Anyway... started of interestingly enough, like a K-Jo movie, with three parallel stories.
Afternoon - 2 PM
Me & R reached Dum Dum airport after a blazing high-speed drive down CIT road (or is it VIP road?) in a Sumo. You cannot begin to imagine, unless you've spent any time in Dubai, what driving to the Cal airport is like now. Kilometers upon kilometers of smooth, empty, wide 6-lane highway and wilderness on all sides. no traffic, no pedestrians, just blazing sun and the occasional drift of sand. Maybe some buffalo in the distance.
Afternoon - 3 PM
Rj & D, having reached Delhi, decide to head to Gurgaon to catch up with some friends. H gives them a call and asks for their plans; they will be joining us at New Delhi station at eight, so they offer him a ride back to that side of town.
Afternoon - 4 PM
C arrives at the Santacruz airport in Bombay, all revved up and ready to go, and is told that his flight has been canceled. The next available flight is at 8:30 PM... and his train is at 9:30 PM. Chaos, frustration and rage at the Indigo counter.
Evening - 6:30 PM
Me & R touch down at Delhi, after an uneventful flight. Decide to call dad just as final verification and realize that we - and everyone else - have to go to Old Del station, not New. Try to call immediately and tell people to leave 45 mins earlier, since that's a lot further off. Rj confirms; C is unreachable.
Meanwhile, Rj is looking at his watch. He needs to start getting ready now, and there's no sign of H.
Back at Santacruz, C has managed to beg, cajole, and bully his way onto a top-secret 6:30 flight. Don't ask me how he managed that, but hats off to him. The Indigo officials quietly smuggle him away from the other irate passengers and sneak him aboard.
The plane, unfortunately, then continues to sit on the tarmac. Remember all those times in your glorious single years when you would get onto a flight / train / bus / cab, spray on your Axe deo and pray to all the gods that be that once, just once, they should bless you with a beautiful, single, intelligent woman sitting beside you? For the first time, it worked... C got one. Started a conversation. But it's very hard to build any relationship upon a foundation of looking at your watch every ten seconds and cursing an airline... so, still today, he wonders what might have been had he not barked involuntarily at the stewardess.
Rj is practically falling apart with tension. Still no sign of H and he has got to leave now if he intends to reach... and still drive like Schumacher da puttar. On the other hand, they all drive like that anyway in Del.
R and I reach Old Del stn. Eat some bad food and occupy a table at ComeSum restaurant for two hours with a single Mirinda. C is still unreachable.
H arrives! His feet barely touch the ground before he is bundled back into the cab and whisked off to Old Delhi.
I get a call from Rj. He's on the platform, but he doesn't know how he got there or how to get out. I sigh and collect the luggage from the cloakroom, with R shooting venomous glares at the hapless attendant; the policy of putting locks on all luggage (even if you're only hanging it there) has seriously pissed her off.
Rj meets a Baba on the platform - a firang in orange robes and beads and shaved head - who is heading to Haridwar. C is still unreachable. He asks the Baba, "There's a friend of ours who is coming from Bombay and is supposed to join us, but he isn't here. Do you think he's going to make it?"
The Baba mulls over this, and stares into space for a while. Then, staring into the camcorder, he proclaims with the weight of a Solomonian decision - "Yes. He will. If his intentions are pure, nothing can stop him tonight. Now come and have some chai with me."
C's flight touches the IGI airport tarmac exactly at the same time as the train shudders and starts moving out of the station. He's missed the train, but will my backup plan work?
C has used up all our group luck as far as young single female traveling companions are concerned. We do have two single women traveling with us, but they're both nuns, whom R and D shock out of their wits with discussions on celibacy, it's pitfalls and advantages.
Meanwhile, C reaches ISBT looking for a bus to Rishikesh. There's none. All he finds is a disconsolate-looking Delhi person who also wants to go to Rishikesh. C immediately recruits him as a soldier in his Chalo Rishi! campaign and together they commandeer an auto to Anand Vihar, where legend says, buses can be found when all else is lost.
At 1 AM, C and friend find a bus to Roorkee and pile in.
Train reaches Haridwar, and we get out. R and D take one look at the ladies' loo on the station and squeak with disgust, so we embark on a quest for a hotel room. A brief trip later, we realize that India is not a very friendly place for people looking for a clean place to crap.
Heading back to the station, we suddenly hear a voice calling out in the Haridwar dawn - "R! R! Rrrrr!" R nearly dies of a heart attack. Never having travelled any further north from Surat, she experiences a brief but awful moment of realizing her fame has spread to small Uttaranchali towns in the Himalayan foothills as well... whipping around, she finds C hanging halfway out of a Vikram laden with bags and passengers, in which he has been traveling from Roorkee since the crack of dawn.
We all stuff ourselves while C recovers from the ordeal of his epic quest, and experience the first taste of the mountains - the water coming from the taps is ice cold. After five years of staidly tepid to unpleasantly hot water in the Bombay taps, this wakes us up like nothing else could.
Take another Vikram to Rishikesh, stopping once to feed the monkeys as a appropriation to the gods. The place is full of Shiva temples, and you suddenly find large Shiva statues in various poses leaping out at you from behind the scenery when you least expect it.