When you’re living in a place that houses more goats, dogs and monkeys than it does humans, adventure is only to be expected. The course of studies of engineering students lands them often in whacky places for internships. My brother’s was one such case- and come summer he headed to Kalagarh for an internship with UJBNL. Having heard about Kalagarh’s proximity to Jim Corbett and with nothing much to do over the summer, I jumped at the opportunity. My mother tagged along- worried about the two idiots-us. So, there we were the band of three- up in spirits being driven down the spiralling roads to the glorious destination. Arrival, around evening, however dampened the spirits somewhat. No, scratch that - a LOT.
We were staying at one of the irrigation quarters- huge spacious houses with personal gardens- only most of these houses, ours included, had been so long abandoned that they looked like haunted houses from some Stephen King novel. I flinched. Not that I was scared of ghosts or anything, but with the daunting power cut on arrival and the sun fast sinking, there was no way I’d be comfortable getting in there. Nonetheless, I couldn’t just stand around waiting to be stung to death by mosquitos. The insides had been cleaned and made presentable by someone, yet, the peeling paint and the gloomy atmosphere did little to make me feel at home. Not to mention the ridiculous number of rooms in the house and the washroom which was located at the farthest end with a window that showed a glimpse of the creepiest moon ever- and occasional monkeys dropping by to scare you out of wits. I would’ve have turned around and ran away but the driver had taken the car and left. We’d been abandoned!!
Come morning, things looked a tad better. Being the outskirts- unpolluted by city smoke and waste- the air was fresh and the sunlight brilliant. We’d carried with ourselves a microwave and some basic essentials- for a caffeine addict like me, life can be hell without it. So coffee cup in hand I walked to the front door and –bam! I’m blocked by a flock of goats making themselves at home in the veranda right outside. Blissfully unaware that they were blocking our only connection to the world outside, they sat there, some brooding, some munching away. After a much painful effort and random bits of vegetables being thrown out of the window, I managed to wedge myself out to shoo away the rest of them. While it irritated me then, the memory of it remains funny- the only thing I regret is not having had a camera.
The day held for me a few more surprises. While my brother was off interning, I and my mother decided to take a stroll outside- explore the, uh, city? The place was eco-friendly to say the least, with barely any cars- 2 in an hour perhaps- the majority of people relied on cycles or God’s handiwork- the feet. Not that anything else was required. Pretty much everything was contained in the quarter campus and anything outside was miles away. We found a little place called the “market”- a couple of grocery stores and one toy/gift shop. Jim Corbett would have to wait till my brother’s internship was done with so I loaded up on games- ludo, chess- and a pile of Maggi and chocolates. Survival, eh?
The rest of the days were spent taking walks, stuffing Maggi, playing chess and bonding with the goats- they are not half as bad once you get to know them. The monkeys can be a menace but mostly they’re harmless entertainers sometimes entertaining at the cost of your own dignity. Like this one baby monkey that threw an orange at the grilled entrance of the back door and grinned mercilessly as I yelled in surprise. While it wasn’t the perfect trip ever, or even so much of a trip- it was certainly unique. Long walks, clear skies and cozy evenings with the family- a welcome break from life in a metro.
Cost Break Up:
1. Free Stay!
2. Rs. 10 per packet of Maggi- almost Rs. 6/day per person.
3. Seasonal Cost of Vegetables.
Total: Less than Rs. 100/day per head.
Contributed by Ateendriya