Dreams and Love

And so it was,
That last night,
I realized,
How love felt like.

A warm hug tight,
A peck on the cheek,
A shy smile,
All in a dream.

I woke up to nothingness,
She wasn’t around,
But I still felt,
Her presence, her warmth.

And so it was,
That today morning,
I called her up,
And told her my dream.

She laughed merrily,
And denied,
The possibility,
Of it ever happening.

And so it was,
That I realized,
How love is sweet,
Only in dreams.

But one wakes up,
To bitterness sometimes,
And forsake dreams,
To waste-bins.

Call of the Mountains – [4]

Read the previous part in Part 3.

[7]

After a long drive that seemed to go on forever, we finally reached Chandratal. Among lush green fields we walked bare-footed, and shouted loud and clear and there was no reply, for there were only us there. We lied down on the grass now, which was slightly moist with last night’s dew, yet it felt refreshing to lie down, the sun’s rays beaming upon my face, a warmth long wished for, and the breeze slowly making its way across the valley, streaming through my hair, I could have fallen asleep and never got up again. A bit later, we walked down towards the lake. On my left was a cirque, going on for miles and miles. On the right loomed high mountains. And in front stood magnificently the Moon Lake. A crescent shaped lake, half of it reflected green of the mountains and the other half reflected the blue of the sky. It was one of the most picturesque moments I have ever had in my life. It was enthralling to imagine that we would be here the entire day, though I had no clue what we would do, since there was absolutely nothing else to do here. We climbed up a hill and walked down a dale, and then we lay flat for a while again. High above in the sky a lark made rounds, persistent enough, yet never swooping down.

Earphones in my ears, the song now playing was ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin. The guy said, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold’, and I dreamt of her again. She came ever so frequently in my dreams in this trip. Never had I known that she would overpower my thoughts so much, but there she was again, clinging to my dreams, like a spider to its web. “There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” As I lay there thinking about the times I had misinterpreted what she said, as she my words, thoughts took shape of reality. It was as if each incident re-enacted itself in my mind, with ever so slightly a change, showing alternate endings. Yet the line that has always gripped me would be, “there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” How many times must I change my road? How many times must I switch between the two alternates, never able to see where it takes me, the end forever taking different forms and figures, such that I must always be in darkness, never knowing which path I should have always stuck to.

We started walking back now. Ahead lay our tents, though we had to look for them awhile. The rest of the day went pretty much uneventful. We had a meagre lunch of rice, pulses and some boiled potatoes. I slept for a while but it was too cold. I came out. My friend had gone down to the river beside. I did not feel like going, not even laze about there. I went and sat in the bigger tent, the one which was warm, but only because the guy constantly burned some coal in there. Already I could see the sun hiding behind the clouds. It would rain soon, I thought. No, the guy in the tent replied. It never rains here. Too cold. Only snows. Great, I thought. That was probably the last thing I wanted on this trip. It had been great till now, but now I was a bit frustrated. Probably it was the lack of communication, perhaps it was just sheer homesickness, or perhaps the wind was too cold and my brain had stopped working. The latter seemed the most plausible, because my head was already bursting, as if someone hammered on it from the inside. I was told it was because at this height, oxygen does not reach the brains sufficiently, causing the excruciating pain and also a numbness. Great again, I thought. Exactly what I needed to top my anxieties.

