Anniversary, Day whatever
It was the 7th of June in 2017 and life was a mess. But I had to take a decision. I had come so far, with a grey rucksack on my back and a heart that was so determined to be happy. I had to stay away from those anti-depressants. I had to bring myself out of the dark. I had to change. It had already been a week in the mountains and a part of me was backing out; I was only looking for someone to tell me that it was okay to go back home, that it wasn’t necessary to push myself to go further, that it was okay to put kohl in my eyes and tie my hair up and pretend like everything was okay. I just needed to hear something from someone to make one decision. It was stressful. Why was this carefree girl inside me suddenly terrorised of “what ifs”? Why was she overthinking over a trip she wanted to go on for so long? I thought she was impulsive but she was letting me down. “But right now, you need to get out of the room to get a breather”, said a voice. And, I followed.
I walked past Log Huts and crossed the buzzing street side restaurants, dodged taxis that were headed to Hadimba Temple and stopped at Johnson’s, noticed tourists’ use selfie sticks and then looked up only once I found myself standing outside the Himachal Tourist Information Center. I sighed. It had started to drizzle so without a second thought, I pushed through the doors and started to look around. I headed towards the help desk and while my hands were running through the pamphlets that were dressed in tourist attractions, I mustered up the courage to finally ask, “Uncle, Is the road to Spiti operational now?” He asked me to hold on to that thought while he confusedly used his calculator. And, I waited, but not too long before he looked up with his glasses that were resting on his nose and mumbled how Rohtang Pass had only opened for the locals to pass. However, he added, that if I wanted to go, I could enquire from this nearby place that was down the road. Acknowledging his answer, I stared at him for a millisecond and nodded. I had begun walking towards the exit when my eyes met with a crookedly hung painting on the wall. The compulsion to get close to it just to frame it back to symmetry dawned and I fixed it hurriedly. Although, I hadn’t noticed the painting because my brain was mostly obsessing over why it was hung improperly, but the moment I did, I smiled. It was a dusty old painting of what looked like a monastery- the Key Monastery; it rested on top of a hill with the view of the entire valley. A river flew in the distance, few mountains were half dressed in snow and between all of that - a structure with pieces of lego put together for the monks of Spiti. It looked a lot like summer. And, suddenly, I felt the closest to Spiti than ever before.
Leaving the painting behind, I rushed out the Information Center and back on the Mall Road. I took a left, as Uncle had directed me and kept walking straight. It was so crowded- families, kids, vendors were scattered all over the place. It was the peak season after all. But, I was in a hurry and I didn’t care so I crossed them all like they were mere hindrances. Then, I stopped some 50 m after the entrance to Van Vihar. And, there it was, carefully tucked behind tempo travellers and sumos, Hotel Kiran. I proceeded towards it without thinking too much; there weren’t many people around. Just a vine, that hung from its upper floor’s balcony, the occasional honks of the frustrated Manali drivers and me. Although the moment I stepped into the hotel, I found myself in the middle of friendly men who were chatting over tea and giggling. There was this happy yet strange gusto in that waiting area. And, there, I caught myself smiling again.
I started talking to these few people that I had just barged into and inquired if one of them could take me to Spiti. “I will take you to Spiti, be here at 6 in the morning.”, said Kunga bhaiya enthusiastically. I could feel the goosebumps popping through my epidermis. My heart was racing and I wasn’t quite sure how I was feeling. He continued, “You look like a local only, no one will stop you.” I took his number, thanked him and told him I would see him at the same spot the next morning. I was finally going to Spiti! After this confirmation, I was dancing while walking at the same time on those same chaotic streets of Manali that didn’t feel a lot like home but little did the heart care, it was rejoicing! A part of me felt so liberated - as if, I had done something I could have done so easily but took so long to do. I then headed to Old Manali to pick up a warm jumper for those mountains far away and enjoyed a slice of carrot cake from Evergreen while prancing back to Log Huts one last time for a while. I did have my dinner, I did pack but I couldn’t sleep for I didn’t want to not wake up for my mini bus the next morning. The clock was ticking while I counted every minute, until it was 5. And, within an hour, I was off on another adventure, on another journey, on another voyage but without my anti-depressants. :)
I have become rather forgetful in the last three years, but this memory never seems to fade. Maybe because it was the start to a completely new life. A life, in which I was more accepting of my surroundings, experiences and my happiness. Maybe because soon after this trip got over, I’d have to leave the only person that really mattered and how it became an extremely pivotal point in my life. The twenty days that I spent in Spiti, carefree like a breeze, were the most important days of my life. I had never been happier, more content and more open to the world. I was managing a hostel’s receipt books, lunch orders, meeting new people, driving a 1998 Gypsy King on inexplicable roads, and falling in love with life, like I had never before. I still do not know if it was the people, or if it was me. I only knew I had never been this happy. It was an other thing that my life totally flipped after getting back home, but it changed me for who I am today. On this day today, the 6th of June 2020, I celebrate my three years of a new life. Some time ago, a very lost girl was wandering the streets of Manali, looking for happiness. And, all it took was a trip to one of the coldest places on Earth, to show her, how all the warmth lay within. Here’s to all the life-changing experiences we’ve had, and will continue to have! Actually, it’s funny how 2020 is a life changer for all of us, collectively. Damn, it could start a revolution. Love