How can people love their phones? I hate mine. Anyway, it’s hard to get reality to get out of life’s way. Unless, of course, you’re up in the hills, where you can meet yourself and not check WhatsApp every two minutes. Thank god, there’s network, though. Or you and I would have had to wait another two weeks to talk again.
I have to tell you something very important. Don’t tell too many people, but the hills are dangerous. They ignite too many difficult questions now, deny too many simple answers then, and hide too many possibilities still, behaving like a spurned girlfriend sometimes, sometimes like a mother, and sometimes just an old friend who doesn’t take a lie for an answer.
Since I’ve succumbed to the pull of the Parvati, yet again, to hide in the humming disquiet of Kasol for a few days, let me warn you about some of the conversations you might have with the hills and yourself in the middle of a starry night. The list is endless, and goes from the surreal to the silly. I’ve shortlisted four questions. Here it goes.
Why can’t I live here forever?
Every single time, you will want to stay longer. Every single time, you will enquire about the monthly money required for a life here. You will want to open a café, or even plan a dhaba. ‘Why can’t I just write freelance, even clean dishes at some hotel for that matter, and spend the rest of all my life and beyond in the middle of this eternity?’ you will ask yourself.
Beware! Don’t let that lopsided grin make your decisions for you. If everyone started thinking like that, the hills would be crowded, you see. And who gave you the right to spoil the serenity with your presence? Drive back down to the plains and soon you’ll forget about it. Don’t worry, it won’t be hard; the hills would still be there the next time you drive back up.
What if the river gets angry?
We bother it so much, you know. There are little monsters of concrete sitting on both its sides. There are polythene bags, wrappers, beer bottles floating in it. Sitting on the river’s battered boulders, people commit herbal sins. It sure can’t like all that.
Will the Parvati someday destroy Kasol, punishing the town for its change in character? Once a benevolent kid sharing his candy with pitiable urbanites, the village is now like a savvy trader who’ll even sell himself if you pay enough. Does the Beas like how Manali has already changed? Am I being superstitious? Is there some sadness in that stately sound of the river? Don’t cry. Just be more considerate the next time. If you don’t litter, you’ll feel better. That even rhymes.
Why do we set deadlines?
The endlessness of the hills will make you question the basis of your life. If you’re a journalist, deadline is one word that defines most things for you. All that goes for a toss for a while. Time becomes relative when you’re watching the moon move from the west to the east, before the sun interrupts the night and you start watching the clouds instead. The cycle goes on. Beware, again! This can make you lose your job. I don’t mean to interrupt, but there was a deadline even for this article.
What’s the point of everything?
This is inevitable, this question. The might of the mountains can make you feel small, even depress you. It’s the only time depression seems like good company. Nothing trivial stands a chance in front of the Himalayas’ majestic heights of romance that stretch high up into the sky, piercing through fog and clouds. ‘You are such an idiot, bothering about the next salary increment,’ the hills tell you.
Don’t answer this question at all. It’s a trap. Indeed, if you think about it, there is no point to everything. That’s not the point. The next salary increment is what will make you feel better about your job. Your job is what will put food on your table. The food is what will keep you alive. And you need the luxuries because everyone has them. Don’t believe me? Well, the hills are dangerous, I told you. Want to go to a shopping mall instead?