The October Dream [Author: Surekha]
                               25, Oct 2004

I can feel being gently, sometimes a little forcefully swung from one side to the other. There I am lifted again before I even try to hold something…onwards, upwards, sidewards…

Am I dreaming? It can’t be… I have just boarded my bed. Okay, then I get it. It’s the hangover of my first-time indulgence in rafting just this morning. It’s all coming in waves to me now at midnight.

My ten friends would probably understand this and they may have their own terms to explain the thrill. But for any of you who are still clueless, let me throw some water on the whole story.
 

Oct 17, 2004: 7 am

The morning’s pleasant in Bheemeshwari, a tiny village hidden in the vast expanse of Bheemeshwari forests, about 125 kms from Bangalore on the banks of Cauvery. We woke up feeling a little chill inside our tents (courtesy some light showers the earlier night).

The place is a perfect hideout for those city geeks who want to experience some weekend freedom from frantic phone calls. (Read “No Network!”…No matter what the ads claim.) Instead, a birdcall will greet you now and then as you soak in the silence of the surrounding forests and the flowing river. Our campsite’s a delight … with a huge living area and a private pool (River Cauvery) just outside. It’s the treasure that we finally found after multiple site visits with our real estate agent Neeraj.

Despite some invariable delays (...it’s a holiday afterall), we drive towards Cauvery Fishing Camp before the Sun begins to lose his cool. Reaching Ozone Water Sports at 7:30. The guides are eagerly awaiting and seem to be as enthusiastic as we the first timers. However, before the actual adventure comes the trial run. The signing up of forms that clearly indicate “You are responsible for your life!” But it’s nothing scary, as it seems. All that one has to do is follow the instructions coming from the guide and play it safe. You can’t afford to let go the fun by doing anything else.

The rafts are medium-sized (my estimation) and can hold just about eight people and our guide. We split into two groups and three of our teammates agree to join some other enthusiasts on the second raft.

Currents to the left of them (…water currents)
Currents to the right of them
Currents in front of them
In the galley of faith
Rode the six plus five!

Look at those pics where we appear armed as if leaving for the Front. Yes, the waterfront! And we are well protected by those life jackets that let us stay afloat even if we accidentally fall into the waters and by those hard helmets, just in case we collide head-on to some rocks underneath. Emphatically holding those paddles, do we look any less charged than those heroes of Tennyson?

We leave the shore calmly and it takes about 10-15 minutes before we face the first challenge. Paddle Forward…Backward…Relax …chants our coach Rajesh constantly. The river’s a little sober to begin with and then she comes on strong. The first rapid hits our raft and we have got a taste of the thrill. It’s highly addictive and we pray for more.

The second raft takes off a little slow, but catches up soon. Guide Shabbir splashes water left, right and centre as their raft reaches the first and flashes a victorious smile as well. All of us in Raft No. 1 wake up from our reverie, a bit shocked… but we decide not to make a noise. What if he chooses to stop? The fun’s too much to lose.

We move ahead, go over whirlpools (some real, some imagined…didn’t dare to test them anyways). More laps of Cauvery amidst sloping greenery and silvery clouds on either side. Our hands feel energized as we dip them in the pleasantly warm waters.

Just then our guide Rajesh screams his orders to the four swimmers in our troop. It almost resembles the notorious “JUMP! JUMP! …JUMP!” orders from Mugambo in Mr.India. But who knows…only 3 of them are actual swimmers and the last one is only an aspiring swimmer. Well, we help him back before it gets a little too late.

The swimmers don’t want to get back but Rajesh feels otherwise. They reluctantly enter the raft again and we paddle forward. A rapid hits our raft soon after and there goes a girl “Plonk$$@…Blonk*@@” into the waters. She’s forgotten to hold firm amidst the frenzy. Yet another braveheart dives in to rescue her and later claims that she made attempts on his life by holding him down for a full 10 seconds inside the water. She was only trying to come up and he proved a good prop. Well, the martyr survives it somehow.

Then comes the floating round. The water’s not so deep at this point and Rajesh kindly allows us, the amateurs to alight from our rafts and enjoy the ripples. Minus the paddles…we stretch our hands to the sides and cruise over the water like those …in the sky (can’t help the cliche). The excitement is increasing with our friends clicking pics from the other raft. Finally, with the orders coming in, we get on to the rafts and move further.

