Six Creepy Crawlies on a Trip - Aditya Bidikar

(Aditya Bidikar is almost twenty – you do not call that nineteen. He also doesn’t mind referring to himself in the third person; he’s been doing so in the second person for many years anyway. He wants to be a published writer, and he is very hopeful that one day, he might be able to do it full-time. His hobbies include reading, writing, listening to music and daydreaming. His blog is located at http://sillysod.blogspot.com/ and he will be very pleased if you visit it.)

The trip began like most other trips of this kind do – by the cancellation of a previously planned trip. We had decided to go to Murud, in the coastal area, but that got cancelled, and as a substitute, Matheran, near Mumbai, was decided upon. ‘We’ here consisted of five friends – Chetan, Nikhil, Prasad, Salil and Varun – and I.

The tickets were booked, and seats were reserved, and it was decided that we would meet at a general time in a general area, because whenever a particular place and time is selected, we invariably miss each other. I arrived on platform 1 on the Pune station, only to find my friends waving at me from a different platform altogether.

We reached Karjat, and after a stopover at a friend’s house there, we moved on to Neral, where we were to catch the famous ‘Toy Train’ to Matheran. The train was an hour late, and that was only the beginning. The compartments arrived one by one. Then, it seemed, someone realised that the engine was missing, and something had to be done about that. Two people brought the engine, pushing it manually over the tracks. The train is so small that people are warned not to sit all on one side of the train, as it might tip over.

The heat was almost unbearable, and half of us were perspiring like mad. As the train trudged slowly up to Matheran, Nikhil brought out his drawing book, and started sketching some of the intriguing things we could see outside, including a rather weird tree-trunk that was completely black and branchless, and sticking straight out of the ground.

When we reached Matheran, we had lunch, and then three of us went to look for lodgings, and I played ‘Bounce’ on Varun’s Communicator.

Varun told me later that they’d found a place that seemed to be out of Darna Mana Hai – the room stank (both figuratively and literally), and the bed appeared as if it would burst at any moment and thousands of tiny creatures would leap out and kill you. Everything was covered by a fine layer of dust.

We didn’t stay there, of course. We stayed at an okay place called Premdeep Resorts, the only real advantage of which was that it was easy on the pockets, so that we could spend our money gorging, which we did, but more on that later.

That evening, we went to a tourist attraction called Sunset Point – a long cliff ending over a precipice, from where you could see the sunset very clearly. There was a crowd there, and there were people sitting near the cliff as well, but then Chetan and Salil decided to do a striptease, and most people left the edge to watch the sunset from a safer point. We sat on the cliff, took photos, and waited for the fat old sun to set. Nikhil took out his drawing book. For a while, it seemed that the day’s sunset had been cancelled, and we were thinking of returning, but then, the sun finally set, putting on a display that would be idiotic of me to try and describe in words.

Soon, all the other people left, and we were alone there. We lay back, and watched the sky, and listened to the silence. It was a better trance, and a higher high, than I’ve ever had. Chetan sat on the very edge, and soon Salil couldn’t help himself, and crept up behind Chetan and nudged him, scaring the crap out of him. The thoughtful mood left us, and we headed back through a dark forest, making, as we went along, animal noises that most animals would find terrifying.

After dinner, we sat in our room, playing cards and chatting. Then Salil went to sleep, and, at about 2 a.m., so did I.

Now this part is hearsay, because I was asleep at the time. Apparently, the rest of the company lay down, but stayed awake chatting. Prasad was lying next to me. At 3 a.m., I suddenly sat up and started talking in Jabberwocky. Prasad and Varun tried talking to me, but then Chetan told them that I’m somnambulist. Prasad was scared shitless, leapt over Nikhil and Chetan (no mean feat that) to get away from me. Apparently, he didn’t get any more sleep that night.


The next day, it was 11 by the time everyone was awake, and we were all too bored and fagged out to go anywhere that day. (I was gonna say ‘shagged out’, but I realised it would sound a bit iffy. Come to think of it, even ‘fagged out’ isn’t a very good choice.)

We stayed in, and Chetan and Salil played table tennis on a crappy table, while I returned to my newest addiction – ‘Bounce’. Chetan got rather inflated by the fact that he defeated Salil once, and started calling himself ‘Star Player’. I defeated him, by the way, in the one and only game I played.

