"Chai-paani ke liye kucch de do", the guard's friend told me when I looked appealingly at the barrier, between us and the open water of Manchanabele reservoir.
"No way", I said, so Georg reversed the car up the dirt track, and back on to the tarmac of the access road. We parked in a depression, out of sight of the guard house, ducked under the barbed wire, and tramped down a grassy slope to the weeds and cool mud of the lake shore.
We'd had a long day visiting a construction site near the dry red rocks of Ramnagaram village. Here, the water was deliciously cool, and the suspended silt gave it a sense of reality, akin to the fragrance of 'geel', the ittar that celebrates the falling of rain on hot, dry soil.
"The far shore must be about a km. away", Georg estimated. The light was already fading, and getting there and back before dark was going to going to be a close call. We struck out, relishing the changing light, the freedom of open water, and the joy of companionship. Georg turned back a bit before me, and just as his silhouette emerged onto the darkening shore, an army truck ground to a halt, and three figures jumped out to engage with him. I felt like a truant schoolboy, caught in the act.
I was still out of earshot when I heard them shout out to me. "You'll have to wait till I get ashore", I thought, and continued to stroke. When I looked up again, to get my bearings, they were shouting again, "All OK, Sir?"
Couldn't be better.
Smiles all around. "You went all the way to that shore, Sir?" I nodded.
"Too good, Sir"
To be continued