“Time passes, and yet it doesn’t pass; people come and go, the mountains remain. Mountains are permanent things. They are stubborn, they refuse to move. You can blast holes out of them for their mineral wealth; or strip them of their trees and foliage; or dam their streams and divert their currents; or make tunnels and roads and bridges; but no matter how hard they try, humans cannot get rid of their mountains. That’s what I like about them; they are here to stay.” Ruskin Bond
Borne to the mountains, raised in a valley of lush green-blue hills, where ever-changing clouds caress the trees and shroud them in a magical mist during the monsoon months, these wonders of nature have always been special to me. Magnetic and much like the hypnotic song of a siren, they call out to me, beseeching to me to rest my tired feet in the grass that grows wild there, to breathe the heavy air laden with the scent of wildflowers, and to listen to the orchestra of the many mountain birds. Standing astute like giant sentinels they listen to our thoughts, nod in amazement at the many stories we share and whisper back tales, secrets and stories, ancient, greeting us warmly every time we find ourselves amidst them.
Now, the past one year has been nothing short of a crazy dream. With the pandemic raging and with the world under a siege, under the looming threat of an invisible enemy, much like the many men and women, I longed to lose myself in the mountains, loosen all the invisible knots that quite tethered me. An escapade from the cacophony of the city, an escapade from the ever-changing rules and restrictions were all that we needed. Hence, with an underlying sense of thrill, an amazement, we, a close friend, a loved one and I, chose to march upon a trek, unto the mighty Himalayas. No, I am not writing this article to account the trail, the trials and tribulations, the itinerary, but I am writing this, rather, as a retrospection, a reflection of the journey that was in the lap of the Himalayas.
Across the several valleys and mighty mountains, across the lush green grassy patches and bubbling brooks and rivers, under the shade of deodars and rhododendrons, we, along with fellow trekkers lost ourselves to find ourselves anew. A trekker towards the end had remarked that our weeklong journey would always remain a secret amongst us and the mountains and rivers, a secret incomprehensible to the lives to which we would return after the trek. I go back to his words and I find myself nodding in agreement-a secret that will always be ours to keep, a secret so sacred. The images of the mountains, green against an azure blue sky often flash past in the inner recesses of mind. Snow-capped peaks that appeared suddenly, stunning each of us while the trails shaded by blossoming rhododendron trees, red, pink and very rarely white, were dreamy and I find myself reliving them with cherish! Treading upon green grassy patches we chanced upon several tiny mountain flowers, purple and yellow, and crossing mountain rivers we exclaimed at the browning leaves reposing happily under the silvery rushing water. I remember distinctly a section of the forest where it rained leaves, a fairy tale by all means, while my loved one and I imagined gory tales of kings and knights, of battles fought, of secrets hidden under the leaves that rustled when we marched upon them. Happy pleasant memories.
The peals of exclamation, of laughter, of the debates and silly arguments during the story hours, resonate in my head. The warmth of a cup of tea, too milky or not milky at all, the pleasant taste of food, which some of us relished ravenously, the custard, and the cake up in the mountains are few of the several strands of memory that appear without a warning! Huddling in a tent, wrapping oneself in all possible layers, gazing at the stars that refused to play hide and seek, listening to the melodious songs that some trekkers composed echo in the humdrum of city life that I lead now. What truly amuses me is how the mountains teach us to survive together, make a group of us individuals so much so that when we bid adieu, temporarily, to the gentle giants, we go back as long lost friends, preserving memories and laughers, aromas and sounds in our own little secret jars.
Certainly, there are regrets-regrets of us not having completed the trek for the recalcitrant rain and hailstorm had refused to stop one night, a regret of us not making it to the summit while some stubborn trekkers refused to cave in and made it the next day. I do have regrets of not completely understanding how important and significant the summit would have been to my loved one, regrets of ‘I could have done that this way’, ‘I could have said this’, ‘I could have behaved this way’.
However, the mountains that merrily refuse to change permit us, I reckon, to relive the happy memories enriching them and to do away with the unpleasant ones replacing them with happier ones. Ever welcoming, ever calm, ever splendid, they remind us of things that can be changed, of things that can be rendered better, of lasting bonds and of resilience. Pertinent for the times that we lead at present, a journey of rejuvenation is all we need unto the mountains.