The Decathlon showroom in Carter Road is a happy place. Trekkers, cyclists, joggers and sports enthusiasts throng the outlet. It's high time we Mumbaikars realised that there is much more to life than just hustling and bustling. I mean, this shop felt like a whole new world to me. I stuff my new hiking shoes, poles, gloves and windcheaters into one big orange backpack. I get out of the store with a big smile only to realise that I had forgotten to pick up the cool travel pins I had seen in every corner of the shop. I rush back in and add six multi-coloured travel stickers to my cart. After scribbling my initials, I pin them all to my bulging rucksack.
It was an impromptu decision that I chose a 15,000-ft. pass located in the lap of the mighty Himalayas for my first hiking experience. The trip-reminder mails and a few internet searches about the difficulty level, made me realize how unprepared I was. Frenzied calls to Sir Ranjit Singh, the only professional trekker in my circles was what followed. The very next day, we decided to meet at sunrise and trek up to yogi hills for practice.
Sir Ranjit, my former geometry professor, would narrate incidents justifying his shift of interests from being a math teacher to a K2 aspirer. His experiences with a fiery-eyed leopard, love for rice beer and atheist ideologies were all I heard about. Though I disagreed and argued with him on certain topics, his enthusiastic and persuasive way of narration made me listen to him more. The small hill that he would climb up in 10 minutes took almost an hour for me. A bit of dragging and few motivational lines led to a splendid view of the entire city.
Then suddenly, the D-day is here. I am super excited but slightly nervous too. I would be spending the next two weeks in the hills with complete strangers. God, I couldn’t imagine being up there for so long without internet connectivity.
Continuing with my tradition of never reaching places on time, I am the last of the whole lot to board the train from Bandra terminus. To my surprise, we start getting along really well. It feels like a group of people belonging to the same tribe. Travel, psychology, politics-discussions roll over one after the other with ease. Diverse opinions; unifying interests.