This is the third part of a series about The Journey, Visit to an Old Friend, The Climb, Temple of the Snakes, A Folk Song, the Fire, and the Ganges
Dated: October 19, 2011
Participants of IIM Indore at the Nag Tibba summit (~10000 feet above sea level)
As I’ve said earlier, the most difficult part of mountaineering or trekking is descending, and more so is keeping it clean of plastics and other non-biodegradable wastes. Most of the ‘so-called’ disposable plates that we used while in Nag-tibba were collected and taken down to the valley on the back of mules by the local hikers, who accompanied us. The small plastic wrappers of the energy bars and candies that we were eating found a dump-yard in my new leather waist bag.
We started our descent at around 4pm. Since most of us were too tired or sore to carry our own luggage, we paid a small fee to a local guide to carry our luggage. Normally a mule is used for carrying luggage but since it was getting dark and most of the mules were required in the base camp, the gentle man agreed to it. Mr. O N Brahma (no relation), our guide and consultant of India Hikes, told us that he would join us later. So Amit, Alok, Divya, Puspa, Panda and I started our descent without any guide. We were able to manage fine, with steep descent and intuitive trails, when we met our luggage carrier. In a typical Pahari accent, he informed us that we were descending by one of the most difficult routes and that the easier route is through the sides of the mountain. Since we were already on our way down, we thought of continuing with the trail. While we were deciding on our next route of trails, our luggage carrier ‘vanished’ in front of our eyes, as he hurried down the mountain range (since he was familiar with the terrain).
Shortly after that we heard a voice from behind. It was Mr. Brahma. That was a relief, as we were kind of lost on which route to take. So was Amit. We could hear Amit’s voice though. Later we ‘discovered’ Amit enjoying the cold water of the mountain, from a villager’s stream. We took a few minutes of rest near the stream and then continued our descent. Meanwhile, it was getting dark and we had only 2 torches and another 6-7 kms of descent left. The remaining light of that day, Oct. 19, 2011, was used to climb down goat trails and a dangerously steep trail. The trails were so narrow (just enough space to place a single foot) and dangerous, that one wrong step and we would have fallen down into the valley in no time, all crushed to our deaths of course! So we were coming down very carefully under the leadership and guidance of Mr. Brahma. As darkness fell, we switched on our two torches. One was in front and the other one with the last person, as we were walking in a line. That downhill trek was in itself an adrenalin rush which we did by singing songs and joking and laughing (more so to overcome our fear). As we reached further below, Mr. Brahma told us that we need to stay close to each-other and not to panic or shout if we hear weird noises of the night; which in a way, informed us that we needed to pass a jungle.
For a long moment (so it seems), there was silence. I guess we were undecided on who should make the first sound, the jungle or us. This silence was soon broken when Mr. Brahma started humming a tune from an old Bollywood movie, a Kishore classic. He had an excellent voice: we were informed by Panda that Mr. Brahma had also sung for a few rock bands in Kolkata. Now the worry of the weird noises of the jungle was gone and overpowered with the desire to sing or hum along with our rock singer. Somewhere behind some animals was screeching, some birds were crying but we were busy in our pursuit of bettering our vocals with the singer.
After we crossed the jungle, it took us another hour to reach Pantwari. Arjun, our driver, and Mr. Brahma’s company for most of his expeditions, was waiting for us. Like a hungry pack of wolves we had our snacks and loads of tea in Pantwari, before we started our ride back to Mussoorie.
A FOLK SONG
Mr. Brahma took to the wheels at around 8 pm, as we insisted him to accompany and drive us back to Mussoorie. After about 5 minutes into the drive, the singing session started again, but as none us of had much energy left, after walking about 13 kms and descending over 5000 feet, we resorted to Arjun’s music system in the vehicle, which had a mix of Hindi and Garhwali songs. One Garhwali song in particular caught my attention. Although I heard the language for the first time, I realised I understood the lyrics of the song quite well. The song may not be a folk per-se, but the originality of the song cannot be denied by history itself. The song is “Na Kata Taun Dalyun” sung by Nar endra Singh Negi. The mean ing of the song is “don’t cut the trees, friends, don’t cut the trees”. And how history cannot deny that the modern Chipko movement was started by the brave women of Garhwal, and I suppose this particular song is a tribute to these brave women.
After about half an hour of music, when we were all about to go to sleep, Mr. Brahma suddenly shouted in Bengali “Oye Saala, Baagher Baacha, Baagh-er Baacha”
and our vehicle came to a stand-still
with a screech.
Song: “Na Kata Taun Dalyun” by Narendra Singh Negi
(to be continued…)
Note: This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Expressions eZine, published online by iCare India.