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for all my life. It all started with a strange midmorning itch. One Tuesday morning, as I was sitting down with the papers and deciding when to go to the university and what all books to photocopy, suddenly it all felt like drudgery to me. My nostrils suddenly filled with the diesl-y smell of the highway night air and for an instant I was reminded of the sudden Mcleodgunj trip I had gone for last year. That time..In the morning, I did not know that I would be taking the night bus to the hills. Something told me that that might happen all over again. I went about my chores,...Photostatting and completing some long overdue bank work that is,...but somehow couldn’t stop myself from texting Apoorv, who was already out on the hills; mostly expressing my anger for having to seethe on the plains. I knew Apoorv was going to the hills with a friend and with a tent...because I had met him just the other day. On hearing that Apoorv was renting out rucksacks and tents and stuff for the trip....his mother had said “what a charmed life you people have ..I wish I could get back there”. I couldn’t get this line out of my head. I always wanted to live in a tent. I had gone along with him to rent the tent....at that time I didn’t know I’d be under it too. Sometimes, expression is all a thought needs. I am going was decided and arrangements followed. In twenty four hours, I was filling my nostrils with the diesel-y highway night air. Could hardly sleep a wink on the bus and when the hard-earned morning did not bring hills, unlike what it had done before, I was quite frustrated. The hills came when the sun was glaring down, reflecting off the yellowish gravel on the distant hills. Haldwani was a town with scores of shops frying yellow jalebis! Nainital was finally reached. It’s a place where people do nothing but look at the lake. They are extremely bad at guiding clueless trekkers, but all they do is sit around, breezing themselves and look at clichéd swan-shaped boats floating leisurely under the weight of camera yielding tourist families. Although the ones with sails were kind of pretty. Finding a vehicle to Pangot seemed quite an “up hill” task, as one had to wait in a long queue for a rickshaw and that too to be translated through a distance which would take no more than twenty minutes if one chose to walk. Suddenly a “God-sent” car appeared out of nowhere and offered to take me to my destination at the cost of ten bucks (I had to travel from Tallital (the lower lake) to Mallital (don’t know what that means) in Nainital). I simply hurled my bags in and said “bhaiyya chalea”. At Mallital ...finding conveyance to Pangot, took me everywhere, beginning from the taxi stand, to this very high market called the anda bazaar. After a lot of asking around, a guy, some guy, again “God-sent”, agreed to take me to Pangot on his “piick up” for a cheating five hundred bucks. At least a better price than the lecherous tourist cab drivers who wanted seven hundred. I asked a policeman at the taxi stand, if my “God-sent” guy was ok. He shook his head, a reassuring pink smile lighting up his “pahaadi” face. The journey up sundry steep mountain roads in the pickup was bumpy and fraught with tension, despite the breath taking scenes rolling past my window, in the accompaniment of some of the most romantic bollywood ballads blaring off the radio..as the impatient driver kept changing the channels. My phone had no signal, hence there was no way of contacting my friends who were supposed to be waiting for me at a shop called Budhlakoti in Pangot,...as Apoorv had messaged me from someone’s
strange very dark frogs that never come out from the darkness in the cracks of rocks. Both my friends had these lean bamboo sticks which were a great help in climbing... we stopped for birdcalls.. and many strange creatures (err.not to scale. we set off on a trail that Apoorv had drawn on a sheet of paper. I reached this small general store.. Apoorv made me one out of a fallen branch. mostly by load laden ponies. The trail lay hidden under birches and oaks which thinned out in the steeper and higher parts to reveal steep slopes on the opposite hill.phone earlier. Feeling like a great witch in company of another witch and a wizard.some imaginary!). The sky was blueblack with coming rain and cold winds had started lifting our hair.mistaking their communications to be rushing waters. and we stopped for the Cornish blue and gold lizard. who was also the caretaker of the property they were staying at. sheltered by thick forests.but was beautifully crooked and reminded me of nothing other than Grand Alf ‘s staff. We went down it in a single file.. we finally reached the prettiest cottage I have ever seen.. After almost half an hour of palpitating and stomach churning hairpin bends and a crisp five hundred rupee note. It was a craggy trail.. which might as well have been a magical being! And I stopped for the whistling oaks. the path went up very steeply. A huge mountain of clouds seemed to be descending from the other hill. The pools were full of red dried leaves that contrasted the colourful stones on the bed.. When I got through.. I found my friends in front of