A Mukherjee World View


What Goes Up Must Come Down... Somehow

The fresh snow lent a completely different flavour to our return from Tapovan. We followed in Ustaadji's virgin footsteps across the snow and found ourselves sinking sometimes knee-deep, quite unexpectedly. For some, the snow was more difficult to tackle than the boulders. For me it was comparative bliss. We came to a sheer snow-clad descent down a steep hillside and I found my way down just by following Ustaadji's footsteps and never once reached for his hand. Others found their own ways, some coming sliding down on their backsides in much the same ignominious manner I had often used when confronted by boulders.

The descent down the rock and sand hillside, which followed the snow, took me far longer than I had expected, altogether four hours just to Gaumukh. On the way, as a grim reminder of the toll nature could take if she wished, we found a human skull. The back was crushed, the lower jaw missing. A pair of bones joined together, and another single bone (which looked as though it may have been a femur) lay nearby. Our guide said that sometimes sadhus or tourists who ventured forth alone were never heard of again. We were glad to be in a group and to have Ustaadji handy. The weather had remained gloomy all day and shortly after we crossed the Ganga and began the relatively easy walk back to Bhojbasa, it began to snow. For almost two hours we walked in falling snow, without food, till we reached Bhojbasa late that afternoon, dog tired, stiff, sore and starved.

And finally what was it all for? For the spectacular views? For finding out what one was physically and mentally capable of? For facing fear and danger? For being able to say: "I did it"?

From time to time, one had to wonder what, if anything made it worthwhile. Had I known what I was in for, I would never have come. But now it is almost over, as I sit here writing in Chirbasa. Warm, simple food and warm water nestle comfortably in my stomach; the tall pine trees shade out the brilliant sunshine; the pine needles are soft under my tired, sore feet, now stripped of socks and tough leather shoes. This shady cove has just a few temporary structures, and steep, winding paths leading in and out, up and down, to and from the cool green water. I have walked fast and reached here ahead of the rest of the group. Right now, there is no one else around.

Ahead is a simple 9 km walk down to Gangotri. Then a long and tiring journey back home. And still the questions linger: Why travel so far, face so much hardship? Just to see these majestic peaks? Is it really worth it?

I don't know.

But would I do it again?

Wouldn't I?

Wouldn't anyone?

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