“Deoria Taal: The longest wait for dawn”

image credits: http://www.devilonwheels.com

DEORIA TAAL: THE LONGEST WAIT FOR DAWN

Months ago, I was working for a corporate, where my daily routine comprised of getting up, getting ready, heading out of my Gurgaon apartment, taking the shuttle, reaching office, starting work, chai break, working more, lunch, working till 7 pm, signing out, catching the shuttle back, going back to the apartment, changing clothes, taking out the laptop, watching episodes, dinner, sleep and… REPEAT! I was a robot, miserable, anxious, depressed even! Is getting a job easy? No. However, is getting a job the best thing that ever happened to you? “No, never…huh…not” (Our english teacher from the movie Phas Gaye Re Obama would confess 😛 ). Back then, things weren’t looking too good. Never really understood where all the money disappeared as I am not a shopping/partying kind of a person. Love life was bleak too as my relationship had taken a downward slope with my girlfriend(pronounced “Ex-girlfriend” 😦 ) and the robotic corporate job was definitely not a pleasant experience. Now, the mind has a defense mechanism of sorts. It knows something is not right. In my case, a lot of things weren’t going right. Something was going to happen and I had my spider sense tingling :P. Have you ever wanted to just get up one day and walk out the door and not even care where you’re headed to ? That is exactly what I did!

The time was 5 am on a Wednesday, I was woken up by a noisy cat outside the apartment balcony. In the brief moments between coming back to consciousness and completely opening my eyes, a strong thought crossed my mind – “Today I am not going to the office!” I got up from bed and rushed towards my cupboard, emptied my office bag and filled it with winter clothes. I put on a pair of jeans, some sweater, a thick jacket, shoes and walked out of my apartment without a second thought. Jumped on to the metro and off I went. Reached Kashmere Gate ISBT, took the first bus that I saw, which btw read – Rishikesh ! I sat down, avoided any and every thought of going back, besides it wasn’t much of an effort as I didn’t care, not one bit! I started the journey from Delhi.

RISHIKESH 21st January 2015

I reached Rishikesh at 12 pm. Such a pleasant place to be! Away from the city traffic, pollution and the office! I took an auto to the Kailash Gate Garhwal Mandal hotel and booked a room there. I wanted to go to the Ganga shore in the evening. Across the Laxman Jhula and on the right, there is a good restaurant. The thali costs 120 rupees and the food is lovely! The view of the river from the top floor is amazing! After having lunch I walked to the shore and spent a good amount of time before returning to my room.

SARI VILLAGE 22nd January 2015

The next morning I woke up at 5:30 am to catch a bus to Rudraprayag (The manager at GMVN had informed me about the bus). I called up a friend, Ashish who is from Uttarakhand and asked him about the places I could go to. He gave me a few options out of which I figured out I could head on towards Ukhimath, where apparently his contact would pick me up to go to Saari village. So, I boarded the bus to Rudraprayag. I had never gone beyond Rishikesh ever in my life! And now I was on this strange bus to a strange place that I had never been to! Adventure it was! The bus was full of school kids who were district level boxing champions and they set a great cheerful mood throughout the journey. I am an introvert and I don’t interact much, but even I got involved in conversations with the lot.

By 12 pm, I reached Rudraprayag. Not sure which bus to take from here, I started walking around the bus stand. The bus conductor from the previous bus called me and made me take the bus to Ukhimath. I didn’t even bother looking elsewhere, I just took it. The bus took another three hours to Ukhimath. Now, Ukhimath is this tiny town where not many people come in during this time. A few SUVs were all it. No buses. My phone ran out of charge and I got a little anxious about my friend’s contact not being able to reach me. The shopkeeper by the bus stand helped me out, made me sit down and literally asked me to chill, while the phone was being charged. Now there is a way everything works on the mountains. You won’t get stuff done super fast like the cities, however you will get the stuff done for sure unlike the cities! Somebody always knows somebody whom you need! So, the shopkeeper called out to a guy sitting by the SUVs and asked him to take me with him when he leaves. A very funny thing I saw was the guy called me to book my seat. The window seat at the front was his apparently and the seat on the second row by the window was taken by a lady. I had a middle seat available. I kept my stuff there and went on with chai-snacks. After some time, the cab started. Everybody boarded. There were a few women, children and guys from the village.

