I remember it so clearly even now.
I just froze wherever I was. It was so dark and it felt like forever and I could see the lightening, loud thunder. You feel very helpless in those situations and at that moment I went blank, totally blank.
In what looked like a few seconds, I started fumbling for my head lamp. It was in my pant pocket below the rain poncho, I was truly fumbling.
Rain hitting me hard, the thunder getting louder, I struggled to get out the head lamp and then I heard screams.
My companion was behind and he panicked. He started screaming my name, Sapna Sapna Sapna!! Nothing else just my name and it felt like it was a a little far off behind.
OH SHIT! I finally took my head lamp out and switched it on and I still couldn’t see anything in front or behind. In that situation you lose your sense of clarity. Then finally I placed the head lamp towards the path and I could finally see it.
It was really dark, the kind of darkness I never encountered. I started walking back fast shouting Don’t worry I am coming back. Just stay where you are. Please just stay where you are!
Finally I saw him, he was standing still and shivering. He was crying and in total panic. I held him telling him it’s OK, it’s OK I am here. Nothing has happened. He started murmuring I can’t die, I can’t die, my wife and son won’t survive without me. I have responsibilities.
I wrapped my arm around his arm and said Let’s keep moving, these are all landslide areas we have no choice but to keep moving and NOTHING will happen.
I told him, HE is there to take care of us. HE won’t disappoint us. We are safe and we will be safe. I could feel his arm shaking so I told him to chant loudly Jai Bole Nath, that’s it. Just keep on chanting and he did.
He kept on chanting it while we started walking. I held my lamp firmly and started looking in all directions as we walked. This was a landslide area and it was raining and getting worse.
We could see the water levels increasing as the paths were on an incline and decline . I could feel the water getting inside my shoes. Totally wet.
When he started talking about the landslide of 2013 that happened here and so many people died, I shushed him saying don’t even go there please, just keep chanting, just keep chanting.
I would keep on talking something or the other, constantly saying something and join him in his chanting. He was holding onto my arm for dear life. I kept on telling him, we will make it, we will for sure make it through this.
We kept walking for an hour like that, I mean for an hour… I still have no idea how we did that. The whole place was flooding.. The water level was almost to our ankles but we kept walking.
We finally saw a shelter, it was a stable for ponies and there was a small shed attached to it, there were two ponies. caretaker and two old people. We were relieved to see some people at least. The moment we reached there, the old couple asked if we had seen a couple with a child?
They were sitting here for 2 hours and they were really worried now. There was no sign of their son and his family.. I told them not to worry ,they must have taken some shelter somewhere and I truly prayed and hoped they did. These torrential rains and imagining that family being stuck somewhere was too unbearable to imagine..
My friend was feeling little better knowing there were people. We had to keep going on though, these rains looked like it wouldn’t stop so we carried on.
By that time both of us got used to walking in the pounding rains. We were all wet anyways it didn’t matter anymore and after some time we saw some torch lights ahead, we walked faster towards it and saw 3 young guys standing right there.
The moment we approached they shouted Thank God someone is here .We all now were walking back together.
Five was better than just two and now we had 3 head lamps so there was more light. One of them would watch up or listen for any kind of unusual sounds. More specifically rocks and believe me this helped a lot.
Just 10-15 minutes into our walk and I think it was that much time, we heard a rumble, a very different rumble and I can never ever forget that sound in my life, never.
It was not thunder or lightening and the sound started increasing, like a rolling from far but approaching super fast and the guy just screamed Oh Fuck ROCKS!! RUN RUN RUN!!
Whether the Rocks were rolling behind or ahead of us, we had no clue and I can tell you this now, we were Effing Lucky, Bloody Effing Lucky!
We Ran, Oh man, how we ran, the only chance we could have was to run ahead, it was all in a matter of seconds, just freaking seconds when we ran in that rain, slippery flooding paths and we just kept on running for god knows how long or so I thought.
And the rumbling stopped. We realized for all our running we didn’t run that far at all.