We also met some other travellers out here. A French who had been here for a couple of days now wanted tips whether to go to Kaza or Kalpa. He had started the trip in the opposite direction, and so we knew what he anticipated and he knew where we were going. He was a friendly guy, though he talked really less. He had a map where he had marked all the places he wanted to visit and all those he had already been to. As we sat around the heater warming ourselves and sipping tea in plastic cups, the manager-cum-cook narrated the famous Spitian folklore about Chandratal. The story goes back to more than a hundred years ago, when a lazy shepherd in the village of Rangrik decided to go to Chandratal as he had heard a lot about its beauty. It was far from where he lived and a difficult trek but he thought it would be excellent to escape his wife and her nagging. So he left and walked for many days over mountains and passes. Finally when he was almost worn out he caught sight of the lake. It was indeed beautiful and he was so moved he sat down to play his flute and was soon lost in its music. When he opened his eyes a fairy stood before him. She said, “Hello, Gangrup, I am the Chandra Tal fairy.” She told him how his music drew her to the shores of the lake, and that she had fallen in love with him. She asked him to come and live with her in her kingdom under the lake. “I will love you and keep you happy, if you play your flute for me and love me,” she said. So Gangrup went with her to her underwater kingdom and they were very happy there through summer. Then as winter came the fairy asked Gangrup to go back home. He was unhappy and didn’t want to go as he knew he would miss her. The love he had received was everything for him, and he knew his life would never be the same at home. But she said he would have to go, but he could come back next summer. She would miss him too and await his return. But she warned him not to tell anyone about them else they would never be able to be together again.

Gangrup’s family was overjoyed to see him as they had thought he had perished on the way when he did not return for months. Winter set in and Gangrup drank and slept as always, doing nothing else. One night when he was really drunk his wife was nagging him about some work she wanted done, he turned to her and said: “Shut up woman, don’t nag me else I will go away to the Chandratal fairy. She loves me.” Saying so, he downed his drink and passed out. The next morning he remembered what had happened and started to wail out loud. Everyone was concerned and kept asking him what happened but he just kept weeping. He passed the rest of the winter in mad grief and as soon as summer set in he left for the lake.

When he finally got there he took out his flute and started to play. Soon enough the fairy emerged. She said, “Good bye Gangrup. You’ve broken your promise, and in doing so, my heart.” So saying she left. Gangrup fell to his knees and called after her. A while later she emerged holding a bundle. Gangrup was overjoyed thinking she had forgiven him, but she said “This is our daughter, born of our love. Take her back with you.” Gangrup looked down at his daughter and gasped. She was the ugliest thing he had ever set eyes on, covered in warts and boils and was very ill. He didn’t want to touch her but then filial love won and he took her along. However she died on the way. Broken hearted, Gangrup took her all the way home. His family was stunned when he told them she was his daughter from the Chandratal fairy. He buried her and built a memorial for her in the house. From then on his luck changed and his family became rich. After all, the little girl was also a Nortin (fairy). His line is still alive today though they have moved to a new house (the old house still stands in ruins). They moved the memorial to the new house too and it can be still seen today.

As he finished narrating the folklore, the cook slowly stood up, and now we went back to our tents to sleep. The night was cold. Minus five degrees was the temperature and we were almost freezing. My head was pounding ever more and to sleep was very difficult. Still somehow we snatched a few hours of sleep for tomorrow our going would be tougher. When I woke up next, it was early in the morning and the clock had just struck four. We packed our bags and got ready to leave. We were going to have a long day ahead, and hopefully we would reach home if we could somehow make good time. But our journey had not seen its end, and more places lay ahead before we’d finally sleep comfortably on our beds.

[8]

We started our descent now. The road was bad, and our car moved slowly. At many places we had to get out and push the car so that it reached level ground. At many places, the waterfalls intersected the roads, and being early morning, we stepped over ice-flakes made by the waterfalls. My socks were wet, and I had to remove them, and they instantaneously became numb because of the cold. After a long while, we finally came to the intersection of the Chandratal route with the Kaza-Keylong route. Here we took a U-turn just before the Kunzum pass. Our next destination – Lahaul Valley.

