From Rohtang to Manikaran: Blow Cold n Blow Hot
|At the First Blush of Sun|
That was the picture, nay, the big picture.
Aha! How funny it is to imagine Lord Shiva moving about the great mountain range from peak to peak by the help of a bull! From Zanskar to Pir Panjal and then to Dhauladhar and then to small tibbas and joths of Shivalik, he has only a bull to take him around! It must be a special bull, I say. It must be more powerful than these Innovas and Marutis and Taveras and Mahindras and Traxs’ and Travellers that try to trundle up….
|The Petrol-guzzling Crabs Crawling to the Summit|
Well, Shiva’s bull could be powerful. There’s no issue, for it’s the divine bull. But the question is should we, with the help of our Innovas and Marutis and stuff perform the wanderings that Lord Shiva did in his wisdom? Then, should we smoke Ganja because He’s fond of that? And call it a recreational drug? Again, if so, shouldn’t we swallow poison, too, to save the universe like Lord Shiva once did? Why don’t we agree that everyone cannot be a Shiva, the wanderer of the Himalayas? It's a sheer travesty of common sense I say!
Joking apart, a trip to Rohtang was a must—we decided. Agreed, we’re small creatures, nothing compared to Lord Shiva nor our cars anywhere near His celebrated bull, and yet a trip to Rohtang Pass was something we needed. Aha! Badly needed! No compromise on that. It was for enhancing our spiritual insights, something different from worldly wisdom. Don’t they say great people must go to great places? So we decided to visit a great place. That’s all about the logic. And anything less than that was not to be tolerated. It would be below dignity. In order to beat the crowd, let’s start at four a.m.—that was an ungodly hour yet our unanimous decision. We the seekers of God chose an ungodly hour to step out. So early! Aha! We ought to be the early birds, super duper early birds. There were no worms to catch, yet we the early birds would get some photographs of the snow-peaked mountains at the first blush of the sun, of a resplendent golden peak. As for me, I took a snap but I could not do it a minute too soon from the running car. So, what I gathered was, let me put it like this, the second best.
|Vyas Kund: Nobody Need Feel Let Down not Having Seen it.|
We had a few days of snowfall on Rohtang Pass immediately preceding our trip. It was the beginning of June—no time to snow even on the hilltops. The weather forecast for the day was good but that was applicable to Manali only. Nothing could so certainly be said of the conditions prevailing at high altitude. Anyhow we moved on, for the proverbial well-begun phase was over and what lay ahead was only the other half of the job, the happier half: we looked forward to it.
We reached Gulaba. There were cars ahead of us and there were many following. And we moved on. The wind was violent, cold and scarily swishy. The trees we saw through our window were restless, shaking from side to side in violent swings. As we went ahead just beyond the cedars and chinars, the wind became colder and gustier. It was there, as it were, to warn us—how dare you break the tranquility here! How dare you pollute the oxygen-thin air of the Himalayas! Don’t you know it’s the land of Lord Shiva? You’ve come all this way to the sacred land even without having a bath! Shame on you, you the sinners of the low land, shame on you!
And then there were wind and more wind, and all the cold and biting and swishing winds of the Himalayas blowing from all directions. Somehow we moved on. Soon Beas Nala was in sight. We should at least reach up to that—that was the resolve. If not Beas Kund atop Rohtang Pass, Beas Nala would do. Beyond that it would be risk…and that was the silent warning from inner instincts. Don’t they say discretion is the better part of valour? Now the option was crystal clear…to everybody without exception. And we left our vehicles to allow them to reverse and get ready to double back.
