Indiblogger: Dehradun , BNLF and friends




“ I`ll not leave it that easily, damn this world” These were the words I spoke to myself after missing the 2015 BNLF in Mumbai. That was probably the toughest time for me as I wanted to attend it, but could not. It was revenge all along this two years against the world and I had promised Indi that I would be there at the next.

To make sure that nothing came between me and BNLF, I applied for leave the same day the schedule was announced. On the day of my departure. I almost missed the flight when Uber messed up. Took the early morning flight to Dehradun. For the first time in my life I was travelling in a turboprop ATR plane. What the hell?? I’m used to supersonic jets, this is like a merry-go-round. It was not comfortable.. The exertion vanished the moment I landed at the Dehradun Airport. Mountains in the landscape, a nice breeze flowing and temperatures as low as 14° meant that I was in heaven. I had arrived on the 16th, more than day and half before the actual start of the program. Well, there were no Uber and Ola at the airport so it was a ride in the prepaid cab. 



The route my driver took was the by pass road to the city and it was very scenic. Lush green trees on both sides of the narrow, winding roads and a nice weather. After checking into the hotel, my family went to explore the places down the years. I was there for Indi , but family was in the mood for vacation.. We walked a long way till Ghantaghar exploring the markets and more specifically looking for Paltan Bazaar. Well, its Dehradun`s equivalent of Delhi’s Chandni chowk or Lucknow`s Aminabad or for that matter any busy market in any Indian city. That market gave us all- softy ice creams, woollens, you name it and they have got it. 





In the evening it got chilly with a cool breeze flowing and weather change, which I was experiencing after so many years. Then out of the blue Gautam came to meet me at the hotel. The day ended early because of the tiredness of travel and of the fact that I hadn’t got enough sleep the previous night.

This was the day when it was all supposed to start in the evening and I was already eyeing the clock. Parents had a plan to go to Mussoorie, but I let them go so that I don’t keep looking at the watch and bound them with timing restrictions to return . Alok ji was coming by train and I was hoping that at least I’ll have some company to pull me out of boredom. Unfortunately or fortunately his train got delayed and almost half of the Indi team was in the same train. I was truly keeping an eye on Twitter so as to know what was happening. Someone (Kishore) enquired on Twitter whether somebody was staying in his hotel, which was just behind mine. Alok ji arrived with Mahendra(who blogs about Rajasthan). I also called up Gautam so that we all can go together, although the distance to the venue from our hotel was not more than maybe 300 m. .. It was a Valley of Words day so there were eminent personalities and celebrities. We actually got to see Mr Jairam Ramesh up close and personal. Then came Anoop and Kishore, whom I did not recognise because he looked nowhere close to his Twitter picture.. Actually, no one did look except for me I guess.




As we waited for the registrations to start, I got to see a lot more new people coming. They were all bloggers from various parts of the country and this was my first time to actually see multiple city attendance in a neutral city. There was no chance, I did not recognise even one person, even with girls whom I interacted online. I was probably the only one who even carried my pass via a printout, who dared to take chances in case my phone had an issue? So we got an envelope with three badges , detailed programme schedule and a dinner coupon. The hall where we were supposed to start our program was occupied and so we had to wait. We took a tour of the lawn and the small little exhibition, which is going in another part. The only stall which captured my attention was from Titan. I got so engrossed in a particular collection that I must have lost myself. Then we headed near the stage where Bobby Cash was singing and it was good to hear some music so late in the evening. He sang a few English songs which I had heard in my childhood.



As the time for the meet came closer, we thought of taking dinner and heading to the hall. Now something went unexpected, a few of the bloggers whom we had acquainted came to us saying that the so-called “dinner” coupons were valid only on one stall, means that you can only pick up one food item from the stall and then it’s game over. We were wondering as to whether we were having dinner or some chaat that we needed a quantity of coupons just to have food? In all this confusion the four of us surely did not have dinner and I assume that majority of us would have also not had that. We actually had to get hold of Anoop and ask what was happening? Even he was clueless...We made our way to the hall and it was a small one. Comfy enough for some 70+ bloggers.

