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๐—ง๐—›๐—˜ ๐—Ÿ๐—ข๐—ก๐—š ๐—ฅ๐—ข๐—”๐—— ๐—ง๐—ข ๐—ฃ๐—ข๐—ž๐—›๐—ฅ๐—œ - ๐—ฎ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ-๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ 2

FilteCofeeeThey say the desert is also nature. Who can deny that? It is indeed part of all that there is and certainly with a charm of its own but living in a desert for 25 years can blunt oneโ€™s love for a nature which is monochromatic. Beige can get insipid over time and the dunes can repeatedly display only undulating lines; or kick up dust and create a dystopian spectacle, at the most. It, however, fails to inspire or induce energy.

In that respect, the sea too is a bit banal, although more sensuous than the desert. Nature, as I love it, as I have absorbed into my bones โ€“ the rains and the rivers, the hills and the fields, the woods and the verdant greens โ€“ has been a luxury for me for long. A treat that I soak up only when I go on vacations. Those who have spent a good part of their lives in the desert will know what I mean. The desert isnโ€™t opulent enough to fill our heartโ€™s depleted coffers. It doesnโ€™t have the oomph factor that can haunt our dreams.

Nature, for me and those of my ilk, is where there is a dynamic display of the elements. Which is probably why I yearn to return to the mountains time and again, and why they alone can pump lifeblood into my soul when it sags with lifeโ€™s many encumbrances.

And that elixir was just a few hours away from me, I mused, as I waited for my onward flight at Delhi airport, half-awake (or half asleep). I envied those who could catch some winks seated and positioned in odd ways โ€“ head lolling, torso twisted, legs splayed and stretched. Such sleep can happen only to the most blessed, and I for one, did not belong in there. I had to sit it out straight till it was time.

When I dragged myself to the security check again, dreading the ordeal that saps all fun out of a travel, I saw people enough for a carnival there. The line, if straightened, could have touched the Taj Mahal. If I stood at the end of the line that moved ever so slowly, I could forget about the mountains.

Panic began to seize me, as I jumped a stretch, pleading for forgiveness and got a few feet ahead. The phones, the chargers, the hard disk, the power bank, a Kindle device, and what not that I had pulled out of the baggage and clutched close to my chest to be dumped onto the trays. Two hands full of new-age fixations, and after all the declarations, there would still be something that the scanner would detect.

People were losing cool over the slow progress in security clearance, some openly swearing at those who barged in late and pushed their way to the front. It was a scene of utter mayhem and madness. Sweating profusely and panting, I cleared the gate, willy nilly.

The departure gate was at the farthest end, and it was well past the boarding time. Gasping as if I was on the last ounce of oxygen in my lungs, I made a dash to the gate. I am not certain what kept me from collapsing midway. Perhaps, it was my will to make it at any cost. Did I have a choice anyway?

Skipping my last mandatory visit to the washroom and mouth almost gone bone dry, I zipped across and caught the shuttle bus even as the last few calls for boarding was made by the airline staff. I had made it in the nick of time. In an hour, by 7.45 am, I will be in Doon, that jewel of a place made famous by the British and later, by the boarding schools the elite sent their wards to.

A small aircraft, an ATR, there were about 20 people seated in it, and the plane droned it way through thick wads of rain clouds, the frame of the window offering me spectacular views of the cloud collections along with some serious turbulence that kept me belted to the seat. The visit to the washroom had to wait and I wasnโ€™t sure if I could hold it indefinitely. Small thing but big concern.

An hour passed, and the descent began, and the hills began to appear down below. I craned m neck and waited in anticipation of catching my first glimpse of some snow-clad peaks in the far end. I soon realized that the aircraft was going round and round, whirring severely now and then as if the pilot was trying to accomplish something hard. I had a hunch that all was not well but didnโ€™t feel it was anything grave enough to start worrying about not being able to see my loved ones again. The gut feel was not so sinister to make me think of death in a crash. It just said something was wrong.

And then the announcement came. Despite two approaches, the pilot was not able to land owing to thick layers of clouds over the landing space, and keeping the best interests of the passengers, the flight had to be diverted back to Delhi. Damn!

I didnโ€™t want to believe what I had just heard. I checked with a gentleman seated ahead of me to make sure it was what it was, and he explained what had transpired. He seemed to be an aviation expert and said we were in a small plane (ATR), not a Boeing, and hence the difficulty in landing in the circumstances. The details he furnished were informative, but in that moment, my predominant thought was โ€˜I wasnโ€™t going to the mountainsโ€™. At least not yet. It was a crushing thought, and I couldnโ€™t consider any definite course of action next.

