Barog - 1

Saurabh was standing with his friends at the tunnel of Barog station. The train was yet to come. Having come prepared with every detail on the phone, he had decided for sure that he would walk through the haunted tunnel. The long drawn summer and the brief monsoon in Shimla had given way to the autumn spell, bringing a nip in the air while the afternoon sun’s languid nature had made his small roadside resort residence’s lawns become an ideal spot to lull around. 

But lull he would not. It was his mission to explore the history, as he drove around to visit the various places like the Dagshai cantonment that had housed Mahatma Gandhi and had been a theater to the mutiny of the Irish soldiers during the Home Rule movement of 1914 in an encore, albeit a much smaller one, of the Curragh incident. Even more was his interest to check up on the remnants of the Gurkha forts, a testimony to the theatre of war the region had been for nearly fifty years in the 19th century between the various Pahadi Rajas and the British on one side and the Rana’s Gurkha forces on the other. Being a history enthusiast was a pain for his friends.

“Come on, Saurabh!” His friend Adhir would chafe at his obsession. “You don’t even want us to relax and chill here. Damn your history, dude!”

“This is the hills bruh! We were supposed to be hunting brownies here! Instead, we are chasing phantoms with you,” spoke Rajan caustically, as the car in which they sat made him a little motion sick.

But despite all the complaining, the two would humour him. He was a great friend to the two, and had helped both a lot during their semester with notes and encouragement, allowing the  two to scrape through. This was a small price to pay, though the thought of having fun was what had tempted them to join him in the first place. The hills had become this mythical place for the duo to find joints of the finest kind, and they had already seen some people approaching them to offer them ‘maal’ for a price. Of course, none of this had interested Saurabh, who dragged them everywhere in tortuous fashion, the latest place being this ‘tunnel’ site. 

Much to their chagrin, every detail of the tunnel was downloaded on his phone, being narrated by Saurabh as they started walking towards the Barog tunnel. Of how Colonel Barog the in-charge of construction of tunnel no. 33 on Kalka-Shimla Railway had instructed his colleagues and workers to dig from both ends of the tunnel to save time, but failed to have the twain ends meet. Committing suicide after shooting his dog, his body was believed to have been buried in the unfinished part.  There was so much to talk about Bhalku Ram as well, the man who got the tunnel built eventually with the mere tapping on the rocks.

“Yeah, yeah, we have been hearing that for the last one hour. Can we please eat something now dude? I’m hungry as shit!” mumbled Rajan.

“Yeah man,” piped in Adhir, “all this history shit is making me hungry as hell. You told us there would be food here at the station.”

“There is a  small canteen here,” said Saurabh, “but you just had breakfast man! How can you be so hungry already?”

“Thanks to you, all of it has been burnt out in no time,” spoke Rajan drearily. “Let us eat now,” he spoke, leading the trio with speed missing till now.

They climbed the musty smelling wooden staircase, and entered a cabin with a roof, feeling a difference in the chill and the humidity instantly. The old log cabin’s heavy air was slightly chilly, and they sought to grab a seat near the window, where the afternoon sun was still hanging on by the coattails of the blue sky, playing a game of lights and shadows. They placed an order for some tea-bag tea and a sandwich and cutlets, staring out to the beautiful view around them. The path, Saurabh recalled, as the plates came down, was through this village placed rather steeply across the mountain side, with some modern looking houses placed at awkward angles. The car had to be left behind, and they had come here by bus, but the clear autumn day and the changing colours along the mountain slopes was perhaps worth the pain.

“No brownies yet, but yeah, whatever,” mumbled Rajan, who had ended up feeling every bone in his feet while descending down the hill side. 

As they sat there, the heaviness in the air began to weigh on their minds. That musty smell of perhaps rotting wood can indeed feel intoxicating, and the tea and sandwich proved helpful in whiling time. A train had already passed by, and the fun of watching the slow moving toy train, ambling along the platform, brought a smile on the faces of the trio. They had been told that the rail is world heritage, and given the uniqueness, they were not surprised one bit.

As the train went past, the three noted that the musty smell had somewhat dissipated. Instead, a somewhat fresher smell of pine and deodar could be felt. The sun and the autumnal sky were cheerful as ever, and yet the passage of the train had made the experience of sitting in the cabin station a lot more pleasant. The three finished their snack and decided to take a stroll along the line. It was quite an astonishing site. The stone work and the vegetation that was masking it from all sides gave it a very picturesque look. As they started to walk towards the tunnel further, Adhir started to suggest that they walk inside the tunnel.

“Just a tad bit,” he said. “We will walk in together and walk out.”

Rajan was not very comfortable with the idea. He had claustrophobia, and walking through the unfinished tunnel could aggravate his fear. However, Adhir and Saurabh’s taunts and jeers got the better of his apprehension, as he decided to walk through the unfinished tunnel with the duo. 


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