The walk back – Part XV

Slowly Bhim and I made our way back down, the rest of them were already moving down while Tirth, Riddhi, Jo and a few others would take their time coming down. Now there was no hurry, no chalo chalo, keep the pace nothing. It was a bright morning and neither Tirth nor Pankajji were worried about how we will descend to Chopta, everyone was relaxed and we could take our time to go down.

And as we started descending, Bhim and I saw so much garbage, the chocolate wrappers, chips packets, bottles, all kinds of stuff strayed all over by people who would trek up here. It was truly sad. Something as pristine as the Himalayas was filling into trash spaces created by humans. Tirth was busy picking trash, Pankajji and Rahul were doing it. Bhim and I started picking up trash and it was frustrating to see so much.

Why is it that humans have utter disregard towards nature? I would have expected that people coming to the Himalayas would be more aware but I guess in the end it’s human nature and that won’t change. Also Himalayas had become another ‘tick’ on any travel wish list nowadays. Whether one wanted ‘perfect photographs’ or perfect poses in the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas. Or to say ‘ I have been there’.

Below I saw Navadeep stopping and picking up trash and he was carrying a big bag that was almost full. Bhim had taken Navadeep’s eco bag. He had not carried his Eco bag when we started our walk to the summit and he realised he had nothing to put the trash in. Showmik was with us as we descended and kept on picking up stuff. We went zig zag, around and the more we searched the more there was waste. And this inspite of others in the group picking up so much of it. It was a shame to what we were doing to mother earth.

Bhim got the urge to pee so he told me to keep going ahead, and when Showmik stopped, Bhim said, ‘Hey don’t look at my dick!’ Showmik responded wittily, ‘ I have come here to see the Peak, not your deek(dick)!’ 😂😂 We burst out laughing! This man was something else! 😂

We kept descending, we stopped and turned back, the summit seemed intimidating and what we did felt improbable! Did we truly climb that? And as we kept on descending with no end in sight we kept wondering how did we do this?

Bhim pointed Navadeep to the ‘verglass’, a thin sheet of ice that’s so dangerous you can slip and have a really bad fall. Navadeep stood on it and almost fell! Then Bhim kept provoking Showmik to try it but our Bengali babu was too smart, he just tapped on it and refused to fall for it 😊

We saw now travellers/ tourists making their way to Chandrashila, it was getting hot. We were almost reaching Tungnath temple. It looked so different from the first time we saw it in 2017 covered with snow. Also it was very raw then with just the ancient temple and nothing else. Now there were shelters, guest houses almost like a complex surrounding it. Was it good or bad?

With more devotees, more people, more development was happening. It also meant hell of a lot of pollution because right next to it on the side of a mountain was so much trash like a landfill. Why do people who go to holy places as a pilgrimage do this? When our holy scriptures says God is everywhere, how can they desecrate like this? I know I am asking a futile question here..

We stopped at the temple and bowed at the entrance to the steps of the main temple. As I mentioned before, the holy idol was not there. It would be brought back on an auspicious date in the summer.

We removed our shoes outside and paid our respects. Rahul who was around with the huge trash bag told us to spend some time but also descend back to Chopta on time. Navadeep was silently sitting there paying his respects. Everything seemed surreal around us.

We were getting surrounded by the cacophony of ‘tourists’ who were going trigger crazy with the camera, mostly ‘Delhiites’ who always stick to their stereotype, loud, rude and no sense of decorum but we also had our own ‘Delhiites from the south’ aka The Family especially Mr Naveen who went up to the main altar door that was closed and posing 🙄 not respecting the sanctity of the holy premises. Oh well it was time to descend.

Navadeep said he would come down with Showmik while Bhim and I made our way down. The entire atmosphere was different, Chandrashila now seemed like a dream. We could see the vista of the Himalayas. At that moment I made a decision, to visit Tungnath again one day. I don’t know the season, date, when, what, nothing but yes I will be back here again.

We saw Tarang, Dharmik, Anuj hanging out with Laxman, Pankajji having chai and smiling. Bhim took a sip out of Pankajji’s Chai. Something had shifted in all of us, I could see each one of them looking different. Himalayas does that to you. It’s all inward and even though we might not be aware of it then, it shifts surely..

