A month of travel and the marks it leaves behind
Standing at the window of my tiny apartment in Mumbai, I look at the street lights being reflected from the roads, soaked in the rain. No matter how much people romanticize the rain, it only works as a catalyst for me, enhancing my feelings whether sad or happy. These tiny droplets on the windowsill- Oh! I miss the mountains and the mist all around there, now even more. It has been raining incessantly here for last few days, but now I realize how much I miss the far away mountain rains which can only quench my travel thirst and ensnare my soul with its magical spell. I am already feeling nostalgic within such a short time after my return.
I was traveling in the villages of Kumaon, roaming in the wilds and trying my best not to follow any plans. So much has happened in last one month, and I didn’t bother to pen it. I allowed the overwhelming nature to submerge me; I just ambled along to understand and make some meaning out of it. Some near death experiences-when I slipped from the edge while hiking; and I was not able to get hold of anything. They were a few moments of fear, before I found the courage and pulled myself back to the flat surface. Another horrifying incident numbed me out of my senses, when I saw, in front of me, a truck falling into a valley caught in the heavy rains and then into a river. For the first time I understood what is overwhelming. The power and strength of nature; there you have no option except absolute surrender. I had no sleep that night, thinking what must have happened to the driver. Later they found his dead-body. Just one moment, he was there then everything vanished in the next moment. It made some indelible impression in my mind and revealed how uncertain the thing- Life!!
But there are other good lessons also. I found myself more courageous, shooting in the rain, wearing gumboots and rain coat. Treading around carelessly in the deep mud, roaming in the forest, losing my way in the fog with no visibility. There were moments which made my heart sink and there were some which elated me with joy and delight. Sometimes I tried to test myself and my appetite for facing risks. I realized it had nothing to do with the gear or equipment or footwear or the backpack I carry or the fads or philosophies surrounding them. It is also not about reaching any specific place. It was all about how you felt to be in the wild; with what it was like to walk for miles aimlessly with no reason other than to witness and submerge in the abundance of trees and meadows and mountains: witness awe-inspiring sunsets: to be devoured by the scent and beauty of the grass, fog, water streams, fallen leaves and snails. I wonder how much we have lost forgetting and abandoning what was fundamental to our living after the advent of concrete houses and suffocating cubicles called flats; to kill whatever little outdoor activity and creativity left in us now we have got the computer and internet. No wonder we have travelled far away from nature and beautiful things that were once part of our life.
Later, during the course of my travel I met a bunch of adorable companions. They showed me hidden secrets in the jungle. I became one of them, getting used to the life there, even the leeches; almost 3-4 bites was the normal quota for a day. There it is just so easy to make friends, fall in love with them and be sad when you say goodbye, I guess this has become a routine for me now. I was mostly hanging out with children who have fresh eyes to see things, or older people who have spent all their lives in mountains when there were no roads nor electricity. I admit I am having a dual life now switching on and off between two different worlds. One is wonderful and the other one is till hard to describe.
I feel privileged too meet incredible people on my travels. I came to know a local guy who quit his job and shifted to one of the remote places deep in the mountains, prone to landslides. He knew what he wanted to do with his life; he opened a primary school in the area to provide better education to the local people. He now lives there with his wife and 6 months old son. Talking about risks, he took a risk, changing his career and now living in an area for the rest of his life unmindful of the risk that he has to face in such surroundings. But he is ready for that and happy to share it with his people there.
I become a different person in those surroundings though I was in a way small part of the whole arrangement in the larger picture; but I knew I had left behind a life back in Mumbai which was very different from that. It amazes me how different I behave when I am traveling compared to when I am in Mumbai. I suddenly become an introvert person in the city I live in, neighbors wouldn’t know my name, my colleagues would pass by saying merely a ‘hello’, which I wouldn’t care to reply. Someone was so right when he said that you don’t miss the places, but that version of you you had left behind which was full of life.