Diminished Wanderlust

I’m sick of travelling. Seriously. I never thought it could happen, but it has. There was a time when I would dream of roaming around the world with the person I love with not a trace of worry and care in my mind about life and career and job and all that useless stuff and unlimited money in my wallet. Turns out, too much travelling can be as boring, annoying and – not to mention – tiring as staying at a single place for days.

The Gujarat trip was easily the most hectic one I’ve ever had, thanks to tight, pre-planned schedules and mum’s shocked reprimands that I described in this blog post. I also discovered that I am sort of allergic to air-conditioning and closed spaces or places where there is little or no fresh air. Awesome. A new allergy (or whatever it is) was exactly what I needed right now. I’ve begun to feel suffocated in flights and air-conditioned cars, buses and trains. Perhaps I’m going through the initial stages of claustrophobia – I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it.

As though the torture in Gujarat wasn’t enough, I was unceremoniously hauled to Shimla to welcome the arrival of 2016 yesterday. A few old friends (old neighbours, really) had come over. They wanted to see snow in Shimla. I told them there wasn’t any. They insisted there was, and that they had information from some well-placed sources. I finally agreed, making no effort to hide my unwillingness. We called a taxi and the new phase of my winter vacation torments started.

Owing to Shimla being a hot tourist destination, and it being the holidays, there was insanely heavy traffic along the roads that lead towards the town. During the winter break, denizens of every big city in north India descend on hill-towns like Mussoorie and Shimla like zombies in a horde, hoping to catch a glimpse of the freshly fallen snow or, even better, experience a snowfall. There are also high-profile parties around this time, celebrating Christmas and arrival of the new year. These little towns which possess little space for expansion get populated to double and even triple their capacity reportedly. So, a journey that was supposed to take three and a half hours, took six. I struggled to breathe properly the entire way. We reached Shimla in temperatures approaching sub-zero at around 7 pm.

We stayed for a day in a pre-booked guesthouse and due to the aforementioned rush in the town we could only amble aimlessly around the Ridge and the Mall Road last night and today morning. The Mall Road is nothing but a cluster of quaint British-era buildings, expensive shops, even more expensive restaurants and a lonely, isolated church in a place called the Ridge. A pretty good place to spend time, except my co-travellers wanted snow and instead of snow there was a blindingly bright Sun mockingly grinning down at them. I was too miserable and cold to flash a triumphant grin. At night the temperature (according to Google’s Android app) dropped to -3 degrees, and still there was no sign of snow, just an icy, biting wind reminding me why life in the hills is so tough.

The return journey today was even worse. We couldn’t get a cab and had to manage with a Himachal Pradesh Roadways bus. The whole time it felt as if I’d vomit the contents of my stomach (I’d eaten a lot of junk, admittedly – Lays, ice-cream, home-made kachoris, parathas, etc washed down with Coke) on my lap. The bus wound along curvy roads like a serpent slithering its way through an undergrowth – far too fast for such a big vehicle and on such perilous roads.

The journey, which was nothing more than pure, endless agony for me and doubtless for my esteemed companions, lasted for seven hours when we finally reached my home. I breathed a sigh of relief and really took my first unlaboured breath since getting into the bus. The ‘friends’ wanted to stay for the night. I was too flustered to be tactful. I said “no.”

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