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Shaken Stirred

smita_amit226886001462540339
Smita Jain May 7, 20168 Responses

 

Dealing with extreme cold, in the most primitive of conditions not even imaginable to us today the Neanderthal man, who existed in The Ice Age, would never have fathomed the comforts of the modern world. Existing in cold limestones caves, against our ultra fancy mansions, using blades or scrapers from stone flakes as tools, these primarily carnivorous homosapiens had to work hard to survive in rather harsh conditions. Any or all of their comforts were a direct result of their efforts. Although as time went by they did discover fire, tools, and farming, which made life somewhat easier, but still dependent on personal labour.

 

Today the cave man would have been ashamed or envious of us as the case maybe. For mankind has progressed to such an enlightened level , that should we choose , every task can be achieved by a click of a button, can be delegated either to a machine or to another fellow being, that is what personal labour has been reduced to.

 

Here begins this story, a story on shaking and stirring our comfort zones, both physically and mentally.
As a resident of cosmopolitan Dubai, Rhea in all of her 17 years had been the passive recipient of many taken for granted necessities, whether it was running water, 24 hour electricity, central heating or air conditioning (as the case is in Dubai on most days of the year). Then there are the taken for granted luxuries like branded clothes, fancy cars, and dinner at posh restaurants.

Many a holidays too were planned to continue the cycle of comfort, just an extension of home living on to a five star hotel in an exotic Tripadvisor rated destinations, where the only exertion could be a local sightseeing trip, ending with a hot delicious meal served in a grand opulent setting, to soothe the jangled nerves from the day’s activities.

 

One winter vacation she planned to spend in the high rugged Kumaon hills, ostensibly to escape her stressful life. No one, least of all her, thought much on what was ahead, it was going to be just another holiday, enjoying the view from the comforts of a luxurious wooden lodge.

 

The Kumaon hills, the most beautiful mountainous territories in Uttarakhand, are a part of the Shiwalik Range, at the foothills of the Himalayas, at its peak they rise to about 7000 metres, where snow melts from glaciers to form gorgeous waterfalls, that travel down to pool into many Lakes, converging at a height of about 2000 metres. Although the temperature still hovers at freezing point in winter, during the summer, it allows for terraced farming, done by humble villagers living in charming villages nestled into nooks around the many lakes. Tall pine trees form a lovely backdrop to lessen the harshness of the land, in fact they are a pleasure to hike through on pleasant temperate mornings.

 

To such a versatile land our heroine reaches after a short flight, coupled with a rather long night train, followed by a bumpy car ride driven on blinding faith by a local man, in the wee hours of a chilly December morning. But the journey was just beginning, for when she alighted from the cab, the realization dawned, that the Nirvana they seek still eluded them. It was going to be a steep hill trek along slippery, just about there, hill tracks to reach their purported slice of heaven. This was the first in stirring things up, no door to door service, “umm, you mean we have to walk up,” she wondered aloud. In freezing temperatures, snuggled into layers of warm clothing, woolen hats, and thick mittens, this city girl confidently skips up a few 100 metres to realize that her branded shoe is coming apart. Fazed but undaunted she carries on keeping the simple goal of one hot cup of cocoa in mind, followed by a delicious hot shower. An hour and a half later, when all cheeriness was slowly fading they make the final turn .... Bliss­ well depends on how one defines bliss.

 

 

“Seriuosly, is there no central heating in the rooms,” she mutters, her forbearance running thin. The miserably inappropriate room heater, does nothing to stop her shivers, her bones chilled to the core crave a hot bath, but in order to do that she knows she will have to brave the elements, unpeel the layers. Images of steaming hot water jetting out strong enough to fog the bathroom float in her mind, give her courage. Gingerly, she steps out of her woolen socks, “Damn! My toes are turning blue,” she jumps in horror. She had been totally unprepared for the cold stone floor . Hop, skip, jump, into the bathroom, but wait, alas there is no hot water, the best they can do ( using logs) is a semblance of hot water. Using all of her fortitude, she showers, barely managing a smile. A question that definitely crossed her mind was : are we living in the Ice Age?