Across the Lahaul Valley we sped, though the road was still stony and the going was nonetheless difficult. It would be so until the next mountain pass, after which the road would get better. Lahaul is greener than Spiti, and a bit more populated. Now and then we spotted travellers. These travellers usually preferred cycling on these routes, and all of them either had high-tech bicycles or heavy motorbikes. After a couple of hours or more, we finally reached the Rohtang Pass. The road would be better here onwards, they said. I could hardly have wished for anything else in the world. Rohtang actually means a pile of corpses in the local language, and the name was so given due to the number of people dying in bad weather trying to cross the pass. The pass provides a natural divide between the humid Kullu Valley with a primarily Hindu culture (in the south), and the arid high-altitude Lahaul and Spiti valleys with a Buddhist culture (in the north). The pass lies on the watershed between the Chenab and Beas basins. We had now left the Sutlej in its course and had joined to follow the course of the Beas. It is said that the Mahabharata, a great Indian epic, was written on the banks of the Beas river. A diversion of the road takes one to Leh, though that was not the road that any of us save one really sought to pursue. And pursue it we didn’t. We would now make our way down to Manali, pass through Kulu and finally cross Chandigarh on our way back home to Delhi.

At Manali, we stopped finally, because no more could we stay hungry. Nestled in the Beas River Valley, which had followed us all the way from the Rohtang, this small town is the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and from there over the Karakoram Pass on to Yarkand and Khotan in the Tarim Basin. Once we were full and I had got back into the car, instantaneously I fell asleep. The journey had been tiring and we were ever so close to the end, and yet my eyes would not stay open for it had now not rested for over a day. I slept and dreams clouded my mind. I was now in a shackle, legs and hands tied. A hookah lay in front of me, but it appeared to have been used up long ago; the coal was not burning anymore. I looked up to see a small window, which allowed a tiny amount of light to come in, but only enough that I could see the walls of my room. It was a tiny one, the walls of broken cement, and the floor was only dust. I tried to stand up, but the weight of the cuffs held me down. I appeared to be hungry, and there was some food in a plate beside, but flies hovered on it, it seemed the plate had been here for a long time. I tried dozing off, but sleep would not come. I heard shouts outside, some ceremony was being held, or maybe a battle-cry? I did not know what it was, for I had no idea where I was. Then I heard the sounds of my door opening. Looking up, I saw his face. It was him. All these years I had been looking for him, and here he was. So he wasn’t dead after all. In this strange country, I finally found him again. “Where are we?” I asked him. “Hell,” he said. I smiled. The years had turned his sense of humor to a sour satirical one. The day was growing old now, and we sat inside the cell. He had brought some pieces of coal, and we smoked the hookah until we were both very high. I knew he was dead, I saw him dying, seven years ago it was, but he was here, maybe I was dreaming? I pinched myself and it did not hurt, so I knew I was. But I could not get out of the dream. My eyes would not open. What kind of sorcery was this? I asked him, and he only smiled. “You’ve been defeated,” he said. “You have been defeated, my friend”. I did not understand, and he did not want to explain, so I just let it be. Then the doors opened again and two soldiers came in. Now they held me tight, and asked me how I came here. I told them I did not know, and one of them held me tight and started shaking me with all his might. Bam, the dream was gone. I was awake now, and we had crossed Kulu already.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, we stopped once for tea, and another time for dinner. It was late night when we finally reached Chandigarh. Here we changed our cab, and hailed one for Delhi. Home would be a reality soon. Only yesterday it seemed a distant possibility. It was four in the morning when I finally reached home. I laid eyes on my precious. It had been waiting all this while for me. I jumped upon it, my precious bed. For years now, I would remember this trip. Sometimes moments are created when you least expect them to. I honestly had far lesser expectations from this trip than what it provided. The walk-man was playing ‘Leaving on a Jet-plane’ now, and I welcomed the lullaby as I dozed off to sleep.

Well that was all about my trip. I did overshoot the length I had thought I would limit it to, but sometimes less is not enough. I will be back with more posts soon, and till then, keep reading! Bye.

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.

Call of the Mountains – [2]

Read the previous part in Part 1.

