“Maggi” I thought to myself, as i wiped the sweat beads off my forehead. It was Maggi noodles that was cooking in the kitchen. The mercury had dipped further as it typically would at that time of the evening in the month of August. There was an eerie silence in the room and yet again the only sound that was heard was the sound of incessant rains through the open window and the door that I had foolishly left open in the panic that was created. Shrill calls of the jungle cricket only made their presence felt when they stopped making those calls.
She shook her head in disbelief each time she walked by me. I quickly lowered my head and picked up the last of the noodles that had fallen on the wooden floor. “Excuse me, miss where do I ……”, “Ruhi” she hurled back. “I have a name, it is Ruhi”. The tremble in her hands had been replaced by a strong firm grip on the pan she was holding. It had taken her close to 45 minutes to light the fire and bring the water to a boil, which she had spilled because of my dumb moves. I had scared her in to dropping the hot water pan full off noodles which I promptly offered to clean up. Ruhi had reached the log house few hours before me. She had managed to light a small fire in the fire place which was keeping me warm. “What brings you here?” I asked in a rather amused tone.
“I belong to this region, Bera in Champawat – heard of it ?” I looked back at her with a slightly startled look. Her dialect and her tone was not from anywhere in the mountains. She sounded like she was from a city and was unaware of most of the relevant customs of the mountains. “Look, I am sorry” I said ” I wasn’t expecting you”. She looked straight at me and replied “Me neither”. “But I had spoken to Shekhram, he knew I was coming down today” I replied. The look on her face changed when she heard ‘Shekhram’. She turned and looked at me again, from head to toe. “How do you know Shekhram?” her voice had changed, the sharpness went down a few notches and her eyebrows looked mellowed and slightly relaxed. “I know him for the past eight or ten years, since I started trekking in these mountains” I retorted in a more confident tone this time. “He never remembers a thing, that drunkard” she snorted back. Shekhram was a rather sweet guy and he knew the territory well but had this habit of wandering off without informing. “I would have chosen a different path on any other day but for these rains.” she said.
Ruhi was a young girl born in the mountains and raised partly in the city and partly in the mountains. She had a petite body with sharp features. Her hair was mid length and curly. Shining black but she had neatly tied it into a bun and pinned it to avoid it from falling. Beautiful curly locks kept falling on her face as she struggled to keep them off. Botany and passion for mountaineering kept drawing her back to the trails in the mountains that were seldom traced by any of the commercial trekkers. We sat there for the rest of the evening chatting away and talking about each others love for the mountains and the time we had spent in the mountains. I was heading to Darwa Top passing through Dodi Tal one of the non commercial trek routes. It would take me all of five days on any normal weather day. Given the current condition of the weather it seemed impossible to reach the top even in ten days. ” I am heading to Dodi Tal” her sharp voice drew my attention. “Thats exactly where I am going” I said. “Join me if you feel comfortable.”
I woke up to the combination of the usual chirping of birds and a a rustling sound that was annoying me. Slipping out of my sleeping bag I saw Ruhi fast asleep. The rustling kept growing louder as though there was a struggle. Soon growls and grunts added to the furious rustling. I was sure we had an uninvited guest, a rather wild and four legged one. I tiptoed towards the door and grabbed my trek pole as I slowly turned the knob on the door and opened it halfway very carefully. My eyes opened wide with the scene I saw.
(to be continued)
“this story is an piece of fiction and recreation described by the author. There is no resemblance to any event of the past”. picture ownership belongs to the owners as they are not taken by the author and he takes no credit for it.
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