Remember, the mountains and it’s distances are different and when we stopped and flashed our head lamps behind, we were shocked .
The whole path behind us was strewn with Medium to Big rocks and one was HUGE, almost blocking the path behind us.
We were there a few moments ago Goddamn it… We Escaped in a matter of seconds.. My heart was racing, so this is how it exactly feels..
We started walking faster now and something shifted in all of us after that I think. In a strange way, that fear turned into numbness.
I could see it in my gait and I could see it in others, even with my companion. I saw determination in all of us. We escaped narrowly and by God NOW we are going to make it.
Finally we were 500 metres from Gaurikund when we flashed our head lamp at the sign board. It was still very dark. We saw a security outpost, it was a tent with a tiny lamp inside. The man was blissfully sleeping as we could see his silhouette and his sleeping bag , he was used to this.
The flooding was increasing and when we reached Gaurikund there was no electricity but such a relief to see some people, civilization.
Almost all the shops were closed and there were steps totally flooded. We were getting soaked more. We parted ways with the 3 guys with a wave, there was nothing left to say.
At that moment I realized, where the hell would I stay? I don’t have a room here. My companion said there is a guest house which they stayed in last night and he told his wife to go to the same place and check in. He will find a room in that same place and if it’s full ,I could stay with them.
He was holding my arm tight getting very emotional saying Thank You Thank you. I told him please let’s talk about this tomorrow, we have gone through hell and now it’s time to just thank God and get moving on.
It was pounding even more in Gaurikund and with the darkness it was difficult to recognize that guesthouse but finally we found it. Around that moment, I lost whatever little strength I had just like that.
I could feel my knees shaking like crazy, my shoulders felt tortured and I couldn’t take a step further. I just couldn’t. I stood there as the man in charge told me we had to walk 2 floors up to a room as my friend was explaining my situation to him. I was alone and I needed a clean room.
The guy was curt initially but when he saw my condition he held my hand as I walked up. I seriously clung on to the railing and held this man’s hand as I walked up, it was as if I was collapsing.
There was no electricity and I was soaking wet and prayed hard that the extra clothes i put in my day pack didn’t get wet.
He asked me for my ID and 300 Rs for the bed. I was shaking, fumbling and searching in the dark and my friend lost his temper. He yelled saying how can you ask her this now seeing her condition? She will show you the ID tomorrow morning. She is not running away.
The man shouted back saying, She is a Girl and she is alone and you say she is your friend, I have to see the ID . Follow my rules or get out. It was leading to a fight.
I just put my hand forward and said Bhaiyya, can I show you the ID after I change? I promise I will but I am shivering with cold right now. My voice softened him and he said OK.
I told my friend to go ahead and look for his family in the guest house. He had to see the register and check which room they were in. I thanked him and said Worry Not, I feel safe and we will meet in the morning.
My head lamp went off so the man in charge offered his torch. It was so cold, so bloody cold. My clothes my gear everything was super wet. It was a big room with 2 separate beds and I had the whole room to myself. Luckily my spare clothes were dry, it’s as if it witnessed nothing of this.
I felt better as I sat on the bed. I called out to that man and showed him my ID and asked for a bottle of water. I was thirsty, so thirsty now.
When he knew I came from Hyderabad and was traveling alone, he softened a lot and said Don’t worry, You are Safe here. I am in charge of this guest house and no one will disturb you.
He got me extra blankets and told me to cover up well. As I took my wallet out, he said No No, pay tomorrow. Just rest up and do you want some Chai tomorrow morning? I simply nodded. He said I will send it across around 8 am OK? Just sleep well.
As I got into bed and checked my feet, I saw it became glaringly white. The soles of my feet was freaking white and aching like mad and I could feel big swollen lumps on my shoulder blades. I couldn’t go to sleep without medication. Not with this excruciating pain.
With shivering hands, I popped a Combiflam, rubbed some gel on my shoulders and got into bed.
I could still hear thunder & lightening, I could hear voices of people outside, the rain was pounding harder, this was not going to stop, there was no current but I was safe. We finally made it..
I blanked out..