A day more and then I left again the safe abode of the hotel. They might not have seen any other ways in which they could talk to me, so they left me to be one with the Road.

After all, how much can you think of poking a stone, or what good can it bring, from a person who had an air which smelled of ashes from a recent fire. The road was a solace-

The LEH MANALI highway.

I walked it mostly, only taking a HMVN bus when I had to reach the next lodging before dark. Only one night I was stranded in the open since the only jeep which passed me, carried four drunk men and as soon as I understood trouble was near, I quickly ran through a detour which I knew very well. That night I spend in the cliff and as I settled down to make my tent, I saw those men take then traversing zig zag road, looking on each side, as if imagining to find me somewhere hidden in their own barrenness. I had not reached Rohtang. The place has so many alleyways to escape anybody in this world. You just have to know which takes you where and how to not get lost. You need to be agile and strong, and quick. All this is not a problem when you are well versed.

The wind was cold, dusty, standing in brownish glory. The smell of these rugged terrains begin in these regions and they won’t leave you ever after as long as you remain in these lands. The dry winds required some deep moisturising and I carried one with me. As I pulled the tent up and made all arrangements it became darker, I carried two lamps the ones which stayed in winds, filled them with oil as the last ray of light left me. I was so tired and the light brightened my tiny little tent making it warmer than I had imagined so much so that I could remove my socks. A pair of howlers came closer, sniffing my tent, they never were a problem, I have always felt that it is humans who pose a constant threat to fellow humans. I fed them and my tummy. They ate well and both took refuge in my tent, in the warmth, little did I know that they would become my best pals in the journey and also that I would be able to find a home for them once I left the valley.

Their presence removed the last bit of fear from me and I think in the middle of the night I could hear their breaths as well as mine. The road was travelled early by me, I went through so much of dreams planning to make it my home, many years ago when I was still with my milk set of tooth. The winds kept posting my little modest tent, I prayed whole night so that it remains in place, dying in cold winds would not perhaps, be a suitable end to such a wonderful endeavour of a soul.

On foot, on bus, on the jeep of a benevolent yet tired woman, tired of life, tired of fraudulism, with two daughters, scared and shaken, she smiled at me like a twig gently rustling in the breeze. She had enough space for my two howlers and I took the back seat with her daughters. She was in quest of a land somewhere up here, so that some years df her life she could be at peace with herself and the world.

She asked me “aren’t you scared? Far away all alone.”

I nodded a “no.”

Fear is a big word, I have always felt. It is spread by those who know mostly nothing about life and is absorbed by those who also know little about living. Amidst the hugeness, I felt like a tiny tot, with very less space for fear. Walking past the Beas river occasionally made me feel like the water itself.

I had crossed Rohtang la on day 3.

I had a great urge to turn to Spiti valley, since it would be such a rendezvous in itself via the Kunzum pass. However, i stuck to the plan. A school teacher from spiti was my friend and guide in these confusing times. She was someone who did not throw me away, for whoever meagre I was. She is like, doted sister to me, though now, we are far apart.

She said, “you will benefit from me less now, than yourself.”

Those words rang in my ears as I stood listening in a telephone booth in Rohtang la. Her voice had the silence of the mountains and her laughter was like the bells on the neck of an yak.

Her child was a meagre seven year old son who had come to Rohtang la with all the gifts which her mother had sent for me. He was a jolly kid, who was overjoyed to see the two howlers beside me. He had brought a camera, so we took lots of pictures, he gave me one of his mother’s picture and left at almost four in the evening as I descended a bus with my two howlers scaring the hell out of a few seated passengers.

I saw him vanish in the roads in his bicycle.

As I opened my little cloth sack, there in I found a bell, a rotating wheel, a warm long yak blue cloak with zips all around, a pair of shoes and socks, locally made and some yak cheese, momos and dry bread for the road. We shared a big bread then and there immediately.

I was rich for sometime and I knew the Lords watched me.

Kaylong, Jispa, Darcha, Baracha la, Sarchun, Rang, Debeing, Tanglong, Upshi.

I dropped to Alchi and then back to LEH.

The BRO of India is The largest border reserve force of the world and stands as a short form for brother.

I had to take their help on seven occasions as the howlers were sometimes not allowed in many vehicles. Some took me as a pilgrim kid or as a long lost kid, though I was none. They gave me lifts, gave me food, helped with lodgings sometimes. They often took me as their daughter or sister and some as good platonic friends. I never met them back, yet their faces are so clear in my mind that even after ten years I can simply close my eyes and remember them, the awe and respect I felt for them int have times. Strangely I sometimes can’t recall the face of my colleagues, so well, even bough I met them daily.

Life needs a strange support system, up there men think of only singular survivals, perhaps making life devoid of all the fatty items- jealousy, selfishness, lustful thoughts, lures.

It is the plural which pulls more water creating whirlpools everywhere here.

Singularity works and is tuned in a more animalistic pattern, where rules, unsaid rule the domain and at least is not devoid of rules, real rules, not the fake ones of the pluralistic societies.

The roads slithered and fumes often giving out strong sense of smallness and humility in these known lands.

Now, our main plot begins- the centre of attraction which healed my wounds, taught me telepathy, found a home for the hounds with Choden. They still live in Nubra, one is closing death and the other old enough to even move.

Choden is the girl who had bicycled to Upshi to meet her fiancée who had landed a job with the BRO. As she waded back to Alchi, we became friends and she offered me her bicycle for a ride. I had forgotten all pains and worries, all my walls. As I befriended Choden and the howlers, I understood that I still remembered the simplicity with which friends were to be ordinarily made, relations were to be built, which the cities had forgotten first or left behind first in the race as this race meant a run in the opposite direction to the very nature of man, thus these simple things could be considered as loads.

to be contd…..