Solo Travel Diaries – Strangers

While I travel seldom, of the times I travel, mostly I travel alone. Solo travel diaries are my weird experiments and experiences from incidents during my solo travel.

—–

Don’t talk to strangers. Stranger is danger.” something that we are taught since childhood.

But still, it happens, often, that you meet someone on your journey, you talk with them, and they leave a lasting impression on your mind, sometimes on your wallet.

I was standing near a charging booth, refilling the juice in my phone, which would help me stay alive that 9 hours solo journey.

While we don’t have anything to do when we can’t use our phones now-a-days, I usually have a lot of fun when my phone’s not in my hand.

I was whistling the tunes of some of my favorite songs, sometimes singing them along. I was observing the people around me and started noting down the types of people that one can find on a common station (probably future post 😛).

While doing all this, I had my one hand fixed on my mobile phone while the other on my bag. I just couldn’t let go of the fear of someone stealing things from me from that crowded place.

Suddenly, a man in his forties came from behind me and started talking to me.

“Hey. You’re a local resident of this place?” The man said.

Rather hesitantly, I replied “Yes.”

“Actually, I was here to meet my friend. He’s at the platform 10. (We were at platform 1). But the problem is I forgot my wallet at home and I need to buy the platform ticket. Can you please give me some money?” The guy continued, in English. Yes.

He was dressed decent and was speaking to me in a sophisticate manner and in English, in a state where very few do that. So, his first impression on anyone would be that he’s a genuine case. And he was asking for a nominal amount, so one would just give him money, with intentions to help.

“Actually, I don’t have change for that amount. Sorry.” I said the truth, but even if I would have had change with me, I would have lied to say the same thing.

“How much do you have? These shops can give you change.” He said pointing at the nearby shops.

I said bluntly “Why don’t you go and ask them directly? They would probably give you some money.”

This would have offended a genuine man. But he went on to talk to the shopkeeper.

While he walked to the counter, I watched him from the corner of my eyes. He walked to the counter, looked at me, and then was standing there for a while. There was confusion on his face. And it looked very genuine to me.

“He would give change if you buy something from him.” He said to me when he came back.

“I already bought what I need for the journey. And I gave him all the change that I had against those stuff.” I shrugged.

There was silence, a weird silence for few moments, after which he was about to speak something. But I interrupted him – “Why don’t you ask them? They might be having change and they might help you.” I was pointing towards the station officers.

He looked towards them. His face showed hesitation and he left, slowly looking around him, as if finding someone.

Then he boarded the train standing on Platform 1 itself. While moving towards the train, he briefly glanced back towards me.

I was watching him, indirectly.

He was obviously not a genuine case. He didn’t need any platform ticket. The train that he boarded left soon thereafter, and I never saw him come out of that coach. He might have needed money for some other reason, but he lied about the whole friend thing.

And I didn’t fall for it, being a cold hearted person. Had he told me the truth, I might have helped. Probably, still not. It’s hard trusting people nowadays.

While we may make friends out of those strangers while travelling, we have to be vigilant too. Not everyone’s the same.

Dreaming Reality – When I had to pee

image

I was travelling in a nonstop air conditioned bus with upper and lower sleeper compartments. I was sitting in my lower compartment, holding tight to the window railing for balance and another hand squeezed between my thighs.

Maintaining the balance of my body was very important. I had my lunch just before the start of the travel. And never had the time to press the flush.

I had to go to pee. But thanks to my efforts of booking a nonstop transport, I was stuck there until the bus would pit in for some break.

I had tried all the methods I could remember to put the nature’s call on silent. I tried listening to music, watching an intense movie, playing with the curtains, taking deep breaths, concentrating hard on the broken mini TV in front of me, and what not!

Now the time for trying to forget that thing was gone and the mission to not let the fugitive escape had started. I was sitting with immense concentration, afraid that a bump on the road might let the dam explode…

I tried one more thing that had always helped me with boredom, although not directly related to my problem then but still, was worth a shot.

But there was a slight problem. All the seats had the translucent doors closed. I could only see a blurry image of people inside.

The bus took a sharp turn, which shoot my determination to its peak level.

