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Mussoorie / Stories / Travel

Mussoorie Beyond The Tourists – Part 1

“Listen. Don’t be so stubborn. Come with us. It’ll be fun. The break will do you good.” My best friend reasoned with me as I pouted and told her I plan to never go on a trip again. After another one of my grand (and delusional) plans to go tripping north-east were put to rest, I rejected her offer to come to the weekend Mussoorie trip she’d planned with her college friends. “Ek toh I’ve already been there, and upar se it’s only for two days. I already know what all to see there. Boring Mall Road, Lal Tibba, Landour. What else? All touristy crap. And I don’t really feel like being part of a group.”

Couple of hours later, the creepy way Facebook has of tracking your conversations, scrolling through I found a travel company operating out of Mussoorie, and they had so many amazing day treks to nearby, lesser known place. All of a sudden, I found my heart beating in that familiar way. I was excited. Why hadn’t I considered this? So what if a week-long solo trip is too extreme to begin with? I can always do this! Imagine. My very first solo trek. The thought left me smiling in a manner that I’d like to describe as extremely beautiful, but I have been told it makes me look unhinged.

I suspect jealousy.

Anyway. All of a sudden, going back to Mussoorie wasn’t sounding like such a terrible idea. The hippie found his escape and back I was to planning and plotting just exactly how I’ll make things work. Within an hour, I had the whole thing mapped out: I would wake up super early on the day of our departure and that’ll give me enough time to do my solo trek before we have to start our journey back home. The trip got an approval from home, and I began making plans with the travel company. We agreed to coordinate once I reached Mussoorie, and I also started doing my research about this whole other world that had just opened in front of me. All these places hiding in plain sight! Why did I ever think a place with such culture could be boring? All of a sudden, it wasn’t the same place. Now, I was looking at Ruskin Bond’s Mussoorie. The one that figures in like a character, along with the fairies and witches that populate his world. The Mussoorie that witnesses the stories of love, friendship, train stations and solitude that he talks about. It was hiding in plain sight!

I thrive on legends, mysteries and history. There’s a special thrill in discovering something and being able to visualize all that had happened there. It makes you feel a little less ordinary, being able to behold something like that. Of everything I looked at, all the things I could do, I loved the idea of trekking to Pari Tibba. Named so because of the lore that now surrounds it, Pari Tibba is going to come up as a ‘haunted’ place if you do a google search. Something in the air makes this peak exceptionally prone to lightning strikes, as the numerous dead trees on the hill will vouch for. ‘Pari’ means both fairies and witches, and thus, a nice little view point is now famous for once being an abode for witches that would descend at night and wreak havoc upon all who tried to build a house on this hill. I was filled with a sense of adventure and I signed up for this trek in particular.

The weekend rolled around and there I was: bags packed, outfits decided, anticipation and anxiety taking turns. I was feeling like a grand explorer when all I was planning to do was an easy day hike that the locals wouldn’t even count as a trek. But hey, there is always a first time for everything. For someone never to have ventured out by herself, someone who’s always been a tourist, planning to go somewhere solo, away from the crowd, even if it’s for just a couple of hours is a big deal, okay? It’s an adventure and it’s an exploration. The viewpoint could turn out to be nothing more than a signboard I was planning to trek up to but it was mine. My plan, my time, and my very own little adventure.

Now all that was left to do was to go. With my best friend and her friends that I’d met at her birthday parties without fail for the past 3-4 years and exchanged awkward pleasantries with. “Hello how are you” se le kar awkwardly dancing together for her sake tak. People I met every year but barely knew. But how weird could it get? Another person in their party of four meant more fun, and I had my head full of solo adventures. Win-win for all. Except what I’ve learnt is, it’s always easier to bond with complete strangers than with sort-of acquaintances. That shit could get WEIRD. Good or bad is another matter. But it’s always a little weird. Because now, you have to go past “how are you” or “pass the ketchup” or hang on to them as you all smile for the group picture. Now you all have a common goal: HAVE FUN. WITH EACH OTHER.

Abey ye toh kia hi nahi kisi birthday party par.

The journey in the taxi

Suddenly, all of you form a new group. A group based not on mutual interests but the fact that you all are going on the same trip. Together.

Aise toh friends hi hain right hehe chalo sath mein maze karenge.

As soon as we all sat in the taxi, we realized, it’s much harder than we’d thought. Right from our tastes in music to our idea of what’s funny, this was one bumpy ride. I have been exposed to a lot more toilet jokes than I’d like (the appropriate number for me is ZERO) and the absolute worst, deadpan PJs that’ll make you cry. My comebacks were met with silence. I realized, not far into the trip, that my new group had very different expectations from this trip. We had very different ideas of fun. At one point, mosquitoes were killed and one of the corpses was dumped on my head. I’d prefer slow lazy music, you know, the sort you hear on a trip. They preferred trendy, active songs (for the most part). I’d grow quiet at the sight of mountains, whereas their laughter (and music) would grow louder. The result was a very strange sort of amusement we had. The sort you know you can’t forget even if you tried to.

“Maybe I can still be a traveller”, I thought to myself weakly, sitting as we were in an SUV, on our way to an expensive hotel. But the whole trip stretched out in front of me, and especially that solo trek. I was determined to be a traveller, determined to make this work.

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