Friday, June 01, 2007

Gangtok Trip

Starting the blog and then abandoning it was something that many people expected from me and it would be incorrect to say that they were wrong as some of them know me even better than I do. Especially the one who persuaded me to restart. The main reason for sluggish postings is my lethargic nature and above all the inadequacy of topics to write on. I know it sounds terribly clichéd but I guess this is the resort of the creatively challenged. As some of my friends already know that I am on a long vacation, the first one of my professional life, to Gangtok and northern areas of Sikkim. For the record, the Goa Cruise trip in February was strictly official. It is another story that I made most of it.

I am often surprised when people say that they don’t like to read, they don’t listen to music or find it extremely boring to watch foreign language movies. It is something that I as an individual cannot understand or accept among civilized people. People say the same thing to me about travel. Now this is a week point. I am not particularly happy that I do not enjoy traveling. I am most comfortable in my office with an AC and a leather chair. My flat is not bad either especially after I got the big fat television. What is the point of taking grueling train rides and bumpy road trips to look at an orange colored sky through the hills, standing above the clouds and shouting loud enough to hear your echo. May be I can give it a psychiatric angle and blame it on my mother. It will not be completely wrong considering the fact that as a kid we never went on long trips. Most of the trips we had were to religious places, Vaishno Devi was a regular feature. Most religious places have one thing in common – you have to climb a helluva number of stairs which is quite tiring to say the least.

This trip has been a complete disaster. This is Day 2 and I am already bored. I have finished “The Kite Runner” and nearly one third of Shantaram (which I am reading for the second time). Shantaram is not that great second time over. The movie is something to look forward to. The book is written in such a manner that it can be made into a decent movie. Mira Nair does know how to do her job and I guess with Johnny and B in the crew, it should not be a tough one to pull this off. Most of the time on this vacation till now has been spent on traveling. We are a gang of seven and I knew only one of them before I left the busy Sealdah station. It turns out most of the others are not even worth knowing. I understand that they are nice people but there is a problem of chemistry. I know that I do not have to spend my life with them but 7 days in an alien land is no less time. It does not help that the other 6 are bongs and I do not understand what they are saying. As a matter of fact I do not even wish to understand what they are saying. I cannot imagine MBAs and software engineers not knowing who Indian Ocean is; who Joe Satriani is and to top it off, what is a blowjob. I do not know what kind of world are we living in when a comment like “The only thing better than peeing after two beers is a blowjob” invokes no response and “Saanson ki zaroorat hai jaise” is appreciated with a request to be repeated.

We plan to leave the hotel room by 5 in the morning so that we can catch the sunrise in Lepung or Lechung or wherever the hell the hills are red and it is already eleven. There is no electricity in the hotel and it is not required either as it is cold enough. I will try posting this tomorrow if I can lay my hands on the coveted data card that one of the guys is carrying. If not I will just merge the next post with this one and continue rambling.

Oh yeah… I had a great story idea on the way over. Here is the plot outline. A guy in his mid 20s goes on a trip with his friend to the hills. Contemplates about all the good things and the bad things he has done. Decides that as soon as he gets back to the city, he will call the girl and propose. He gets back to the city, calls her. The last lines of the story, had I actually got down to writing it, would have been, “All the lines to the route dialed by you are busy. Please try after some time”.

Time 0053 hrs. Monday.

I guess that it is going to be a pretty long post after all because I did not get to post the portion above it till now and I do not think that I will get that opportunity in the next couple of days. I will make a short addition to it tomorrow night or should I say tonight if my attempts on getting the coveted data card fail again today. The past couple of days went much better than before because of couple of wise decision such as staying back in the hotel and wandering Lechung or Lechen or whatever was the name of the place where we were positioned for the past couple of days. No mobile phones was something that I expected but no electricity took the “far from civilization trip” a bit too far. I was not left with many options other than to wander on my own in that god forsaken place but it was not that bad. A travel junkie would have definitely enjoyed it. A travel freak wouldn’t have. The two terms that might very well be my creation seem quite obvious to me after the so called rejuvenating tour of the north-east but I do understand that is not the case with others. Half the people I am talking to do not understand when I am sane so it would be moronic to believe that people would easily gobble up the gibberish that comes out of my demented mind when I am not comfortable. A travel junkie is someone who travels for pleasure and may be even enjoys the natural beauty around him. The kind of guys you see in Tata Safari commercials or the pseudo-intellectual authors in early 90s doordarshan serials, who used to travel to the hills to stir some thoughts. A travel freak is someone what most of us are - who try and cover as much as possible in the given time frame and are extremely happy that they traveled so far to visit a particular destination. The ones who visit the tomb at the Taj Mahal and can’t wait to go to the Red Fort because they only have one hour left in Agra before they catch a cab to Fatehpur Sikri to enjoy the grandeur of Bulund Darwaza. I also believe that most of the blog readers would have lost complete track of the post and will not be reading this line. In case you do read it and plan to comment on this verbose account, start it with the word burp.

