The photo is from 2009, clicked on the famous More Plains on the Manali-Leh highway. Since that time, I have been on that road twice, and even as the charm has worn considerably from the first time, every sight of it, even in photos, still takes a bit of my breath away.
There used to be a time, as recently as 2008 (if you can call 2008 ‘recent’, that is), when I first drove to Manali and heard about places like the Spiti Valley and Rohtang Pass. Manali town, by itself, is quite the picture of what a hill town should not be — crowded, dirty and a disaster-in-the-making thanks to tourism.
Yet, the town also has one of the most spectacular views of Himalayas you will get to see, without having trek or drive to remote places. During that first visit, mostly inspired by that view, I made plans to some day see what lay beyond Rohtang Pass, even though I had no clue how I would go about it.
In the years that followed, plans were made, and also abandoned, at the last minute thanks to the predictable freezing of the feet. Having no rugged vehicle to go to those places, I chickened out at the last minute and eventually set out to explore other areas of Himachal Pradesh instead.
As luck would have it, I did wind up crossing Rohtang on that trip and even went all the way to Leh in Ladakh and then started to make a habit of it. Somewhere along the way I set my mind on getting that rugged vehicle and picked one up that eventually cost me a fair bit of coin, at a time when spending like that was probably not the best idea.
The point to this apparent pointless meandering of words is that I don’t often think things through very clearly. There is often a lot of prior planning to doing something before it is actually done, but, more often than not, the doing itself comes unhinged from that planning and it takes a life of its own.
Going by how you are supposed to live an adult’s life, this is folly of the greatest order. And justifiably so. Should things go wrong, there is absolutely no margin for safety and you will crash rather spectacularly. That said, it is often the case in life that you can’t really plan for all eventualities in life and often even the best plans won’t stave off the worst disasters.
Once again, seen through the prism of a normal life, my life has been anything but normal. At most stages I have made choices that would be considered crazy by most people and yet those have always been choices that I have made for myself, for better or for worse.
The choices have not always been easy. Yet, as a result of those choices I am richer in what I have seen and experienced of people, places and realities beyond the cocoon that I used to live in, even while I can justifiably be called a pauper in terms of possessions and belongings.
That is not to say my relative tangible poverty does not bother me; it does. I wholeheartedly believe that there are problems in the world that money and money alone can solve and I have always disliked being indebted, one way or the other. I can’t imagine living without money, nor do I intend to live a life where there will always be a shortage of it to lead a comfortable life.
But, I also believe that there exists a life beyond things you can touch and feel. To reach beyond that you have to invest in yourself and in the world around you and for all that trouble you won’t get to show much for it that most can touch or feel. While I didn’t intend to go down that route, the past 5-years have wound up being a chaotic ride down that exact path.
So, why do I have to write down all of this? Well, for one, at times it is not easy keep the larger picture in your mind when the smaller one obscures everything else. This is one of those times and writing this down provides structure and perspective of what is not seen clearly.
Secondly, this is beginning of another phase, where I’m attempting to loop back around to merge both what is tangible and what is not-so-tangible into the same life. So far, it has been a struggle and it feels like a force fit, but I know for a fact that the mountain looms, insurmountable and large, in front of me right now, but what I truly desire lies beyond.
And I do fully intend to get there, one way or the other.