Not that I was healed, but the wounds had stopped bleeding once oozing out mercilessly from the gnashing wounds. The horror is far less when your own suffer, than when millions around you suffer in the same way,

Question was suffer for what and how and why? Even if I rationalised my pains, I could not forget the millions of dry faces I met in the hospital alleys and streets, expressing one single doubt in unison,

“Would I live?” A chorus which all sang together, including the patients and their near and dearest ones. It was perhaps better to be a nurse or a doctor perhaps, since at last they at least survive from suffering the guilt of inaction. Twelve years down the memory lane, i go back to maps, lest I make a mistake in the names I left long ago, an urge closes in each time as I hear them on my mental billboard, a pang runs deep and wild like forest fire to return to simplicity. As I yearn for simplicity I admit I cannot be a pauper any longer, whether I want to live or I want others to live, and so I strive to earn the lifeless yet valuable gift aka doom of the world- money. I promise myself that one day I shall return and return and return, if not I get a chance to stay for long.

Upshi to Alchi was almost 108 kilometres, it was very different from Uttarakhand and Himachal the ones most visited by me.

Hemis, Phey, Shey and then LEH bypass to Alchi. Women are safe and believe in simple trust.

“I need a day or two in LEH and hen back to Manali, Delhi and back home 2.”

She was a February born, 4th day one. They always stand by my side. Mostly without much return, except a few narrow and ill developed ones who have not yet realised their hugeness.

The howlers were tired, I stopped to feed them, just when this awesome idea struck her beautiful head. There was a not so steep hill which if crossed we could cover and reach the other side of the road in lesser time than the one that we took now, she was far knowledgeable so I followed her, but unfortunately I was in the pedals, and soon in the elevations, with the two howlers beside me and Choden behind me on the carrier I lost it, the controls were gone and we slid down as though there was no friction to stop us anywhere on the hill slope.

Finally, we slid to the road and then to the other side of the road and off in the blankness we both hung like tomatoes or brinjals on the tree called our bicycle, the two howlers trying to rescue us emphatically however of not much use. I hung by my cloak which was half torn and she hung by her dark coat. We lay hanging from a conical boulder on which was strung the bicycle and on the bicycle were we. The previous moment I was cycling and now I was dangling into nothingness. How much more can life be fun? She chirped, banged, yanked, did everything to show that it was all my fault. She was an Aqua and I a mere Sagi, after all, how could it be her fault, silently leaving me to suffer as she slipped into her self denial mode.

She thankfully concluded, “A pessimist is a person who has to listen to too many optimists.”

It was nine thirty at night, and the only source of light was my radium lit watch and the four eyes of the howlers. A nipping wind, slithering and rattling sounds, drove out the little courage we mustered. Six hours, not a soul passed. The wound on my leg was bad and I knew it won’t be long before I breathed my end, she knew it as well but none of us could risk anything, so she decided we would wait for another half an hour or else she would start to descend the loose gravels, either one would go  or both would go or both would survive. She wanted to gamble, her favourite game which she plays each time when she is not sure. That is how she made her Sagi with a clean heart hubby survive in Siachen, that is how her child comes back and goes to school each day, that is how she and my dogs live each day. That is how, now even her mom in law survives. Amazing life skill it is, I must say – knowing to gamble, to be a gambler she right time and right place.

Now comes a jeep, rumbling and roaring with the gravels beneath. She commands the howlers to stand on the road and bark, which they admiringly obey. I am supposed to pluck the gravels and throw them on the direction of the jeep without disbablancing the bicycle, as I hung nearer to the road and she hung on the dismal nothingness due to the tangential placement of the conical form.

She would fly her bag in the air, now I didn’t exactly know how that would work, but she said it would so I believed her again.

Finally, all worked as she directed the people to our position in the language of the hills, I had lost it by then and as the darkness closed in, I remember nothing much that a nun carried me in her arms to the jeep, her benevolent and compassion filled face gave me no fear, as I snoozed down.

to be contd…..