Adversity is desirable

“Hum poori koshish karenge ki aapko kal subah tak theek kar den,” * he said. Nursing assistant Subedar Ghanshyam didn’t quite look convinced himself, as he said those words. He had given me a shot for the pain, and was applying an ice pack over the injured area. When I sat up to look at my foot, I thought he was being rather too optimistic.

I had known about the Nehru Institute of Moutaineering only a few years ago. The moment I learnt about it, I wanted to go there. In 2015, I had sent in an application and the reply was quite prompt. I was told that I could be accommodated in the last batch for the year in 2017. It seems they had quite a few applicants waiting.

By the start of last year, I had started preparing in small ways. I ran a few days every week, progressively trying to increase the distances I cover. Closer to the date of joining, I shopped for a backpack and some basic necessities, including a good pair of hiking boots, a hat, sunglasses & so on. I was obviously excited and looking forward to being in the mountains. In fact, my previous post was from somewhere en route Dehradun to Uttarkashi, where the Institute is located.

The Course in Basic Mountaineering, which I had enrolled for, is structured in such a way that in the first week or so, we are trained in rock-craft and other ideas such as using ropes, equipment, first-aid and so on, the knowledge of which is required to be in the mountains. In those days, we were at the Institute campus and would trek about 10 km everyday to the rock climbing site. It was the last day of this phase of our training, and we were at the institute campus itself. We were to leave very early the next morning. We would venture out into the mountains, camping at a couple of locations along the way and learn two other trades – snow-craft and ice-craft. That morning, we were practising on some boulders, when I fell. I hadn’t fallen from any significant height, but landed quite awkwardly. In fact, the moment I fell, I knew that this wasn’t good. The pain was quite unbearable.

By mid morning, I was taken to the town of Uttarkashi for an x-ray, following which I met a doctor. The doctor declared what I had feared – that I had fractured by foot. He applied a plaster cast to immobilise the joint, and advised me to get home for further treatment. When I got back to the Institute, I took another painkiller and decided to not to lie resting in my room. I was fortunate to be lent the only pair of crutches that was available. I hobbled my way to the training area. It was evening, and most people were busy making sure they had their equipment right or exchanging things and packing their bags for the following day. I decided to sit there and witness  all the activity.

One by one, those who passed by me, including my batch mates, members of other courses who I had been familiar with, and the instructors, would stop by to enquire. I had to repeat the same thing. It was a fracture, I was advised to go home. I would perhaps leave the following morning, when the others hit the mountains. A couple of my roommates came along, looking grave. They sat next to me and enquired. Silence ensured for a long while, and was broken only by my suggestion, that we go to the cafeteria for a cup of tea. Over tea, one of them remarked that he was feeling very bad about the whole thing. After all, I had waited more than 2 years for this.

My first reaction, after the pain passed away, was to smile. “Man proposes, God disposes,” I told him. I thought to myself how things had turned out, and I couldn’t help but smile at the unexpected twist in my little adventure story. One of them remarked that I seemed to be taking it better than he had. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Navy. He did seem quite sullen for the rest of the evening, and here I was, trying to cheer him up! “We’ll meet again. If not in the mountains, elsewhere perhaps. Who knows we’ll have a drink together some day,” I told him.

It has been two months since all this happened. I am recovering quite well. I look back at the time that has elapsed, and feel very grateful for many things. I am listing them below, in no particular order.

I am extremely thankful for the care shown by the Institute. In fact, they insisted on paying for the medical expenses while I was there. They made sure someone was with me until the time I was back at my room.

My fellow students. Some of them who had hardly spoken with me turned up at my room that night, to commiserate. Others helped me in myriad ways that evening, and the following morning, until we all left – them to the mountains, and me back home.

The staff at the airlines. In one stretch, I was refused wheelchair assistance because they were booked. A friend who lived in Dehradun helped by speaking with someone at the airport. Some of the passengers who I was unfortunately inconveniencing. People who drove the cabs I had hired. Assistants who had wheeled me at the airport. Random fellow travelers. Many had helped in significant ways.

