An Accidental Revelation

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Vikas had never seem to notice how rapid the breaths of dogs are. As if for the first time he saw their little bodies shaking in little hiccups. The two dogs were lying on the side of the road trying to beat the heat, their tongue lolling out.

He felt like wanting to do something for them, but time was running out. He pulled another gear and drove forward. Almost immediately a biker cut in front of him and scratched the front of his car in the process. The shock made both of them stop dead. The bike looked undamaged, but there was significant dent in the beauty of his car.

Vikas got out of his car seething with anger. The traffic had paused for a moment and started swerving around them to keep moving on. They were a speck in the universe. But that didn't seem to occur to him when he saw the deep gash on his car. The biker had gotten off and was looking at the scratch from inside the helmet.

Vikas turned towards the biker and started yelling. A lot of anger was glowering inside him, threatening to take over his sanity. He couldn't believe how loud he was. He wouldn't have believed he had the capacity of shouting himself hoarse. But that day, in less than a minute of spewing acid, he could feel his throat choking his words off.

Adding to his astonishment the biker took off his helmet to reveal a small aged man looking extremely morose. The man seemed at a loss of words. He looked at the damage and shrugged dejectedly. He looked at the owner of the car and extended a hand to placate him. The biker seemed so sad that a tear escaped his eyes.

A great sadness filled the Vikas. All his anger was washed down in the sorrow. He had worked hard to buy this car, and that dent would take a lot of time to get fixed. He wanted to break down. But this accident wasn't the reason. He was sorry for yelling at the biker. He knew what mess his own life was in, let alone this biker who must have had his own problems.

The biker stood rooted to the spot. The owner of the car took two steps away, cleared his throat, waved the biker off and got inside his car to leave. The biker was a little astonished. He took a deep breath, got on his own bike and left quickly. The episode was over.

In ten minutes the owner of the car had learned a lot of things. Vikas had gone through an emotional turmoil he couldn't explain. He sighed deeply, and got out of his car. He bought a bottle of water and walked over to the dogs who were still panting in the heat. He could swear after ten minutes of slurping cool water their breathing was calmer.

The Iyers in the Train

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Painting by Bijay Biswaal
(Click image to enlarge)
Every time I board a train a few parallel thoughts race in my head as I scan my fellow passengers. My mind quickly forms opinions about the people inside based on how much they respected the space of others, and how well-arranged their luggage is.

The auntie fanning herself with her soiled legs sprawled on the opposite seat topped my list of people I didn't want to talk to. But as soon as I reached near her she shrank back to let me enter. I automatically smiled at her. My opinion of her had changed instantly.

I stowed my bag away and took a long look at her. She looked well-dressed. A beautiful and crisp saree with a tired face. She was traveling with her husband who sat in a side-lower berth. They looked like they could be Iyers, and I named them so. 

Mr Iyer was busy scanning the man occupying the rest of his berth. He was smiling indecisively. But before he could open a conversation, Mrs Iyer called him to attention. She was ready to serve the dinner. 

Mind you, it wasn't even six in the evening, the train hadn't even moved from the source station, and the Iyers were ready to eat.

The train began moving as Mrs Iyer fished out a box of rice. She divided it into two neat piles, taking her time doing so. On the piles she poured dal. And on each pile she put a pickle. With utmost care she got up and walked over to Mr Iyer to hand over the pyramid of bhaat. Mr Iyer smiled at himself and dug in.

Mrs Iyer returned to her seat and watched him shake side-to-side with the motion of the train. His short white hair were screaming with joy. His shoulder bumped into the man encroaching his berth. But all Mr Iyer saw was his dinner. I could almost feel my stomach grumbling. And that's when it hit me.

Painstakingly I could see my parents in another train eating their dinner together. The Iyers seemed to be of the exact same age. The calm, adjustable Mrs Iyer was actually the opposite of my loud, panicky mother, but somehow I could see them through another perspective. The similarity grew so strong that it started bothering me.

