We walk through life as a very habitual process. Each day the alarm rings and you push yourself out of the limbo. You rise up, the eyes open, only to see the same view. The same walls, the same furniture, the same mirror, the same reflection. Each day, every day.
But then sometimes, there are these rare occasions when you repeat the the same process but in a different place. The eyes open and it’s a brand new feeling. The view hasn’t been seen before, the furniture is different, it’s raw. The air smells different, it’s cleaner, it’s fresh. You step down, the earth feels rough, but you like this roughness. You get up and go out, not to the familiar mirror and the basin, but into the lap of nature.
The clouds whistle by as the sun gently colours everything in sight. It feels like a new life, it feels like a new you.
You love this feeling, you wish each day could be such a blessing!
You wish you lived in the mountains.
The protagonist of my story is a small utopian village called Kalap. Stretching over an area of 14kms across the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand, India, at an altitude of 9,710 ft.
The mercury dips here more than it rises, the hearts though, burn with warmth. The mountain life isn’t easy, not even for those who live here. But it keeps them attuned to who they are and what matters most.
That is what you get in abundance the moment you step foot in Kalap.
I was invited to visit this godly place by an organisation called the ‘Kalap Trust’ run by a very interesting individual, Anand Sankar. The story to how he discovered the place is intriguing enough to set the pace of this travelogue.
It so happened that in the the late 1990’s, a woman from Bangalore came up to this part of the mountains with her three kids. They built a home from scratch, a home that was completely off-grid and ran on solar power.
They spent years here until a thunderstorm and a subsequent deluge carried away the only link they had to reach the rest of the civilisation, a wooden bridge.
Many years later, Anand Sankar had a serendipitous meeting with one of those kids. He introduced Anand to this part of the world. Ever since then, there has been no looking back. Anand fell in love with the place and kept re-visiting, only to soon start seeing the bigger problems; of sanitation, education and medical aid.
This led him to establish the ‘Kalap Trust’ in the year 2014. It was baffling to know that no doctor had visited this place before that.
They now have a clinic that runs on funds given by people like you and me. A lot of effort and co-ordination goes to set-up these basic amenities in places so remote.
But you do it.
You do it because they are your family.
There is something very special about the kids in this village. Yes, they are just like regular children — only more loving, more carefree, more mischievous. Their energy is rattling, you can’t but get affected by it. Kalap stands out for me because of these extra-ordinary little creatures who made me their own.
The Kalap Trust is helping educate these vibrant beings by raising funds for their education and putting young teachers who can use alternative methods of teaching to make the academics much more fun and relevant for them.
You can know more about their work by visiting their page— Kalap Trust
After spending a day in the village it was time to explore what lay beyond. If it was not for the physically draining and mentally challenging nature of the trek, the awe of the destinations wouldn’t have been so enthralling.
The routes to this village are uncharted. We walked for days on end, camping amidst the raw wilderness. The birds chirping, the wind hushing through the many pine and walnut forests. Our senses were soaked with sheer beauty and rawness of the mountains. Thoughts had receded to a land far away. Consumerism was an uncoined word, superficialities had left us behind.
It was us, a group of 6 strangers, the woods and the silence.
And in such a setting you form a bond that transcends language.
Our aim was to reach Beejay Dhar, an alpine meadow region at about 12,500ft in the Kalap region. A spectacular mountain top from where you could see the Garhwal and the Kinnaur ranges converge.
The last leg of the trek was the most challenging. Lost in the cloud cover, cold winds pierced through the skin as rain pelted down the head. Soaked in exhaustion, we carried our legs of lead. We reached the top and gulped hot tea, the clouds still hanging in the air. As they receded, a surreal vision was insight before us. I would go as far as to say that I witnessed the best sunset of my life so far.
Makes me certain about challenges in life, the harder they get, the sweeter the aftermath.
The night brought with it a million shining stars and I sat there tasting the cosmos on my parched tongue.
Kalap, for me has been an experience full of amazement. It has been a journey of transformation, a journey that opened my heart and mind in ways I couldn’t possibly explain through more words.
I would never forget the magic that was Kalap, nestled in a galaxy far far away...