I remember that early morning as we waited for our pick up at Rishikesh, a couple more would join us from there. The rest of the group were being picked up at Haridwar.
We were given prior instructions about the pick up points and we would be going to Sari and stay overnight and start the trek the next day. The drive to Sari would take 8-9 hours.
We met a father son duo. They were residents of Rishikesh.
Kishore moved to Rishikesh 5 years ago and was running his own business while his son Rudra had completed his Masters. An accomplished athlete, he competed professionally in swimming and an injury made him give it up some years ago.
We were quite an interesting mix in that trip.
The fact is I was travelling with friends who are much older than me, the kind that few could even understand that one could become close friends regardless of age or anything else.
I had met Pankaj at a workshop couple of years ago and we bonded so well that our friendship strengthened over time and his friend Jogen also in that process became my friend when we met at Mundgod, Hubli in December last year attending a Buddhist Seminar.
So here we were 5 of us with the driver on a long road trip to Sari where we would meet the rest of them there.
Exchanging snippets of each other’s lives becomes interesting then. Initially it starts with smiles, formalities, everybody putting in their best foot forward, not treading on any sensitive issues. Yup, that’s how it usually happens, doesn’t it?
And this was 8-9 hours and after some time, all of us relaxed and started chatting, asking each other about what we do, did anybody else have experience in treks, the usual stuff. Very congenial and nice.
As I think about it now, I ask this, we all have different masks for different situations and people, don’t we?
It’s all fine as long as we are in pleasant and easy situations, but put all of us in an interesting tough situation and aspects of who we truly are comes out and trekking does that to you which I would realize much later.
Spending time with what looks like strangers first, formalities , being polite, maintaining distances, not crossing any boundaries and all becomes an about turn in a few days.
You come to know whom you gel with, whom you disagree with, whom you like and whose company you truly enjoy. Sometimes you don’t even need to talk, you can just sit with someone in silence and feel connected.
This is something I thought about in hindsight, the entire dynamics of relationships between people when they come together.
Meeting Rudra and Kishore was something else as we all spoke about almost everything under the sun during that drive. I shared something common with both. Love towards animals with Rudra, a spiritual side with Kishore.
I must say this though, they are a formidable force together, their energy though completely different from each other had it’s own uniqueness to it. There was so much love and yet contrasting thoughts, beliefs, mindset at the same time between them.
During the drive, I came to know they were Telugus and being from Hyderabad and fluent in that language,we would just ramble a teeny weeny bit in it.
The drive was fantastic as we stopped at Devaprayag and took a short break. We could see the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda that becomes Ganga. Those brief breaks were awesome.
Stopping at a Chai Point where we met Kalu – the mountain dog and Rudra and I pampered and petted him till we left the place. We all were in a state of bliss.
Green pastures, rolling hills, flowing blue green waters… It was all beginning to set in my head that I was actually here!
We stopped for lunch and we saw the others slowly coming in to eat. They were in different vehicles and this was the common stopover before reaching Sari.
I clearly remember four of us sitting together even though we knew the rest of them had come for the same trek.
Curious glances, nothing in common at first sight, a look here and there, perplexed, sitting at the tables, in their own comfort zones. All of us..
At one point, Pankaj got up and spoke to a couple and came back with a big smile and said, Ha you found your Telugus, I found my Gujjus to talk to finally in this trip.
I gently reminded him that the last time we were traveling to Ladakh, there was a van load of Gujaratis barring one Maharashtrian couple in that trip, all speaking in their native language and I didn’t feel the need to be associated with someone from the so called my ‘kind’ , so why now this comfort feeling and telling it out loud? Just because I met a couple of them who knew the same language?
Interesting isn’t it, the whole dynamics of it ? 🙂
Finally we reached Sari and as we got out of our vehicle we saw a fit guy with a big smile greeting us. Devang ! Yup one of the trek leaders who led us into the guest house at Sari. Full of energy, enthusiasm and tad bit nervous too 🙂 It was his first trek as a Leader.
The other guy was Venkat who was mentoring Devang. If Devang was full of zest, Venkat looked quite the opposite. Very quiet and stern at first sight. I remember when we had to stand in line and show our medical records, somehow I thought he will admonish me for something or the other!
Pankaj was very excited to see another guy, Dushyant. He was a trek leader with Indiahikes and he had done the Great Lakes with him a couple of years ago. Right now he would be at the Sari base camp as a co-ordinator for this trek. A pleasant and a very charming guy and very affable as I got talking to him during dinner time.
And there was us all…
What goes through your mind when you get bunched up with an eclectic group?
Seriously that day I had not much of a recollection of most of them. You look around, you try to see if you can get a vibe, a smile, some warmth, an energy and all this happens sub consciously.
You tread carefully because for the next 6 days you have no idea how it’s going to be, so what do you do? You stay with the same group you usually came with at least initially.
If you are coming solo, maybe you will talk more to the trek leaders, or maybe find another solo traveler and start a conversation.
We were all still strangers to each other.
I was initially placed with two girls in the room and before we could even get to talk more and go beyond the usual Hi’s, I was shifted to the same room with Pankaj and Jogen for comfort sake.
Now when I look back, I distinctly remember 3 people that caught my attention that day.
I remember a quiet woman making her presence felt softly even though she was usually in a corner by herself while eating, that was Seema.
And there was this big guy cracking jokes with his friends and the trek leaders. When all were keeping to themselves, this group would be having fun. He was Bunny.
The last one I remember clearly because I heard a response from him to someone in an affirmative voice. I remember looking back and wondering as to who was this person, who was so frank and could express his views without being diplomatic at all. This was Bhim.
So there you go, a bunch of us coming together for a common purpose.
As Devang and his team led us through a long list of DO’s and DON’Ts with lots of enthusiasm and preparing us for the trek, I was truly getting nervous.
Why? I don’t know, maybe it was the fear of the unknown, of doing something I had no idea with a bunch a people I didn’t know. Granted I was with a couple of friends but in the end it’s only me that has to deal with this whole journey.
That night post dinner, we went for a short walk along the road and Rudra and Kishore joined us. We had a hot cup of Chai before we said Good Night.
It was going to be a big day as we would start our first day trekking towards Deorital where we would camp that night.
I could barely sleep that night and I noticed that people were awake in other rooms and chatting.
It had been a long day and I guess we were trying to make sense of what we were about to do..
A new trek and a new beginning…