Call of the Mountains – [3]

Read the previous part in Part 2.

[5]

Kaza. Temperature 10 degrees. From mountains we had now descended to plain valleys, though we would go through mountains again soon, but for now the day was growing old and we needed to rest, for sleepy and tired we were and much in need of food. Kaza is the biggest settlement you’ll encounter in this empty corner of the planet. At a height of 3650 meters (11980 feet), this is the largest township and commercial center of the valley. Kaza is beautiful. I really do not have any other word for it, because it is just that. Beautiful. It feels a bit like a small frontier town with an easygoing pace. Jagged mountains rise on either side while the river coils across the valley floor like twisted locks of Medusa’s hair. The colourful new Sakya Gompa stands just above the main road in New Kaza (south of the Kaza Nullah), while the ramshackle bazaar and whitewashed buildings of Old Kaza spread out on the north side of the stream. We stayed here overnight, at a half-hotel half-home, and the manager was the chef as well, allowing us to have proper food after a very long time. Dinner consisted of chapatis (unleavened flatbreads), as well as pulses, chicken and some vegetables. We almost welcomed it akin to a feast. After a sumptuous dinner that seemed to go on forever, we finally retired to our rooms, to make plans for the next day.

Here we were divided. We had two options to pursue with. While three of us wished for one of them, the other three wanted to continue with the opposite option. The first option was this. We had come all the way from Shimla to Kalpa to Kaza, and we could retrace our paths and go back home. This seemed viable, because now we knew the way and though the road wasn’t much of a road as it was a muddy lane, we could still make-do with it. The other option was to complete a full circle, that is, go along straight and come out through Chandigarh. This road was mostly much better than the first option, but for several hours in the beginning, the path was going to be unbearable, with stones and rocks and waterfalls crossing through our paths. It would be difficult to pursue, but again it would take lesser time than its opponent. And therefore we were now divided in our opinion.

After hours of discussion and coaxing each other, we finally decided to continue with the second option. So tomorrow we would leave Kaza and move north ahead and we would spend a day at Chandratal, after which we would continue our trip back home. After gulping down a cup of hot tea, I made my way back inside my blankets. I had called up home in between, after almost a day. It is reassuring to see how much our parents care for us. Though this is really personal, I thought I should share it out here. My mother was so tensed for the fact that I had not called her up, because she did not know I was out of network, so she just assumed something horrible could have had happened with me. When I finally got a chance to call her up from the phone of the hotel’s manager, she burst into tears. It took me a while to get her back on her nerves, but that was one moment I realized how much really they love us, albeit the fact that they do not really try much hard elsewise to profess it, and do not frequently show enough gestures, so that we take them for granted, but then these small things happen, and the love comes oozing out, much like water out of a nozzle that has been kept pressed for long. I did not realize when I fell asleep.

I was again amongst my school friends. We were walking up a hill. The grass was tall, almost of our height, so that we could hide amongst them. But we held hands, lest we got lost. The going was tough, the incline was rough. The sun glimmered through the grass. When we finally reached the top of the hill, we saw a couple of dwarves hanging out. They had a barbeque in front of them, and were eating huge chunks of chicken with both their hands, smacking their lips, for the pieces were so huge the sauce splattered on their faces as well. They wore strange hats, huge and conical towards the top. One of them kept his beard in a strange fashion, tying it up under his chin, so that it looked almost as if it were an elephant’s tail. The other had no beard, but the left half of his face had a painting, more like a tattoo, which was an intricate design showing a dwarf fighting against a mammoth. Now we came close to them and they looked up towards us and smiled. We smiled back at them. They invited us to sit and have some food. But we had only taken a step forward when suddenly their faces went white; they looked aghast. Suddenly there was a bright streak followed by a roaring thunder. The fire went out. Looking behind me, I saw a huge falcon now making its way towards me. I ducked in time, and the falcon’s claws thrust into the first dwarf. Now it bled profusely, and the other dwarf looked at us and spat, clearly angry. And then he stood. Out of the blue, he started growing. Now he was a man. Now a giant. Now he loomed over all of us, his shadow covering miles. He raised his foot. One step forward and we would all be under his feet. As his foot came trampling down on the ground, my eyes opened. It was morning. The night had faded out and the sun was now gleaming on the mountains of Kaza. It was time to make our next move.