I settled back to my position and saw outside my compartments. I could see the reflection of the seat above me on the door of the seat in besides me. Someone was sat up, a rather abruptly. It seemed the person inside was uneasy with the way the bus took turns. Well, I was uneasy too…

I tried reading a novel, but couldn’t concentrate on the words well. Just then I heard the door of some compartment slide.

I peaked outside my compartment again and saw that the door to the compartment above me had opened. It was a girl of my age, who looked as if in great tension. She looked around, just like I had a few minutes before. Then she went back inside, but didn’t close the doors.

I wondered what could be worrying her. But my own tension was far more important than her that time.

For a few minutes, my mind was more occupied in stopping something else, but then my curiosity got over it.

One more time, I let my head outside my compartment and looked above my seat. Coincidentally, she did the same, peaking down at me. She had the same expression of tension on her face as I thought I had at that time.

I hesitated a little, but then decided to talk to her. I showed her my little finger and made a question-asking-expression on my face. She made an uncomfortable face, but nodded eventually.

Funny, we both were in the same situation, and on huge pressure…

I showed my little finger to her again, and then with the other hand stretched the imaginary line of my little finger to the Max stretch that my finger and thumb could achieve.

My face must have shown her my agony, that first she looked at me with pity in her eyes, and then started laughing wildly.

I laughed along too, but another bump on the road stopped our laughter and instantly replaced it with a grim.

After a few glances, she came down from her upper compartment and sat in front of me in my compartment. We carried on with intros and casual talk, while we both had looked tension and pity on our face for our condition.

I gave her a comforting look while holding on to one of her hands. She didn’t let go, to my surprise.

The bus took another sharp turn and we both held tightened our grip on other’s hands.

I didn’t know her name, she didn’t know me either. But holding hands tightly did help very well… Whenever the poor condition of roads questioned our strength to hold on and whenever the sharp turns tested the leakproof-ness of our packets, we fought the situation with vigor.

We didn’t leave each other’s hands till next half an hour. During that time we kept the conversation on, which helped us get distracted from the most common problem of humans, the pee-pee condition.

When the bus slowed down and took a halt, we got up slowly, still holding hands, careful not to let haste waste our efforts so far.

While all this time, I had been successful to get my mind distracted from the pressure but I thought, even holding hands with a beautiful girl in a tightly build bus compartment couldn’t help me win over it. That was the time I understood one saying – when you got to go, you got to go! 😉

We reached the loo and finally parted our ways to be at peace… Phewwwwwww!

—–

In real, there was no girl above my compartment and there was no holding hands. Otherwise, everything was true. I was in a tensed situation and was waiting, longingly, for the bus to stop.

An out of control mind made up this story to divert my attention from the reality… and I instantly started writing it, to help me get diverted.

Lens vs Eyes

image

Months of boredom and years of frustration is making me all cranky and sad. I have to go out somewhere. I have to take a break from my daily life. I have to do something…

The ring of my phone dragged me out of my frustrated thoughts. My friend asked me to check out a trip cum trek plan to Kasol. Instantly I got up, planned it with my friend, decided about going, informed office and family about it and booked the tickets within a span of half-a-day.

A vacation finally, after a very very long time…

Waiting for the Time

We reached early at Delhi and had a few hours before our trip started from there. So, we took rest in the garden near the India Gate eating bhutta (corn), waiting for the opportune moment to leave the surreal place towards our pick-up point.

At the Gate, we took some pics and sat down to rest.

Our trip captain had created a group on WhatsApp of all the people being part of the trip. People were sharing their experience in the new town, pictures of places they were visiting and the usual useless stuff.

My friend was busy in trying to create his first impression in the group by following the herd. It was boring to sit there silently, but as we were tired of the past 4-5 hours of walking with all the luggage, it was nice.

When we reached the Gate, there was a flood of selfies and group pictures. I saw a man, in his late 60s guess, looking at all of them. He was a good physique, slow steady walk, sharp eyed man with his hands folded behind him. He looked like an ex-army person.

He looked displeased with those kids. Probably because those kids were happily taking pics with the Gate instead of feeling gratitude for those souls, that the Gate represents.

