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A Secret Champion

If I were to go on a vacation, I’d pick to go on a trek 90 out of 100 times. Last week my beautiful woman, my wife-to-be, and I were to trek together for the first time, in Kashmir and it was to be special for various reasons. She’s been on a trek before and escaping with her this time had a different emotion attached. We’ve travelled together earlier and we both wanted to trek together too before we got married, and this was finally happening. My dearness to trekking has been growing from the first ever at the Great Himalayan National Park in 2016, and I find it to be the best way to weigh a person’s character. Not that I was to judge my lady but we both wanted to expose ourselves to each other in the most unpredictable and uncontrollable environment, and this was the best way to do that. Till up to 24hrs before departing for Kashmir we were unsure if we were even doing this. Kashmir’s political + security reasons have always been concerning, and this time it was further laced with false news about floods hitting Srinagar and conditions being severe, which later turned to be just a gameplay by the media. Yet, finally the moment of clarity afaced and we were off to the airport on early Saturday morning.
Kashmir Great Lakes has been marketed as the most beautiful and romantic trek in India. Being our first together, we didn’t want to be on an intense one. KGL sat comfortably as the most amicable pick. Srinagar was under curfew that day (7th July) and our travels to the base seems tad sensitive under the grey clouds of security concerns from the airport on. It was also due to the Amarnath Yatra season. We reached the most unusual yet pretty base in Sonmarg, and it was finally set that we are embarking the next morning on our journey we so dearly were awaiting. I called it unusual because we could see the highway, not too far away from our tents, and hear the roaring trucks fly by. To be in the lap of nature with your beloved is an unparalleled emotion. Nature makes one humble and we were completely exposed and vulnerable. Trekking strips one off of their mindfulness, the proper demeanour our controlled lives demand, fancies and luxuries the comfort of our homes offer, with the madness of pounding our bodies with physical hammering with no pauses whatsoever. We both, though a part of a 34 people group, were each other’s first and best companions to be.
The trek started and we began walking. She’s a strong woman, both mentally and physically, but she was trailing. I consider myself competitive and like to be in the lead team of the group. This was to be our first test of endurance and companionship. After the first stop, barely 200 meters from the camp, I left her to be in the lead considering it wasn’t a tough trail up. But, from over the ridge at meagre 100 meters I saw her struggling with breathing as well as being a tad uncomfy with her rucksack. That’s where our first realisation struck. This trek was to be different. She’s not weak, and I’m not super fit by any measure, we are just differently styled trekkers. I stuck with her and she gained pace eventually. She is a smart and a witty woman, keeping her company is a joy in itself and that’s what kept me upbeat too. It was to be different, but not difficult at all.
In days to come, she became chatty and pally with the group. She has a very amicable and likeable personality, which I’m at times not. She was always engrossed in chats with one or more people, with different backgrounds, having different stories to tell, varied experiences to share, carrying wisdom from different walks of life. This is what makes her such a rich  person. This brought in the second realisation. She in her own nonchalant way taught me a much deeper lesson, of being open, receptive, and giving. I like my own space and company, and at times fail to approach others, but she, she’s a rockstar in this department. Don’t get her wrong though, she ain’t an angel, she hates human too, but not unless they are annoying. For the rest of the trek, she formed her own support team, and everyone backed her efforts. What a beautiful thing to do.
As the days went by, the trek got intense in many ways. The weather changed for worse, the trail got tough, there were boulders to climb and water crossings to negotiate, high passes to graduate from, sleep didn’t remain her best pal, her tentmate had loud snores, her shoe gave her a swollen foot and she had to walk in sandals, all the reasons to be half-hearted, but she isn’t one to give up. She fought them all and stood victorious. She not for once cried for sympathy or used it as her shield to justify her slow pace. Na, she won’t back down. In her own unglamorous way she was a soldier that commanded to be saluted at least thrice a day. The only pal one have on a trek is its own body, its own mind, its own trust in its strengths. And after seeing her depth I’m a tad more confident in mine. I now know she won’t ever give up on a task and that brings a world of strength in me to keep carrying on before I give up on self or something at hand, and most importantly on her and her trust in me.
My favourite memory from the trek remains our mornings. Each day as we would open our tents and I looked out, she would be outside hers giving the most adulating and purest of smiles. That was my sunshine, my caffeine, and B12 for the rest of the day. I would deny the day to begin unless I hadn’t seen her pretty charming face. Such a sweet way to start the day. And this is what life is going to be now, a promising one. Probably I’ll tell time to wait for her embrace too, may be this way time and I’ll be pals too, and it’ll favour me in keeping my lady timelessly beautiful. Her smile, her warmth, her soft morning kisses, her brittle cold hugs, and her kiddish cuteness gave a boost I’ve never felt on a trek. She’s an angel in human skin.
And finally, she taught me a message of being honest. A clean heart will always bring to mind clean thoughts and convey them with humility and honesty. While Jimmy and I would run up at ascends at times and sit and wait for her, upon arrival she would come and order us to vacate the place for her to sit. Now that can be blatantly selfish and rude at treks for an able-bodied person. In the wilderness and vast openness, with no shortage of spots to sit and rest at a specific spot is too much to ask for, especially while occupied. But she would show her neat heart and would sit amongst us and at time in place of ours. She won’t shy in asking for anything from anyone, she asked me for my balaclava, my cap, trekpoles, trekpants, Jimmy’s socks, foods, and many other things. No one ever judged her, that’s for her magnanimous and kind heart. Everyone could see her openness and innocent ignorance in such demands. I learnt from her to be kind and giving, and ask in a similar fashion too. Command authority over others and offer with such authority too. She’s a mad kid with the soul of a child, one who is far from the corrupt and cult ways of a transactional society. I wish I could be like her.
A trek is only for the mad ones, leaving their comforts away, stressing themselves, punishing self in harsh conditions with weights on their bodies, seeking teachings from nature, living dangerously only to find beauty comprehended only by few. My woman is mad too, but a different mad. And I’m mad too, enough to settle with her for life.
Now as the wheels touch the ground back in Delhi, we will be toy soldiers for a company for the majority of our day. But as the night falls and it hits the dark, my sweet lady will be wearing an invisible cape while roaming freely in her shorts in her room, and I’ll be giving her silent salutes each time she acts cute and kiddish. She’s a champion, my champion.
PS: Beatle, all my treks were for papa, this one’s for you my boy. You’re deeply missed.
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