“Why did I do this to myself!”, I sighed as I rubbed my eyes sweeping away the last traces of sleep from my eyes. I mused how well I was settled like a sack of potatoes in my home at the hot and sweltering Patna with the mercury climbing in excess of 40 degrees. While in Patna, I begged God for some respite and here in the hills as I pulled over the sweatshirt over my head, suddenly those 40-odd degrees felt like the sweet warmth one feels in the embrace of one’s beloved. I sighed again and made my way out of the atariya in which I was sleeping.
I stretched my arms to push away the last remnants of sleep and was mesmerized by the beauty around me. The sun rays sprinkling over the hills painting them in hues of greens that even the best artists would envy; towering above them were the snow capped peaks guarding us like sentinels from everything beyond them; the sweet scent of the apple orchard, where our base camp has been made filled my nostrils, almost giving me the feeling that love was in the air. And I almost puked at that ghastly thought.
So why did I do this to myself? The answer to that question is same as that of the question ‘What exactly does a person want from his life?’ or to that question, ‘Why did Eve eat the apple?’ or to that question ‘Why does Dhinchak Pooja sing?’. In fact the answer is pretty simple. For a sense of purpose in one’s life. Nope, not for that. It’s actually for love. Naah… just kidding. It is for food. Oh my, the sweet taste of fresh cut fruits at 3300 metres above the sea level accompanied with cutlets, daal pakwaan, chhole bhature, shahi paneer and the list goes on. The menu is good enough that you won’t mind 20-odd kilometers hike. Pro Tip: Make as many friends you can. Not because you will be taking back awesome memories with you, but because you can share their plate and save yourself from washing it with water at temperatures of under 5 degree Celsius.
Okay, on a serious note, you also go on such treks for memories. I met amazing people doing such outstanding things in life that I couldn’t even think about like studying in English medium schools or having a steady employment or being supremely fit or getting married or having a Jacuzzi all for themselves or kids having no idea about SwatKats. Yeah, such things… give you goosebumps. Don’t they? This generation which has been raised on Doraemon and Chhota Bheem will never know the happiness of watching SwatKats, The Flinstones or Scooby Doo. It’s like comparing smoking pot to sniffing thinner. Sorry! Wrong analogy. It’s like explaining Attitude Era of WWE to a generation of kids who relax by spinning fidget spinner. The bunch of kids I had the privilege of knowing this time around was outstanding; astute brain, nimble on their feet and a hell lot of fun to hang out with. Pro Tip: Chat and talk with these kids and know about them. Not because their ideas and aspirations can give you new perspective on life but because when people like Shrey use their friends’ names in creating a movie name for Dumb Charade, you can easily decode.
The Antakshari around the bonfire is a regular affair at such treks. This year it was The Elders vs. The Young Ones. One is ready to tackle the likes of Kamal bhaiyya and Harish Sir, but debutante Rashmi Ma’am eclipsed both of them. It was like battling 3 Jukeboxes from the Sixties and Seventies on steroid. We were crossing out every song in our arsenal and didn’t have many left. All hopes seemed lost. The Chitauri army was hitting us from all sides. There was apparently no song left starting with R or N. Captain America has dropped his shield and Thor could no longer lift Mjolnir. The Avengers look defeated. Just then a streak of lightning flashed in that starry night sky illuminating everything around the top camp and we saw Gandalf the White riding on the Eagles coming to save the Avengers. Ranu and Chetna had to come to our aid. Cries of ‘Jai Mahishmati’ filled the valley and with new vigour we were able to make a stand against the Elders and the Antakshari ended at a stalemate. I know I just crossed over Avengers and The Lord of the Rings and Bahubali and the paragraph doesn’t actually make any sense. But then when else have I made any sense earlier? Pro Tip: Try not to play Boys vs. Girls. You are more likely to lose.
One of the most important features of any trek is camping. Inside your tent, enveloped in your sleeping bag, braving the elements will toughen you up. It is a different experience when the mercury drops way close to the freezing point, raindrops chattering up on your tents with strong wind blowing in gusts. Suppose at this moment, you have some light business to attend to and as you step out of your tent and have walked about ten steps clenching your jacket and raincoat close to your body, you suddenly, hear an eerie howl from the mountains behind. Man, that’s scary! Suddenly the light business you were gonna attend to becomes quite heavy in nature. Pro Tip: Coax the leader in getting the tent close to the ‘Business Conference Area’ so that the long walk to and fro isn’t so long.
Additional Pro Tip: Brush up on your knowledge of pop culture from Bollywood. Listen to a couple of Bhojpuri songs and polish your Bihari accent. It will help. As the trek reaches its end, most of the people will start speaking in that tone.