As the hush of night unfurled, I stared out of my cab at the illuminated Tirunelveli streets. The shimmering shop lights seemed to beckon me, and somehow, I sensed I’m close to my destination. I had only been to this place once, but some places have that innate homely feel that you just can easily blend to the surroundings without much ado about it. I had messaged Priya about my arrival, and I was really looking forward to this trip. Angukutty was a bit sick the day before. She had a slight fever but was alright when I left. Still, I wondered if she is okay. Unnikuttan was staying away from me for the first time. I hoped he adjusts with my mother and doesn’t miss me much. But, I was already missing the little kisses and the naughty grin on his face.

My mobile flashed waking me up from the plethora of thoughts that engulfed me. It was Praveen. Speak of the word naughty, and he is here! He enquired whether I have reached. I replied I might reach in about 20 minutes. He said he would also reach in 20 minutes approximately. At first, I believed him. But, then I stopped and thought again. When Praveen says something, you have to think twice. That is what my experience taught me. But, still, I forget that lesson at times. He asked if he should wait at my platform to pick me. I told I’m coming by cab and is almost there. He asked me to wait for him and not have dinner without him. Now, he can’t be this sweet. Never! Something is fishy! That is when I realized he might be fooling me. I asked in the group to Anandhi who was travelling with him from Chennai to Tirunelveli. But, I guess he snatched her phone and replied. I told him he would be greeted with a broom if he doesn’t reach home within 10 minutes. He replied that I would have to take the ice bucket challenge if he arrives in 10 minutes. The pranks this guy plays!

My ola driver dropped me at some street, and he drove off. I looked around trying to find the house. All the houses looked the same. Now, how do people find their way around here? The air around whiffed of incense sticks. Some old folks stared at me with a quizzical expression clearly written on their faces. They might be wondering what is this girl doing here. I certainly looked out of place in a locality swarmed by people who looked as if they just stepped out of a temple. I looked around once again and realized that I’m not going to find the place at all. So, the next option was to call Priya. As I picked my mobile to call Priya, I caught a glimpse of her waving at me from the other corner. Oh! I totally missed exploring that corner. I was busy staring at the opposite sides. No wonder I didn’t get even a clue of where I was.

I walked up to Priya and followed her to the house. Little Harini was there on the bed. She stole a glance at me and hid her face under the pillows. But, I knew she would talk to me within a few minutes. She is a cute kiddo who is very social to everyone, an exact opposite of my angukutty who takes time to get adjusted to another person. As I sat there talking to Priya, I messaged Praveen asking explanation about his 10-minute arrival promise. He replied saying his train’s tire punctured and they are waiting for it to be repaired. I laughed at his tale of punctured train tire and asked him to be prepared for the broom and ice bucket.

As I narrated to Priya about Praveen’s tale of punctured tires I couldn’t help but smile remembering how I always fought with him, sometimes even ended up talking rudely to him. But, still, we always bounced back like good old friends. Just then, Jubina messaged me asking about my arrival. She was confused by seeing the 20 minutes declaration of Praveen on the group and asked me how they will arrive so fast when they have only started from Chennai. I told her to take everything Praveen says with a pinch of salt. Priya gave me hot dosas, and as I ate it, Harini started to play her favourite Doctor game with me. Soon, sk reached home after a long trip maybe as he looked visibly tired. The day was coming to an end, and we all retired to our beds anticipating a long, happening day the next morning.

The Trip Starts- Day 1

Anyone who knows me would vouch for the fact that I’m not at all a morning person. I can stay up late at night even till 1 or 2. It is not an issue. But, try making me get up early morning at 4 or 5, you will have to struggle hard! I will keep dozing off! But, that day, to my surprise, I heard the alarm go off. I took my mobile and swiped to turn it off. With my eyes half open, I gazed at Harini and Priya sleeping near me. Both were fast asleep. If they both are sleeping, why in the whole world should I wake up? I will also sleep again! I grinned at the opportunity to sleep again and lied down.

But, that is when sk’s words the night before struck me. He was saying we need to leave early. Now, he will be there waiting to glare at me for waking up late. So, I decided to put off my second round of sleeping plans and wake up Priya instead. I shook her up and woke her. She got up and went outside. I again stayed back still contemplating on whether to go out or lie down again. Finally, I decided to get up and stepped out of the room. There he was, all wide awake! This man doesn’t sleep at all? I didn’t ask that question as I knew it was not a good idea at the moment! He was already counting the minutes and grumbling about everyone being late. I sneaked past him mumbling a good morning and went ahead to brush my teeth.

As I was getting ready, Praveen messaged me saying his train tire’s puncture is repaired and they are coming home! Trust it on this guy to cook up stories like this. I laughed imagining the train with a rubber tire getting punctured. I have this weird imagination that I instantly visualize it in my mind and laugh at the possible stupidity of it. Harini was cranky being woken up early in the morning and was putting up a fuss. I smiled thinking about my kiddos who also do the same, especially unnikuttan. Angukutty is okay even if you wake her up in the dead of night. As long as we are going somewhere, she is happy.

Soon all got ready, and as we stepped outside, we were greeted by others who had also come for the trip. Jubina was there wearing a big coat. I wondered what is she doing in this hot climate with a coat. Soon the sun would rise up above our heads, and we will be sweating like crazy. And, she was planning to wear this coat? I asked her the same, and she smiled sheepishly mumbling that she thought the morning would be chilly. Our bus was already waiting for us. We got inside and started to wait for Pravin and Jebaraj to come. I thought about Praveen’s punctured train tire and chuckled. (For the uninitiated, Pravin and Praveen are two different people! The former is a kiddish faced cute guy with tons of artistic talent. And, the latter is the craziest of all and yes, one of my dearest friends too!)We had to wait for some time for these two guys to come, especially Pravin took more time. And they say women take forever to get ready!

