A trip to Antergange

One of my lab-mates hikes to psychologically anneal himself. May be hiking is some sort of spiritual experience for him as doing assignments is for me. He planned for a night hiking around Antergange. Oliver told me that we’d pass through some villages during trekking, I enthusiastically joined them. Also I like the company of a girl who promised to joined us. We started from NCBS Bagalore around 4pm and reached Majestic bus station around 5pm and took a bus to Kolar from Terminal 3, platform 8. Kolar is Rs. 62 (80 Km, 2 hours) away from Majestic bus station; I didn’t worry about the direction.

We got down at Kolar bus station. I feel most comfortable in small towns and villages. It feels like me being home among my homies. There is certain sturdiness in their life and raw humanity in their manners which I appreciate a lot. I miss it sometimes in my academic life which is mostly lived in cities. Every time, I pass though a village — even mine — somehow I can’t stop thinking about M. N. Srinivas’s legendary monograph, “The remembered village“. I marvel and envy at the clarity of his vision. Its remarkable how clearly some people can see through “others”?

Just outside the Kolar bus-station, there is a small hotel. One can get vegetarian food there. We had dinner. More than food, I liked the enthusiasm of owner or manager of that place: he can be found in kitchen and serving area. He told me that they make excellent Paratha and Chapathi and they are supporting BJP (no, they are supporting Modi) this year. We had no problem caused by their food during trekking.

Oliver, being a German, attracted local attentions in restaurant. Some people wanted to know where he is from. They started inquiring about our native places enthusiastically. When they got to know we are going to Antergange, they advised us not to go uphill in night; its not safe. Apparently it is safe from humans but not from animals. A cheetah was spotted by someone on the hill. You need not take them seriously, they just love cautioning strangers.

Many people (especially from North India) don’t feel safe telling strangers where they are going. Northern part of this county suffers from a lack of trust among people compared to South. I wondered what my group was thinking about me when I was telling them freely where we are planning to go during the night (with 3 girls in group)!

It’s a 3-4 kilometers walk from Kolar bus station to top of hill. First you will encounter a pucca road. There are 2-3 villages on the way, and trust me, don’t take dogs in villages too lightly. “Barking dogs seldom bite” may not be as true as you might like it to be. Get a guy in front with a stick and one at back with a stick. Others can walk in the middle. The dog who is most likely to bite you  will appear from behind silently. Its not hard to spot them if you are willing to look beyond fellow humans. Unless a dog comes really near you, ignore it.

Once you reach the temple after crossing two villages on the road, you can fill your bottles. The water looks pure (both physically and theoretically). It did not cause anything bad to us. And there was a white puppy who can also accompany you if show him enough affection. Perhaps he is an orphan. He is very afraid of grown-up dogs and will run away if you pass through any village (which he did).

If you want to make fire on the hill, collect wood from the village or from their fields. They usually don’t have crops in this month (late March, early April) so you can collect leftovers from their fields too. Don’t cut wood at the top of hill, it wouldn’t burn.

Sleeping can be tricky and uncomfortable if you are not carrying warm clothes. Pack a good jacket and heavy pants. In night, it gets cold, blanket would be a great idea. We had tents (thanks to Oliver) but I slept outside it and didn’t feel much cold in jacket and blanket. Between me and rock was a thin chaddar with Ben10 all over it which my ex-girlfriend bought for me. In the morning, I got to know that I snore.

There are boulders on the top and people often claim that they form cave. They are not caves as I define them but let’s not worry about the pedantic. In night, finding them is not easy. Jumping from boulder to boulder can be tricky but fun nonetheless. The fall is steep and dangerous. If you get intense psychological attraction towards free jumping over boulders (as I do), control!

If you are ahead of your group and sweating a lot, take off you pants and feel the wind in your legs and butt. You can leave the undies on but it wouldn’t hurt taking them off too. Nothing feels better than this. And you might even have a non-philosophical theory why so many women are fond of mini-skirts!

Many people love to see sun-rise. I care very little for sun-rise, Oliver was even less enthusiastic about it. Nonetheless if you are up there and awake, why miss it? It was definitely not as beautiful as it gets in my village in late winter when you can see shining dew on the leaves of small wheat plant — I even wrote a poem about it once.

I was standing there looking at sun with Avankita who was sensitive enough to recall a poem and recite few lines from it. Gimli from “Lords of the ring” had this to say,  “You have chosen the Evening, but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forebodes that soon it will pass away for ever.” Her voice lacked her usual firmness and certitude and her face was even more unpredictable than usual. May be because she had to share these deeply felt words with an acquaintance. I liked that she could share something with me.

I love evenings; they promise me either home or calmness and solitude. While coming back, I wondered if I can ever recite a poem by looking at sky. I could think of the last stanza of a Mahadevi Verma’s “Main neer bhari dukh is badli”. But in front of whom I can recite it?

While coming back in the morning, the first village you’ll encounter has bus services. Bus to this village from Kolar leaves around 7am and takes about 15-20 minutes to reach there. So you should get there between 7.15am and 8am. The bus stop is just outside the village near a Masjid or Dargah. One very friendly and religiously musical old man in that Dargah reminded me of Mehmood the kitemaker (a short story by Ruskin Bond). Ruskin has a way of describing the surface of his characters. One can easily notice them. I wonder if one can discover characters painted by R. K. Narayanan and Premchand just by a simple gaze?

Dilawar

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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