The last day of our holiday was finally upon us and while I did miss the riding, it was nice to finally get back to the ambling along the streets for the regular touristy stuff routine that I like to indulge in while on a trip. It took a while us to get ready, after all we didn’t have departure deadlines hanging over our heads today, and we eventually stepped out to find a place for breakfast. After disqualifying the first couple of hotels that we spotted, we settled for a small run of the mill joint that didn’t have anything exotic but had enough items on its menu to keep us satiated. Or so we thought.
We had nothing to complain about the first round of food but the subsequent dishes that we ordered severely tested our taste buds and when we finally did get the bill we made the mistake of mentioning to the waiter that the chutney didn’t seem to be all that fresh. Now this got him talking and he mentioned that the idli was a few days old and the chutney was from yesterday and he even rattled off the rather short list of dishes that were actually fresh. We and our big mouths!
With a slight drizzle for company we walked down to the monastery that was not too far off and tucked away from the hustle and bustle of all the touristy traffic on the main road. It reminded me of the beautiful monasteries in Bylakuppe which is a Tibetan settlement that is around 100 kilometers away from Bangalore, a must visit if you are in this part of the country.
We also spotted this really furry white wabbit (Elmer Fudd reference there people) at the monastery that everyone totally fell in love with immediately. It’s strange how we Indians are fascinated by these albino rabbits but the moment you show them a rabbit that has bits of browns and blacks on it, the affection just seems to fade away. A reflection of the way we think in more ways than one.
We took a short tour of the shops that lined the exit of the monastery, again something that was straight out of the Bylakuppe experience, before we slowly made our way back to the hotel to finish our packing and check out of two of our rooms while we dropped all the bags in the third. Lunch was at the same place where we had our food fight yesterday and consisted of tasty pizzas and wrongly pronounced soft drinks, something that was becoming a regular feature now that we had all started doing it.
Soon enough though it was time to leave and we jammed our bags into an auto while I tried to ensure that none of the bags fell out though I probably should’ve paid more attention to my own balance and ability to stay within the auto given the scant space that was left for me. It was time to say farewell to the Man who was on a mission who was heading to Chandigarh from Manali while the Lady who could single handedly break down a Bullet, My favourite couple and I boarded our bus to Delhi.
Our ever present companion, Mistress Drama though was never far away even today as we got a call from Vishal who wanted all the pictures (that was obvious given that he was in half of them) and said that he would get me off the bus near his place and would then drive me to the fruit market in which time I would transfer the pictures onto his memory card before getting back on the bus that would make multiple stops in between. True to his word, there he was, standing in the middle of the road while directing the bus to pull over behind his car in proper filmy style. As I stepped out he told the driver that he would get me back on the bus later and if the bus left Manali without me, it wouldn’t be plying on this route any longer. Gulp!
I squeezed myself into the back seat of the European sedan when I found that the hard disk in question wasn’t working and so calls were made while we were driving along and I could actually see people scurrying around to get a replacement hard disk / memory card. Finally we were handed one that worked and we even had some local gentlemen of questionable repute join us in the car just in case the bus driver decided to make a scene. Double gulp!!
As we waited at the market, one of the gentlemen went off to get a local beverage called Fruit Beer which is basically fizzy apple juice. After completing a couple of rounds, I left the thermocol cup on my laptop as I’m a stickler when it comes to not littering. My host though insisted that I throw it out on the road but I refused as I said I’ll take it with me and dump it in a proper place. What I was told next had to be one of the most interesting ways of thinking that I’ve heard in a very long time, “Bhai (brother)”, he said, “our local elected representative is a friend of mine and is doing a great job of keeping our place neat and clean. Now if you don’t throw your cup onto the road, how will he do his job well and how will people in turn appreciate his hard work?” With that he flung the cup out the window before I could even react!
The bus was made to pull over once again and while the final set of pictures was transferred onto the hard disk, the gentlemen of questionable repute slowly loaded the bus with boxes of the freshest plums that you could find for the four of us before I was given the green signal to board the bus. The others actually said that I looked like the typical nerd that gets kidnapped in all those Bruce Willis movies and honestly I can see why they said that. Quite the experience!
Despite the additional day in Manali, all of us were more than exhausted and slept through most of the bus journey except for when we stopped for dinner. We woke up on the outskirts of Delhi the next morning and got off at the last stop where it was time to say our last goodbyes. The Lady who could single handedly break down a Bullet caught herself a cab and I was to get picked up by my aunt while My favourite couple of all time waited for their cab that would take them around the city before they departed. Despite what we had gone through, there were no dramatic and tearful goodbyes nor were there false promises that we would meet each other every weekend for the rest of our lives, something that most people tend to do at the end of trips that were a fraction as adventurous as ours.
We knew that we had been a part of something special and we knew that we would stay in touch. And that’s all that mattered. It was an anti-climatic ending to what had been the most amazing 12 days of my life. Like I wrote at the end of the post on day 11, the Himalayas were the star attraction when I came flew into Delhi. Now I realized the mountains were just the supporting cast in the story that was actually about us overcoming massive odds while constantly skirting with danger and depending on Madam Fortune while getting by with just a little help from strangers who we would now truly call our friends.
“I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
Going to try with a little help from my friends”
With A Little Help From My Friends – Beatles