“Why are we even doing this?” My friend gasped as she came up a particularly steep slope. I had no answer and although the same question was resonating in my head I didn’t dare bring it to my lips. After all, I had brought it upon myself. It had been my idea and I had cajoled the others to join the madness.
We were on a thirteen kilometres trek from Kasol to Kheerganga in Himachal Pradesh. “Nothing mad about that,” you will say “youngsters go trekking all the time! ” And that is the mad part. We are not youngsters, that is, if I exclude the two pretty girls who didn’t mind being included in the ‘Ditty Dozen’, an ambitious name for a bunch of women with a median age of fifty.
To make things worse I was not in the best of health. I decided to ignore the resistance my body showed to any unwonted activity. Travel blogs had described the trek as an easy one. Nevertheless, I resolved to garner maximum external support to make up for my rebellious body. I read extensively about trekking and bought ankle support hiking shoes, a pair of trekking poles, knee braces, stability socks, the works! I was walking regularly and doing scores of heel lifts and hamstring curls. I was ready, or so I thought….
I was soon to discover that the online information was provided by able bodied youth for able bodied youth. I did not cross any middling, meddling mom on the entire trail that was thronged by bustling youngsters without the recommended stick for support. Leaning heavily on my two poles I wondered if it was wise to put my ageing body through the rigours of the climb. As self doubt engulfed me strength came from an unlikely quarter. Instead of the eye rolls and ridicule expected from the young, we were showered with praise for our courage. It was a camaraderie of sorts with young fellow trekkers cheering, encouraging, egging us on. Needless to emphasise, I took to the trail with renewed confidence.
I walked through beautiful pine forests, small waterfalls, the gushing river Parvati a constant companion. I pulled myself up boulders, climbed rocks, gingerly negotiated loose stones and solitary logs to cross streams. My young readers may smirk for making an easy trek sound so perilous but with my weight every step had the potential to twist an ankle or worse. Although I was painfully slow and almost always at the tail end of the group a feeling of accomplishment filled me when I finally reached the uneven meadow at the top.
In the morning as I stood outside my small tent amid snow clad mountains, celebrating my gumption, I felt redemption. I had found the reason for my little adventure. I needed to face my fear of the unaccustomed and unknown. As my role in my children’s life diminishes I had to reinvent myself and reaffirm that there is much more to me. And what better way to announce it than from 3000 metres on what happened to be Mother’s Day!
Apart from the beautiful memories and bragging rights this trip has entitled me to, I carried home a valuable lesson. Someday when I am too world weary, too exhausted, too tired to go on, I hope to hear a succinct, somewhat unkind voice in my head. At the end of the trek when I realised I had to climb six flights of uneven stairs to reach the road I had thrown a minor hissy fit. I had told the guide that I couldn’t take another step. He had arched an eyebrow and in a very matter of fact way asked, “So?”.
Sometimes, no matter what, trudging on is the only option…..
( published in the Hindustan Times on 15/12/17)