Then there was a woman in her late 40s. She was selling baked corn. We weren’t starving, but we took one each and sat there in the garden. I had to pay but as I didn’t have proper denominations, I told her to pay her in a minute by borrowing from my friend.

Her girl came after a few minutes to ask for payment (probably the woman thought we’d forgotten the debt). I told her to bring one more for us both. That was I could use the bigger denomination. She went back happily.

After that she went to (probably) her brother to play with him. But her brother scolded her and said that the game wasn’t suitable for her. She sat there watching them play.

They were playing lagori (satodiyo) (seven stones). One of them was very good at taking the aim, but his partner was slow at supporting him. The other team was not so good either in seeking or in hitting. But they won most of the matches as they played well as a team.

Besides, the one who was good at hitting missed several aims in boasting about his ability and telling his mate how to play the game. But none of these mattered to them.  They enjoyed anyway.

As the bulky-tummy-boy missed hitting the hitters, his team mate hit the ball on his big-bang-bum, calling him a slow ass. I and the other team members laughed

Mixed Introduction

Our trip started with gathering at the pickup point. Having this bad habit of being on time, we reached at the spot a little late and still got early than 90% of others. 😛 We started introducing ourselves. There were people from different parts of the country.

People started sharing their personal details, family history, job details etc. and we started judging people based on the details shared by them, while trying desperately to remember their names. It was a good deal of effort to talk with a few and there were some who never stopped talking, even when we looked away.

While people were interacting and trying to break the ice, I was busy at studying their behavior. How differently people behaved on the same situation and how different were their views on the same topic – was exciting to me.

With each conversation and with each of their expression, I knew more about their nature and their attitude towards different things. Who was more interested in whom, who was scared and who was really excited, who was humble and who was a show off, all came out with more time spent talking to them.

It was supposed to be one group going on a trip, but from the start itself, the group started splitting into various mini-groups based on the law of mutual attraction, which states that “Just by one glance at the person, instinct tells us whether we would be comfortable with them or not, and most of the times, that instinct is true.” The instinct is not based on judging others, but on knowing ourselves very well that it might require us to go out of our comfort zone.

There were three types of people on the trip – one who cared for no one and enjoyed in their own style, one who were attention seekers trying to please “the cream in the crowd”, and the attention givers. And there was me too, the forth category. 😛

And they were doing similar activities – enjoying themselves & getting involved in the group or learning from attention seekers to seek attention; seeking attention or desperately trying to; and giving attention or bearing the pain of smiling at those stupid gimmicks by attention seekers.

Start of the Journey

The journey started with people occupying the seats in the bus. Old childhood habit of climbing the school bus last didn’t let go of us this time too. We saw a few seats available in the front while many at the back. We instantly went to the backside, another old habit. We settled and starting talking with each other about how excited we were about the journey. It was going to be awesome – claimed different exclamations.

Soon the party started and more “cool” people started to show off their “cool” traits of drinking, joking and sharing their previous experience (more of exaggerated escapade).

Based on the mini-groups formed while waiting for others, the sitting arrangement wasn’t hard to guess. It was obvious that the back seats were full of extroverts and front seats were full of semi-introverts, who took a little more time trusting others. However, I was at the back, even though being wholly introvert.

While the ice had been broken well in advance, it took me more time to get along with the whole jolly attitude. It was a difficult switch to make.

But I just ignored trying to do that and continued with my observations. There were people worse than me. They were not interested in getting along at all. They were more like – “let me sleep in peace till the end of this trip.” 😛

Night, Morning & Dancing Bus

Night was the time to take rest and recharge for the next full day of adventure. While some had started the excitement right then and there 😉

We were watching a movie on our phone, but that didn’t last long and I fall asleep.

As people started to wake up, the morning got more and more interesting. We stopped at a ‘dhaba’ (roadside eatery). Our cravings had crossed limits and it was a fight to get our breakfast in all that crowd and confusion.

While the route was long, fellow travelers wanted to wait no more for having fun. The music system started playing some beats and those of the extrovert types, who could dance, started grooving to the tunes. Soon people started stepping in the narrow dance floor.

