A man and The mountain

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
A man and The mountain 
Last week I had applied for a 4 day trek to a nearby range of hills called Nagala. Little, did I know what I had in store for myself.
A group of about 20 people started from chennai early morning on thursday and reached the mountain in about 4 hours. 
Since we were supposed to stay for 4 days without food, I had packed way more than i needed(which I didn't know when we started). Everything was more(food, clothes, blankets,two colognes etc...)...

The path was paved till we reached a reservoir with a submerged temple. Slowly we enter the forest enveloping the mountains. The path is now filled with rocks(about the size of my head). 
We now reach a stream which had pure water from the mountains.We filled our bottles with the water and had a nice bath in a gentle stream and started moving forward. 
The path was somewhat uneven and we needed to take steps carefully. At around lunch time we reached a small cave, something which our ancestors may have used.

Everyone was sitting few feet below the cave and having their lunch. I slowly sneaked in the cave to feel how it might feel to be a stone age man having lunch with his family.

Husband- mein do hiran leke aaya hoon.
kharghosh kahan hai?
Husband-kaunsa kharghosh?
Wife- aapke laadle ka birthday hai, usko kharghosh pasand hai, har roz kuch na kuch bhool jaate hai. kiske saath shaadi karvaadi pitaji ne. Isse accha toh mukhya ka beta tha.
Husband- jyaada nakhre mat kar, tera baap kitna gidgidaya tha yeh toh main hi jaanta hoon. 
Wife- baaju waale pahad ki sunita ka pati, har hafte sher maarke laata hai, aur aapse ek kharghosh nahi pakda jaata?
Husband- thik hai thik hai, taane mat maar. mein jaata hoon kharghosh laane ... 

I finished my lunch after imagining various other scenarios and then we started walking again. The bag was too heavy and it was slowly taking its toll on me. 
We were constantly walking either uphill or downhill. Quite few were the places where the land was flat. I had to stop every 20 min to rest and catch my breath, it was getting quite irritating. At one point I even considered burning/throwing away all the stuff in my bag. I had assumed we would reach the peak by dusk, but it was quite far. So we camped in a place where a gentle stream was flowing by.
It was about 6 pm and while everyone was busy chatting, I went of to sleep. Woke up at dinner for a nice bowl of veg biryani and raita. Ate and slept again, only to wake early in the morning.
It was quite cold and everyone was sleeping tight. Went to a solitary large rock in the middle of a big patch of grass. 
Tried to meditate but could only do so for about 10 min, after which the fear of snakes broke my concentration. Then I grabbed myself a book on war strategies(Robert greene) and started reading.
For some reason, the book was making sense and could be correlated to the mental agony I had gone through last evening. 
I had started the journey assuming the mountain to be an enemy which I had to conquer, but some enemies cant be conquered. 
Sometimes surviving your enemies is also as good as conquering them. In the silent morning I could feel the mountain talking to me
Mountain:- Walk a warrior's way.
It was a wonderful half an hour, when I was reading the book and listening to the mountain, before everyone started to wake up. 
We had tea and breakfast. We left the bags at the base camp and left empty handed to the South peak of the hill range.
We crossed about 3-4 hill tops. Some hill tops were flat and easy to walk through, while some had steep uphill tops with large rocks. 
The route was scenic and soothing to the eyes but not soothing enough to heal your feet. After about 2-2.30 hrs we reached the south peak.
It was the highest in its neighbourhood. One could see distant lands with cultivation. Didn't notice anything flying. Sat down again to hear the mountain, but the constant chatter by the people around was unsettling. 
Everyone making a beeline for pics(as though the world gives a damn  Capture memories not pictures.
Mountain- Harmony must be earned. Let stillness guide thought.
I again sat down to feel and listen to the mountain. It would stay silent for a long time and abruptly fill in the void with words of wisdom. 
Content with the dialogue, we headed back to base. We had our lunch and set off for the next camp

On the way to the next base, I was lagging behind the first group, and was quite ahead of the second group which was following me.
Those 30 mins were quite wonderful. No one to distract, no unnecessary shit jokes, no awkward silence. Just me and the hillside. I stopped at one point where I could find a good view. 
Sat along a huge rock, would throw the pebbles down the hill and see how far they would reach.
Mountain:- There is peace here.
Satisfied with the lone time I left the place and joined the first group.
This camp was more beautiful. It had a water source which appeared out of the mountain just 10 m above the camp and again vanished in the mountains, few metres below the camp. 
We were served pepper poha after which some of us went to sleep. Some of us stayed awake and sat beside the campfire. Had a good conversation with few like-minded people. And then we went to sleep.

