From Ahmedabad, we flew to Kolkata. I had reached the airport before MRP and as I waited for her, I saw Salim (the latest Indian Idol judge) and Suleiman (his brother) hanging out. It was funny the way Salim stood on just one leg. And the way he looked golu molu on his face. He and Suleiman stared at me as if it was a crime to walk inside the terminal with a cowboy hat hanging around your neck.
So finally we are off. MRP and I. For a month of togetherness. Away from everything else that we were otherwise always surrounded with. This was the time to work out plans for life.
From Kolkata, we had our train to NJP (the station nearest to Darjiling unless you want to take the toy train all the way up the hill). I was traveling in AC 1st class for the first time. And she for the second. LOL, we actually thought we could make love in the train and all that. She was sure that in AC 1st class, there were only two berths in each cabin. But there were not. Sigh! There were two more. And till the time the two uncles in the other two berths were awake, it was awkward to even talk to each other than it probably would have been in a regular 2/3 tier AC. I mean imagine a closed cabin with two strangers sitting right across you when all you want to do is kiss your girl (and if the mood settles in, probably make love to her). LOL. Funny the experience was.
In Darjeeling, we met two NCC students standing outside the HMI office. A boy. And a girl.
The boy was thin, nervous and serious. A bengali from Birbhum, West Bengal, in his BA first year. Days later, after having reached the base camp, Birbhum would drop out from the course. The girl had a wonderful smile. Nisha. She would carry her smile all through the course. Even when she would later catch snow-blindness – a mild one though. Just like me. Except that I didn’t smile much the day I did. Ah, let me not skip things. Slow down boy, slow down.
When we met them, Nisha flashed her bright smile and told us she had seen us in Siliguri. We felt special already.
The first items to preserve that HMI gifted us (to be returned when the course would end) were: a steel tumbler (hindi mein bole to – glass), a steel spoon, a bed-sheet and a pillow cover. I could understand the logic behind the bed-sheet and the pillow cover but the logic behind a tumbler and a spoon defied me. They looked rugged and ugly anyway (she would lose her spoon eventually).
I got into room no. 10 on the ground-floor while she was sent to the room directly above the room directly above me. How close. Her room was in the only girl’s wing in the hostel. Both our rooms (and most other rooms) had double decker dirty beds. The clean bed-sheet saved us though. At least till we remained in the institute. Base camp in Sikkim was going to be an altogether different story.
Birbhum was allotted the same room as mine. And then there were six more room-mates.
1. A guy who would later tell us he was ‘ironically’ from Delhi without ever being able to explain what the fuck was so ironical about him being from Delhi. Mr. Irony.
2. Mr. Irony’s best friend – a student of Industrial Automation who would, from the next day onwards, do each of the five day’s jog in his heavy brown-coloured Woodland shoes. Because he hadn’t brought any running shoes. Poor chap. Industrial Automation. Mr. Indau.
3. A 34 year old businessman from Bangalore who had his own real estate consultancy company. His business would later force him to leave the course mid-way, but not before he would reach the base-camp. Mr. Real Estate.
4. A Bengali from Asansaol who was doing his MBA in Kolkata. He said he had done rock-climbing before. He had a minor injured knee (that would get further injured during the coming days, forcing him to finally quit the course mid-way). Mr. Knee.
5. Knee’s best friend, another Bengali from Andal, who was doing his MA in Bengali. He had stony eyes. And he spoke very little except when he was talking to his wife and relatives on phone. He talked a lot on phone by the way. Mr. phonu-ram.
6. A college kid from Nagpur who would later tell us his biggest problem with the mountaineering course was that he would miss watching the first shows of few upcoming movies in theatre. He watched movies every Friday. Without fail. To his good luck, he would later quit the course mid-way and return to his theatre-full life. Mr. Movie.
LOL. It’s funny how exactly half of my room-mates could never complete the course. May be mountaineering ain’t just for everybody. May be not even for me. But to my good luck, I completed the course anyway. And so did she. Girte padte. Ladte marte. And that’s what this story is all about. The story about the couple that went climbing. And then climbed. Climbed up and climbed down. Climbed rocks and climbed ice. Even when it was shit pain sometimes. Many a times actually. LOL.