I was in a dilemma whether or not to travel that weekend. I had choices in my head, and the mountains called me again. It was peak monsoon time and the threat of landslides as well as slippery trails warned me against taking a solo trip. I had been wanting to make an adventurous one and I decided to go ahead, anyway. I chose one of the most underrated and relatively lesser explored place – Chandrashila peak, Chopta – and added it to my travel wish-list.
Google Maps had failed me once again and the onward journey took me 6 hours longer than expected. The landslide that had occurred right then made me wait for an hour longer. I reached after the sun set in and decided to camp for the night. I woke up during the middle of the night to search for shooting stars. It looked like shadows were cast everywhere and nature looked like a work of art. It looked beautiful even though silhouettes hardly qualify as art.
The air in front of me fogged up as I exhaled. It was so cold that I could feel my skin stiffen and turn thick as ice. The stars hung above the churning surf. Motionless. But the sheets of cloud that fanned across the sky covered them soon, leaving no trail. The light filtered because none of the trees had unfurled the shade of leaves. The clock ticked, sleepy yet not asleep.
When I woke up next morning and got ready for the trek, I saw a young man, probably my age, walk past me. He was alone and it looked like he had never had such great company before. He, perhaps, didn’t know how to put his emotions into words. He kept walking, unaware of where the path was leading him to. I guess, he loved spending time with his friends but he wanted to spend time with himself, desperately.
I traced his footsteps and followed him stealthily behind. Faceless, voiceless, like a stalker in the dark. Half way down the trek, the clouds started pouring. I searched for shelter immediately and saved myself from getting soaked. But he didn’t. He flung his arms wide as they opened up like wings. He twirled around on his tipsy-toes, three steps to the left and then three steps to the right. His arms, his legs and even his face found their own beat, their own rhythm. He smiled as he danced to the rain and felt the music flow through his body – his music.
He let himself sink into it, forgetting the cold water that had penetrated his boots and clothes. He let his tongue out to taste the rain drops. It seemed like he found them delicious. I wanted to know what it felt like, moist lips on mine. I closed my eyes and remembered those tastes; the tastes that I hadn’t tasted in so long. I wasn’t sure if I would act like him ever, enjoying myself. Although, I dreamed of that possibility, a soft smile grew on my face that lasted longer than his.
My mind wove all of the reasons I should catch up to him. All of the reasons, I shouldn’t. Just as I reached a foot behind him, I decided not to, as I thought it would defeat my purpose of having taken a solo trip. In a couple of hours, I reached the peak and found him standing there on the edge. For the briefest moment, I thought he was in a painting. Losing himself to the swirls of colours, life and vivacity. I looked around, the clouds were right beside me, trying to send their thoughts to the ground through raindrops.
The risk seemed worth it, I had never seen the green meadows look any more beautiful and enchanting. The colour green seemed to have come out of hibernation and it looked majestic. The dark mystic clouds entwined the hilt of the peaks. I could see the thrill burn on his face. He seemed calm and composed, lost in the subtle beauty of the hills. I turned around after a while and started for my downward trail.
As I reached back to the base, I realized there was no return bus till next morning. I was hell-bent on getting back home as soon as possible. I boarded a truck for the overnight journey, down the hills, to make this trip all the more adventurous. There was something about him that made my thoughts draw towards him, the entire night. He seemed to have come alive. I felt alive, wanting to be him, for the rest of my life. He was not a different soul but that child in me. I knew I’d have good nights’ sleep for a while, now that I have something to wake up for, every morning.