Sometimes when one looks back, you recollect the exact details but not the dates so I will sometimes go back to the memories instead of specific day and timings, it also makes me reminisce fondly, the events, the people and how it all changed for us little by little as we went along.. So here goes 😊
I don’t know whether this was in Mulling or in Khara. But one evening when the skies were clear and benevolent to us, Akshay got us out and paired us. Yup that’s exactly what he did, he took out his phone, saw the list and paired us randomly. And that’s how I got Aritra. The eager enthusiastic doc in his final year Aritra! So what Akshay said was to take 15-20 mins with each other. Let one talk while the other listens, and then the other talks. Ask questions about each other, know about them and once we are done, we will talk about the other person in front of the group. It was brilliant!
I was eager to know about him, seriously. Being paired with someone you didn’t interact much meant it was an opportunity to know more. And share he did, a lot. He thinks he is talkative which he is not, he thinks he cannot express himself but he does! As I listened in, right from his first experience of a rock climbing course from his school in 8th grade, to his love for the mountains, to doing a Basic Mountaineering course( BMC), his realistic approach to career not wanting his family to spend so much money for the prestigious IIT and instead choosing medicine, it was fascinating. People after a certain age go through many challenges. But this kid had his own when a friend was diagnosed with Lymphoma, what she was going through at such a young age, and how he was there supporting in the best way he could, I was blown away. Behind Aritra was a man with a maturity, a very caring sensitive person. An outlook to life that was practical but also a romantic at heart 😊 That is exactly how I see him.
When I heard everyone talking about each other, that is where the last bit of judgement you still might have goes away. We are all different, so different yet similar in so many ways. Everyone had something going for them. I also came to know so much about our group. This was not an ordinary group in any way. This was a once in a lifetime group where all the pieces fit together perfectly. As Mayur pointed out later, in some groups, there are the funny ones, some who seek solitude, some who are really fit, some who are kind and nice, but this group had all that and more. ♥️
Mulling to Khara – we had a relatively ‘easier’ one to get to Khara, the next campsite, it was 6+ kms. But we had a shocker first thing in the morning at Mulling campsite. Rajeevji quietly told us he and Rajiv senior were being sent back to Shimla because their blood pressure readings were high and Akshay had to make that call. The moment he told it, Prerana broke down and I was tearing up trying my best to control my emotions but it kept rolling. No way, not Rajeevji! He was and is the soul and essence of the group. If the group was calm and collected, it was his energy. His gentle voice asking about us, laughing with us, making us stop and admire the mountains.
The moment we broke down, the rest of the group started hugging him, no way was this going to happen. Was this a hard lesson for us? That everything can be so temporary?? Just like that? It wouldn’t be the same! Rajeevji was so overwhelmed by our reaction, he got teared up seeing the love and affection of the group. How does this happen? In less than two days, we bound so tight, we were family, he was our family. He was like, Arre yaar, don’t do this, I am tearing up. When Mayur said we could collectively talk to Akshay, Rajeevji gently said No, it is not the right way, I don’t want to force him and put him in an uncomfortable situation. He didn’t feel any symptoms of High BP yet the readings were a reality. But we just couldn’t take it. We were 13, and now we were two less.
Then something happened, Rajeevji went to Akshay and spoke to him, he got encouraged by us, the confidence to know that we were all there for each other. Let me tell you, Rajeevji is a super fit man, always ahead in the group yet always giving space to others, gently asking around if they were fine, he took on the role of a mentor, a friend for all of us. After some time, he came and said with a smile, Akshay said for now they could come to Khara with us and then he would decide. We were jubilant!! We hugged and cried! We were unanimous that this trek wouldn’t be complete without him. I noticed Akshay with a frown, he was silent. Honestly I understood what he was going through too. He was responsible for the whole team, if this one decision would risk their lives for the worse, imagine what he would face within himself. And many situations happened to him which he told us later. Yet our heart was happy, Rajeevji was staying!
With lots of smiles, we started our trek to Khara, because now we got over the 11.3 km trek yesterday, today seemed better and it was in so many ways. It was still an ascent with descents and crossing rivers yet it didn’t seem that bad. And that’s the beauty of the human body, how quickly it adapts to its surroundings, all we need to do is listen to it. I remember most of us wondering about one thing – Sunshine! We all needed that with the 24 hour rains! Even at night it poured, and we wanted to dry our wet clothes from yesterday!
As we reached a river crossing, Akshay put up a challenge for the team to do push-ups and drink water from the stream. The guys were gung ho and started off while someone in the group took a video. Prerana was like, Hey we did it too and no one recorded us!! So she gave her phone to one of the group members and we two did it again and again. Girl power!
Here I found a kindred spirit, a gutsy gal who didn’t hesitate one bit to show her strength, nothing girly, no fluttering eyelashes, a no nonsense attitude. She could tell people to take a flying F..k just like I would 😁
There were ascents and descents galore but no rain except a little smatter here and there. The weather was getting clear with Bhabha river as a constant companion and such greenery.. The landscape was heaven, pure heaven. All the tiredness of yesterday washed away with this. And I reiterate, how can one not come back to this again and again? It’s in our blood, our veins, pulsating like a heart, beating hard and our love for it will end with our lives..
At some point, I would be ahead, some point in between having conversations with Rajeevji, Radhey, Mayur who would quietly join in and chat. I would see Shantanu forging ahead. Siddhant always in the front but looked so effortless doing it. I must tell you about this guy. When he wanted to be alone, he would be alone, even if he sat with us all, he would listen in and smile, his presence was enough. I have not met a chilled out guy as this Benarasi babu. Keeping his life to himself, his boundaries and yet having a strong bond with others. He always had that smile, the smile that looks at the world and people and says, Chalne do 😊
One person I specially enjoyed walking with is Ravi Patel. There were times when I would make sure I would walk behind him because he carried such good energy, just walking with him made me calm. A good pacer, he would quietly stop and take pics. He would give way for others when he stopped which for me is the highest respect you can give to another Trekker. His view of looking at landscapes is very different. Don’t believe me? Check the pics below and see how he captured the nuances. And selfless, to not click pics of himself but of the moods of every person in the group. And very funny to boot! His instant responses and retorts to people kept us all in splits! Highly intelligent and grounded. I learnt quite a lot from him.
As we slowly made our way to Khara, there it was, completely spread out, the bountiful nature opened its heart to us and SUNSHINE!!! Omg Sunshine!! You should have seen the big smiles on us! As usual we reached before the kitchen team and what is the first thing we do? We took out our damp clothes, everything that was damp and spread it out on the grass. It was a sight! Then we all lay down in the grass waiting for the kitchen team to come. Our socks, our caps, bags all soaking wet were drying out unabashedly. What a feeling to get the sun on your face. Would we ever do this back in our cities? Smile at sunshine while every single day it kisses us with it’s splendour?
Khara and Happiness ☀️ ☀️ ☀️
To be continued… Happy Friendship day! 🤗
PS: Pics credit : Ravi Patel and a couple of pics – credit to Rajeevji.
A special mention to Ravi who made day wise folders which made it easier for me to post it in the blogs. Thank you Ravi for being the person you are.