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John Muir wonderfully sums up my deepest feelings about the beautiful, mystic mountains, “The mountains are calling, and I must go!”
I am a dreamer and have always lived in my head. I never liked being in the cities and always wanted to escape. As a child, when I went to my Nani’s place for vacations at Khandoli in Giridih, there were many small peaks, and when all my cousins gathered and climbed them, I was always ahead of the pack. I had plenty of energy and climbed mango trees and then people’s terraces to steal little fruits. So it came naturally to me. The place was beautiful and rustic.
Then I watched the epic movie that’s been a source of inspiration for me, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I was so inspired by the character’s journeys that I began relating to them very closely. Ranbir Kapoor’s character in particular, Bunny, was so inspiring. The dialogue, especially — “Mein Udna chahata hoon, daudna chahta hoon, girna bhi chahta hoon, bas rukna nahi chahta” (I want to fly, I want to run, I even want to fall, but I don’t want to stop now) — was the tagline of my life. After watching the movie, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
My heart yearned to return to the mountains and I finally decided to give it a go. The first trek I took was to Brahmatal, one of the most popular treks in the Indian Himalayas, and a perfect blend of serene beauty and adventure. The trek comprises two beautiful Alpine lakes at 12,000 feet, with Mt. Trishul and Mt. Nanda Ghunti towering above.
I was just twenty when I did that trek. I remember being anxious and petrified before the hike. On the first day, I did not speak to anyone at all. All I thought was to keep walking, which would be enough. But I soon realized that is not how it works during trekking, given how extreme the environment is.
There has to be camaraderie within the group for you to be able to complete such a demanding trek. I was the youngest in that group then, and people automatically started taking care of me, ensuring I was comfortable. I was terrified of the nights as I was claustrophobic, and sleeping in the sleeping bags was a nightmare, but everyone around helped me overcome it. My favorite take away from the trip was learning from strangers, sharing different perspectives, listening, and getting inspired by their stories.
For example, I remember a gentleman in his early forties. I asked him why he came on the trek all by himself, and he said trekking gave him peace when he felt exhausted by the routine of life. The most immediate thought was if he is feeling this at the age of forty and I am feeling the same at the age of twenty, I must be a little messed up. But eventually, I realized this was my calling. I had a few hiccups during the three-day trek, but when you reach the peak, the feeling is exhilarating and liberating.
From then on, I’ve done at least one trek a year and schedule my work accordingly. I’ve done several treks like Valley of Flowers, Sandakphu Trek, Har ki doon trek, Hampta Pass, Daraya Bugyal, Tarsar Marsar Lake and Kedarkantha trek. Some of these treks are popular, but I did them before they became heavily commercialized.
The most challenging trek that I’ve done till now is the Rupin Pass Trek. Though the trek isn’t very long, it’s steep, and requires a lot of training beforehand. I want to complete two more challenging treks before the Everest Base Camp trek, which is what is recommended. I am planning to do Kashmir Great Lakes this year (seven lakes!), and I’m looking forward to an exhilarating experience.
These treks require discipline and fitness, to maintain the stamina needed. I cycle for about 18 kilometers everyday on plain roads as well as elevated paths which helps with my breathing and energy. A few months before any trek, I begin gym workouts to build up my stamina further. I am in the process of preparing for the Everest Base Camp and also plan to join a mountaineering institute for advanced courses which help you to become a professional mountaineer. That is where I see my future because I’ve realized I have to plan my life around the mountains, which is what keeps me going.
The pandemic has only strengthened my resolve. Staying locked up at home had utterly put me off track, and I realized how much I missed my mountains. Many people don’t completely support my goals, including my parents. They often tell me that I may not be able to adjust to a mountaineering lifestyle since I was not brought up in this way. However, I am determined and see my future living in the countryside, near to the mountains.
I truly believe being close to nature is a humbling experience. Mountains are my first love; they’ve helped me understand myself better as a person. I have gained a lot of strength from the mountains, and I hope I impart some of my love to others I meet on my travels. To each one of you out there who are dreaming about doing certain things, don’t just dream about it. Go out there and do it! Because, “Life doesn’t give you second chances, so take the first one.”
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