Two years since I had stepped into the corporate world, I was working with all the enthusiasm to achieve something big. Promotion, position, salary and daily work pressure kept me engrossed in the materialistic world. As the time passed by, I realized that I am not loving my life. I am not working hard enough to achieve those goals. The reality was, it was a goal that was set because most of the people around had the same goal. Yes, I was part of the crowd. Amongst the flock of sheep, that moves in the same direction (instructed since our childhood). I began to analyze things. ” Why don’t I work hard enough to achieve the goals I set? “, I asked myself. “Why do I feel the pressure of handling new work that is assigned to me? Why don’t I take it as a challenge to learn something new? ” “Why is it that many of my co-workers are smarter, quick learner and are able to handle things well?” Most of the questions had the same answer, “I do not love what I do”. And the fact that I could not find a way pissed me more. “Maybe this is what life is. Anyways I am not good at anything so why cry to escape from here?”
I began to lose my self-worth and became even more depressed when my girlfriend broke up. Now, I hated myself even more. Working aimlessly for 9 hrs, travelling for 4hrs (to and fro) and partying hard with the fractional salary that I earned to forget my weaknesses and inability to overcome sorrows was a routine now.
Devastated, I thought of escaping from the routine and travel alone for some time. However, since I did not have the courage to travel solo, I asked many friends to join me. But, maybe even God wanted that I follow my own instincts and create my own way. No one joined me for their own reasons.
One thing led to another
I remembered how one of my friends had been to Kasol and Tosh and was describing its beauty. I had now decided that I would go there no matter what! The only thing that I understood from the itinerary provided by him was to catch a bus to Bhuntar from Delhi and then from Bhuntar to Kasol. “Now what? No warm clothes to wear (being a Mumbaikar, I had never experienced the cold weather of the north. Tees and shirts are enough to bear the Mumbai’s cold). What if I lost my way while trekking? What if I get stuck in the middle of nowhere? It snows there during winter. Would I be able to survive the cold? How do I manage my money? How would I bear my expenses? How much money shall I carry?”
This was the first time when I was firm with my decision and confident that I’ll make it anyway. Every negative question brought a smile to my face, “this is interesting!”, I whispered to myself while doing introspection. After all, the tension had broken the string. I had nothing to lose and I was no more afraid of my fears. In fact, I wanted to face it.
One fine morning, my dad asked me if I could attend my cousin’s marriage in Dehradun. It was an important function to attend but no one from my family could manage to attend it. I happily agreed to attend the function and convinced dad that I will be going there for a week.
So my father took care of the train tickets. I now started borrowing winter clothes from my friends (Gloves, sweater, windcheater and even a bag).
For a change
1st December 2015– For the first time, I was traveling alone. I had never been to Himachal before. I didn’t inform my parents that I would be going to Himachal after attending the function. My salary had been credited to my account. With 8k in my account, I was all set for a life-changing journey. I never cared to even see the pictures/ read the blogs. All I knew that I wanted to travel, to be in the mountains, alone. Walk, climb or sit by the riverside, anything! I would do anything that first crossed my mind.
2nd December 2015 – I reached Dehradun at 9.30pm only to see my cousin waiting for me outside the station. My brother took me for a long drive before heading home. We had a long chat about our lifestyles and many more. With Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall” playing, my cousin was now driving the car at about 80kms/hr asked me, “Kaisa lag raha hai Dehradun, maza aa raha hai?” (Translation– ” Did you like Dehradun? Are you having fun?”)
Me- ” ha bhai, bahot maza aa raha hai”(Translation– “Of course! I am enjoying to the fullest.”)
Cousin – “Welcome to Dehradun Broooo!!”, he exclaimed speeding up the car even more (as filmy as it can get). Listening every word of the lyrics closely which was helping me to connect the dots, I was for the first time experiencing freedom. Freedom to do anything I want!
” WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION
WE DON’T NEED NO THOUGHT CONTROL “
3rd December 2015 – The day was well spent watching the rituals, talking to relatives and cousins. Later that night we had a bachelor’s party where we partied hard and even sung songs in chorus. Oh, that feeling of bondage and love with the bonfire in the middle filled the air with joy and happiness. I had sensed the serendipity coming my way. After attending the marriage, I left for Bhuntar on the evening of 5th December. Travelling for 15 hrs in the local bus with the temperature dropped well below 3 degrees was very exhausting.
Escape from reality?
6th December – It was 10 am in the morning. I had reached Kasol. Had a quick breakfast at nearby dhaba and was clueless what to do next. I couldn’t help myself but engage in a conversation with a hippie sitting on the adjacent table. (It was hard to come out of my comfort zone and talk to a stranger. Yes, you can call me an introvert). On asking about places to visit he advised me to trek to Rasol/Rashol. Without even having a second thought, I started my trek.
I was absolutely stunned by the view and the scenic beauty on the way. As if the views popped out of the sketch I used to make in my childhood days. Tall, snow-capped mountains and the river flowing by. I thanked God every time I witnessed such beauty. As if I became young again! Just like a child I was smiling, singing songs and didn’t care about anything. The noise of the Parvati river flowing was loud, it’s color, as blue as the sky, the pine trees so tall, the jungle so peaceful. I started clicking pictures and wanted to capture everything that I witnessed. I would look at the tall mountains, the tall trees with head high up almost touching my back and exclaiming loudly, “Wooow!” I would play a little with the mountain kids I met on my way, ask the locals to guide me on my way to Rasol. Few came out of their house asking me “maal fukte ho kya?” (Translation– ” Do you smoke stuff?”)
After trekking for about an hour, that feeling of loneliness gulped me. Frantic with my decision to trek alone, I decided to take a break and sat down on the rock. I began contemplating. “Is it worth to trek alone? What if I am lost? There is no one on the way to guide me. Maybe I should go back to Chalal (base village) and spend the night there”. Out of nowhere, my thoughts were interrupted by a dog. I was never a pet lover and not even once in my life (not that I remember), I had even patted a dog. He sat beside me and since I had nothing much to do I started playing with him. In no time, we became good friends.
Later my instincts just told me to follow the way. My fear vanished as I now had a dog’s company. He was furry, as white as the cloud and hence I named him “Badal”. With a bag weighing more than 10kgs on my back and a bag of blanket in my one hand, I began my trek along with Badal. I would even talk to him sometimes and the best part was no one was there to judge me. Running ahead, he showed me the way and boosted my confidence to trek.
I later realized that it was a difficult task to carry such a heavy bag along with large blanket in one hand. I was exhausted! I took a break at regular intervals and sometimes for a long time. After completing more than half a journey, I found difficult to catch up with my breath and almost gave up until a villager helped me carry my bag up till Rasol. Himachalis are indeed very genuine and helpful people. Many shocked by watching me trek alone, I was interrogated many times, “Mumbai se aaye ho? Itne dur se? Kya milta hai pahado pe aane se? “( Translation– “Why did you come here from a faraway city leaving all your comforts? What do you seek here in the mountains?”) I just smiled at them as I found it difficult to summarize my answer in just a statement. How I wish I could explain them the joy I was witnessing within!
It took me about 5 hrs to reach the top and here I was, finally! I dropped my bag to see how far I’ve come. The sun was gradually setting. My legs were almost numb. But the view made me forget everything. In the vicinity, a hippie dressed like Dumbledore caught my attention. He had long hair and beard, wearing a full green colored gown with a conical cap and round specs, beating hemp grass with a hammer. Every beat with the hammer echoed. “Ohh, mujhe maaf karna me shayad jyada aawaz kar raha hu” (Translation–“Pardon me for making so much noise”). Such was the silence there. So much that I felt I have become deaf. The smile on my face almost reached my ears giving me goosebumps. “Hello, may I know what are you doing with this dried grass?”, I asked him. “Hum isse rassi banayenge”(Translation– ” I will make a rope out of it”). I was speechless listening to his fluent Hindi.