Medical care. Despite all that is said about it nowadays, I believe I received very good medical care. The surgery was carried out deftly. The pain had disappeared. Every doctor and nurse that I had met were caring and brought about an air of positivity around me.

My workplace, and colleagues who were kind enough not to trouble me. This, at a time when work has been at its peak. Many of them very kindly filled-in to complete my work during my absence. They continue to help in many ways, as I am back at work now.

Books. I read more than I had ever done in recent times and it felt good.

My parents. I was with them the last 2 months or so. I can’t remember the number of people to whom they would have narrated my story. And it would always end with them saying that despite everything, they were glad to have me home. I couldn’t help but feel sad that it ought to have been caring for them, rather than the other way around. Yet, I feel extremely grateful for the precious time I got in their company.

When I look back, I think the little difficulties made me look at everything with a lot more gratitude than I may have in other times. I was more accepting. I think our lives would be filled with more joy and peace, if we learned to accept things. When we think about it, a lot of our struggles may be with non-acceptance, and our desire to control and shape things in ways we may think is desirable for us and others.

This year, I pray that I learn to accept things and reside in the apparent discomfort. Happy new year.


* – We’ll try our best to get you fixed by tomorrow morning.


Somewhere someone

“You are mad“, she said.

“Yes, yes”. For some reason, I was reminded of Dean Moriarty.


I do not know what came of us, back then. I am confused as to which year it was. On a whim, it had struck one of us that we should ride a long way. Or perhaps, both of us. ‘Through’ one thing or the other. All we had was a couple of maps, printed. I was not acquainted with these sophisticated ways back then. We picked a satchel each, with some minimal clothing. We made a kit out of some spares – a clutch cable, a spark plug, patches, those levers to pry the tyre out of the wheel and so on. All these were stuffed into a gunny sack, and neatly suspended along this accessory on the motorcycle that I hardly needed, but got anyways.

The motorcycle was packed and sent on a train to Delhi. What was planned, and what turned out to be, in the meantime, is another story. We did eventually get to the motorcycle, and rode all the way back. Two young men, and just the roads. At some places in this (erstwhile) state, there wasn’t a road to speak of. If I remember right, it was around this time of the year, and the rain was unrelenting. There were nights when we’d reach another town, find a place to sleep, and then have to unpack everything, strip, dry all our clothes and bag and shows and everything else under the fan before we slept. And by the time it dawned, we were on the road again. In retrospect, apart from all else, it seems that we were fortunate. We did not have any trouble, and including the detours for free bed and rest days, it was about 2500 km and 10 days.

I do not remember much of the details, except that it was exhilarating. And that looking back, we perhaps had (and still do!) underestimated the nature of our travels. I had not told anyone, not even my family. It was only when I came back that I revealed to a few people. Some were shocked, some perplexed. I remember Appa trying hard to conceal a smile.

And despite the years having gone by, and the fading memory, one thing that stands out among the ruinous images from that trip, is the various encounters with people. Throughout, there were all kinds of people, and it strikes me now that barring the unruly cop in Gwalior or such occasional irritants, we were fortunate to meet some of the most interesting inhabitants of this planet, kind, helpful and cheerful, most of them. I remember feeling grateful.

Ever since, my favourite aspect of travel has been meeting people. To live life vicariously through the other, living in another space, in ways very different from my own, is a delightful experience – a journey within a journey, for the discerning traveller.

