Monday, July 5, 2010

Odati Oddities

Trips with Odati are rarely short on entertainment, something or someone (with initials J M ?) attracts eccentrics of every kind.

Kooky K : K is the absent-minded forgetful kind, the type that puts his mobile phone into the washing machine by mistake and then switches it on – the machine, that is, not the phone.

K is also the obstinate type. He once wore really – short – almost – absent – shorts while trekking in a mosquito infested area and refused to use Odomos in spite of Jayesh’ repeated admonishments. K’s stated reason - “Odomos is only for women” ! I suppose he also believed ‘mard ko dard nahin hota’, a principle that was quickly disproved after he got bitten to bits. Rather unreasonably, he failed to understand why none of the women expressed any sympathy for him.

[Rule 1 of trekking with Odati : Those who disobey Jayesh do so at their own peril.]

‘Ncouraging N : Then there’s N, one of the group leaders on a monsoon trek to Prabalgad on a day it poured torrentially. By evening, all of us were soaked, bone-tired and running low on energy. We cheered up as we finished our descent and realized that we had just one tiny stream and a 20 minute walk between us and the vehicle which would bear us speedily towards hot tea and steaming pakodas. Our slow plodding steps had just regained some of their bounce and vigour when we rounded a curve in the path and gasped in horror – the babbling brook that we remembered had morphed into a frothing rage of water that would reach higher than our waists as we crossed.

While us city-bred folk fretted about losing our lives, N had his own worries that we selfishly ignored. Not for long though. Being a true-blue Bawa, N could not but speak his mind. While J fussed about helping everyone link hands and then cross, N loudly voiced his concern that one of us (paying customers, mind you) would pee out of fear while we were crossing the stream and he would end up standing in soiled water ! Now that’s perspective - Where you see a scary death by drowning, another sees only the dinginess of ….ugh…. soiling !

[Rule 2 of trekking with Odati :A reality check is never far away.]

Resplendent R : And how could I forgot R ? For his first high altitude trek, he chose to turn up with two hold-alls, one of which had a zip that could not be closed ! Apparently he had spoken to people who trekked regularly and none of them had classified a backpack as a necessity. On the other hand, good ol’ R’s friends and well-wishers had focused on the necessity of managing without a bath for days on end. As they say, forewarned is forearmed, and R was sufficiently prepared with about 10 pairs of knee-length cotton shorts, each of which had bright candy stripes in pink, orange etc. Even the rhodendrons and the hornbills we saw could not match R’s colourful flamboyant style !

[Rule 3 of trekking with Odati : Positive Attitude and fun are non-negotiable, all else can be managed somehow.]

A pseud person who spoke the Queen’s English with a clipped accent, nevertheless a loyal son of the soil from Bihar, R felt an indefinable bond with every Bihari he met. Somehow he seemed to meet them all - grocers, barbers, waiters, a guy running a lodge etc, and he could never resist a ten minute chat with each of them. R loved discussing intricate details of his newfound friend’s life – his native place, schooling, his children, their education, which bus they caught to go to the school nearest the village etc etc. We shamelessly eavesdropped on these chats, it was almost a cultural exchange program hearing the two accents collide and communicate – one rough and colloquial, the other refined and speaking in shuddhh textbook Hindi.

Single S : S was single and eligible and the group decided that one of the objectives of a two week high-altitude ‘mission’ in the Himalayas was to find him a pretty bride. J in particular favoured someone whose parents owned an STD booth in a small town. Not only would S be able to live in such a beautiful place forever as a ghar-jamai, but his friends from Odati would also get free boarding and lodging. In J’s opinion, the deal-clincher was the fact that whenever S felt homesick, he could make FREE STD calls to his Mum !

[Rule 5 : The hearing of PJs will be as frequent as the sighting of greenery or mountains.
Rule 5. addendum 1. He who cracks the worst joke shall be the guy or girl Jayesh likes the most.
Rule 5. addendum 2. Often Jayesh will crack the worst joke (he has a whole repertoire of corny ones). In that case, addendum 1 refers to the worst but one joke]

Movie-star M : You and I would consider M’s looks fairly average, but he thought otherwise and never felt entirely free of the fan following and paparazzi that followed him everywhere, even on a high altitude trek. During one dangerous river crossing, he almost got swept away, but managed to hold tight to a rope with one hand and was pulled to safety by the porters. You or I, average people, would reach shore and our first impulse would be to thank God for sparing us and to hug the porters who pulled us to safety. But M was not made for such mundane reactions. On reaching the shore, the first thing he did was to dig deep into his pockets, unearth a small comb and quickly brush his untidy hair into submission. He then turned and waved nonchalantly for the benefit of his anxious friends on the opposite bank and the assembled (imaginary) paparazzi.

[Rule 4. Be ready to achieve fame of a sort on a trek with Odati – stories deemed worthy are retold to other trekkers for years.]

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