‘Do I fear death or is it the fear of life?’, this question has been wobbling in Kabir’s mind ever since he tried to commit suicide. He’s having no interest in living, though he had achieved a milestone in his life by completing his Ph.D. against all the odds and got into his dream company through campus placement. Kabir firmly believed, what was told by Gruocho Marx , ‘ Man doesn’t control his own fate. The woman in his life does that for him.’
Kabir started taking chances with his life by being a daredevil. He is counter fighting his fears for the rest of his life. He does so thinking that at least one of his fears will win the war with his fate which is keeping him alive against all odds. Many instances, he has reached near death but returned without a scratch. He was left clueless, for escaping serious accidents by a whisker. He thought it’s God, who’s still playing with him even after bringing misery in his life by taking away everything that he ever wanted. The farther he is taken away from death, the more risks he started to take. Inside him is a great fight with God. Though he mentions being agnostic to others, he does believe in God and he thought that it’s one way of going against him.
It’s time for Kabir to pick one of his terrible and gruesome fears, Acrophobia. He packed his rucksack and flew to New Zealand. This place is very special to Kabir. He wanted to settle in this country when everything was going well in his life. Now, he has come to New Zealand to mark his last footprint on this earth. New Zealand has a rich and fascinating history reflecting a unique mix of Maori and European Culture. From the crisp days of spring to the burnt orange beauty of autumn, New Zealand is a traveler’s paradise. One can witness the marvels of nature and enchanting treasures of scenic destinations while traveling from north island to south island. New Zealand is rich in ancient cultures, sculptures, Monuments as well as adventure sports.
It’s a sunny day, Kabir reached Franz Josef which is a famous tourist destination for its 12 km Franz Josef Glacier and Glacier hot pools. It’s a small town in the west coast region of South Island of New Zealand. It’s a special town with its population as low as close to 500 in spite of being a famous tourist destination. Though the population is less, Franz Josef offers many accommodation options for tourists up to 2000 with a night stay. Kabir reached Franz Josef and called the tourist guide from whom he booked the package.
‘Hello! Am I speaking to Mr. Craig’ asked Kabir.
‘Yes. May I know with whom I’m speaking to ?’ replied Craig.
‘Hi Craig, I’m Kabir, I have booked a package of Franz Josef Glacier. I was given your number to contact you. I’m waiting at the airport. Can you please help me with details to reach the stay?’ asked Kabir giving his details to Craig.
‘Well! Welcome to Franz Josef Sir. Hope you had a comfortable journey. We have arranged a vehicle for you and other teammates. I’ll send the details of the vehicle and the driver, please meet him at the parking bay. He must have already reached.’
Kabir thanked Craig and started walking to the parking bay after getting the message about the driver and vehicle details. Some kind of burden and a trifling hollowness in his life is very evident on his face. He reached the parking bay and passing by the vehicles parked there in search of the vehicle he is supposed to board. He searched everywhere but couldn’t find. He took his mobile and dialed the number Craig provided.
‘Hello! Is it Mr. Sanjay?. I’m Kabir from India, I’m asked by Craig to call you regarding the conveyance to Franz Josef tour’ Kabir introduced himself.
Sanjay is a native of India and settled in New Zealand 15 years back since then he is working as Cab driver for multiple travel businesses. He has high regard for Indians and sometimes, he helps them to the extent where he had to face problems. But he never stopped helping.
‘ Yes, Sir. Please come to C1 bay. I’m waiting at the signboard, if you can walk to the signboard, you will be able to see me.’
Kabir walked to C1 bay and found the Van, it’s a 10 seater vehicle and Kabir realized that he will be accompanied by 9 more others. Sanjay greeted Kabir and collected his luggage to place in the rear seat of the Van.
‘Please be seated inside Sir. We are expecting few others to join, once they come we shall start,’ said Sanjay.
Without extending the conversation Sanjay went and sat in the Van. After 10 min, Sanjay gets a call from someone to whom he is giving his location. Kabir thought it must be for the other members in the group. He is so excited and said, ‘ This is the first time I’m taking tourists where everyone is from India. I’m feeling like I’m in India.’
After some time, 3 more people came to join. Sanjay greeted them and asked, ‘ Shall we wait for others to join? When will they be joining?’
‘It’s only 3 of us. The rest all couldn’t make it to the trip because of some emergency.’ a reply came from one of them. The voice sounded pleasant and sweet. By listening to that, Kabir couldn’t stop himself to check for the person who is having such a sweet voice. It appeared very familiar to him.
‘Hi Sanjay, I’m Naina and he is my brother Aarav and another one is my friend Sahu.’ introduced herself and her company. Kabir heard her and lost in his world of melancholy while admiring her beauty. She is looking like a freshly bloomed pink tulip as her cheeks are so pink like a baby. She is bubbly and appeared like the angel of positivity. Kabir has never seen such a beauty with overflowing cuteness and charm. She appeared nothing less than a fairy. Her smile is so charming and enchanting like a healer for any kind of a pain but not for Kabir. Her eyes are so bright that Kabir lost himself in her.
‘Is it her? No, it can’t be happening‘, Kabir told to himself while walking in the memory lane.
Naina and her friends entered the van and got busy arranging their luggage in the rear seats. After they got settled, she introduced herself and the rest of her group to Kabir. Kabir greeted and sat quietly. Naina told to Sahu, ‘What kind of a person is he, No smile at all. He is looking like a villain. How can anybody come alone to such a vacation?. He is crazy.’
