The route to a pass and Freedom – Part V -III

Have you experienced Freedom?Think again, think hard. In every possible way freedom? Unbridled, unrestricted, no if’s and but’s, no fallback plan? Just free fall Freedom? And am not talking about bungee jumping or sky diving or none of those adventurous roller coaster rides where that too is in someone else’s control?

A Freedom where for the first time in your life you have the reins in your hands, it’s you and only you. You hold fate in your hands, it’s completely yours and you can let go off control in every possible way?

For the first time in my life I experienced it on that day on the descent. All the way precarious steep descent loops that only the Himalayas can give you as the most precious gift of all. It was not about speed, it was not about breezing through but knowing that the brakes are in your hands, destiny and you don’t apply it but just give into yourself. I did that exactly. To not apply brakes, to actually do what I felt like without worrying about a fallback or a back up as I saw the world and mountains around me descending into loops and loops, long and fast.

I had hot fast tears rolling down my face as I descended with the bicycle, tears of joy, of having no boundaries, nothing and no one could stop you because for the first time you were experiencing being free. That feeling is something I carry it even now. When am in despair or I miss my parents, or am hurt or in sorrow I close my eyes to what freedom is truly like. No matter what we say, we are with strings attached to everything and to people close to us. Every decision made in our lives consciously or subconsciously relates to the people we love. As simple as that. But what if that was not the case? Then what would you do?

As I wheezed through the descents, all I can tell you is that something inside me got dislodged, something that was attaching itself for years, I don’t know what it is, this was a taste of that freedom and anything unnecessary was cast aside.

After rolling and exhilarating descents, we stopped for lunch at an open meadow. The children of the Gujjars- shepherds community kept inviting us for Chai. But the huts were so far and on an ascent we told them sweetly that we can’t, we are tired. So the kind Gujjar lady got us a big kettle of Chai made with goat milk and cups all the way from her hut! I mean what can I say? Archana went about chatting with the little girls, while we lazed and chatted with the lady and her father in law. A grand old man with a big smile and telling us to have more chai! Soon the husband followed and sat with us and the entire circle felt so full with all of us sipping chai and conversing as we shared our food with them. Their generosity was boundless.

We wheezed through with Karma and Archana way ahead and at some point the rest of us got lost. Yup lost. There was lost in translation coming to communication. Because I crossed Drass town and I kept going simply ahead wondering where the hell are they? I assumed the hotel would be in town right? What I wasn’t aware or didn’t hear was that there were plans to stop at Kargil Memorial. Now number one, I didn’t know Kargil Memorial was in Drass, second, one had to cross town to reach there. So you can see my confusion.

And I kept going and going, looking ahead no one familiar, looking behind, no one behind me! I stopped many times, where the hell was everyone? I called Sonam and to my irritation he tells me stuff as if I know this place. I was tired, so tired and for anyone to assume I knew this place was baffling. He was like stop at Kargil Memorial! Eh?? Now what was this and where was this?? I was at my wit’s end totally pissed and after quite some time came Swati and Dhanya equally stressed and agitated. Vikram got left far behind , Swati mentioned. So we decided to keep going until we finally saw the memorial.

The moment I saw Karma I saw red, he was supposed to communicate this and it was his job to check if all were in sync but he zoomed through, I was ready to yell at him but the moment I saw his young face all I said was next time don’t go so fast ahead, atleast let us know where we should stop. Here we were absolutely tired and we already clocked 80+ kms, communication was a must in this kind of situations. Later I saw Vikram at the Homestay and he was equally upset about this.

Anyways we all reached the memorial, with Vikram still behind and he didn’t come in, he was too tired. So we four ladies went in. And what happened next is etched in our hearts. To hear and listen about Kargil war and it’s heroes on TV is something else but when you are there, you feel it in you. You see the martyrs memorials and your heart breaks. When the army guy tells you how Pakistan breaching an agreement came upto Tiger Hill which we could see right in front of us and started shooting at any truck, vehicles passing by, civilians be damned! That’s how they are. Their main plan was to cut off all links and routes between Kashmir and Ladakh so they could occupy it.

And yeah I am saying it, all the pseudo liberals, just sitting in the comfort of your rooms and saying Army is just another job, your arses need to be kicked right out of our country, into our neighbours aka Pakistan where forget freedom of speech, you will be not allowed to drink water from the same well there because you are a ‘minority’ aka non Muslim. This is a harsh fact. Don’t believe me? Google Asia Bibi a Christian woman who was on death row for years for blasphemy as she dared to use water from a well like the majority. She was released only in 2019 after international pressure and took asylum in Canada. In that particular case an eminent minister Salman Taseer was assassinated by an idiot because he dared to voice his disgust at this Middle Ages rule and FYI the man who killed him was hailed as a hero and paraded around the streets in Pakistan. Know history and don’t turn a blind eye and think tolerating this is liberal.

When we saw the documentary of Kargil , there was nobody with a dry eye. We cried our hearts out, each one of us. Archana broke down bad, Swati was heaving with tears and I kept crying. As we stood and watched the memorials of all martyrs even those post Kargil, the latest one was a 21 year old just two months ago.. You think proxy wars are not happening? You are able to sleep peacefully at night and watch your Manchester United football games or NBA or even your stock options rising and falling because so many out there are at battle lines in borders. How easily we take our freedom for granted right?

The whole Kargil memorial experience broke us. We were very tired physically and now we were emotionally drained, the tears didn’t stop. What it took for these men to love and defend their country. Dhanya befriended some Malayali army men who promptly took us inside that was only reserved for army or ex defence forces. That entire experience, narration of how it actually happened and how all the three defence forces strategically foiled Pakistan’s plans was a revelation.

Archana also mentioned that if not for the Gujjars- the shepherds who first alerted Indian Army about the Pakistan army presence, it would have been disastrous. The Gujjars considered themselves Hindustani, unlike the Kashmiris, they don’t want to be a part of Pakistan or an independent country. I remember during Kashmir Great Lakes trek the guides who were Gujjars gave the choicest of abuses towards Kashmiris and Pakistan.

I also spoke to an army jawan from Telangana and he was so happy to speak to me in Telugu. He was here for the past 4 years and he had a posting in Siachen soon. His family? He last saw them 1.5 years ago. Yup no words needed for that.

We had to get going to our Homestay and this is the thing, Sonam had a knack of choosing stays that were far and away. It was good for the next day as we could move ahead of everybody but not when you have done 85 kms, a super long day and you had to cycle again for a couple of kms on an ascent!

Oh man we all were getting agitated at Karma as he kept on cycling ahead and Archana was shouting Arre where the hell is this home stay???? We were right on the edge seething with helplessness. It was burning hot, the sun was full on hitting us, and it was endless I tell you! The number of heat boils I had was unbelievable and I was squirming fully aware that I was worsening it. No amount of padding could give me relief and the lining was cutting through the boils. I know it’s a graphic description but these are the realities. There was so much heat outside and this was not helping at all.

Finally Karma gestured us to stop at this Homestay right on the main road. It would get cold later and this place would be the coldest during our journey.

To be continued 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️

Kindness has no boundaries. With the amazing Gujjar family
Kargil War Memorial
Kargil War Memorial
The Martyrs that laid their lives for our country
One of the Many Heroes – CAPTAIN VIKRAM BATRA
Homestay in Drass
A very tired and overwhelmed us

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