Recently, my wife and I drove from Gurugram to Kasauli and stayed there for a couple of nights. The visit evoked memories of our impulsive trek of decades ago.
The year was 1992 and it was Independence Day. I was posted as the DIG, Ambala range. Patriotic songs rent the air at the Police Lines parade ground. Inspired and excited, I thought of making the day a memorable one. No sooner was the function over than I reached home and announced to my wife that we were going for Kalka-Kasauli trek and must leave in an hour’s time. Our young daughters were to accompany us. ‘Are you crazy?’ she shot back, ‘it’s already past 12 o’clock. For trekking, we should start early in the morning,’ she said, visibly annoyed.
‘It’s a historic day and will be a unique celebration. I completed this trek in just two hours when I was in college in Chandigarh. It’ll help me rouse and initiate policemen into trekking,’ I tried to mollify her.
‘It’s an impossible demand you’re making on us,’ she protested, but started making preparations. Kalka being part of the Ambala range, a message was passed on to the SHO, Kalka.
We hit Kalka around 2.30 pm. A trek guide was ready at the starting point. ‘Why don’t you come along?’ I poked him. ‘Sir, I better receive you at Kasauli,’ he dodged cleverly.
The guide was a peppy guy and we started off without any delay. The first hour of trekking was exciting and the monsoon magic was to be seen to be believed. The entire hillside was lush green and luxuriant; fragrance-laden air, streams and springs gushing out here and there. The stinging nettle, a sharp painful itch-triggering bush, a nightmare for kids in the hills, was all over, alongside wild daisies and tiny flowers peeping out of nowhere.
But two more hours of trekking and the spirits started sagging. The girls were impatient. The trail was getting steep and strenuous. The hilltop was nowhere in sight. To make it worse, sharp showers rattled us. We hurriedly took cover under a rock shelter. It was long before it ebbed into a drizzle.
As it was getting dark, we decided to trek up despite the drizzle. The trail was muddy and we slipped now and then. I had no option but to keep a cheerful face and take in the outbursts of my team’s temper. The guide had taken out a torch and was leading the way up. By now it was pitch-dark. Every other bush looked like a ghost.
Suddenly, someone flashed a torch from above. The SHO was waiting for us. I could see a jeep. We had reached! ‘Sir, with family in tow, you should not undertake such panga,’ he said as he pulled me up on to the road.
‘Oh, come on! I’ve had enough of it,’ I could only drawl wearily.
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