We were outside Delhi after one hour and reached Modi Nagar around 11:30 from where Shweta and Neha joined us. They both were in a bit of shock when they saw us all grooving on Bhojpuri songs. But this ‘a bit of shock’ turned into ‘laugh riot’ when they saw Rahul shaking & twisting his waist in a way that can easily put Bhojpuri actresses to shame. We all tried to copy Rahul, but he is unmatched! No one can even come close to him when it comes to shaking waist temptingly and giving those seductive-cum-hilarious expressions at the same time. Giving him tough competition was Anwar who showed some violent moves on Punjabi and Haryanvi songs. Since they both don’t want their dancing image here, we are sharing the decent one.
It soon was midnight and the hullaballoo was almost stopped. Most of the employees were down with sleep. Even Sudip, who said that he will keep everyone awake, was snoring. But the sleep had not struck me yet and I was thinking what if there were no destinations to travel. Life would be bland; it would be very much like eating a dish without any taste to take pleasure in. I got lost in those thoughts and soon the sleep cast its spell on me as well.
I woke up to the gurgle of River Ganges, but outweighing the sound of those gurgles was Sudip’s repeated one-liners – ‘OMG, what a lovely view’ and ‘wow, it’s so nice’. Well, the view was actually wonderful and the rising Sun added to the charm of entire vista.
We had entered Rishikesh and the river was running parallel to our route to Alaknanda River Adventure Camp. That delightful sight combined with the chilly air of morning refreshed and pumped up everyone. Finally around 6:30 AM we reached Alaknanda River Adventure Camp where tents were speckled nicely amid oodles of sand and the water running in the front elated one and all.
The staff there served us the morning tea, which brought some relief to our shivering bodies. And then we were allotted the tents, each of which had a bed, a blanked and a carpet. I chose to stay with Swairik and Saurabh; similarly, everyone choose the tent mate as per his/her choice.
I was tired from the journey and wanted to lie down on that cozy bed in my tent. But then volleyball court caught my attention; it reminded me of my school days when I would do anything to play this terrific sport. And now that I was again having the opportunity to indulge in Volleyball, I made my way to the court and experienced the same wonderful feeling on holding and serving the ball that I used to savor in my school days. And guess what? My team won all three matches we played against the other team.
It was the perfect start of the day. But the activity I was actually awaiting was the rafting expedition. And since the sky was cloudy and the rain was pouring after frequent intervals, the rafting plan was in jeopardy. So, we waited for hoary sky to turn blue. Meanwhile, we had our breakfast and participated in many team building exercises, which were organized by Mr. Pawan Kumar Kothiyal. He divided us into two groups Alpha and Bravo, each of which had one commando and six junior commandos to control, direct and guide other members in a group. I was in team Alpha and we played a total of five games, which filled the atmosphere with fun, laughs and hoots.
In the end, with three wins in their kitty, Team Alpha emerged as the winner and they gave celebration a new meaning by dancing like mad, lifting their commandos in the air and chanting Alpha…Alpha…Alpha so hard no other sound was visible for a good ten minutes.
Amid celebrations, no one noticed that the sky was clear and the sun was out. It meant we all could finally go for our rafting expedition. We all went back to our tents and came out covered in our rafting outfits. A bus from Alaknanda River Adventure Camp took us to Marine Drive, a point from where rafting had to be started. Four rafts and four guides were waiting for us. The guides told us about the safety measures, the right way of paddling and what to do when you fall? “Fall? So, we can actually fall from the raft”, I mumbled to myself. It scared me a bit but I didn’t show; I was acting brave.
With life jackets on and paddles in our hands, we were ready for the rendezvous with dangerous rapids. I was seated at the second place on the right side of the raft behind Anwar who was seated on the first place of the right side. Excluding the guide, there were nine persons on our raft – Anwar, Rahul, Nidhi Singh, Shikha, Nidhi Bajaj, Manas, Suresh, Prateek and I.
The guide on our raft instructed us to sail forward and we started rowing our raft. Paddling looked easy until we came across the first rapid. We could see the rapid from the distance, the violent waves, the roar of water and the stones in between. It seemed that those things together were threatening us to go back. But our adventurer’s spirits took us right in the middle of the rapid, and soon we found ourselves combating the strong current by rowing in sync and paddling as hard as we could. The spine chilling water had drenched us all and we were shivering badly. But we didn’t stop to paddle. Before we could know, we were out of that rapid and out of the breath too.
