I was looking forward to the field trip part- where we had to go and spend five days in a village and conduct a study. But we had to endure a colossally boring gas-man before we could get to the field-visit part. He spoke for four hours like the worst kind of high-school debate participant - over-punctuating and unnecessarily emphasizing every damn thing he said. And he said some really stupid shit ("Green is not a color" "The earth is still beautiful" - oh really!).
He kept saying things like "the honorable minister in the current govt. said…" (numb skull, which honorable minister are you talking about- there are at least 70 of them), "the honorable nobel laureate has said…" (Oh right! there is only one nobel laureate in the history of mankind). And the clincher was "the greatest philosopher of the world…"(at this point I was waiting with bated breath as to whom he was going to confer the title on) and the title went to…"H.G.Wells" (what!!). If I ever found a candidate for the title of "poop among nincompoops" - this guy is the one.
The saving grace was an organized trip to old Mussoorie, which is located a few hundred feet above the new part of the town, and is much more beautiful and peaceful. Our tour guide was a local journalist who spoke chaste hindi and had a curiously strong affection for the British and the East India Company. He filled us with facts and figures - and we all acted duly impressed. But a more useful guide was a local man who kept pointing out at farm houses with large compounds, and elaborating on which house was owned by which celebrity - "that house belongs to Pranoy Roy…you know…once when I was here with a bunch of people, Pranoy Roy and his wife were out for a walk…and everybody in my group started to….", "that house was recently bought by Tendulkar…", "that house belongs to the famous actor Victor Banerjee" - to which many in our group drew a blank and exchanged hesitant glances…who?!…and the man had to add that Banerjee plays the old guy in "Jogger's Park" (sorry Mr. Banerjee - I liked you in many Ray films, but the world is what it is).
Finally, the field trip part arrived. We were split up into two groups, and two villages in the lower himalayas were chosen for us - Agar and Kasmoli. We ended up going to Kasmoli - I was sort of glad we went to Kasmoli - at least the name had character. If you are a village and have to name yourself, I say you should go all the way and pick a name like "Kasmoli" or "Jhumarithalaiya" or "Sattuvanthangal"or something like that with some substance and character. "Agar" sounded very anemic a name for a village - it sounds more like something you put in your food, while frying the masala.
We started to Kasmoli and drove up the mountains. We drove into a cloud, and after a bit of driving we were above it. It felt like we were floating on clouds - much like what you feel while on a plane. Only that in our case, if we had wanted, we could have got down and peed in the bushes and felt the tingle of the grass under our feet and not had to look at some drooling stranger covered in an airline-given blanket instead.
Kasmoli was tucked into the mountains - a beautiful village. If I direct Chinna Gounder -2, I'll shoot it in Kasmoli, and have Vijayakanth deliver a guest lecture to the local mountain leopards on family values and village life. We went about our job - chatting with the villagers, collecting data and formulating grand theories. Since it was a Sunday, the kids were out roaming the village. We gave them some goodies and asked them to convince and drag their mothers and fathers to the panchayat bhavan so that we could grill them with questions. Quite friendly, these tiny-tots were. I wore a kid's size 2 or so chappal and mimed walking in it - they got a kick out of it. One of them wore my sandals and strutted around - see photo.
The program ended with the required elements. Reports were written, powerpoints were made and presented, appreciations were registered. I came via Delhi and squeezed a one hour meeting with my friends there. I was sitting in the back seat of my friend's maroon Ritz and we were driving around looking for a coffee shop close to the airport. I was in that exact seat, two weeks ago, doing the exact same thing- roaming the streets of Delhi, with the same guys. People say life comes one full circle. Meanwhile, it also makes several small circles.