The first thing Anoop did at the start was to apologise profusely because the start surely was not the one everybody expected. I had come only for Indi, but there were others who had come for the VOW festival, I heard later on that things for them were also not right, I have absolutely no idea who supposed to look after all this. Knowing that majority of us were damn hungry Karthik and Indi team got us garlic breads and both type of pizza and lots of juice. The Indicrew made sure that none of us were empty stomach, thumbs up to that. An age-old tradition was revived and everybody gave his introduction, something which is not possible at Indi meets due to the large number of people. Then I got to know the various people a bit, the names I had heard, the blogs I had heard about. It lasted more than an hour, but it really set the tone for the things to come. We were told to assemble after a few hours in the morning for the Ruskin Bond walk. A bit sleepy we bade goodbyes and headed back.





Next day was cool, a bit quiet, early morning chill in the air and set off for my destination. Alok Ji and Mahendra decided to rest from the long journey. At the hotel, we got hold of some pics, tea, some chatter before we headed out. The walk was courtesy of group called “Been there Doon that”. We were dropped off at a place and we split into two groups so that the person leading us can actually manage us. Well, this walk was all about the places which Ruskin Bond frequented and the associated stories. It was another matter that me and a few others had to run to catch up with the group. It was probably the time when I met Ms. Duracell (Manpreet) running around with a camera and stand and shooting at what ever moment she would capture. I nicknamed her because she has way too much levels of energy. I’m kind of jealous with her energy levels.

The funniest thing on the walk was that seeing the group of people, the passers-by were thinking that some incident had happened, but when they saw that it was only talks they were surely disappointed and it truly showed on their faces. They were hoping of something to happen. 0 tamasha ,0 fun for them. 



On reaching the hotel we were told to head to Bikanerwala for breakfast. Karthik was the welcoming party as we had the whole place to ourselves. Hungry after walk, we famished people went bonkers over food. Ms. D was busy capturing the whole place through a timelapse video…and it began to rain making the temperatures drop again. There was still a break of a few hours and I headed to Sahastradhatra to see a new place. Even took the ropeway to the top where it was all quiet, all silent which really calmed the mind. In the evening we 4 people went astray from the main event and instead headed to Mussoorie Road where Gautam showed us the phenomena known as “Winter line”. 




He drove like crazy because the sunset was vanishing and soon it would be all dark. He stopped at a Maggi point and it was surreal. The view in front of us was so heavenly that we literally forgot where were we. The trees, the winding roads, the darkness, piping hot ginger tea, bowls full of maggi drove me to a point where I thought to tell Renie either to bring all of them here or we are not coming. The view of the lights from the top was something which I would not be able to put in words . When we were returning we felt like this is what we had come here for.



We attended a bit of the last session which was going on. Then we broke for few hours. We were told to check out Tara Nair`s calligraphy. She was writing names on the postcards and we all actually swarmed her with requests. We watched an artist get to work and surrounded the table so that we don’t miss turns lest somebody else gets his request fulfilled. She wrote on couple of names and out of habit, she called out names just to discover that we were all either standing or sitting besides her, never letting her out of her sight. Any schoolteacher would love to have such attentive kids. In the chilly weather we couldn’t get her a cup of hot coffee. It was fun for her too. I loved her art.

This time we were handed a set of coupons for dinner with requests that we can always come back for more. For people like me food is just a distraction at these meets, its the people who make up experiences for me. The real fun started when few of us got hold of a table with our food plates and got talking, like really talk. 





Oh and did I mention that there were a few raindrops during that time?? At close to 11 in the night, we started the big deal. The thing we were actually waiting for to happen from the very start. For probably the first time we got to hear the story of the Indi team and Renie actually spoke. Activities started and we all got a barcode that we had to scan and reveal a particular book. The destination URL had collection of four which, when completed, would entitle somebody to claim a prize. So in just five minutes you had a room full of bloggers scanning more quickly than any MRI machine would have done. The elusive Ruskin Bond collection was never completed.

