Reminiscing Shivapuri Hiking. Been 7 years since, and that which manages to stay alive within me till date…Wait! I need to give you the background first 🙂
If its a name, chances are I might forget them the very next moment (so bad at it). If it’s a face, I don’t forget but I wouldn’t remember them either. Although, I never forget faces, why would I recall them? 😉 But a simple act of humanity that has deeply touched the heart, will not only be vividly remembered but also cherished for a lifetime. This blog post is dedicated to that feeling, a strange man had instilled in my heart, which lives with me till date. In fact, has grown stronger with time. Oh no! Don’t get me wrong, this is not a love story (would be weird if it was). And definitely not a travel guide.
Back in 2011, I and my friends planned to go take a hike. The idea germed from a whim of fulfilling our leader’s demand (she who, every now-and-then would ask us to go take a hike). So for this one time, we took her advice seriously 😉. A supposedly short trip in its own little way shaped my outlook towards life. Back then I used to work in a call center. After our shift was over (at 6:00 a.m.) we headed for a hike to Shivpuri, with no proper plan whatsoever. As a result, what was estimated to be a short hike of 6-7 hours lasted 12+ hours(both ways).
With little sleep, a day before and staying up all night–dialing, with no food and no plan, here we were climbing uphill. All we had with us was a bottle of water and a couple of chhurpi (aka durkha). Those little treats which I’d accidentally found in my bag, helped us cover a few miles. However, the water ran out sooner than expected. Without a doubt, we’d either overestimating our stamina or underestimated the terrain. At the foothills, we did get a chance to fuel ourselves, but we skipped that meal too. Why? Because we weren’t hungry then (speak of an opportunity knocking the door once).
Nevertheless, to begin with, we had nothing to complain about because we had the necessary zeal and energy to keep us going. We walked through the friendly trails leaving the valleys behind. In sheer excitement, we climbed uphill. Hiking route seemed like a play amid good company. We walked, crossed the jungle, stopped by the abandoned temple and pranked each other (feeling and acting lost). But the vigor didn’t last long. Soon hunger struck and a few minutes seemed like an umpteen hours. Slowly the pranks, laughter, giggle, talks—all decreased. Then came a point when we were literally famished. Our stomach was growling with hunger. For the first time in my life, I experienced hunger in its real sense. Then, all of a sudden what we encountered before our eyes was like a desperate urge–an unuttered prayer being heard.
To our surprise, in the middle of nowhere, where there was not a single sign of human other than the 5 of us, we saw a small hut. It lay there abandoned as if it was a stranded piece of an ashram. What we saw in front of us was not a hut but an opportunity to feed ourselves. If not for anything at least to regain the energy to reach home safe before dark. But to think about it later…an abandoned hut in the middle of nowhere would be rather creepy. If we weren’t starving, our brain would do the trick. And why wouldn’t it? As it is, we are fed with Hansel and Gretel sort of stories since childhood, crime thriller movies and horrendous news to add to that? In that case, at least one of us would hesitate to enter the hut or call for help. But the situation we were in was a blessing in disguise. We didn’t have to assemble courage to shed all our inhibitions, an empty stomach did that for us. Our so-called logical mind took a back seat and the survival instinct was full on. Body spoke louder than the head of course. Therefore, it didn’t occur to none of us (to think) but act. That very moment, food was a god.
Fortunately, an old man (Jogi/Yogi) graciously welcomed us inside his hut and offered us to choose the food and prepare them ourselves (if we so desired). Food items he had were RARA noodles and biscuits. Without much thought, we stodged 3-4 pieces of biscuits at once (as if in an eating challenge). We could hardly chew with a mouth full so then we gulped it with water. You can imagine how hungry we must have been to act so savage. The biscuits didn’t satisfy the hunger, so we used his mud stove to cook RARA. Now stomach full and happy, we had the most joyful smile spreading on our face. Satisfied, we washed the dishes and thanked the old man. Honestly, we couldn’t thank him enough. With little of what we knew OR how we thought we could show our gratitude—we offered him some money. Also, coz that was the only thing we had with us then. After that, we continued on our journey.
A few steps past…our senses came to its so-called normal state or should I say its ability to bullshit. The food we just had with such delight was now a matter of ridicule. Not that we intended to be disrespectful to the food or the offering, but we couldn’t believe ourselves: the food that we just had and especially the way we ate it. Without exaggerating, those RARA were so stale that it required a strong press from both hands in support of thigh to break into two. Those biscuits, on the other hand, had long lost its crispness and were soggy. But in the process of eating it, we saw no flaws. We ate it as if it was the biggest feast of our life. Seriously, we humans can be intolerably impossible when our basic needs are taken care of. And of all, money that we place such big importance to, couldn’t even feed us at time of need. To think about it now, I feel so small in front of a yogi although I was on the side of offering him the money. He, who on the other end seemed like the richest man alive. When I say rich, NOT referring to an abundance of wealth alone, but fulfillment in all aspects of life.
It’s been 7 years since, and that which manages to stay alive within me till date is that simple act of a yogi’s kindness. The unfathomable grandeur of life is such that, the more we experience, the more we realize we know so little and above all feel so small in comparison to what’s there. That yogi we met in the middle of nowhere, left a huge impact in me without even uttering much. I still remember his graceful face, lighting up with joy, when he was watching us all quench our thirst and hunger.
There are few moments in life that we cherish—ones which leave an everlasting impact. Those moments are rare which inspires us to ‘better be’ and ‘be better.’ That particular experience for me was my moment ‘to simply be.’ It is experiences like these that shifts our focus to things that really matter. Unplanned, uninvited, as life is, such moments unfold in mysterious ways. They teach without preaching. Thanks to that experience, hike to Shivapuri, was more than just a hike. The best part about an adventurous trek, hike or life in general, is the journey itself. Needless to say, the feeling of reaching to the top and the view from up above is simply ineffable. But the experience gathered in between and the learnings are the real deal.
The beginning and the end of our life is defined, we have no-to-little say on it, but it’s the ‘in-between’ that we really have; that which shapes the quality of our life, our being. These days, I do less, talk less, think less but observe and be more. Feels so calm and happy simply being. Also, been traveling a lot lately and reading (anything handy) like never before. So in this process of traveling and observing, have noticed sth which isn’t new. And i.e. with so much one has achieved and owns, simply smiling seems like an arduous task for many. On the other hand, those who own less or nothing to lose carries the most infectious smile: like that of a happy baby, like that of a playful dog and like that of a Yogi.