 

 

It is only mid­morning, the wintry sun is finally peeking through a blanket of frost and fog. Is it Salvation! Hallelujah! Deliverance! The large group she has travelled with decides to make the most of the precious sunshine and rising temperatures, “let’s go for a walk in the mountains,” they exult. Layering herself once again, wishing for the warmth and comfort of home, muttering “ what kind of vacation she has got herself into,” she fixes her broken shoe to the best possible and trudges behind her enthusiastic companions. Through breathtaking scenery, along narrow ridges, amongst tall pines and gentle mountain streams they walk. But to her , her focus was her misery, she wouldn't let the warmth of the lukewarm sun seep through, for it was easier to hang on to the gloom, this natural beauty totally escapes her, so focused she is on her woes, her discomforts. She prays for deliverance, an escape from this hell, and upon returning to her lodge, insists on shortening her trip.

 

Human nature if nothing else is resilient, in the face of hardships it can dust itself off, pick up where it left off and plod on bravely. Having taken control of the circumstances, having reached the nadir of self pity, Rhea woke up refreshed and ready to start a fresh day. She was determined to prove that in her remaining time there, she can face the elements and come out the winner. A positive outlook can only bring positive results, for on that day's trek she met an ordinary village woman with extraordinary grit..

 

 

This 70 year old woman lived and farmed alone on the hills, she had lost her only son, son in law and husband. Her daughter had taken the grandchildren to a big city, had chosen comfort over roots. Dressed in a purple saree, brown sweeter, beaten up shoes, she looked every bit her 70 years and some more, with calloused hands, grubby nails, a wrinkled face, she was no different to typical mountain women , and yet, the eyes spoke merriment, they crinkled in gentle laugh lines, speaking of better happier times, making her adorable in a tender sort of way. When the elderly lady, spied Rhea’s group sunning themselves on her farmed lands, she invited them into her tiny mud hut, offering tea and biscuits, although it was plain for all to see that she didn't have much. In order to make their tea she would even have to fetch water from a well,which was some way down the hill. Despite that, Rhea could see her graciousness, her hospitality,her happiness, her genuine desire for company, her unconcern for material comforts, her attitude of taking each day as a blessing, all that spritely spirit unfazed by what fate had dealt her, undaunted by the insurmountable obstacles and challenges the woman faced every day, her ability to enjoy the moment, the here and now, touched Rhea in many ways. For here, was someone who had nothing, and no one and yet she was content, happy in ways that we live all our lives seeking and not finding.

 

 

All this while, Rhea had compared her perceived hardships against her comfort zone, and now she was faced with one whose comfort zone was incomprehensible to a city girl. Where she had felt chilled despite layers of warm cashmere, this lady was warm in her threadbare woolen, she had cribbed at the lack of hot water, here she saw hauling water for a bath warmed one enough to not care about its temperature, the exotic meals had failed to impress her, whereas some tea and biscuits satisfied her to the core. She had came face to face with human perseverance. Of her own accord, she took of her leather gloves and handed it over, a peace offering , maybe.

 

 

This had made her pause, it had given her reason to stop and think. To compare where she was, the benefits she enjoyed, to what she saw here. She realized she was living a charmed life albeit one that came at a high cost. Our evolution has enabled the human race to evolve in many ways, and yet, here in many ways she saw that one could still exist in harmony with far less. Joy, peace, contentment, happiness, safety, security, comfort, can be all elusive never to be achieved or ever present, within reach, only you have to know where to look. All her beliefs had been shaken and stirred, but she knew she liked her new self far more. With a light heart and a spring to her step, Rhea stepped out­ it was a new beginning.

 

 

The Neanderthal Man may have turned a few in his grave but finally rests in peace. Life had come a full circle.

  • malvikakhandelwal210014001462541472
    Malvika Khandelwal

    Great story!

  • Guptaarituu378659001462542096
    Rituu Guptaa

    Beautifully written! 

  • Farah-Sheikh
    Farah Sheikh

    Fantastic!

  • Khushnum-Darukhanawalla
    Khushnum Darukhanawalla

    Lovely read.

  • Minz-Davé
    Minz Davé

    Fab story. Well written.


  • Varun
    Varun Chawla

    I am curious, is this a work of fiction or is this a real life event?

  • Taruna-Gupta
    Taruna Gupta

    Great story!!

  • smita_amit226886001462540339
    Smita Jain

    Hi Varun. The base of the story is non-fictional. The picture is a snapshot of our holiday. However the story has just been spiced up by some writing skills.