[3]

That night I dreamed I was lying in darkness with nothing around me. Far and wide I could see nothing, and I was somewhere on the ground under the naked skies. I could see a few stars but there was no moon. The stars shone brightly, but one by one they started fading. An eagle flew right above my head, and its eyes were fixed on me, much as if it wanted to carry me with it to its nest. Its claws now fastened grip upon my feet, and in a moment I was flying high. I shouted for help, but there was no one around, and suddenly we rolled and now I was sitting on the eagle’s back. It was swooping down into the river. I would be drowned I knew. I frantically tried to loosen its clutch, shouting for help all the while. That was when my eyes opened. The night was old when I woke up. The sky was grey and in a while a sun would be up behind the hills, turning them from grey to orange. We needed to make haste. Packing our bags, we left the guest house even as the sun glared in red. It was morning already.

Now we climbed down the mountains, the car toiling its way slowly through the rugged terrain. Having overslept in the car yesterday, I wanted to stay up to see the road that led to Peo. And saw it I. Huge mountains on both sides, with tracks cut into them so that only two vehicles could cross at a time. We were climbing down a huge mountain, rocky and stony, and there was no sign of vegetation for miles and miles. No trees, not even a shrub, and hence no birds in the sky. Beside a twin mountain loomed high into the skies, same terrain, only rocks. Now we saw deep trenches in the mountains, which were made for mining; they were closed now, but would open up soon in the afternoon. The road was stony, and it was not a proper road. There were no proper roads at this height, because they would never be completed before the winter, and when the ice came down with all its might, covering the mountains from top to below with a sheet of white, like the shroud on a corpse, the roads would vanish deep into it and never come out, so that in the spring the local people would dig into the mountains once again, cutting roads for their convenience. The local people around here who were responsible for this styled themselves by calling them ‘BRO’, though it was only an abbreviation of ‘Border Roads Organization’.

The twin mountain which had been parallel for some time now started converging. In a while we would be shifting to that mountain, taking almost a U-turn in the beginning, but then moving on left towards our next destination. We had finished our climb-down from this mountain, and now we were to climb the other to reach at the top of it. Once there, we would cut into a valley, our next destination, Spiti Valley. But before that we had miles to cover, and we would be crossing the Hangrang Valley, with the famous Nako lake.

The sun was almost directly above us by the time we reached Nako. At an elevation of 3662 meters, the Nako lake is surrounded by willows and poplar trees. We stopped here for a while, for now we wanted to trek. After spending some time at the lake, which was serene and blue, and we saw birds, after a long while, and the water was cold, stark cold, yet it was refreshing and reminded me of years past by at another lake where I had been with other people, and she was there… oh how I wished I was back with her and that she was here, how I wish things had not been the way they were, but now was not the time to ponder over the past, for what lay before me was the prettiest lake I had ever seen so far. We climbed up a nearby hill, it was stony, but had turfs of grass; it reminded us that we were at a much lower altitude now. Now we were hungry, we hadn’t had a morsel to chew or bite since we woke up, and so we stopped by a nearby hut. It was a hotel to be precise, but it had only one table, and a small kitchen where a boy who knew how to cook only small things sat. We had rice and dal, the simplest of all foods possible. There was no other option. Fancy things were not available at such places. So we must needs make-do with whatever we could lay our hands on. After a lunch that seemed to go on forever, we finally got up and made preparations to move ahead. Already it was past afternoon. Our next stop would be at Spiti.

[4]

I was walking through a cave. The road was stony, and I was barefooted, such that the stones pricked my underfoot. The path was narrow and even so it was lined in the middle with molten coal, all black. I was walking through a mine. After what seemed hours of walking I finally saw a streak of light. The cave was coming to an end. I scampered towards the light. Now I stood at the brink of the world. Far far below me a river meandered across a stony bed. I could never reach there, it was too low. I slowly spread both my hands, even as a bird spreads her wings before its flight. As I closed my eyes, I could feel the sun heating up my eyes and small shapes walking about in my eyes. And then the push came. Before I could see who it was, I was falling down, down into the chasms. I knew that touch; I recognized it from caresses long back, but why would she push me? Now I opened my eyes, and the river was still far. I could see crows flying below me, but in a while I would be much closer to ground. Now I sped, the acceleration was taking effect. I sped towards the ground and even so, a hand came out of the river, grasping me and pulling me towards it. I tried to break free, but the grip was too strong, and now it held my shoulder, and I was shaking, shaking in trepidation, and then suddenly there was a jerk, and I woke up. Bad dream. Our car had come to a halt. We had entered the Spiti Valley.