We kept moving and chatting about everything on earth and for me, this is home. Bhim and me talking, sometimes in silence, all the way through we were going on. In between he made calls to his mother and a few friends. Did I feel the need to call anyone? Nope, I wanted to remain in that zone of being disconnected. It was the last day for us. No way was I gonna interrupt the flow and I continued doing that till we reached Dehradun.

We saw the three happy boys Tarang, Dharmik and Anuj happily descending away. Both Anuj and Dharmik were on calls but Tarang resolutely made a choice of not calling his mother. He was like Nahin, abhi nahin baad mein( I will call later). He was a special boy 😊

Sometimes we took shortcuts, sometimes we went along and in each stance we could see the difference between 2017 trek to now. Bhim took the exact pics now, the same location he clicked in 2017 and how different it was. And let me tell you Tungnath is tough, no way it is easy. Whether it’s snow, rain or hot sun blaring at us now it was long winding and round and round descent.

We could see healthy young Delhiites all glammed up sitting on mules going up towards the temple. We just shook our heads. Tarang, Dharmik and Anuj were talking to a couple of guys who were going up now towards Tungnath, and the boys were realistic enough to say how long it would take them. What truly helped us was the darkness, not able to see anything is what made us pace at the way we did. If we had seen this in broad daylight we would have felt discouraged. Kudos Tirth! 😊

It was rhododendron season and the flowers were blooming everywhere around us. We would get shade from the trees to hot sun. But let me tell you it was looooooong! When would this end? The tiredness, sleeplessness, the constant walking since 1.30 am was creeping up on us. If you think descents are less tiring. Nope you are wrong, it plays havoc on your knees and legs. It went on and on.

Finally after what looked like eternity we saw the steps, the same entrance where we rang the bells in the wee hours of darkness. It was a whole new feeling with exhaustion. We walked into a chai breakfast shop and the boys Tarang, Dharmik and Anuj were around smoking. We were also hungry. We ordered some chai and parathas and Riddhi joined us a little later.

Anuj said he was done with walking and hoped there would be a vehicle to take us till Baniya kund. From there anyways we had to again trek up to our campsite. I took some frooti from Tarang and was chatting. I just took a fag from Dharmik and Bhim lit his ciggie up and was enjoying it and then it happened.. Tirth walked in with a grim face.

Indiahikes strictly had a policy of no smoking while trekking and to give benefit of doubt to the boys and Bhim, the trek was over. But on the other end it wasn’t either. Because we still had to go to Baniya kund. Who is right and who is wrong? There was a very thin line.

Tirth calmly asked Bhim, is this Rishikesh? Bhim also repeated calmly no it’s not. It’s clearly mentioned that there was no smoking. And Tirth just left disappointed. Pankajji said that Indiahikes had a good name here and locals would be shocked that anyone from their side was doing this. I will tell you what my view is on this. I admired Tirth and I admired Bhim. Both were right in their own way. Yes rules were flouted and yet, as I told there was a thin line.The thing is we all took a fag but Tirth saw only Bhim holding a cigarette. Facts isn’t it?

Tirth and Bhim had a very special moment of brotherhood at the summit and when Bhim saw Tirth crestfallen, he walked upto him. Tirth was sitting with his head down and Bhim being the quintessential gentleman he is, he apologised and said It’s ok if Tirth complained about this and it’s fine if he gets banned from Indiahikes treks, it was his mistake. And that folks takes lots of courage, to own up and to say as it is. Most of them don’t own up and he did and my admiration for my friend went up a notch. He was a wild boy inside with a big heart and a conscience. 😊

The vehicle had come and we were set to go back to Baniyakund. A few of them like Jo, Riddhi, Tirth decided to sit on top of the vehicle. We were enroute to our campsite, our last day here and it was only 11.30 am.

For most of the world out there it was the middle of the day but for us.. We were coming back to a world where our perceptions had changed, it shifted permanently.

Until tomorrow ♥️ Stay united. Jai Hind 🇮🇳

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