There were many times I planned to take the toy train from Mettupalayam to Ooty, but it always was a jinxed one. Last Dussehra, when my cousins and uncles were here, we went to the station to check for tickets and there were no tickets available. Sigh, it never works I thought. It was almost more than a decade since I visited Ooty. I last went with my father to Ooty and Coonoor. It was amazing how dad used to travel, and how he used to make us travel, completely unplanned. The days when we used to stay in Sulur, near Coimbatore, father used to come home from work and say, come get ready soon, we shall go to Ooty, and we would be off. I also love traveling this way. It soon fell into a pattern.
A few months later, when I reached Coimbatore station after a trip to Bangalore, I was so tempted to check for tickets in the toy train. I went to the counter and the lady said, sorry due to landslides, the train is not operational. I was forlorn again! When will it start working, I asked out of intense curiosity? Do not know, she said. Call and check.
I left home, only thinking when I would be able to make this trip..A few months later, I called the railway people to check if the trains were working. I finally heard something positive. I headed straight to the station to pick up the tickets. Finally, I had the ticket in my hand. Yaay, I would be going. I rejoiced looking at the piece of paper in my hand. Took it safely and headed back home like I got something priceless.
A couple of weeks later, I headed to Trivandrum for a break and meet a writer friend there. It so happened that I had to extend my trip there for a day-one there were more meetings coming up and two it was the day of football world cup finals. How could I miss that? Just then, I thought this ticket to Ooty will be torn into pieces. Big sigh!
I did not go. But again, when I tried, there were landslides. I could never make the trip.
Finally on Friday, after a crazily quiet week, this soul started becoming restless to go to the mountains. With a great weather as a companion, I woke up early, and rushed to the new bus stand. Found there were two buses, one going to Ooty and the other to Kotagiri. I hopped on to the Ooty bus. Suddenly, I felt, I should be taking the Kotagiri bus, because I had heard so much about the place, but could never go. Also, this was another entrance to Ooty and supposed to be really beautiful. I got into that bus. An uncle sitting next to me started a conversation. I spoke a few words and then looked out of the window. The day looked so beautiful with the clouds dark and grey..
The journey was definitely a beautiful one. I saw so many spiders, birds and colorful butterflies, and suddenly the air turned cold. I realised I was a fool not to have a sweater with me. I reached Kotagiri by 10 and straight headed to have the local Niligiri Chai. It was perfect for the weather. I looked around and fell into a state of trance. The clouds touched the earth covering up the mountains, lush green after rains. I spoke to a few local people at the tea shop. I wanted to see Kodanad View Point, but since it was very cloudy, the locals said it would be waste of time to go there. I walked a bit further on the long roads, took a deep breath and absorbed the nature.
I asked people if there was a bus to Ooty. They said there were plenty of buses. So, I took a long walk and reached the bus stop and hopped into a bus. I was filled with serenity and my mind was all in a state of emotions..bonding with the ever eternal nature. The path from Kotagiri to Ooty (about 24 kms) is one of the most beautiful mountain paths I witnessed. It seemed like a different world. Though among crowd, I was walking alone, in my own maze of thoughts. I reached Ooty and it started drizzling. Yeah, I did not carry an umbrella and I was already feeling cold. I wanted to go to Ramakrishna Mission and took an auto. Went there to the main shrine and found it to be shut. I saw one monk crossing by. He saw me and opened the shrine for me. I felt so touched. This was the first time I experienced when a temple door was opened just for me. Maybe I was really destined to be there that moment. I prayed amidst the beautiful calm sanctum tucked away in a corner..surrounded by mountains. The monk gave me some fruits to eat. I was actually hungry. I shared it with the auto uncle and then asked him where I can go next. The botanical garden and rose garden didn't fancy me!
I was thinking if I should try the toy train ticket. The auto guy took me to the railway station and he was super confident I will get the ticket. I went to the station and I was told I will get the tickets by 1.30. I went back and had lunch with the auto uncle..Paid him some money and came back to the station. I waited..was I dreaming. Just then I saw this tall woman next to me. Hello, I said and that was it. Her name was Petra and she had come from Holland to see India. I told her about my jinxed trip. Soon, when my turn came to pick the tickets, she saidd...yaay..this is the moment..its happening and you believe it!! I said yeah thanks and smiled.
The journey in the train was an unforgettable experience. The chai and masala vada made it even better. The path is scenic, traversing through dark tunnels and caves, hills, waterfall and what not. It felt like a dream. I suddenly closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was still wandering amidst the scenic mountains, watching the sun go hazy in the clouds..It was THE moment of truth. I finally made the trip!!