[6]

Early in the morning it was and it was a Saturday when we left for the last segment of our trip. Soon this would all be over. Soon we would be back home and these drives would be etched in memory forever. But for now, it was not the end that made me emotional, but the scenery around. The vegetation had grown scanty again, and very stony was the road too. Atop a hill to the east stood the Key Monastery. Called Kye Gompa by the local people, this 11th century creation stands at an altitude of 4166 meters (13668 feet). Though this monastery has been attacked time and again, by the Mongols and by the Dogras and by the Sikhs as well, it still stands proudly. The walls of the monastery are covered with paintings and murals, an example of the 14th century monastic architecture, which developed as the result of Chinese influence. Key monastery has a collection of ancient murals and books, including Buddha images. But running out of time we were, and so we turned west, towards our destination.

We now crossed the village of Rangrik, a scantily populated village but beautiful all the same. I pulled down the windows a bit, to feel the fresh morning air muffled by the scent of autumn. A huge twenty-five feet statue of Lord Buddha overlooked us. Now I saw men-in-arms slowly creeping out from behind the statue. I rubbed my eyes. They had all vanished. Perhaps it was just a figment of my imagination. A couple of people here and there, who smiled gleefully at all the passers-by, but other than that, the village was pretty scarcely populated. We had now reached the outskirts of the city. In a while, I would be seeing my first mountain-pass ever. We were coming close and I was excited about it. Above us loomed lofty mountains. And somewhere in between hid the Kunzum Pass.

We had still time to reach the eastern Kunzum Range of the Himalayas. Already I was hungry, but these roads weren’t ones where one could find a morsel to chew. I sat back for a while, listening to songs, introspecting how much this journey has had an effect on me. For one thing I was sure of, that I had become more patient and tolerant than I was a couple of days back. And the other thing I knew was that I had made some good friends. Sometimes, you do not realize the value of people who are around you, unless they are the only ones who are there. Though there hardly was a chance of us not surviving this trip and getting back safely, just in case we met with a landslide or an accident or anything, they would be the last faces I’d see in my life. And that thought was a mixture of comfort and anguish, of solace and grief. This was a new experience, one I had never felt before; probably would never feel again as well, well, unless I undertook another trip like this which had so much to give back yet in such a short while. Looking out into the skies, loomed with lofty mountains, some covered in ice, some in grass, some only rocks, some jet-black while others had a muddy tint to them, some shining, some silent and overwhelming, there were so many kinds of them, all crammed up in this small uninhabited corner of the world. Perhaps the best things are the most difficult to find, and perhaps we can never know what all good things exist unless we really try hard to find them, and it held true for stuff deep within our hearts too, but now was not the time to think about hearts and emotions, because I did not want to get upset in the midst of such a blissful day. We were now driving at a pretty slow pace, because the road did not allow much speed, and if we sped, our heads bumped against the roof of the car. But soon enough we would reach the Kunzum.

Kunzum Pass. Separating Spiti and Lahaul valleys, it is situated at a higher altitude than Rohtang Pass, which is at an elevation of 13,054 ft and also serves as another gateway to Lahaul and Spiti. Kunzum Pass offers spectacular views of Bara-Sigri, the second longest glacier in the world.  Also visible from the top of the pass are the Chandra-Bhaga mountain and Spiti valley. The presence of chortens and prayer flags signify a strong Buddhist influence in the area. Also popular, is the Kunzum Devi Temple where all vehicles must stop to pay respects to the goddess. And so did we stop. We now saw the Chandra-Bhaga mountain, in the cradle of which lied our destination for the day, Chandra-tal. We met another band of tourists, who were headed towards Spiti. A group of youngsters out on a road-trip. Perhaps we should have made this trip back when we were in college. But then I had no idea of such a place. And even if I had, it would be too far. The pass was serene. On the other side lay the Lahaul valley, but we would not be going there until tomorrow. For now, we needed to keep pace, and reach Chandratal on time. Our driver had finished his prayers to Kunzum Devi, and we now sped forward towards Losar, where we would stop to have breakfast, for now we were all desperately in need for food. We sped now. The road was easy-going and our car was making good time. In a short while, the vegetation increased, as did the population and we knew we were about to reach inhabited grounds again. The Losar village is located adjacent to the Indo Chinese border, and lays claim to being the last habitable land before one crosses over to China. Much similar to Ladakh in appearance, the cold desert offers its visitors magnificent views, mountains draped in multiple colours, and breath-taking vistas, with the beauty of the place almost unparalleled anywhere else. We stopped here for a while and had a meagre breakfast, which was all that they could offer, but even so I was happy for after many hours my stomach finally heaved a sigh of relief. And then we happily chirped our way ahead, talking a lot, singing songs and eagerly looking forward to reach the Moon Lake as soon as possible.

