There he was, standing in the fog and mist outside the Cecil Oberoi, in Shimla, in his trekking shoes, Capri’s, rucksack, Spiderman watch, smart shades that matched his bright cap and mackintosh.
All of five years, little Krish was fuming. “Dadu”, he cried, a shadow crossing his innocent, handsome face. “You had promised to take me for a real hike through a forest! This is just a walk in the rain!”
He was right. I had indeed promised him a real hike, but had reneged, seeing the overcast weather. I thought that the excitement of boarding the toy train at Shoghi, 12 km away, the tunnels and the dollops of ice cream at the heritage Shimla railway station would distract him from trekking along slippery jungle trails, in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
Things went swimmingly till we reached the Cecil, helped in part by the tunnels, the lovely, dark and deep pine and cedar woods, wafers and giggly co-passenger school girls cuddling him.
Returning to Shoghi, Krish worked his way through some juicy purple plums. Wagging his little finger at me, he reminded me that he had wanted a real jungle trek where leopards and bears abounded, whom he could befriend with scrumptious chocolates and sandwiches.
His Sanawarian Dadi was delighted with his passion. “He’s taken after me”, she enthused, recalling her sporting talent that had put her name on the prized Spartan Club board at school and national athletic glory later. “Don’t let him down”, she commanded.
The day before he was to return to Chandigarh, Krish, in his smart togs and I, with my walking stick, entered a jungle trail off the Shimla highway. Crossing the railway track, we trekked uphill to a distant farmhouse. Some friendly girls there made much of our determined adventurer till he indignantly reminded them of his single point mission – trekking.
Off we went through thick “jungle” to another hilltop. I watched with growing respect as the precocious tyke, his angelic face ruddy with exertion, slogged unaided, his rucksack loaded with goodies; His mental attitude, rare in one so young, was infectious.
Tired, grandpa and grandson sat like bosom pals on the hilltop overlooking Shoghi, with Krishjit opening his chocolates carefully (Mama says don’t litter). “Dadu, if a leopard attacks us you handle him like Spiderman”, he intoned, using wet wipes on his chocolate smeared face. Suitably reassured, he demanded that we climb yet another hill.
It was there that feisty Krish saw yellow flowers growing wild and ordered his “pal” to help him collect “one each for Mama, Papa, Dadi, Nani, Cheeku Masi”, and, he added, patronisingly, “Dadu”.
Being ex Army, I followed my Napoleon’s commands implicitly.
“Dadijee!”, he yelled, as he bounded into her arms on trek completion. “You said: Never Give In! That’s what I did!”
Grabbing her cell, he called up his proud parents; then added Bow-Wow for Walter, his excited Alsatian. Indeed, son, you were strong; you never gave in.