the store. me bringing up the back.. After a meal of maggi and tea and nothing else. I kept trying to call the owner of the phone. It was not lean. I pleaded with him to go and find Apoorv and ask him not to leave for the trek without me.much to my relief and I tumbled out of the pickup rucksack and all. all set amidst a small orchard of . slipping and sliding over the smooth slate-like rocks. used..we climbed back to the trail and up it. The other worry was.. flanked by wooden-windowed houses.. but the trail was very steep. From the brook.and I could see the worst was coming (bad moon rising?).. The path went up for a while and then steeply down to a dried up brook with a bridge over it. as my converse couldn’t find enough grip.. though the caretaker kept insisting that he was about three kilometres away from where Apoorv was. After a few “inspiring” football coach like lectures (according to which I must push myself despite cramped muscles and the risk of rolling down the slope due to collapse of such muscles) and actual hauling by Apoorv... The brook had little pools of water in it which were full of tadpoles.the floor had huge mossy half rotten trunks which had given birth to these whole ecosystems. called Budhlakoti...comprising mushrooms. interspersed with primroses. My strength was really running out now and my stomach churning. We stopped for the ferns. The red heather around the green shingled and slate roofed cottage.. to colourful insects (snakes?) and what not.then does the breaking of a few symmetries lead to evolution? Noetherian biology this is) .missing nothing but a cloak.... it seemed. hiding the sun in some parts and throwing some parts of the whole range into brilliant baffling sunlit green! We were not far now. surrounded by three resorts and a small road leading off to a small village market. Soon we were in the orange kingdom of pines! Sliding I went over the pine needles..making an epic journey of great learning through a magical forest. We left our stuff on the trail and scrambled down a steep crag to appreciate the ferns with their suckers and their incredible fractal like symmetry (thought1: if ferns are very ancient and have not evolved much..... we stopped for the mushrooms.. I knew I was falling ill and my stomach was giving way. we stopped for the incredible butterflies and grasshoppers that always carried the sun on their wings..
We soon decided to leave the long abandoned property before the rain hit us. No matter what we did. Climbing the steep hill to it with the storm coming was difficult.e.. Soon it was time for dinner and we left for their village. and I had to stay in the tent as a heavy squall passed. A long ceremonious rolling of joints followed. Debates. All these conversations were mediated by Apoorv. rain had almost stopped. We all sat pegging in the tent and then made the site for fire. the fire wouldn’t come on. Soon the wind grew chilly and the sky dark and the need of a fire increased. The two men served us dinner at their house which was accompanied by the whisky. and then keep it inside the barn of the cottage to protect it from the rain. Peace had returned to the hill side after the squall. Then we lay on the grass on our mats watching the brilliant four o’ clock sun competing with deep blue clouds.. When we reached the tent half sodden. they can climb the entire trail we had climbed all morning. closing it in with stones. I sat out. the chilly wind blowing past in the dark.. books .apricots reminded me of many such cottages that I dreamt of living in when I used to read (devoured) Enid Blyton books. We took along the whisky we had brought from the plains. These men helped us light the fire. After the rain. And about visits from leopards and bears. Outside the door lay a few clothes. and that too in the dark. Soon we were visited by two men from the nearby village of Churaini which we had visited for glasses of milky hot tea. Apoorv apparently had been here earlier. The door gave way easily. promised us dinner and got into long conversations about playing cricket with cloth balls.. When the men got steadily drunk. Conversations revolved around how much people drink in the hills and how even after five bottles. a school kid’s grey water bottle.. earlier in the afternoon. I had to collect the firewood..papers all lay in a huge pile on the floor.over the shrill bird calls and whistling winds. we decided it was time to leave. I felt like an ancient Neanderthal woman setting up her home. his prediction of the house having been left suddenly. but the rain won. I got an instant hit. Lot of work was at hand.scattering crossection. only the wind whistling in the trees. before the scarlet dying embers. for want of a raincoat. chairs lying mauled. that explained their absence. about going to Pangot everyday on their ponies to sell their produce. A huge fleecy white elephantine cloud glided towards us and threatened to engulf us. We headed to the apricot tree at the end of the garden and all of us climbed it. but none of us entered. a straw mat and these pine brushes that could be used as brooms. after having chopped them all into equal pieces with nothing but my hands and craggy rocks lying around. came true when we