You’re not one to count and I’m not one to remember, but since we’re at it, it’s been some roller coaster ride. What started as a walk back home, has continued along myriad roads, in some of the most interesting places – we could’ve ever been. By ensuring, I didn’t lose my breath at 18,000 ft. or skip a beat at 14,000 ft. or drown 20 ft. underwater; you’ve kept your end of the bargain. By choosing to go with you to far-flung places, even if it came at the price of multi-bed mixed dorms, my-legs-might-break walking, and supermarket food or by seeing the entire gamut of aliens-have-infested-the-earth movies; I’ve kept mine. Looking back, it might seem like a journey etched way back in time, but every phase brought with it something new to cherish. Come to think of it, we’ve survived: deadlines, EMIs, AMS, PMS, loads of advice on how to live our lives, and countless moments of uncertainty. And although, I’m not one to fall for mush or believe in karmic connections or divine interventions, looks like we’re just meant to be. Who knows, it might just be you and me! And right now, at this moment, it seems for the better, but should there be a worse, the odds would be in your favour that you could still count on me.
I’m not sure if there’s a right way to celebrate a wedding anniversary. After a while, you’ll figure what works for you. So here we were, in the mountains, not so isolated perhaps and not so wildly in love, but definitely high on spirit. I wanted the freedom to explore around – without a guide or cab. Panchpula (Five Bridges) was a 3 km walk from our hotel. Honestly, I didn’t know if what we’d see would be good enough. The walk is all that mattered to me. And the isolation of the mountains.
It was a Monday and most tourists had left town. We walked through a narrow road, downwards, along the mountain. The valley below was dotted with open terraced houses. A group of monkeys frolicked around. To the left, old bungalows with rusty gates formed an eerie picture.
As we inched further and deeper into the mountain road, we saw construction workers digging the road. This narrowed the road further. Fortunately, on a Monday morning, few vehicles passed by. The workers stared at us. They must’ve have been surprised. We didn’t see anyone else walking on the road.
Each bend offered a stunning view of the valley below and the mountains in the distance. Trees filled the valley and it was a treat to breathe crisp mountain air. The sun peeped out somewhere before noon. It was cool enough to continue walking without much effort.
We were joined by the YHA group at Panchpula. I thought we made it rather fast. An hour tops. The temperature here was much cooler and we didn’t have any sunlight. Probably, because the sun couldn’t penetrate the dense forest trees. Few stalls offered cutting chai (milk tea).
The bridges were in a state of neglect. We spotted three of them. Basil wanted to walk across and reach the other side. I didn’t really expect the bridge to bear his weight.
700 m above – a waterfall gushed in full force. Narrow, broken steps lead towards it. A Cafe blared popular music. Boards of full moon parties were plastered across. There were few groups of people. Even with the noise, I was happy.
The walk back was longer. This time, we had a gentle ascent, as the road curved upwards back into town. The sun was shining brightly. We passed the workers once again and other familiar sights that we’d seen before. As we approached town, a traffic block jammed the road. I was happy that we could walk our way out of it.
After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the hotel and crashed for a couple of hours.
In the evening, we headed back to the main road and searched for a vantage viewing point. The majestic Pir Panjal Range looked soothing and serene. A layer of fog slowly crept across the range. In the valley below, devotees sang a bhajjan (prayer song). Their sounds were faint, but loud enough to blend with the fading mountains before us. The temperature steadily dipped and yet, we stood there transfixed with what lay before us. With the receding light of day, the mountains began to disappear, and the valley was lit with tiny spots of flickering light. The faint sounds of the bhajjan continued in the distance. Maybe, there is a right way to celebrate an anniversary.