I have a habit of writing down whatever I remember of a dream as soon as I wake up. Following are the bits and pieces of what I remember of the dream I had that night. 
The dream was somewhat based on a mythological event when warrior "Karna" is dying on the battlefield and Krishna has a final dialogue with him before he gives him salvation(1964 tamil movie "sivaji" as karn and "NT Rama Rao" as Krishna).
Me lying injured in my bed with probably animal bite marks.
NT rama rao( krishna disguised as a beggar):-
It is time, Varun. You must return.
But I have so much more to achieve. Give me time.
All lives must end. You can finish your journey in the next birth.
Suddenly Krunk(a cartoon character which is based on hulk, strong as hulk but doesn't get angry and is cute and likes to eat) comes from my left.
krunk hungry, krunk sad.
wait a min, wtf is going on. This is a dream... eject eject...

Woke up and checked the watch. It was 3 am.
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Sat besides the stream and started humming hanuman chalisa(and every hymn i knew). It was 4 am and i was feeling hungry. 
When I am awake at 4 am, I usually take my bike and go for a cup of coffee and some vadas. 
I started missing the coffee and vadas, and idly and bhelpuri and bhindi masala. Missed my mom, missed my routine life, my computer games(dota), missed the girl I was having crush for 3 years but never talked to coz she is not in my department, etc.... 
​ ​
It was as though someone saying, "
You don't need trekking to experience adventure, your life is also an adventure". The troubled mind was now calm and composed.
Mountain- What did you learn?
Me- I learnt that we are the only species which will try to seek pleasure from danger/fear of the unknown. Animals are content with whatever food they have and whatever place is their home.

Went back to sleep and slept like a baby.
​ ​
Its dawn and slowly the hills are getting lightened up.
Nature called and I had to attend it.
​ ​
Found a perfect spot somewhere between two rocks and few bushes. My shorts were on my shoulders and I had earphones to listen to songs(I didn't wanna feel alone in the jungle).
Half way through the call, I realized I was wearing my
udraksh (which is not supposed to be worn when u get down to do your business). I immediately got up to remove my rudraksh, causing the pant to slip from my shoulders. 
I fumbled to catch my pants which got stuck in the thorns and mobile fell down at all the wrong places. I now had a very strong reason to buy a new mobile(if u know what i mean). 
Somehow managed to finish the business. I missed my restroom.
We had our breakfast scaled another peak(central peak) and left for a spot called "Picnic pool" and reached there after about 3 pm.
The picnic pool had a 10 feet waterfall with an adjoining pool. Everyone who knew to swim jumped in, but few like me sat besides and watched the fishes nibbling our feet. 
It would tickle a lot and after sometime you would get used to it and start enjoying it. I had brought few snacks for the fishes and sat to feed them. 
It reminded me of my childhood days when I was about 6-7 years old and my dad would take to a nearby lake(Kankaria lake, ahmedabad). He would buy me a pack of bhel(puffed rice), and then I would sit there feeding the fishes.

It soon started to get dark again and we lit the campfire. We had soup, bread upma and maggi. Everyone shared their experiences and then the lead organizer shared some of his stories/memories about the place. 
Some, went to sleep and some kept talking till late in the night. Even though the trekking that day was not hectic, I decided to give my body some rest and went to sleep early.
The final day had come and I woke up earlier than others. Went far away from the camp and sat there with my book to read few pages. No one to disturb, Just me, my book and the flowing water. Felt really good.
Slowly everyone started to wake up and get ready for the final day. We packed and left after having tea. The last day was all about following the river downstream till we reached the point where we had started on the first day. I got confident and wore slippers instead of my shoes. We kept walking along boulders and at one point I slipped and split my left toe , which bled profusely. I sat down and the organizer got it cleaned and covered with medicine.
Mountain:- Come and learn humility.

I put on my shoes back for the rest of the journey. At some places we would climb back the hill and watch the waterfall from a distance. Nerve wrecking and beautiful at the same time. At one place we had to form a human chain and cross the choke point(quite unsettling and terrifying for a non-trekker like me). We crossed the last major hurdle and kept walking along the river to reach the same point from where we had started on the first day. Its almost dusk and we leave the mountains. The path is now paved and easy to walk upon.
The mountain was not an enemy to be defeated or escape/survive from. It had now become the teacher.
I turned back and tried to listen to what the mountain had to say. It remained silent.
We kept walking another 1km to reach the parking lot. The mountains and their silhouettes were slowing vanishing in the darkness. 
A large swarm of fireflies(about 40-50) started twinkling and moved in a group, about 20 m away from us. They put on quite a good show.
I turned one last time towards the mountain and tried to listen if it had something to say.
Mountain:- You.... have learned well.

-- Varun



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