While those who could dance raised their ratings in the bus, while those who couldn’t but were enthusiastic enough to dance raise the drollery in the bus to high levels.

As one after the other people started to switch off their eyes, my mind filled with several thoughts about how the next few days would be. It was just a trip you would think. But it was way more than that for me.

It was my first encounter with strangers. It was a chance for me to become an extrovert from an introvert person. And apart from all these, it was an item from the list of places I wanted to travel in the world.

So, all in all, it was a big deal for me. And imagining the carousel of images flashing by my mind along with a mixture of scenes visible through the window, I slowly drifted into dream world.

The morning was difficult as my friend had started drifting away into pleasing the cream. I started conversing and slowly felt that it wasn’t that difficult as I thought. But then again my introvert mind made likes and dislikes about people and took me away from them.

When the dancing acts started, I didn’t get up and show some moves in the bus. First I was more interested in watching the natural beauty outside the window and second, I just couldn’t. 😛

There were some humorous & some sizzling dance moves, some quaint and amusing jest, while some irritating and odd comments that raised sparse rivalry amongst people, while bonded a few others. It even showed that some of our fellow travelers were totally pesky and some were awesomely cool.

Photography

In this age where it was more important to tell others that we were enjoying rather than enjoying itself, photography is the first thing we do at every place we travel.

Here also, there were selfies and abundant natural pictures of whatever came in the way. In just a span of an hour, there were a thousand clicks and several hundred “woo” moments for the crowd.

While people either took pictures of self, where background didn’t really matter at all or tool pictures of natural landscapes and scenery like a pro. But very few, actually none, were interested in capturing the odd.

The people there, their culture and their style of living, the natural habitat and the shrewd juggad in various day to day activities.

Apart from that the usual mountains, trees and river, I was more interested in the microscopic beauty of nature. Some I was able to capture, while some are only recorded in my memory.

While a fake sunrise pic through accidental flash of my camera amazed others believing it to be real sunrise (even in their social site updates), my camera captured old architectures, dew formation on leaves and wires, naturally grown green gardens, the fight of sun against the clouds…

While things only in my mind were – a dirt hill made by ants which had weird formations all around the top, a bird teaching her babies the first flight, a dog reacting to the sudden human invasion to their territory by shaking his head, and a bird hunting a fish from the gushing river flow in a flash… These and several such serene sides of nature were captured in my memory.

Dangerous Turns & Tunnel

While climbing up the hill, there were some parlous turns on the road. They created a sense of roller coaster ride for those on-board. We were awestruck by the way the tire turned just inches from the end of the road. Just a slight error and we would have fallen down the cliff in to the river. The driver, of course, was very skilled that we didn’t.

When bus entered in the tunnel, people started shouting, coming out of the window. They waved to the other commuters on the road and yelled hip hip hurray when we came out in the light.

The turns were terrific. Sometimes the tires even went outside the edge of the road, hanging in the moment and then came back on the surface. It was a sight to be seen, if you only see the tire and the cliff below, you’d feel that the bus is falling down the cliff and still you’re happy. An amazing illusion of emotions…

When we stepped in the tunnel, there were tiny orange lights on the ceiling. Right above one of such light, I saw a nest of a bird. In the dim light, it was not a clear view. But I wondered how our paths always intersected with the habitat of other animals.

At the end of the tunnel I saw the light. The echo of different sounds created a unique effect in the Tunnel. And when we came out of the tunnel, just then echo suddenly disappeared and there was a crisp change in the sounds that we heard before. As if the horn was suddenly kept inside the water and blown….

The Rain – Spoiler and Maker

As soon as we reached the destination of our trip, it started raining and continued with a few breaks. The rain spoiled our plan for the big trek, however, we continued with a smaller trek and had fun with it.

Crazy excitement, going through those mud ponds, conquering those rocks and walking with our mates was so much fun. In between that came photography time, selfie time and several hours of chit-chatting.

The rain created a mesmerizing environment there and the view of the dark cloudy sky with a mixture of snow covered mountain peaks and the sound of the nearby river created a perfect representation of nature and tranquility. The placid serenity of the silent mountains created a perfect studio for the photographer in us.