Until they were ready, we had some time at our disposal. So we could do something for the experience’s sake. Having come all this distance, we could loiter a while: it was the minimum we ought to do to claim the distinction of being the blessed Himalayan travelers. And we moved about—or at least tried to do that. But then, in order to do that, we needed some more warmth. We scrambled for some extra clothing. The road-side entrepreneur renting those old and dirty gowns quoted her price: one hundred bucks for one piece. We agreed, reluctantly though. And as we moved in the windy landscape, we tottered, unsure of the direction of our steps, our body refusing to switch on—nay tune in—its emergency output system that could generate some extra heat. It was like trying to fry potato on a frying pan with the gas below it turned off. Reluctant steps ultimately took some of us up to the Nala. Now the bridge was there to cross. Or else how would we say we had a trip to Rohtang Pass, the abode of Vyas the wise man? There were already particles of snow dust in the air, all of them flying from the Pir Panjal ranges to the Rohtang Pass, unhindered and straight into our nostrils. The cold had, as though, grown a few extra sets of teeth, the serrated ones that started ruthlessly biting at their favourite spots—the ears that had welcome pores into which it merrily entered, singing its sibilant whispers, nay the swishing songs of sadism; the eyes that suddenly shed tears that began to freeze; the lips that went numb and desiccated. Even our spines cracked, noses bled, not to speak of those sensitive teeth that did not take the name of stopping to rattle for the fraction of a second.
|Way to Rohtang: On Another Fine Day|
So, Rohtang was an impossible spot to reach—it was a common realization to dawn on our cold-beaten brains. And we cast our cursory glances around to see at least something, to invest our hard-earned moments to gather a minimum of recipe for our memory. The blocks of snow bereft of their white lustre, the rippling waves of Beas Nala, the sky that promised brightness, maybe, in a little while—none could hold our inspiration. I began to lose all the warmth of my body all of a sudden…and it was as rapid as a candy-floss losing its shape. Just ten minutes: and that was the maximum I could have stayed and not a second more. Let’s double back—as though all of us were thinking aloud and then the vehicle trundled downhill. As we’re coming down, we found upcoming vehicles were queuing for a couple of kilometers--or more, maybe--and the number was still burgeoning. Some brave and inspired tourists, clad in hired wind-cheaters and sundry overalls, eager to anyhow reach the snow point were plodding their way against the punishing gust blowing from the dreadful precipices. There were crying children too, dawdling, unwilling to endorse the courage of their parents. I pitifully looked at them and felt like offering them a lift but only in the return directions. Tut-tut! My poor kids—it’s not always a good idea to be born to the brave parents!
|On Way to Rohtang: Another Fine Day|
The next day: it was an episode of heat. Something different, for a change. The scene was Manikaran, its sulphur bathing pool. Gosh! So hot it was! And let me not forget: it was June. I was literally searching an appropriate alibi not to take a dip. But then there were many bath freaks around, giving free lectures on the benefits of a sulphur bath. It’s good for skin; it’s good for muscle pain; it’s good for backache; it’s good for digestion…. Hold it! Are they asking me to sip some sulphur water? Eek! No way. But then, not taking bath would confirm my lack of courage, besides depriving me of all those benefits the bath was known for.
So taking a sulphur bath was a must, very much like a stroll in the bone-chilling cold the previous day. Now, a million-dollar question was how to brave into piping hot water in a blistering day of June? Hold it, it was not a million-dollar question; it was a hundred-rupee question only. That I had no bathing trunk was my alibi and it was just not acceptable. The motivators around me were ready with their suggestions: Go ahead, man, and buy a swimming trunk. The place is cluttered with so many shops selling some temporary bath-wear for a hundred rupees. I avoided spending the amount. Okay, I could take a plunge even wearing a towel—no issue.
|Come August: A Milder Rohtang|
A couple of minutes gone, there was change. A welcome change, I supposed. I did not feel that water was so unbearably hot—at least that was what a part of my body saying me, the part that comprised of my toes and shins and knees and feet… I thought I could do a little extra and lowered my body, little by little. There was something still inhibiting. First off, I must tackle it. I knew, nay I was acutely aware that there was a part of my body which needed extra coolness. I was going to plunge that into the pool of water that could scald. Would it melt along with the extra fat that was hidden behind the skin? Even in the midst of the super-hot sulphur pool, my brain led me to something macabre and funny: I might have read it somewhere. The hangman knows it: before the fellows condemned to death lose their lives in the gallows, their privates go rigid. This is a reality, a macabre reality, a shameless eventuality. Sometimes privates behave autonomously, rebelling against the brain that possesses it, falsifying the conscience that controls it.
|Bubbling Hot Water Before Entering the Pool|