I had this crazy fantasy as a child to live with animals in a cave and eat raw meat that was cooked on the fire I had manually created. I also always wanted a horse as a pet and do some rather bold things that no one else dared to do. But as I grew up I realised that money does not grow on trees (trust me, it doesn’t!) and that losing a leg and a limb is not really considered heroic and bold.
I was driving towards Bangalore (I am not saying Bengaluru even if you kill me), a place that every average Indian living in a remote city with electricity problems and no café coffee day would dream of going. It was a long 16 hour drive and my fingers were getting numb due to the constant hold on the wheel. My legs were aching and I was getting bored of the Linkin Park CD. We stopped for a much needed break. The chaiwallah was speaking in fluent Kannada giving us a fresh wave of a culture shock. ‘Yeh jagah kaunsi hai?’ I asked him. He laughed and said, “Aiyyo Madam!! You don’t know this place. This place is world famous!” I looked at my friend (yes I was not alone) with a raised eyebrow. This guy was interesting. I asked him what is so world famous about his place. He told me an interesting story about his encounter with the terrorists and how he was caught up in their broil while they sought refuge under the Jog Falls. I was immensely intrigued by his story and sat there observing him while he animatedly uncovered the details of his adventure. He boldly portrayed himself as the hero who comes to the rescue and saves all from the terrors of mass destruction. His story ended typically with him scraping through death and the terrorists finally behind bars.
Neha (my friend) a documentary filmmaker, is very passionate about issues relating to crime. She took this story as a personal insult and yelled at the poor guy to stop spreading rumours around. Ramu (chaiwallah) turned out to be a major egotistical man and was adamant on proving his honesty. We finally ended up going to the Jog Falls. I didn’t have much of a say and so I decided to just drive there and get over with it. I am glad I did. The sun was about to set on us and the feeling of an eerie adventure somehow managed to creep in. We parked our car in the lot outside the viewpoint of Jog Falls. Apparently, no one was allowed post sunset, but our very own chaiwallah was never questioned. The first sight of the Falls was like jumping out of a garbage can and falling on a bed of roses (with no thorns). It was magnificent. The roar of the falls suddenly captures you like a lion just attacked you. It takes you by surprise. I think we stood there for fifteen minutes or more trying to digest the sight before us. My friend all curious asked, “So here is where your terrorist hid? In the middle of a humungous tourist attraction! Some smart terrorists you had there!” She had a satisfied smirk plastered on her face like she had already won the battle. The man had an even bigger smirk which scared me a little bit. “Illa Madamji, Find a long stick, you might need it. We have lots of walking to do,” he said. I could have pretended to faint and avoided the walk. Something about this said that I shouldn’t whine. I am glad I didn’t.
I later realised where we were walking towards. We were walking towards the base of the waterfall. I was terrified to my wits when I realised what we were doing. There had to be crazy animals and snakes down there. Plus it was dark. That man only had one small torch. Were we going in a death trap? Is he a terrorist himself? Are we going to be held as captive? What if Ramu turned out to be a crazy maniac? I frantically tried to tell my friend to turn around and go back to civilization but all in vain. She was adamant in finding out. Turns out she is more of an adventure junkie than me. After a long hour of walk, we reached the base. It felt like we were in one of those movies where you walk for hours and then finally manage to find the treasure. We had found treasure. The water flowing at our end was calm and serene. The moonlight falling on the surface gave it a sparklingly peaceful aura that made you want to stare at it for hours. As you let your eyes look farther you see the gushing force of the water falling hard and eventually calming down into free flowing river. The water level was not high, we were safe. I felt like a crocodile would jump out of the water anytime and bite my leg. Ramu broke us out of our enchanting gaze and took us to this small cave where plastic bottles, gunpowder, food packets, torn clothes and cigarettes were lying around. He showed us this drawing on the wall where a goat is chasing a lion. It was still hard to believe if this was a terrorists’ refuge or just some random gypsies hide out. But we couldn’t care less. We camped the night there. Ramu lit a fire and we sat up all night listening to his stories. He had bought frozen chicken which we cooked on the fire and ate peacefully. Neha managed to click a thousand pictures. He told us about how many people have died mysteriously down here. We even encountered a crazy monkey who managed to take all my Pringles. We shouted and screamed like a tiger had just attacked one of us. As the first light broke out we saw some never seen before birds. The waterfall seemed to be less monstrous and more alluring somehow.
Neha finally gave up and thanked Ramu for getting us there. It was the worst climb of my life. My legs hurt even when I think about it. We gorged on a lavish breakfast once we reached on top. The time had come to leave. The realisation of an end to an adventure sank in. It was a mixed feeling. I shook Ramu’s hand (he didn’t seem to like hugs) and thanked him. I offered him money which he gladly took (What chivalry!). As I sat in my car I thought about the terrorists. I don’t know if they actually sought refuge down there or not but sure as hell they managed to terrorize me for one night. A night that had managed to fulfil a fantasy. Now, I hope to get a horse soon.