Just above 8000 feet somewhere in the Gharwal range of the Himalayas as sweat beads steadily rolled down our faces we realized a part of the team had wandered off in a different direction. The last thing we wanted at that altitude with the sun shining down hard was a drift.
Rising to the occasion our trek leader Ankur had swiftly traced the drifted group and ushered them back to where we had dropped anchor. Parched throats and rumbling stomachs had forced us to take a well earned break midway our ascend towards our first campsite.
The small hamlet made up of not more than fifteen houses had a house upfront that was perched overlooking the beautiful valley. Quaint as it appeared the house was a stone structure with mud plastered walls and carved doors made of local wood. Sitting outside the house on a stone thatched sitout was an old man with twinkling eyes wearing a warm jacket. Just besides him was another old man with a short but strong built sporting a stubble on a well defined square jaw. One glance at our soaking wet trek gear and they could tell we needed rest. They made place for us to sit on the sit out by quickly throwing out straw mats. At the other end my eyes caught glimpse of a young gharwal lady wearing a red Punjabi suit and a scarf neatly tied to her hair. Her eyes and looks added to the strength her physique displayed.
Most of us came from well to do families in some of the large metro cities in India. The amount of money some of us had spent one time on our trek gear and reaching base camp would be a luxury one month income for the family of the house. Yet we sat there in their courtyard playing with their kids submissive to their decision of allowing us in. We pulled out our lunch boxes and began eating our packed lunch which we had packed from base camp. Hungrily each one ate the rice till our spoons met the bottoms of our lunch boxes. Intermittent sips of water taken to push the dry rice down helped cool our systems as well.
Just as we were finishing the ‘lady in red’ walked in with a jar full of buttermilk. She had sensed our apathy by the gasps when we climbed up onto their sit out and without us mentioning had prepared one of the yummiest servings of buttermilk for thirty odd hungry fatigued souls. We drank. We drank like we had never had it before or will never have it after. We wiped our faces, thanked the men and the ladies and walked away with our backpacks.
As I climbed the next leg of the trek I kept on thinking, ‘that must have been gods way of leveling egos‘. ‘Who was the giver and who was the acceptor?’ “What was the significance of money when experience could make you that rich?” “Where do you seek a sense of accomplishment and where does it truly exist ?”
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