Isn’t it fantastic how the body and mind does a 180 degree turn? After reaching the top, everyone’s energy shot up with a lot of relief. The entire team was on top together. And the moment we all reached the summit, there was a beautiful rainbow like a blessing! After a harrowing morning of wading your feet in freezing water at 5 am, now it looked like it happened long ago.. And that’s the thing about human nature and tells us how we as a race survived and adapted since thousands of years while greater creatures perished and became extinct.
After forming a circle and congratulating each other, Khush told us to relax and chill a bit, we would spend atleast an hour and more here. The weather was still ok, from cloudy sunshine to the fog and mist enveloping everything around us intermittently. The group was clicking pics incessantly, I just wanted to relax my back and give it a rest. All my PMS- pre menstrual symptoms were showing up and I suddenly wondered could it be? It was due in a week’s time, this cannot be but nature plays it’s own games and how.
The reason I mention this in my blogs time and again is for both men and women to know there is nothing shameful or to hide when it comes to what we go through. I can’t imagine if men went through this even for a few hours, they would bring the whole house down and not be able to make a move beyond their bed. And to trek or do any activity during those days? Impossible!
Men must understand, appreciate and be sensitive to their friends, trekmates, families, and to check on them when this happens, it is something that has to be ingrained in them. And for women to not be shy anymore and let your friends know that you need to be taken care of. For years all we have done is suppress our pain and behave ‘normally’, to do our chores and tasks as usual but it is not normal, it’s time we, women acknowledged that too..
After the usual mandatory photo ops of clicking the team together and people taking individual pics of them holding the ‘Done Gidara Bugyal’ board, Khush gave us postcards to write to whom ever we wanted to, could be to ourselves, to someone else, we could carry it with us or give it to him so he would post it. This had become another norm for Indiahikes and it was a significant one. It started last year, with COVID and the mental health issues happening around us, being stuck, being quarantined at homes, worse was losses of loved ones, deaths to divorces to break ups. Human kind had gone through something humongous last year and it was still happening and this postcard was a gentle reminder that hope existed ♥️
As people took their own spaces to write, I walked away from the group where I could see only mist and fog at the end and sat down. Before I even thought as to what I should write, my hand intuitively addressed it to Bhim, my buddy, my closest friend. It just happened and as I wrote I started crying, big hot tears, full of pain releasing from inside. I missed him terribly, I could never tell him what I really felt during Kashmir Great Lakes when he said he would not trek for a long time to come or maybe never.
I brushed off my hurt aside thinking it’s ok, one has to move on from the journeys we did together so it’s fine. I understood where he was coming from, but it was not ok for me at all and that was fine, to acknowledge that I was not ok about it. I remember encouraging him, telling him yes we enjoyed travelling/ backpacking, trekking together these past 5 years, if that was his decision so be it. Ours was a strong friendship, a connection, we shared everything that happened in our lives,and I mean everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, it’s a friendship that happens rarely, once a lifetime, our struggles, our pain and joy, tears.
But what I couldn’t say to him then was, ‘This Sucks’, it’s hurting me bad and I will miss you and I don’t feel ok and it will take me time to get over it, plenty of time. I didn’t cry in front of him, saying mate this is the end of an era for us, I was broken inside but I didn’t show it. And at Gidara Bugyal top writing to him I surrendered myself fully and wholeheartedly to the Himalayas, non stop tears saying, Buddy I miss you, you left a huge void, it will not be the same and it will never be the same.. How can I imagine trekking or sharing stuff without you anymore?
I confess that after KGL trek, I kept my distance from my friend, yes the hi and hello messages was happening, we would chat and I would happily talk about everything else, his work his life everything but I know my wall was up, a solid wall. Let’s say I didn’t have the guts to say in the most open way, I hate this, and I feel sad we can’t do this anymore, you are my buddy but give me time, I didn’t until now when I am writing it. What do I have to lose anyway? Friendships are based on transparency and honesty and this is it.
So write I did, and hoped it would reach him one day, that is, if Khush remembered to post it 😊 But it didn’t matter anymore if it did reach him or not, my heart felt very light. All I could wish for was the best for him, whatever he was meant to do, I only prayed and hoped that he be happy.
I gave it to Khush still tearing up and requested him to post it, then we all huddled for the last time as a group as we wouldn’t be like this in a couple of days.
