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Millennium Post

Mountain High

Mountain High
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Even as Delhi prepared to welcome a certain Mr Obama last weekend, I packed my bags and quietly slipped out of the city. It was a long weekend that deserved to be put to good use, and fawning over the world’s most powerful man didn’t seem exciting enough. Must admit, though, it was quite amusing to hear people’s replies when what their weekend plans were. “We’re going to see Obama”, most chirped excitedly. Just like we would, as children, on sunny, winter afternoons. “We’re going to the zoo!” Of course, we were more interested in the cotton candy and potato crisps that we were allowed to feast our rotting, cavity-filled, deciduous teeth on than the filthy, smelly, malnourished animals housed in there! But, I’m sure that wasn’t the case this time around.

I mean, how many times has any nation’s leader worn an outfit with his name woven all over it (and, costs more than an average mid-level corporate executive’s annual salary)? Obviously, this Mr Obama is very important, and our leader, naturally, went out his way to stand out and ensure his name remains etched in his memory forever. So, how can I blame the rest of the country for getting excited? The leader leads, the nation follows!

Now, I’m not much of a climber, my sense of balance is equal to almost nothing, and I have a mortal fear of heights. It, then, comes as quite a surprise that I turn to mush at the very mention of the word mountain, and run to see them as often as I can! This time I wanted to explore aimlessly, and I set out in the afternoon of January 26.

The drive from Dehradun to Rishikesh was quite uneventful. It took a little over an hour, and I remember sleeping through most of it. My previous attempt at moving further up from Rishikesh had been thwarted by landslides. This time I’d decided to not let anything stand in my way. From Rishikesh, we snaked our way up the young hills, water keeping us company throughout. Our first stop was Devaprayag, where the turbulent Bhagirathi meets the rafting-friendly Alakananda. We watched as the sun dipped behind the mountains, and the sky turned a fiery orange. A quick stop in Srinagar for some milky, ginger tea, we were back on the road, while the sky took on various hues of grey and blue. By the time we got to Rudraprayag, where the Alakananda meets the curvaceous, gentle Mandakini, ominous looking clouds had gathered, and raindrops had started falling gently.

It had turned into a proper downpour by the time we reached Ukhimath, where Lord Kedarnathji is housed and worshipped during the six winter months. I was famished, near-frozen, and dead tired. All I wanted was to sleep, but the heater (with a single heating rod) in our room at the only rest house in the area, was hardly going to be enough! But, extreme fatigue made me drift into dreamless slumber. In the morning, I woke up to the most magical sound ever. The gayatri mantra was being chanted in some faraway place, and the echo could be heard all around. It was the most surreal experience of my entire existence. It was as though I was the last person alive, in the middle of nowhere, and some sort of celestial, mystical power was guiding me. Of course, I later found out that the mantra was being recited at a temple in Guptkashi, the town on the mountain opposite to Ukhimath.

Acoustics in the mountains are quite spectacular. Hence, a voice from 20 kms away can be heard loud and clear! But, for those brief few moments those chants engulfed me in some sort of electric energy! For some, this is God. For me, it’s the magic of the mountains. There have been times when strangers have looked at me quizzically on seeing me talk to the mountains. The mountains are my greatest strength. I pour my heart out to them. They’re the best listeners ever! The love, positivity, energy, and strength they give is enough for me to survive the harsh everyday reality. There’s nothing like a date with the mountains to help you look within and question your existence, attitude towards and purpose of life.

Like Sir Edmund Hilary said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”. The mountains teach you to conquer your fears, dry your own tears, withstand every pain, and emerge strong. Just like them! William Blake had once said, “great things are done when men and mountains meet; this is not done by jostling in the street”. Greatness is what we must aspire for and always try to achieve! Want to be great, do great? Head to the mountains!

The author is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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