Falling in love…. with the Himalayas

Old Manali

I was born in and what sometimes feels like, to the Himalayas. But even so, my first conscious sight of it came only 14 years later. In the year 1988, I was selected in a group of 5 cadets to be a part of NCC Contingent to participate in a trek from Patlikuhl, near Kullu to Rohtang pass.

On the designated day of arrival at Patlikuhl, we started at 5 in the morning from Chandigarh and reached our campsite rather late in the evening. The state transport bus had rattled-on, on bad roads for more than 10 hrs and it had taken us that long to reach Kullu. Another hour’s drive in jeep brought us our destination. Sun, by that time, had well and truly set. It was dark and we could not see a thing. We could, however, hear a soft song of flowing water on one side of the camp and the wild roar of it on the other. We had had a long day and were very tired and very cold. This was during end of June and even though today, at this time of year, temperatures in Patlikuhl area are quite pleasant, 27 years back, this was not so. Global warming hadn’t set in and it was still really cold. After a quick dinner (at some part of camp that we could barely find in the dark), we crashed inside our tents. The saving grace to that day was that being a very small group we were only 5 girls sharing a tent whereas all others had at least 10-12 noisy cadets in a tent so we were relatively comfortable. Added to this was the soothing sounds of flowing water around us, which seemed to hold a promise.

Next day, early in the morning, I came wide- awake to a shrill scream that seemed to come from just outside of my tent. Along with me, others also woke up and we all ran out to see what had happened. As we stepped out, we were immediately transfixed. Our own screams muffled. And no, it wasn’t fear. It was simply the most beautiful, most stunning sight of my life. I found myself standing on a partially sandy area between a lovely meandering stream and a raging Beas River. There were tall and stately Deodar trees all around us and as we raised our eyes, on the edge of brightest blue sky were snow- capped mountains with their ]ridges fringed with gold as sun-rays fell upon them. It was picture perfect. All 5 of us just stood there, mesmerised, frozen in time. It was precisely at that moment, I fell in love with the Himalayas. Since that day 29 years back, I have traveled to various parts of Indian, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Tibetan Himalayas. I have lived through more than a quarter of a century of trials and travails of life. Traveling in general and to the Himalayas in specific has always brought immense joy to me. Himalayas have tested me, made me stronger, brought me peace and have always welcomed and shown their love for me. This is one love of my life that has stood the test of time.

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