The bus started, and soon Praveen and Anandhi got in. Praveen’s train finally repaired the punctured tire! As the bus lazed forward, Jothi got in, dressed in a sky blue saree stuck all over with glittering sequences. What is this girl planning to do wearing a saree for a trip? I, for one always avoid all possible chances of wearing a saree as I still don’t know to walk wearing it, let alone drape it properly. Even if I have to wear a saree for some marriage, I take all the necessary precautions in the form of a small box full of safety pins. Wherever there is a fold, secure it in place with a safety pin is my mantra! Though it helps while I wear it, even thinking about removing all the pins once I reach home will make my head spin.

So, coming back to the beautifully decked up sky blue girl, I asked her the source of inspiration to dare to wear a saree for the trip. She said she would soon change it and wore it as her hubby loves to see her in saree. Ah! Newly married jitters! You will soon get over it, darling!

The bus stopped for a moment as priya had to buy some medicine for Harini in case she gets any allergy. I walked up to Praveen and asked him the reason he got late and why he didn’t reach in 10 minutes as he had promised the night before. He laughed but soon gained his composure and started to describe his poor train’s story. Seems the train travelled all the way from Chennai to Nellai within a matter of minutes but the tires got punctured when it reached Nellai. They didn’t have a puncture repair guy to repair the tires. Hence, a puncture repair guy had to take the next flight from Chennai and reach Nellai by morning. He then repaired the train tires and then only Praveen and Anandhi could reach Nellai railway station! I pulled his ears for cooking up such a crazy story and went back to my seat.

The bus seemed to move slowly as if in a slow-motion film. I drifted my gaze to the view outside as I peeked through the streets above little Harini’s head. Harini was playing her Dr. game with Lakshmi’s daughter. Soon she got hungry and ran to her mom to eat her breakfast.

Finally, we reached the destination, and we all stepped out of the bus. It was a picturesquely beautiful place with lush greenery, chirping birds and an innate calmness that soothed the soul. I felt instantly connected to this beauty and watched in awe at nature’s magic. There was a dining area which peeped its eyes open to chirping cockatoos and lovebirds (Special mention to our Mufasa Pets client for teaching me bird names) The other side had two swings set amid lush greenery. Some boulders bordered the area. The ideal spot to grab a cup of coffee and whiff the breeze. The trail curved upwards with charcoal-hued steps built of imperfectly cut stones. Someone told me this is Mohan Resort, Panpoli. But, me being bad at remembering names, forgot it that moment itself. Now, when I started writing this, I poked Praveen even though it was about midnight and asked him the name again. I was sure he would not have slept as he is also another night owl like me. So, that is how this name comes here.

We soon proceeded up the boulder steps which curved up in an odd twist to land up on cantaloupe hued sands. I gazed up and was greeted by blossoming creepers. As we climbed up, I could sense my feet slipping as the rocky dredges had a non-uniform path. The path curved to an, even more, prettier herbage. Over the top of our heads were vivacious pink and white blooms. The breeze beckoned with the aroma of raw mangoes. Yes! There were mango trees with raw mangoes which swayed to the rhythm of the breeze. Almost hidden within the mango tree branches were two peppery garden benches secluded in the warmth of the green foliage. The narrow chalky path curved upwards flanked by viridian herbage. We climbed up and took a sharp U-turn. There were our rooms. Bottle-green leaflets bordered all the room entrances. The first and the last rooms had cinnamon-hued seating areas which resembled our traditional architecture that is in vogue even today.

Everyone began to split into different rooms. We walked to the last room and picked that as ours. So, my roomies for the trip were Jubina, Usha and Hema. Jubina is the sole Malayalee friend I have at DS. A petite girl with a cute smile who dedicatedly works and gets extra serious when work is involved. We have had our share of girlish chatters every time we did social media banners together. I must say she is my best partner in crime. The other two were new for me as I never had a chance to interact with these two gals at work. Hema is a pencil-thin gal with a curly hair sporting a spec making her look like a studious girl who stays up the whole night to mug up her notes. She couldn’t understand my English with a Malayalee slang ( sk rightly coined it as ‘burger wrapped in a roti’) and asked me to talk in Malayalam itself. She said that it is better than English. So, we settled on a mix of Tamil and Malayalam for the day. The other girl was Usha, the girl with lovely dimples and a long hair that reminded me of the tale of Rapunzel. Usha started to gush about the beauty of the place the moment we reached there and was enquiring whether they had AC rooms. She already started to plan a repeat visit to the same place with her hubby. We teased her whether she is planning her second honeymoon and she began blushing nonstop. We freshened up and headed back to the dining area down the maze of curves and slopes.

The breakfast was being served, and to my surprise, there was puttu and kadala curry. Who would have expected a Malayalee breakfast at Tamilnadu! The steamed ground rice layered up with generous proportions of scraped coconut and spicy white chickpeas curry in a gravy of dry roasted coconut is one of the favourites of any Malayalee out there. They also served us hot dosas with sambar. Praveen was again narrating his tale of punctured train tire, and I decided to give him a kick and make him stop the punctured train story. Anandhi was sitting next to him. I requested Anandhi to please give that punctured train guy a good kick. She said she can’t and offered her seat to me. Okay, if she can’t do when I gave her such an excellent task, I will do it! I asked her to get up and occupied her seat. I poked Praveen and asked him whether he knows why I changed positions. He said yes, obviously you would have come to kick me! I kicked him, pinched him, no use! Is this guy made of some rock? I should come armed with weapons next time I meet him! Coffee was served, and I went to pick it up. Praveen went and picked his coffee and began to act like a little kid holding a hot cup. He won’t hold a warm cup in his hand and won’t drink it hot. He keeps blowing it like a baby and drinks only when it turns cold as ice! He calls it his special ‘cold coffee!’ Even my 6-year-old angukutty drinks medium hot coffee! I chuckled seeing his weird antics with the coffee cup.