DEORIA TAAL evening 22nd January 2015

Saari village is one and a half hours from Ukhimath. We reached there by 5pm if I remember correctly. I got off and the guy who came along the ride was a guide too. His name was Raju Bhat. If any of you ever go there, do ask him to guide you. He is a great person! He asked me where I wanted to go to. I told him I wanted to get to Deoria Taal. Coincidentally, we were sitting at the shop which is right in front of the entrance to the trek path leading up to the lake. I had some chai-maggi and started the trek with him. It took another one and a half hours to reach the top. We kept our bags at his shop, while he started preparing for the night, I went on a little stroll. It was already a little dark and probably by the last light ray I reached this majestic lake. I wasn’t able to see much as fog started setting in. I thought I could walk around the lake as I could see the path leading around it. But here is the catch. Apart from Raju Bhat and myself, there was not a single soul up there on that day! Here I am, after having walked out of my Gurgaon apartment frustrated with the daily routine, crossed Rishikesh for the first time and directly reached this unknown place where I couldn’t spot a single humanly appearing being. This thought gave me goosebumps! I started walking around the path and halfway to the other side I took a turn around a big tree and all I could see was fog! I was able to see the lake faintly but not the path. It was pitch black in seconds. My dear friend Ashish has this funny way of telling things. Before I started for Sari village, he had warned me about bears around the lake area. Every twig breaking sound made my heart pound louder! This moment right here, is called FEAR! Somehow, I retraced my steps and reached a familiar point. The fog cleared a bit along the return path and I could see the way back again! I walked back and then I heard Raju Bhat calling out to check if I was alright. He flashed his torchlight in my direction and I followed it back to his shop. He made me some food and poured me some rum. I didn’t think much and gulped it down as it was getting colder by the minute. Five chapathis, some rice and three glasses of rum later I was full. So, Raju Bhat had this small Aluminium cabin arrangement a little ways up from his shop. He asked me to follow him and gave me a solar lamp. Since it was dark, I couldn’t really see where we were headed towards but it felt like a good hundred meters. We were in the middle of a thick tree cover. The fog was already there quite annoyingly. In this spooky no man’s land stood a small cabin. He opened it up and gave a museum tour of sorts. Three cots placed alongside, the third having a big heap of sleeping bags covered up in their satchels sitting at one corner. I was given a sleeping bag and the lamp. Raju Bhat left shutting the door on his way, which btw had no latch! The door had no latch! Combining it to Ashish’s little bear story, I was already pale! I placed my shoes to stop the door from swinging open(like that could stop a bear!), climbed inside my sleeping bag, put the lamp right beside me and closed my eyes! It was 8 pm.

