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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014
Unofficial guide to slapping summer in the face
Ashish Shakya, Hindustan Times
May 12, 2013
First Published: 10:11 IST(12/5/2013)
Last Updated: 10:13 IST(12/5/2013)

It’s that time of the year when you’re bombarded with headlines like ‘23 Ways To Beat The Heat!’, ‘Sweat: It’s Like Drool, But From Your Armpits!’, and ‘It’s Totally Okay To Sell Your Kids For a Box Of Mangoes!’ In keeping with that theme, I present the only real solution to summer, ie leave. Head to the hills and come back only after the dawn of winter.

I did that two weeks ago and it was great because now I get to be one of those annoying people who won’t shut up about their vacation.

If you’re planning a trip to the hills, you might want to consider Shimla, Nainital and Manali, which offer great views of parents trying to keep kids from rushing into ravines, along with honeymooning brides showing off their forearm bangle armour kit. (I always imagine them using the bangle armour to fend off sword attacks like Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah, with each blow sending up a shower of sparks. Yes, I’m single. What gave it away?)

Most young people go off in different directions though, which is what I did, and landed up in Kasol in Himachal Pradesh. The closest airport used to be an hour away, at a place called Bhuntar, as in, “Wow, she’s got amazing bhuntars!” But since Kingfisher was the only airline flying to Bhuntar, operations had to be suspended once the company shut shop last year, after having spent all its money on Sid Mallya’s hair gel.

So now the closest airport is in Chandigarh, an eight hour drive from Kasol. Of course, I use the term ‘drive’ loosely, because the HP government’s brief to the construction companies was, “Our roads should cause backbones to disintegrate into a fine powder, which we can then smoke.” The roads are flanked by a lush green drop to death on one side, while the other is reserved for truckers hurtling down the wrong way, probably in a rush to get back to their sweethearts at the nearest roadside brothel.

But that’s a small price to pay for waking up to one of nature’s best photoshop jobs.

Lazy rivers gurgle along, emboldened by the absence of people crapping into them, and snow-capped mountains rise up against the summer in what geologists describe as a “middle-finger formation”.

It’s interesting to watch city people turn into a raving, wide-eyed gaggle once they hit villages. The smallest things set us off. For example, it’s impossible for us to have a meal without making low moaning noises about the extremely mind-bending amazeballs freshness of local vegetables. And that’s because the bar has been set pretty low. I mean all a tomato has to do to make us weep with joy is to not look like it just went four rounds with Mike Tyson. You could feed us goat fodder in the hills, and it’d still be tastier than the local greens fermenting in a patch of sewage water in the nether regions of Kurla station.

Kasol offers one of those rare, Parliament-like vacations where you can just sit back and do nothing all day. At most, you can check out some of the nearby villages, like Malana, which is famous for producing the world’s finest whatever it is that RGV has been smoking for the past decade. An hour-long drive takes you up to almost 10,000 feet, to within two kilometres of the village, after which an uphill hike reminds you that you have the lung capacity of an asthmatic corpse.

Malanis claim to be descendants of Alexander’s soldiers, and hence consider themselves racially superior to all outsiders. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. You’re better than everyone because once upon a time, some soldiers got bored of spooning each other. Also, if an army reaches Malana, it’s not really going to go very far ahead:

Commander: Men! We must march on, and conquer every land that lies ahead. Onwards, to glory! (takes puff) Or dude, let’s just like, chill and like, play some Floyd maaaan (puffpuffpuff) Hey, is that my concubine or yours?

(Fun fact: Malana rules prohibit villagers from touching outsiders, which, on the snob scale, ranks somewhere between ‘18th century pundit’ and ‘Colaba lady trying to pronounce Kandivli’.)

On the flipside, when your vacation ends, you’ll spend the next few weeks like a junkie in raging withdrawal, shuffling about, taking furtive hits off every AC unit you can find. Your friends might even need to stage an intervention. Ask them to bring fresh tomatoes.

Ashish Shakya is a writer and a stand-up comic. He co-writes the TV satire, The Week That Wasn’t. Sometimes he’s even sober while doing so.


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