Bonfire

At night, it was time for the bonfire. After getting fresh and eating our food, we assembled for some fire and dance, both real and metaphorically. We danced and enjoyed till late in night. This was the time when almost everyone enjoyed dancing and chilling.

While I was so excited to dance at the bonfire, it didn’t quite go well. Apart from some dancing and grooving, people were more interested in smoking and weeding around. The smoke filled the air and created a mixture of pollution & irritation in the otherwise dulcet night.

Bonfire was at its place, but the dancing was not organized. With so many people around, less number of dancers and very few interested in dancing, it was very difficult for me to dance my heart out in that smoke and rout mob. Still I tried, but finally gave up as smoke filled my lungs. I was so roiled that I didn’t even attend the next day bonfire night.

Night and the Emotions

Dance let the emotions flow. The starry night and the pleasant cold breeze created a romantic atmosphere and helped create more bonded friendship amongst a few. While others were fuddled in weed and alcohol.

All the smoke and alcohol made me totally irritated and disinterested in the group and I was more interested in sleeping than to befriend anyone. I went straight to my room and let the night end for me.

The Next Day

While it continued raining and spoiled all our plans to visit nearby places, we were going to nearby Gurudwara and the natural hot-water spring. It was inexpressible how soothing was the experience to take a dip in the hot-water pond.

People shopped and wandered around while coming back from the Gurudwara. At night, was another bonfire, but I didn’t attend that.

While the soothing hot-water touch was great, but I was more interested in going further towards the mountain peak, where it was snowing. We tried searching for a mode of transportation but couldn’t. We even tried talking to the coordinator regarding taking the whole group further up the mountain, but due to time constraint, he couldn’t.

While coming back from the Gurudwara, I was filled with varied emotions of not being able to explore everything, yet happy to have seen these beautiful places. I let my emotions take form of art and drew a half-face on the dew-filled window of our bus.

Someone point it out to everyone in the bus and it came to my attention that I was not alone there. 😛

Curfew Cries

It was time for us to leave. The sunny clear sky mocked us when we were leaving the place. While traveling back, a riot occurred at the city and we were halted on-route. We had to spend the whole night on the highway. People went out for some tea, food and yet another round of smoking.

The roads cleared in the morning and we departed for our way back home. On our way back, we saw the devastation the root has caused and clicked a few pics for memory.

It was time to turn back and go back to where it started. But some kibosh stopped us right in the middle of the road. While in the midst of riot and people killing each other, the adventurous gut of people inside the bus was still high. But as soon as my mood for fun started, these people started to smoke. And all my adrenaline to do something crazy would flush down the sewer.

The night was long and the silence was irksome. So people who had bonded well during the journey started conversioning, while waiting for sleep to fill their eyes. I listened to their conversations silently. They were interesting sometimes. 😛 At least they were better than the folks outside smoking their lungs out.

On our way back, I saw how easy it is to last our minds and go crazy for us humans for some selfish cause. We can do anything to disrupt normal life, but we can’t do even slightest of hard work to make it better.

Run Away Baby

As soon as we reached Delhi again, the rush to run away from the city towards our home started. The departing goodbyes were a little dramatic. People were hugging and bidding farewell to each other. It was a little heavy.

We took a train back to our home and our fairy tale came to an end.

While I had not bonded with anyone to feel emotions for anyone of them, yet leaving them was a little emotional. I couldn’t express any of that, but still felt happy that I had made lots of friends on this journey and the moments would be cherished for days to come.

While for most of us, the trip was over. But for us it was still a day more. Two of our mates joined us on our travel back to home and we took whatever train we could find on the platform going towards our cities. It was a Run Away rush as the riot was not stopping and we had to save our asses.

But in all that upsurge, me and one of my friend stayed real calm. We cared nothing about all that and had a few common ways of having fun. The train journey was a story to tell, some other time may be. 😉

The Aftermath

The aftermath of the trip was bewitching. It took several days to recover from the emotional flood of excitement and fun from the trip and to get back to our boring usual working lives. And several instances of that aftermath was poured out in form of social media group chat. Group chat was filled with emotional messages and ‘miss you’s and other such stuff.

