“So we start the climb for the day ” announced Yash, the trek leader.
Shivanya stared at the mountain and the steep climb.
“What was I thinking?” Shivanya wondered. “ I was in such a fairytale world! I thought Himalayan trek would be all about snow capped mountains, magical forests, white gushing streams, pine trees but this is all about cruel rocks, thin air, endless exhaustion!”
“Come on…what are you thinking?” prodded one of the boys who rushed towards the mountain with energy and enthusiasm.
“Maybe I am too old for this trek!” thought Shivanya and started ascending the mountain slowly.
After climbing two rocks, Shivanya was out of breath. She called out to her trek leader,
“Hey! Yash! Please hold my backpack ! I can’t climb with all this baggage on my shoulder and give me a walking pole”.
Yash took the baggage and measured the weight and laughed
“ This is nothing!”
Shivanya was relieved to have offloaded.
She increased her speed a little.
However, the climb was cruel on her lungs and legs!
“ Why did I not prepare for this trek? I should have jogged everyday! How silly of me!”
Shivanya was angry with herself.
She stood at a steep rock for a few seconds.
Yash gave his hand.
Shivanya held his hand and climbed quickly.
For the next few rocks, Yash held Shivanya’s hand and Shivanya felt happy .
However, the happiness was short-lived. There were other trekkers who needed Yash and Yash had to rush to help them.
Now Shivanya was left to her own devices.
After a few minutes of walking, Shivanya stood and looked around.
She was at such a height! And the view was truly mesmerizing. It was nature at its wildest. But Shivanya was too tired to enjoy the natural beauty.
When she looked down, she felt a little giddy. She could see white waters of the stream gushing down forcefully. Suddenly, she felt thirsty. She looked around to realise that her water bottle was in the backpack which was with Yash who had walked way ahead. She looked behind and realised she was the last person on this trail. There was nobody behind or ahead of her .Shivanya sat down on a rock. And felt drowsy.
“ O Lord Shiva!” Shivanya cried. “ I came here to Parvati Valley because I read that you meditated here for 3000 years …..but I can hardly feel your presence… there is no magic here in the mountains….it’s all just tragic and right now I am so tired I can’t walk ahead and all I long for is water……. HELP !”
“Is everything ok?” a young male voice was heard.
Shivanya was startled as she thought she was all alone .
She looked behind to find a young man in his early thirties. He was tall, muscular and strong.
“ No!” said Shivanya .
She had no option but to speak the truth at this hour.
“ Can I help you Mam?” the man asked politely.
“ I need water! I am thirsty!” Shivanya cried.
The man smiled “ That’s easy!”
Shivanya watched with absolute shock as the young man hopped and jumped down the steep rocks with the ease of a mountain goat and filled some water from the stream running below in his bottle.
He offered the stream water to Shivanya.
Shivanya grabbed the bottle and gulped it down.
“Slowly” laughed the mysterious stranger.
“This water is so sweet and cold! I have never tasted something like this!” Shivanya said after her thirst was quenched. “Do you live here? What’s your name?”
“Rudra! Yes I live at a place called Min Thatch!” the stranger replied
“ That’s where my trek-team is headed…great! so I have company till my next campsite…but please don’t walk fast….as you can see I am the slowest in my camp!” Shivanya revealed.
Shivanya got up and started walking amongst the wilderness. But there was a spring in her step now. She was excited and not tired. She began to enjoy all the beautiful natural sights around her.
As she was walking, suddenly she saw a snake gliding in the path. Shivanya screamt.
Rudra simply smiled and asked Shivanya to stand still. Shivanya held Rudra’s hand tight and they both froze till the snake slithered away on its own.
Shivanya regained her composure once the snake slithered away.
“I thought you would click a selfie with the snake!” Rudra joked “Usually if you don’t react, snakes mind their own business, it’s as simple as that!”
“Looks like they are your close friends!” Shivanya remarked sarcastically.
Rudra smiled cooly.
“ Have you come here alone?” Rudra asked
“ Yes. I wanted to know how brave I am! So I joined this Himalayan Trek alone. But there are 10 other people in this camp, who have all climbed ahead. And here I am, lagging behind!”Shivanya answered matter-of-factly.
Suddenly, there was thunder and in a matter of seconds, it started raining heavily.
