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We don't have Forever

“Life moves pretty fast, you don’t stop and look around once in a while,

You could miss it.”

It was a sunny evening and I was, as usual, in my room busy with my everyday schedule of sitting in front of screens from dusk till dawn. My phone rang. I picked it up and the first words I heard were “Let’s take a break”. It was Aayush, an old friend of mine, reminding me once again that we had been grinding way too hard all year long and it was time to breathe a little. I immediately started thinking about the amount of work I have piled up and with my Google project going on I tried to slip out of this one too. I ended the call on the “we’ll see” note which is the best way to bury these instinctive ideas.

That evening I was walking my dog along with my mother and I just happened to start this discussion on where we could go for a short break. She told me about this place that Amiya uncle had posted about in their chat group. I immediately rang up my friend and we tried to make a plan, but couldn’t. I rang up Amiya uncle to gather some information so that we could plan our trip and I remember his exact words were “If you want to plan your visit then don’t go there”. This was the kind of trip I had been dreaming of. The next thing we knew, a few days later, four of us were waiting for our train at Lucknow station in the middle of the night. I had left my laptop and all other work related thoughts back home for the next 4 days. Being an avid photographer, I even left my camera behind trying to free myself from all distracting gadgets.

Next morning, our tickets were till Kathgodam, but since all four of us were backpacking, we decided to get down at Haldwani and explore around. We had our breakfast in a small restaurant and then got a taxi to Dwarahat.

The journey itself was a gift to be cherished. I still remember the air felt different there; it felt energizing. We arrived at Dwarahat and it was a market swarmed with people. We got our taxi from there to Ganoli. We friends had our banter going on the journey to Dwarahat, but from Dwarahat to Ganoli the hills demanded our silence. It was surprising how even the most talkative of our group was also just embracing the view and the fresh air without uttering a word.

We reached Ganoli and met with Shyamu (Bhuvan) and Soni (Chandra Kiran). Since all of us were nearly the same age, it didn’t take us long to become friends. We had been traveling for five hours, but as we walked down to our village home and our eyes feasted on the spectacle that lay in front none of us wished to retire into bed; especially not me. We had our lunch and then Shyamu and Soni took us for a walk around the hills. We visited the temple on top of the hill and laid down nearby on the grass. We stayed there, devouring the fresh air, till evening. Then we walked back and Aayush retired to bed for a couple of hours while I lent my ears to Shyamu as he tried to haunt me with stories about leopards in that area.

It was 7 o’clock and we hadn’t bought any snacks for the night. Since the closest shop had closed, I decided I’ll walk a few kilometres with Shyamu to the nearest shop, which was in Suraikhet. The other two friends, Angkrish and Avinash, chose to tag along. We bought our stuff and started walking back to our village. Shyamu told us to walk ahead since he was talking to a few friends of his. Now the three of us, new to the area, were walking back as the night started to fall in an isolated area. After having heard all those haunting stories about leopards, it was natural for us to be a little scared. And since old friends act like crabs in a bucket in a situation like this, we tried to scare each other even more. Our banter went on till a point when we all just started running towards the village. We reached back, gasping for air, looked at each other and started laughing. Not knowing what else was to come in this “unplanned trip”, all of us were enjoying every moment to the fullest.

It was 8 o’clock, and pitch black around us. We were so used to the city lights at night, that this darkness felt surreal. Shyamu cooked his special chicken in front of us. At first I thought he didn’t cook it properly since it was a bit harder than what we were used to. It took me some effort to take a bite out of it. But that is the speciality. That raw feeling of nature also reflected in the chicken. After dinner we sat down together outside our rooms in the fresh air.