The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India. The valley and surrounding region is one of the least populated regions in India and is the gateway to the northernmost reaches of the nation. After travelling for hours, we finally reached level ground. Here the road became wider, though not yet proper, and a vast expanse of green meadows stood in front of us. It almost felt as if I was in a scenery from Heidi where she stood at the foot of the Alps. The air smelled fresh, and it was growing colder. Now we came across small villages, with populations varying from fifteen to twenty. I wonder where they send the children to study, or what they do for a livelihood. In all the roads that I travelled, never once did I come across any school. I opened the window to feel the breeze, and the dust raked up by the rear tyres gushed in with it, and I realized I shouldn’t have opened it in the first place. We were now driving through the Spiti Valley, one of the most picturesque valleys in India. I spotted yaks in a field which was greener than any I had ever seen. Ahead, the Spiti river (which would later become the Sutlej) shone a deep blue. Deeper than the sky. It was almost as if a waterfall of indigo rushed into the river from the top of the mountains. We walked up to the riverside now. Spiti River originates from Kunzum Range, which is located at a height of 16,000 ft above sea level. The side scene of this river is absolutely perfect for cinematography and spectacular scenery. A number of Indian movies have been shot at by this riverside. The silence of this river deeply describes Buddhist culture and monasteries.

Sometimes, silence is all one needs. The water was cold, and I dipped my hand in it, waving it slowly forward and then back, seeing the ripples, and my face I saw clearly in it, the water was so transparent, and so clear; and so beautiful it was, and the stones below, as if there were no water, but only a thin blue film protecting them. My thoughts wandered back to what seemed like an entirely different life. Now I saw her, dancing upon the rocks in front, but she was only a mirage, yes, I knew that. But she smiled at me, the same old smile, and raised her arms forward, suggesting me to come over and hug her. But I knew, it was only a mirage. For she was thousands of miles away, thousands, and no matter what happened I could not meet her. Not now. Not soon. I looked at my phone. It had been two days since I was last in network. Cut off from the rest of the world, I realized that this life is not really that bad. Sometimes, disconnection is all one needs. Disconnected from the world, one can reflect on himself. Even if I had tried I could not get back in touch with my family or friends. What then was the use of such advanced technology and communication systems when they were in fact not even accessible everywhere? And tragic more was the realization that I in fact liked the absence of the technology. Sometimes, silence is all one needs.

Sitting there in silence, talking once a while, minds meditating, all I could think of was one thing. Sometimes happiness and peace trigger certain other emotions, and the cycle continues until the mind runs into a particular memory with which it feels most at home. That was exactly what happened with me. At this point, let me introduce to you my accomplices in this journey. We were six of us, the mad one, the stupid one, the neutral, the photographer, the lover, and me. While I will talk about them much more later, there was one thing I had realized in this duration. We can never learn enough about anyone. I saw the adventurer in them, the desire to travel, the desire to seek more, the wish to encompass the world, the will to do anything required in order to achieve their desires. We talked about things wild and things undiscovered, we talked about wishes unfulfilled and dreams that we chased, we talked about our sorrows and what made us happy and when we were done talking, we got back into our cars, for now the sun was almost about to start its course behind the mountains, and the stars would soon be busy with their work, lighting up the skies with almost an equal brightness, as if they wished to compete with the sun, and were almost tired of losing to it. An exhilarating happiness ran through me, and I shouted loud and clear. And the mountains echoed. Now the engines made a rum-dum, and we started moving through mountains again, at some points the crevices allowed sunlight to pass through as if a thin ray was all that remained of the sun, and at some points the mountains were so cut that they were both atop our heads and below our feet. Thus we began our trip to Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti.

