Come the summer vacations and my mind is full of devilish plans to get-set-and-go to the mountains! Every year I tell myself that next year I would rather go for a much easier trek but end up searching for a challenging trek to take. There sure is something wrong with the way I get ad reline rush while thinking of Himalayas and its myriad mystic folds up the mountains.I did some hard thinking as I wanted to find why these peaks have always enamored me so much…rather, to be true, not always, but since last few years. I tried to seek an answer to these “whys” and tried to rummage through the blind alleys of my mind for the first image of the snowy peaks that I still carried with me, lovingly and passionately, even today when I am about 59 years old!
I could smell him. It had to be his body odor mixed with that of the diesel odor of the long bus journey that he might have taken. But my eyes sleepy with dreams would not open and it was in the morning that I finally saw my Bauji. He had come back to Simla after spending about six months of official tour in Kinnaur district. I had missed him, missed him a lot during his absence from home. I had waited for him each day. Or perhaps I waited more eagerly for all that his small trunk would carry from Kinnaur. So, finally he opened the box, the much awaited box. It had Chilgozas that I loved so much, kala zeera that helped Amma to use as a much desired spice in her kitchen. There were some paper thin yellowish translucent and fragile leaves. Bauji said, “these are Bhojpatras and all our sages used to write on these when there was no paper”! It all seemed something belonging to a world that we never had heard of. I waited for some more precious jewels to tumble out of the humble box. But the box was nearly empty. There were none more gifts in it. But, no, there was something else. A thin packet which seemed to hold some papers! Perhaps it was a big Bhojpatra, I thought. Bauji opened the packet much lovingly.
It was a black and while photograph of snowy peaks of Kinnaur Kailash that my father had carried in his tin trunk when he returned from an official tour of Kinnaur! He had painstakingly kept it folded in many layers of newspapers so that it may not crease and crumble during the long journey that entailed from Kinnaur to Simla way back in 1963. As his doting daughter of seven years, I remember watching intently the high peaks which Bauji claimed to be Kailash Parvat! I was mesmerized and my Bauji, in my eyes, rose to an herculean figure who had been to Kalash Parvat.
The pictures were large, very large, of the size of around 30” by 20” and I could see the minute details in the pictures. Perhaps it was not the enormity of the Kailash parvat but that of the size of the pictures that impressed me more. They were big, very big, indeed, too big for the small house that we lived in, Bauji wanted to get them framed and be displayed on the wall. But as the pictures were very big and the walls were already crowded with calendars and pictures, Kailash Parvat had no chance of getting displayed in our house. Or perhaps the cost of getting them framed was much more that my prudent Amma would have found to be a sheer wastage of money. Whatever may have been the reason but the pictures were destined to be put in a tin trunk…my Amma’s “locker”! Those pictures were, very lovingly, put inside another tin trunk which held Amma’s few valuable possessions. And whenever the trunk would be opened we would get an opportunity to relish a look at the Kailash parvat that lay hidden in a trunk in our small home in Simla.
Gradually everyone forgot about those black and white pictures of the Kailash Parvat and even when we had bigger home with plain walls; no one thought of getting those pictures framed and displayed. Why would anyone when there were pictures much lucrative and detailed available everywhere. A click to google Kailash and thousands of references would open up but to me the initiation was the day when I saw a black and white picture of Kailash Parvat brought by my Bauji!
Looking back, I honestly wonder how much in love he had been with the Himalayas that he carried, of all things from Kinnaur, some pictures of the Himalayas. Though the pictures were locked in a trunk but they had made an everlasting imprint on my mind about my father’s love for Himalayan peaks! And being a true daughter to my father, I stretch myself beyond my limits to wander in the Kailash parvat in search of those peaks that were in that picture.
It has been more than twenty-five years that my Bauji left for his heavenly journey but I am sure that his spirit roams in the Kailasha peaks that he so loved and the yearly ritual that I undertake to trek to some part of these mountains is the tribute that I pay to indomitable spirit of my Bauji. Perhaps he watches somewhere from behind the cloudy mist on the peaks at his daughter who carries that black and white picture of Kailash parvat in the deepest abyss of her heart!