‘Not all those who wander are lost’
And that’s how aptly put, 17 of us began our journey. By getting lost. Life is a gamut of emotions. Thrill, Fear, Hope, Desperation, Hunger (yes, that’s an emotion for me), exhilaration, hopelessness, all were experienced, in what was a trek that will live on in the annals of the batches of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
What was supposed to be a trek to Garbett Point in Matheran turned into a journey where we faced our fears, stood tall in testing times, came together, not only as a batch, but as a course, blurring (momentarily, of course 😛 ) the lines between seniors and juniors, men and women, friends and acquaintances. As JRR Tolkien said, ‘Courage is found in unlikely places’.
The trek began with a bit of indulgence (after the ritual cheap song singing in the bus), where the infamous 17 (mentioned above), decided to stay back in the buses for a little ‘pick-me-up’ before heading out on the trails. And as it always happens in movies, books or in this case, life, the fellowship of HRM & LR was split into two, ascending different slopes, trying to get to Garbett point. And if you think we knew where Garbett Point (or Mount Doom, if I continue my LOTR references) was, think again. We were as hopeless as Sam and Frodo, but then, we did have our Gollum too (Roy and Amit Damaha!, take a bow! and don’t kill me for this :P).
So, trudging along the hills, passing through muddy streams, with nothing but locals for guidance, we did manage to find the rest of the fellowship. Energized, we stood on a massive (and beautiful!!!) plateau, staring the sun in the face, watching the rainbows arch over our backs, and facing the spray of rain in defiance. Little did we know, that Garbett lay in front of us, hiding in the clouds and waiting to challenge us to the limit.
But then, as everyone’s favourite, Bruce Wayne said, ‘It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.’, it was the actions of a few that left me dumbstruck, awestruck, though not lovestruck :P. Everyone played a hero yesterday, but some deserve to be written about, appreciated, saluted for what they did. Right from standing at Vantage Points, pulling people up, to guiding them across stony terrain, to ensuring that everyone had adequate food and water, these people did it all.
There was a crazy part of the trek which led to a traffic jam, because people were terrorized in ascending. But then, as I said, we had our own Bruce Waynes and Clark Kents perched up on rocks, pulling people up crazy terrain 3-4 feet high, with one hand. (My right shoulder’s driven me delirious with pain, but all hail painkillers). Pankaj Gite, Jatin, Ramasubramanian, Navneeth and Ashutosh deserve a special mention. These guys were perched on uncomfortable stones, encouraging people up those slopes in the rain, telling them not to step on which stones, putting their foot on slippery terrain so people could step on them for grip, these people did it all. My flatmates and I also had a small part, guiding some genuinely scared people up those winding hills, and telling them all would be fine. There were people like Nikhil, Roy who were serving as guiding lights, sprinintg like mountain goats, helping us along the way, screaming at us when we took a wrong path, and not letting us look back. These people deserve the credit for everyone getting up the slopes with grazed knees instead of busted ones.
I had my moment of reckoning too, when a classmate I was pulling up a tricky slippery stone lost her footing, and I had to pull her up with one hand, to make sure she didn’t take a steep 15 foot drop. Terrorized as I was, I knew I couldn’t let go, and even though it was over in a period of a few seconds, I’m still feeling that emotion of my heart being in my mouth. Had the situation not been that serious, the entire act of pulling her up was very superhero-ish, but hey, I do have a few egotistical tendencies. Its my blog after all.
And then, we ascended to the summit. A moment of pure awe, unbridled joy, where everyone ascending was given a huge hug, a slap on the back, and loud applause for making it up a crazy trail, a rock face, and a rainy day. I made a few good friendships (I hope), and had some intense yet brilliant conversations, with the howling wind to serve as the background score. There was this one instant where I could not help but think of the mistakes I’ve made in life, the times when people I loved and trusted let me down, and the things I’ve kept buried deep inside were clawing and gnawing to get out. I’ve had my moments of self doubt, but yesterday, sitting alone on a rock, staring into a huge valley, there were some moments when I stopped believing in myself. But then, I buried it all back in, because I hoped there lay more important things ahead, like scary rock faces, brilliant conversations and bone crunching hugs of pure delight. And I was not disappointed.
The trek continued into the town of Matheran, where our small (yet intimidating) senior CR, Radhika and her classmate Sriram made it their personal mission to ensure everyone was fed well, and duly rewarded for not only taking up Mother Nature’s challenge, but completing it with aplomb. The way food was consumed made the dwarves feasts in the Hobbit seem like a joke. 70 cups of Tea, 20 Chicken Soups (boy, were they delicious), 100+ sandwiches and omlettes were consumed within seconds of them being brought to the tables. People were famished, women stopped caring about calories, men didn’t care if they were slobby, jackets were passed around to the freezing souls, and everyone came out of that trek with a feeling of having survival. Everyone had a close shave, everyone had a calming word of encouragement, everyone was a hero.
At the end of the day, it was ‘An Unexpected Journey’ the Bilbo Baggins in me had to write about. And he did have Took ancestry.
‘It’s all a game, avoiding failure, when true colors will bleed
All in the name of misbehavior and the things we don’t need
I lust for after no disaster can touch, touch us anymore
And more than ever, I hope to never fall, where enough is not the same it was before’