So I went on a trekking trip to Triund (McLeodganj) with a bunch of friends and friends of friends this weekend. I’ve been on more than a hundred such amazing trips that were only planned (I guess we all have), and so I was pretty sure that this was also not going to happen. But it did. It did and it has changed my life.
It officially started on Thursday 10:00 PM from Mayur Vihar, when our driver turned the meter down and said: “Reading note kar lo paaji!” Our stay, food, travel and every other big and small thing was already arranged. The road journey started amidst the dense traffic and intense pollution of Delhi, picking up people from different places and making its way to a picturesque bouquet of hills and trees. We were 15 people and few of us were absolutely new to everyone. The journey was, hence, mostly spent in formally-casual introductions and ‘getting to know each other’ kinds of conversations supported by some music and beer.
Busy streets of Delhi had already taken away our few hours and we reached the beginning spot of the trek pretty late. Our guide advised us to hire a cab for half the distance as it would get dark before we reached the top. He said we cannot make it. Now the 15 hour bus journey had left our spine desperately hunting for a bed, and the 10 km long hill already looked like ‘Whoa! I didn’t sign up for this.’ Given the situation, hiring a cab would probably have been the right choice. But how could the guide say ‘you can’t?’ – Delhi se hu BC. We hitched our backpacks and started walking through the steep hilly streets. 15 people were divided into 5 different groups. Every bite of pizza and every can of beer we’ve ever had in our lives suddenly appeared on the flash-back screen of our conscience and started deriding us. Every ounce of fat seemed to ask: “What happened to your ‘Eat Sleep and Conquer’ philosophy?” And just when we thought it ended, our guide said, “Well done people, we’ve already covered 10 percent of trek. Now buck up as we’re going to climb the rocks.”
After dragging our bodies and baggage for 5 hours continuously, we made it to the top of the hill. It was calm and beautiful. The tranquil gaze of the cities from miles above the ground was so stimulating. A thousand tents standing on this large green space on earth, people sitting on the rocks, gazing at the beauty, it looked like a different world where we didn’t have to worry about getting home late, or send a location update to our spouses, or receiving mails from office for the next day’s work plan. The evening was sheer bliss. A bonfire, the strumming of a guitar and people singing Ye haseen waadiyaan ye Khula aasmaa, cool winds echoing the melody, and some Old Monk pretty much encapsulate the story of the evening. People from other camps joined in, some of whom were musicians themselves, sang along.
The next morning we had to climb down, which seemed completely devoid of challenge. We took less than three hours to come down, sit at a tea shop and eat some snacks. And when we got up again, we felt like we were standing on our feet for the first time. That’s when we realized that climbing the hill down was actually tougher. A little sight-seeing and shopping pretty much summed up the remainder of the day.
Our trekking was done, and another evening ended. And you’re absolutely right to ask “What’s so life changing about that?” It was the last night that changed my perception of human bonding and emotions. So, we were all sitting for a last get-together in this hotel room we booked for our stay. No one had the energy to talk anymore. Some brave souls still took charge, made some drinks and started playing the guitar. The energy was recreated and people started participating. Something crossed my mind and I asked one of us to tell us ten things that we didn’t know about him. I was expecting people to boo the question and tell me that this was childish, or that we weren’t college kids anymore. But no one did, and with a little hesitation, he said those ten things about himself that nobody knew. And then everyone else came up with some untouched and unspoken truths about their lives. Behind those common man masks, I met a serious porn addict and his battle with his addiction, a girl whose ex-husband mentally tortured her to extort money from her family (dowry) and that she was still fighting a court-case against him, a girl who fell in love with a guy of another religion and then saw the dirty side of life and how those old and buried-under-the-ground Hindu-Muslim differences still have a hold on even the most educated parts of our Indian society, a guy who is fighting a battle with cancer since more than a year and not even his parents have a clue about this, a guy who cannot live his life the way he wants to as he’s got to take care of his father who is a psychiatric patient, a man who fought the entire society to marry a girl from another religion and some unseen shades of his fight, and a girl who probably had so much darkness to talk about that she chose to stay silent.
Going through a huge personal and professional crisis myself, I was about to drop out of the trip because I thought these people may never understand my situation as they have never seen the dirty sides of life. Somewhere I used to see myself above them. But as it turned out, they all became role models for me. These 15 common people, whom you’ll always find rushing through the rat race of life, tearing the stream of traffic to reach their office on time, stretching themselves beyond human limits to keep their loved ones happy, they were all somewhere the main character of a significantly conspicuous story.
The night restored my faith in human bonding. I saw people opening up and breaking down, I saw a rivulet of tears on some strong cheeks, everyone’s eyes were moist and throats were heavy. I was in a room with some friends like I’ve never been before. That night never ended for me. I witnessed life. The next morning I felt a little more connected to everyone, the next morning I felt light, rejuvenated, rehabilitated and I rediscovered some of my lost values for life.
Here is a musical montage of an awesome weekend I spent with some awesome people.