It’s a great experience feeling the raft move in perfect harmony as the Captain and the Co-Pilot synchronise their paddling efforts. Different teammates take on this position at different times. And then for sometime, the ladies are at the helm of affairs while the gentlemen paddle gently behind.

The trip includes 2-3 stopovers to inflate the raft and our reducing muscle strength as well. We just forgot to carry some energy bars in all the excitement. The fun-filled saga lasts for a good 2 and ½ hours. Every moment’s got a tale to tell. We can only offer the highlights here.

 

More rapids follow…though not in quick succession. We send SMSes (Silent Messages) to the WIND GOD and he obliges. Particularly, those rapids at the tail end of our trip overwhelm us. On reaching the end point, we descend in half minds and carry our vessel to the jeep, which will take it to the starting point where others are waiting anxiously. Next, we sit down to discuss this new state of trance over steaming cups of tea.

Just as we are feeling sorry that it’s all over a little too soon, comes our second adventure ride. The jeep journey, back to the camp where we started from. We (rather, the expert driver) race through narrow, uncut, stony paths winding through hilly areas adorned with rocks, dry grass and lots of trees as well. We see some stars…read elephants, panthers, cougars on the way. Less sleep, the earlier night. And those of us who spotted pandas…probably suffered from insomnia.

Cut- Scene 2:
Brunch’s happening inside the TT, while Shiva’s working his best to reach us to Shivanasamudra at the earliest. Breads and cheesespreads (cucumbers, onions included) do the rounds and are finished in no time. Chief Chef Shyamala probably had to do with less for herself.

Okay, we are at Shivanasamudra! The waters are high…we are warned at the entry point and our expectations of freaking out are getting high as well. We quickly trail down the steep steps and reach the base of the waterfall. Coracle riders are waiting to offer us a close-up of the falls. And also to let us indulge for sometime.

The interval on the coracle ride happens too soon, even before we have begun to savour it. The boatman drops us close to the fall. One drench under the waterfall…and we are not able to resist the ‘Accu… sorry Aqua therapy.’ Bharachukki hits our heads, shoulders, and backs with all its might that we could just crack if we hadn’t stood firm. The ground’s slippery as well. Yet, the joy is simply unforgettable.

After we have had a little more than our fills, we leave again with the coracle riders who have come back to pick us up. Next we reach the other branch of Bharachukki, which’s even more fierce that it doesn’t let anyone near. There’s no place to get down and shake hands as well. Safely we say “Hi!” from a distance and sail back. And then just as we are nearing the starting point, the boatmen offer us a merry-go-round by magically stirring the waters with their heavy paddles.


The fun’s finally over and we freshen up in our TT that’s been temporarily converted into our changing room. (A warning for the girls in the next trip…Guys take longer here too!) Thoroughly refreshed by the reverberating waterfall, there are more refreshments awaiting us. Tender coconut and Masalapuri. We sit down to relish the snacks and those flashing images in our minds …that belong to the earlier day –

Oct 16, 2004 - 2:30 pm:

Leaving Bangalore at around 9:45 am with a quick breakfast at Shantisagar, RPC Layout…we hurry towards Bheemeshwari. Too soon we realise there’s some important shopping left to do. After some quick negotiations with those vegetable vendors, we 3 V-Men board the van again. (Please don’t double-check this fact with the men…they’ll always have a different version.) At Muttatthi, we halt again and the guys are off to pack some lunch. (And we always thought …men are fast.) A good hour of waiting and they are back. There we rush again, stopping nowhere but at the Cauvery Fishing Camp (CFC) this time. We are somewhat hungry but decide to forgo lunch for a while.

Finding an odd spot in the jungle, the enthusiastic eleven pick up our backpacks and forge ahead. None of us know where we are going and we don’t care except for the fact that the Sun could be going down sooner than we want him to. With sufficient encouragement from our leader Balaji, we march forward. Trudging the soft grass and picking up some fallen branches that could effectively shield us from thorny trees and shrubs…we walk past carefully balancing ourselves on some loose stones and the soft earth.
 


It’s a blind date with the forests reigned by… the then alive, Mr. Veerappan. No one knows what’s in store but there’s a rare excitement. We look around for elephants and fortunately spot quite a few pachyderm look-alikes. Some satisfaction at that. Three-fourth of an hour whizzes by and we decide to halt and proceed after a quick lunch. The meal’s as memorable as our march. Rice, puliyogare paste, curds, spicy pickle and spicier chutney… finally water and sweet apple concentrate to wash them down …before they start corroding our systems. Good food, good ambience and good company… and also the ‘BURNING DESIRE’ to experience trekking/rafting to our hearts content. Now, if this isn’t heaven, what else could be? Gratefully we realize that day…that it’s not a prerequisite to die if we must get there.

