“Bum!”, screamed Jai as the chillum lit.
“Bum!”, yelled Yela on top of her voice.
I heard multiple ‘bums’ one after the other. Jai took a long drag from the chillum and passed it to Akhil who was on his right.
A chillum always goes to the right, universal law.
The moonlit night became silent once again as the ‘bums’ subsided. The only other sounds were the sounds of wind and water running in the stream.
The firewood in front of me creaked as it burned it’s way down creating ‘fireworks’. Sebastian didn’t move an inch, though a few sparks fell on him, he was busy with the chillum. He passed the chillum to his right, to me, as he was exhaling all the smoke which had filled his lungs. By just seeing his expression one would have the urge to smoke a chillum. All the warmth and comfort from the drag was widely present in his eyes. I got hold of the chillum and adjusted the safi.
“Bum bole nath!”, I shouted and adjusted the chillum to my mouth getting ready for the drag.
I took a long drag from the chillum and I could sense the heat filling my mouth and as it slowly moved down my windpipe; I could taste the cream on my tongue and on the walls of my mouth. The minty smoke glided down and filled my lungs. That was a big relief in that icy cold weather. I felt not only warmer but much happier and relaxed. I passed the chillum to my right and I thought for a minute. If it wasn’t for Alfred I wouldn’t have been sitting there at that moment….
1.Planning-Easier Said than done
“Don’t back out now man, even the train tickets are booked. We might not get a chance like this anytime in the future. Once everybody goes in different directions, it won’t happen and you know it”
“That’s true, but then again it’s not that I don’t want to come, I’m not in a position to do trips at the moment. You know how much things are fucked up right? No job, no degree, parents are already furious and they want me to do something about it. I’ve to figure out something to do with my life”, I said in a single breath.
“Come on man, we’ll be back in two weeks time. What are you going to do in this two weeks?”, Alfred sounded desperate in trying to make this trip work.
“Hmmm. Okay let me reach home first, I haven’t talked to my parents about this. When’s the train by the way?”
“On 2nd evening at 8:30 from north station. I’ve got confirmed seats for all four of us. You come to Cochin on 31st. Justin and Akhil are leaving on 1st evening. We’ll leave on the next day, we will take a taxi to the station”
“Okay, I’ll give you a call after seeing what the situation is at home. I’ll reach home in like 15 minutes”
“Okay, bye”, Alfred hung up.
The bus had reached the stop. I took my bag and got down. My eyes were panning in all directions for an auto. I checked my watch, it was almost 9. Very few autos in my area this late in the evening. Luckily there was one auto in the corner of the junction. The auto guy sees me waving my hand and comes to me. I get inside the auto and tell him the address. He pulls the lever and brings the two-stroke engine to life. As the auto starts moving, I get lost in thoughts again.
“Oh you have come?”, asked mother rhetorically as she saw me after opening the door.
“Why have you come now?”, asked mother sarcastically.”Has all your friends gone or what?”
I was used to these sarcastic comments. Therefore I grinned at her without shame and went inside and closed the door behind me. All I was thinking was, today is Saturday and tomorrow, Sunday, I have to head back to Cochin as the train ticket is for Monday night. Now how would I break this news to my parents? They would literally scold and be angry at the plans.
Luckily my father hadn’t come home yet or the spilling out the plan would have been more difficult for me. It had always been like that, I had some sort of inhibition when my father was around. I couldn’t tell whatever came to my mind. I had to put some sort of filter in between and think before I told him things. But with mother, things were a lot less complicated. But my uncle and aunt had come over for visit. It was best to disclose the plans with my mother alone. More the number of people there are, more questions I will have to face, more difficult it will be to convince and explain things.
After taking a bath and changing clothes, I headed to kitchen to see whats for dinner. Also, to see if I get an opportunity to spill the beans about the trip. I could hear sounds from kitchen as my mother was preparing dinner. There she was making chapati on the stove.
“How long will you be home this time?”, asked amma.
“I will go back tomorrow afternoon”, I replied.