The guide patted our back for the good work and told us “You can jump into the water if you want to but keep holding the rope that drapes the raft.” I was the first to jump out; unfortunately I had underestimated the chillness in the water. The water was so cold that I was not able to breathe for a few seconds; I was not able to speak even. My body felt numb and the only thing that I said when I finally caught my breath was ‘pull me up’. On coming up on the raft I noticed that other people were also in the water and, just like me, most of them were struggling to breathe. So, I pulled them up one by one using the same technique that our guide had used to bring me up.
We looked at each other and silently agreed upon not jumping into the water again. “Sail forward”, the guide said. Another rapid was approaching. We firmed the grips on our paddles and started making our way to the rapid. “Stand up with one foot on the edge and another inside the raft”, the guide yelled. At first I thought I heard him wrong. But no, we had to stand like this and after a couple of seconds we were standing like that.
The rapid came and the raft began to wobble. We held each other, we held each other tightly. I am glad that no one among us panicked and we smoothly crossed that rapid. We took our positions again and as instructed by the guide, we were not paddling. The raft was effortlessly going forward and we were soaking up the lovely views put forth by green hills on one flank and sandy beaches on the other.
“Look in the front”, the guide uttered. “The next rapid is going to be tough”. ‘Tough’, this word frightened me a bit. And from the first look, the rapid indeed looked ‘tough’. The water roar was louder than usual and the waves looked untamable. Nevertheless, we entered the rapid and guess what? The raft almost stood on its nose. Drenching all of us, oodles of water came in and the sudden adrenaline hit made us paddle harder and harder and harder. From UP to Down to LEFT to RIGHT, the raft was going out of control and there seemed no way out of the rapid. We were on the verge of falling, waiting for our guide to give some instruction. “Sail forward and paddle in sync”, he said. We did exactly the same and it worked. We came out of the rapid. Yes, yes, we came out of it and shouted hard with our paddles in the air. That was the best feeling ever.
“Save your energy, we still have to cross the last rapid”, the guide instructed. But the last one was easy. We just paddled forward and we were out of there. Those four rapids gave us enough memories and stories to take back and share with our friends. We came in Rishikesh to have few bites of adventure, but that rafting expedition gave us much more than that.
We left our rafts on reaching the nearby beach and boarded the bus to Alaknanda River Adventure Camp. We all had our stories to share with colleagues who were on other three rafts. And like ours, those stories were full of excitement, thrill, adventure and laughs.
Our clothes were completely wet and the water dripping from them drenched the bus interior as well. After a ride of 16 km, we reached the Alaknanda Camp around 5:30 PM and drank some tea to shoo shivers away. The sun had gone to its abode and the cocktail & bonfire session at the camp were about to start.
One hour passed; the timber decorated in the shape of triangle was set ablaze. The flames added some color to the dark and we all gathered around for a drinking session.
As the booze started going down to stomachs, the people started introducing their different…no..no…hilarious versions. Rahul was again twisting its sleek waist on Bhojpuri songs and this time Manas and Nidhi were also accompanying him. Swairik was telling about his girlfriends he never had while Avinash revealed his plans of selling Moon. I was there in the center, listening to everyone and laughing my lungs out. Some people had gone completely expressionless after boozing; some were hugging almost everything, be it team mates, volleyball poles or large stones on the shore; and some were in deep talks about life.
The frolic extended till midnight; all booze had been gulped down and the party was over. Everyone said the final ‘Good Night’ before surrendering to sleep in their tents.
It was 5:45 AM when I first opened my eyes in the morning. I was still tired, but I wanted to see the sun rising up from behind the hills. On coming out, I saw that sky was grayish and there no sign of sun. But still, the sky looked mesmeric with boulders of clouds clashing against each other and the hills trying to puncture them with their pointed tops.
After roaming here and there for a while, I had my morning tea and breakfast with Shikha, Sudip, Nidhi and Rahul. We all were told to get ready by 9:00 AM as the bus will leave for Delhi exactly at 9:30 AM. While I was packing my bag, a thought crossed my mind. We all think that we are knowledgeable and know enough about this world, but once we start to travel, once we start exploring other landmasses, once we start meeting people from other backgrounds, we realize that what we know is actually a fraction of what is out there to know.
I sat in the bus with thoughts like these and promised myself to visit at least 3 different destinations every year. After all, I finally knew that the enigma thronging this world will be one of the most interesting things to decipher.