The kids had already started playing on the swings, and I immediately finished my coffee and ran to grab a seat among the 2 swings. Lakshmi’s son was on one swing, and Harini was on another. I tricked Harini and stole her swing. I began swinging high, and Lakshmi’s son was on the other swing. We both held a competition who would swing higher. I would swing high, and he would swing higher. Next, I would swing even higher. Everyone started to look at us and was laughing at my swinging antics.

Praveen gestured us to come up so that we could go up the slope from there and explore the resort area. I immediately jumped down from the swing and followed him. He began explaining how the whole place was covered up with greenery the last time he visited the place 3 years back or something. We chattered nonstop as we climbed up and reached a huge boulder which was supposed to be an artificially created waterfall. Anyways, when we arrived, there was not even a drop of water. We turned back to realise that none of the others had reached up. We clicked pictures of the place and by then others too climbed up.

Uma messaged saying that she has booked my return ticket back home for the next day by tatkal. I didn’t even have a return ticket when I decided to come for the trip. I was clueless on how to return, and that is when sk suggested me to ask Uma to book a tatkal. Uma is always my last resort whenever there is an issue. Do you have any unsolved problem? Ping Uma- that is my secret formula! There is also a reverse formula. If your life is too mundane, without any problems at all, ping Praveen! He will ensure you will have some problem by making you go crazy. Both these formulas always work! You can take my word for it. But, the time constraints for these two formulas differ. In the first case, the response and solution are immediate. In the second case, if you message Praveen, he takes a minimum two days to see that message. Even if he sees that he won’t reply. Even if he responds, that will be again after two days. So, keep a minimum one week time for the formula to act. But, when it acts, it acts like crazy, and you will wish you had thrown him to the dust bin nearby!

We clicked so many group photos at this spot and then climbed down to our resort. All decided to play cards. Anandhi and Praveen came up with a huge stack of cards, and we began organizing it sitting on the charcoal-hued benches under the mango tree. I had no clue how to play this and asked Praveen to teach me the game. He looked at me with a solemn expression and said, Eivine, see this. These cards are males, and these are females. Seeing his serious expression, I fell for it and said okay nodding my head. He lifted his head looking at me with an amused expression and burst out laughing. That is when I understood this guy was fooling me. Anandhi asked me why I always fall for his tricks. But, he says it with such a serious expression that I end up believing it!

We were unable to stack the cards properly, and they decided on some other game with the cards. We walked back to our rooms as there was not enough space for all of us under the mango tree. We sat in the sitout portion and started playing. I didn’t have much idea still joined the game. Priya was helping me play, and sk was assisting jothi in the game. Praveen was hiding his cards, and I kept looking at him doubtfully wondering what he is up to. Finally, Anandhi won the game, and the class was dispersed!

Everyone suggested that we will play some other game and we finalized on dumb charades. Now, I knew I would be a mere spectator as I was clueless about Tamil film names. So, I decided to watch the game as they played it. Time and again, I will steal a glance at Jubina and ask her if she understood anything. She will nod her head and say she didn’t understand much. But, she anyways knows Tamil far better than me. So, she could understand better. The acting brilliance of everyone came to the forefront, Priya being the best at it. Praveen always came up with names that must go down in the lanes of history as rare pieces. How this guy finds these names! No wonder I have always felt he is the walking history textbook. And, I was always bad at history right from school days. Sk walked around carrying the camera and clicked some awesome candid pictures of everyone. Each picture was worth a thousand words, capturing the exact facial expression of everyone perfectly.

As I sat there watching the game, I tried sometime to cancel my waiting list train tickets as Uma had already taken a ticket for me. But, the network was so bad I finally dropped the idea and instead sent the login details to Renny and asked him to cancel it. I wondered whether the kiddos are fine at home and asked mom whether they are okay. She sent me some pics and videos which again didn’t load as the network was poor. Still, I could make out smiling faces of my kids, and that was enough for me.

After the game, we went ahead to have lunch. There were separate dishes for the vegetarians and non-vegetarians much to our delight. As I was washing my hands, sk offered me a cup of water to pour over Praveen. I was delighted at the awesome opportunity, but this guy caught my hand at the right time, and all my efforts turned futile. I must have used a bucket of water and crept behind him instead! The lunch was delicious. There was crispy fried chicken, chicken curry and some other curries too. Who cares about other curries when chicken is there? As we were having food, Sk again gave me a cup of water. This time, I acted quick and could throw it on Praveen. Yaay! It was easier as he was sitting exactly opposite to me.

As we were finishing lunch, my friend messaged me seeing my picture with Praveen on my status. She told me he is her favourite. I laughed at the comment and showed it to him. He was visibly elated even though I tried my maximum to discourage him and asked him not to be so happy as the lady is married, has an older kid and is way elder than him. He snatched my phone and replied to her “Praveen also likes you” and asked me to send 7 heart eyes. I counted and sent 7 heart eyes to her. She being the jolly person she is, sent back another set of heart eyes! How are you going to manage all these girlfriends of yours Praveen?