“Whatever it is, you have to finish your degree. It is ..”
“I know amma, you don’t have to keep saying this all the time!”, I cut her sentence off midway. “I am fed up of listening to it”
I walked towards my room as the conversation was not heading in the direction I had anticipated.
“Eat chapati and go”, amma shouted behind me as I went to my room.
I woke up the next day thinking how to break the news to my folks. I had woken up around 10am and I started packing some clothes as I had to leave in the afternoon. Till noon I was not able to break down ‘journey plans’ to my mother. My father had gone out for a business meeting before I woke up.
“If you are going to Cochin, you can come with us till Kottayam and get a bus from there”, my aunt suggested when I sat down for lunch.
Not a bad idea, I thought to myself. I can travel half way in car instead of catching multiple busses.
“What time are you leaving?”, I asked.
“Around 4pm”, aunt replied.
“Okay, I will pack my bags and be ready by that time”, I finished my meal and went to wash my hands.
When I was all packed and was about to keep things in my uncle’s car, I casually told amma, “I am fed up of everything and I might soon go somewhere to clear my mind.”
“Settle your life and then go with your own money”, amma replied.
” Yeah, I have some money saved up, I will go with that!”, I said rolling my eyes up.”In fact I might go to Delhi one of the coming days.”
“Yeah okay whatever”, amma said in a giving-up tone. It was evident that she hadn’t taken me seriously when I said that.
“I am not kidding, I am going to Delhi soon. Like real soon, maybe tomorrow or the day after”, I said that and gave her a hug and got inside the car, in which my uncle and aunt were already waiting.
“Wherever you are going, tell your father and take his permission and go”, Amma still hadn’t taken me seriously so she waved me bye.
As the car started moving I replied, “I will call acha (dad) on the phone and tell him the news”
By this time my mom had doubt if I was serious or not. She had a perplexed expression on her face. But it was too late, I had already left the compound in my uncle’s car.
When we reached Kottayam, my uncle dropped me in the bus stand. I waved bye and walked towards the bus stand. After waiting for 5 minutes I got a bus to Cochin. I boarded it and got myself a window seat in the middle. Twenty minutes into the 1 hour bus journey, I get a call from my father.
“Hello”, I answered.
“Where are you now?”, he asked in a very stern voice.
“On a bus to Cochin from Kottayam”
“What did you tell your mother about going to Delhi and all?” You aren’t going anywhere. You will be in Cochin itself, understand?”, His tone was a lot more commanding than I could tolerate.
“Acha, you can’t say I can’t go. It is my wish whether or not to go. I can and I will go”, I said in a gentle but stern tone.
“Don’t back answer me! Just listen to me. Go to Cochin and come back home after two days. Is that clear?”, He was all furious by this time.
“Why can’t I go? I really want to go and if I want to go, I don’t understand why I can’t go? You don’t have to take care of the expenses anyway”, I retorted.
“Get down wherever you are right now! I am coming straight away in the car and picking you up from there!”, he was all boiling by this time. I could sense it from his tone. He was always short-tempered. I also inherited that bit from him.
“Acha, listen, anyways you can’t drag me all the way back home forcefully. Let me take decisions in life and bear with the consequences. Therefore lets just pause this conversation here and continue later, after I come back. Anyways I am on my way to Cochin now and I will keep you updated on my journey plans”, I said this and held the phone for a minute, there was nothing but silence, and ended the call.
I understood what was happening through his mind. There was nothing he can do to stop me but just let me go. But I had already made up my mind.
I had a night and day in Cochin to pack my bags and get all the things required. Christo, Ben and Alfred already there in our house in Cochin.
“We have our train tomorrow at night to Delhi. It is a two days journey from then. Justin and Akhil will be reaching one day early as they have left today”, Alfred was explaining the details to me. “Guess what! Neil and Vishnu are also coming with us. But they do not have confirmed tickets so we might have to share our berths with them.”
“That wouldn’t be a problem. We have four berths confirmed right? So we will share and reach Delhi somehow”, said Christo.
