By Hardik Rajgor
With the monsoon, comes a surfeit of #pluviophile Tinder bios. You, who takes an Uber to the ATM a couple of kilometres away, impulsively sign up for a 15-kilometre trek on a rainy Sunday. Because the exhibition of your love for the rain is incomplete without a selfie atop Harishchandragadh. What could possibly go wrong?
The monsoon brings rain, bhajiyas, keechad, traffic… and the pressure to go on a trek. The activity is now a little like drinking, people look down upon you if you’re not into it. In the age of #FitnessChallenge videos, if your monsoon calendar doesn’t include at least four treks, you need to reevaluate your life’s choices.
You may want to live on the edge, go deep-sea diving, and jump off an airplane, but life’s not Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Trekking is as close to adventures as most of us will probably get. That and catching a Virar train from Borivali. And so, on a slow Friday afternoon in office, along with a few impulse purchases on Amazon, you also end up booking a mountain trek slot for Sunday.
You then pressure your friends to join in because a wise man once said there are few joys like sharing your misery, especially when your definition of exercise over the last few years has been climbing two floors in office – but only when the elevator is broken. You are the kind who takes an Uber to the ATM three kilometres away from home, you never walk anywhere, never workout, and now have impulsively signed up for a 15-kilometre trek on a rainy Sunday. Because the exhibition of your “#pluviophile” Tinder bio is incomplete without a selfie atop Harishchandragadh.
What could possibly go wrong?
At 4 am on Sunday, you struggle to walk from your bed to the bathroom door and curse yourself for planning the trek. You think of feigning illness but the lure of the perfect selfie is enough to change your mind. Friends frantically start calling each other, each one hoping that someone pulls out and the plan gets cancelled. You finally drag yourself to the meeting point, half asleep, fully grumpy, with the enthusiasm of footballer who has scored an own goal at the World Cup.
Your friends are in no better mood; your fondness for this lot disappears and you start passing knee-jerk judgements about your fellow trekkers. “How did she get time for make-up this early?”, “He’s already so skinny, why does he have to trek?”, “So much baggage, is he going on a foreign holiday?” Nothing seems appealing and you know this trek is going to be doomed. Then you spot a group of pretty girls/boys and you curse yourself for wearing that loose T-shirt with a mango stain.
Everyone hops onto the bus with chants of Ganpati Bappa Moraya. You pray to god to save you from their over-enthusiasm. It might be 6 am but there is that one Enthu Cutlet who makes a suggestion to play antakshari and everyone gets ready to channel their inner Kumar Sanu. Enthu Cutlet and his gang of Filmy Kabootars who think they are Deewane, Parwane, Mastane dominate the game, while you decide to take a quiet nap. Ten minutes later, you are woken up by the chatter of people passing on chiwda and chips. The sun has barely risen, for fuck’s sake.
After a few hours of singing and dumb charades, you reach the base of the hill. The trek leader – mostly a portly PT teacher – takes charge. You shake yourself up for the instructions but all he has to say is, “Feel free to pee in the open” and “Jai Shivaji”.
While a few trekkers are out there to “find themselves” and “communicate with nature”, most have one clear goal in mind – picturesque photographs.
Barely ten minutes into the trek, Mr Complaint Box emerges. He is upset because everyone’s going too fast. Wearing shorts on a rainy day in the forest, he starts whining about insects biting him. He’s the same person who will also later complain about the food, the trek leader, and how everything is ill-managed.
As you walk a bit further, you notice two teenagers start talking about how they want some “real adventure”. As if auditioning for Khatron Ke Khiladi, the duo breaks away and starts taking risky alternate routes. Climbing over rocks that are shaky or walking into thorny bushes that lead to a dead end, the trek could very well turn into an episode of LOST for them. At this point, the trek leader doubles up as babysitter and his prime concern is to make sure our Khiladis are alive by the end of the expedition.
While a few trekkers are out there to “find themselves” and “communicate with nature”, most have one clear goal in mind – picturesque photographs. A successful trip is judged by the number of likes your images get on FB and Instagram. People pose with wooden sticks even though it’s not necessary, because they makes the trek seem legit. More important than first aid are selfie sticks and plastic pouches to protect your phones from the rain.
Every trek has one pair of lovebirds, who keep whispering sweet nothings and giggling at each other, much to the annoyance of everyone else. The couple stops every 20 minutes because one of them needs to rest, and the other needs to tend to bae. If all you care for is some good old PDA, Marine Drive is a smarter pick than a mountain.
The closer you get to the top, the trickier it gets to navigate the route. But there is one good Samaritan who awaits this part. This is his moment to shine. He helps everyone jump over a stream or a climb a craggy rock. The moment you run out of breath, he’ll motivate you with an enthused “Common on, brother”, “You can do it.”
Once you reach the summit everyone is elated except Mr I’ve Seen Better. He will look down at the same stunning valley as you and his reaction will be, “Bas, even Malshej Ghat is better than this.” This is also the same guy who will stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and compare it to Qutub Minar.
Now that a brag-a-thon has been initiated, the others join in too. If one talks about Kalsubai, the other boasts about Pin Parvati. It’s mandatory to plug in a foreign trip, if you want to win the game of “So You Think You Can Trek?”. After some gloating, eating (there’s one family who no one talks to, but become a favourite, after they open their dabbas), and bonding, the entire group gets a picture clicked – the soggy equivalent of the school class photo.
Once the descent begins, the knees begin to get weak, much like India’s economy after demonetisation. With every step that you take downhill, you think about how it’s going to be a nightmare going to work the next day and you start thinking of excuses for skipping work. “Should I call in sick?” “A fever, a fall?” But then you realise your Instagram account is a give-away.
You get home, crash, and your alarm goes off in what seems like barely two hours. But it’s 7 am and you realise that the one thing worse than getting up on a Sunday morning, is waking up with an aching body on a Monday morning.
Hardik Rajgor is an author at Arre.
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