A lot has changed in the last eight years. This time, more hoardings were announcing about the availability of a room, more buildings made of concrete could be seen and even more under ‘development’, and more shops were catering to the needs of the modern day tourist. But when you look at the Dhauladhars up close at Naddi, they still incite the same weightlessness they stirred eight years back. The same feeling of a higher self.
Fresh out of the college, it was around the time when I had recently started working. Managing a website that received more than a million visitors daily meant a lot of responsibility. It was exactly the kind of thing that I always wanted to do. Five days a week, I would work tirelessly and then run back to my hometown on the weekend. A five hours journey at the weekend never felt long.
It was probably a lazy December evening when I discovered that a weekend could have more options. The Himalayas were a dream and travel was still not a buzzword. A plan was hatched in a jiffy, friends who could fit in one car said yes, and we decided to spend the next weekend in the mountains. Parents reserved their share of worry about the plan but suggested that I should give them a call whenever possible.
We started at midnight. With all the fog-lights on, our taxi braved visibility of a few meters to none at all. Back in the hometown, I knew only of Nahargarh, perched on a hilltop. I could climb it all in just about 15 minutes by the walkway. But this ascent, at the tip of the Himalayas, was never-ending. It was about afternoon the next day when we crossed Dharamshala and then came our destination, McLoedganj.
The place felt colder than what I had experienced ever before. I was soon searching for the warmest clothes I was carrying in my backpack. After fighting a war with other clothes in the bag, my numb fingers came victorious, and the prize was instantly put to use. Every time I exhaled, it felt like a smoke bomb came out.
Someone in the market suggested we should go to a small village nearby called Naddi, with incredible views of the sunset to offer. We agreed. But It was not just us, the vehicle could also feel the effect of the altitude. The engine had a slow start, and with some efforts, it pulled us all the way to Naddi. My instant reaction to the place was of disbelief. In front of those magnanimous ranges of the Himalayas, we were no more than tiny dots. This was probably the first distinctive moment of realization in my life, how small we human beings are. Like a wall, the mountains were proudly standing tall in front of us.
A friendly shop owner informed that they were called Dhauladhars. “After a long walk, far inside the mountains, there is a Shiva temple. People wait for summers to reach there”, he told me. The initial conversation was enough to fuel preparations for a Masala Maggie. On the other side, the sun slowly went down to touch the horizon and dived right inside the earth. Clouds danced at their will and colors went on to show their magic.
It was the first time I had felt so powerful and small at the same time. After a couple of days of stay, we started back for the capital. I did come, but a part of my heart decided to stay there forever. Mountains are home.