The food transferred from those packets to our physiques, we gain more power. The road less traveled turns easy and the puzzle solves amazingly fast on our way back. Minus maps, minus compasses, minus radio tower communication …Balaji manages to lead us close to the van in 45 minutes flat.

 

Well, there are more interesting episodes, which might require to write a sequel-

The delay’s already done while leaving Bangalore and we just can’t afford one more on the way. We propose non-stop driving and God disposes… a fallen tree, right across the road. Our TT comes to a standstill. And we are able to do nothing, but get off and appreciate those men working on that tree trunk, CHIP by CHIP. (Hmmm…advanced technology…is just about anywhere!)

The scouring of Bheemeshwari markets for a broom because our team leader feels that our campsite might just need some spring cleaning.

The search for “Deer Seetha” and “Deer Geetha” in the woods… simultaneously looking out for the perfect camping spot that gave us the miss. Not to forget, Shiva cruising the vehicle back and forth until the spot was finally spotted.

Setting up of tents…SPIRITED attempts of lighting the campfire (don’t risk ignoring any alcohol leftovers by fellow campers)… the continuous water collection runs to the river and so also the mug-cleaning obsession (Mug-O-Mania has just been introduced to the medicine world!)
 

And of course… the 3-course meal we whipped up in just about an hour, though lighting the fire seemed to take forever. Interestingly, too many cooks didn’t spoil the meal. It just lacked some salt. We had created history …with dining etiquette having to be rewritten.

Our 11-member committee seriously examined the brown waters and finally passed it on as ‘Safe for drinking and cooking purposes.’ With brown bread, brown rice…in vogue, people better pick up brown water as well. Our CNO (Chief Nutrition Officer) however prefers a dash of cigarette ash in it and has a different name for the improved pack- Fortified Mineral Water! The concoction hits the brain straight and one feels purified, sorry powerful with just a sip. It’s now available in jars of …litres in our newly opened departmental stores, close to CFC.

And then dumbcharades isn’t just as dumb as its name. It can actually make a dumb (speech impaired) person want to sit up and scream as a final attempt to get the right movie name out from his audience. Those twisted facial expressions can lead to loud outbursts of laughter …probably making the roofs fly. We were lucky…we just didn’t have one over our heads.

All this and more…


 

Cut-
Letting go of those memories temporarily, we get into the van again.

On the way back to Bangalore, we shut out the music (“It’s the time to disco …” is going off again for the 11th time, once each for all of us. With five each in two teams, we launch FM-10 with Anthakshari as our prime time program and VJ as our program coordinator cum referee. Unfortunately (or was it fortunately) VJ’s not too familiar with Bollywood or even Bangalore music …and he lets in parodies by the dozen that are coming from our in-house songwriter cum singer Ashok Kumar. Anyone interested out there to hold an Ashok Kumar Nite…may please contact him on these nos…. The guy’s worth a listen!


It’s past 8pm now…and we are rapidly making our way to Bangalore. All that laughter has made us lose track of time. We decide to stop at Holiday Village Resort for the closing night’s dinner. And there are more surprises awaiting for us, the girls.

Once inside the borders of India’s own Silicon Valley, the guys have again turned to become the geeks they always were. And our supper converts to a major techno conference. We silently finish our meals and patiently wait for them to take up the ‘Starters’ least. Thankfully they take notice …before it gets a little too late.

A supposed-to-be relaxed dinner ends up with some quick gobbling of the dessert and we leave the hotel. Alas, our saviour Shiva is nowhere in sight. He’s disappeared with the van. An anxious 15 minutes later, he returns…and we start again.

We reach Bangalore and start off …dropping each of the menfolk near their homes, while the girls patiently wait for their turns. Finally, as the last of the men leaves the van…we heave a sigh of relief …and Shiva discovers there’s not much fuel left! Yet another 2-3 rounds on MG Road and we manage to source some fuel. The van quickly takes an about turn …in the direction of the first of the 3 homes.

Hey friends, not a single moment went as we planned and now we are happy that it went this way. True…reality can be sometimes lovelier than fiction! And if you don’t believe…Bheemeshwari will help you to. Try it once!

(My sincere thanks to my ten teammates who made this trip this enjoyable for me.)

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