And so when Syed Mobin remembered me the moment I called him, I was surprised. I had been dropped by him, in the historic town of Aurangabad, in his three-wheeler, just two days back. He would instantly recognize me, and agreed to come down, pick me up from that god forsaken place where I slept, and drop me off at the train station. When he came, we were a few minutes late, and I had to apologise. I do not like being late. To my surprise, he picked a small box from his pocket, handed it to me, and said –

“Gareeb ki taraf se ek chchota sa tohfa” *

It turned out to be a box of sweets, made by his eldest daughter. They tasted delicious, and I imagined her to be a beautiful girl, just like her father. I did not know what to say. We spoke a few mundane things as we rode to our destination. As we parted ways, all I could do was buy a box of one of my favourite sweet dishes, and request him to pass it on to his kid.

When I woke up in the morning, I found that I had missed a call from him, past midnight. I called him back much later, to find out that he had called to make sure that we had made it to our train. I felt small, as he said loud and clear, “Mention it not, sir”. And in that smallness, I felt grateful, yet again, in a familiar sort of a way. And I realised how that man, was anything but poor.


The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate

– O. Henry –

Why do we even go forth, sometimes, I wonder. What pushes us? Or is it a pull? And then, do we just get pushed and pulled, on and on, forever, and until we break the cycle?


* – Loosely translated to, “A small gift from a poor man”

Of discoveries – accidental and historical

“Did you know that Aurangazeb had laid siege this fort, for close to a decade?”, he asked me. I did not, actually. I had vague memories of visiting the place more than once, as a child. My mother reminds me that we went there as a family, which I am unable to recall in much detail.

What started, for me, as an unknown journey, turned out as all such sojourns do, into a most delightful time of learning – about places & people – historical, and more contemporary. In the end, it was as much a journey within, for the so called travel was only a context. All life is but a journey of continual exploration of the recesses deep within us, with every passing day taking us into a deeper, yet unexplored part of ourselves.

I did realize too, and thanks to one of the finest storytellers I have had the good fortune to meet, that history isn’t all that boring. I took time to remember my own school days, and realized, not for the first time, that I never liked it back then. As it turns out for many of us, the subjects / disciplines that we most like (and by extension, dislike) are influenced largely, though certainly not only, by those who taught us these in our youngest years. As I remember it, the subject was then presented as a large collection of so called ‘facts’ from the past. And I did not understand the need to know, leave alone memorize these.

Today, thanks to my own inclination to read fueled in part by my avowed profession, I know that there is a lot more to history than what it seemed back then. Another chance encounter, this time with a book, led me to delve deeper.

The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.

Much as it may be a somewhat strenuous read, especially to the ‘non academic mind’, I would still recommend it to anyone interested in History. And I digress, as the train of thoughts flow from an account of my travels, to stories of the place to history in general.  It did occur to me, as I was listening from my friend on nuggets of rich insights from the past, that History was also about stories. Who doesn’t like a story? And I thought it ironical that such a wonderful opportunity for learning, must be squandered away by schools in the name of education. In my case, it was ironical that having lived in its vicinity all my childhood, and having been ‘educated’, I still was unaware of the most fascinating stories behind what was apparently termed as the ‘most impregnable fortress’ by none other than the Chatrapati himself.

As I learn more, I have learnt that learning, if anything is a joyful process of discovery. And that most importantly, this quest in many ways, innate in human beings. If anything, educators need only find ways of fostering this quest in young minds.

As it happens, there was more learning in store for me. I discovered, as a subject, a participant in discussions thought not necessarily as one who may be actively engaged in it myself – photography. I had not indulged in it very much, except having used a ‘point and shoot’, at various points in time. I never wanted to shoot pictures of friends & relatives, of people posing. I remember, during my early travel with friends from college, when people would not be interested in my photographs. To them, they were simply ‘picture postcards’. I must have dozens of them, lying around somewhere, all in print. Those were the times when one would click photographs and wait nervously for them to be developed and printed. Another vestige from the past.