Read the final part in Part 4.

Two

I seriously don’t know where to start from. Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for praising the concept of Decagon. It is always tough to cross the first hurdle. The second one is easier. The second one is simpler. You know what kind of obstacles might come. You gain experience. But what about the one who comes second? Do you remember who came second in the race? Do you know who is the second tallest man in the world? A miss is as good as a mile. And coming second is as good as coming nothing. Do you agree? If you don’t, you are one of those optimists this world really needs.

Two. Reminds me of the two of us. We were the best of friends since junior school. We were supposed to go to the same college after school. He had messaged me on Facebook one day, and I remember his last status update. “Truth hurts. Not as hard as falling off a bicycle, but it does.” He passed away the next day, drowned in a river. I can never forgive myself for not being around him that time. Time heals, they said. They were wrong. That pain is still fresh, like an open wound, which pains till the core even when touched ever so lightly.

Two. Two lives. Dependent on you. I do not want to make this post drab and boring, but I cannot resist talking a bit about those two people who matter the most in my life. My father, and my mother. No, my mother, and my father. My father asked me once, “Who do you love more, me or your mother?” I replied, “What do you value more, your left eye or your right?” No one asked me the question ever again. In a conservative society like India, it is customary to take care of one’s parents until ever. We do not follow the fashion of independence around here, and our lives remain intertwined for almost forever. I do not know if you would consider that good or bad, but for me, it is pretty much what my entire life consists of. Because for some people, loving is difficult. It is difficult to fall in love, and when you don’t have someone with you, it is difficult to live, because you need someone to share your thoughts with. I can share all my thoughts with my OneNote on my computer, write down lots of things, but at some point, there are times when you want to shout out, to talk, to cry out, to laugh aloud, and it may be at one in the night when your friends aren’t around. Who do you shout with then? Tell me soon.

Two is the number of symbiosis, of interdependence, of love, of compassion. You have crossed level One, you have woven that one dream, you now need someone to live that dream with you. For what will you achieve by living alone? Has any bird even flown alone to distant countries? Has a single man ever won a war? Never did a single flower blossom with happiness, nor did the squirrel chirp with itself. And so, live your life, try to love, fall in love, make mistakes, share it with her, laugh when you are happy, and cry when you are sad, but don’t be alone, because when you will see, in the shimmers of night lights, people smiling, and girls humming, you will realize, being alone might not have been that bad, but being lonely, surely is.

One | Three

The Unsaid

Beneath the wry smiles,
That lights up your face,
There is something unsaid,
That you’ve kept secret.
Beneath those blue eyes,
That never get moist,
There is something unsaid,
That you’ve never shed.
When no one’s around,
No one but me,
You’ve tried wearing masks,
I’ve often seen you thus.
You’ve tried to hide it,
And still let it out,
What do you want,
Whom do you love.
Don’t misinterpret me,
Today I might be still,
But deep down in my heart,
You know my will.
Beneath my jokes,
Beneath all the fun,
There is something unsaid,
Which only I know.
For when the sun sets,
For when the moon is up,
No one sees in the dark,
How your hands are cupped.
You muffle into them,
Cry a little sometimes,
Think about the past,
Think about the present.
Broken words,
Incomplete thoughts,
Incoherent talks,
Nostalgic sniffs,
I’ve heard them all,
I’ve seen them all,
Inside that heart of yours,
There is a lot unsaid.
You’ve smiled so much,
I wonder how much is true,
Won’t you tell me why,
You do this to yourself?
I’ve seen your hands,
I’ve seen the wounds,
How was your past?
Don’t you think I care?
Today I might be quiet,
Because others pry,
But when we are alone,
I will ask you why.
Will you tell me the truth then,
Or weave up another lie,
To keep from me everything,
Everything that is unsaid?

