Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mountains And The Melancholy After

I returned from Ladhak on Monday, the 8th of June, after touring the place for 9 full days. I was feeling depressed the whole of the week that followed.

Even as I returned from the airport in the dark of the night, I saw mountains all around me through the black glasses of a Volvo bus. Two days later, I saw some vague pictures in my dreams which I discerned after waking up as similar to and influenced from the Leh palace ruins.

I felt a longing to go back.

It happened last year too. After my return from the Himalayas where I spent one full month in the valleys and mountains, walking, trekking, travelling and wandering.
I saw the Ganges in the Rishikesh valley in my dreams and woke up almost crying. Like a child longs to go to it’s mother.

At first I thought it was my sentimental nature. Becoming attached to people and places that I have no right to become attached to, and then inevitably suffering in silence.

Sometimes I think it has to do with the landscape of the place. Strewn with emblems of eternity.

Visiting the mountains can be a relieving experience. Because the mountains belittle you.
The enormous mountains, the vast spaces separating them and the rivers that have been flowing forever, not only miniaturize you, but reduce your existence to a spec in the eternal stretch of time.

Visiting the mountains means going through a paradigm shift.

Your life, dreams, aspirations, plans, prospects……that were until now larger than life, cease to matter, at once.

The status report that was pending from your side, the important deadline which could not be missed(as if the world would come to an end otherwise!), the provident fund which remained to be claimed from the government, that boy who was due to visit from America and had to be met, the aching back muscle, the economic recession, the election results and most of all, the ache in the heart… all that were until now “important matters” larger than life, become ridiculous. And that is such a relief.

An enormous weight is lifted off your body, mind, heart and soul.

Focus shifts from the “self” to the mountains, to the beauty all around, to the blue sky and to the snow on that peak whose pattern remains the same all the time….perhaps it was the same a hundred years ago…

Men come and men go. Like tides. Like seasons. Like seconds. Like minutes. Like time.
Who can distinguish one from the other?
For all the passion, worry, rhetoric, dreams, concern, dedication and emotion with which they went through life, for the wars they fought, won and lost, who can distinguish one from the other?
And what remains of all those loving deeds, of those heroic deeds?
The palace ruins? which betray nothing of the past grandeur?

I wrote in a poem last year after my visit to the Himalayas…

“Where worries about the “self”
Become ashamed of their insignificance…”

When you look at the mountains you know they have stood there for hundreds of thousands of years. Forever. They have seen men like me come and go. Who even remembers what those men did or did not and how did it matter to this world? … the snow on that peak – it’s pattern was the same a hundred years ago…

Who can tell a piece of cinder from another?
Who can tell a grain of sand from another?

For all our struggle, effort, exertion, success and pride, that’s what we all become in the end. Cinder and soil.

Being in this paradigm feels feather - light. Nothing worries you. Because nothing matters.

When I returned to Bangalore, I returned to my original paradigm. The one where everything matters.
The transition happened so quickly – it did not give me time to adjust. Sunday noon, I was walking on the shores of a lake with peacock blue waters close to China Border. Monday morning, I was in Delhi ; Monday evening, I was in Bangalore and Tuesday morning – I was in office. Thanks to all the progress man has made in the field of transportation.

A whole week was spent in melancholy. A longing to go back to the mountains. A longing to shift to another paradigm. A longing to feel feather – light… A longing to be relieved…of the ache in the heart…


Satish said...

Had read it somewhere about the mountains, but cannot really recollect -

In the coldest galcier you find the greatest warmth.
In the silence, you find the greatest conversation.
In the loneliness, you find the greatest company.....

I am so envious now...Hope you had a great time there and expecting some great pics and posts on Ladakh and Leh

Sowmya said...

Hey Satish,

There are 1600 pictures in all. I have to reduce the number to 1200 ... delete all the duplicates, blurred ones... and a lot of work... This month onwards there will be 2 posts per month on Ladhak... and this will go on for 4-5 months... :) Happy reading!

And the next time, you are coming with me to the mountains :)

I was all alone in Ladhak this time... but it was not all that bad :)

Ketan said...

I feel exactly the same about life as you vis-a-vis the passion with which we live it, and yet how redundant it really is in the absolute sense.

Though, I enjoy scenic beauty, nature is not the cue that I need to remind myself of the above fact. In fact, the perennial subconscious realization (of the above fact) is what has made me very passive and laid back about life. However I believe, lack of stimulating challenges in my current share of life is much more responsible for that.

Well thought out post!


Sowmya said...


Subconscious realization of the fact(of mortality) is good. But using it as an excuse for your passivity is not :)

Ketan said...

Sowmya, it's not as much about mortality as it is about the much larger purposelessness of it all. But despite that I've a lot of zest for life. Because I love to live. :) I'm addicted to life. What I meant by passivity was with regard to a certain kind of competitive spirit. What I love the most (commenting on your blog is a part of that), I'm anyway still doing.

If I were to have to do something intellectually much more stimulating than what I'm currently doing (preparing for medical postgraduate exams), I'd have been less passive about them. Likewise, had I been living in place where innovation and original thoughts would be valued, I'd be most passionate about things. I am making sense? :)