Monday, September 21, 2009
The first time that I went to Kumaraparvatha was a long time ago; cameras needed film rolls back then. Seven monsoons ago, five of us had been crazy enough to spend a night on the peak. We had been rudely jolted out of our sleep when the fly sheet of our tent had flown off at around midnight. P and I had ventured out to fetch it and fix it back on. In the two minutes that we had spent outside, every inch of our clothes had become wet. We had seen each other's scared faces when a couple of lightning strikes landed a few hundred metres from where we stood. We had spent the rest of the night holding on to our tent that was being threatened by the loudest and most furious wind I've ever experienced. Four of us were hanging on to the side beams and P, being the tall one, was clutching the top rod. By morning, we were wet, cold and angry. I swore never to venture into the Western Ghats during the monsoons.
You know how we look back on even the worst episodes and say "It happened for the best!". Psychologists call that sub-conscious rationalization 'Synthetic Happiness'. That is what makes us sugar-coat our memories and call them "experience" and genuinely feel good about having had them. That is also what made me forget my resolution. So I was there last weekend with a bunch of people again at Kumaraparvatha.
This time we climbed from the Pushpagiri side. The skies had stayed clear till late afternoon. The leeches, in my evaluation, were less enterprising too. I boasted about how I had spent three days (counting my Anejhari trip too) in the Ghats and not a single leech had feasted on me, while most others around me had been victimized. I was joking about how the leeches seemed to be on a low-cholesterol diet, when the clouds said "tada!". Old jungle saying "Forest not likes being taken for granted". It started to pour at 4 and we stood helpless under the shelter of styrofoam floor mats waiting for the fury to subside. The strong winds had ensured that all of us were drenched and nothing in our bags was dry either.
After a few hours, we gave up hope, pitched our three tents in the dark, and ate our soggy chapathis before sneaking into our sleeping bags. None of the other folks slept in the wet tents, but I told myself that I was in a bathtub, and convinced myself to sleep. Like I've mentioned before, when I sleep I don't just sleep, I hibernate. N woke me up hours later to tell me that my feet were covered with leeches. That's when I decided to check myself thoroughly. There were leeches all over the place including some too close to "the family jewels" to borrow from N's rich euphemism library. I de-leeched and did something that guaranteed my status as a legend: I slept again! I reportedly talked in my sleep too, something about an upcoming Yahoo! release. I bleed purple! Ask them leeches.
In the morning, the Ghats were benign and benevolent. We were amidst the clouds and everything was dream-like. If we overlooked the little detail that the protagonists all looked like they were returning from battle, everything else was straight out of postcards. We lingered on for too long. In the evening we were left with 3kms to traverse when darkness crept up on us. My group of four had become separated from the rest and we had one torch between us. We each fell several times and made such slow progress that I was already steeling myself to spending another night in the forest, this time with no tent. When we eventually saw the light of a vehicle on the road we were too spent to even celebrate. It's likely that someday I'll narrate this experience as if it was a good one. If you catch me doing that, slap me.
Posted by Deepak Rajanna at 8:45 AM