Today, I met a girl at the trek. A trek into the wilderness. A space away from the concrete jungle of Gurgaon. She said she lived in this concrete jungle. I too live in this city with no limits, which is expanding at a fast pace. It is the city that has tonnes of concrete pumped into it everyday. There are houses to live and places to mingle at.
She said one of those houses was her niche. Surprisingly, she quoted an address which sounded familiar. And why not? It was the same sector as mine, and if you were to believe me, we resided in the same colony. But in all the years that we stayed in the same locality, we had never crossed paths. Now that she claims she stays in my colony, I think I have seen her. Of course, yes!! Her house has a long balcony that seems alive with the plants growing all around it. Serenity is the word that comes to my mind, for it not only has potted plants but also a huge ‘kadam ka pedh’ right next to it and an array of other trees. I have seen an old lady water the plants every once in a while, when I pass the house. It couldn’t have been her. Neither would she be the bubbly teenager with long hair who hangs around in the balcony in the evenings.
The only other member I have noticed in this house is a middle-aged lady with a phone glued to her ear. Conversing and pacing the balcony immersed in serious and intentional talk! Could that be her…I wonder!?!
For the girl I met on the trek was a free-spirited individual. Even though I had met her in the wee hours, as early as early as 4.45 a.m., though drowsy with sleep, her eyes sparkled in anticipation of a memorable trek. It was her first trek since the lockdown had stopped all our activities. She looked forward to it. I saw her urging others to move quickly lest they missed the mesmerizing sunrise.
We drove a few kilometers to reach the point from where the trek started. Everyone was busy collecting their gear. She was the first one to step down from the car and set off on the kuccha path leading into the wilderness. Her excitement knew no bounds. She repeatedly said, “I missed the treks so much. I missed this space. This is my space” I could believe every word she spoke for she looked like a lover who missed her beloved dearly. I could now understand why was she urging us to walk faster…she had to be with her beloved.
Soon her excitement started to wane. The plain walk in the open space, was not what she wanted. She aspired to enter the heart of the jungle. A place teeming with vibrance and life. A domain she called her own. She urged the walk leader to step into the deep jungle.
Soon we took a trail leading into the wilderness. Her pace became faster but lighter. It seemed she moved ahead effortlessly. This was her terrain. She became chirpy and playful like a child. We took a break on a high ground before entering the deep valley. For a moment or two she went silent. I realized she paused to soak in the colours, hues, fragrances and sounds of the wilderness. Once rejuvenated, she moved around with a surge of energy. She prodded everyone to click her photographs. None could deny as she pleaded with a child-like innocence. A pose here and a pose there. One with the backdrop of the clouds, other one with the valley in the vicinity. For a moment a thought crossed my mind…is she the middle-aged woman whom I noticed in the balcony of the house with the tree next to it? Could this girl bubbling with energy be the serious woman who paced the balcony with a phoned glued to her ear?
Before I could infer anything, it started pouring heavily. Mobiles in plastic bags, a few instructions by the walk leader to step with caution and as planned, we entered the deep valley. Inspite of the downpour, she wanted something more. What could one ask for in the wilderness during a heavy downpour…? Make a wild guess. I thought she would request to find a place to take shelter or make a plea to walk back home. No, it was none of this. she had something else on her mind. She wanted to climb a tree!!
The walk leader who was well acquainted with her ways, knew this plea could not be ignored. He led us to an area where there were multitude of trees. She looked around intently for the perfect one to climb on. Alas! She found one!! There was flash of sparkle in her eyes. She climbed the tree with childlike delight. And, then another one a few meters away. She was completely at ease. She belonged there…that’s what I feel!
We were soaked to the skin and found it difficult to move as our trekking shoes became heavy with sand glued to the soles. As we went further and tried to ascent the rocky path, it posed many problems. Though it was no longer raining but the rocks had gone slippery and it was difficult to get a grip. Our pace slowed down and we decided to take a break and enjoy every element of the nature in its pristine form.
While the trekkers sat down on the rocks and began talking about the nuances of the ‘lockdown’, this young girl found another tree to climb. It was apparent that she could not keep herself from climbing a tree. She said, “the trees call out to me. They have a language which only I can decipher.” True, they had a way of communicating with each other. The radiance she elicited afterwards was proof of the warm relation she shared with the green buddies.
After a short siesta, the walkers climbed the rocky hillside. Everyone was is in high spirits and wanted to make the most of the first trek after the lockdown. The Nature too complied, as though it was missing the humane touch, the voices and chitter-chatter of people.
“We may engage in activities that harm our environment but mother nature is too magnanimous to hold grudges against us. So, the cool breeze, the mesmerizing sunrise, the light rain showers, the gorgeous rainbow, the fragrance of the soil, the bright and shiny leaves on our path were a way of welcoming us back into its lap.” These words were mumbled out by the girl I met on the trek. Oh! She was in love in with every creature, every element around. She stopped frequently to click pictures of tiny flowers and tinnier creatures that otherwise went unnoticed.
On the way up, she stopped and again asked everyone to click pictures. She posed with childlike exuberance. The enthusiasm, the naughtiness rubbed on to others. We clicked silly, childish photos to our hearts content.
The sun was moving up fast and made it difficult to tread the path. Was the nature trying to say, “Guys, go back home before the world wakes and reprimands you for venturing out?” Hey, even I started understanding mother Nature’s language! I could easily comprehend this message all thanks to the girl on the trek.
Unfortunately, the walk ended soon. As we walked back to the cars, the girl-at-the-trek went quiet. And that’s when I saw in her the familiar (and yet not so familiar) face of the middle-aged woman strolling in the balcony. Oh yes, it was her!! Finally, I could place her. But at the same time I was disappointed.
This woman was just like any other woman in the city. Mature, distant, serious and type-casted into a predefined role she needs to play. Like others she would be devoid of the childlike exuberance because if she dared to exhibit some of it, people were bound to raise eyebrows.
On second thoughts, am I not fortunate to have met her? Certainly yes. I consider myself blessed to have crossed paths with her. To have met her, to have traversed the path with her, to have entered the bosom of Nature in her company.
Yes, I am fortunate to meet ‘myself’ every once in a while in the open spaces outside the concrete jungle. I am the-girl-at-the-trek. I discovered this facet of my personality when I stepped into the Aravallis a few years back. I am ever grateful to the trek groups. It’s because of them that I can have a date with myself in the most pristine setting.
Oh yes! I meet my true self at the treks…