Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Careful, Thats the Edge. Of the Mountain & of Politeness

The whole world is yours. That’s how you feel in the mountains. For, it’s just you and them.
The skies, the mountains all around, the stretches and stretches of land around you, the rivers, the snow, the pastures.
All, except the trail on which you walk.
There is just one trail. Narrow. And they belong to many contenders.
Yaks, porters, local villagers and the tourists. Walking back and forth.

You own all the spaces around you except the two square feet that you need. A sort of law of the universe.

Now, making way for yaks is in your own safety/interest.

Making way for porters is being considerate, although I suggest to Nepal Tourism Department that all porters be made to wear bells just like yaks. We’d like to be considerate but for that, we need the porters to announce their arrival.
We don’t want to be startled in the last minute and jerked to take sudden sidesteps.

And then, there is the matter of making way for faster trekkers behind you.
In most cases, these happen to be westerners or generally, people with white skin.

It’s a tendency among our people as I have observed, to go out of the way, literally and figuratively, to allow the faster white trekkers to get past us.
True, you should not hold up someone who wants to go ahead.
It’s only courteous to make way. Also, its easy when the trail is wide.
You stop walking in the centre and move to the left or right (whichever is the side of the mountain) so the ones behind can pass.
But when the trail is narrow, as it is most of the time, should we go so far as climbing up the mountain on the side or jumping down the cliff on the other side, in our hurry accompanied by confusion?

I mean, when we drive on the roads, if someone behind wants to get ahead and there is no space, would we swerve into the rice fields by the side of the road to make way for him?

But that’s probably what we were expected to do by some people on the trail who were hurriedly urging us to move to the side, almost panicking, whenever they spotted a white man/woman 100 feet behind us.

Actually, one shouldn’t be surprised; for, Indians, most of them, always regard the white people with fear or awe. One of the two things. They are never assertive and they go out of their way to be obliging and accommodative; they are even appeasing and submissive, although, they can be and usually are, fierce, rude and belligerent when they contend with their own countrymen for anything, small or big.

Sorry, but I will have to tell you, I don’t like to be driven like cattle. If I can make way, I mean, if there is a way, I will move to a side, at my usual pace. I won’t hurry. I don’t see why I should.
But if the trail is narrow, I am not going to scramble, run in all directions to make way for the trekker behind me. He/she, brown or white, will have to be patient until the trail gets a little wider and I am able to make way.
Or optionally, they may get past me by clambering up the mountain side. But I won’t be the one to do that.

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