMVN guesthouse at Kanvashram offers an ideal spot to enjoy a cold evening with bonfire, friends, music and toxics. Rafting camps ahead of Rishikesh offer some competition but they fall short on safety — imagine a doped-out friend walking straight into the Ganges and sailing his way to higher hunting grounds!! Kanvashram is safe. The spacious lawns at GMVN bungalow offer a view of flashbulbs downstream and a starry blanket in the evening, with a valid iron fencing to protect an erratic moron from rolling down.
Thankfully the alcoholic tolerance level was high in our gang, save for ShikhaP, whose Baptisation was long due. It turned out to be another adventure. Barely half hour after Ms P had downed her peg, war cries rang the compound. Normally, under alcoholic influence, men and women tend to pour out their love lives or hatred for the Ex, but Shikha’s distress calls surprised even the GMVN caretaker. “Mummmmmyyyy” was the violent uttering that cringed the rest of our 30+ crowd with guilt. Finally, after infinite loving pats and warm hugs from Sukriti, Shikha fell under the blanket and the party resumed
Next distraction came from the lyrical dialogues from a distant loudspeaker. Some Ram Lila was being staged nearby (??). Sabari murmured in unchaste English that we should take a hike to the spot and a small band rose to the occasion. I was not keen for several reasons: one, the village dogs would not take kindly to an excursion in the dark; two, the path suggested by the sound waves was pitch dark (mind you, elephants and leopards were understood to stalk the place); and finally, late night folk dramas are a family affair, separated in two for men and women. Jeans-clad girls smelling of alcohol, would only fancy the wicked menfolk. I strapped a khukri to my jeans and escorted the lot till the adventure fizzled out; the spot thankfully remained elusive for the drunken monks. Half and hour of running in circles and a few scrubs with the dusty path later, we all took recourse in a hasty dinner and the sleep goddess.
A good sleep is the best cure for hangovers and fatigue. No wonder, the EBites looked fresh as Kanvashram itself in the morning. Nine ultra-stomachs and only one frail cook, to quote Gabbar Singh, was “bahut na-insaafi” (grave inequity). I offered to play the attendant, fetching the paranthas from kitchen to the dining table, while the poor cook kept rolling aloo-filled dough. The butter-laden stuff remained short in supply as more hungry characters entered the dining room. Each parantha would be split into fours and disappear without a burp. This remained the drill for more than an hour until Shikha entered the room rubbing her eyes and was greeted with a loud applause. The poor girl had no memory of the past evening and looked a little flushed at the grand welcome.
Half hour more of the drill, and all of us looked contended with the breakfast and the cook exhausted. The warm day signaled a fresh start. Ordering a lunch on similar appetite programme, I led the pack to a three-kilometre walk (calling it a trek would be injustice) along the hillside. After passing by a dried Sahashradhara (milky water stream) we reached the desired waterfall in less than two hours. On our way we found large pounds of elephant dung to our excitement.
The Kanvashram waterfall was certainly no Niagara but it had a few pools and recurring flows for a delightful moment. Some of us just lunged into the splash, without taking out shoes, watches or belts. One by another deliberate one slipped into the waters till most were in to celebrate a Holi. My favourite co-excursionist was perhaps the only one who kept out, for women-only reasons.
Nobody felt the need for dry the clothes as the sun took the call. And it kept the word as we walked back into the dining hall that we had left a few hours back, we were all dried to perfectin. At the table, green salad had already been spread out and the simmering daal, chaawal and rotis were waiting for our footfalls (The cook had surely learned from his morning experience).
The heavy and gratifying lunch followed by a siesta and the evening tea did wonders to our spirits. While other waited for the rum caps to open, I took Sabari to visit a close relative nearby. I was most amused when my relatives began taxing Sabari on the joys of a married life, in the hope that he would pressurize me to this end. Sabari, a true blue Malayali who could not tell “this” from “that” in Hindi, nodded sagely during the monologue. Finally, when my relatives looked at him for a reaction, he uttered the few words he knew in Hindi: “Theek hai. Bilkul theek hai (That's right. Absolutely right).” I choked from a restrained laughter. My relative had done their duty.
On our way back to the camp, between the gusts of laughter, I asked Sabari if he ever did realize what my relatives had been trying to impress upon him. It was my turn to be stunned when Sabari spoke out in a serious tone: “Molekhi, I guess, you should get married.”
(Our attempts at climbing a slippery mountain and the journey back home in the concluding part)