Updated: Apr 13
Dua loved soup. But what she loved even more than plain old soup was noodle soup. Slurping down some hot noodles with an even hotter spicy broth was the epitome of pleasant experiences in life to her. Her name meant “prayer” and her only prayer on each cold day she encountered was for a bowl of steaming noodles with leaves in a spicy broth.
Dua was also the manager of an IT team for an MNC. Several juniors at her workplace thought she was cooler than the other Toyota loving managers in their building because of her love for the mountains. She had been climbing mountains since she was nine years old. She didn’t know how to explain it to her colleagues, that it wasn’t a conscious choice at 42, it was a way of life.
There were some days now that were unlike the ones in her early twenties when she wouldn’t need a single break hiking up a steep hill. But the breaks had been growing more and more frequent as she grew older. She knew that the day when it was all breaks, and no climbing would come too.
“But I still have 38 years till I’m 80.” Dua said to the young fellow traveler while poking at the fire.
“You plan to stop taking these trips once you are 80?” He laughed.
“That’s that plan. Let’s see what life thinks of it.” Dua replied with a chuckle.
The two were sitting by the fire on top of a small hill in Mahabaleshwar. The lush green hills were a welcome sight to Dua after three back-to-back rushes of team appraisals, releases, and sustainability initiative meetings. It was excellent to sustain the sanctity of the environment, but what was even better was sitting in that very environment and catching the Sun sneak up on the horizon.
The moment that the opportunity had presented itself, a Thursday off from work due to Ambedkar Jayanti, Dua had applied for a leave of absence on Friday and packed her bags. She had called her usual tour group leader and found out that she was in Mahabaleshwar. The group was leaving for the Tirthan Valley on Saturday and Dua was eager to meet the dogs that knew her so well at one of the rental cottages.
“Have you covered all of the states in India?” her brand new friend, Sumer, inquired.
“Pretty much. I still want to go back to Gokarna to explore though. I know what you are thinking, I just spent 15 minutes describing why mountains are better than beaches, but I feel like Gokarna has some special potential.” Dua replied.
There was a small pause after which Dua said, “I think we should have another bowl of soupy noodles.”
One of her old travel buddies, Harshika peaked out of her tent and said, “Yes.”
Dua smiled and set up three small bowls. Then, as an afterthought she reached for her Outer Woods bag and pulled out three small glasses as well. She turned around and said, “Fancy a fruity cocktail to go with that?”
Her two friends gave her a bewildered look and said, “You carry a minibar with you?”
Dua unzipped the bag all the way and showed them its contents. The bag was packed with 3 bottles, one of vodka, one of coffee liqueur, and one of elderflower liqueur. There were two small cans of fizzy fruits drinks and tiny glasses.
Harshika smiled and said, “I thought that was your travel kit.”
Dua laughed and said, “It is, kind of.”
Sumer asked, “Don’t you ever get lonely. I mean, you travel most weekends, and you work like crazy during the week. Doesn’t it ever get annoying to not have a consistent and stable life with all your friends in just one place?”
Dua poured them a drink each and handed it to them. Then she began preparing the noodles and said, “I think there is another way to live life, one where all your friends are in one place, or at least most of them are. But I don’t think that one is for me. I mean, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, right? Don’t get me wrong, I never get into a stranger’s car on a desolate road but sitting here right now with you guys, I don’t think I ever get lonely like that.”
Harshika took a sip of her drink and said, “Umm, with skills like these and a minibar in your bag, I don’t think you will have any trouble making new friends anywhere.”
Dua laughed and said, “Yes, I like to travel in style. Ha-ha!”
"The more I travelled, the more I realised that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends." - Shirley MacLain
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