Life in general is monotonous. We mostly do the same things, at the same time, with the same goals in mind. How do you learn or unlearn things? How do you re-invent the way you see life, people, nature and everything else that surrounds you? Being a player all my life I have lived a life on a time-table. I dont do a certain thing at a certain time and I am restless throughout the day. There were no tournaments in sight until July and a golfer’s elbow problem restricted my practice sessions. I needed something that could inspire me, surprise me and motivate me before I started the tournament season in July. To achieve this I chose to climb a mountain. I chose to climb 12000ft above the sea level. There are three types of traveling. One is where you are all alone, the second one is with your family and friends and the third one is when you are alone with a bunch of an unknown group of people. Having experienced the first two I decided to experience the last one.
When I came home and told my parents about my idea. They said, “go” right away. No questions asked. “Take care of that knee!” was all they said. I admire my parents for the freedom they give me with my decisions. They let me live life. They understand my need to explore things, to find my own truth, my own answers. What is surprising to me is that they themselves lived in restrictions, in boundaries set by their own parents or by the society. But when it comes to me and my decisions, they have never set boundaries or limits. This freedom is the greatest gift that they have given me and I am extremely grateful.I went on to the net and chose to do the Deo- Tibba Base camp Trek in the Himalayas with an adventure group called Yuvashakti. I was a part of a very young and totally crazy set of 32 people.
A trek constitutes of a lot of walking, climbing and extreme adventure. We walked 10kms everyday, through forests and steep hills to climb. As we walked we always had mountains on one side and a river on the other. One bad step and you could fall a 1000ft down and die. You needed to be alert constantly. As I walked I saw the most beautiful sights and things. The sights were way beautiful for any camera to capture. There were dogs, sheeps,horses, vultures, eagles, bears, cows, snakes and around a 1000 species of insects for company. Treks arent your usual holiday destinations. They are tough and there is absolutely low standard of comfort. There are no deluxe rooms with lavish bathrooms. You live in tents, sleep in tents, and if you are lucky you get a tent to do your morning ritual, or you find your spot in the forest and get on with it. A bath is a luxury. A tent only has a sleeping bag for your company. As a principle I switched off my phone for 12 days. No calling, messaging, facebook or whatsapp. I wanted it to be just me and the mountains.
Mountains are scary and beautiful, they are extremely silent yet buzzing with activity, they are unpredictable yet predictable, they look the same but are different every day. The people living in the mountains are extremely simple, hardworking and innocent. Their lives are untouched by all the ‘tamasha’ in our cities. Life in general is extremely tough. The basic things like food, clothing and daily utilities are only sparsely available. In one of my chats with a local villager he told me, ” Well I once forgot to get sugar in my monthly ration from the shop in Manali. To reach Manali I have to walk 15 kms with my horse. My father sent me on foot that day just to get some sugar. I haven’t since then forgotten to get anything mentioned in the list.” Food is mostly prepared on wood. I tried my hand at cutting some wood, I was dead tired in 10 mins. The men do it for hours. It is part of their daily routine. The children are used to walking a minimum of 6-7 kms everyday to schools. There are more girls being educated in the schools than the boys, which was heartening to see. ” In our culture we believe in empowering our girls,they are no burden. They are equal to the boys.” a lady told me. The villages are spotlessly clean. People there are seriously offended with tourists dirtying their spaces. They should be! Mount Everest today is one of the largest garbage dumps in the country.
My trek had 4 camps at various heights until we reached Deo-Tibba. On every camp we had a group of local people travelling with us. They were there to take care of our three meals a day. They cooked us reasonable food. For the height we were at, the freezing cold and the limited resources available, I think there was nothing to complain about. When one of our group mates had his birthday I was really touched when the cooking staff surprised us with an eggless chocolate cake. It was delicious. We played cricket and badminton in our free times. It was great to play outdoor badminton, it reminded me of my younger days when I would play with dad in Bombay. In the nights we would collect wood and have a campfire. This involved dancing,singing, ghost stories and dum charades. The part I enjoyed most of these camps was the night. It was plain unbelievable. The night sky had never been so beautiful. There would be absolute silence, no other light but that of the countless stars above me. I would sit for long durations just staring at them, wondering why had I not done this earlier. I also did river crossing and rappling for the first time in my life. It is all about the rush you get when you do these things. You actually hear your own heart beat. It was an exhilarating experience.
The Himalayas is a major destination for the foreigners and hippies. Majority of them come here for self exploration, for spirituality and meditation. You quite often see them sitting and meditating and chanting’ hare ram hare krishna’. Some of them stay back and never go back home, they are so mesmerised by the Himalayas. With them they also get drugs and booze. They hire some bikes for months together and travel around the region with a guitar in their hand.
I think with my 10 days in the Himalayas I kind of understand why they never get back. Himalayas are a place for adventure and fun, but they can easily be a place for silence and introspection. You are with nature for company all the time. You are reminded of how small you are in the scheme of things. A life in Himalayas is a life with nature. People living there believe that everything in the forest can be used for something or the other. In the older generation you see a sense of fear of losing their young ones to the city. ” My grandchild left us for a better job in the city, to make more money. Money has become so important for this generation. You get everything you need to live here. The forest provides for your every need. But well I guess he will be back soon, if not for us for the mountains. You cant stay away from them for long. We live in hope.”
This ten days were by far the most exciting ten days of my life. I came face to face with things I didn’t know about me and about the world I live in. I met a set of people from a different generation, and a time untouched by technology, untouched by phones and laptops. I met children who lived in houses smaller than my hall, but offered me water and their share of biscuits because they saw me tired. I saw the world from a height of 12000ft and there was no place for pride, but just wonder and awe about this wonderful place called earth.
Out of all the memories I have about the Himalayas the one that will stay with me for a long time is when I saw a shooting star in the night and I didn’t wish for anything. When I saw it for that one moment I really had nothing to ask for. Not trophies, not love, not happiness, not money, not blessings, I wanted nothing. All I felt was joy, the purest form of it. I was happy, just really happy.