The craggy snow topped peaks of Himalayas filled the tableau from end to end. Standing tall like stony stalwart giants, unmoved and unbroken.  Too magnificent and gargantuan to notice a tiny group of trekkers fighting against the steep slopes, slaps of icy winds, wet grounds covered with slippery leaves and the capricious weather.

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On our way to Roopkund, a lake at 16,499 ft nestled between the icy peaks of the Himalayas, the struggle was real. Usually frozen solid, it still holds the skeletal remains of what are believed to be 1,200-year-old pilgrims traversing the tricky terrains. Misfortune fell upon them in the form of a fatal hailstorm.

It had been 6 days on the trail. Our soles were sore, calves had seemingly reconfigured themselves into painful rocks and our backs were craving a proper bed. The trail had gone on, unrelentingly steep and challengingly uneven. At 14,000 feet from the ground, the air was noticeably thin. Every breath, an unsatisfactory struggle for our lungs. The sun would shine turning our clothes into sweaty cocoons only to shy away into the clouds allowing the chilly winds to make our bones chatter.

Step after step there came a stage when we were acutely aware of the exhaustion. We hoped for every vanishing turn of the ever-uphill path to be the last. Alas to reveal a steeper climb ahead. Slowly our minds lulled themselves into a meditative trance, concentrating on only the next step. All thoughts of the length of the journey ahead forgotten. Pain was no longer a feeling but a fact and the very acceptance of it gave us impetus to keep going. The path was no longer the challenge but a companion till the peak.

It was a feeling quite hard to give words to. Almost as if once a sense of self was lost, we slipped out of the shackles of our mind. Shackles that were telling us that we were uncomfortable, in pain, lost or afraid. They were holding us back. But, somehow, our minds saw these feelings as part of the world that it lives in, not of an internal make. It freed itself from the limiting loop. It became an observer and not the subject. It saw that the pain wasn’t the enemy, it was egging the body on. It was the guiding hand. No longer being afraid of physical pain was perhaps transcendence in itself.

With the clouds now much below us, only enchanted peaks of unearthly heights poked out of the carpet of clouds, shimmering golden in the setting sun on a dimming pink-purple sky. As the sun called it a day, we lay exhausted in our tents when we awoke to sounds of wonder and amazement outside. We feverishly stepped out
and there we stood as if in a glass orb of fairy dust. Infinite stars filled the endless sky interspersed in the luminescent milky way. The vastness, the multitude of unimaginable worlds made us feel small, unobserved…. inexistent. At the same time liberated.

In such an immense world with such mind-bendingly crazy timelines, our little squabbles, opinions, norms and beliefs don’t matter. All of them will live and die with us and the infinity shall merrily go about playing with its larger creations. Why then burden ourselves with artificial ambitions of climbing corporate ladders, acquiring assets to achieve affirmations of people around us, being bothered when our opinions are not understood or even stubbornly holding on to our opinions. There is an entire universe, sweeping skies and vast mountains that will live on not affected by our humanly concerns. Time will move on, humans will become something entirely unrecognisable to themselves. In this world where our concerns don’t matter why not then choose to be happy by surpassing the limitations of our thoughts and norms created by our equally transient societies. Why not live free!!

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IMG_6525The Oak Forests of Ghairoli Patal

IMG_6647 The expansive high-altitude meadows of Ali Bugyal

IMG_6671 The Peaking Peaks at 15,000 ft

IMG_6821 On the way to Roopkund Lake

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IMG_7200 Back to Civilization

6 Replies to “In the Himalayas”

  1. Brought back, quite vividly, my own memories of trekking to Roopkund. Makes me want to do it all over again. 🙂 Well written, Anant!

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