“Ah! The weather is highly unpredictable!” said Rudra
“ Not now! Rains go away!” Shivanya angrily said.
And in a minute the rains were gone.
“Wow! The rains are obedient!” Shivanya laughed.
As they walked, they came across of a large herd of mountain goats.
Shivanya was delighted to see the goats, but suddenly what she saw ahead made her cry.
It was a ravine. A bunch of rocks, steep, pointed and Shivanya had to climb down!
She looked at the side and her breath stopped.
“Oh no…one mistake and I will be gone!” Shivanya said, tensed.
Rudra laughed, “ See, if you breath in, Shiva is in you. If you don’t breath in, you are in Shiva! So any which way, you win! There is nothing to fear!”
Rudra’s words had a calming effect on Shivanya. She gathered some courage and took the first step downward. But unfortunately, due to the rains, the rocks had become slippery. Shivanya slipped but Rudra caught her in time.
As Shivanya was trying to come in terms with what lay ahead of her, they heard a noise a behind them…..
It was that large herd of 200 goats!
Rudra told Shivanya to hurry up, otherwise the mountain goats would trample them under their feet.
Just few minutes back, Shivanya was happy to see those goats, but now she was cursing them!
Shivanya started breathing heavily. “Is this the only way?”
Rudra comforted her, “ Ok I have another way . I will carry you on my back! “
Shivanya looked at him as if it was a joke.
Rudra replied “ Don’t worry! I have carried heavier things!” with a faint smile.
Looking down, Shivanya made up her mind within a second. She got onto Rudra’s back like a child. And Rudra descended the slippery rocks in a matter of few seconds.
When they touched base, Shivanya got off.
Shivanya looked at Rudra, “ You are a super hero! You are my God! “
Then Shivanya noticed Rudra was wearing Rudraksha beads on his wrist.
“ I love your Rudraksha beads!You seem to be a follower of Lord Shiva! So am I !” Shivanya was happy to be safely brought down.
“Look I can see your camp there……..we have arrived” Rudra said.
Finally!!!!! sighed Shivanya. “You have to come with me…I want to introduce you to Yash- my trek leader…and tell him how strong you are!”
Rudra laughed…. “I may have strong biceps but you have a very strong muscle too……it’s your heart…you are a braveheart girl!”
Shivanya looked at him fondly “Your company made me brave !”
Rudra continued saying,
“haha I am always with you…in your heart!
And now I am late….. have to hurry…. my house is a little ahead of your camp, on that small hill there!”
“ Oh no! You have to come with me…..just for some time!”
Rudra replied , “Ok you go ahead…I will join you!”
Shivanya walked ahead and her trek leader started clapping when Shivanya arrived safely
“Where were you????” he asked curiously
“Oh I had company!” Shivanya blushed
“Kaunsa Bakra pakda tha?” joked one of the boys in the camp
“Oh Please! Let me introduce him……” snapped Shivanya
As Shivanya looked behind, she saw the herd of mountain goats advancing….they were bleating
The trek leader started laughing….
“Oh I see! Nice company!”
Shivanya looked ahead of the goats but couldn’t see Rudra anywhere.
She ran back but couldn’t find him anywhere.
She came back and asked the trek leader if there was any human settlement ahead of their camp.
The trek leader pointed out to a small hill where he could see a small building.
“Oh I see….that’s where Rudra lives! “ Shivanya thought to herself. “Let me go and get him here! He needs to meet Yash!” Thinking so Shivanya rushed towards the small hill with renewed energy.
As she climbed the hill, she came in front of the entrance of the tiny building and it was not a house but a temple, a Shiva Temple!
As Shivanya rushed inside, all she saw was a tiny Shivling.
“Rudra!” She called out….but there was no reply
She looked around here and there and suddenly, her eyes fell on a bracelet of Rudraksha seeds lying near the Shiv Linga.
The bracelet was the same one that Rudra was wearing!
Rudra’s words came back to Shivanya, “ I am always with you…in your heart!”
Shivanya’s heart skipped a beat. “Was he really…….?
As she fell on her knees and bowed down to the Shiv linga, she felt a mystic and beautiful presence around her. She shut her eyes in meditation. She was no longer looking for Rudra.
“Thank You Lord Rudra for helping me climb this mountain!” she prayed with gratitude.
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