THE LONGEST WAIT FOR DAWN

I was woken up by a crackling sound coming from the right side corner where the sleeping bed satchels were stacked. When I looked towards the right, I saw a black cat sitting on the top of the stack staring at me. It was the same cat from Gurgaon! (Readers, at this point I would like to tell you, I am getting goosebumps as I am recalling and writing it out). It is nothing short of insanely scary when you wake up at a strange place and you see two eyes staring at you! It takes a while for the mind to register though, it couldn’t have been the cat! Something was not right! I opened my eyes(This is going to get a little confusing). It was a friggin’ dream! There was obviously no cat but that wasn’t the scary part, it was the fact that I knew I had opened my eyes previously. Goosebumps! More goosebumps! My hands went cold! Dead cold! I somehow tried to sleep again. I made sure I closed my eyes and not think of anything scary. Trees rustling with the wind and bashing onto the metal cabin made the experience horrifying! Every little sound made my heart pound! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR! I somehow slept again. Now, a spotlight of sorts hit my eyes and as I opened to see, my legs were raised in air, and slowly my whole body was pulled upwards! A loud shrieking sound was the source of the light and what caused my body to rise up! The brain gave a shockwave of a signal and I was jolted back to consciousness, I woke up from another nightmare! This time it was alien abduction! Yes, it sounds just as bit as stupid. I would like to credit Ashish once again for this nightmare. He told me this little story about his grandfather’s village in Kumaon where he saw some hovering lights over the mountain in front of the village. His grandfather told him it was very common and legend has it that the spirits of dead young children walked during the nights. This particular story was embedded in my subconscious and it manifested itself in the form of an alien abduction nightmare! Nevertheless, I was SUPER FREAKED OUT! I was panting like a wild dog! I started praying hard for the night to be over soon! My phone was switched off, couldn’t have called her, my only solace at that time. I don’t know how I found the courage in me to lay still and try to get sleep. When you’re spooked out, everything starts messing with your head. I mean, everything. It happened again! Another nightmare! This time a skeleton came out of the stack of sleeping bags and attacked me! WTF! Next, the door was busted open and a black bear came in! Forget about animals, my brain said, what if the guide himself came in and killed me in an attempt to rob me of whatever money I had! Faith in humanity was also decreasing because of the fear the mind created. On and on! Nightmares galore! It was a long night! After a really long while, i woke up and as soon as I did, I felt relieved to some extent that it was dawn. However, as I checked my watch, I went right back into my anxious state. It was just 12am. Only four hours had passed! From a robotic life to a highly dramatic one! What a sudden change! After having probably twenty such heavy nightmares, I woke up at 5:55 am, checked my watch. I immediately got up without a second’s delay and put on my shoes and opened the door, just to see it was all dark! No light! No sunrise! A fast approaching animal jumped onto me and made me fall back onto the ground..and I woke up for real this time!!! Goddamit! Another nightmare! But this time, it was real! I really checked my watch and it was exactly 5:55am! I got up wore my shoes, waited for 15 minutes and then opened the door! Alas!! Finally, DAWN! I felt like a little kid who got a new flavor of candy bar! Extremely happy! I rushed downhill guessing the path leading to Raju Bhat’s shop. I saw him and literally ran towards him! He greeted me and made me some tea! I felt bad for not trusting him during my nightmare session.

He asked me to go visit the lake once. I walked towards the lake and in the distance I saw an amazing view. A view I’ll never forget! Chaukhamba peaks with all its magnificence glowing with the first rays of sunlight! The next sight totally stumped me! The reflection of the Chaukhamba peaks on the surface of Deoria Taal! I went near it and sat down. The night I had endured, the longest wait for dawn was totally worth it! I sat there for a whole hour gazing at nature’s best! Not a single soul around. Just me and the lake and the reflection and the white majestic mountains! There was no thought. No gurgaon. No job. None of it. Just this. I was living in the moment!

i took the same way back, bid adieu to Raju Bhat from Saari village, down from Ukhimath to Rudraprayag to Rishikesh to Gurgaon apartment. But when I went back, I had something to remember and keep in my head during difficult times. Often, we don’t understand our very basic intuitions. There is always some indicator, a spider sense, that warns us from within either about an upcoming danger or worsening present situation that we need to get out from. It is when you’re stripped of everything that you have and left out alone in the dark in the woods, you get to know the real self. My mind was full of fear. This was what my inner sense was telling me, that I was afraid and all my decisions were based on it. I was working in the company because I was too afraid to quit and do something that I liked doing and pursue something worth pursuing. My relationship was again driven by fear, which made me have insecurities about her leaving soon, my behavior changed and I acted against my normal nature. The sense was right. I had this fear. But the sense also told me I had something else too. COURAGE. The courage to stay there during the night and face the nightmares. I could’ve gotten up and dashed through to Raju Bhat, but I decided against it. Later on I quit on my job too to pursue things of my interest. Music, travel and energy research! And when things went bad relationship wise and she left, it was the same courage that got me to get up from rock bottom and move on with my life!

I owe a great deal to this solo trip! It made me see things in a new light, I learned a lot about myself. My dear friend Ashish tells me:“The mountains can do that to you. There is a way everything works on the mountains…”

To Deoria Taal, Raju Bhat, Ashish, the corporate job, the Gurgaon apartment and her…

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