This has been long overdue – well… three to four weeks overdue, which is not too bad by my standards!
A wall of fog
The narrow road ahead is barely visible. Thick fog blankets the Mahindra XYLO from all sides. On the right side a sheer wall of rock looms up. Up ahead, coming from the other side is a Himachali bus lumbering on towards us, looking for all intents hell bent on brushing us aside while it descends to wherever it is headed. On the left, where I am seated, there is a wall of fog. But I know the wall is an illusion. It hides a bottom less ravine that has a few million deodar, pine and fir trees sticking out like javelins waiting to impale me. Surya (our designated driver – actually the only one with the skills and balls to drive there) was reversing the XYLO so that the damn bus could pass us without knocking us over. The tires crunch over the stones and rocks that form the edge of the road, and the world as far as I was concerned. My heart and stomach are not in their designated spots. They are in my mouth and that may be the only reason why I was not puking in sheer terror. As usual I found myself leaning to my right towards my friend Reva and her year-and-a-half old son Yugi – as though by leaning my shoulder in to the baby seat I could prevent our car from tumbling over. And I asked myself for the 100th time, “How did I get here!?”
Hair pin turns and bends
Close-up of hair pin turn – that was the edge of the world as far as I was concerned
I turned 40 this year. Gravity is suddenly having a greater impact on my body (and no I am not going into the details) and my emotions have swung between being a defiant-25-something and a why-bother-we-are-all-going-to-die fatalist 90-year-old. It is no fun. Just when the ‘young me’ whips myself up into a flurry of excitement about something (dinner, movie, whatever…) my 90-year-old-self crashes the party and down the drain I go. No fun this. Why am I telling you all this? So that you understand why the above mentioned trip was so important to me!
I have always looked upon the Himalayas with a combination of awe, smug pride (that I guess almost every other Indian feels) and love. I come from a place in Kerala called Malappuram – land of mountains… ok fine… land of hills. So I guess my affinity for the Himalayas is rather understandable. I have driven through Munnar and most of the Western Ghats in Kerala, been to Ooty and Kodai. Seasoned mountain person – that is what I considered myself to be.
And* then the Himalayan bug bit me. I wanted to visit the Himalayan foothills. Not being too ambitious here! I thought I will start small… the foothills and then one day I will try for Mansarovar and Kailash… as for Mount Everest… NEVER – I am a very sorted person. I know my limitations. I hounded my husband to agree to this idea and then conned and brow beat our good friends to accompany us because ‘uh they know the way’. Said friends had done the Himalayan foothill jaunts a couple of times and are seasoned adventurers. Anyway I managed to convince my friends that it was all their idea so that not only do we use one of their parent’s home in Chandigarh as our base but so that Surya (my friend’s hubby) does the driving. Oh I forgot to mention that! Me bad! The trip was all set to be a road trip – a week through the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh and then a few more days in Punjab.
Scenic roads from Jalori to Manali but no fun when you have to make way for oncoming traffic
Anyway something in me (hubby thinks it could have been a poorly digested dinner) told me that I am 40 and this is the first day of the rest of my fast dwindling life and I need to get down to doing the things that I have always wanted to do – paying homage to the Himalayas was one.
Sorry I am going to stop now. Will update in a day or two! 🙂
* I like to start sentences with ‘but’, ‘and’, and ‘because’… sue me!