Very many hours of my waking life are spent staring at India’s map. I think it comes closest to meditation for me!
On a serious note, every Spring I spend some time picking my mountain region of the year. Last year, I was basking in Uttarakhand’s chrome sunshine. But where will the roads take me this year? As I finalised my first mountain travel within India this year, I realised how cautious and picky I had become. What made me superstitious or unadventurous?
For all practical reasons, Sikkim is a fair enticement. It is an overnight journey from my current base-city (Kolkata), has some breathtaking landscapes and perhaps some of the best treks in the country and is renowned as a plastic-free destination. Everyone who has been to Sikkim, only tells me of how lovely it is and they will definitely go back. Still, why does it continue to elude me?
And if distance is not a problem, then why haven’t I been to everyone’s favourite Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Having travelled to (and being in love with) Kashmir, I never thought of Ladakh as its entity. May be it is the large difference in the cultures and the landscapes, which overpowers my feelings for the place. May be, I’ll always pick the effervescent Srinagar or snowy green Gulmarg over the arid lands of Ladakh tourism. Or may be it is just another mind block.
How come I keep going back to those mountain states I know? Sure, I explore a different side each time, but I wonder if familiarity breeds caution. Am I being cautious with my choices? Or have I just given my heart to a favourite few and find it difficult not to revive the relationship?
I still haven’t found my answers to these. I know I’m fascinated by the people of Uttarakhand. The more I travel there, the deeper my love grows for the land. I know that I’m curious to understand the cultural differences in Arunachal Pradesh. As I’ve often said, I haven’t met more enterprising people anywhere. That’s one state where disparities don’t divide. I know that escaping the charms of Kashmir is a risk I’m not willing to take. It is the land where people, space and memories flourish to live forever. I know that Darjeeling will always be a connect between my past and the future. I will go back time and again. And I know that the hills of Shillong have influenced a large part of my love affair with the mountains.
Read: The Kashmir I Met
This year, I will try and tread on Sikkim’s trails. And if not, I will allow myself to the luxury of a second chance—once we’re finally ready for each other. After all, matters of the heart are delicately bound together.
As I finish, penning this post, can you guess which place am I packing for just now? Himachal Pradesh, of course.
Do you often travel on unfamiliar paths?