We left Samsara in great spirits, having spent our entire morning playing with Guldu, the little pup. We were back on canopied roads with tall pine trees everywhere, a variety of calls from birds singing from somewhere in the trees, a chill breeze in the air, and warm sunshine all around. It was so picturesque – much like the scenes out of a well framed film but so much better.
While we were driving, we saw a grandmother and her grandson by the side of the road, trying to hitch a ride to a town on the way. We readily agreed and immediately started making space for the both of them to sit. It’s a tough world out there, it doesn’t hurt to be kind and help around as much as you can.
The whole ride went by smoothly; we made small talk at the beginning, we told her we were travelers from Bangalore and she told us that she was on her way to a newborn’s naming ceremony. She requested for a sip of water for her grandson and herself and then we fell silent till we reached a fork in the road where we had to go our separate ways. Throughout the drive, there was a nervous air around the grandmother. Her grandson, on the other hand, was carefree but obedient to her. She, however, had a nervous energy to her. She got out of the car, thanked us with a rigid smile and nervously mumbled something about money and payment. When faced with awkward situations, my reflex is to laugh. So I laughed. And told her she didn’t have to pay us. We hadn’t gone out of our way to help her out. And immediately, her body language changed; she relaxed, her brows loosened up and her smile was without constraint. “Bless you, child. Thank you!” She said gleefully, doubled the grip on her grandson’s hand and quickly walked towards the market place.
I wondered if that was all she thought about during our car ride.
We decided to call it a day when we reached the small city of Karanprayag, right where Alakhananda river meets Pindar river, the river was raging in full power when we entered the city. We stayed in Shri Krishna Palace Hotel, an average hotel but I guess, the best Karanprayag can offer. We were tired from our journey and we just wanted to eat something and call it a day. From the little we walked around Karanprayag, we spotted two small restaurants with sweet shops, an ATM, another hotel for lodging – but this one was dingier than the one we had decided to stay in. All in all, just your any other average town. But the view of the river is kind of amazing.
When we were checking into the hotel, we spotted a framed photo on the wall behind the counter of the manager (and possible owner, maybe?) – the one who was helping us check in – with the famous Superstar, Rajnikanth. Naveen and I cried out in delight!
“Oh, yes! My favorite.” The manager/owner said, looking at the photo frame with love and affection. “We are also his favorite, you know?” He said, smiling from ear to ear. “He always comes to visit us whenever he’s this side. Always drops in for a cup of tea.”
Naveen and I smiled and agreed with him; “Yeah, he’s a humble and down-to- earth guy.” I said to the manager. I get a kick when I talk about famous people like we have been next door neighbors all my life.
“In fact, you know what, he’s here for a shoot and he’s coming here tomorrow for a cup of tea.”
“He’ll come early in the morning, usually when nobody is around and he’ll order one cup of tea and he’ll leave. I have to click a selfie with him, my daughter made me promise.” He laughed joyfully, almost clapping his hands together like an excited toddler.
Was he being serious? His excitement seemed palpable, the photo in the frame seemed authentic and we had read somewhere in the news that he was in Uttarakhand for a shoot.
“If you two want, you could meet him. But you have to wake up really early.” The manager said, nodding seriously.
Honestly, I wasn’t really that excited and neither was Naveen. I mean, I know loads of people who would have jumped at this opportunity and he is a true, one of the few genuine Superstars and so deserving of the title – but we aren’t such huge fans. I preferred getting a good night’s sleep and wake up when I wanted to, not by someone else’s timetable.
We had an early dinner and retired for the day and fell asleep watching a movie on the small television in our small room.
When we woke the next day and headed for breakfast; we spotted the manager walking across the hall so we stopped him and chatted with him.
“Yeah, he came.” The manager said, hands deep in his pockets. “But he didn’t stay for long. Must have been busy, he’s here on a shoot, that’s why. He’ll come again, I know.” He shrugged and walked away. We didn’t ask about his selfie, he didn’t mention it either.
We didn’t get to meet the Superstar but we weren’t too upset; we got to eat freshly made hot aloo parathas and puris and drink delicious cups of teas along with it. And soon enough, we were packed, our car was loaded and we were on our way to Joshimath.
We reached Joshimath early in the evening and decided to check into a GMVN – government provided rest houses for tourists and travelers. This was our second time staying at these rest houses, the first time being Barthi Falls, where we stayed at a KMVN and just like the hospitality and warmth we had received there, we felt it here too. The rooms were maintained excellently, the staff and caretakers were courteous and friendly and we got to eat freshly cooked food. We settled in immediately, washing away our fatigues with quick showers and some light stretches.
We couldn’t wait to explore the roads of Joshimath.