Friday, September 11, 2015

A White Trek - Part 1

“Only last peg is remaining,’’ announced Akshay, like a class-representative does in a class, to everyone present in that hut made-up of special wood on top of one of highest peaks in the Himalayas – Kalatop sanctuary. We all were parched on the heap of sleeping bags, provided to us by the trek guides, drinking the regular Old-Monk rum to tackle the winter from within; at least we thought so. We were in a small paradise. Paradise not because it was amidst the most enthralling places on earth but because there were no mobile network or internet connections due to which my friends were rendezvousing, drinking cheerfully and not the otherwise.

The HUT!
At 2 o’clock, it was -14 degrees outside and we, without heater or any sort of heat providing devices, were enjoying the kick of our beloved rum to the tunes of the frosty, nail-biting night. The night first of its kind for me as well as for everyone with me.

“That’s life!’’ yelled Abhijeet, the only sober guy amongst us who lost his teetotaler’s title on the eve of 31st night. “This is why I implored everyone to accompany us here, but those rats won’t dare to bunk…”
“Now see, what they are missing,” said Lokesh, standing up adjusting his black jacket above a thick protection of thermals, a T shirt, a sweater, pretty much the pattern followed by all, passively high as he couldn’t drink because it was somvar and since he fasted on somvars. He asked for the lighter, which had gone deep within the crevices of the sleeping bags

Ah! Here, take it,’’ Hemant stepped forward lighting the lighter-up to light the cigarette held tightly between Lokesh’s lips. We adhered to one rule - One cigarette at a time. We had to do that as it was dead chilly out and we couldn’t keep the “only” window open; and more than one cigarette meant too much of smoke within the hut of zero ventilation.  He puffed-out like a star; smoking out a ring in the end.   
Salla, we needed more daroo, didn’t we?” I cried. “Bloody buddy, you are never satisfied, are you?’’ mocked Pratik.  “No Pratik, Sagar is right, only two khambas, bottles are not suffice, were never enough!” said Yadav.  Yadav, for most cases was taken for granted by many in the group. It would happen exactly opposite of what he predicted. He was our black cat; whom we could control. Whatever be the case he was a good leader and always had his things done from us. “Look at me I’m still sober and in senses. Two is nothing,” said a wobbling Akshay whilst getting up.

“Guys, just take a moment and think of where we’ve come and through so much of hurdles and uncertainties we have made it here," said the ever quiet Hemant, who wasn’t so much quite after two pegs. Now, he has had way more than two and his talking abilities had just multiplied with each extra peg he had.

I pondered for some time, fully inebriated, for once Yadav and Hemant were making sense. Firstly, which mattered most, was that we were out of daaru and secondly, Yes! We had made it big! To make it so far was no less than a dream for a regular, fulltime MBA doer. It just wasn’t possible to bunk all that lectures that too for seven days, which start immediately after the semesters and even worse was to make it in time to attend the transition-crappy-course. Nevertheless, we all dared, even the CR, most trepidatiously jumped into this well of fun and endless excitement with us.

We all were a bunch of mix group ranging from the soft Lokesh to tough Hemant, smart Abhi, athletic Pratik, incredulous Yadav, representative Akshay and I. We had taken a train, a sleeper class, to Chandigarh on 25th of December post our first semester. Our journey was planned for seven days and with god’s grace it lasted for seven days. There were many epic, lifetime memorable events that took place in that trip but the one I’m going to narrate is the kind of an event that only takes place in Hollywood movies, forget Bollywood movies for that matter.

The main motto of our trip was to let loose and have fun. We made sure we drank each night; followed by dancing to Bollywood numbers. We stayed true to our motto and drank even while travelling in trains or in hired Xylo. Our tickets were till Chandigarh, but we got down at Ambla due to a sudden change in plans. Earlier in the morning in the Northern plains of Uttar Pradesh, we have had experienced the chills in the weather as well as the blinding fog. Thus, we’ve had anticipated dense fog and even colder weather. As we got down at Ambala, we were embraced by the evening chills and fog of the Northern plains. I noticed, the station was neither crowded nor deserted and people wore eclectic types of warmers to keep themselves warm. As we stepped out of station there were tea stalls, pan-wallas, and the most were the ones selling warmers. Ambala station road was very crowded and one could only see a silhouette of a person standing at a distance, such was the dense fog prevailing there.

Fast-forwarding to the main event, we hired a Mahindra Xylo, manned by Mr. Goldie Singh., a hash smoker – Malana cream. We went places from Kangra, to Dharmashala, Dalhousie. We visited temples, had great food, clicked scores of pictures, enjoyed the winter and obviously, drank the whole time. Finally, at Dalhousie we came across extreme cold, no fog and thick snow. We were all contented. For a Mumbai local, he would kill a thousand to get a glimpse of snow clad mountains; this was even bigger and better, like in the arms of those mountains. Like white-mountain mother soothing us by taking us in her arms and gently tapping on our heads, with our heads resting on her bosoms. Heavenly!

 Dalhousie captivated our minds, hearts, souls and bodies. I was particularly more enchanted by the beauty of this heaven. It had mesmerized me by its own way. If one wanted more and was not satisfied with the beatific beauty of Dalhousie, then Dalhousie had a secret heaven, only to suffice those who wanted a little more from life; and it sure does deliver it. It was a trek of 4 hours to the secret place of Kalatop sanctuary, up in the white forest.

For us, now, we wanted more. We all, after a prolonged discussion and daroo, slept with the idea of doing that trek in the morning. We did so, too. When we reached there, the entrance, it was full of snow and some tourists flocked around their cars negotiating with the guides. Lokesh hired guides- one guide for each one of us. Those guides were Bharadwaj, partly Punjabi and partly Garwali. This trek wouldn’t have been possible without the help of these guides. They carried all our bags along with their own bags and still managed to climb faster than us.

The narrow serpentine way that led up was based with thick frozen ice with toppings of fresh and old snow sprinkled abundantly and was surrounded by thick forest covered in snow. The ice based path was the toughest to trek on as one simply couldn’t walk without sliding and falling right on ones face, that too on the hard ice. Balancing ourselves with the worst trekking gears on us was the biggest challenge that prevailed then. Many of us, including me, fell-again and again. Still we trekked- bruised, cold, with numb feet. It wasn’t much tiring, in fact we forgot the passage of time and lost the track of meters of height, ice-based, left behind. There were patches where we waded through shin deep snow and there were also a few spots where Bollywood shootings were done. Thus, in much similar fashion, we climbed - laughing, clicking pictures, posing weirdly, talking about life- fair or unfair and mostly trying not to fall.

We reached up only to find many more life changing experiences and had never dreamt, even in our wildest dreams, of what fell upon us up there.

Sleeping Bags

made up of Special wood

narrow path

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