This time around though, I learnt that not only did I not hestitate, but I actually enjoyed ‘posing’. I write this, as I view some of the pictures that were clicked, and I see varying degrees of candidness in each of them. Much as I had indeed posed for them, both the subject and the artiste straining to get the right pose now, the right lighting then, and much time passed in between those moments. Looking back, it was perhaps a discovery that the joy lay in the entire process – of clicking away, posing, trying, and watching the product of our creation. Much as the artiste may pride himself on his work, I discovered, that in those moments, the artiste, the tool and the subject, all merged into one a blur. And in that blur, there was learning for me.

IMG_2527 - Version 2Picture Courtesy: Atul Sabnis

The birthday bash

By the time I woke up and even realized where we were, we had driven past the railway station. Had I hopped off the bus and got into a train there, it wouldn’t have taken me an hour to get home. I was groggy, and irritated, as I tend to be on most mornings and more so today for having missed the station. The bus was diverted into the road that bypasses the city and I rued to myself that it would be a good hour more to get home. Ten minutes later, we were inching ahead, with hundreds of other vehicles, all stuck in an ominous looking jam.

‘To me an entrepreneurial mind is something that takes an adventurous route’, said someone to me, recently. The thought had lodged itself in a corner of my head ever since. I wonder how I could ever stick with a job, knowing how much I am wary of institutions of any kind. Yet, to be an entrepreneur is perhaps beyond me – if nothing for the complete lack of drive.

In any case, as the thought came back to me, I wondered if I am an adventurous person. It seems I love my routine – cook, clean, work – and can go on endlessly with it.

Before realization, chopping wood, fetching water. After realization, chopping wood, fetching water. – Zen Koan

On impulse, I hopped off the bus, crossed the road and waited there for a while, watching the sunrise on a pleasant winter morning. Thne I decided to walk back in the direction we had driven from, in the hope of going back to the railway station. In a while, I approached a milestone. 15 km – and so I continued walking, turning back to try and hitch a hike every now and then. The new found highways in India present a picture in contrast to me – wide, well laid roads with big, fast, sophisticated cars zipping through the most idyllic villages.

It was no surprise then that a man on a moped was the one who finally stopped to give me a ride. As I was grateful to the kind soul in him, I couldn’t but help watch the cars zoom past me. “At this speed, they’ll probably cover the distance in 5 minutes”, he observed. The moped is a convenient mode of transport. It is small, light weight, easy on fuel and allows you to maneuver the traffic snarls typical of urban life in India. It also allows a ton of things to be loaded on in ways you’d hardly imagine. It is no wonder that my father still uses his moped when he goes shopping.

I noticed our man was carrying 2 mid- sized boxes placed in the front – placed delicately in the ‘step through’ area, so to speak, not to mention the bum seated at the rear. In order to make conversation, I enquired about the boxes. “Books and pictures of Sw. Vivekananda.”

The Swami was the man who deferred spiritual wisdom, seeing the the starving masses of the country and is said to have exclaimed “let the Ganges become gruel”.

“My brother-in-law sponsors for these to be distributed to kids of schools in his ancestral village, during the birth anniversary of the Swamiji every year. He is a grocer and is busy in running his shop. They were delivered in the wrong place and so he sought a favour from me”.

At the speed which the moped could afford us, I couldn’t help but think that it would be a good 30 minutes before I make it to the train. I marveled at the monkey mind – grateful on the one hand for having got a lift, and all the same wondering if I should have let the man on the moped pass, in favour of a faster vehicle.

“I don’t care much for this spiritual stuff. I like to help others when I can. And I don’t care whether the person deserves it or not, if someone seeks something and I can afford it, I do it for them. If these books don’t get there today, it may not make much sense”

As we rode on in silence, I admired the man for what he was doing, knowing he was riding in that moped of his, some 50 km up and down, just to drop off a bunch of books on a subject that he himself did not much believe in. As he dropped me off, I proffered my hand and introduced myself. He shook firmly, smiling resplendently in the warm morning sunshine and said “Anand”. I couldn’t help but smile at the aptness of his name.