Read the next part in Part 3.

Diaspora

People moving here and there; leaving their homelands in search of happiness; the grass is always greener on the other side, and then the ego comes in; happiness they do not get, but they can’t come back either, no, they are not losers, they must stay and seek happiness yet, while they have a chance. Everyone dispersing, spreading; groups all breaking down into fragments by narrow domestic walls; people start thinking, and then they start over-thinking, making plans, reverting back, new plans, no, these won’t work out, something else then, yeah, let’s try this maybe; two weeks later, back to square one. Some confused, some exasperated already, some tired and longing to go back to where they came from, but now it is too late, and they must work towards their goal, for the goal is what is important, but they know they can’t achieve it, but try they must, and try they do; but they do know, that nothing’s gonna happen, but yet they don’t stop, for stopping might make them look foolish, and they are sinking, deep in their thoughts at times, and floating mid-air at other times, sinking, floating, drowning, catching a stick, coming up, going downstream, swimming against the currents, trying to reach the banks, for the banks now are full of silt, but no, oh no, they can see, right in front of their eyes, how the river floods the banks; now only desolate land, devoid of everything, a barren island, just like their hearts, barren, empty, devoid of feelings, and now they realize, oh, they did not want this at all in the first place, their hearts that were filled with joy and hope, they want it back, yet they have sacrificed it, and they don’t remember a thing, because their memories are so short-lived, and there’s a fire somewhere, but they’ll put it out later, and they remember bits and pieces, from long back when they were together, in another country, with other people too, oh, where are they now, and what do they do? And the fire is burning, red flames and yellow, orange flames and red, burning every single man and every single woman, yet they do not flinch, for how would they show that they were vulnerable, when the opposite is what they have tried to prove to themselves all this while; and the fire keeps burning, but it will go out in a while, for there’s nothing around that can burn anymore, already the ashes are working against it, and the ashes do fly, and the sky is now black, the air is now black, the wind carries the ash, to other desolate lands, with other desolate people, and in this process, they all meet, ashes and memories, joys and pain, the joys that were once a reality, now only a myth, only a dream, an unfulfilled prophecy, a crescent moon, slowly covered by clouds, yet there will be no rain, for the rain would quench the thirst all around, and that cannot happen, for happen it will not, because that is the will of the One, the One who created this diaspora.

Yet in the dark of night when the sky is black and black is the color that they all love because black is what they have seen forever, they dream and their dreams are wild and wild as hell but no one stops them for no one can, and why should they when dreams are the one that give them hope and let them live and stop them from gnawing into each else’s lives like rodents burrowing into a hole in the ground, removing the soil and getting into the skins of the earth, and here something is getting inside the skins of the people, something warm and they can feel it, oh now they are warm, but the heat keeps increasing and now they burn, oh look at them, from black and white, and brown and yellow, all their skins turn red, and they cling to each other, likes babies clinging to their mothers’ aprons, and they walk through puddled grounds, wary of falling, yet now they fall, from hills they fall, down into the vales, they tumble and they tumble, and the ground breaks free, and rocks now fall, crumbling into stones, and joining to form caves in the vales, and the people hide their faces, for fear of being scathed, their faces they hide, and they’ve done so at other times too, but then it had been for shame, for ashamed they were of what they did, and how they lived and what they thought, for thoughts they cannot control, and they creep in the midst of night inside the mind like tigers leering in forests looking for prey, and the thoughts encumber them and burden them and now the weight is too much and they need to get rid of them, but the parasites keep clinging, much like a baby, clinging to a mother’s apron, and the cycle continues, a vicious cycle, no one can come out once they’ve got in, and yet they still get in because it lures them in, like a black hole, sucking all their energy, pulling them in and making them its own, and look at them now, how they struggle, how they fight, how they battle among themselves, oh yes there is bloodshed, and how the blood and the fight made them forget of the heat that was burning them only a while ago, but the heat has now subdued, though some have been diseased by it, and some have recovered, but the change is visible, and now blood flows out, out of the cycle, and out they rush, all of them, racing towards the periphery, they do not care where they are headed to, as long as they are running, for all are running, and though they are out of breath, see how they run, and men are running, and women are running, running they all are, because their lives are at stake now, and they value it, see how they value it, and now they’ve realized that their battle was not against each other, but it was them against the One, and One against them, destruction trying to overwhelm their lives, but they are strong, and they cannot lose, and so fight they must, and so they fight, and they think they can win, and who can tell, for all you know, they just might.