Even after we all finished eating, had a round of play at the swings and sat chattering to each other, kochu had not completed his food. He eats his lunch slower than a snail. Why take slow-motion pictures when someone already acts like a slow-motion himself? We decided to walk back to our rooms and take some rest. Even as we walked back, Praveen was still eating. I hope he completed his lunch by evening at least!

 

We reached back to our rooms and straightaway fell on our bed. Jubina and I talked about everything under the sun for some time with a generous dose of gossips, and later we both fell asleep. Usha and Hema came or slept? I remember Usha sitting crouched near the phone charging unit with her mobile and a smiling face. Anyways, I really don’t have an exact idea as I had already slept by then.

I was woken up by Hema who said she was going to some temple and asked whether we are coming. First, we thought not to go as we both were equally lazy to get up from the bed. But, then I thought why come to a trip and sleep? Sleep I can even do at home. Make maximum utilization of the available time! So, I jolted up and asked Hema to wait. I told I’m also coming. Hearing this, Jubina too got interested, and she too joined us. Usha stayed back as she was too sleepy to tag along.

As we stepped out of the room and walked along the bottle green tendrils, Praveen came looking for me. So, we all walked along to the bus. We were just a small group as more than half of them had stayed back at the resort itself to take rest. The bus creaked a little and moved forward. Jothi was our official music player, and I asked her to play some melodious songs. If there is something I can never get tired of, it is listening to sweet, romantic and melodious songs while gazing outside the bus window. Right from college days, I loved it. Those days transport buses used to play music for long trips. I would catch the 6 am bus to my college on Mondays as I always came home at weekends. It was almost 2 hours of travel, and I used to grab a window seat somehow and get lost in the music.

The bus manoeuvred through towering Alps, and I could catch a glimpse of a temple on top of it. Nature was at her best draped in lush greenery. We reached the temple, and I could see a huge flight of steps up to the temple. Are we going to climb all these steps? I gaped at the possibility of me stopping half way. Thankfully our driver told that he could take us up the curving heights through another way. Praveen looked disappointed as he wanted to climb all those steps I guess! Remember that I told you he is crazy? Yes! He is!

Soon we reached on top, and we stepped out. Me, as usual, forgot the temple name when I started to write this. Why am I so bad at remembering names? I asked my walking Wikipedia, and surprisingly he too forgot the name. So, I relied on our group to find the name again as I started to write this. Sk googled and found the name for me. It is Thirumalai Kovil. Thanks, Sk for giving me the pointer!

As we reached near the temple, Anandhi told us we couldn’t use footwear inside. So, we walked back to our mini-bus and left our footwear’s inside the bus. As we walked barefoot to the temple, I realized that the stones are so hot that I had to prance around unable to walk on the sweltering rock paved path. Praveen was walking as if he was unaffected by this heat. Seeing the ease at which he walks, I began to wonder if my legs have an extra oven fitted to it or his legs has lost all sort of sensations. As others also told their legs are burning, I concluded my second doubt would be the right answer. Seeing my antics, Praveen asked me to walk through the area where water was slowly gliding down the rocks. He said that the area would be less hot. I followed his cue and found that to be a great alternative. My feet would have thanked me at that moment.

The temple was not yet open to visitors, and we had to wait till 5 pm for the temple to open. So, we decided to explore the outsides, and I must say, the view was worth every burning foot! As we gazed down, stretches of lush greenery seeped out the untouched charm of earth. Nature always has an addictive lure that makes you gaze at it unaware of the ticking clock. We clicked some pics at that spot, and as I edged through everyone cluttered around for the picture, my feet almost slipped a bit. I and my feet always have this saga of slipping tales. Even I have no idea how many times I have sprained my foot. I even presented my final year project at college with a huge bandage on my foot as I had a leg sprain exactly at that time. I have comparatively smaller feet that twists and turns at every small possible chance it gets! Anyways, luckily, I didn’t fall down. We continued posing for pictures, and by then the temple was opened for visitors.

We proceeded to the temple. It was an old temple, with a construction similar to the one I had seen back in Nellai when I visited there last time. Praveen told that is some common way in which these temples are constructed. We went about inside exploring every rock pillar which whispered enchanting tales. The insides of the temple were so cold when compared to the scorching heat outside. When nature tries our endurance capacities with extreme climates, they also offer us the perfect solution to it in the form of natural rocks, lakes and greenery. They exist in absolute harmony. We, the humans are the ones who break the harmony and then complain about the extreme heat or cold.

As we walked through the temple, I relied on my personal Wikipedia to learn the historical relevance of each sculpture imbibed on the temple walls and pillars. Praveen explained about each sculpture, and I listened to it half awestruck at the brilliance of the craftsmen who designed this and half awestruck at his in-depth knowledge in these things. As we looked back, we noticed that everyone has already left the temple and we two were only remaining. Sk had told we had to go by 5.30 to some place bordering the Ranni forest. The resort owner had bought a vast area of land there and he was planning to build a new resort there. It was roughly around 1500 feet high from the original place where we stayed. The time was ticking by and it was almost 5.30. So, we both decided to stop looking at the pillars and dash back to join others.

As we stepped outside the temple and looked around, I could catch a glimpse of Jubina’s ponytail and told Praveen they are there. So, we went ahead and joined them. The kiddos were getting lollipops from the shop nearby. Guess Lakshmi forgot I’m also a kid and I should also be given the lollipop! If it were my home, I would have fought for the lollipop. Renny always escapes from the chocolate fight by safely opting for 3 numbers, be it a chocolate, ice cream or a piece of cake.

