May 7th, 2010
Note: Click on the pictures for bigger versions.
If you want to see the craziest people in Chennai, it has to be at CTC. We trek on untamed terrain with awesome gangs in search of that elusive elixir of life. Once in a while, this craziness increases up a notch. What was once thought to be impossible or out of habit became a habit … and one such habit was taking out underprivileged kids from many of the homes in and around Chennai for an easy trek in to the pristine jungles so that they can have fun as much as we do all the time.
That Sunday was special. Thanks to Thilak, the kids from SIP Home in Kolathur were taken on a beautiful one day trek to Nagalapuram’s Eastern side. I had taken a break from trekking for whole of April for swimming & when this trek invite came in, I was more than glad to accept it. What made that home special was that it cared for kids who are HIV+. What really surprised me was that the home was being run by a trans-gender. She was very supportive of us taking the kids in to the jungles for a day of bliss & she even accompanied us. At 61 years of age, she is supremely fit… fitter than any of the modern couch potatoes!
Eight bikes and an equal number of cars picked up close to 40 kids from the home at 6.45 AM & started to Nagala. While the cars went to the home to pick up the kids, the bikes went to Nagala directly. We usually put our bikes at the nearest village and walk towards the jungle, climb up and down a dam and then start trekking. This time though, Ford Bala had a different idea. After reaching the village, we all started driving towards the dam. It was kind of off-roading because there were no roads… those big stream rocks were everywhere. Vibrating and shaking all through the way, we made it to the dam hoping to put the bikes to rest. But no! We went around the dam and in to the forest with the bikes until we reached a temple where we had put our bikes . Going that far would be simply impossible during/after monsoon because the dam would be full. Once the kids reached, we took a group photo and started the trek.
The kids couldn’t contain their excitement. Some of the kids had visited Nagala before and offered to guide me on the trail and I happily accepted saying that my first visit to Nagala . Before long, with a kid to each of us on tow, we started walking… or should I say running? The kids were running and we always had to catch up with them. They had double energy than that of adults & although some of them had become tired after a while, they just kept pushing themselves until they were forced to rest.
A guy named Shanmugam came with me. He was a joyous bundle of infectious enthusiasm and not a moment did he sit! He crossed puddles without any help and trekked barefoot! He didn’t complain of thorn pricks or leg cramps at all. The moment he placed his foot on a rock, his foot adjusted automatically (something that I’m still learning to this day) and he used that balance to propel himself forward. Wow! I was amazed. Soon everyone stopped for regrouping and he asked when we will be starting again
Kids and First Pool
First pool holds plenty of my memories from my first trek to Nagala. I still remember being amazed at the beauty of that first pool with a huge rock in the middle, that divides the shallow and deep portions with a tiny waterfall on the other end. Sudharshan sponsored 40 swimming tubes for the kids while Hari Kumar sponsored caps for the children. The moment they came to the first pool, they lunged forward . They were breathless and their enthusiasm kicked up several notches. They couldn’t be contained anymore from their boundless joy.
Once the tubes were blown and Peter & Sudhir sir were in water, it was no holding back. One by one the kids jumped in and started playing. Their play went on for more than 3 hours while we captured some of the fun they had. Finally, I couldn’t resist water any longer and jumped in. Nothing was more satisfying than to know that I could swim . Lunch bells rang at 1.30 and they slowly trickled out of water towards food. Their mind was clearly in the fun in water and they weren’t too happy about the fact that they had to get out of water.
Water Monkey, Acrobatics
While much of morning was fun with the kids and playing with them, after lunch it was us in water. Thilak and Meenakshi started this race where a water filled bottle would be thrown in water and they had to race to get it. That idea was refined to become water monkey . Two people would be throwing the bottle to each other. If the monkey in the middle is able to catch the bottle, he’s out and became the monkey. That game was soon joined by others and it became a full fledged water game for about 45 minutes.
Then came Peter and announced (in his famous accent), “Guys, Nagala’s water is available only for an hour more. So enjoy it all you can.” That announcement did it. One by one, the swimmers got on the center rock and started diving and jumping to the deep portion. Shutterbugs captured all the action for the next one hour. Some clicks to burn your stomach are below:
And then, it was time to bid farewell. We walked with the Children to the cars and then they started dancing to some cinema songs . With that fabulous end to an awesome day, the weekend couldn’t have got any better.
What many of us (or our kids) take for granted such as new clothing, premier education etc. aren’t available to these kids. Yet, they are happy beyond measure when someone spends time with them. In those few moments, true joy emerges and forms happy rainbows left, right and center. So, my request to you would be, visit an orphanage or an old age home nearby and spend time with them. It’s all they need. A little bit of compassion from everyone of us in our free time would definitely make the world a better place.
Here are pics clicked by other people:
See ye’ soon sailor