I had not slept for nearly 24 hours now, but I was not going to be exhausted anytime soon. Maybe it was the air, or maybe the adrenaline, I just wanted to soak in every moment of my time there. Having heard those haunting stories, I proposed to go for a walk at night, looking for leopards. I was expecting some revolts from my friends but, to my surprise, they all got up instantly. With Shyamu, Soni and the four of us, what could go wrong. We had a blast that night. Walking around the hills in pitch dark one of us was bound to fall. It was the funniest moment that was accidentally captured on camera. I wouldn’t tell you that Angkrish was the one who fell, because he told me not to, but this has become a meme in our friend group ever since. Don’t worry, he was absolutely fine. We returned to our rooms at around 1 o’clock and then retired to bed.

The next day, I woke up as soon as the sun shone through our window. It felt like five hours of sleep was enough for my body in that atmosphere. Shyamu prepared tea for me and both of us went trekking down that hill while my other friends were sleeping. We sat down, had a little chat and then trekked back up when I heard Aayush had woken up. Today we were supposed to go to the Forest Cabin where we would spend the night. We hitched a ride to Dwarahat from where we bought the food supplies for that night and then proceeded to Qurai. It is about a 1 km trek away from the road into the forest, not for the faint hearted. In some locations it does get really narrow; one cannot afford any misplaced step. However, it was absolutely worth it. The forest cabin looked like a dream home to me (can’t speak for my friends). If it was up to me I would have spent another night there but my friends wanted to spend our last night in Nainital.

It didn’t take me long to drop my bag and go walking around the hills. I spent the entire afternoon out in the open. By evening, I was back in the cabin talking to Shaymu and Soni while Aayush and Avinash were sitting at the adjacent hill top. And then it happened. We heard a really loud grunting sound of a leopard. The two who were sitting relatively far away from the cabin’s shelter made a run for their lives. They might be scared to death but I along with Shyamu and Soni had a good laugh. Ironically, when all this happened, Aayush and Avinash were sitting there discussing how humans come at the top of the food chain. That just added more fuel to mine and Shyamu’s ongoing laugh.

It was only 7 o’clock and that leopard had been grunting every 10 minutes. At first we were afraid but then we got used to it. We started hearing the barking deer at around 8 o’clock. They were even louder than the leopard. Shyamu lit a fire, while I assisted him, learning a lot in the process. Since there is no electricity in that cabin we were at the mercy of the light from the fire. We had our dinner at around 9-ish and retired outside under the stars. The sky was clearer than I had ever seen. The sky was studded with stars sparkling like diamonds. Most of us have read philosophical literature on the essence of life. But that moment, staring at the sky above in pin-drop silence, I questioned the way we all live our lives.

Next day, early morning Angkrish had severe diarrhea and since Aayush and Avinash were hell bent on going to Nainital, we split up. I decided to stay back with Angkrish in Ganoli another night and meet up the next day with those two. Angkrish went with Soni, on his bike, and I proposed a wild idea to Shyamu. “Let us walk back,” I said. It was 8 km from that spot to Ganoli and we had already trekked 1 km to get back on the road. However, Shyamu didn’t hesitate one bit. That trek made Angkrish getting diarrhea seem like a blessing in disguise. We walked through the hills instead of walking on the road. I heard even more leopard stories from Shyamu and his friend Pradeep who tagged along with us. On the way Shyamu plucked out fresh fruits for us to eat and we continued walking. It took us approximately one hour to get back to Ganoli.

That evening we visited the main village and feasted on some sweet green grapes at Shyamu’s home. The village was quite different from what we are used to seeing in the plains. The hilly terrain gave an impression of the houses being further away from each other than usual. The farming fields were much smaller and greater in number compared to that on the plains. Albeit, another great evening in the hills. That night again, we went for a walk and lay down on the hills staring up at the sky. It was my last night there.

In those 3 days, I had forgotten about all the stress that had existed in my life. Now at home, that quote written at the top seems more and more true every passing day. We don’t have forever.

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Rajesh Dudeja
Rajesh Dudeja
Aug 03, 2021

Read now,for the first time the details of the adventure trip of Karan. Written beautifully with precise details. It seems this is his first trip. Welcome to the trekkers fraternity. Get addicted to this, this is a nice addiction to have. You will really love these ventures. BEST OF LUCK FOR FUTURE VENTURES.

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