First times are always the best.
They are fresh.
They create eternal impressions.
They blossom with excitement.
They find a place in our hearts.
They never fade with time.
They put a smile on our faces.
They stay forever.
After my first bike, first love, first stage performance, and first job, the value of a first-time experience seemed to diminish. As I entered my mid-twenties, everything around me became regular. The shackles of social norms and nails of intangible pressure were nailing me within the four walls of my existence.
Then, 2020 happened. The monotony was disrupted. For the first time in many years, I could breathe. I found myself alone with my thoughts. With no one to influence and no one to get influenced by, the picture became clearer. Finally, I had a door in front of me that could take me anywhere I wanted. There were opportunities waiting on the other side. All I had to do was open the door.
I wanted to experience something or someplace new. When I gradually opened the door, I saw the mountains.
Har Ki Dun – My first trek
When it comes to a vacation, my couch has always been my first favourite and then comes the beaches. They were right in my comfort zone.
Sankri, the base village of Har Ki Dun, jolted me out of that headspace. Carrying heavy backpacks, walking for 10 km every day and sleeping in sleeping bags were nowhere close to the vacations I had been used to. But the joy was just the same, if not more.
Trekking with my teammates was a different experience. A few found the trails easy, some found it moderate, and as for me, it was very very tough.
Har Ki Dun, to put it mildly, was my Everest.
And as I huffed and puffed up the steep slopes, I came across my first valuable lesson; a little piece of advice my trek leader gave me:
"Listen to the mountains. Feel them, and they will give you the momentum to move on."
First time in a Tent
In the city, conversations were all about material stuff, and at night, I use to fall asleep to the noise of traffic. In the dining tent, my conversations with my tent mates ran a little deeper. Though we were strangers, a familiar sense of connection grew between us. The clean air, wide skyline filled with stars and the moon-lit snow-capped mountains added an unusual cheer to the air. In the night, we fell asleep to the melodious sound of the Supin River at our first campsite. (Pauni, Gerrat).
Crossing a massive bridge for the first time
In my limited social window, I have seen posts of massive bridges. Usually, couples sit on it, or a random person shows the video of his shoes moving forward. Countless sighs have escaped me while watching these videos. I avoided liking and sharing these posts. So, you can only imagine my excitement when I first saw the Seema bridge.
It was a marvellous structure built on the electric blue Supin river. When I went there and stood in the middle of the bridge, beautiful thoughts flowed through my mind.
"If there is a god for all elements, there must be a god for flow as well."
"Because, not just the elements, every concept of life we know flows. Even the world and the universe flows."
First time on table rocks
Here is a comparison –
Think about a Friday evening. After coming from the office, we settle down and get comfortable on our recliners. We make some popcorn and switch on our High-definition TV. If we are hungry, we even order food and drinks, available at our beck and call on our phones.
Now, imagine filling water from the glacier streams to quench your thirst. Imagine sitting on a huge table-shaped rock and having a handmade packed lunch. And imagine the true high-definition view of mountains, a waterfall, and a massive landscape spread out in front of you.
That is exactly what I experienced on the way to our second campsite (Kalkatiyadhaar).
Since childhood, my only association with snow was through Bollywood songs and the Discovery channel. So, experiencing snow in real-time has always been the first task on my checklist.
On the main day of our trek, we started early for the Summit. After a few minutes into the journey, I finally witnessed some patches of soft snow on the trail. An unknown excitement overtook me.
My 29-year-old body began jumping with joy like a small kid. I poked the snow, picked it, and even played with it. It gave me a boost of energy to move ahead. When I crossed the other participants and finally arrived at the main trail, I was on cloud 9. It was completely covered in snow! Without any inhibitions, I jumped and fell on the soft pile in front of me. Just like my first footprint on the snow, the sight of the snow-covered trail marked a memorable impression in my mind.
I am neither athletic nor a fitness freak. I have always been a simple soul with an average lifestyle.
Before coming to Har Ki Dun, I never imagined myself in a big position in life. People have always asked me, "When will you grow up and reach new heights?"
I never really had an answer for this. But after reaching the Summit, it felt like I had achieved something big in life. When I was standing at 3500 M above sea level, I could hear the mountains applauding for me. I felt like a lead singer performing on the ice concert of nature.