Sunshine on Her Forehead

Through the tiny slit between the curtains,
That blocks her from the outside for most of the day,
Two tiny rays of sunshine slither through,
And fall on her forehead, making a tiny yellow moon.
She knows when the rains come pouring,
A pitter-patter on the windows,
She cannot smell the wet mud outside,
Nor see the birds fly back to their nests.

Sunshine on her forehead, she smiles,
A face of glee forever overshadowing,
Her life of plight that she has carefully masked,
Against day, against night, and against herself.
She dreams of a day when she’d go outside,
She sees her father, his hands wide apart,
She runs to him, and embraces him dearly,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

She doesn’t know how her story will end,
Whether her hero would rescue her,
She dreams of people who are blind like her,
And tells them to be patient, in her thoughts.
She walks up to the door sometimes,
But there are no latches on the inside,
She wonders who locked her up here,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

Sometimes when she sees the slit,
Between the curtains turn to a shade of black,
She knows it is night, and that she must sleep,
Yet never her eyes close, endlessly she stares.
She doesn’t remember the last time she cried,
She wants to wail, tears betray her,
She covers her face with the pillow she has,
It smells of her, she hasn’t known any other.

Yet next morning, when the sunshine,
Draws a tiny moon on her forehead again,
She feels a wetness in her eyes,
And tries hard to cover it with her smile.
She knows this could go on forever,
And wishes she had been dead long ago,
But she promises to herself she’d live through it,
And show to the day another black night.

Somewhere

They said I killed her, that she died because of me,
Although deep somewhere, I know it wasn’t my fault.

Jet black eyes and a white dress,
She walked into my life one day,
And before I realized what was happening,
She changed it in a strange way.
It wasn’t love which I’d fallen in,
Because there was no pain in it,
The only pain that I felt each day,
Was when she said, “Tomorrow we’ll meet.”
If it were a jigsaw puzzle which I was solving,
Only one piece was what I couldn’t find,
And I knew it was around, hiding somewhere,
So that someone could stab me from behind.
And yes it happened, as I thought it would,
She ran away as far as she could,
Not bothering to tell me what happened to her,
And left me alone the whole of that summer.
When people found out that she had died,
By eating food with poison mixed,
They said she killed herself for I had betrayed her,
I couldn’t respond, I was already fixed,
Fixed into something which would never wash off,
The fact that she had left me alone,
And though I knew I didn’t hurt her,
I kept shut, as dumb as a stone.
Two years have passed, and sometimes in my dreams,
She comes and apologizes to me,
Says she’s sorry for what she did,
And calls me to her world where all are free.

To Myself

Winds have come and they have gone,
Taken with them dust to her land,
And they have worked hard to break,
Each of my dreams, the castles of sand.
Yet I have decided to forget the past,
Bury everything and move ahead,
And the strength that this has given me,
Has increased and rendered my past dead.
I wish that when one fine morning,
I look back and see what I did in the past,
Things that I have done do make me smile,
And its happiness would with me last.
I wish I could say proudly to myself,
That as long as I lived it was without you,
And even as I die a smile lingered,
On my face, and on your face too.
They speak of shedding tears in happiness,
I’d speak of smiling when in grief,
You’d think of the times we shared a smile,
A time that was happy, albeit brief.
Today when I speak I am still happy,
And when you’d read this I’d be happy still,
Smile to yourself as I tell you this,
The space you left in me, no one can fill.

This Someone

When I am down, and sad and upset,
There’s this someone to cheer me up,
When on the roads I tumble and fall,
There’s this someone to pick me up,
When all around me are shadows cast,
There’s this someone to light it up.
When a hand I need to take a step ahead,
This someone’s hand I clutch onto,
When a smile I need to make my day,
This someone’s face I see up to,
The most complex things turn simple then,
When this someone assures me it is so,
And the simplest of all seems unresolvable,
When this someone tells me that it is so.

At sunset when the sky turns red,
When the herd returns back to its shed,
When the crows caw loud and sparrows twitter,
When all the world looks a degree prettier,
I sit on the wall with this someone with me,
And share what I did the whole of today,
I realize where and how I went wrong somewhere,
Which for long will in my mind stay,
This someone smiles when I admit my mistake,
Laughs and asks me to be happy and glee,
I love this someone, who is always there,
This someone is me, this someone is me.