Few years ago, I was travelling with once upon a time a beautiful friend. And like all great friendships do, we were growing up becoming something together. And during this long period of growth had found our confidence, our speech, as we took travelling to many a distant lands and one land far; discovering treasures together that helped us earning our eyes, my outer nature and his inner, we learnt together and kept going.
The sun had set again. And unlike last night that had just blown in; we should have found something, somewhere to rest, to eat by now. But here we were still riding, and had been riding our motorcycles for last two, twelve-hour days, while living through one gruelling moonless, freezing night in between, that started late yesterday noon, when we were stopped, stunned to see a river that had come on the road. We parked and got down. One spring had broken loose. Pulling in all mud, the boulders, rocks, with an intimidating noise, and the force of the coldest water as it rushed downstream.
In the last one hour of our ride we had over taken no one and that meant no one was coming behind us, at least for sometime. It really seemed, as we had always wanted to be amongst nature; that day nature herself turned to us. The moment of helplessness was so overpowering that the first thing that came to us was a smile looking at each other. It was intimidating to an extent that it looked impossible to even attempt crossing it. Our motorcycles were heavy filled with bags, petrol, luggage, and only one slip, one misstep could lead to directionless-ness of the journey ahead and may be life. There was no one to be seen on both ends to speak with. We thought and looked for a way, sat, made plans, charged ourselves, challenged us and filled ourselves with some hope, of giving it a try. And for once, one by one we started our engine and pulled it all to power pass through, manoeuvring, pushing at least towards the mountain curve uphill,
but it got worse and I found it even harder to sustain that much force. On the way uphill just before the curve my bike gave up, water entered the silencer and I had to watchfully get it backwards walking through the ice water where we were before. I removed my sock and shoe, as we sat mulling, rather waiting again, together.
A truck arrived and stopped, driver looked for a while, gathered some sense and went with speed. With much difficulty though, as it was the first time we could assess through its big the depth and level of difficulty. And to say the least that truck was the only machine that actually passed that evening. Cars that arrived later tried to follow suit. Some men came together determining a way, some started removing bigger boulders, or putting in to help the others to pass. Everybody stopped and looked as one Jeep ahead inside and tried its best to negotiate with force and stubbornness but it happened to be the one that got stuck right in the middle of it;
evening by then slowly turned to night; becoming impossible to try anything. The cold outside became unbearable. We befriended a man who was alone sitting in car, giving us sitting shelter for the night. Sleep was silently beyond comprehension as from this car we saw the car stuck right in the middle of the road river, passengers sitting inside it as the coldest water noised past through their car all night, when somewhere around that time someone started blowing a flute.
As soon as it dawned, It took tremendous might and a lot of time; many a hands came together to help get each other pass through this unbelievable stretch of the road. The ones whom we helped, came back to help our motorcycles pass. And as we carried these memories of the night last, still riding, and riding fast going into another night to reach, to feel safer, comfortable, to stretch our bodies for once, to rest and to eat, when suddenly the headlight of my friend’s motorcycle busted broke and we came to a halt again.
It took us two hours from there to descent from a high pass, through the deepest Himalayan gorges closest to the Tibetan(Chinese) border; very cautiously without one headlight on an another dark, freezing night, we attached two hand torches on one motorcycle as i lead us slowly to the only camp.
And as we arrived, I remember we were welcomed by the sound of cooker whispering loudly in that playground valley of the winds, that food is here; you are welcome. It was super comfortable, and there were quiet a few people already sitting and resting. Some fellow Indians, few foreigners. We were slowly getting back to warmth, finding our breaths back, ourselves amongst hot tea, as finally feeling humans and not on a war. As not far from us, we realised that one discussion was slowly going towards disagreement, argument as hands were thrown at the table when we learnt that the two adults that are arguing, were one from Israel and the other from Palestine.
The food arrived and Dolma(big sister in Laddakhi) don’t know why told us that His Holiness Dalai Lama would be coming tomorrow, not very far from here to a place called The Chandra(moon) Tal (Lake). And many lamas and monks in numbers would be coming, serving food there for anyone present.
Early in the morning, we woke up excited and left for the mountain lake hungry, lot before the first ray would touch our planet, it was long journey and the road was beautiful, deep inside a valley that had separated itself from another grand river Sutlej, satadree nadi in Sanskrit. These roads were not paved then, and for a any vehicle larger than a car would be almost impossible to get through easily.
It took us over two hours to reach. We parked our motorcycles and started trudging up the hill. And slowly as we were reaching the oldest heavenly sight of the crater shaped lake, we were surprised to see locals, monks coming from directions we never thought even existed to walk, they were walking from one mountain to the other calling people from the villages where roads might never reach. They were walking in small-large groups from far away mountains, and some for even days to meeting, to see, to have only one glimpse of their lord, His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the moon lake, below.
Everyone seemed happy, waiting to be enlightened. Singing, conversing, talking, walking across the lake, observing it, seeing it, meditating over it and calming their restive souls waiting for him. It was half past two, and still Dalai lama hadn’t come. And because he had not come, the food was not served till then.
Yet as we waited, we came close to and started speaking with the Rinpoche lama, scholar and a close aide to his holiness, as he learnt that we had come from far on Motorcycles asked us if it is true! My dear friend then in a matter of fact like conversation asked him if he ever rode a Motorcycle in his life? He, the Rinpoche smiled, thought for a moment and answered him in a question, that, if he ever swam this lake? While looking at the coldest waters, both burst out laughing.
At that time my friend did go to the shore of the lake, putting the tip of his toe in the water after removing his shoe and started laughing even louder like a child, probably acknowledging Rinpoche’s wisdom or contemplating his own childlike nature. The water was freezing.
Today after all these a few years, i imagine that laugh was more than just an acceptance and a surrender to everything that nature presents. Including all those days that were not laughable, to those beings who spend their time meditating likewise travelling within themselves. And even after all these years when he is not here with me, his laugh still rings like that melody of fluttering, colorful Tibetan Prayer Flags.
That day His Holiness the Dalai Lama did not arrive. And yet that day became the most fulfilling day with the company of many monks we ever had during our motorcycle diaries. The food was delicious.
But two years later, something rare, something unusual will happen.