The mountains are my second home and I love to be amongst them atleast once in a month but the ongoing pandemic had cut off my lifeline for almost the entire of last year & a greater part of this year. My girl gang, my partners on all my road trips to my beloved mountains had also been crestfallen like me. So, when the lockdown was lifted, it was as if the life had come back into me and my thoughts immediately transported me into the verdant greenery of the hills.
No sooner did the unlock happen that I called up my girl gang to plan our trip to Chitkul- the last village on the Indo-Tibetan border. Most of them were recovering from covid while others had someone in the family down with it. My plan seemed to be falling apart but I was not one to give up on my dream of visiting Chitkul. I decided to go solo this time , just me & my all terrain motor cycle.
I was super excited and soon the day of departure arrived. I packed all my essentials and mountain gear and loaded it on the mobike and Ta-da I was on the road to my dream destination. My
aim was to reach Simla by the evening of the same day and then onward via Rampur Bushehr to my destination the next day. I kept to my plan & started for Chitkul the next morning, completely rested & fresh after the night's rest.
As I moved along, the surrounding scenery of deodar forests & oak trees gave comfort to my weary city eyes. I stopped at a small joint ahead of Rampur for my lunch and was soon on the road again. I was expecting to reach Chitkul by sunset i.e 8 pm ( sunsets are a little later in the mountains).
It was 5.30 and I stopped to have tea at a roadside tea stall a little before the final leg of my journey. After a tea break of half an hour I was back on the road .Dusk was approaching. All of a sudden my mobike started to sputter and heat up and in a minute it slowed down & came to a slow halt. There was absolutely no one around, I was about 10 kms from Raksham and the Sun was down.
To my deep dismay it was a moonless night. It was pitch dark and I could hear the faint noises of a forest waking up, its nocturnal creatures wide awake and ready to prey.
To add to my woes, my cell phone battery had also died down and I was now all alone, far away from the civilized world, stranded on a dark mountain road.
Tired from walking and pushing my mobike, I decided to rest below a tree by the roadside. I must have fallen asleep, when I woke to a faint sound of tinkling bells and foot steps approaching. I immediately took out my torch and shone the light toward the approaching steps.
Lo and behold ! I saw a female silhoutte in the torchlight , she was dressed in salwar-kameez and a Himachali shawl was thrown around her head and chest. She came to halt beside me and in a lilting voice asked me if I needed any help. Very soon I was following her steps to a small mountain hamlet where I could pass the night. I could see some faint lights afar and assumed that we would reach the place soon.
In about half an hour we reached the small mountain hamlet and she very courteously asked me into her little hut for the night. My body was almost on the verge of a breakdown and I just passed out. A thirsty throat woke me up and I got up for some water in the middle of the night and I saw the faint shape of my benefactor shrouded in her shawl sitting half up and staring at me across the darkness . I lifted my torchlight to her to ask for water, she was shrouded in her shawl, so I got my torch closeup to see her face, but the light fell on a gaping dark void, there was no face to see, my blood curdled and a shriek tried to escape from my throat but died down deep inside, my body froze and I saw the dark void in the shroud getting bigger & bigger , the hair on my neck stood up and I knew that if I stayed there even a little longer, I would be swallowed by the silent gaping void of darkness just like a black hole swallows up stars in its horizon . I gathered my belongings and flew out of the hut and into the darkness of the mountains as if possessed....never to return...
- Juhi Prakash Singh