We reached Baniya kund exhausted, tired and no sense of time. It seemed so quieter than yesterday, was it us? The anticipation, the energy, the games we played last evening had gone into oblivion replaced by a stillness of the place.
We did our stretches and now we had the whole day. Yup practically the whole day to ourselves. It was only 11.30 am! What the hell? We got so used to a routine, pack, eat and trek, on repeat mode and now left to ourselves it was all new. Tirth suggested that if we wanted to rest up, it’s best we did it outdoors and not inside the tent. We climbed 3,000+ feet and descended the same in hours, getting into a tent would not be advisable at all. It would be hot inside and chances are you would get fever.
But who listens? 😊 Except a few of us, everyone went into the tent exhausted and crashed. Bhim and I decided to sleep outdoors, so we chose a spot a bit away from the tents. Nope no sheet nothing required, we had the lovely earth as a bed. I started playing some songs of The Beatles. In 10 seconds of hitting the ground, I could hear snores from Bhim.This man I tell ya! Well it made me sleepy too and so we snored under the open sky. It was cold but it didn’t matter.
Drowsily after what felt like sleeping for hours, Bhim and I woke up and we realised shit! It has been only 40 minutes! What was this?! There was so much time to spare. We already told Tirth we wouldn’t have lunch, both of us weren’t in the mood. So we got up, and sat in another space and were chatting away.
I was going back home with a lot of trepidation. The way I left home to come to this trek, I was not really looking forward to facing anything or anyone but life is life. Bhim knew me and my situation too well. We laughed about it, and yet I knew everything inside me had changed. The fear of abandonment was no more, the fear of loss no longer existed.
For the first time I felt I could be on my own and I would be ok. Life goes on. I won’t change who I am to accommodate anyone. Bhim said to me, I was a loner, a lone tigress and I didn’t want to be a part of the herd , I was paving my own way. An impulsive crazy person who finishes one trek and signs up another one and then figures out stuff!
Bhim was similar, a loner himself, he could nicely switch from being a part of a group and completely crave for his own space and get into his zone. There was so much of a free spirit inside him and it had only been blooming. From being a reserved guy initially to the the guy he is now, he was all heart and impulsive. No wonder we felt home when we were together. Kindred spirits.
Tirth told us, shortly there would be snacks so like idiots we sat closer to the dining tent waiting for it.😊 This was taking longer than we thought. Bhim and I decided to go back to our respective tents. I saw Riddhi lost in her own world doodling away in her notebook under the shade of a tree. I saw Rajesh in another corner.
I couldn’t sleep try as I might, the feeling of being here, it was our last night meant that I was losing every moment by being cooped up in a tent. I walked ahead, crossed over and went to the adjoining open meadows. Navadeep was also around. I enjoyed the vista of mountains. Rolling meadows, the vast Himalayas looming large and the sheep grazing. How blessed were we? One could keep looking for hours and hours. The stillness is something else.
I heard Tirth’s voice behind me, he came over and was also lying down. Here we were. Navadeep, Tirth and me comfortable in our silences and together at the same time. After that I had no idea how time passed. It was literally going tik tok after that.
Tirth spoke about his own experience of a spirit right here! He pointed out to a cluster of small Himalayan huts with a stone boundary that was just a few metres away from us. Just on the other side, he had an eerie experience. Tirth was into night photography so he and his friend would trek at night and take pictures.
The villagers warned him not to cross that stone boundary wall at night, there were spirits. He of course didn’t listen and past midnight they were there clicking away. And then he saw it, a huge shadow crossing them and he and his friend could feel it in their bones, the terror, the voice inside, realising this was not human and they made a run for it. The presence was so strong that as they were running they could feel it coming closer towards them. Only after they reached the campsite did that heaviness leave them.
As we were relaxing and chatting I noticed the grazing sheep coming closer. Tirth laughed and said to me, don’t doze off again, before you know it they will surround you! And right after he said that, the flock of sheep literally circled around us and a couple of them were nicely eating off the grass right next to my feet. Before they thought my chunky leg was some kind of obstruction I moved away 😊
The kitchen team called out for snacks. Slowly, bleary eyed tired trekkers made their way. Tirth told us to come with him at an elevated point so we could watch the sunset together. It also meant we would also meet up like this as a group for the last time. Most of us went with Tirth to that space. The family – the mother, father and kid didn’t join us. Lakshman and his friend Deepak who didn’t summit went off that afternoon as their car was in Sari village. Satish C and Naveen came along.
It was an emotional one. Tirth telling us what he observed in each one of us, and one by one we spoke about our experience and how connected we felt with each other and in the backdrop was the beautiful sunset slowing down and telling it’s goodbye to us.
While I remember most of what everyone said, I prefer to not write about it because it came from the heart. We were going to be together only now, after that it was back to our lives. Our reality. When would we ever meet again once we go back to our cities? Yes, some of us were from the same city yet.. That was the truth.
When we hugged each other one by one, I was very emotional and the moment Tarang came around with tears in his eyes I couldn’t control myself either. Such attachments in just a few days. There was no logical explanation to this, it was all heart. We sat down for sometime and saw our final sunset together.
After sunset it suddenly became dark, we made our way down and of course the wildness in Bhim came out and him and his gang of boys Tarang, Dharmik and Anuj huddled together while me and Navadeep were placed as bodyguards 😁 On the way down towards the campsite, we took a diversion and our shoes became wet walking through some swampy grasslands, we started laughing, what an ending this was.
Bhim and I thought this was the best time to get out the tamarind ‘Tokku’, we went into the warm kitchen tent. They were cooking jeera rice, so I added the tamarind paste with oil and nicely mixed it. It would be our South Indian special, something small to savour for everyone. The kitchen guys loved it, they loved the avakai pickle too, they were wondering how could they get these pickles. Bhim and I kept it in mind, we would figure out a way to send it to them somehow.
As we sat for dinner, Pankajji spoke about the trek, he was only 26( which was unbelievable) but his wisdom shined through. He was a pure Pahadi at heart and his words were so simple. He said, do something for the environment, anything. He looked at Akhil, the family’s kid who was turning 14 the next day, he said, think about the future generations, kids observe everything, be a role model. And how can you contribute? By not wasting anything. For example if you want to buy a toothpaste, buy a big one, instead of buying these smaller ones and trashing them to the landfill. So simple and straight.
He also spoke about the trek, how happy they were as a team when we created a record of reaching the summit. And he wisely told ‘the family’, mingle with others, interact with others, Akhil needs to see this too. Since it would be the kid’s birthday tomorrow, the kitchen team made a cake for him.
After our dinner Bhim and I still wanted to hang out a bit. Riddhi was very tired and had stomach cramps, she decided to stay in and sleep off. The gujju boys hung on for sometime but basically everyone was tired. So Tirth laid out a cover in the open area and he, Bhim and I lied down under the open sky. It was beautiful, the Constellation, stars even though it was cloudy. I hung on for sometime but it was biting cold so I left too saying Good Night to them. Bhim later told me it was good he had that time with Tirth because after the cigarette fiasco that day, it mended their equation. All was good. 😊
Tomorrow we would go back to Dehradun and even as I write this my heart sinks because I relived every bit of the trek and more writing this, but good things must come to an end until they start again right?
PS: Don’t sign off yet though, more to go! Until Tomorrow 😊