A simple question on my last trek, to Roopkund Lake, gave me a deeper perspective on why I have gotten so attached to trekking. My first ever trek was last year, in 2016, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Great Himalayan National Park. And Roopkund was only my fourth. But trekking has been much dearer and enriching a journey than any other travel I’ve had. The one at the Kanchenjunga National Park, another UESCO World Heritage Site, brought me an eyeopening thought about the importance of my mother in our lives, and the rest were all dedicated to my father. So was this one, to Roopkund Lake, which came with a question attached though. Our rather young but sound trek leader, Ashish Chopra, asked us a question the evening after successfully summiting the lake – ‘Why do we trek?’. Within seconds the fun-filled, giggling, tired yet ecstatic bunch was moved to almost kindergarten-like silence and saliva-gulping innocence with some expected answers flowing effortlessly – coming close to nature, testing our physical ability, pushing ourselves, and so on. While they may all be correct in their own sense for the majority first-timers in the group, I had something else in mind. The question allowed me to regather with the thought I came close to the year before, befriend it once again, this time a little intimately, and consolidate upon.
I believe when someone passes away, they go to live in the clouds. Climbing a mountain is an arduous journey but the most organic way of keeping your feet on the ground and yet be kissing the clouds. I believe papa resides in there now, lazing in its ethereal comfort, enjoying the view he earnt duly by living the most respectful life a man can. He sits there and awaits a reunion from time to time. I guess it’s him who tells me which trek to embark upon and when. That’s why I have always had the urge to be in the mountains and go faster and higher. Going faster allows me to have no trail of noisy mates in the chase and gives us two the time we deserve. Ascending higher, he pulls me from his feet and sticks me to his chest wrapping his neck real tight around mine. At times I wonder if the moist of the the clouds is his tears of joy and pride from seeing his kids come to meet him from time to time. The satisfaction he would’ve received from knowing that his young boy hasn’t forgotten his old, though not breathing but alive, father. The size of the clouds growing as you draw near isn’t an illusion but his chest broadening from pride from the efforts made to reach him, from finding him amidst the thickest crowd of other fathers awaiting their toddlers. I’m sure the grey skies are a sign of his dark-circles from staying up in anticipation and excitement from seeing me approach him from far. At times, though being a man, he can’t hold his emotions and cries making all these sites wash down in the purity of his love. No doubt the sun shines brighter, the greens look greener, and the mountains open up with their power to bless us with their embrace. The constant running of the clouds in the sky is him getting restless like the young boy I was, awaiting his arrival at home with a faint chance of receiving my favourite candy from him. He understands that I might be there to meet him but to the others I have to stay practical and summit the mountain we all are here for. And being the parent he is, he doesn’t want me to get intimidated. Caring and caressing that he always was, in his signature silent way, he comes to cover the peaks, rendering it impossible to view them. It’s him who hides them, keeping at bay the faintest of opportunities of us getting daunted with the job at hand, instead kindling playfully excitement, empowering us to dream about the task optimistically. The strong icy piercing winds in the middle of the night, that wakes us in cold, the fluttering of tents and monstrous sounds it creates, all that has his messages. He’s only come to check if I’m sleeping well, in preparation of going harder at the task at hand the following morning, only to reward his patience and anxious waiting, something I couldn’t do at Goecha La. And it become a crisp reminder of his desperation to meet as well, somewhat soothing and reassuring at times.
Nature has its own way of embracing its children. We have scratched the chest of our mother nature, and on its scars we trek. On these paths we walk and find our destinations. These destinations are more internal than material. We’re reintroduced to the hidden us and learn lessons that no institution or on-the-job-training can teach. Words will only taint these experience and are thus kept sacred in one’s head and heart. My father was my biggest teacher and idol, becoming who’s smallest speck would’ve been an achievement worth boasting about. I miss him and would always want to meet him. No doubt an inner calling wants me to be a mountaineer and climb the highest possible mountains in the world now. May be it’s not me but him calling me to be a little closer. After all, he’s getting older and needs company too. And wouldn’t that be a beautiful way to depart from this world as well, where you bid farewell to your family, only to be escorted by your father to another abode where we live together. I guess it will be!!