Back in Novemeber 2013, I received a call from Jay saying that he’d be coming to Delhi and wanted to meet me.
I knew Jay through a common friend, and while we had been interacting for an year or so online, we had never met before. It was the onset of winter when Jay came there, and the morning we met, we were singing songs sitting in the balcony of my flat in Delhi; in between, we also discussed about his disinterest in continuing with the job back in Mumbai, he was searching for a way out.
That was the first time we talked about the possibility of him leaving his job, and that morning this is what the message said:
“Hey, talked to my family and they’ve accepted my decision to leave the job. I’ll be leaving Mumbai by the end of this month, let’s do something.”
Few months ago, when I started hanging out with a new set of friends in Delhi, I was introduced to this guy who was working in Mumbai, but wanted to do something related to travel.
I met Nikhil for first time in October, and it was quite evident that he was also on the verge of quitting. We used to discuss this in subsequent months and eventually he resigned in February.
Then just after my trip to Mcleodganj, Nikhil and I had planned a trip to Khajuraho, during which I asked him if he’d like to join me and Jay; he accepted the offer at once.
That’s how it all began, Jay, Nikhil and I decided to travel together, starting from April. We agreed upon Mcleodganj as our first destination, since I wanted to explore the other side of this place, while Jay wanted to continue from his previous Mcleodganj trip.
During the second half of March, Nikhil somehow convinced his parents. In meantime, Nikhil and Jay finally met each other in Mumbai, while I was busy convincing both of them that we had taken a right decision.
It was 2nd of April, when I saw both of them standing outside my place in Delhi, with all their luggage. We still hadn’t booked our tickets to Mcleodganj. Jay and I still had to convince our mothers as well, and for that we needed a trip back home.
It took us four days, but Jay and I had convinced our mothers, and we were back on track for our trip to Mcleodganj.
On 6th April, we took an evening train to Pathankot from Old Delhi. And as the train rushed past the outskirts of Delhi, I saw all the lighted up offices, malls, housing societies, blurring and slowly merging into one. It felt as if Delhi had transformed into one organism, which was waving at me as I finally left what I called a home for two years.
That night there was a slight chill in the air, and sleep was far from my eyes. I spent the night chatting with Arathi; she became an integral part of my life during my early days in Mcleodganj, as I started sharing my thoughts, my routines with her. I told her what I felt about the days to come, the journey we all were taking while Jay and Nikhil slept, maybe they were also dreaming about the time we’d be spending in Mcleodganj.
I wondered, if we’d be walking the same road, somewhere I was sure that we would, that ours would be the same dream.
When we reached Pathankot next morning, a toy train journey through Kangra valley was waiting for us. It required some courage as we started our journey in that crowded toy train, not to mention that I kept standing, stuck between unknown bodies, which seemed to be continuously merging into one another.
It wasn’t my first time in that toy train, but this time I had my friends along, who were looking out of the window, starry eyed, staring and smiling whenever they saw a bunches of kids waving at them, as the train passed through several villages and tiny stations. At each of those stations, more people poured into our compartment, as we opened the packet of sweets that Jay was carrying. We shared them with our fellow passengers, in lieu of their stories.
It rained that morning, while we were already soaked in various anecdotes we heard in the train that day, as it slowly jostled towards Kangra railway station passing the narrow gorges and winding through the lower hills of Kangra valley.
That toy train slowly moved towards our dreams, to the beautiful times that were there waiting for us; it was a ride towards a million possibilities, towards where we were free to do what we wanted. We had plans in our minds, atleast I had a lot of them, and somewhere I knew they’d join my plans too.
Later, stand at Kangra station, with bags loaded on our backs, we saw the train crawl towards its onward journey against the backdrop of towering Dhauladhar mountains that were covered with snow, and there were monkeys playing at a corner of the station, while kids resumed their cricket match on the platform once the train left and lone tea stall’s owner closed the shutter to take a nap, as the next train still had few hours before it arrived.
I kept staring at the whole scene, with a smile on my face and ideas bursting in my mind. I had already started planning for the days to come, for our work, I knew I had escaped all my issues in Delhi when I left that city without saying a goodbye to anyone.
And so, there I was, standing alone on the track, while Jay and Nikhil started moving towards the bus stand. Standing there, and thinking about how things would work out the way I wanted.
Without knowing, what a fool I was.