We quickly reached back to the resort, and that was when I realized this temple was so near to our resort. When we were travelling to the temple, I had been lost in thoughts, music and nature. So, I didn’t exactly notice how much less time it took to reach there. When our bus rumbled across the rocky paths inside the resort, we could see everyone else waiting for us in the dining room. Everyone looked fresh after a good sleep and a bath, in stark contrast to us who were covered up with dust and sweat. But, we had an opportunity to catch hold of an awesome view to tuck in our hearts safely! They were serving black tea, and Sk looked sternly at us telling us that it was time to leave. I had already planned to take a quick bath before leaving. But, I was absolutely sure sk won’t allow if I told that. They were already ready to go. So, I took a chance and said we would be back in just 10 minutes. He nodded his head in approval. Jubina and I dashed up to our rooms to head for our bathroom.

Jubina went to take a bath first, and I knew if I waited till she came back, I would be late. So, I decided to intrude into Lakshmi’s room and use her bathroom instead. Off I ran to Lakshmi’s room. Lakshmi asked if there is time to take a bath and I replied I would be back in a flash.

As I stepped outside the bathroom, I was surprised to see that everyone had already gone. No one was there in the room. I wondered why everyone left without me. They knew I was here. No one even told me they are going. As I walked up to the door contemplating the scenario, I was greeted by a stern looking sk at the door itself. Just one look at his face and I got all the answers I needed. So, that is why everyone fled the scene without telling me. What else can they do if he looks like this! So, am I going to be scolded or excused? I peeped a look at him, and he still had the same stern expression. Well, I just went to take a bath. Chill, boss! Nope, I didn’t tell that to him. I said that to myself and meekly went to my room. He asked me how much more time I will take. Everyone is waiting. One group has already gone. I’m the one making the next group wait! I told I just need to dry my hair and that is all. He again gave me an annoyed look and said you could take the towel with you. You can dry your hair in the vehicle. Well, imagine me sitting inside a jeep going up a rocky trail, drying my hair with a towel! I didn’t find it exactly a good idea. But, of course, I didn’t tell him that. I just nodded my head and dashed to my room in the pretext of leaving my dress there. Once inside the room, I heaved a sigh of relief and quickly dried my hair. A knock came on my door, and I turned around with a sheepish smile. His look has turned even sterner now. I threw away the towel, picked my mobile and literally ran out of the room. He said he would lock the rooms and asked me to walk down. As I walked down, he joined me fast after locking up the rooms.

As we reached down, we saw our vehicle waiting for us with neatly packed up co-passengers of mine, all sitting in absolute attention like school kids. As I panted and puffed into the seat, I turned around and asked Jubina to give me some water. She whispered to me that sk asked all of them to leave and said he would bring me. That is why they didn’t wait for me. I nodded my head and said I could make that out just from his expression. Our vehicle moved forward through what seemed to be a rocky and narrow path. Finally, we reached a spot where we all were asked to get down. The path ahead was irregular, rocky, steep slopes and curves. So, we had to wait for a jeep to come. The jeep had gone with our first group, and it had to return back to pick us. As we waited there, Jubina came up with an Edison idea. Why not we climb the whole way up? It will be a great trekking experience! I looked at her slippers and wondered who goes on a trek with slippers. Hearing her idea, Hema too jumped to her side and said, yes, we will go climbing up. Sk also joined the bandwagon and said, let us start climbing. Let us see how much stamina each one has! I wondered why did I even bath if I’m going to climb all the way up! Anyways, we started climbing up and then Priya called us asking Lakshmi to sit in the front seat as the path is too rocky and risky. Well, we didn’t exactly have a seat right now!

As we climbed up panting and sweating, everyone started to ask for water. That is when we realized all our water was finished and there was not even a drop left. Wow! Climb all the way up without even a glass of water. I glared at Jubina and made mental plans to hit her with the best possible thing I could lay my hands on. Jubina understood she might get attacked by me and quipped, well, I just simply said! Yes! You simply said! Wait till you reach back to our room. I glared at her even more. We continued climbing, and soon everyone was tired as hell. Our resort owner was also coming with us. He asked us to stop climbing and wait there. The jeep will come soon. Finally, someone said something sensible! So, we stopped climbing and stood there waiting for the Jeep. Soon the jeep came, and we got in. We were all jam-packed inside. Jubina was sitting at the edge, and I threatened her that I would push her down and she will go down rolling like a rock. She smiled innocently at me and said I was just making interesting suggestions. Interesting? For whom?

The jeep ride up was one hell of an experience. We clung to the jeep with both our hands and I seriously began to doubt if Jubina will fall down as I had joked right now. Jubina then again came up with another great imagination that we all might fall down together one behind another tumbling down the whole rocky path. How does this girl come up with these imaginative ideas at exactly the wrong moment? I decided to give her a kick once we reach there. Right now, I couldn’t even take my hands off the bars on the top. The jeep climbed up through hairpin curves and steep rocky slopes, and we clung to our dear life at the same time laughing at Jubina’s brand-new imaginative ideas. No thrilling rides at an amusement park can compete with this!

Finally, we reached our destination. The other group had already reached there and was waiting for us. We slowly climbed up. I asked if anyone had water. No one had water! Now, what to do? That is when I looked around. The view! It took my breath away and I no longer worried about water or my aching legs. Nature and the wonders it unfolds in every nook and corner! The skies turned from deep azures to ravishing crimson with folds of vivacious pinks in between. The winds blew hard, and the towering verdant woods swayed their heads as if entranced by the hushed melodies of nature. The skies seemed to be just a hand stretch away from me. The view was definitely worth every drop of sudor!

