A journey of a thousand miles ends with a stepï¿½.
Life is a Journey, Travel it well.
It all started on the bustling, sweltering hot and sweating Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus when the clock struck 9:00 and everything seemed nice and fine. The Indian Railways were already doing their job with the train running on time (pun intended) and the hawkers busy with their business plethora. The lights were fading and the people suffocating. The toughest part of a journey was being carried out well - Parting! People seemed to be filled with mixed emotions some happy, some sad, some sorrowful and some jubilant. You could hear the hungry baby cry and the beggar's words of wisdom for his alms.
It wasn't long before the wheels of dreams set off in it's bygone "Ishtyle". You could hear to the young kid's fading footsteps trying to have a last glimpse of his mother through the window and the cheer leading of a few others, good byes of the rest' The whole thing seemed very true and by the time I could draw a conclusion out of that I was being hustled away as it is was that time of the day - sleep! The amateur snores and the hardcore ones were like a clarion call at the wrong time of the day.
Ah! What a show! I was too tired and exhausted to help myself from the roars of Africa. I attempted a quite conversation with my "eat a lot walk a lot" counterpart only to be considered a weirdo. Even a reserved ticket didn't help which was obvious since we believed in national integrity and as many as we could for a single ticket. Hidden fears wouldn't let me sleep and I was the unpaid night watchman for the compartment. I drew paranoiac pictures from the stars above, which wouldn't mind it but would twinkle back at me and enjoy the moonlit midnight.
I passed the night without a wink of sleep as if I had to give an unprepared brain anatomy examination. I got merrier as the first beams of sunlight saw the day and there you could see the people with their morning ablutions. The gargling, sneezing, cleansing and the rest had nauseated enough, for me to dream that only if it could be darkness again. It was the already the second day and I was gearing up to get acquainted with the rest of the troop. There were a few eye catchers and few eyedroppers. The day was scorching and scalding. All you could see was barren land and few shrubs giving a complete Sahara effect! People ate and ate and ate till they couldn't eat any more. All I could do was quench my thirst and the sight of food was
At last we made it to our first destination (Delhi) at 7:00 p.m. where I had to hurry out of the train unless I wanted to visit the Golden Temple. The first test had already begun with my group leader asking me to carry my luggage... I instantaneously went abreast the last journey I had made when I ordered the porter to do the work and here I was being the porter myself. I cursed for being on the trip not realizing that is was the beginning of a porter's profession for a lifetime. Being a slow mover I was left with the last row of seats in the so-called deluxe liner basically I didn't have a choice. It was a roller coaster and bumpy ride through the night, which definitely called for a bonesetter. I imagined it was somewhat a ghastly state of the art roller coaster ride, which I had experienced.
The 3rd day was definitely chilly calling in for some winter protection (sounds weird considering the sweltering heat wave running across the country) and there you could see people wearing woolen clothes as though they had been deserted some where in the arctic region. It was a nostalgic feeling running through me since I had made it to the same place a few years ago and I was trying to look for familiar Pan Walla across my dorm. I called my parents and informed them that I hadn't taken bath for 2 days. I was longing for a kulfi that I never relished in kufri. Local sight seeing at my expense was the order of the day. The evening got chillier and it called for a cozy sleeping bag to cuddle into. Eureka! After repeated efforts and feuds I won myself a hot shower I was longing for and let the rest of the souls live in peace from my natural scents. My group leader informed me that I was supposed to hit the bed early and get off it early which turned quite opposite. The early morning fog made me feel like a fat man smoking a Cuban cigar in America! (Keep dreaming!) I had to fall in 3's with the rest and was informed 'bout the day's bumps and turns to come and were asked to get prepared for it.
The journey was scenic and frightening. Everyone was living on the edge literally and we had group pukes all the way long. I was lucky not have puked and I was proud of myself. It was the 4th day and it was evening by the time we reached our devil's own. I could have the first scent of my walk for a lifetime experience coming true. The base camp was a little 2 km away from the mainland and I had to carry myself, a ton of stuff with a torch in one hand and nothing in the other. I waded and wobbled myself through the woods looking for Robin Hood only to be heart broken. The blue tops of the campsite was a blessing in disguise and made me feel that I was the lucky one to vision the Lord. It was a tough, cold and dark walk with an uncomfortable duffel bag but the mere fact that I reached the destination was far more satisfying. I was welcomed in a way even the Clinton wouldn't have experienced with the potion of eternity - Rasna! And that made me feel on the top of the world. Hospitality was the word of the evening but I was looking at "hospital" -ity.
Hot soup and sumptuous food had paid off for the pain I was put through. Authority took me in instructing me 'bout the fundas of camp. The jarring and out of the world funda was that I had to experience the joy of a squat in a no man's world at a radius of 1 km and the very thought was disgusting. I had to rest in peace for the night in a tent with 16 guys and 2 rugs.
