"So... you guys are students?" The driver asked, while spinning his sterling making a sharp u-turn and going uphill.
"Erm.. no..." I could hear the slight gasp came from my 3 comrades sitting behind. The road was narrow, and winding and uphill. I was worried too.
"Oh.. yeah.. we're not students.." My focus was all on the road we were on, and the 'inappropriate' speed of our van moving at, heading towards a place called 'Yai-Jyui-Yem-See(?)', as per Mr Kavi Khanna's instruction over the phone.
".. so... you guys are doctors then?" The driver looked to me with a very exciting smile.
I've never met Mr Kavi Khanna. Never until today.
We only had a few formal conversations over emails, and then over the phones when we were getting closer to Shimla, the north destination of our trip in India -- and to tell you the truth, Mr Kavi Khanna doesn't sound friendly at all, and sometimes his thick Indian accent really messed up our discussion about arranging accommodation in Shimla Youth Hostel.
That's why I was still unsure about our accommodation in Shimla, up to the moment when our Toy Train arrived early in the morning.
"Go to Yai-Jyui-Yem-See, someone will meet you there" was his last instruction, and that really sounded like a super-badass kidnapper, instructing how to handle the ransom.
..and I was the helpless father of three, following the instruction faithfully, bearing the great pressure and huge worries quietly, while having my three cheerful kids happily running around, not knowing any approaching danger...
---- "Oo~kei!" -- Our van stopped, hand-break pulled -- "Yai-Jyui-Yem-See." The driver announced.
"This is it?" I asked.
"Yeah, 'Yai-Jyui-Yem-See'," and pointed to the big building complexes at the roadside.
Indira Gandhi Medical College.
I. G. M. C.
We finally checked in Shimla Youth Hostel, a cozy and simple hostel squeezed in between a narrow walkway, raised by a series of staircases.
We were led by Mr Kavi Khanna's staff to our room -- the mysterious Mr Kavi Khanna was still out of sight -- and at the moment we about to unlock the room's door, Coco and Ijoi and I perceived one same sentiments at that same time --
-- finally we'll have a room and a bed to bunk in, ever since the start of our journey..
...and of course, finally we'll have the chance to take our shower, ever since the start of our journey...
Not expecting much from Shimla, we actually planned for a short stay only. In fact, Shimla in our plan was just a pit stop for us to get to Minali -- the ever famous gorgeous northern wonderland of India.
So, checking out the Lakkar Bazaar of Shimla became the only plan we had so far. Still not having our luggage with us, Ijol and I just had to put on whatever clothes that lent by our another 2 comrades of us.
A new T-shirts definitely freshened up our mood and made us feel clean, but while even locals were all wearing thick winter jackets or wool shepherd sweaters, walking on the street of Lakkar Bazaar by just wearing a thin sheet of T-shirt really felt like being naked -- the chill wind, the freezing weather was just piercing every inch of my body.
"I can't even imagine how the weather in Minali will be..." I mumbled, missing my thick winter jacket that left behind in my rag sack. I think there's snow in Minali, and I started to worry.
Out of our surprises, we enjoyed loafing in Shimla so very much.
Shimla is totally different from the India that we encountered before this. Initially we thought it' s because of the weather, or the cleanliness, or the altitude that made the difference, or the friendliness of the locals etc etc, but after checking out the this little town, we finally realized that it's a spirit of Shimla that creates that pleasant ambience of this place.
I call this spirit: Hope.
Our pre-trip research did not reveal that Shimla is actually a place where medical students come and study, and receive their qualification to become a doctor. Being in Shimla, we could actually feel the intelligence yet humble atmosphere surrounding this highland -- young storekeeper that concentrates on reading a thick text book behind counter, school-kids that flock to their school with happy faces, just beside walkway a young Indian selling her 2nd hand medical text books and attracted crowd of college students as if she's selling the hottest rempah in the market, little bookstores that contains really big titles, little school kid who walks to school while reading, the guards of IGMC and the driver who just expressed their excitement when they thought we were another batch of young doctors checking in to their town.... --- all and all, Shimla shines with hopes: hope for a brighter future, hope for a more promising generations, and hope for a better life.
--- "...and I HOPE that you really can send our luggages to here, PLEASE!!" I hung up, feeling disappointed with Malaysia Airlines. I just called their office and confirmed the address of Shimla Youth Hotel that we checked in, hoping that they would EVENTUALLY send our luggages back to us. But what I got in return, was a 'promise' that says it'll take more than a day to deliver the luggages from New Delhi to Shimla.
More than a day "-- which means tomorrow," I looked at my trip buddies, "..our bags will only reach here, earliest tomorrow."
"Shit." someone cursed, "So how's our plan to Minali tomorrow?"