Thursday, April 29, 2010

One night at Cherrapunji

Curves inspire! Jay felt extremely inspired and excited as the train traversed through the curvy tracks of Assam. It was long journey for Jay and his friends from IISC Bangalore. After 4 years of hard core studies, Jay was travelling back home to Cherrapunji his little town in the foot hills of eastern Himalayas. November is festival time in Meghalaya. The Wangala dance festival also known as the 100 drums festival marks the end of a period of toil, it is the harvest festival held in honor of Saljong, the Sun-god of fertility. It also marks the onset of winter. But for Cherrapunji it’s only Monsoon throughout the year. Jay wanted to show the traditional extravaganza of the wangala dance festival to his friends. Jay, Tara, Meena and Arnold weren’t the best of buddies at IISC, but they shared a tempo of high spirits which no once else had. Jay’s sudden invitation to his town came as the biggest surprise to the three friends. Still the desire to explore the unknown frontier of the North East persuaded the three to pack up their bags with Jay. Jay’s description of the Wangala dance festival and its charisma fuelled fires of enthusiasm in Tara and Meena. Though Arnold wasn’t interested much in dance or festivities, his intention to hang around with his friends was a good enough reason to make him pack his bag! The four departed from Bangalore to their dream destination…Cherrapunji.

Train No# 5625 Bangalore-Guwahati Express was not among the fastest of the trains. Two nights had passed since they started from Bangalore and the train seemed to be running endlessly. Jay was explaining again and again the fancy and fun of the dance festival which kept the spirits of Meena and Tara alive! Arnold had his own entertainment, walking from one end of the train to the other looking for good looking girls. Poor chap his luck wasn’t that good in this train. It was dawn of Day 3 when Jay noticed this beauty. The train had reached the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. Moving slowly along the curvy tracks of the Assam, the diesel engine gave occasional jerks to wake up the sleeping friends. Tara was feeling too cold. She tried covering her more with her pullover when she noticed half open window. In half sleep she tried closing it but it wouldn’t budge. Trying hard she rolled out the window in the reverse direction which opened it up fully. Tara’s eyes opened wide, the sight she saw outside the window brought a smile in her eyes! The mist covered mighty Himalayas on either side of the train caught her imagination. She sat near the window hugging tightly to her pullover admiring the awe inspiring mountains. Time passed and one by people started getting up. There was this murmuring noise all along the train. The friends made sure they had everything packed as Jay indicated it was time to get down.

Old fashioned railways station, horse driven stagecoaches, over crowded buses, mud roads, chai dukkans, men and women in traditional desi attires… it was a feast for the Bangalore based friends all along from Guwahati to Cherrapunji. It was too late when the gang reached Cherrapunji and almost mid-night when they reached the lodge where Jay had made arrangements for their night stay. Jay’s house is just few meters away from that lodge. But he knew his home is not the right place for his friends. The orthodox family scene may not be a comfortable environment for his friends. Hence he had made separate lodging arrangements. But he chose to stay home, he was aware his family would expect him to be home. Back in the room, Tara Meena and Arnold were too tired to be awake. They all fell asleep each in one direction. Two days of continuous travel had sucked out all their energy. They felt deadbeat.

Meena’s ears sensed the room phone ringing. She slowly picked it and heard Jay shouting, “Come on guys wake got to be ready in 30 mins, the pooja starts at 9.00 AM”. Meena quickly grabbed her senses and assured Jay that she would take care of pulling up others on time. She then kicked Tara and Arnold to get ready. The trio rushed up to meet the 30 min deadline so that they don’t disappoint Jay. Disappointment was avoided but not the SHOCK!

Jay was startled to see his friends in Traditional wear. Tara and Meena were in Saree and Arnold in dhoti. But the element of shock was not the dress but the way they had dressed up. No one knew how to wrap the Saree or the dhoti. Jay could not stop laughing. He wanted to give them another chance to try the dress again. But he knew the pooja rituals at his home won’t wait for them. Hence the friends decided to go ahead. The streets were all decorated for the season. Tara wanted to gaze through all the decoratives, but all that she could manage was to hold and take care of her slipping Saree. Meena was feeling far better and Arnold decided to stop worrying about his dhoti. Their moods were festive, spirits high, atmosphere joyous; a dream vacation had just taken good shape. The young friends were all happy shouting and playing around at Jay’s house. Their cheerful movement around the house was not welcome by the oldies at jay’s house.

The orthodox family of Jay started grudging slowly. There was whispering, then at a point Jay’s eldest sister shouted out at Jay. The entire crowd watched her shouting at Jay at the hallway. She was spurting out anger at the unconventional behavior of Jay’s friends in her native language. She commanded Jay to take away his friends and not to bring them back home again. Jay’s friends were there too. They did not understand why Jay was getting this ugly treatment in front of the crowd. All they could make out was that their friend was being put to embarrassment in front of everyone. They did not even realize that he was being screwed up for their acts. But all they had in mind was that Jay is being let down. The moment Jay’s sister moved out of that place, the three friends ran together to Jay and hugged him tight. Three friends hugging their friend together!!! The crowd watched that with awful eyes. Jay did not know what to tell his friends. He was speechless. Actually was almost in tears due to his sister’s awkward behavior. But when his friends hugged him he indeed broke down with tears. But this time it was tears of strength. The loving hug dismissed all embarrassment and filled his mind with peace and strength. The purity of friendship stood tall amidst all odds.

Friends FOREVER!!!