It was snowing and the mighty Karakoram were hidden by this soft, deceptively gentle rain of white flakes. I had a feeling that we are on a wrong trail and very likely lost. What if it snowed for days?Would I die here, of snow? Evidently, I am an expert at prematurely conjuring up death scenarios for myself. And here I was, trying to befriend an eight-thousander, among a group of serious trekkers, on a whim and wanderlust, after months’ worth of paperwork and half a day of deliberating my decision to run away like this and another half of shopping the necessaries. I felt nothing short of a warrior princess from the 12th century, battling an evil snow storm and a mighty mountain peak. A veritable Don Quixote battling the windmills you say? The truth was, I missed the comfort of my tent by the lake and the old grandmother and the horrible chai she made for me.
It did not snow again for the rest of our trek. It was, uneventful, I was breathless, and subsisting almost entirely on the good-natured humour of the guide and the kindness of my fellow trekkers. I’d travelled up with a group of strangers and I returned having made friends with all of them, including myself.
We returned to the base at Skardu in a week and my tent by the lake was about as welcome a sight as home and I hugged the old grandmother out of sheer joy of having returned alive.
My dreams that night echoed with the silence of the mountains. The higher you go, the more silence you find and you realise that this silence too, is a sound. I often turned to see if I could trace our footsteps, shoe-marks. No, the gentle snow thrives on traces, memories and marks. There are none when you turn. In the mountains, you follow the leader, the guide, for he knows. In the mountains, you learn to obey – man and nature. And when you obey, you are rewarded with acceptance. The silence accepts you first. The snow stops laughing at you and you learn to laugh with it. The mountains finally, take you for one of their own. It is up to you when you choose to stop struggling.
These thoughts, I make an offering of, to the lake and the first rays of the sun and they accept it. I return to the city today, without any heaviness in my heart, for I know, the mountains are my friends.
I live on the other side of the International Line of Control from Skardu and this is an entirely fictional account of my ‘trek’ based on a dream I lived last night. I am not a trekker, nor even a trekking enthusiast and I have no idea why I saw and lived such a vivid dream about Skardu.