If I was the person I was at the beginning of 2021, I would not have jumped into a cold waterfall in my undies or booked a 380 Km Uber ride. The younger version of me would not have spent hours learning poker instead of finishing a book on my kindle. Just like software updates on my phone, I seem to have gone through a gradual, but substantial upgrade in 2021. The trip to Kodachadri this weekend made me realise the extent of this upgrade.
After having been a very methodical, serious and rational person for a decades, I’ve managed to be a more fun and empathetic person this year. There’s more room for impulsive and instinctive moves in my head these days.
On Thursday evening (23 December), I was quite disappointed. I was missing out on a fun group trip with my cousins, aunt, uncle and their friends as I was caught up in the marathon product review meeting.
Hopes of joining the group next day disappeared as my boss assigned a task. I managed to finish it by evening and pondered about my weekend plans. I could have chilled in my aunt’s house or done something in Bengaluru. My friends had planned a lunch on Saturday, but that was going to be a 3-hour affair at best.
Somehow, my gut feeling suggested that I should go and join the group trip. The only way to do it was to hire an Uber. After a couple of cancellations and failed negotiations with reluctant drivers, I was able to find a guy who would come if I paid Rs 500 over and above the Uber fare. This driver had some close relative near Shimoga. The possibility of catching up with them was the additional incentive that sealed the deal for him.
I reached Barekal Farmstay around 3.30 am on December 25th after surviving a 7-hour drive on a cold night. There was a slightly scary section that was full of fog during the drive. Thankfully, the driver was an experienced guy. He had negotiated this section in the past.
When we reached the destination, the driver complained about the commission taken by Uber. However, I told him that this was a necessary evil in this kinda business.
After catching a 3-hour nap, I woke up to a cold beautiful morning in Barekal Farmstay. Getting to know ten new people who were part of the trip seemed daunting at first. There were three other families along with mine in the group: Jaisimha & Family, Sujith & Family, Balaji & Family (ironically, Balaji uncle had stayed back at home).
There was a significant generation gap between the oldies and the kids in the trip. The oldies were nostalgic about their experiences in Jodhpur (they had worked for the Indian Air Force as colleagues) . The kids were mostly interested in having fun. I didn’t belong to either of the generations. I was somewhere in the middle, but I choose to hang out with the kids of the group.
Somehow, my subpar social skills helped me survive the initial introductions. Thankfully, I had met some of the people in the group at a wedding in November. So I wasn’t entirely new in this group.
But, I must admit that everyone in the group made me feel comfortable and I had a fantastic conversation with Sujith uncle on the way to Kodachadri falls. I basically gave him a short summary of my career path, my UPSC prep days, my opinions about media and general thoughts on products.
In an hour or so, we reached a point where an army of tourist jeeps were parked. I noted that these jeeps were equipped with truck suspensions! Leaf springs took me back to Daimler days for a moment ( Daimler India Commercial Vehicles was my first workplace).
Co-travellers willing to sustain pain, super-skilled drivers and a forest department checkpoint to regulate tourism were the other three ingredients that were essential to make this day happen.
The ride to the top of Kodachadri hills squeezed all of us like a washing machine drier. I burnt around 350 calories by just sitting in the jeep and holding on to the jeep handle as we criss-crossed the rugged terrain. The driver kept on playing pathos songs as we climbed up. This indirectly reminded me that there were a few things that can cause more pain than the jeep ride to the top of Kodachadri Hills.
Next, we went to a waterfall nearby. There was more trekking to be done. There were three levels to this waterfall and the view kept getting better as we climbed.
It was vaguely similar to Bahubali climbing up to the top. We managed to climb up to the top in an hour, I guess. Initially, I was reluctant to get into the water as I had not taken towels or fresh clothes. Then I figured out that I could undress and enter the water in my undies.
That was the second instinctive decision I had taken in a week! But it was worth it. I loved the fun, unhindered version of me as much as the nerdy, collected persona I strove to maintain. By the time I reached the jeep again, I had dirty jeans, soiled shoes and unkempt hair. My watch indicated that I had burnt more than 1000 calories. It was a good day.
We went back to the room after buying some Kitkats, Fruit & Nut bars and Maaza bottles. All of us changed clothes and had dinner. There was a haphazard game of Antakshari near the bonfire. Most of us didn’t know more than one line of any song. I managed to sing four lines of Roja title track (IMHO it was a major achievement. LOL).
The clear sky helped us to watch the stars and constellations. I realised that I remember only one constellation, i.e. Orion’s Belt. This led to a random discussion about astrology with Kruthi & Arundhathi. Eventually, we had a deep philosophical conversations about career and life. The kids gang ended up playing poker till 1.30 am. I made some new friends. I graduated from a learner to a rookie player by the end of that session.
After a good night’s sleep we got ready for the long drive back to Bengaluru. I was not aware of itinerary for the day. Just got ready in time and played shuttle badminton for half an hour. We stopped for breakfast at Thirthahalli and visited Kuvempu’s house. I ended up giving Gyan about the importance of poetry in shaping the civilisations to the younger kids in the group. Not surprisingly, I bought a book in the bookstore (a form of disease that’s good for one’s intelligence).
Lunch got delayed. Initially, we had planned to have in a restaurant named after Rama. But we ended up in a restaurant named after Krishna. I quipped that the gods wouldn’t mind as they are different avatars of Vishnu anyway. Finally, we ended up playing a few games and watching some songs on the TV.
As the bus reached the reached outskirts of Bengaluru, the kids gang began planning the next trip (minus oldies). I realised that group trips can be as good as solo trips. I dunno if I’ll be in Bengaluru when that happens. Dunno if Omicron variant can spoil the plans.
There is a lot of uncertainty ahead. But one thing was certain. I sensed a teeny tiny change in my psyche when the trip ended.
A change for the better.