The 5th morning seemed a better day for my legs and body. Bed tea was served and bless the waitress was all I could do. Tea was the laxative for the people around and they were running every rock and shrub for a peaceful pressure exit. Rucksacks were issued and breakfast served. The campsite in charge drew some pictures in my mind 'bout the place Sangla which left me in a tangled web. Drinking point, Washing point and dump pits were all I was reciting. Acclimatization walk (sounds futuristic!) Until you experience it. 12 km was a walk I would never recommend for a novice like myself with baby feet'..The next half of the day was engrossing with group activities and a campfire to heat things up in the night. Blisters were the keyword for the junta and operation Poke-mon was being carried out. Plasters, Band-Aids, gauze, and cotton it all seemed like an emergency ward.
The 6th day was the beginning of the end and we had to pick up our backpacks and march along in pursuit for the next blue tops - a camp! Games people play was the punch line and it was a never ending journey to the camp 1. The bag got heavier by the step and I was doing the Herculean task of carrying the so called world on my back only to realize that it was my diminutive bag and not the earth! The potion of eternity in a different color was served again and God blesses the waiter! The evening was a stroll uphill to find wood for the campfire. The night was very exhaustive with a campfire but was definitely entertaining. Brick in the wall and sweet child o' mine were the songs of the wolves. My taste buds were singing the song one more time '. With south Indian cuisine being the food for thought!
The next day was again a day for the trekker who when up the hill to the camp 2. It was again a quest for the blue tops and this time the journey was no different from the rest. I started understanding that life was being very harsh on me'. I pay money and all I do is walk???
Chinese cuisine was the attraction in the hills and I felt that should I walk so much to eat American Chopsuey and Chow Mein? They had a very bad logic of locating the tents on a hill and the food at the foot of it. They would basically show us a chunk of meat and we had no option but walk down the hill to find that it was a roti and nothing fleshy! Life was getting really bad and the 7th day was just another day.
The 8th morning called in for more walking with our campsite in charge walking us to the snow clad mountains and I was a jackass of a kind to follow him as though I hadn't ever experienced snow' I felt like a snowman at the end of the snow craft trip. It was the 8th day and I was feeling much better with the fact that I would be seeing my home soon but the fact that I would be missing all the cool heads was definitely concerning. The 9th day was better since I could elude myself of the eccentric idea of walking down the hill for food, hog myself till I could take no more and then walk up the Everest! We had a so-called experienced novice (oxymoron) to trek us to the camp 3. If we had to travel from camp2 to camp3 we took a walk in the thorns with walking camp4, camp5 and camp6 and so on to camp3. I could never understand the woods woman logic! The camp3 hadn't much to offer except for colder winds.
Day 10 was the big day'. I had to walk up to Shivling Lake at a height 16,000 feet and the steep trek paid off penny wise on reaching the lake. First reaction was that why the hell did I cover this distance to see this god forsaken peewee lake but it wasn't what I was looking for' I was looking for serenity and solace and soon found it. The water was crystal clear and I could actually find my image in it. The sunlight on the snow was like a million lights lit up and I was fighting the cold like I never did before. The journey downhill did cause altitude sickness but the fact that I was soon approaching the blue tops was even more lucrative.
The 11th day was our last day of the trek and it was going to be the end of the walk we all longed to end. It was a special and emotional parting with all the volunteers who were very helpful throughout our treks. It was a happy walk down the hill as I sang Jack and Jill went up the hill '.. and soon I was back where I started. We had to return our bags and transfer our soiled clothes back into our bags again since on the morrow we would be heading back to the mainland. The 12th day was a day to cheer 'bout, I was a proud trekker who had completed the whole journey without a single blister. I was honored with a certificate and badge as a token of appreciation. It was hard parting but I had a life to live and I bid good bye to the people out there. It was a journey back from where I started with taking a bus back to kufri from Sangla and then to Delhi.
The 13th day was a day for me to feel complete since I could take a bath after 10 days, which I had never, done before and it was definitely a delightful feeling. I spent an undisturbed 10 minutes under the shower and it was definitely peaceful. We ate at some of the best places and it wasn't long before we had to start back to Mumbai. It was just another station scene from where I started this documentary. The 14th day was the last day of our camp and I would miss all the people with whom I shared a plate, mug and hugs. It was very tough parting with most of the people since they turned out to be more than just friends instead they turned habits. That was the end of a very novel experience and a memorable one. I don't think many would be lucky to experience such an adventure filled trip and my piece of advice is though tough it is an experience to be only felt. Alas! A journey of a thousand miles ends with a step'. Life is a Journey, Travel it well.
1981 born Kamal Praveen is a third year student of Computer Science. He likes to express himself through articles and columns.