Monday, 29 December 2008

End of an Era

One of my best friends, MD, got hitched yesterday, in a much awaited ceremony that went off perfectly.

I first met MD almost 2 years ago. It was Jan 6th, 2007, and I had tagged along with a group of guys from I.C for a Lonavla/Khandala trip, the three guys being CP, JB and J. How I met CP and JB is a story I shall recount some other time. I had walked to CP's place with my travel bag on Sat afternoon, from where JB (who lived next door) drove up in his Volkswagen. We helped CP load the car with water, snacks, alcohol, his BBQ grill, etc. and then picked up a bag of charcoal, withdrew money from an ATM, and went to a third guy's home - J - whom I was about to meet for the first time. Apparently, they were all former classmates, along with another guy from Vashi we were to meet later and a guy named MD who we'd rendezvous with at Khandala and whom they kept saying I'd love. We befriended a friendly pup as we walked to J's place, and the first thing that struck me as we entered his bungalow was the huge cat (I was to discover later that he had 6 of these). Apparently, J didn't know about the trip until we turned up at his place, but sportingly, allowed himself to be convinced to come along with us after CP and JB insisted.

We drove to Centre One in Vashi to meet up with the fourth guy, K, who had his own car. And did the four former classmates, after meeting up, pay heed my advice to make haste so as to make the best of optimal light conditions that could and should have been utilised for a trek? No, the four generously proportioned mates spent an hour loafing around Centre One, a significant amount of that time at one of the supermarkets on the ground floor, and even clustered around the chocolate/candy stall at one point. It was a comical sight, and I stepped back to avoid being paired with them. JB kindly offered me a Marzipan chocolate (which was actually quite good) but I was in no mood to lounge around or snack at the mall, for I was told earlier that I'd be meeting MD, a man as trek crazy as I was. And with each passing moment, I felt like he was having fun that I was missing out on, which later turned out to be somewhat true.

We eventually reached our lodgings - Kune Mission - in the evening at around 7.00 P.M and it was dark. I was disappointed to say the least. I never figured that we'd take so long to reach our destination, and my main fear was that I'd missed out on a trek, which was the main reason I'd come in the first place. We walked inside, and one of the guys introduced me to a man about my height with an easygoing manner, significant beer belly and an evil smile. This was MD, and those were the first three things I noticed about him. I immediately confirmed the possibility of a trek to a place called Deer Falls the following day, though I had missed out on one to Bufallo Falls that day.

MD had arrived there in the afternoon with his own group of friends and relatives, and I soon got to meet them all. I would go on to meet some of them - like Abhi, RV and BD - on subsequent treks and random city meet ups.

Dinnertime was approaching, and we set up our BBQ behind the lodgings, on a patch of ground with some chairs and a picnic table overlooking the valley. It was cold, and just got colder as the night progressed. It was also very dark. The only light we had was that coming from the windows of the building behind us and the moon (if there was one) and stars. We got everything set up with the help of a flashlight that we kept passing around. The chicken that we were barbecuing was already cleaned and marinated so we just had to get the grill started.This turned out to be a major task. The wind at the edge of the valley was quite strong, and every single match we lit would simply get blown off. Try as we might, we simply couldn't light a piece of paper to place among the charcoal at the bottom of the grill. MD, who seemed the most persevering of us all, kept at it, we trying to help by using our bodies as wind shields. The matches were running low and a few times we thought the paper or charcoal were alight, only to have them go out again, but finally, with only a few matches to spare, MD managed to get it lighted.

We took turns overseeing the chicken, and our group sat at the picnic table. MD's group, sitting a little bit away on a few chairs available and on the ground, mostly had their own arrangements, with only Abhi joining us. As the night went on, our group munched on barbecued chicken and sipped our drinks, enjoying a truly enjoyable meal. Our group retired to our rooms after dinner to drink some more and chat, soon to be interrupted by MD, who invited us to join him and his friends to a Grotto on the top of a nearby slope. We weren't in the least bit sleepy, and after wrapping myself up in a blanket (over the sweater I was already wearing for it was freezing now), walked to the Grotto with the rest of the group. I noticed not for the first time that night that MD was carrying a really huge long flashlight, one of those pieces that looked like a really thick stick and might even be used as a weapon.

