What is it? Is it the strong concrete and the black asphalt? Or is it the straight lines and right angles?Is it the clock? the time? the speed? the rush? what is it? Whatever it was, I did not want it.
I have always had these feelings. they were very strong then. I had asked all and many, I needed a break. Nobody else seemed to need one. Never the less, I left. I had to go.
PK told me it wasn’t safe, he was concerned. Somewhere deep down I liked his concern, lets call it care, I liked someone caring for me. I made efforts and I took time to tell him it was ok, I had nothing to lose. I had nothing to lose. I remembered this when I packed my bags, I didn’t carry anything loosing which, would make me sad. I had not known the world of backpacking then, it was my own birth into it. I threw in clothes, all I would need and few more but limited it to what my green backpack could carry. I did not carry any music, no headphones, no camera, no chargers, I didn’t intend to keep my phone. but I kept it. I wanted to be free but could not manifest it in the totality of its meaning.
I was to leave the night after office. But i didn’t. I still had doubts. Should I do it? Can someone come along. No, it didn’t happen. Next day morning I sat on my bed for quiet some time, I was stepping into something. I knew I was giving powers in my own hand. If I do this, I was lose my fear of moving. I would break the feeling safe barrier. Loosing that, I knew it will be even more difficult to stop myself. Do I really want to take this step into the unknown. I knew It will be difficult for me to come back.
I did not have a plan, and I did not have a map. At the bus stand I figured out I will have to go to Rishikesh first. So I took the bus. Rishikesh is at the foothills of the Uttrakhand mountains. It will take me 6 hours to reach there. I do not remember much of that journey, I think I was sleeping. It was getting dark when I reached.
No bus would go to Joshimath at that hour. The road was mountainous, I had to wait for the night. I had only 4 days. I hated having to break at Rishikesh. Why did i not leave at night. I would have saved a day. I thought of time. I was a slave to time. I remembered man made time. I remembered I had only 96 hours of time. I checked my watch, I was done with 8 or 10 hours out of that. I hated my watch. I opened it and kept it in some corner of the bag. I decided, it didn’t matter if i reached the valley of flowers or not, I will not look at the watch again. I will go ahead till the mid of day three and then turn back home to reach by the end of day 4.
It was some hindu festival day and Rishikesh had a lot going on. I had food at a Dhaba and then I went to the ghat to see so many people gathered to celebrate. I liked it there. I walked around for a bit, I saw the ramlila. the color and vibrancy took my attention for some time. Then i walked to the bus stand to find out the first bus i could take to Joshimath. I took a small room for a big amount near the bus stand. It was very bad. I didn’t feel safe and then i remembered i had nothing to lose. I asked the spot boy to wake me up early, I wanted to take the first bus out. but before that I had gone to the river to take a dip. It was very very cold and very very refreshing. I left for Joshimath.
The bus was another heart breaker. I don’t remember where I got off. Somewhere on the way, I just felt like walking. I was feeling very suffocated in the overcrowded bus. And I walked. I got some amazing food this time at a local food stall in a village en route. I think it was about five kilometers before which i realized that was stupid of me, I would reach nowhere. So I took another bus. I think I got off this one in less than 30 minutes. Why was I so restless? I should have carried my music.
I would have walked another five kilometers. I was starting to think i would not make it. The traffic was getting sparse. I was looking for a lift from any vehicle that came my way. Finally a Sumo stopped. It has all male passengers with 3 of them being quiet old and sitting in the middle seat. I got a seat at the back. I learned They were headed to Govindghat
too. Govindghat was 20 kms off the highway after taking the diversion from Joshimath. The valley of flowers was 15 kms trek from there. They looked liked they were on a religious journey and I couldn’t hold my curiosity I learned there is some place called Hemkund Sahib, which was a religious place for the Sikhs. I made a note to visit that. I would love to see a frozen lake on top of a mountain. They said it was serene out there.
We stopped on the way, I lit a cigarette and i realized it wasn’t fair to smoke when with religious Sikhs. I had to follow the rule. They were very good to me. The older guy told me I could smoke and it was ok. I took my cutting chai and took a small walk. We didn’t need to stop at Joshimath any more. I was glad I made up for the loss of time. we headed straight to Govindghat. ah! I should have realized from the name it was an important place for the sikhs.
As usual we followed the river upstream to reach Govindghat. The thing about the mountains in the Uttrakhand is that they are more stern but more fragile. They stand straight up, right on your face, they don’t slope. but they are made of loosely held rocks which slide, and they slide very often. Driving up, the driver was speeding, it was getting late. Suddenly he braked, not too harsh but enough to draw everyone’s attention to the road ahead. Half the road was missing. It had gone down with the land that slid below it. huh, that was dangerous. We saw a car down below which probably slid with the land and wasn’t as lucky as us. We moved ahead.
Govindghat was a small religious town. It had a gurudwara at one end, followed by a market and a few hotels and restaurants at the other end. It was cold and it was nice to walk along the small town. I learned the place was open only 3 months a year, rest it would be under snow. I noticed most of the buildings were make shift. The people I traveled with seem to come to this place quiet often. They invited me to stay at the gurudwara, as it would be free for me along with the food. I let it pass. I didn’t want rules. They got me a hotel and got it at a discounted price, that was nice of them. They knew the hotel owner and they told him to take care of me. eh? Ok, that was nice of them.
I had just got a nescafe coffee when I saw a group of Germans driving in. We talked over coffee. All of us were to climb to the valley of flowers tomorrow. They had more time though, I had to come back tomorrow. I sat on the terrace for a very long time, I was looking at the stars. I remembered a lot of things from my life. I remembered a lot of people. I was lost for a very long time.
And then I went to sleep.