I spent the night at Dola’s cafe and made many friends there. All were from different parts of the country coming in Kasol almost every year for the love of hash. I stayed in a room with 3 more people costing only Rs.300 for 4 people. The rest of the day was spent sitting by the bonfire, talking and knowing each other and listening to psytrance.
7th December– I woke up early in the morning to see the sunrise, sitting with a cup of tea, facing the sun along with Badal. No routines to follow, no one here to judge me. I was so much at peace. I now informed my parents that I am travelling alone in Himachal and that I am safe. Yes, there was a network, the internet, electricity in the village and western toilets at an altitude of 10,000 feet (approx. 3000m) above sea level. Also, a variety of foods were available right from various snacks, Israeli food, Chinese, veg, and non-veg thali.
It was almost 5 in the evening when I descended to Kasol. The trek was tiring and I remembered my sedentary habits that caused all the pain (severe cramps had made my legs stiff, so much that I could not even climb the bus steps).
I decided to spend a night in Manikaran and take a bath in hot water spring. The bath relaxed my muscles whereas the langar food was divine!
8th December– I headed to Tosh after having a light breakfast at Prem cafe in Barshaini. The cafe owner, Meena Talwar is kind-hearted and would welcome all the guests with a broad smile. She allowed me to keep my heavy bag in her cafe and also guided me towards Tosh.
Tosh– I am running short of words as I try to describe its beauty!
The snow-covered mountains in the front, the gray sky with no sunlight to be seen. As if I am in a foreign land where the sun hardly shines. But as the sun gradually set, it painted the sky with orange color as if turning my black and white life into a colorful one.
I stayed in Olive Garden cafe and my evening was well spent here with a localite talking about nearby places to visit. It was through him that I learned about Kheerganga, Nakhthan, Kalga and Pulga village.
“Bhaiji, June- July me bhi aao ek baar. Ye saare pahad jinpe barf dekh rahe ho, sab hare bhare dikhenge. “
Translation– “Visit this place again in the monsoon to witness these snow covered mountains turn into lush greenery.”
“Zarur aaunga !”, I swore to myself.
9th December–I left Tosh, collected my bag from the cafe in Barshaini, profusely thanking Meenaji for all the help. As a token of respect, I had chai and chowmein at her cafe and left for Kasol.
My last night was spent at Buddha cafe in Kasol. The cafe played psy music and had murals painted all over the walls. After having the supper there, I meandered on the streets at night in the chilling cold. My legs were still in the hangover of trekking. But, what a great time I had!
10th December 2015– I got up early in the morning, took a natural hot water bath near Kasol bridge, sat by the riverside and savored my few hours of freedom and solitude. The morning sun rays provided me with warmth and the sound of the Parvati River brought me back to reality every time I was lost in my thoughts. I replayed in my mind, every single moment I spent here. Never did I imagine I’ll land up in a place which is beautiful beyond my imagination, its people so generous and the cafes and market so trippy. It changed me forever!
I had started this journey as an escape from reality, escape from my own self; but little did I know that I’ll realize the truth of my life! I felt alive as if someone had breathed a new life into a man drowning in the ocean of society’s norm, daily routine, and moroseness. Being away from the noise and other distractions, I found acceptance and grace within. The silence took away all the anxieties and insecurities about life and helped me to be in the present moment. Once again, I was that innocent kid- a devil, an honest guy, a liar, a guy with high hopes and big dreams; dreaming of a fantasy-land where I could escape from all the illusion society had created about happiness and success.
Life gave me a purpose to live! A purpose to create my own path and reach the summit of my life.
Bidding adieu to the mountains, soon I was on my way to Delhi.