 

 

We walked around, climbing up even more and exploring the awe of nature. There was a detached abode up above, and we gathered around it. We drank the cool natural water that was gushing through the pipes to quench the thirst. Anything natural has its own charm indeed! Later, we climbed up the abode and settled in the terrace area. They gave us jugs of black coffee, and we just sat on the parapet sipping our coffee. A cool breeze whisked away our tired souls and reenergized us with its magical spell. Little Harini was selling pakodas in the light of a small emergency lamp sitting right in the middle of the terrace. She looked so cute, and I tried clicking a picture. But, as it was too dark, I couldn’t get it properly. I nudged Praveen sitting beside me and asked him to click the picture. He somehow adjusted the settings and clicked it.

By that time, our jeep reached, and everyone climbed down the stairs to go. I stayed back thinking anyways all can’t fit inside one jeep. I thought I would go on the next trip. Praveen too told me to stay back. Then sk came up and said all couldn’t go together, Eivine, you stay back. So, I returned back to the terrace with sk and Praveen. Jubina also came up, followed by Anandhi. Praveen found that to be the ideal time to describe how he wants his future girl friend to be! I don’t have an exact idea how many times he has explained that to me in spite of me repeatedly telling him that I don’t like to hear that description at all! So, here goes his list of particularities needed for his dream girl:

  • She should have split tongue (Yuck! I didn’t even know what it was. But, now I know it well as this guy sends split tongue girls videos to me on a daily basis! I had told him a million times I don’t like it. Who listens? This is what you get if you have a crazy friend!)
  • She should have large tattoos all over her body!
  • She should have as many body piercings as possible.
  • And, finally I conclude here that he wants to marry some alien!

As we sat there laughing at Praveen’s description of the girl he would marry, I suddenly saw a figure in the other end of the terrace. I got frightened and caught Praveen’s arm asking him what that figure at the corner of the terrace is. I didn’t see it till then. It was too dark to make out what it exactly was. Praveen laughed and said it is Jebaraj. He was talking to his lover for hours ever since we climbed up the terrace! I took another look at him, and yes, it was Jebaraj indeed! He was curled up in a comical fashion and was even hugging the parapet pillar. Is he imagining that pillar to be his lover? He was too love-struck even to notice the fact that we all were laughing at him. He continued his sweet nothings and hugged the parapet even tighter. I hoped he doesn’t end up kissing the parapet! Sk came up, and we showed him the sight. He too began laughing at Jebarj’s state. Soon everyone was asking each other whether theirs was an arranged or love marriage.

Praveen continued his girl’s description, and I told him if he said another word more I will push him down the terrace. He immediately jumped up and said he is going to push me down the parapet. I was cent per cent sure he is not going to hurt me even a bit and so asked him to go ahead. He stretched his arms to push me and soon took it back laughing and sat back beside me. Sk started to teach something related to career development to Jubina and Pravin. I quickly fled the scene as I was the least interested to hear a lecture right in the middle of a trip. Poor Anandhi was suffering from migraine and was sitting beside me on the other side. Praveen went to her and started his migraine treatment for her. Well, did I tell that this kochu is my personal doctor too? He always has some treatment or the other for any illness we have. But, his treatment didn’t work with Anandhi as she was having a severe headache. In the midst of that Praveen said something about me and I just crawled up to him with an angry expression, and he jumped back saying, please don’t bite me! The way I came, the poor guy thought I would bite him! I asked sk to catch hold of him and give him a good treatment. Sk grabbed him by his arms and gave us an open offer to hit Praveen as much as we wanted.

It was getting darker, and our jeep was nowhere in sight. I just wished I could get a bed so that I could sleep here. The breeze was so cool that it seemed to be the ideal spot to sleep like a baby. Soon, the resort owner called us and said that the Jeep broke down and the other vehicle can’t come up through this rocky path. So, the only option left was to walk back all the way up to the spot the other vehicle could reach. It was pitch dark, and all we had was mobile lights. The path was rocky with steep downward slopes surrounded by thick vegetation. I wondered how I’m going to climb down this slope, that too at night with these unstable feet of mine. As we stood there planning the trip downward, Jebaraj finally finished his phone call and came downstairs. He was still dazed with the sweet nothings, and everyone started to tease him nonstop. He began blushing around, and I asked him the name of his lover. He stared at me with a blank expression unable to even remember her name! Everyone burst into laughter and teased him left and right about not even remembering the name of the person to whom he was talking for hours. After some time, he came back to his senses and told her name.

By that time, it was decided we will climb down the slope as there was no other option left. A man came forward carrying a large curved sickle, and I stared at the sickle wondering what is he going to do with that. That is when it crossed my mind that there might be some wild animals about. Wild animals! Now, this is indeed turning to be an adventurous trip down. Jubina stood gaping at the sickle, and later she told she got afraid seeing that. So, we started the trip down, me stumbling time and again at the rocks in the steep climb downwards. Sk started getting concerned about our safety and was giving us strict instructions on which way to walk. I was almost sure I will end up falling down as the path seemed to be getting rougher and rougher. Sk called out from behind asking Praveen to hold me. Jubina was walking in an even more comical fashion with her slippers. Imagine climbing down a rocky slope in slippers! Praveen came up and held my hand. We began climbing down together. Even in the midst of that he turned to be my doctor and asked why my hands are cold. How am I supposed to know that? He immediately asked me to get my Hb count checked. Well, let me first see if I will climb down and reach down safely! Sk was helping Anandhi, and everyone was helping each other, shouting out when they see large rocks on the way, showing mobile lights for others. If you ask me what I would remember the most on this trip, that would be this adventure trail!