As I walked into the railway station, I was struck by how the morning had dawned for me, and that too, on the very day when the world was celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the great wandering mendicant. And as I did so, I couldn’t help but recall the following words of his which I had read as a young lad, and which came to be with me, ever since.

“Feel, my children, feel; feel for the poor, the ignorant, the downtrodden; feel till the heart stops and the brain reels and you think you will go mad — then pour the soul out at the feet of the Lord, and then will come power, help, and indomitable energy.”

Happy birthday, Swami.

the mirror

i can feel the beads of sweat trickling down my back. it is a typical summer evening in these parts. the ceiling fan is a necessary evil. it blows hot air from the roof, but ones needs something to keep dry and keep the mosquitoes at bay. the thoughts meander towards the man sleeping on the pavement, after a hard day. i wonder how he sleeps so sound. in a way, i’m grateful for not being able to afford an air conditioner. it has made me hardy, & more importantly, it keeps me connected with the outside.
the voices of a group of friends in the adjacent room sounds more like faint noises trickling in from the neighboring house. i am comfortably numb, seemingly so, drifting away in the breeze, in a world of my own, yet vaguely aware of the voices.
my thoughts veer off toward the astrology column i had read about a week back. to sum it up, peter vidal had said that i would be, in a while, staring at reality.
i wonder how it would feel to stare down the barrel of a gun, i haven’t had the privilege myself. i remember seeing this picture, supposedly from nam, of this man waiting with his eyes cocked, the finger right on the trigger. the gun was pointed by another, right at this man’s temple. i don’t know what it is like, those last moments. the ones that we in this life know of, at least.
i do recollect, however, riding in the ghats of uttaranchal, with the tributaries of the mother ganges flowing alongside. there is something fascinating about the state. a bum i had had the privilege of meeting somewhere along, had called it dev bhumi (land of the gods). “the wild animals here wouldn’t trouble you”, he had said, when asked if it was safe to ride in the nights.
i had spent almost a month there, a good part of it riding. there is this one moment stored away in the recess of my head, somewhere. it was a curve, i was on the side of the cliff, if thats the way it is referred to. i was speeding of course, even though i knew it was wrong, just for kicks perhaps. i’d rather meet an adventurous end. i haven’t yet, quite paradoxically, and i’m grateful for it too. the adventure never ends.
and so i was negotiating this curve, and i had suddenly realized i was only a couple of inches away. i was staring down the valley, i remember not how deep. i had only momentarily looked down, taken my eyes away from the road. but i felt it creep up to me momentarily. death. or the fear of it.
today, as i sit here, in the sultry evening heat, i feel it again. reality, as they call it. i have been disconnected long now, and it suddenly strikes me. i look within, and find somebody not with the remote semblance with the one i had known all this while. he is far from what i consider ‘good’.

“is it time to do something yet?”, i ask myself.

"certainly, sir"

two things can be said of last (this?) evening, even at this unearthly hour when it is almost time for dawn.

the second, and more important one, is that all you – people, comrades, fellow passers by, call yourself what you want – were thought of, and quite often. thanks to your frequent reminders to me, to write. record, rather. for thats what i mostly indulge in here. missalister even suggested a virtual lynching! i am, notwithstanding, overwhelmed, and profoundly grateful to each one you – you inspire in a way thats unique to you!

now, for the first. it was an eventful evening.

par lagerkvist, in his book, pilgrim at sea, is so charmed by uncertainty. i think thats the name of the book – unless i am mixing up a book and another author. i have an excerpt written on a piece of paper that is lying around someplace. if i find it, i shall quote it here. a friend – someone we used to call gandhi, for some funny reason – had been kind enough to lend it to me way back in college. i didn’t know him much, yet he just dropped by one day and left this book with me, requesting me to read it and return it safely.

