there was always this fixation with long journeys. it started from all those mysterious bus journeys when i was a kid. though the memories are vague now, I could still remember a few vivid moments, tragic at most times. bus journeys used to take half a day back then before the highway was build. And the longest would be one whole day from one end of the peninsular to the other.
but thats not the story. the story was how this passion for travelling took many twisted turns, painful yet liberating. it was always The university that provided the starting point for many adventures. knowing, and threading new roads with the assurance that the earth wont open up and eat you. try holding up a wide eyed wanderer too long, and this is what happens.
and hence, the first real long journey was not far. it was during the ragging, an universal indian tradition in universities around the world, that took me out, exorcised the ghost in me. i was dumped at a graveyard along with a few unfortunate souls to sit out the night. and the catch, since there is always one, is to bring back some souvenirs from the realm of the dead. much easier was getting the frangipani flower, rather than trying to break some shards from tombstones. nope, no digital cameras back then, not with me anyway.
that one jump was turned into a whole night of salvation hunting. suddenly the graveyards opened up into fields where we looked for glory. for bragging rights and stories for generations. we ran and played hide and seek, we shouted and dreamed the stars away. there was no ghost. the next day, we volunteered for this 'punishment' again with another group of intrigued seniors. and the next as well.
a few years after, in another travel through the eastern jungles of the peninsular we rode through many graveyards, many afterlife homes. they have the best stories, they let the best imaginations work. if the travel was with equally goofy dudes, you get the most horrific tales laced with sex and adventure. but it was with the lorry drives that you get the most real stories complete with battle scars. and that is when all the fear you worked to exorcise over the years come hunt you again, every night. never challenge a true story teller, especially if he has a reputation at it. like when he says at around 2.45 am every day a bald ghost with burning head walks from the graveyards over the hills, you dont laugh at him. because when you do see one, maybe not a clear vision, but when you do see some fire floating in air walking towards the road at 2.45 am sharp, you rather wish to be dead. try starting a conversation after that. you'd be lucky if you dont fall sick for a week or two. but seeing stuff at a distance is much better than getting ambushed by vampires on trees. or your friendly early morning trekker waving at you in all white. or the black bald men of the old federal roads.
i have forgotten the exact routes but have always remembered the tales. i will be making another journey along the eastern routes in the near future. maybe this time ill be lucky enough to document some...