Two ladies in the seats behind me were blissfully asleep, without a clue about what was happening to us. It would be interesting to see their faces when they would wake up find themselves back like boomerang in the same place, I thought a tad wickedly.

What next? What next? What next? I spent the return flight, fingers crossed, hoping the airline would put us on another plane. What if they donโ€™t? What if I had no way to reach Doon on the same day where a cabbie was waiting since morning to take me to Pokhri? Where would I spend the night in Delhi? The questions were pressing, but with nothing to do except wait for us to land back in Delhi to even start thinking of a plan, I sat tight, holding my apprehensions at bay. I spared a reverent thought to Murphy and offered a mental namaste. Murphy, the things going wrong guy, remember?

โ€˜Landed?โ€™ asked my husband as soon as the signals came alive after touchdown.

โ€˜Yes, landed,โ€™ I texted. โ€˜Landed back in Delhi.โ€™ I searched for an appropriate emoji but didnโ€™t know which one would convey my emotion precisely at that point. I punched in a sequence to express my state of mind.

What followed was a series of back-and-forth arguments between the passengers and the commercial staff on the ground, who had no viable solution to our predicament. They had another flight at noon, but there werenโ€™t enough seats to accommodate us all. And there was the possibility of the cloud cover persisting and flight not landing again. They offered to refund our fares, but then, that wouldnโ€™t help me, would it? I had to get to Doon. But how?

Inclement weather never seemed so sinister to me. Wasnโ€™t I sufficiently warned? Of course. But that hadn't deterred me. And the unexpected happened. Will I be deterred now?

The cabbie kept calling, asking what my plan was. If only I knew. I requested him to give me some time before cancelling my booking.

Meanwhile, the husband did his homework back in Dubai and informed me about a Vistara flight around noon, which would reach Doon at 2.45 PM. Which meant a drive past sunset in a cab. I felt a lightning bolt down my spine. It was a chance I had to take. I could either let fear get the better of me, or I could defeat the imagined fright and move forward. It was a call I had to make disregarding all my previous notions about risks and dangers in the new world.

โ€˜Book me on it,โ€™ I said, bucking up my nerve. We had to act fast, for most of my co-passengers were scrambling for a seat in the alternative flight. Thank God for devices and technology, yes, the same ones that hassle me at the security, I got my seat. Collecting my baggage, I went to the check-in counter.

Now, welcome baggage woes.

โ€˜Maโ€™am, you are allowed only one piece in our flight,โ€™ the lady said. And I had two. I had already paid for the excess in the previous flight. I threw my head up in exasperation. What more do you have in store for me, Lord? Are the mountains testing my love for them, checking how far I would go to get into their embrace?

I gathered all my courage, nerves and reasoning, took a deep breath and put my last penny on my words.

โ€˜You will have to help me out,โ€™ I said and explained the situation and my helplessness to the lady at the counter. โ€˜You will have to help me out. If you donโ€™t, who will?โ€™

I must have sounded desperate. Her heart must have melted. The lady went to another counter, checked something on the monitor and came back.

โ€˜OK, put them in.โ€™

I could have sunk to my knees and wept in that moment. As I collected the boarding pass, with gratitude moistening my eyelids, I asked, โ€˜Whatโ€™s your name?โ€™


โ€˜Thank you, Simran. I shall never forget you. God bless,โ€™ I said.

She acknowledged me with a smile; a smile that would stay with me forever. Whoever says kindness is petering out of human hearts is getting it all wrong. There is a lot of goodness out there, still. And you will never know it unless you step out and find them hidden in small places. We need to crave love and kindness and we will find them materializing in unexpected places.

That done, I dragged myself once again to the security check. Action replay for the third time. Thinking about it now makes me nauseous.

Getting on a plane to Dehradun and landing there was only the first phase of my long road to Pokhri. Little did I know that my ordeals were far from over.

All I can say now is that true love isnโ€™t easy. It puts you to test repeatedly and coming up trumps and attaining it takes a lot of patience, grit, faith and commitment. It wasnโ€™t enough that I proclaimed my love for the mountains. I had to prove it. Prove it in no uncertain terms. And in such uncertain times.

(๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฑ..)

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