uncertainty – the feverish excitement with which one looks forward to the coming moment, it isn’t far away – just what may happen at the bat of en eyelid. the expectations, the disappointments, the fears, the joys, and not a moment sparing a surprise. it makes you wonder where the ‘Program’ is, who wrote it, who – so to speak – maintains it. in a way, it makes me wonder. it keeps me in awe of the extent of the ‘cosmos’, and its ‘programmer’ if such an entity exists. i do believe it does. for, if from our limited perception of things, we perceive unimaginably vast things as solar systems and galaxies, my mind is inclined to look the source of it all. the canvas. and then beyond the canvas, the painter too. some call it ‘seeking’. i think i’m just a curious bum.

the breeze there, somewhere in the east coast road, was making it difficult to talk over the phone. there was no moon just then. i spoke to her, and realised she had planned a little time with her brother, and was traveling too. that very night. right then, in fact, which meant i wouldn’t even meet her. i didn’t tell her just then, i knew she’d be upset, in two minds, if she knew, and i didn’t want that for her. like they say, theres a good time for everything.

“it was His plan pa, i just decided to come”, i told him. i told him, knowing well he’d be disappointed for her too.

i hadn’t really planned this trip. i was supposed to come the next weekend, but something reminded me that i had work coming up, and since i wouldn’t be able to make it, i had, in a flash of a moment, decided to visit home today. i was acting on impulse. i like being that way sometimes. may be again, because, it brings on more uncertainty!

earlier, i was elsewhere, along the same road, smoking. enjoying the silence, complimented by the strong breeze, and broken now and then by a passing vehicle. the whiff of cashew fruits. somehow reminded me of my childhood. we’d go looking for them on hot summer afternoons. and another little berry, i am not sure exactly which one. just wild berries that grew on thorny plants.

my thoughts were broken when i heard some noise, ‘noticed’ it rather, and it turned out to be the creaking of palm leaves and other things, i don’t know what. i was there, just, there. silence is sometimes joyful, specially if you realise that most of the times, we’re always listening to something. noise, talk, music, chatter, buzz. theres something all the time.

my cigarette was vanishing fast in the wind, when my attention was drawn to a motorcycle ambling along. having passed by a small distance, the man slows, turns around, and this time, approaches me. quite sometime ago, bumming around, just like now, somewhere around the same place, i experienced a similar ride, a short journey that had done a lot to me, like all journeys do. it also left me with this little fear, if you know what i am talking about. after all, who wants to die? i don’t for one. i didn’t. not then, at least, and so i was preparing to leave.

“i was just wondering if you needed some petrol or something”, he said.

i stopped. for a moment, i was shocked. pleasantly surprised, rather. i peered into his face in the light that was from his headlamp. it wasn’t really illuminating his face, but i could make out he was middle aged, pretty small made. he had a kind face.

“no thank you, i’m leaving”.

“i was just wondering if you needed some petrol or something”, he repeated. and then added, “i pass by these parts everyday, and if i see someone standing alone in the night, i always stop by and ask if they need help. God knows they may be stranded”, he said.

“thank you”. i told him my name, and how i was intruded upon, on another occasion.

“my name is anwar basha”, the man sad. we were shaking hands, and in the semi darkness, taking in each others faces i suppose. “i am branch post master here”, and added the name of a place i can’t place immediately. i had stored it in the ubiquitous mobile phone. i had, and quite rightly, anticipated that i wouldn’t remember it later. i wanted to remember it then, because i wanted to come back.

“do you have a card or something?”, he asked.

“certainly sir”, i wasn’t very certain though – who’d expect top handover business cards in the middle of the night on the highway!! i couldn’t help but smile – partly at his concern, and partly at my own paranoia, but mostly at this sudden request of his. i rummaged through my bag to find a card.