Lost

This is a story of all I’ve lost,
All those who believed in me once,
All those who I thought
Would stay here forever.
All those who were my people.
My people.

But there’s a river always,
And there’s the other bank,
And I’ve seen you go to the other side,
And there are beliefs there too.
Yet I’ll come there sometime,
If I’m strong enough,
To fight against the currents,
And to fight against the odds.

But what’s in store for tomorrow,
Nobody knows,
And the clocks go tick-tock tick-tock,
And I keep losing my faith,
And my people,
And they lose their faith,
And me,
An endless cycle.

But all’s not lost, there is a ray of hope,
Shining from behind the clouds,
Which cloud my mind presently,
Making me unable to see what’s across it,
Whether it’s a silver lining,
Or are there endless clouds,
Hiding the sun, my source of energy,
I don’t know,
And nobody can tell me, unless they go.

This is a story of all those who I have lost,
To love.
Because sometimes,
Love is a poison,
One which comes back to get you,
To destroy you, and to harm you forever.
Memories hit me,
Like cold gales lashing across my face,
Of things that had best remain unsaid,
That had best remained undone,
But were done, in the moment,
Not foreseeing the future,
And here I lie, in despair,
Thinking about it without a course.

And there are others that I’ve lost,
To time.
For time is like sand, forever slipping between fingers,
No matter how hard you close your fist,
People, memories, happiness, friends,
Dwindle out.
Like the candle, having served it purpose,
Reduces to wax, and a part of it,
Forever stuck to the floor,
Like memories,
The memories of my people.

I’ve lost people, and I’ve lost time,
But that’s not all,
I’ve lost memories, so many of them,
In a chest full of gold and other treasures,
But someone robbed me of it,
In a dream one night,
And I have never found them again.
I’ve lost dreams,
He came one night, and told me so,
That dreams were only for those,
Who had their memories safe and sound,
But I had lost them.
I’ve lost wishes, which I had saved,
To demand of a genie should I find one,
But he came in the midst of a night,
And told me he wouldn’t grant me any,
‘Cause wishes were given to only those,
Who had big dreams, and I had lost them.

But lost things may yet be found,
Like toys of a child hidden in the cupboard,
And some day when I rush across,
The pages of time,
I might catch one at the end of a page,
Waiting, sitting there, just like me,
Trying to look out for those she’s lost.

On Completing a Book

Reading the last page of a book,
Is like living the last day of a life,
A life so true, as if dreams were real,
Is like loving someone for one last time,
Meeting someone over the last date,
Knowing that you have had,
So many moments that you cannot relive again,
Even if you did the entire thing again.
If the library were a universe,
Stars beyond numbering,
I would be one of them,
Longing to light up the world,
Just like the others do.
Gather them up, before I sleep,
Count them, one, two, three, four,
Get frustrated when I lose my tracks,
Start again, until my eyes get cut off,
From the light around me,
Putting me into a deep slumber,
Filled with dreams from everything I have ever read.
For life is but an empty book,
Meant for you to fill in its pages,
And how you do that would make you or mar you.
On finishing a book,
The only happiness that one does feel,
That I feel right now,
Is that,
Another one is on my way,
Another story to live, another character to love,
Another person to become,
Another life to enjoy, while it lasts.