Here’s to the crazy one, the misfit, the troublemaker!
Circa 2004, NIT Hamirpur
The first time I met him was in the year 2004 at NIT Hamirpur. Back then, to step foot in the final year hostel was a great achievement for a fresher. Coming back unscathed was something to boast about all year long. I did come back unhurt because I had his backing.
Also, that was the first time I watched a movie on a computer. What a Royal Day that turned out to be.
And that’s how it all started. A friendship that would last forever.
2012. Bhubhu Pass. Mandi to Kullu
We met again after eight long years. Our first expedition together. This time surrounded by colossal mountains on all sides and a steep icy slope right in front of us. That was my first exposure to high altitude trekking. I couldn’t muster courage to step foot on that tricky slope. Neither could I turn back.
And that’s when these epic lines were spoken.
“Drop that doubt. It’s a burden. Throw it away. You can’t afford to carry more weight at such heights anyway. If you decide to turn back right now, I got your back.
If you decide to walk on that tricky slope, I got your back.
Either way, you have me.”
“What’s on the other side of doubt?”, I asked
“Whichever way you go, it’s the will of the Almighty. A choice made for you by the Mother Goddess herself.”
Like a mother teaches her kids to walk, he taught me how to embrace the mountains and learn to be a part of them. And that’s probably the greatest lesson of my life. I know he had learned this secret long long ago.
How else you explain someone working in 9 t0
5 6 job (in a fucking hellhole called Noida) and yet having seen all the five Kailasa’s, including the Axis Mundi; the holiest of all, Mount Kailash. Also all the 14 Jyotirlingas spread across the length and breadth of India. All of them Panch Kedars too. Not to mention the countless mountain passes of Dhauladhars and Pir Panjals.
This is a story of soaring dreams robbed by fate. This is a story of a man who was so close to the mountains that they took him back. Kept him forever. Now that he is gone, in body and flesh, he will live on forever through his stories. He knew exactly what to do with his life; to climb as many mountains as possible. And he almost succeeded in doing that. Almost!
How I wish he had a little more time. But like he once told me, this too is a choice made for him by the Mother Goddess. And I’m sure wherever he is, he is eyeing the next mountain
he we would climb.
Just that I and Rijul won’t receive any WhatsApp message outlining the brief details of our expedition anymore. Times have changed. But the mountains are still there.
And so is my Captain!
We are immortal in the Himalaya. Every damn inch we gain, every step we take to the ascent makes us ever more vulnerable. Our blood thickening, our muscles burning, our bones crackling but the joy of being at the top, amidst the towering heights of the colossal mountains, makes us immortal.
The struggle to take that just one step. That one move, which can’t be wrong and the effort put in by our cramped muscles, our pounding chests, our breathless huffs makes us conscious of being truly alive.
The battlefield becomes our playground. The prize being Immortality.
That’s what we become when we are in the mountains.
Pandit Ji, I will meet you in the mountains. One day, for sure!