Even amid the tension, everyone was joking around, and we were giggling and laughing at every possible joke. Sk called out asking me what am I laughing at. He must be thinking what a silly girl this is to laugh even in such a tense situation. As we climbed down, we saw some light down the slopes. Praveen told maybe that is our jeep. But as we got closer, we saw it was just a small home with two large dogs. The dogs barked menacingly at us, and Praveen asked me to change sides. I immediately changed sides and peeked through his shoulder at the dogs. They were indeed larger than the normal dogs. We continued walking down. Our legs ached, we all were sweating profusely, but all were still in jolly spirits and giggled at every silly joke anyone said. At many places, I skid, and my legs gave away, but Praveen always held and ensured I didn’t fall down. Thank you kochu! Every time anyone stopped to look back or talk something, they slipped! Still, everyone continued repeating the same mistake. But, thankfully no one fell down as everyone was helping each other and holding others who seemed to slip down. Finally, we climbed down and reached our vehicle. All heaved a sigh of relief and got inside the car. It sped off down the slopes to our resort.

As the vehicle turned up near our dining area, we were greeted by visibly relieved faces. They all had got tense as we had been too late to reach back. Everyone grabbed a chair and sat down narrating the trip to others. Priya and Lakshmi started serving dinner to everyone. It was hot chapathis, vegetable kurma and finally, hot coffee! Some of them couldn’t eat much as it was just soon after a long climb down. Jebaraj was asking me how I’m able to eat so well. Well, I was hungry! That is the reason.

Even after dinner, everyone sat around talking. I got the keys and went to my room to take a quick bath. As I returned back, I saw sk, Praveen and anandhi sitting on the chairs outside and I joined them. Praveen teased me asking how many times I will bath in a day. He said he has counted up to 4 today! I took a glass of water and told I would pour it on him. He said he has the entire jug with him. And, this guy might even pour it! So, I dropped the glass idea and slumped back into my seat soaking the cool breeze. Soon, Jubina and other gals joined us. Jubina signed to me that we would go and sleep. So, we got up and told goodnight to our adventure trail gang and slowly walked back to our room.

Back in the room, Jubina and I immediately fell on our bed and started chattering about the incidents of the day, office works, family and what not! 2 girls together will never have a dearth of a topic. Usha and Hema were nowhere to be seen. There was a knock at the door, and it was sk. He asked us to bolt the door from inside as some guys were staying just above our place. So, we bolted the door and came back to our bed. We chattered and was almost drifting to sleep; then there was another knock on the door. It was Usha and Hema. There was not enough space for all 4 on the bed, and Hema offered to sleep down on the floor. Jubina asked her to take the blanket and lie down on it. Soon, all 4 of us slept off after another round of chattering nonstop.

Day 2

Surprisingly, I woke up about 6.30 and turned to look at Jubina lying beside me. She also opened her eyes exactly at the same time. We looked at each other, both lazy to get up. Jubina looked at the time and told we still have time to sleep. Usha also woke up hearing us. Hema was fast asleep. I tried to sleep again but couldn’t. So, I sat up and decided to get up and take a bath. Anyways 4 of us will have to bath, and it will take time.

After the bath, I stepped outside. Sk came with coffee in a flask. I took one cup of coffee and sat there rewinding the happenings of the previous day. The resort looked gorgeous in the dawn. Mist lingered on the tendrils. The densest and the tallest verdant skyscrapers swayed their heads as if humming to the tunes of the chirping birds. The immaculate emerald grasses basked in the glory of the golden sun rays. I stepped outside capturing nature and absorbing the aureate rays. I heard a voice and turned around to see Jothi prancing around in a skirt. Lakshmi, Priya, Anandhi all were up and conversing with each other. Sk came back and asked whether there is any coffee left. I told maybe a bit is there in the flask. He took it and went.

Soon, everyone got ready, and we went down the slopes jumping down the rocky steps to reach our dining area. Breakfast was getting served. There were hot pooris and potato curry. It tasted great. Soon, we finished the food, and I went to play in the swings. Harini came to play, and I left the swing to her. We sat on the rocky benches talking and then Praveen came down. I asked him to come back and touched his hair to double check whether he took a bath.

Anandhi told us that we could play some games before we leave back to nellai. Now, the question was, who will ask that to sk? She asked whether I will ask. I told no ways you yourself ask. You both are great friends. Just then sk came, and Anandhi asked sk, Praveen says he wants to play games! Can we play? Sk quickly agreed, much to our surprise and so we all headed back up the rocky trails.

After a series of discussions on what game to play, Jothi and Priya came up with a game. But, half the group was not willing to play it. Praveen said he wouldn’t join. I tried pulling him up from his chair and instead got pulled down. Just then sk suggested that we will play the blindfold game. Everyone was up for it.

The first person to go was Pravin. It was an enjoyable game as everyone ran around trying to touch him and run back when he tried to catch us. Finally, he caught Jothi and next Jothi was blindfolded. Jothi ran around trying to catch us and Harini, and Praveen poked her with the grass blades. The way in which Jothi ran around was itself a sight to see. All had a great time laughing and pulling each other trying to get the one next to them get caught. I caught sight of Praveen standing behind me and knew he was up to something. And, yes! When Jothi came near, he immediately caught me and tried to push me towards Jothi. I escaped just in time by pushing him away. But, the naughtiest he is, he was still behind me! Next round when Jothi was somewhere near me, Praveen managed to get hold of me and push me towards Jothi! I was caught! You should see the happiness on his face when I got caught. Sk too was laughing out saying now we have someone we can play an hour with. I was blindfolded next and tried to find others in vain. I could only catch little Harini time and again. Everyone was laughing around, and Praveen even pushed sk down to the ground trying to get him caught. But, still I couldn’t catch anyone, and finally, the game was closed. As soon as the blindfold was removed, the first thing I did was to run up to Praveen and giving him a kick for getting me caught.