The Grotto was beautiful, and CP and another guy or two actually clambered up on top if it. Clambering down was somewhat harder, especially for CP who, with his weight, accidentally dislodged a stone that fell on a girl's foot. We rested in the cave like formation that the Grotto formed, which proved a welcome respite from the chilling wind. Once again, MD attempted to get a fire going, with the remaining matches and some dry branches that he went searching for. I didn't get why some one would wander about a freezing forest area in the dead of night looking for a way to start a tiny bonfire that wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. And his tenacity after piling the branches together and lighting match after match to finally get a fire going was something I didn't completely understand, thought it was something that appealed to me, a person who can get equally obsessed at times about doing something particular, though not anything like this. I don't remember who it was who first came up with it, but that night, MD earned the nickname Pyro.

We sat there for a while, talking about this and that, most of us silent, looking at the stars and admiring the beauty of the moment. It was at this time that I got to know RV. My gang decided to go back to their quarters to sleep. MD and gang decided to spend the night under the Grotto, waiting for daybreak. I waited with them for a while, before heading back myself. I slept snug under two blankets.

The next morning I woke up refreshed. MD helped wake up our gang, and we headed off to the common eating room for breakfast. I voiced out once again my eagerness to go trekking, drawing a breath of irritation from J, who felt I had voiced my eagerness to go trekking one time too many. Anyhow, I finished off the remaining rum and we started off on our short trek to Deer Falls, a little waterfall that I'm sure is a lot bigger during the monsoon. Friends took pics of the Duke's nose on our way there, and we took a little shortcut on our way back. It was really hot walking back. Afternoon temperatures go up to 33 degrees in the winter in Mumbai. It can't have been much better in Lonavla/Khandala.

Had a cold shower and then lunch, before CP, JB and I said our goodbye's and drove home. I made it a point to take down MD's contact details, for I didn't know too many people who liked going on treks as frequently as he did. The group I trekked with at the time did an average of one a year.

Since that fateful trip, I met MD many a time. Two months later, he called up to say he was going to Gorai and I readily joined him, even though it was only us two. At the start of the monsoon of 2007, I met up with MD and Abhi at a Goan fast food stall at Orlem. A week after my Peth trip (hopefully to be recorded later), MD and I went on a half day trip to Erangal (my idea), where we took a bus to the church, looked around the beach, and walked to the very tip of that little peninsula that marks the end of Malad, from whose coast we could see Andheri, and from where we took a two minute ferry to Versova. On reaching the Andheri end of the ferry ride however, we didn't bother getting out - the area was filthy - so we simply rode back to Erangal and took a bus to Mith Chowky, and another one to I.C.

As the year went on, MD and I would meet many times. He was studying at the same place I worked, so it was convenient to meet on Fri nights for dinner. We've probably been to more low-life low budget food joints with missing walls that can be documented here, though I could try. I wasn't blogging much in 2007 and so didn't record any of these trips, though there were many. Special mention must also be made of the dhabba near his home where his friends and us spent many a night making merry. All through this time, I came to know MD as a guy who valued his freedom more than any of the rest of us. He enjoyed taking random, unplanned, last minute trips to nearby trekking spots and having a blast, especially with beer. To see him getting hitched yesterday was a potent symbol of my own fleeting youth, and I sensed many of his other friends (now my friends as well) feel the same way.

His wedding Mass yesterday was amazing. The priest he knows so well gave an excellent sermon, with a couple of guitar solos thrown in. I met up with now common friends BD and PV at the church, and we went to my place to chill out before the reception, which was close to my home. The reception was perfect as well, with an excellent spread, and everything going according to plan and everyone enjoying themselves. Met a few other friends there. BD & PV left early, and Ry's group and I hit a bar after we wished the couple (RV handing MD a quarter of rum as a parting gift, MD remarking that it was empty but still accepting it). We went to MD's place after the bar and helped with the unloading of presents, being rewarded with copious amounts of alcohol in return. It was a peaceful way to end the day, all of us friends minus MD sitting on a quiet beautiful porch sipping our drinks chatting and reminiscing. I looked up at the sky at one point and watched the stars - something I haven't been able to do for a long time.

As the friends started leaving, MD emerged and I finally got an opportunity to chat with him for a while, something I hadn't got much of an opportunity of at either the church or reception. It was nice to have a chat at last, before leaving for I.C at 1.00 A.M with the rest of his family. It's a bit sad to lose a friend to matrimony but I'm happy for him and a joyous landmark event in a friend's life has made this Christmas season all the more memorable.

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1 comment:

Melvin Dsouza said...

I am honoured to by your writings Dan. Seriously.

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