“If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, & share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, & could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem'd a vision—I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
O! Lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain'd & bow'd
One too like thee-tameless, & swift, & proud.”

Solitude in magnitude creates society. Society in magnitude creates culture. Culture in magnitude creates nation. Nation in magnitude defines the world. But let’s stick to a pride of four shall we. For a third person (Weak at math) it could very well have been a parliament. But even lions act as fools (trust me; trust Disney; trust the Lion King). Our ride started a bit over the board when we decided to find our way through the internet (Damn you Global Patronizing System) rather than trusting the civilization around. But it was still mistake number one. And so the road went on…

It was not just the size of the group grew, the souls, the physical entities, the humor & the riders carrying ‘The Zeher’ (Shades, to be specific) shot up by 200% as the guys much awaited arrived with a sweet old maroon sedan. When we talk about Murphy’s Law, we often try & apply it on situations which have minimal impact on us & day to day activities. The truth is it applies itself at places & not you, which it freaking did.

We lost our GPS somewhere in between & everything toppled from there onwards. We passed through some of nature’s most amazing sceneries that Maharashtra could provide. The red soil, the green & bright grass, the layered mountains hiding ages in layers, the clouds carrying lovely storms riding over the dusty winds like radiant knights from the lost times showing off themselves at the same time hiding above the nimbus.

But none of the beauty could deny the very fact that we were simply lost. As all things in life are not as free as lemons, we tripped over our own self-learning, nature revealing, pathless & non-compliance of following just a simple gesture of asking a few strangers for direction. But that has made all the difference. For only when we are lost, we get a chance to find ourselves (So as the say, & for the progress of the story, is left to open discussion). Loosing path doesn’t necessarily mean losing direction. The destination was clear, & only the choice of path remained in our hands, which we chose poorly wise.

All the great photographs & jokes cracked aside, we finally reached the fort of Shivaji. Now before any high hopes could be reached, it should be made clear that the place was on the top of a mountain bound to be trapped in high storms, excessive heat in one season & enormous downpours in another. If cold didn’t kill you in the open roof dreaded palace of solace, then the animals residing in the crevices of the walls & floors will.

But that must be the worry of a lot from some other time. For the guys who had nothing to eat since morning finally gave up to the fiery needs of physical demands, also known as hunger in nature. But as known to even the rookiest of trekkers, eating a lot before a climb or a long walk up the mountains leads to tiring consequences. But unable to fulfill what was needed will lead to inability of being able to reach the top, due to lack of energy & consequently the will.

So in a mutual agreement between the need of the hour outside & the need of the power inside, we decided to inject ourselves with what came out to be termed as ‘The Budday Pav’. 4 vada-pavs & 1 glass full lemon sweet water is all we took before embarking upon a journey, which seemed small by sight & turned out precisely the same with our calculations. High by some standards but low by ours. It was not just a trekking experience, where we tried to explore trails other than what was generally travelled but found & unreeled in our brain the beauty & sanctity of Mother Nature. We only stopped to look back not where we had reached, but what we had attained.

The breeze & the drizzles initially, became loud winds & thick drops as we reached higher & nearer to the clouds. To our admiration, the clouds at one point actually roamed below us. But the crew of monsoon that rallied on even mightier ships lied above us. I wasn’t sure at first if they were happy or in angst at our arrival, but as soon as we reached the top the vertical drips accompanied by turbulent winds took us from all the directions almost all at once. By this time it was already clear that one can’t be safe from what is inside us, Air & Water.

So we sailed on our high, & had shots of memories in a safe capturing them in even less than a jiffy of shutter speed. Green here, Green there. Water here, falls there. Fog here, clouds there. Mountain here, valley there. My body was present on the ground, but my mind was flying well above the perceived limits of space & time at the spot.
Not wanting to come back, but still beating the dirt (Rocks in this case), we climbed the distance back down reluctantly. With enough kicking, butts of the birthday boy and ground alike, the quest for the day came to its rightful end.

It all penultimately ended with a chorus national Anthem, un-hoisting & respectful folding back of the national flag with our very own hands. One of the very few occasions when one could intrinsically feel Patriotism is while holding the symbol of their identity against the world (Which is so often used in such movies, if I must so humbly point out). The intensity, with which it rushed into me, went as easily as soon as I freed my hands from it. The four hours of fun & frolic journey had the best ending our birthday boy could have (Or so I hope it was. Did I mention the frequent chivalrous birthday bombs?).
Now, with a resolve of losing no more directions & aiming straight ahead for Mahabaleswar (Another divine place near Mumbai to be), we raced ahead & in deep fog & serpentine trails reached the Valhalla of Shiva between the mountains. Not as flashy or mighty as Kailas itself, the beauty of Mahabaleswar lies within its surroundings & the climate itself. If someone could explain what they saw, then they have to be a better poet or writer than I have ever been. It is important to note that at night you aren’t able to see much farther ahead & the fog still tried to narrow our range.

We were tired, we were hungry. Our feet sored a little by now, yearning a little sleep & rest. Although we were very hopeful of finding a place to crash, where we could find just a blanket & a bed for us to spend the night, not forgetting the appetite, but a 4 hour long search ended up dry in that wet & chilly weather fried with winds breezing & throwing spines at our bare skin. By the time it became evident that it was futile to search for a place to crash in a dorm, room, hotel or cottage, all the eating joints were long shutdown for the night.

But then too our friend Rahul had hopes that if not a lodge, we will at least be able to find a place to eat before crashing into the car itself. Finding a few lit up sheds in the blur of night, we in time found hope in the form of a restaurant. We ate whatever they had to offer. Watched through the window a roaring lightening & pouring rain, hoping for a safe place to park our car & silently submit our consciousness to the claws of sleep, waiting for a dawn that would give us more memories to take away.

Finally after finding a safe spot with a view to the valley & away from all the blind turns assumed dangerous in foggy nights on such zigzag tracks, clinging to our own blankets (mostly more clothes & handkerchiefs) had a session for planning the next day & ended up cracking more jokes on the condition we were entrapped. Tired of laughing hard & harder, sleep finally arrived & with it an endless free-falling train of dreams (I had a fear of heights earlier, now it’s only in my sub-conscious).

My rail is endless. My station is dawn…

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