A couple of books that are helping me through these troubled times are The Kite Runner and Shantaram. I finished The Kite Runner by Day 2 and I realized that if I have to come out of this alive then I need to do something I had never done before - rationing of the reading material which was available to me. I carefully divided the reading material available to me, which was roughly 950 pages of Shantaram into time slots and promised that I will not read more than that. It gave me a sense of accomplishment when I reached the target for the day and also gave me a sense of maturity that at least there is something that I can control in my life. My smoking and my drinking have increased many fold since I started working because of increased cash flow. My savings are not enough to meet my tax saving needs (At least they were not last year and I had to borrow from my father to hit the 80C limit). And above all, the person closest to me, who incidentally has the agenda of bruising my ego carved into her mind, does everything opposite to what I want. My company was not of much help either as couple of them were pleasantly surprised that I read for pleasure and one of them was quite vocal about it also as he failed to understand why I want to read the book if someone like Mira Nair is making a movie on it which will be a must watch in my list.

I was talking to a friend couple of weeks ago and something she said has probably reduced the pleasure of, if not ruined most books and movies for me. First of all let me tell you, anything dealing with kids, kids with specs, muslims, afghanis, Iranians, you get the picture… reminds me of her. The Kite Runner is another one in the list as it is primarily set in Kabul. She asked me, as innocently as usual, “H****, don’t you feel cheated when you realize that it is just an actor who is playing the character and it is not the character. The character does not exist. What you just saw, was fiction and you got moved to tears by something which was just a thought.” I am not very sure but I think she had just seen Rainman when she called me. I discarded her viewpoint by saying that it just meant the actor did a good job if you can’t think of him without the character. It is not cheating but a testimony to the greatness of the piece of art that you just witnessed. I do not know why but I do derive great pleasure in having a viewpoint different from hers just for the sake of being different. She is not the only one I do it with, there are others. I am sure all of them are aware of this tendency of mine. To continue with the cheating, I had not read about the author of The Kite Runner. I had not even read the synopsis of the book or what The New York Times or The Inquirer had to say about it. The book is about a kid who has a troubled childhood in Kabul, moves to the US, writes a few novels, becomes moderately rich, goes back to Kabul to seek redemption. When the book was finished, I found out that it is the first novel of a doctor in the US. And damn, I felt…. Cheated. Shantaram on the other hand is a very detailed book but does not stay clear from using cheap tricks. It is a perfect book to be made into a movie. A mini-series would have been better but a decently made movie should not be bad given the storyline and the larger-than-life flamboyant character of Shantaram. It is not as correct as claimed by the critics of the west. I have not lived in Bombay but I have been there couple of times. Some of the realistic details, which are supposedly the USP of the book, are erroneous. A little more research would have helped. You do not need to a six month course in Indian Geography to find out that Uttar Pradesh is not in North-East of India. Some people might argue that it is in the eastern side of North India but I am very sure a taxi driver born and raised in Maharashtra will not say that about UP. The author talks about breaking of a soul in prison among other things which sounds like a direct lift from Shawshank Redemption.

I always wanted to be and I still want to be an author some day. May be that day will come soon, may be after my retirement but what I realized today was that I had never even written a single quotable quote. I tried a lot to remember but could not come up with anything. The best thing that came to my mind today had something to do with depression being my favorite art form but even that is gone now.

The journey came to an end yesterday and I am pretty sure that the last couple of days were much better than the others as I did not have any time to update this entry. So, until next vacation… Rather until any significant event, this is ME signing off. Njoy.