Watching the snow-topped Kibo emerge from the clouds is like watching the ‘earthrise’ from a comfortable stool on the moon. It is one of the more magical things you can witness while simultaneously trying to handle 250 children without making any one of them feel excluded. We had already played innumerable counts of “Fire in the mountain” I was smug. The plan was to tire them out enough to sit down under the tree and share stories. But I forgot the small detail about the boundless energy of children.
One of the children asked if there were trains in my country. Yes, have you seen one? No. Do you want to go for a ride? Yes, please?
So we closed our eyes and imagined an Indian train – the roaches, the constant call of “chai, chai, coffee, coffee”, the Gujarati mother and her picnic bag for 12, the way your body becomes one with the motion of the train, the bread omelettes, youth playing rummy on the left, an old lady silently grumbling about her husband buying everything from the every stop, groundnut shells on the floor.
And just like that we start moving with the train. The windows are open; the cool mountain air is in your hair. You are rising and rising and rising. Suddenly you’re on the roof of the train. It winds through valleys; you can see the tall, ancient trees, the huts that look like they could be blown over – the ones with a satellite dish on their roof.
You look at yourself and you’re donning a fake moustache and you’re sporting SRK hair. You blow it away from your face while you look down on your new, shiny kholapuris. You turn around and you have a group of colourfully dressed men with moustaches that would give Veerapan a run for his money. All of you are sporting identical turbans and out of nowhere, a bunch of synchronised dancers appear. You look in front and there’s a beautiful Indian girl even more breathtaking than Malaika Arora dressed in her traditional Ghaghra with a modern twist – leaving no doubt about what is behind her Choli.
You stretch your hands out as far as they will go; a huge sheepish grin on your face as you sing at the top of your voice as only A.R. Rahman can inspire you. ‘Chaiyya, Chaiyya’, you sing and dance as if your life depended on it. Moving with the train. Moving with the wind. Moving in sync with your dancers.
“Teeeeeeea, Coofeeeee, Coffeeeee”. You smile at the nice Mallu chai wallah. You continue to dance with one hand and sip coffee with the other.
This is life!