I watched them finish their dinner. Mr Iyer got up, carefully, and went to the trash bin to deposit his paper-plate. Mrs Iyer followed him after he'd returned from this brief excursion. Making use of her absence, Mr Iyer turned to me and asked about my seat in broken Hindi. I understood what he needed. 

He must be looking to swap his upper berths to lower ones. Fortunately I had one lower berth on my name. I happily agreed to swap. 'Happily' is too small a word, actually. In that moment I wanted to believe other young men like me swap their seats for my parents too. Does Karma work that way?

Wanting to do more, I helped set up the bed for both of them. Mr Iyer eagerly helped Mrs Iyer into the lower berth I'd cleared and with a very satisfied smile climbed into his middle berth without further ado. He thanked me in a raspy voice masking a cough. 

I climbed up into the top-most berth and wondered how much similar the life of my parents is exactly. If there is no differentiating line, I wanted them to be as comfortable as the Iyers. It's then when I picked up my phone and called my mother. After three rings I was connected.

Sandakphu - Phalut Trek | Day 4 | Gorkhey

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Phalut -> Gorkhey

Between the mountains, in a valley, I'm writing this from right now. The hamlet is called Gorkhey and is neatly divided by a stream running across it. After reaching the mountain that shelters Gorkhey, I had to get down to this little place.

Sunrise at Gorkhey
Today I witnessed the sun rise from beneath me, again, before lighting up a huge arc of yellow across the horizon. I had to climb a hill to watch the sunlight illuminate Kanchenjunga at 6 in the morning. Of course, ice didn't help the climb. And how can I forget the yaks!
That is Mount Kanchenjunga.
At six in the morning, there is not the slightest of light and the yaks are standing there grazing. Their eyes on me as I try to see where I step. Not one yak disturbs the ambiance. They don't like to be noticed.

While getting up there I was wondering why are there not many humans here. There's one answer. The blanket of cold.

The Nepal - India border mark up at Phalut.
First of all there's no electricity. There are two huts on Phalut that make do with solar energy. Then there's the issue of supplies being expensive and late. And then at the end is the paralyzing cold.

Every morning there's a cute little sheet of ice covering everything that you can walk on. In a few weeks, it'll be a few feet of snow instead.
The view from the hut at Phalut where I stayed.
Leaving Phalut early at 8 after sunrise, I found myself in Gorkhey, 14 km away in four hours. The walk was through the woods, and scary. The guide kept scaring me with stories about bears and wild boars and I swear there was a moment a hustle in the woods scared the be-Jesus out of me!

I bathed for the first time in days in the cold water after reaching Gorkhey. The desperation had driven sanity away. Then I took a walk across the village, hopped on the stones in the stream and came back to my room to read.

The path to Gorkhey is completely covered with trees
with sunlight managing to barely penetrate.
The sound of the water gushing makes for a perfect background score. Wherever you go in this small valley, the water is always gushing.

Incidentally, it is the new year's eve today. Today could be my last day of the trek but I wanted it to last, and hence the stay here when we could have walked on after a brief lunch here to someplace where I'd get a taxi to Darjeeling tomorrow.

The hut where I stayed at in Gorkey.
I counted down to the new year here.
In fact, I'm so attached to the idea of making this experience last longer that I'll make the night stay at another unnecessary village tomorrow. After all, my return train is on Sunday. I have loads of time!

Oh, by the way, it has just started raining here. That means it will snow in Sandakphu and Phalut. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the news, for I've never seen snow fall, but my guide says it's good that I've not encountered it on my trek.

Please use the links below to start from the beginning if you've landed on this post directly, or to go to the next day of my trek if you're interested in reading more.

Day 0 | Darjeeling
Day 1 | Tumling
Day 2 | Sandakphu
Day 3 | Phalut
Day 4 | Gorkhey
Day 5 | Rimbick