"Whatever you do, don't go to Kufri. It's basically little more than souvenir shops enveloped in an all-pervading aroma of horseshit."
So Kufri was out. As it is, this was going to be a pretty hectic tour, with a day here, a day there and a hyperactive seven-year-old all through. This is what the schedule looked like:
Delhi -> Chandigarh -> Simla -> Kalka -> Delhi -> Home
That, in a matter of less than a week. Clearly, it was a good thing the landscape was picturesque.
Remember the long train rides of your childhood? Remember how much fun it was, staring out the window and watching the landscape go by, the constantly changing flora and fauna, snapshots of people going about their lives? No? OK, so it wasn't THAT much fun as adults pretended it would be to keep us from fidgeting and asking questions, but it was better than nothing. Well, that's gone. Indian railways has reamed parents of little kids everywhere by plastering ads all over the train windows. While I'm sure converting the trains into traveling billboards makes the balance sheet look good, the same cannot be said of the view. A thin net-like material now covers almost all windows, through which only the barest, foggiest outline of the landscape is visible.
So yeah, instead of watching the world rush by, long journeys by train are now "family bonding time", which pretty soon escalates to "family blaming time" and then, my favorite, "family full-scale-argument time" with the entire carriage listening in with their ears quivering.
I kid, I kid. It's a great opportunity to get together as a family and talk about each others faults. But in a nice, constructive criticism-y way. Also, games of antakshari that last seconds (Sometimes even minutes!), before participants lose interest or realize they're too loud and stop abruptly. And of course, it's great fun arguing about who get's the top bunk, with the sacrificial lamb having to heave himself/herself all the way up, nearly falling off and crushing innocent co-passengers at least twice, before immediately realizing he/she has to pee right NOW and beginning the process anew. You can, as a family, also play a spirited game of "Hunt The Slipper". In fact, you WILL play a game of "Hunt The Slipper". Also, "Hunt The Sneakers", "Hunt The Socks" and "Hunt The Shoes". Here's a tip. They're all behind the three suitcases that have been shoved under the seats, in the hardest to reach corner. Have Fun!!
For dinner, there were options. Crummy options, but options. I could go for a Continental meal (oooh!), Indian vegetarian, or Indian non-vegetarian. Somehow, the Continental meal included noodles. Granted, Hong-Kong was once part of the British Empire, but it's still a stretch. I did go for it however, because I believe it's really difficult to fuck up noodles ( A belief that would be severely tested in the next week). That, and the fact that the Indian meal included a dish with chicken bits stewing listlessly in what looks like zombie vomit made it a really easy decision to make.
After dinner, beds were made, and after a bout of skillful negotiation with my wife about who gets the bottom bunk (OK, basically I just whined about my tiny bladder and how difficult it would be for me to repeatedly dismount from the top bunk. That, and I threatened to step on her on my way down), I helped her up, nearly dropped her, helped her up again, and finally laid my weary head to rest. Lights were switched off, mumbled conversations died out, and slowly, gently, imperceptibly I slipped into unconsciousness, lulled by the rocking of the train and the snoring of my parents.
Back To My Second Home
I missed Delhi. I didn't realize how much, but after spending two and a half years in a city, you are bound to accumulate some great memories. Unsurprisingly, most of mine involved food. Milk shakes at Keventer's, pastries and Shammi Kebabs at Wenger's, Mutton Burgers at Wimpy's - Delhi really found it's way to my heart through my stomach, and I was all set to be swept off my feet once more.