When it was first suggested, I dismissed it with an impatient wave of the hand. It was impossible. How could I do it without my trusted backpack? It had all the things that I needed for my little adventure. I had meticulously packed it over a fortnight, putting items in various pockets after much deliberation.
We ( a group of seven women and two wise men) were embarking on a trek to the valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib. I had realised a little too late that my small backpack had not reached my room in the resort at Rishikesh, our first night halt before we continued to Govindghat for our climb. The hotel staff frantically searched for it but in vain. Not understanding my predicament they helpfully offered to send the missing bag home if they found it after their ‘IT guy’ examined the CCTV footage.
Before I go on with my rants, a little background. For us less than fit, over the hill, adrenaline starved, young at heart ‘ hikers’ there is an option of offloading backpacks which are then sent ahead on mules. This enables us to continue on the trail with a small 10-20 litre daypack, which has our absolute essentials, the must haves, the things without which one will not survive in the wilderness! Mine had my cute mac in a pack, a borrowed down jacket, a double walled mug with lid, my head lamp, a bandana, a pill box, my energy boosting trail mix, a sipper and a pouch with miniature size hand sanitiser, lip balm, sun block etc. Above all it had my prized possession, a collapsible lunch box. I was told that this last item was the cause of my misery. Our trek organisers had insisted that we bring our own tiffin for meals and I had found the perfect one. It was as high tech as a lunch box can be. Made of easy to clean silicon it folded into a smaller size when not in use. I had shamelessly boasted about it and showed it around. My friend told me it was a clear case of ‘nazar’, someone’s evil eye had ensured that I stayed bereft of its services.
When the hotel staff called to say that the bag had not been found and the finality of my situation sunk in, I conceded to itemise the things I needed to buy. It turned out that the list wasn’t too long. A friend said that she could spare her backpack, another offered her water bottle, one friend said that it was fortunate that she had mistakenly ordered an extra raincoat and brought it along. I stuffed in my synthetic fibre jacket to replace the ultralight down one, and decided to hold a torch if I needed light. At our base camp, a friend spotted a tiffin in the items that people leave behind for fellow trekkers and I found an abandoned plastic mug in my room. So in the end, I just had to buy my prescription medicines and was good to go.
As my borrowed bag slowly filled up, I felt blessed as ‘my cup runneth over’ . What first appeared as an impossible situation taught me that if you have the right company, you don’t need much else. A friend even lent me her vibrant new bandana while she used her old one. With friends who care enough to share, life is a breeze and so was my trek. I did miss showing off my collapsible tiffin at mealtimes though and might have to undertake another arduous trek just to do that.
In case you are wondering about it’s fate, my bag reached home much before I did. Remember the two wise men I had mentioned in the beginning of the story. Well, one of them, who had volunteered to unload our luggage while we quickly checked into the hotel had left it in the taxi!
( carried by the Hindustan Times on 3/10/2018)