Slowly the shine of that trip fade away and we were back to our busy selves. But it was amazing how few of us were bonded for life…

She saved me!

road_night_landscape_mood_high_quality_picture

I was on my way back home after a fun-filled evening with my friends. On the way to their PG room, they were driving and I was in the back seat. But now, it was my turn. And I wasn’t aware of the route. My phone was dead, but that didn’t do any bad, ‘Maps’ never works when needed anyway. 😛 And it was 2 am, so hardly anyone would be available on the road to guide me. So I relied on my instincts and continued driving…

There was mildly cold breeze and sky was clean black. No noise on the road, no traffic, no sign of humans… Alas! It was peaceful.

I saw there was a T-split ahead on the road. So I had either to take left or a right, and my directional instinct told me I had to go left.

The road was narrow and covered with trees on both sides. I had never been to this area before, and there were no sign-boards or shops from which I could make out where I was headed to. I got a little concerned about my choice of route. But then, I saw a right turn ahead, which was in sync to my directional-instinct. So I continued moving ahead.

But suddenly, the air turned bitterly cold! I lowered my speed and looked around me while driving. There was nothing around me except dense trees. And then I looked in front of me and wait……… there was someone at the far turning on the road. I couldn’t make out what was it so I continued driving.

The turning was about 300-400 meters ahead. The figure was visible now and it was of a girl…

The turning was not clearly visible due to the trees and the stiff shape of the turn. I blew horn to inform the girl that a vehicle was on its way to hit her if she didn’t move (I was too scared to slow down!)

As soon as I blew the horn, she turned towards me and started screaming. Her scream was so sharp (even from such a distance) that I could hear every word she said. She said “Stop… Don’t… Come… Here… Stop… Don’t…”

I stopped the bike right on the spot. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but just blurry white colored figure of a girl. And her black long open hair, which didn’t move even in that fine breeze. Her screaming stopped as soon as I stopped my bike. I was too afraid to do anything further, and she didn’t seem to go away.

The cold was weird in that monsoon season. And that figure was weirder as she seemed to be floating some inches above the ground. She kept on looking towards me and I felt a tight chill in my guts that this might be something beyond explanation.

Goosebumps had taken the toll over me. I was completely scared and was about to pee, just when I heard another horn behind me. I turned back and saw another bike coming towards me.

I felt good now. It was a lone rider like me. He rode past me and went ahead, and…….. the girl was no where! Where did she go! I stood there on my bike dumbstruck. The bike which went past me took the turn and disappeared in to darkness. And now the road was as empty as my mind that time.

The breeze had got normal and the chill had disappeared. The trees around me were normal and nothing was odd. I was nervous and afraid of moving further, but as the figure was no where to be seen and that bike had gone on the same way, I took a deep breath and decided to go ahead.

I probably was sleepy and may be all of that was just my imagination. With that thought I started my bike again and moved forward. But I couldn’t increase the speed, I felt that chill in the air again and was afraid that the figure might just reappear on that turn.

I took the turn, while kept looking around me. Nothing… So it was proved that I was imagining things! “Idiot fellow!” I told myself and continued forward.

Just a few meters from the turn and I was back to that familiar city roads and shops around me. As I moved forward, I saw a crowd ahead of me. I went to the crowd and stopped my bike. People were gathered in a circle and were discussing something in low tones. I went to the crowd and found that there was an accident between a bike and a truck. The truck drove away without stopping and people had called the police for action. I went for a closer look on the accident…

It was the same bike that had drove past me in before… The rider was not present, probably the ambulance would’ve got him.

That night I thought – it could’ve been me…! But that figure, that supernatural substance, that girl saved my life. She told me to stop. And I did. And I was saved. She saved me…

I thanked God and asked for blessings for that unknown figure who saved me. If there was such a figure at all…

P.s.: I never travelled that same road again, not even in day time, and I don’t even remember which route did I pick that day that I got on that road. I only remember that white outline floating on the road and that loud scream…