4 kilometers closer to the sky

27th May 2018
Photo of 4 kilometers closer to the sky 1/1 by Soham Gangopadhyay
The Chenab
Day 1

I have picked up my pen to write for pleasure again. a semester had intervened in between. My writing seems stilted to me, my thoughts disjointed. Still, I'll have to write to get over the debris blocking the flow. I am on my way to Manali, and then hopefully, beyond, to the Spiti Valley, a solo trip. And I'm unsure whether to rejoice in my solitariness, or feel sad about my loneliness. And I realize it completely is my choice. I will have decided by the end of this 14 hour bus ride, surely.

It is amusing to look back on the 20 years of my life, replay parts of various journeys, and feel again what those snapshots, snatches of conversations, glimpses of tracks branching away hold for you.

So many people to observe. Co-passengers, people in passing cars, truck drivers. So many different lives. Wouldn't it be interesting to get to talk to them all, for even 5 minutes? Get them to talk about their lives till you met them? Might help you get your own life into perspective. Not a complete perspective, but at least wider than the current one, maybe?

This will be a good journey, I feel. I can't base my feelings on evidence, but the words yet to be written hold the future.

Humans are a cruel lot. How they've kept on chipping away at the surface of the Earth. They haven't even slept nights since they can control light. Toiling, toiling away at their own destruction. Accelerating towards a fall that'll just about wipe them off. There's an almost full moon shining through the bus windows, mist over the foothills. Or is it just smoke? Ghoulish humans driving trucks and buses all over the once virgin mountain forests. Abuse. Abuse of our existence. Abuse by our own efforts, because we don't know when to stop. Where do we end? When are we ending?

Travelling solo is nice. It's maturing. It makes you talk to strangers. It makes you break your own inhibitions. There is no family to look around for. You are your own family up here, and some new acquaintances who mean well.

Day 2

Solitary. In a forest. With nothing with me but thousands of living, breathing, creaking trees. Giants. Magnificent behemoths. And of course, my conscious. Haven't spoken except in monosyllables since morning. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if there had been another to be silent with? Maybe not, unless there had been tremendous love as the binding force. I think I am capable of loving again. With that unstoppable, tumbling, rumbling, continuosly growing motion of life that comes with it. But is someone ready for that? Will she turn away in that force? Afraid of losing what binds her to others? Will she be able to come to me?

I hear music all around. Guitars, Ukuleles, singing. The people here are so different with their viewpoint about life. Beautiful music. Music that makes you lose yourself. I wonder why can't so easily lose myself into anything. This whole place is so alive. Not that I am dead. But here is a community which might be, or very probably would be ostracized in the cities. In the "normal" society. And here they're so accepted. So natural in their high, in their music. I wonder if I'm just too self conscious to have anything to do with a community. Like minded people. Or maybe I just haven't found them.

Day 3

This journey has been wonderful till now. Today was amazing. Eye-popping. Exhilarating. Humongous. Manali to Kaza. A 14 hour journey. There are almost proper roads till Rohtang La. After that it's just mountains cut away. 1½ lanes, or less, never more. A truck punctured two tires somewhere between Gramphu and Rohtang. Tourists and locals alike had to gather rocks to build a road to allow vehicles to pass. Pretty amazing experiences. What I write is hardly doing justice to what happened. I'm tired, maxed out. Can't form proper sentences to actually convey what everything adds up to. This experience, this whole journey, I'll never be able to completely put into words for another to feel. I wish. Maybe some photos might make you understand how overpowering these Himalayas are. How towering. Up here, the roads are twirling around the feet of the ranges. The peaks are actually rising up from where you stand. I can't, I can't do this. I can't write about this. You have to be here. Looking up. Looking around. And feel how futile it is to try and capture this in photos. How your endless gazing is not enough. Never will be. These mountains are going to stand long after the human race has killed itself off. New life will start again. And over. This is the force.

Near Batal, Spiti

Photo of Gramphu-Batal-Kaza Road, Himachal Pradesh, India by Soham Gangopadhyay

You make such unusual friendships, and passing connections. Connections which are so deep. But so transient because you are moving along different ways. She was beautiful. She who looked straight into my eyes. No pretense. If I hadn't had an insistent honking from my own vehicle, I'd have stayed back there. Now I wish I had. But that's just my over-emotional childish thought. On a journey, you never get held back. Never get attached. Never stay back. That's for a different kind of living. I will just cherish the memory, and live on. We're probably, most probably, never going to see each other ever again. Ever. We don't know names, we're just two people who bonded for a half hour on a 14 hour journey. This is life on the road. Inshallah, we'll meet again.

Day 5

So we did meet again. This day has been the best since I started off. Maybe. I really can't compare actually. But today was good. There's an Australian, a Swiss, two Israelis, a Spaniard and one from Delhi. (Sounds like an inventory, sorry) Quite a mix of people. I am not even trying to express how I am feeling inside. There's elation, there's surprise, there's joy! This is happiness, which I hardly ever feel back in Delhi. This is happiness, which makes you want to live so much more. You do not want to jump off a cliff, or get under a bus. This is happiness, here is peace. I am in love(?), with this place, with the situation.

This all feels like a dream. Or rather the life I've left back in the city feels like an illusion, a thing that can stop existing any moment I choose to. But this, here, this can never not be. I wonder how it'll feel like to go back to that world of the constant noise, continuous internet connectivity, and unseeing people. Till then, the days here at the Key Monastery.

Day 8

I dare not write about the feelings I am having on my way back. That, is better not delved into. All I can say is, I will keep coming back here, to places like this. To all the journeys like these.

View Of the Spiti Valley from a Mountain trail behind Key Gompa

Photo of Key Gompa, Key, Himachal Pradesh, India by Soham Gangopadhyay
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