looked inside to find family albums lying around half torn.. I did all this.jumped in many directions. there was another cottage above it. we decided to go for a walk back to the abandoned cottage seen earlier. found a rusty wood oven. with the dull sound of silence ringing in my ears. Apoorv had planned the camp site and started on pitching the tent. a month ago and its youth celebrated and partied.. like the house had been ransacked. By the time I reached. Back at the camp site. Thunder growled and purple lightning flashed alternatively over the two peaks visible before us. swinging around from the branches. towards their extended hospitality.. debating whether it would pour. we started a fire again. We had almost started planning our camping site when we realised that it was not the property we were to camp on.. about cultures. pressed down to the ground by weather and time. This was no sight for their women and children. We were to camp there. including the sense of identity and probability and finally . about how life in these high altitude villages had been interrupted the day India won the world cup. I and Apoorv sat in .we smoked bidis. about their interest in our lives. After an incident which involved me drinking some of the camp fire diesel by mistake instead of water and then vomiting it out._e.well. Kena had gone to sleep indoors.
Why are humans the only species bothering to understand nature? Why doesn’t someone come and help. It gave the forests that eerie air. I was already shivering from the cold. Both lost in their own thoughts. The fear of the unknown. you move around like a baby.dripping from the pines. Each grown tree is an ecosystem in itself.. and partly out of cold. Concentration and planning every step was the only way ahead. The whole variety of insects is uncountable... Day to day events were too trivial for them. I felt strangely delirious from the effort. and after wasting some time chatting. it is a strange turn of fate that protects you.. connected to nature and under the dominion and fierce care of nature... then why and at what point did man move out of old nature’s home? Has man gone the wrong trajectory or the right one? Will man ever really understand all of nature’s mysteries? Or will nature never allow man near a few of them? How efficient are our tools of physics and mathematics or...where people die sudden deaths and have unfinished dreams. Apoorv had gone off for a walk in the rain. That’s life. The climb downhill over pine needles was difficult.that we have written theories to understand the few basic things about nature and how it works. The pine forests soon ceaselessly transited into rhododendrons.) The chill grew and we retired inside the tent after hiding away our food.. You act on instincts ...we have all gone the wrong way. (thought3: amidst nature. amidst nature. The mist was everywhere.. We found a majestic set of rocks overlooking the hillside. After a failed attempt to get the fire going again.. away from bears. at all times. These Himalayan forests have a variety of host –parasite examples. it fell in torrents over our tent and threatened to collapse it...meditating upon themselves. Colourful things which.. and turquoise. Altogether the situation became such that I was violently shaking.the fear of the known. Apoorv then started this whole tale about Himalayan barking deer who can rip apart camp sites as they go mad during rains. The climb was extremely steep. half out of panic. (Thoughts2: if man was supposed to live this way. Scary it was.silence. who doesn’t know nor care about where the staircase starts.. in understanding the more complicated of nature’s mysteries? What if we woke up one morning and discovered that.. maroon. green. I decided to ask for help from my friends.. The shrill birdcalls sounded faint and distant in my ears.the bad omen.. The rain came back and brought high winds with it. but the higher knowledge cannot be attained by these. In the morning we were greeted with tea by the villagers... After the third fall.. There are infinite lists of “what if” situations..something reminded me of the grim..or you don’t..which they come back for. Also. filling our eyes and nose.And jealousies. Huge moss covered trunks stood silent . mushrooms blooming in all impossible colours.. I kept sliding off and falling heavily on my butt. I feel very uncomfortable not being connected to everyone in the group. you cannot move too carefully. you would think would come and sit on you and thereby bejewel you.. so that when you try to grab them. The leaves and pine needles covering the hill side were wet and extremely difficult to climb. we set out for a walk further up the hill.. on the hills.. That sobered up my scary friends.. Our meaningless banter soon gave way to very scary stories of the hills. awestruck by the magnanimity of very ordinary events..and revenges ..science in general. there is no time for deliberation. they cut you up.life without a cell phone can be a bit unnerving at times..disclosing before us. which can be red.. ) . The thorniest bushes have the prettiest flowers and these grow on the steepest slope. ancient looking parasitic creepers... There are mosses and lichens on the trunk.