After the eventful game, we decided to start back to nellai. On the way, we planned to visit the Kuttralam falls. As we packed our bags and left our rooms, I turned back to click pictures of our room. I’m always this nostalgic person who carries memories like treasures. As we walked down the chalky path flanked by lush green, I bid goodbye to every single tendril that seemed to sway in the breeze as if bidding adieu.

We hopped up inside the bus and me as usual got a window seat so that I could sit and gaze the view outside. Everyone soon got in, and Praveen came and sat next to me. As the bus steered forward, Jothi started to play the music. I asked Praveen for the meaning of the lyrics, and he translated it line by line. Some of the words were so beautiful. He then went on to describe the tale of a famous poet named Avvaiyar and I sat there listening to his stories. The way he explains things is great. He explains right from the roots and gives a detailed explanation leaving no room for doubts.

We soon reached Kutralam falls, and everyone stepped outside. The area was too much crowded. As we walked up to the falls, Praveen explained why the place is called Kutralam and told that even most of the people who visit the place do not know the story behind the falls. The place was too overcrowded for us to go near and take a look. We just went as near as we could and took pictures. As I was walking back, I saw Jubina staring at the falls, and I immediately went and pulled her cheeks catching her off guard. She laughed at me and just then Praveen asked what are you doing with her. I went ahead and pulled his cheeks too and said this is what I did to her. He shook his head laughing. By then sk came and instructed all of us to walk back to the bus.

So, we returned back to our bus. It was not yet started. So, Praveen and I once again roamed around and saw some deities that were native to the area with their own special tales, myths and rituals. I went around each deity, asking questions about each deity like an inquisitive kindergartener to Praveen, my history teacher. And, you know what the good thing about this guy is? He listens to each question we ask and gives answers in a detailed explanation. As we were looking at some withered up garlands which were offered to the deity maybe many months back, Jubina called us asking us to join them. We went near to the bus, and sk gave us raw mangoes dipped in chilly. It was one of my favourites, and I gladly took it from him. There was even a bigger mango dipped in chilly and salt. Everyone took turns biting on it and finally it reached us. I picked one slice and gave the rest to Praveen. I guess he gobbled it all up.

We again started the journey back to nellai, and this time Praveen told me the tale of Lord Muruga. It was a completely different take on what I had heard in the mythological tales. I wonder how he gets time to read so much. Praveen has asked me to pen down the Muruga tale over here. But, that would again take another 1000 words, and so I’m skipping it kochu. Anyways, these tales only you can say like this. I can never describe tales like you. I would always love hearing it though, my walking encyclopedia!

As the bus moved forward, we stopped at a spot, and Praveen told me to try out Pathaneer, which was a natural drink that tastes the best in the mornings, according to him. Anyways, we stepped outside and tried it out. It sure tasted awesome, with the right amount of sweetness. Why do we go for artificial sweet drinks when nature pours it in its purest form like this?

As we hovered around and sipped it, taking turns, everyone else planned to go for a film in the evening. I couldn’t join as my train back home was by 7.30. So they booked tickets, and we got back into the bus. We soon reached a restaurant, and everyone ordered their lunch. Jubina and I opted for Shezwan fried rice and chilly gopi. As we were finishing the lunch, Jubina’s hubby came to pick her, and she soon left with a quick bye to one and all. Anandhi and sk went to see a doctor for her migraine issue, and the rest of us went back home.

When the time starts ticking, and I start remembering it is time to leave, I start getting upset too. So we reached back home, and I tried a bit to sleep. But, couldn’t sleep. I sneaked upstairs and saw Praveen sleeping as if he is participating in a running race. But, I was not surprised. I expect even more from him!

Soon I took a bath and got ready to go. Priya told me to come with them to the theatre, and from there sk will drop me at the railway station. As we were getting ready to leave, Praveen came down. We sat together on the steps, and I snatched away his specs. I then lifted my three fingers and asked him to count. He couldn’t count from a distance. He had to bring the fingers close to see it without his specs. So, I made mental calculations to make use of it the next time I visit here. I will steal your specs next time, kochu!

Pravin and Jebaraj came back to go to the film. So, we also started off to the theatre, me and Priya on her scooter and the others on bike and auto. We soon reached the theatre, and everyone left for the film. I said a quick goodbye to everyone and started to the railway station with sk. Sk was speaking something on the way, and I just gave one-word replies as I started feeling bad about leaving the place, leaving everyone. It is always hard to say goodbyes. We often wish it lasted a bit longer.

We got dinner for me to have on the train and sk got me some sweets and halwa to take home. We reached the railway station and I accidentally hit my leg on the bike. At that time, it didn’t pain much, but later I realized it was indeed a pretty good hit. We walked down the platform and found my coach position. Again, sk was asking me something, and still, I never gave any proper reply. Soon, the train came, and my return journey back started there. I was leaving with memories of a lifetime to hold close to my heart. You all were so good, and I will always miss those days. I suck at bidding goodbyes, and I suck at writing the end parts. Maybe because I don’t want to say goodbye. Maybe because I wished I stayed a bit longer!

“The hardest goodbyes are the ones

You lock up in your heart

Wishing and praying hard

That it doesn’t escape through your eyes”

Lots of love to each one of you! You all are special for me! This write up is dedicated to each one of you! Praveen, you are the one who gave me this idea about writing about the trip. So, thanks to you too dear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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