Later one of my favourite trippers asked me in his broken Hindi, "But Niyati, sitting there, with the vehicle on the edge, wasn't your heart going 'dhak dhak'?". Hah maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. But it wasn't the 19 trippers alone who were my responsibility, the 2 drivers and local guide were too. We'd faced a similar situation during the first trip I led with Neeraj to Tirthan, at the time he'd sat back with the driver. That day on our way back from Spiti I remembered the Tirthan incident later but now I understood Neeraj's decision so much more. You see I don't know much about vehicles that I could have guided Bhanu bhaiya in that regard, I am not the physically strongest to contribute in that manner but I do feel that something as basic as presence can have a calming effect. My responsibility to him went beyond asking him about his meals and well being. Bhanu bhaiya unlike our other driver had been referred to as chilled out by the group. In every situation he'd remained unfazed and did everything with ease, but that day I'd seen him press his lips together. The man had bravely asked for everyone to move to safety but still had to see the situation through and after 8 days together it didn't feel right to make him see it through by himself.
We were touched by the trippers coming forward to help forgetting their woes, by the unknown bikers going above and beyond to help too and after we built the extended path, Bhanu bhaiya and I got in the minibus and finally crossed the path together. He gave me his crooked teeth smile and we high-fived each other! He said, "bachh gaye!" to which I thanked him, "aapne bachha liya!" . The trippers rejoiced and the second minibus followed. This is to remember the expressions on everyone's faces, the camaraderie they shared in a tough situation and the spirit with which each and everyone came forward. You can gaze at the most stunning of sunrises, the most dreamy starlit nights and yet when the group of travelers was asked about their favourite memory from the trip, they all said in a solemn voice that it was the moment when a whole bunch of strangers came together. You see it wasn't their problem or my problem, it wasn't their fault or my fault, this was nature's way of testing us. And, in testing times human beings rise together and that's what melts our heart and probably keeps us all going, isn't it?