“i like post offices”, i told him, as i handed over the card. i am not sure if i’ll go back, and when, but i do like post offices, and maybe i’ll just drop by someday. and thank him. he had taught me, among other things, not to be afraid, at all times. i’m not, mostly. afraid, that is. that day, it was those few moments. i had forgotten what i was going to tell pa a short while later.

that it was His plan. after all, He would escort me home quite nice and safe. it’s also why uncertainty gives me a certain comfort, in not knowing the plans.

learn the art of living by giving, and giving…, and giving up the thought that you have given, for you are only giving what has been given to you

Life in a metro

I ran in to the elevator, it was, for once, awaiting people at the ground floor, and what’s more, it seemed empty and unmanned. I was wrong though, for I stepped in, only to realize the liftman sitting by the corner, half asleep, trying to figure out how ‘high’ I wanted to go.

Earlier, I was at this little drinking place. Well, why resist – tavern, I will call it. I hardly had anytime. It was almost 11, and for most people, at least the ones new to town, it was closing time. I had no intention of getting drunk. These have been a harsh past few days – mostly due to my own making, and I just wanted to unwind. It was most the adventure, the process, than the drink itself. One shot, and by the time I was sipping on the second, I realized I was out of smokes. A drink leaves me in quite an unpretentious state, so I asked this bum who was sitting around, if he would be kind enough to give me a smoke in charity. He was smoking one, not much left, and he passed it on to me and I didn’t hesitate a moment to accept. We clinked, and I was back in my melancholies, when this guy who had lent me the smoke got up to pay. It was a foreign language, and much as I may pretend to know it, I couldn’t really understand why he got into an argument with the bartender. I looked at him, clinked my glass again, before I downed it all, and asked him to take it easy, but by then, the noise was mounting, and I was politely requested by one bystander, to leave, and I was only too glad to oblige.

It had been a long day, and as I was walking by, wondering what was it with these big cities, this other bum walks up to me, and smiles and says he was hungry. Quite selfishly, I didn’t want to be troubled out of my reverie, and so I quickly passed him a tenner, smiled, shook hands and moved on, till I found a restaurant that would serve food at this time.

Hungry as I was, I was glad to have found some place. It wasn’t one of those places that would otherwise be my choice, but I was grateful, for I had found a way to assuage the pangs of the stomach – something that for me, to this date, has been the greatest pain, and pleasure. Pleasure, for I do relish the varied gastronomic experiences that man has to offer. Pain, because I find that even in this so called ‘developed world’, there are many who go without morsel.

By the time I was done, I heard someone cursing. When I looked around, I found one of the waiters, talking to his colleague, about this guy who had eaten well, and walked off without paying. “It’s today’s earning gone”, he was complaining. I learnt from him that it was a regular feature, at this time of the night, there was apparently quite a few who would try and sneak out without paying up. Some, who were caught, would ultimately shell out, the rest I was told, that it was the waiters who paid for them. I left a decent tip, more than I usually do. I wished him, praying he earned more in that manner tonight, so it would eventually compensate for his loss, and so he could, possibly, forgive the poor soul who stole the food earlier.

I’ve been noticing quite a few people with, well, Mongoloid features around here (I hope that isn’t an offensive statement, I don’t know how else to put it). I think they’re mostly Tibetans. I also see some folks who look like Buddhist Monks, with those long red flowing robes. As I was walking into my lodge, I hear this lady screaming. When I paused, I realized it was this big family of Tibetans, with a few of them arguing with an autowallah. One of them, a fairly elderly lady, was cursing the guy. They fought for a few minutes, and finally walked off, with the woman continuing to shower abuses. Some onlookers seemed to sympathize with them too, but then, things go on, and in a few seconds, just about everybody disappeared.

Just when I decided to call it a day, this guy – another autowallah, comes up to me, completely drunk, barely able to stand up on his legs, and smiles, and extends his hand. He looked like a good guy, and I couldn’t but help smile back, when I realize he is asking me for a smoke. When I handed him my pack, he took two, and as he handed them back to me, said, “My name is Venkat….You know, Tirupati?” I nodded in comprehension, both of his name, and of his state, and walked to the elevator.