But then, there are also places which have left a deep impact on me and these are the places where I would want to go back again and again irrespective of the pleasures of a journey.
A gruelling trek from dry Kibber across an 18500ft pass to Rupshu Valley in Ladakh threw us right into the heart of raw nature. All around us were the stark mountains, harsh weather and numerous ‘mis’ adventures. On nights when I wouldn’t be dead tired from the day’s walk, I would remain outside after everybody had slept off. On those nights, despite bone numbing cold wind, I would sit mesmerised by the trillions of stars in the sky feeling utterly tiny in the vastness of universe. For me that defined real life, right there in the middle of those mountains and not what we lead in the cities. On the penultimate day, when we were sitting atop the Leh Palace gazing across the mountains, a sublime Buddhist chant floated up from the town below. Coming back to Delhi and resuming daily life was traumatic that year for me.
Rewind to a time, to a rural India of five or six decades back. That is the innocence one finds in Chhattisgarh along with high levels of poverty. But what struck me about the place was the presence of a primeval energy. It felt as if nature thrived for centuries undisturbed by humans – until now. Trees are massive here growing and spreading out as far as possible with each and every tree having a distinct character. And deep inside the forests, if you whisper to the trees....they whisper back to you. All you have to do is listen.
Every year, the transformation with the onset of rains leaves me astounded. I love the rains anywhere but in the Western Ghats, it turns magical. The dark grey clouds rolling in from the tumultuous grey sea turns everything into a carpet of green. The consistent drizzle that characterised monsoon in the east during my childhood is nowhere close to the heavy downpours of the west. Like the village communities who go about their daily lives with a conical bamboo and plastic cover on their heads, we also have learnt to negotiate the rains here. However what becomes difficult to negotiate during these days is the call of far-away lands and the pull of the churning dark clouds.