Land of the Elder Gods

17th Dec 2017
Photo of Land of the Elder Gods 1/1 by Soham Gangopadhyay
Highest of the Panchchuli peaks, Panchchuli II

And I'm on the train back home. Back to Delhi. The place where everything is "happening". But this is not a diatribe on Delhi. This is about the Himalayas. This is about the journey. This is about fascination, and peace.

Day 1

The road starts innocently enough. Climbing up the mountain gently, sleepily. Or maybe it's sleepy after the train journey. The road beckons you up, but not too much. You can still turn back.

You haven't been enchanted yet. There is still the city air to breath. You have your ties. You are looking forward to the trip ahead, but a part of you is still thinking about your home, about the goings on the city.

And, then the road turns, and things start falling off from you. Clean air. Fresh smells. Blowing wind. Whipping round your hair. You can take a deep, deep breath in. Your companions fall silent. You fall silent. Having a conversation is pointless, seeing that all we talk about is petty, meager.

You've seen it before, felt it before, but the parts of your mind affected each time is different. You feel it every time, in every which way. The mountains are changing, every moment, they grow, they pulsate, they grow on you. They start looming over the road. Grand monoliths, standing eons before we started crawling, growing taller each passing second.

You climb a few hundred meters. The ranges open up. The gorge beside the road deepens. The grass turns browner. The leaves more spiked. The mountains behind start to spread apart, showing an impression of the distance all the way to the very beginning. Beginning of all life. The land of the Gods. The Himalayas.

Day 2

She looks at you, in you, through you. No one ever escaped her, nor will. She is going to keep seeing, unmoved, when we have destroyed ourselves. She has seen us grow into the monsters we are. She doesn't cry. Her family is unfeeling. But in their presence, you feel.

Day 4

When you reach the town, you know that it is there in honor of the ranges beyond. The town is not nestled in her lap. The town exists because they allow it to be. All you know is humans are just too small to mean anything to the snow laden walls of rock. Absolute walls. You never think of crossing them. Because they never diminish in size. You climb one, you see the next, and others, shrouded in snow, in mist, in permafrost. A wrinkled plane stretching away till your eyes see no more. A plane of death for mortals. Serenity.

This morning, she has covered herself in clouds. The clouds do not move. They call others to cover up the whole range. Peaks lost high into the clouds, in preparation for the coming winters.

Photo of Khaliya Top, Munsyari - Thal Road, Khaliya, Uttarakhand, India by Soham Gangopadhyay
Day 5
Photo of Munsyari, Uttarakhand, India by Soham Gangopadhyay
Day 6

You try and imagine the cold up there. The life, the field of energy there. No human is alive up there. The energy is too much for us to bear. The Himalayas are majestic living beings. You feel the immense amount of energy emanating, reaching out, flowing over you, burning through you as you glance up.

You stand up to the mountains, human that you are. But you can't measure up. You leave. Aware of your existence, aware of your tininess. You have to come back to land which is familiar, un-threatening.

Coming down, you remember her. You feel her presence. She is still presiding over the land. Looking away to the South. She is with you. She was with you. You remember how she stroked your hair. You remember how you fell asleep on her shoulder, how she slept beside you. You remember. You feel her. And you want her closer, to be more real. She is always there beside you, behind you. Just beyond the next turn. Always there to offer a place to you.

And I'm on the train back to Delhi. A place where everything now seems crass. An anti-place. Anti existence. An affront to the Himalayas. A slight to the Elder Gods.

Day 3

You are awed. You are elevated. You want to bow. The higher Himalayas, the Himalayas, will make you want to cry. Cry for joy. Bitter tears of shame for ever doubted that there's no one for you. Exalted laughter. Sweet tears roll away because you understand now that your fears, though seemingly real down in the city, actually is nothing in the scale of life, in the vast way nature exists. The peak stares unblinkingly down at you. You expect at least a smile, all you'll get is stony reflections of the Sun.

The higher you go, the road is deserted. For hours, yours is the only car going either way. Roads scratched onto the sides of the giants. Roads which won't exist after the next rains. Or just a tiny shrug.

Her shoulders widen out. You see her majesty increase after each turn of the road. The climb is steeper. The air, rarer. But it's not poison. It is peace. It is life. She is there. Always. Everywhere.

The car steadily climbs on. You try to keep every sight, every emotion, safely stored, remembered in your heart, in your camera. To write now. To write after.

There are memories of previous such climbs. Of such journeys. You recall them. There are glimpses of trees you've passed before, stones you've seen, bridges you've crossed. The cars behind you turn off to other places, humans going away. Roads carrying them away to the places where they are meant to be.

You take the right turn.

Civilization now is not buildings meant to sell, houses here are just to live. Villages are spread apart as much as the vista has opened up. Shoulders of the road just beyond the left tires, shoulders of the mountains now of full-grown giants'. Rank upon rank of sons. All facing up to the elders.

At first you don't notice Her. You are looking at eye level. There are the sons. You haven't seen the mother. She is there. Behind them all. A brooding, looming, ever-presence. Your glance never leaves her ever. But that is preposterous, impertinent even. You don't look, you are looked at.