Meanwhile other wonderful things were happening, as we slowly came back from our reverie. People were relaxing, sleeping and the highlight at this point which everyone will agree to were the brownies Sarvotam got out like magic from his backpack! Baked by his lovely wife, he was planning to introduce it at the restaurant he owns and runs in Bandra. He was so sweet that when I mournfully said I didn’t eat anything that had sugar, he pulled out homemade laddoos made with dry fruits and dates! It was SO GOOD!!! God bless him! And guys if you are ever in Bombay do visit Sarvotam’s GOKUL REFRESHMENTS IN BANDRA WEST.
Gayatri went over the moon enjoying the brownies, like she said, ‘Drops of Heaven!!’And I swear for the next two days she would go, I should have saved the brownie and ate it at this moment or that moment! I mean imagine, having delicious melt in the mouth brownies and laddoos at 14,000 feet altitude!! It is a blessing!!
After quite some time, it was time to move, we thought we had to descend down but nope, we would cross from one ridge to another and the euphoria, happiness turned to total tiredness. And I must tell you, the comic in Gayatri came out and how! The way she would comment when we would be traversing the rough terrain! I would stop myself from laughing too hard for the fear of falling down a bugyal!! Her comments were priceless! Like she would say, ‘ Can you believe I am missing my office food!! Office food seriously?? How miserable is that da! I mean instead of this no salt, no spice stuff we are eating for days, I want my office food!!’ 😂😂. She was entertaining me totally as we walked together making our way out of the Bugyal.
But oh man! When would this Bugyal end ?? Pradeepbhai kept on going from one ridge to another with rough grass terrain, and it seemed freaking endless! And Deep was teasing me, asking me, Why don’t you roll on this meadow now?? This was because for the past few days I kept telling that I want to roll on the meadows!! Well I imagined it would be soft, who would have thought a bugyal would be this unforgiving? One roll and I would go all the way down and that would be my end! 😂 This went on atleast for another hour with mist and fog and whatnot! When will it freaking end? Will we see some lower altitude at all??
And finally we reached a point, where we had to take a lunch break. The weather was getting really unpredictable by now, with fog and mist, and Atulbhai looked up with concern and said our descent would get difficult if it rained. We would cross the dense slushy forest, yes the same one we crossed from Dokrani campsite. We would cross Dokrani and go all the way down to Theeriya where we would camp.
And as we all sat down and got about to finishing our lunch, my fear came true, my monthly cycle had started! Goddamn it! Right in mid day and we had a long way to go. All my symptoms came upfront on my face. Severe stomach and back ache, nausea, the whole works. Kavya the caring gal she is ran back and forth getting stuff from Vrinda to help me with it. Gosh my energy just drained in one go. I ate whatever I could manage, just closing my eyes and stuffing the food only for the sake of making it through the day.
I remember Gayatri and I had a long conversation on regional works of literature. Yes Ramayana and Mahabharata were two great epics but each region had such great poetry and works that most of them had no idea of it. We spoke about Alwar Saints the 12th century Tamil poets whose works were priceless and Andal – the female poet in that era whose works on Sri Krishna was rich with passion and devotion. It’s beautiful how such conversations happen. And I agreed with her that the regional works were far more progressive when it came to portraying women or for that matter feminism. The South had always been ahead when it came to women, so many poet saints, writers in every Southern state of India.
One of my research works when I was doing a program with Oxford Centre for Hindu studies which became an obsession for me was on Srivilliputhur- the birthplace of Andal. And my heart was gladdened when Gayatri spoke about it. My one wish was to visit that place. Her poems were a masterpiece, and one day I hoped to experience it there. In that small temple town of Srivilliputhur.
Why am I writing this? Because I want everyone to know that being in a country as diverse and as rich it is, it’s good to know something beyond your region. The beauty of our country is its uniqueness, we can have our own unique cultural linguistic identity, yes it is possible and have pride in it and also be an Indian. In the current world all I see is ‘uniformity’ being shoved on us just like the rest of the world. No, India is unlike any other country in the whole world. Our DNA is different, an ancient one with thousands of years of gene pool, we got to embrace it, don’t we?
Moving on, after the lunch we made our way, nursing our soreness and stiffness of the limbs and it was going to be a complete descent to the campsite.
We had no idea that time, there would be injuries galore and falls in the next few hours!
To be continued…