‘We are going to the Guest House now and its a drive for 3 hours. We will be stopping for breakfast where you can get our desi nachta.’, briefed Sanjay and started the Van.
‘Excuse me’, The same sweet voice touched Kabir’s ears. He realized its Naina – calling for him. ” can you please take the other seat, my brother Aarav is having motion sickness and need the window seat”, requested Naina.
‘It’s OK. No problem!’ replied Kabir and took the other seat. He is very confused with Naina and the voice that’s ringing in his ears, which is the very reason for him to come to Franz Josef.
The van started and everybody is enjoying the scenic landscapes and the alpines. Naina observed that Kabir is just staring at the view and lost in his own thoughts. She felt that there is something that’s bothering him, maybe a break-up or something like that. She wanted to change his mood and pull him into her group as they are just 4 people in the team of Franz Josef tour. She didn’t feel to leave him alone. She wanted to ask him to sit with them. She turned back realized that Kabir fell asleep.
‘Hmmm‘, she sighed out of helplessness and turned to her mates.
Naina’s heart is bouncing with joy and excitement as they were going through the rainforest of towering alpines. After a journey of 90 minutes, Sanjay stopped at an Indian restaurant and asked everybody to get down. Aarav got down and rushed to the restroom to clear off his stomach and Sahu followed to the restaurant as he is very hungry after a tiresome journey. Naina made herself up to get down and noticed that Kabir is still sleeping. She walked to Kabir and tapped his shoulder and said,’ Kabir!! Wake up. Let’s go for breakfast.’ Kabir opened his eyes to see Naina as close to him as he could feel the fragrance of her breath. He is shocked and took a moment to come into senses to realize that they stopped for breakfast. Kabir thanked Naina and got down the van following her.
‘ Here is little India in New Zealand, You will find at least one dish which represents each and every state of India.’ exaggerated Sanjay. ‘ It’s because of this restaurant, otherwise, I would have come back to India craving for its authentic dishes’, he added.
The restaurant is on the state highway 6 and opened to the valley on the other side. Kabir washed his face and sat on the chair next to the valley view table. He is looking at either side of the picturesque and admiring the beauty of nature. Naina noticed that, though Kabir is lost in his own world. Naina asked Kabir to join them on the table. Though he said No, Kabir joined them as he is insisted by Aarav and Naina. Everybody placed their order for food and as the food arrived, Kabir started eating without being part of the Naina’s conversation.
To pull him in the conversation,’ How is the breakfast?’ asked Naina.
‘ It’s good’ Kabir continued eating.
‘Even I wanted to order the same dish, let me taste it’, said Naina and took a bite.
‘You should have ordered, what’s the need to take from his plate’, said Sahu with a grim look. For some reason, Sahu didn’t like Kabir. He has been maintaining distance from Kabir.
‘What’s the problem there in the tasting? if I like it, I’ll order for me. Otherwise, I won’t Why to waste money?’ replied Naina casually.
Everybody had a tasty Indian food and thanked Sanjay for bringing them to the restaurant while boarding the van. Sanjay started the van to Franz Josef village and said that it’s gonna be an hour drive from there. Naina is so excited to see the snow-capped Alpines along the west coast and the Sahu is into capturing the landscapes and some candid’s of Naina with his camera. Kabir slipped into sleep again to the lullabies of the rainforest.
Finally, they reached and Craig was there to receive them. Craig helped Sanjay in unloading the luggage and took them to their office. Craig Introduced his staff there and said,’ we have arranged your accommodation in the mixed dorm. You can park in there and relax for today. Once you get fresh, we shall catch up over lunch for a briefing session.’ Craig asked his men to accompany Naina and group to the dormitory and help them with their luggage.
The Mixed dorm is having 2 bunker beds for 4 of them. Kabir took one of the lower bed and Aarav took the other.
‘Kabir! Can you please take the upper bed if you don’t mind. I’ll take the lower bed as I have a habit of sleeping late and I don’t want to disturb you while getting down frequently.’ requested Naina.
‘No problem.’, replied Kabir and took the upper bed.
‘What’s the need for asking him? I would have taken the upper bed,’ said Sahu.
Naina took her bags and placed in the locker provided without responding to Sahu. They gathered in the dining hall for lunch after getting fresh.
Craig came along with another person, ‘ Hi everyone! meet Mr. Michael, he is gonna be our tour assistant for the whole trip. He is the native of Franz Josef and he is with us for the past 5 years. He is well experienced and knows everything about Franz Joseph.“
‘OK! Now I’ll explain you the schedule. Today we shall take rest and relax as the next few days will be all tasks for you. Tomorrow we shall go to Glacier valley trek and stay overnight there. The next day morning we shall go to Heli Hike of Glacier, it’s gonna be a tough trek and risky too. You shall be very careful and follow the instructions of the guide properly. We shall be back to the base camp on the same day to relax in hot pools, as it’s not safe to stay overnight because of avalanches. The other day we shall go for a Skydiving.’ Craig explained the full schedule of their trip.
‘ I request you all to sleep early and go for a walk before sleep to acclimatize,’ added Craig.
Naina noticed Kabir as he has been quiet throughout the session and seemed not so excited about the trip. ‘ Why he has to come here if he is not interested?. There’s something strange about him. I need to know, what’s wrong with him?.’ Naina told to herself. They thanked Craig and went to the dorm after finishing lunch.
To be continued…