“Yeah, we will manage that somehow”, Ben seconded Christo.
2.The Journey Begins
Everybody made sure they had packed all the necessary things.Phone, chargers,speaker, earphones and the rest of the ‘necessities’ to keep the body and mind at peace. We headed towards the railway station. I called my dad and told him I am boarding the train. We found the train in the announced platform. We got in, found our seats and got settled.
It is a 48hrs (approx) journey to Delhi from Cochin. So we had ample amount of time in the train and we had to find some ways to keep ourselves entertained. Since we had only four berths, we took turns in sleeping. We had plenty of time and nobody was in a hurry to sleep and get re-energised.
Two hours down the journey, the train comes to a halt for a rail crossing. Then comes a guy to our compartment, with cables all around his neck and body. He was selling data cables, chargers and earphones for mobiles.
“Do you have power banks?”, I asked eagerly.
“Yes I have ones ranging from 2500~10,000mAh”, by saying this, he started showing me the models he had.
“10,000 mAh and only 1000Rs? Whoa! That’s a good price”, I thought to myself.
The previous one I had was lost in the Goa trip. And moreover this trip we were going to stay away from an electricity source god-knows how long. So it only made sense to get a power bank; at least as a back up energy source for emergency.
“Okay, I will take this”, I said holding a grey ‘10,000mAh’ one.
“1000Rs”, he said with deep humility.
I gave him 1000Rs and was checking out my new power bank. As soon as the salesman had gone, I noticed that there’s something wrong with the power bank. The lights were blinking but the phone wasn’t getting charged. The charging icon was being shown before when plugged in with the power bank. My doubts grew and I thought about those solar phone chargers which was a scam.
Small rectangle solar cells like patches having a micro-USB end were widely available with local vendors. Instead of having a solar panel, these ‘Solar chargers’ have a button cell inside. So when you connect the cable to your phone, it will show as the phone is being charged. But as time goes on you’d realise it is not actually charging your phones battery and it is merely a scam.
“Damn! That guy just made a fool out of me and took the 1000Rs”, I thought to myself. “Easy money for him. I shouldn’t have let him make a fool out of me. What a moron am I?” I ran in the direction the salesman had gone. I found him two compartments later trying to sell the rest of the things to others.
“This is not working, you can keep the powerbank and give me my money back”, I demanded.
“I will give you another piece then”, he started searching for another piece in his bag.
“No, I don’t want any, I just want my money back!”
All of a sudden the train blew the horn and there was a jerking motion. I look around and makes sure the train had started moving. I turn back around to the salesman for the money. To my surprise he had started walking towards the exit already. I called him from behind to stop. He walked as if he was late for something. I saw him exit through the door at the end. I ran behind him and found him walking on the platform. I jumped out of the train and held him by his shirt.
“Give me my money and go”, I demanded.
“Do you want the money or go in this train?”, He asked turning to look at me and I saw a smirk on his face.
It took me sometime to analyse the situation and to understand the situation I had brought myself into. The train had already started moving and it was gaining speed. I stood there for a fraction of a second and thought of what to do next? Damn! I ran to the door and jumped inside the train and I looked at the salesman. He still had that smirk. With all the anger and frustration, I threw the power bank which was still in my hand, at his face with full force, but missed him by an inch or two. I was pretty pissed because it was just the starting of the journey and one guy had already fooled and taken 1000Rs already. I walked to my seat annoyed and cursing myself.
“Where’s your power bank?”, Alfred asked as soon as I reached back.
“Why? What happened now?”, I asked back with an annoyed look, wishing he hadn’t asked that right away.
“I saw a power bank fly and get smashed at the wall over there”, Alfred replied naively. “I was wondering if that was yours”
“Yeah that was mine”, I couldn’t help but laugh. With a sly smile, I explained what just happened five minutes back.
“Anyways, I guess I will be more careful with my spending now. Next time I would think twice before I buy something. Well it is just another lesson learnt”, I said learning from the mistakes, bringing a positive outlook to the problem.