Mid-road conference

Mid-road conference

A van full of people set out for Ooty for a change from the heat, dust, noise, crowds, pollution and traffic of city life. No place under the sun is entirely free from these hazards but the difference is a matter of degree. It being the off-season, they were looking forward to the coolness of the hill station, relaxation and quietude. The whole family had Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. In fact, it was more of a short break than a long weekend. The adults were free from commitments, the children were longing for a change and the mother welcomed the opportunity to be rid of her household chores, even if briefly.

The consensus in itself was unusual. Any plan for a break would be sabotage. “Exams coming up!” the children were wont to exclaim. “I have calls to take,” the IT guy would grumble. “Deadline for project submission is nearing,” the college student would wail. Only father was ready to set out anytime, anywhere, being retired.

To come back to the present, the family was planning on sightseeing. It was to be lazing around, sipping hot tea or coffee and munching snacks, engaging in desultory conversation or reading and pretty much doing nothing — a blissful state of affairs. They had made an early start so the passengers caught up on their sleep. They were jerked awake when the van stopped. Sleepily, they observed that some vehicles ahead of them had also stopped. An accident? A search by cops? What had happened? The driver got out to investigate. He walked some distance and returned, smiling.

“Elephants,” he explained. “It happens sometimes on these roads. We will wait. They will soon go away and then we can proceed.” So they did the only thing they could — doze off. After an hour had elapsed, the sleeping beauties stirred. “We are hungry,” they declared. It was customary for the family to be well-stocked with food whenever they set out on a journey. True to habit, there was an abundance of food which was doled out. Their hunger staved, they sent the driver to take stock of the situation. He surveyed the scene and reported, “No change.”

The two tuskers that were blocking the road had not budged. What were they conferring about? Was it a friendly chat? If so, it had gone on long enough. Were the two leaders of rival herds discussing territorial rights? Or were the high-level talks about grave matters such as watering holes drying up and bamboo clumps being cleared? Whatever it was, they went on and on and on, furling and unfurling their trunks gravely and swishing their tails.

By now, it was time for another round of eats. This time, it was rationed as they hadn’t bargained for a holdup. After waiting for another hour, the driver thought it prudent to turn back. “Serves us right for usurping their land and being so intrusive!” cried an animal activist.

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