Saturday, February 25, 2012
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I guess it was the monsoon of 1994, the incessant torrent from the sky had made small springs raging rivers and the river that we knew and loved was no longer recognizable, a malevolent raging monster bent upon destruction and ruin. The smell of tree sap and mud choked the riverbank and we had to go to a small stream uphill of our home for our watery needs. The roads were washed away in numerous places till even the indefatigable jeeps called it quits and retreated to the closest towns and villages. The buses came up to the hamlet of Mori, 22 Km from home.
Vivek and my sis were due to go down to Delhi and they were to carry some luggage that also included a full size typewriter. The heavy iron machine crated and packed had to be lugged down to Mori in advance as it would be impossible to carry down in the rush to the bus on the date of departure. Govindram and I left after a heavy meal in the morning after an all-night rainstorm, carrying the beastly load. Taking turns up the mountain, we trudged down the road, rounding the ridge of Bingne Dhaar. The sight that greeted us was straight out of a disaster movie. Huge mudslides peppered the road, in places up to 3 feet of slush. Time and again, we sank past our knees into the fetid ooze and had to help each other out. We resorted to carrying a stout branch and a piece of driftwood to use as a stepping “stones”. We reached Mori well past 3 , put the luggage in a safe place , and hurried back home , with a few precious litres of so called “ Lemon oil”( so called lemon oil is essentially kerosene as the initiated will inform you).
That night saw the skies open up again and a deluge that would have impressed “Noah” had that gentleman chanced upon those mountains; poured upon the hapless inhabitants of the valley. The next morning, packed and ready, Vivek and my sis and I were on our way, negotiating the treacherous uphill path and then the glop fields which were freshly wetted and churned. We made good time and had some locals for company and managed to make the bus rendezvous point by 4 that evening. Meera and Vivek on board the bus for the night halt at Mori and then to the plains beyond, I left to darkly brooding clouds and a stiff breeze. The exertion of the days past combined with today’s walk had induced lethargy in my steps that I was unfamiliar with. The 16 KM home seemed too long even for my iron will. To this mix of fatigue, loneliness and hunger, the skies added their load of icy water. Drenched, shivering and dragging my steps, I made what was normally a 4 hour walk to me, last all of 9 hours. The failing light of the torch and a fever that was imminent goaded me to that last bit of effort, till I dragged my sore limbs onto the beautiful beautiful Bridge well past 2 AM.
I slept the sleep of the dead for most of the next day, and the next and so on till I lost count of the days and the nights between. A high fever, with splitting headaches, no meds and the nearest pharmacy, 5 hours away by walk, No fuel , No dry wood , The 10 days I spent between consciousness and hallucination probably passed easier for me than for the person I will call “A”. From bringing water to finding float wood for a fire, from nursing me to arranging for a few precious tablets of crocin and disprin , the constant blowing on a smoky cold flame , drying the soaked wood as much as possible , I loose count of all the ways in which the effort was made to make me comfortable, an effort that I can never repay in a hundred lifetimes. I recovered, a shade of my former self and the sky seemed to relent too clearing into swarm sunny weather in the verdant valley. Vivek and my sis had their share of adventure on this trip that is better heard from them.
In the years since, I have had numerous not so pleasant experiences but never have I had occasion to dig so deep into my reserves of strength and the will to continue, to carry on, to prolong the suffering to reach a place, a place we called home. In those days in the waterlogged mountains , in the midst of a frightening beauty , I was tempered, tempered and hardened to such a degree that most hardships that I face now make me laugh, laugh in the memory of the monsoon of 1994.