So, having checked in at a hotel in Chopta by 12 noon leaving our luggage there and taking up to more than five hours to trek the three point something kilometres to reach Tungnath, feeling the bliss of reaching after the most tiresome walk I ever had, me and my two friends took time to enjoy the bliss and slowly moved forward to Chandrasila.
It was slowly getting darker, and three middle-aged guys were walking downwards, recommending us to postpone the trek towards the next day thanks to the rain that was gathering momentum. The beard guy among the three gave us an offer to stay at the Nomal hotel, the one among the few shops down the temple.
After a little discussion, we decided to stay, as he offered a night’s stay for just hundred bucks pay for all three together. We went to the shop, a small one made of mud and bricks, like the one you find in villages, and as per directed, settled in the dark room with a large bed and a single small bed on the side, with large blankets to fight the cold. After attending the evening aarti at the temple, where the pundit told us about Paanch Kedars, and went back to the staying place, where people sat under the small yellow light of a candle, making chappathis in the tiny kitchen-cum-shop outside.
Since there was no electricity, all that gave us light and heat in the room were two little candles they provided. I closed the small wooden window thereby trying to stop the cold from entering. One of my friends was feeling very uncomfortable and groaned mildly, perhaps due to the increasing cold. Even the blankets felt like dead frosty corpses.
After having food they provided, we tried to sleep. My other friend, Garo, just sat on the small bed on the corner, leaning his back on to the wall. I tried to sleep,but it was impossible. The uneasiness started entering me too slowly, along with the unbearable chilliness. In no moment, I was freezing, and putting the large blankets covering the body just made the situation worse.
The moments passed slowly. I was like in a half-awake half-asleep state, and negative thoughts started to infiltrate my brain. The good people who sat outside a while ago making food for us felt like bandits who planned on trapping us and imprison us forever. I missed my home suddenly, and felt like going back as soon as possible, escaping from this hell. I missed my room, my bed, the food –dosa, idli, chutney-, I missed all the rice food…I was dying to get out of there, but was unable to move an inch. The feeling was as real as being trapped in a horrible place, and being unable to escape.
I hadn’t ever had such a gush of negativity, all from within. And when the situation was worse, the worst happened:
A high bolt of thunderous sound, as if a mountain just blasted into pieces. The sound came just once, and it felt like something passed near us outside. I was done, completely. The volume of that thunder was so high and near, but it did not happen a second time.
“What was that man?”, asked Garo from the corner bed with wide-opened eyes and a dumbstruck face.
I closed my eyes shut and tried to sleep expecting an other one.
Sometimes small animals ran through our roof making sounds, frightening me. The time felt like standing still, and I drifted into an undesirable level of consciousness, a mild level of sleep-paralysis and slowly into near-good-sleep.
That was when the friend who was sleeping near me woke me up, shaking my body. He wanted to go out to take a pee and asked me to accompany him. I never felt so anger towards anyone for waking me up as much as I felt that day. The sleep had blessed me somehow finally and here he is, trying to get me up and walk me out. I wished I had a dagger to kill him right away. Then, Garo got up and accompanied him, while I mumbled to make them understand I didn’t want to go out.
In fact, I wanted to. I wanted to take a pee either, but my muscles weren’t moving. The time was only 2.30 am, and I wondered how longer it would feel like before the sun rises again. Some how, sleep blessed me again, in parts.
After the most horrible night of my life, Garo woke me up in the morning asking to start the trek to Chandrasila. I asked them to go and preferred staying on the bed. Some time passed, and he came again asking me to come out to have the fantastic view of the snowy mountains of the Himalayas. I hesitated at first, thinking he might be fooling me to get me out of the bed. But then he insisted more to have a look soon for the mist and fog may cover the view soon. I got up, and went outside.
There it was, long distance away, the mighty Himalayan mountains covered in snow. A view of reward after a terrible night.
I had always dreamed of this moment, watching the snow-covered mighty Himalayas, having a tea. And that was what I was doing right then.
But I felt bad, even though it was my first time. I had fantasized my first time to be of some higher level, and here I was, unhappy and gloomy perhaps due to the events of the previous night, and I was more miserable knowing that the first time is not going to happen again. It was like how we waited too much for our first kiss during our teenage times with all the hyped anticipations, and then it happens, and it goes not as well as you imagined, due to some incomprehensible reason.
Garo said that the night before when that thunder occurred he was shocked to hell, and couldn’t close his eyes for a long time. Whenever he did close his eyes, he felt like the wild Lord Shiva, with flying hair and beard and a trishul on his hand, the bull Nandi by his side, came outside the door of our room and started knocking hard. He was terrified by the scenario, and was deprived of sleep until very lately.
I drank the tea, and sat there on a rock with a blank face. No emotions, no liveliness and no energy to spare. Then one of the men from the hotel showed me a partially destroyed shop, a few metres nearby the room we had slept. He informed me that the shop was devastated by the “cloud-burst” that happened the previous night, the high thunderous sound of which had shocked us during sleep. He said that we had been lucky not to have struck by it, that we had been saved by Lord Shiva!
I felt nothing for a while, sipped some more tea from my tea-cup again, and kept staring at the white mountains away….feeling better for having escaped the death….living long enough to see the view ahead…. contented that a long-time dream came true finally….
I drank another sip, and the mist slowly veiled the mountains from my view…..