After lunch, Varun said we ought to play Pictionary, something we’d only heard of till then. It was good fun, and it gave me an idea that I’m going to make some money out of – if it isn’t already taken, that is. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s just like Dumb Charades, except you draw pictures instead of using actions. It was rather funny as well. Paddy once got the word ‘restaurant’, and he drew someone in a lounge chair – to convey ‘rest’. Somehow, the guesses went everywhere from ‘USA’ and ‘UK’ to ‘New York’ and the like, before finally coming down to the right place. Chetan once got ‘insect’ and he drew something like o=o (God knows why). Varun’s very first choices were ‘boobs’ and ‘bra’. I can tell you we didn’t stop sniggering for a long time.
We spent the evening rambling through Matheran, and we ended up in a little park overlooking a cliff. I played Bounce while the others indulged themselves in scaring the other people away. All in all, quite a lot of fun. Salil almost got mauled by a cow, but I believe the cow was in more danger anyway.

That night, we decided to splurge on a great meal. My friend’s father (the one in Karjat) had recommended a place called ‘Khan’s’, so we decided to go there. It seemed respectable, so we spent a lot of time sprucing ourselves up before going.

We went there, and I think I finally understood what people mean when they say ‘Heaven’. The food was cooked brilliantly – each and every dish was just right, perfectly cooked, and quite heavenly. We fell on the food like maniacs. After dinner, we indulged in a hookah (coffee-flavoured), and some of us also had mocktails. Then we got dessert, and sat back and had it while smoking the hookah. Nikhil sketched a picture of the hookah. By then, it had started drizzling, and the cool breeze coming in from the rain, lulled us into a state of smug ecstasy.

If ever anyone reading this wants to go to Matheran, I think they should make at least one visit to Khan’s. Wonderful Punjabi cooking (and not too expensive), excellent desserts, and hookahs in more than 20 flavours.

As we made our way to the Resort, the cow that had encountered Salil that evening decided to pursue her murderous intents and confronted us. Killer Guy (a very bad pun on the fact that cows are called ‘gai’ in Marathi) persuaded us to try a different route rather than have a bovine encounter. Thankfully, we reached safety, although Prasad almost ran the last few meters to the resort.

That night, Prasad slept beside me again. About fifteen minutes after turning in, I got up, took a torch, held it under my face, and jumped on Prasad screaming, “PADDY!”

The poor chap was scared out of his wits. His face almost turned white. The rest of the gang had known what I was gonna do, and they were all literally rolling around with laughter. I don’t think Prasad got much sleep that night either.


The third (and, thankfully for the readers, last) day was much more sedate and calm. We woke up at 11 again (missing the beautiful sunrise once more), and lazed around till it was time for lunch.

After lunch, we played Pictionary once more (the game has now become a staple of our overnight stays at each other’s house), and then, at five, we decided to go to Charlotte Lake.

The lake was hideously underwhelming (it was dammed-up water), and we wanted to get away from it. There was a sign saying ‘Lord’s Point’ pointing away from the lake, and we went there. It was a lovely sight, and Nikhil’s notebook came out again, and so did Varun’s camera.

We then retreated to another point near Charlotte Lake. It was in a depression where the water flows out of the cliff. We sat there to watch the sunset. I saw something that is sickeningly common, but which still upsets me. Two other groups of boys were there, and they littered the place with everything from cigarette butts to gutkha wrappers and polythene bags. I was really irritated, and couldn’t even enjoy the sunset. Does it hurt people not to litter? I mean – is it a huge effort or something? Why can’t they abstain from littering?

Anyway, that night, we had dinner at Khan’s again. I declared a wish to commit suicide, because after this, everything else would just be a disappointment.

We turned in much earlier than usual, and the next morning, we walked to the Taxi stand and got a taxi to Neral. The driver drove us (Caution: Sarcasm Ahead!) slowly and safely down the stunningly smooth roads.

Getting home after any journey is an anti-climax, and so was this, but the afterglow stayed for a long while. Which was nice.

-Aditya Bidikar

About Matheran:

Matheran is located about 70 kms. from Mumbai. To get there by train, you can alight at Karjat, then proceed to Neral, and then take the Toy Train or a taxi. Motor vehicles are forbidden in Matheran, and that is one of its main attractions.
The room we stayed in cost us Rs. 500 per day (around Rs. 85 per person), but this was off-season, and usually you can expect a minimum of Rs. 200 per person.

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