As a rule, invitations to lunch with friends being something I consciously shy away from would explain how, on a Saturday in September I had conveniently forgotten about one such lunch engagement we had apparently accepted. In my defence, my having accepted the invitation must obviously have been in a moment of weakness and so was unconsciously and effortlessly shelved away. Be that as it may, believing that I had the day free and having plenty of time on my hands, it being a wet and somewhat blustery day, donning my raingear I hopped on to my bike to head off to Glenmorgan Estate to meet the new owners of the property. I should add that being in the middle of an ongoing husband/wife cold war, I left home having chosen to not inform Kitty of my where I was heading off to.
Glenmorgan Estate being a good 50 Kms from home and since I had to traverse through Ooty town, which is always teeming with tourists, I managed to surprise myself that I was at their factory a little over an hour after heading out. This despite the fact that enroute riding through the thick shola forest one has to traverse to get to the estate, I had the pleasure of spending a good 10 minutes watching the antics of a largish troop of Lion-tailed-macaques who were nonchalantly frolicking around on the side of the road, comfortable in the knowledge that the forest is their undisturbed domain.
Tucked away in the middle of this shola forest on the western fringe of the Nilgiris, the estate is draped over a spur on the edge of an almost vertical cliff, a virtual lands-end! In that remote area, while the estate has a landline phone connection, it is one of the few places in the district which is blissfully undisturbed by any mobile connectivity. Which one fact sets the ball rolling on the canard of me having got ‘lost’.
Three hours after getting there, my work in the factory over and all set to head back, Rupin (the owner) said that he couldn’t possibly let me leave without lunch. Who was I to argue with that suggestion. Nice leisurely lunch chatting with the gentleman’s aged father who was full of some interesting tales.
Post lunch we ambled back to the estate office where I had parked my bike. Having ridden through a persistent drizzle on my way to the estate, in the time I had been there the rain had intensified and was now pelting down. While I was going through the laborious process of donning various components of my raingear, the phone on the Managers table rang. The gentleman picks up the receiver to say “Yes, he’s right here” followed by his pointing the receiver in my direction with a “its your daughter on the line”.
Totally perplexed since, as far as I knew, no one was aware of my visit to Glenmorgan, no sooner had the receiver reached my ear and had I uttered a quizzical “hello” that I was accosted by my dear daughter screaming and yelling at me, which progressed into some very loud bawling and ending with “Just go die, I never want to see you again!”. In the next instant the phone at her end had been handed over to Bunny, my very close friend, who took off on me from where Muskan had left off. With not so much as him taking a breath or pausing between words, he let fly a litany of the choicest Punjabi abuses. Thoroughly embarrassed, with all the others standing with me in that office looking at me question marks hanging over their respective heads, I told the lunatic at the other end to stop shouting and could he tell me what the problem was. Short staccato bursts came hurtling to me as though fired from an automatic gun:
- “You’ve been gone for hours”.
- “No one knows where you are”.
- “Muskan came here to seek my help in locating you and she’s howling her head off thinking you are probably dead”.
- “Everyone in the town is looking for you”.
- “Kitty has gone to every hospital to ask if any accident victim has been brought in”.
- “I’ve called the police and shared your and your bikes photograph with them”.
- “Finally, we got to know from your friend Ahmed that days ago in a conversation you had mentioned a visit to Glenmorgan”,
As soon as he stopped to take a breath, I managed to get a word in edgeways to tell Bunny to relax and that I was heading back.
Thoroughly chastened and feeling almost like a child who’s been rapped across the knuckles, without so much as a glance in the direction of the office staff members gathered around and obviously enjoying my discomfort, I mumbled a quick ’Thank you’ to Rupin, hopped on to my bike, tucked my poncho under my butt and quickly rode out into the downpour.
Hadn’t gone more than 10Kms from Glenmorgan, as I emerged from the Shola, my mobile took off and wouldn’t stop ringing and vibrating in my inner pocket. The incoming calls, one after the other, were so persistent that I finally had to stop and unzip three layers of raingear to reach for my mobile. With my mobile going crazy, it was obvious that I had missed many calls and messages while I was incommunicado. As soon as I had dug the instrument out from inside my apparel, the person calling just then was my friend Robin Nakai (he of the stinky socks) wanting to know where the hell was I. Here was this bloke, a good 3,000 Kms away in Chandigarh, a good 3,000 Kms away having been inducted into this stupid search party! Madness! Tells me that he got a call from Muskan to check whether he had any idea where I may have gone and had, rather helpfully, told my daughter that I’d probably gone off the road and down some khud. Bloody idiot – no wonder she was so distraught.
Back home while I was at the receiving end of many poisoned darts, each of which I deftly managed to duck, over the next ten days whomsoever I met had the same silly remark to make – “So they actually found you!”
Idiots all – I was NEVER lost!!