Last December, Hitchy posted a blog about visiting Narmada (link), with beautiful pictures to feast eyes on. Suranga, who was the first to comment said, among other things, that she enjoyed the post and ‘would love to do a trip there one day’. Hitchy was all for it and said he’d be only happy too happy to welcome her to his part of the world. That’s where I came in.
“Hitchy, please arrange a bloggers meet!”
A trifle direct, what? It was actually wishful thinking as a result of all those fine photographs. Oh, how I wish I could be there enjoying the scenery and taking pictures too. When those feelings translate to words, they do come out direct. This was promptly seconded by IHM. The rest as they say, is history. A seed was sown and from it would germinate a bloggers meet with a difference.
Why do I say ‘a bloggers meet with a difference’? I will explain.
I have been watching blogger meetings happening with regularity in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore et al. Initially I did feel I was missing out on something as I was unable to attend any. They were all happening far away from my own small city. Blogger friends were meeting each other and could be seen having a good time too. Yet, as each meet unfolded one after the other before my eyes, via write ups and pictures on blogs and Facebook, my desire to attend them evaporated pretty quickly. One question troubled me, ‘Were these actually blogger meets?’ Of course when bloggers congregate at one place it is technically a bloggers’ meet. But (and this is a personal opinion) to me they looked more like meets set up by sponsors to garner publicity for their own products through blogger community. Those who attended them of course seemed to be happy doing so, and came away with goodies and memories. Like I always say, each to his/her own. I knew it was just not my cup of tea. As someone who has met quite a few of her blogger-mates, I prefer a one to one meeting where the agenda is not allowing a third party to intrude trying to impress you with their product, but just indulging in some good chit chat and letting ourselves be.
A get-away for a weekend with fellow bloggers, where each of us sponsored our own selves, seemed just my kind of thing. We could travel together to a chosen destination, relax in the company of each other, get to know one another (as much or as less as we wanted) and return refreshed. Sounds a good idea, right?
Planning getaways of any sort need some organizational skills, the ability to rally people around and interact with them. I simply suck at that. I am a very, very poor human resources person. I can never get people to do anything I want. There is one particular story as yet untold, which illustrates the point most clearly. It relates to what happened when the L & M became the second-in-command of his army unit which resulted in his ‘lady wife’ (no prizes for guessing who) being forced upward in the hierarchy and having to deal with those lower in the rung. Not having the required skill, and least of all, the desire to make a gaggle of army wives toe the line, I was walked all over. Okay, now that I have caught myself infamously (but predictably) digressing, let me stop right here and go back to the topic at hand.
When Hitchy pinged me after the comment exchange spoken of above, saying that we could make the bloggers meet happen if there were interested parties, I was certainly happy, but I was equally wary about being hauled in for organizational duties. I was NOT going to have any of that headache in my peaceful life. I’d rather stay at home and look at pictures on my computer. So I told him upfront about my non-existent people management skills. No worries about that, the brave guy (so it seems to me) said, I will do all the necessary work. I don’t mind in the least. Phew, better he than me, I remember thinking.
True to his word, he took it upon himself and made it happen, all via mails (after all this is the net age) from contacting people, to choosing the location, booking the transportation as also accommodation and of course most important of all, doing the calculations as to who owed how much. It certainly is not an easy job, but he did it. One must always give the devil his due (and by that I don’t mean at all that Hitchy is a devil). So, kudos to you, Hitchy, for pulling this off!
As a result, there we were at Chandigarh on 10th late evening, (a much smaller crowd than had originally been intended due to the many last minute dropouts), having converged from all over the place, mostly from Delhi and Bangalore, also from Indore. But guess who traveled the farthest to make it to the trip? Who else, but yours truly, and mind you all the way from the southern most part of India?! Many of us were meeting each other for the first time outside the virtual blog-world. In fact I was meeting ALL of those who had assembled for the very first time. I was familiar with the blogs of some, others I had only started reading after knowing they had joined the trip. But we had a whole weekend ahead, not to mention the journey time, to get to know each other, didn’t we?
Unfortunately, not much getting-to-know happened initially as far as I was concerned. Soon after the tempo traveller left Chandigarh and started its upward climb, motion sickness hit me and I went into hibernation. But the rest of them had fun times, singing and making merry, gorging on snacks (which each of us had got on explicit orders from Hitchy). Past midway to our destination, we had a hot-Maggi-cum-chai-stop on the way and while there the skies suddenly opened up. Not that the rain dampened spirits. Hail that followed actually only lifted them even higher. Trooping back contentedly into the vehicle we travelled some more and reached our destination at almost lunch time, much to my relief.
The rain had predictably brought the temperature down and there was a chilly wind blowing too. It had some of us (I being one of them) scramble for our jackets. Next followed our long (it seemed long!) walk to the camp site. The scenic beauty all around was pretty awesome. But lugging the luggage took up all my breath and energy that I had no time or inclination to stop and take pictures. Can you believe that? First I wanted to get that goddamn bag off my back, drink some water and get my breath back. Then I would look around at the beautiful pine and apple trees, the sky, the daisies, the mules, the chubby birds… well you get the drift. On the wrong side of an unfit 50, you don’t exactly expect me to run with the younger herd, do you?
What do I say about the rest of the time we spent at Kufri? It rained, there was a chilly wind, it was colder than we expected, but the bottom line is, we enjoyed our stay. Actually I ‘enjoyed’ the chilly wind and the rain so very much that I thought wistfully of the Delhi heat (which magically turned to wistful thoughts of chilly Kufri as soon as I landed in Delhi). Apart from ‘enjoying’ the weather, sitting around the bukhara drinking chai (the black tea with cardamom and ginger was amazing) we had chat sessions at meal times in the central ‘canteen’ and also in our cabins. It was interesting for me (I don’t know if anyone else felt that way) to find the ‘real’ life person had qualities that were somehow different from the person we saw as the blogger. Was the projected image more of the reader’s imagination? Or was there a difference? I think I need to meet more people before I can say conclusively. A few of us also found time to have discussions on whether we can or should ‘preserve’ language/culture during morning chai time only to have to give it up when the place was invaded by other guests increasing the noise levels considerably. The same way a couple of us had just sunk our teeth into whether there is need for a man to give up his seat to a lady when dinner was announced, and we had to drop the subject. On Sunday, the younger lot made a trip to nearby Chail undeterred by the cold or on and off falling rain. I am waiting to read about their experience in one of their blogs. IHM and I preferred to stay back and utilize each break in the weather to do some bird photography. We had an excellent bird spotter in IHM’s daughter. The flora was as interesting to capture too, not to talk of the raindrops, my favorite subject.
As irony would have it on Monday morning when it was time to leave, Mr. (Meanie) Sun made a belated appearance, grinning broadly. ‘Hope you had a nice time people!’ he seemed to ask. We looked right back at him and said, “Of course!” And anyways, I have always loved the Dark Cloud.