So here we were after our unexpected midnight adventure in our tent and all set to trek! It seemed like the tent next to us also heard the screaming so they asked us, honestly we were still confounded about it.
And subconsciously none of us approached Rajesh and asked him, in order to avoid any embarrassment for him. We did mention it to Thirth and he did say that compared to the last trek he did, he seemed very quiet and disconnected. He was sitting on his own at a distance. He also didn’t seem to remember anything from last night. Showmik was tired, angry and shaken up a bit. He couldn’t get any sleep after that.
But trek we had to and this is the part we look forward to and at the same time groan about it. It’s always a catch 22 situation! We grumble about it and yet we keep doing it again and again. Now onwards it was goodbye to civilisation and getting into the wilderness.
Tirth mentioned that we were no longer allowed to camp at Deorital site, no trekking company or individual could anymore because of increasing pollution, so our campsite was a little away. ‘Tal’ in Garhwali means a lake/pond. And Deori means Gods like ‘Devri’ and the locals would pronounce it as Devrital. The lake of the gods and it had interesting stories behind it.
Saying goodbye to the beautiful Sari base camp, we made our slow and steady ascent. Time and again I ask myself why? And I truly think I should stop asking anymore. Why do we put ourselves through this, trek after trek? Why? Yet the answers are something that can only be experienced while trekking. There are no words for it.
For the next few hours and most part of the day, it was only ascent no respite and yet.. the view, the forest, the 360 degree view of the mountains, one could go on, slow and steady, pacing maintaining a steady rhythm, huffing and puffing until the body slowly acclimatises to the altitude, to the thin air.
For me it goes beyond the physical senses, it tells me this is where humans should be, as close to the nature as possible. The only sounds are of the birds, so many birds, the coniferous trees surrounding you with its vast expanse against the backdrop of the divine Himalayas. It is times like these I wish I was a poet. All my love letters would be to the Himalayas, the one and only 😊♥️
Thirth mentioned this was one of those unique treks where the entire region had birds. Ready for it? 250 species of birds! The rare colourful vibrant Monal -a bird that was the national bird of Uttarakhand was a sight to behold. Bhim and I were blessed to see that in our last Deorital trek. Amidst a heavy snowfall near Tungnath- the highest altitude Shiva temple in the world, there were several Monals contrasting with the powder white snow as we watched dumbstruck by its beauty. We would get to see so many species during this trek.
The ‘Family’ was surging ahead with the guide Pankajji and that’s where they would be every day. Not interacting, not mingling, except competing with each other to reach from one camp to another. They were truly very fit goaded on by their badminton ‘coach’ Naveen who was on his own trip 😊 It was amusing and entertaining to see the ‘Family’ sponsored their coach so he could motivate and push them to move faster!
Constantly talking to each other in Tamil, they were content withing themselves not interested in any one else. Let me introduce them to you. One was the father- Satish K, a fit skinny bearded man who did Yoga every day for years without fail, his wife Kayalvizhi whose name was so unpronounceable that Tirth would call her ‘ Khayaal’ which means a thought in Hindi 😁.
There was their kid Akhil who would only talk in Tamil, then I recollected something, there was a 12 year old girl Pihu who trekked with her dad during Roopkund, yup, she did the tough trek. And the first day when she was walking with her dad, he bluntly said to her, why are you walking with me? Make friends! Walk and talk to others! And that’s what she did and she shared her tent with me and another friend Neha. From being competitive to be first in the trek group initially, she started pacing with the trek group and got to know about us all. She is a strapping 16 year old now, a runner and yes I am still very much in touch with her.
The last but not the least in ‘the family’ was Satish C and that day itself I realised how different he was from the rest of the family. More on that later.
We reached a resting point and saw that Deepak the Haryanvi was struggling, initially the team felt it was because of his backpack, it was very heavy so Tirth took some of his equipment, his friend Laxman carried the camera equipment they got, but it was slowing him done. He was breathless in stages and our altitude hadn’t changed much yet.
Rajesh, the 60 year old man with the white shirt(the one and only white shirt) would be ahead, then he would be the last one or sometimes go off track. When the guide would say stop he would want to go ahead. It was like dealing with a stubborn kid 😊
Slowly ascending, breathless, taking water breaks we knew we were getting closer to Deorital. It was so déjà vu. Here was where we camped, there I remembered sitting in the kitchen tent and making rotis with the staff while Bhupinder and Manojji played Garhwali songs. I love cooking and for me cooking is an expression of love and that’s how I persuaded, insisted with my then trek lead Venkat to take me to the kitchen so I could help with anything. All those events came back to my mind. And now Deorital was so quiet…
With no camping allowed, we walked around the lake. Bhim and I went down towards the lake and we played ripples, throwing tiny stones into the water. Navadeep joined us as we tried to see how far the stones could ripple further, it was just like our childhood.
Tirth called us up so we could hear stories of Deorital from Pankajji. Legend has it that the Pandavas (Mahabharata) were here and Bhim, the second brother drank the water from the lake without the Yaksha’s (a mischievous spirit) permission. Bhim became unconscious, one by one all the brothers went into that state until Yudhisthira the oldest confronted the Yaksha. The only way out was to answer his questions and he did to all of them.
The Yaksha then told him that he could revive only one brother, who was his choice? He immediately said Nakula, as he was his step mother Madri’s son. Why? the Yaksha asked. Because from his mother Kunti, he would be the surviving kin and it would not be fair to revive another brother that came from his mother Kunti, there has to be justice. So it would be Nakula, Madri’s son. Pleased the Yaksha revives all the brothers. These legends tell you more than just stories, it’s humanity, it’s a lesson on equality and justice which sadly has gone out of the window in today’s times.
Right after that, Tirth assembled us and made us play a unique game. We had to pair up with a person whom we haven’t met yet. I paired up with ‘Dharmik’ and guess what he was also from Hyderabad! How the hell did I miss that?? This game was all about trust. Just pure trust. One would close their eyes and one would lead, the person leading would hold their hand and give step by step instructions each and every way to a tree they chose. Every minute step had to be given to the other. And once we did that, we all came back to our original spaces, and the person who closed his/her eyes had to go that same tree remembering their partner‘a instructions.
It was beautiful in every way for me. Because this guy Dharmik with one of the sweetest smiles, who didn’t even meet me until then trusted me wholly, every bit of the way, heard, touched every spot I selected, every bit of instruction and he found the tree.
It was more than a game, this dude Tirth was something else, he made me understand how it’s such a responsibility when one trusts you wholly. You take it on you, you make sure the other person doesn’t get hurt, you have to make sure you don’t let them down for the trust they had on you. I remember in the end, when Tirth asked how did it feel. Dharmik sweetly said, she was very clear, I trusted her. I said, he didn’t ask me one question, he just placed his entire trust on me. A bond was formed. How simple is it right? No egos, no barriers and boundaries. Just like that.
Tirth told us to walk to the campsite with our new ‘partner’ and we did. Tirth the devil, with maturity beyond his years was peeling off the masks we were strongly holding on to💙
To be continued tomorrow!