The first keynote speaker was Sid who shared his story about life, blogging and also walked away with the blogger award. The next was Antarik told us about his travel tales for a year without a job. That was pretty awesome. Next came the people from UC news and a sleep hit me hard just then, whenever any corporate person takes up the mike. Someone might have noticed me sleeping as we broke off for tea at 1. I bonded with a few more people there. Once back we got the old numbers game going, for newbies they were surely gonna know what it was all about while I as usual went bonkers to get a number and a landed myself a coaster. The prizes ranged from bucks, pebbles,apple. We started a few debates on topics of blogging, which concerned us. It was nice to hear the points from various people because these were the problems we were actually facing. Speaking the second time came with a few conditions, you had to do a jig before you were actually allowed to put up your point. Alok ji was the moderator on a topic concerning domain, hosting, etc and it would have been beneficial for all those present there. 

Isheita was the last speaker on numerology, some tricks about knowing whether what we want would frutify or not ( forgot to ask if this can be used to know a girl`s yes or no to a proposal), something about kundali. I thought it had turned into shaadi.com at 2 in the night. All the while I had been sipping water to ward off my sleep but to no avail. We rounded off the interactive session with the as usual group pic, hurr hur, talks and lot more.

There are a few things which I would say –

* This format of BNLF was good where we didn’t have any outside speakers and actually discussed everything within ourselves, from our experiences. That bonded damn well.

* Its time we hosted such events at neutral places and scenic places so that everybody gets a chance to discover new places.

* Dehradun would soon lose its sparkle. Concrete jungles have started coming up at various places and we are going to lose a lot of forest cover , which would destroy the natural beauty of the place. This has started to happen where in the scenic landscape, you get high-rise tall buildings in between. The govt. is displacing people and things within 3kms of the airport due to the upgradation.

* I actually got a chance to speak, once during the intro and once during the session where I could actually speak my heart out and thank Renie and everyone else for the support in the continuation of my blog.

* Meeting Prachi was like visiting Delhi once again.. Its good when you actually meet friends after so long.

* Gautam truly hosted us in every little way, taking us to drives and even making multiple trips back to the hotel and forth to drop various friends so late in the night as he tried to make things a bit easier for the team in an unknown city. 

* Although I was disappointed when a few did not turn up due to some commitments but the new friends which I made, more than made up for it. I returned with a bucketful of memories…

* Those who experienced it know the magic these meets have, that I am always on the lookout to attend them in Delhi.

Till the next BNLF…


Indiblogger: Dehradun , BNLF and friends Indiblogger: Dehradun , BNLF and friends Reviewed by Shwetabh Mathur on 10:44:00 PM Rating: 5

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. So An early morning lullaby it is for me��. Shwetabh let me tell you something. First I have my latest pic on twitter, and second...I too carried the printout of the pass����.
    You missed the Robber's caves??? It is there where all the action takes place������.
    Very detailed account indeed. Felt like I went there once again. Thanks for the photograph. Btw the best one is one above ours; the mighty bon fire����. ��
    Mann💓

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  3. A really detailed account. And thanks for the mention Shwetabh. It was good to see you after so many years :)

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  4. Thank you Shwetabh for sharing this account,I could not come this time though I so much wanted to .At least now I can live the moments through your eyes and words .

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  5. Wow! That is such a detailed post. I travelled with you through these words.
    Bummed to have missed it. Next BNLF pucca.

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  6. Thank you for the mention Shwetabh,
    Yes! Like others are saying, the post did make me relive every moment spent during the meet.
    Even though I was not there during the Ruskin Bond wall, I can still feel the magic you people must have created.
    Oh yes, I feel pitty for the onlookers who couldn’t find much for them after keeping an eye on you all.
    Man, you’ve summed up all together here that I’d end up writing my blog post here itself.
    Cheers to your commitment brother.

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