For the first time. He never tires.but are actually the easier road. Once I got the Schrodinger equation wrong. It was breathtaking.. These Bengali fathers kept wondering aloud how I was carrying such a heavy bag. We sat in a shady alley and drank two bottles of locally made beer.. the path only went up. We had no time to waste. Ahead he walks eyes open for every curious being that might show up. Ever since the brook. It was the most brilliant way to travel in the hills. The scent of the pines was everywhere when we left the pine . . I knew the other two were done when I heard them singing old bollywood songs. I am not a risk taker.After some effort on Apoorv’s part. We were surrounded by these innumerable tourist families. laughing at our own jokes. After dinner at a place where they chop onions the best. I wasn’t too conscious about being discovered. I could hear snatches of Bengali conversations. me standing up on it. The sun came out and made everything flash forth gold and emerald. Apoorv is..G sons. my rucksack was not weighing me down anymore. All the aches and pains and cramps from all the trekking were just background feelings. They were making their children call back home. The practise on the higher slopes. the sun suddenly jumping down on your face and hugging you. All I remember is that. despite being drunk. We walked down the streets as evening fell. listening to Kenas lazy jokes.asking customary questions about how their relatives were doing while they were away and what all they were seeing in “noinital”. Soon it was time for the climb down. after spending some time at a cafe. we packed ceremoniously and prepared to leave. The walk back to the bus stand was a riot of colours and chaos and I don’t really remember all of it. took longer. who threatened to go off and enjoy on their own. We left Pangot for Nainital in a pickup truck. we decided to have fun.the orange kingdom and came down to the brook.Trying hard to light a lone bidi... the vistas of rolling hills and forests and ribbon like streams. Their discussions involved hotel prices.were easier to look at. Back at the camp site. This time I got other stuff wrong. it was insanely difficult for me to find warm clothes from my bag for the journey. but could be beguiling. Trails chosen by him are apparently difficult and need some inspiration to get one going on them. At the bus stand. That was it. Down in Nainital. while this shady balding man came to ask us in hushed tones if we needed a hotel.. I learnt to climb down without fear. the cool air whipping through your hair.. made the lower ones very easy.. It began in an overpriced coffee shop where we spent a lot of time..and all sorts of things that I have had to patiently listen to all my childhood. The roads I took. prices of goods being sold. as we had to take the ten thirty bus back to Delhi. Apoorv is as surefooted as a mountain goat.. I could hardly hold it together. The type of physics I do when drunk is deplorable. I could almost walk without looking.. he replied back in an accent). The lake air played on my hot face as I marched on... The mist was forgotten. Mothers kept issuing threats to wayward upper k. The last thing I said in almost a whisper just before passing out was “particles are just field excitations”. I knew I was done when I saw Apoorv merging into the building behind him. after booking our bus.. talking and laughing. we headed out to find booze. We lazed in the sun. All their parents thought we were foreigners (so did a local when I bumped into him and said sorry.
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