Weekday Morning Trek & Night Camp

Thursday, November 10, 2016
Weekday Morning Trek & Night Camp 
WRITE UP by Nikhil

On time Reporting
It is customary, that at 6pm sharp, assignments spring up in my boss’s head out of the blue. I sat contemplating the excuse I should be giving as I did not want the person I had to pick waiting for long. Moreover, I remembered Vanathi’s mail which asked us to please report sharp on time in red and bold and bigger font (the gimmick). As if on cue, my boss called me at 6pm sharp. It is not every day you register to spend a night with 50 other strangers to cook together and sleep under nature’s blanket. The thought of breathing pure air flashed my mind. I ignored the call and in the minute that followed, I was out of office, throttling towards Velachery.

After meeting Abi, Kanishka and Gowtham, we started off in two bikes to VIT Chennai. Vanathi wasn’t joining us because ‘fortunately or unfortunately’, she planned  came to campsite all the way by cycle. We reached near VIT where we were greeted by another group of people. I met Peter for the first time and said my hello. ‘Where is Va-Ra-Dha-Ra-Ja?’, he asked around, neatly spreading the syllables. As more people joined, Peter and Colonel motioned us to follow their cars and so we did. 
The lights faded, the air got colder and the roads dustier. 

Atrocity @ Campsite

It was around 8pm when we reached campsite. I took some time to change into comfortable clothes. By the time I was ready, the tarpaulins were spread; vegetables, chopping pads and cutlery were laid out. The meal preparation had begun. The search for twigs, branches and firewood was also on in parallel. People were also helping setting up the cooking points. It was as if everyone already knew what exactly they had to do. For a moment, I felt lost but soon joined the team setting the fire. The vegetable choppers were enough in number. Talks and introductions were exchanged over firewood lighting, onion chopping and chicken cleaning. We were ready to cook in less than half an hour. Chicken and Mushroom were the first of the items followed by Sambar, Rasam (Raja’s ‘Athu Rasam illa Vesham’ still echoes) and rice. Ingredients were added meticulously while casually joking about previous cooking disasters.
I don’t know how some people had network and internet access. The 500/1000 ban was doing its rounds though most of us discarded it as rumors (only to realize it wasn’t the next day). Cooking together was fun as it involved lots of chatter, tastings and pulling each others’ legs. The dishes that were brought out were a result of the combined cooking knowledge of 50 people. B11pm, we started eating under the moonlit sky, graciously filling our stomachs with the joy of having prepared the meal together.

By midnight, almost everyone had settled down, some on the tarpaulin, some inside the tents, some near the freshly lit bonfire. The night plunged into the chilled wind constantly hovering. The stars danced in the sky and the moon crept to one side of the horizon keeping a vigilant eye on our proceedings. I closed my eyes momentarily drifting to sleep.
I was wide awake soon for two reasons. One, the incessant snoring and two, most importantly, the lovely ghost stories. I wasn’t listening when it started but soon one person near me stood up and went near the tent which was discussing the subject. We fondly called him the ‘thundu’ fellow. His voice had the characteristic that could only be described as ghastly. He started talking about what he claimed as his real life incident of encounter with a ghost. Mixing horoscope, stars and its movements, he narrated the incident with utmost focus and a disciplined tone. He paused in between to provide the speculative effect and sat down complaining of a vomiting sensation. All of us felt the creeps! By the time he had completed talking, we felt an unpleasant sensation in our stomachs (This was probably not because of the extra Garam Masala in Sambar or Rasam). The ‘thundu’ fellow then walked away and disappeared into the night. We had a wonderful humorous time talking and speculating paranormal experiences. More stories of army deaths, suicides, haunted places went on around the bonfire. The night was young and I was glad I had stayed up for all these conversations.

Morning Trek
At 5am, the chime of the bell flew along the morning breeze and I instantly got reminded of Sound of Music. Peter moved around the tarpaulin and the tents calling out to people. ‘Wake up, let’s go’, he said in his thick accent. By 5.30am, we were up and packed. I bid goodbye to the campsite as we took our vehicles and made our way out of the green space. The warm trees stand evidence to our stories and experiences of the night.
We were to climb a small hill surrounding the quarry for our morning trek. It was a clear trail with a few rocks and thorny shrubs. The sun took the form of a golden ball as it followed us in our climb. In no time, we had scaled the small hill. The view of the lake and the quarry was breathtaking. We took our photos and started our hike down the trail. A short swim was to be followed. As I knew little swimming only, I stayed within the limits. I could see many others swimming deep while some were basking in the morning sun. A lake brings you the kind of relaxation that makes you forget everything else going on in your life.

Returning to Concrete JUNGLE 
After the swim, we checked our bags and started one after another hoping to see a similar face in the upcoming CTC events. As I took out my bike, I noticed a familiar ‘thundu’ lying lethargically on a fellow. I called out to him and asked his name. It was nice meeting you ‘thundu’ fellow. Abi and I started off in my bike to the unwelcome bustle of the city, to the polluted air, to the unnecessary comforts and the dull livelihoods. The memory of nature, fresh air, likeminded people and the peace of mind from this camp would stay until my next CTC event.



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