Himalaya – Retellings by Sourabha Rao
Recollections from travel journal entries made in Ladakh, Kashmir. September 2016.
Himaalaya, my dear, dear sweet calamity,
Self-conscious. I belong to a species that is self-conscious. Knowledge rests in us. Seeking drives us.
Today, I stand here before you, surrounded by you, leaving myself to the mystery and mercy of your enormous being. I am in Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass. As far as my vision reaches out to, I see your mountains immersing in and emerging out from more mountains… a spectacular, gigantic labyrinth. I see snow sparkling softly, silently in the morning sun.
In the past one week, apart from the mountain-dwellers and travellers, I have also seen many little animals living in the lap of you. The Himalayan pika has been a favourite little creature. In a valley in North Pullu, I befriended a handsome, furry dog briefly while a few yaks were grazing around. It was hard to leave him as he had taken me deep into the valley and we sat by a stream and heard its sweet gurgle. I drank from the clear stream before bidding the dog a goodbye and the sweetness of the cold water still lingers on my tongue. What an infinite network of symbiotic existences. A whole – a symbiotic, organic, inseparable whole.
These are foggy unbecomings… similar to how one feels in love, at least in the beginning of it. I have fallen in love with your mighty silence, even your ruthless silence, your now-and-forever silence. How could one ever tell the difference between foolishness and innocence in such love? As for me, I would settle for anything.
Beholding you in my greedy vision was a dream and today, in your presence, I simply feel like the shadow of my own dream. It isn’t like you have embraced me with love and warmth… in fact, I thought I would freeze to death when I stayed in a tent by Tso Moriri (Lake Moriri) a couple of days ago. Last week was tough living in these great heights. The night sky was glorious as the spine of the Milky Way could be seen with naked eye but the bitter cold was as brutal as it could have been. However, such suffering is better than the onslaughts of circumstances that occur in my usual world, to which I have to fly back tomorrow.
Before I came to you, there was an incisive curiosity about you in my mind. I was lured by the illusion of finding ‘answers’ to questions that weren’t even formed fully. But here, I have existed in a way where everything felt unbearably real and trance-like at the same time… I belong to a species that is self-conscious. Knowledge rests in us. Seeking drives us. But you have liberated me from intellectual fatigue. I have existed beyond an intellect to explore, learn… beyond even a mind to emote… With you, I have belonged, I have felt home.
Tomorrow, I will soar high to reach tremendous heights beyond clouds. A plane, a marvel made possible by some of the greatest minds of my species, will take me up above your peaks. The same species that’s also capable of war and destruction like no other. This trance might not remain in its purest form as I get back to where I came from, but something has already changed.
When I go back and tell your story, my story, our story, I will always try to limn a tender world in my writing because it’s still a possibility – a world so gentle that it’s devoid of war and differences. As I fly high, from where the worldly details lose their meaning beautifully, carrying memories of you and all their suggestiveness putting everything into perspective, I will pray for a world with no borders that lead to violence, a world merging into a single, unbroken expanse of beauty. A prayer in those heights, even as I pale into insignificance.