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The super tramp: Shishir

Ravi M Singh

Ravi M Singh

The super tramp: Shishir

The trash left by others was 10-times ours. But that did not bother Shishir. He did that every time he camped

Shishir and I’d turned in for the night in our tent on the pine-studded Mahesh Narayan hill. I’m a light sleeper; Shishir was sleeping like a log.

A scratching sound suddenly awakened me; my mobile showed the time at 3 am. I listened with bated breath—nothing. Maybe I was mistaken; I curled into my sleeping bag and tried to go back to sleep.

It sounded again, and I was sure it came from very close. My imagination ran riot—a leopard, perhaps? Hey, what do you know? It turned out to be an accursed rat as I trained my flashlight on it through the tent’s mesh vent.

The weather the next day at eight in the morning felt fresh, and the sweet-smelling pines cloaked in the thick fog had a revitalizing effect on me. “Good morning, the weather looks great,” I said. Shishir just smiled and busied himself with dismantling the tent.

My eyes then fell on the flysheet that had collected a little dew water, almost half a liter; I hastened and spooned it into a bottle, confident we could drink it as we carried Aquatabs.

As I checked for something to eat for breakfast, I saw Shishir holding a plastic bag and picking something up—turned-out trash strewn about the site. Not ours, though! Previous campers had littered the site. Soon, it looked spotless.

None of us friends understood Shishir, who often relapsed into one of his eccentricities. A man of few words, he liked to call himself the Super Tramp. Like a friend said, nobody could fathom Shishir—only Shishir understood Shishir.

Well said. The trash left by others was 10-times ours. But that did not bother Shishir. He did that every time he camped. “Great job,” I called out to him. And as expected, he just smiled back.

Soon, we were munching on last night’s leftover khichadi—our breakfast. With the packing of our gear done and a last-minute check, we left for the Gupteswor Mahadev. On the way, Shishir stopped to click at something, which turned out, a fallen tree stump with a brace of wild mushrooms on top, looking like purple cabbage. I’d seen nothing like it.

A thick fog enveloped us as we hit the singletrack across the tall pines, visibility 10 feet across but far better than the previous night. It was a brief ride to the Mahesh Narayan Shrine and took 20 minutes. The elevation commanded a view of fog-shrouded, lush northern hills.

A three-foot-tall cave-like hollow enclave lodged the deity on the face of a sheer granite hill. There was no idol, only a jumble of vermillion-streaked rocks in odd sizes and shapes. A string of bells and a trident stood by their side; more bells hung by the roof.

A little further, another opening gave an impression of a cave. Shishir crawled and wriggled through the narrow gap to investigate. I could see his derriere in the beam of my headlamp. I remained out because caves gave me the jitters.

He managed some five ft. into the crack and looked around to see if it went any further. All this time, I just watched. He was out soon. Not a cave; maybe it was once, he said.

Shishir then scouted around for the trail to Gupteswor Mahadev. He found none. The steep crude stone steps that led to the shrine had caved. A dang dogged guy, Shishir never gave up, easy. He knew the cave lay some 200 meters down. He nimbly stepped on fallen rocks like a mountain goat, dropped to the bottom, and disappeared into the heavy undergrowth.

After 20 minutes, he was back, and my hunch proved correct. He had failed to track down the cave and the Gupteswor Mahadev shrine. After 200 meters, the trail under heavy cover vanished, he said; he could go no further, tried as he did to spare no effort.

He was mighty surefooted about the place when we planned the trip, and he had been there two years back. So much for my friend Super Tramp’s itching desire to explore the mysterious cave of Gupteswor Mahadev!

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