A writer friend of mine once said that the best writing comes from an author who is on an empty stomach. I’m guessing that this entry into my diary should be my best then. I haven’t eaten in 3 days. Eating snow isn’t exactly like Ice cream.
My name is Karna. Whoever finds this diary should realize I might already be dead. If all this is unfolding too fast for you, let me bring you upto speed with the occurrences of the past few days, and since I haven’t entered my anything into my diary for a long time, it will make Mr.Diary happy too.
On January 2nd, 2010 after a wild new year party, a bunch of us i.e. Harsh, Sneha, Pavan, Isaac and me decided that we should do something memorable since we still had a few days left to get back to our mundane routines. A few suggested Goa, but the majority were in favour of going to the Himalayas. The mountains always fascinated us city slickers, so we jumped at the idea and preparations were underway by that evening.
We reserved tickets to Gorakhpur, and decided to make our way eastwards towards Nepal thereafter. We lodged at a place called HOTAL ROYAL PALASE. Despite the horrible spelling, it was a quite a comfy place to crash in and the owner Shiv Bahadur was an amazing conversationalist. He hooked us up with a local guide called Sarvesh Singh aka Captain, a strapping six footer who had worked with the Border Roads Organization, but had a premature retirement for reasons no one knew. Shiv told us that Captain never spoke much. So we never asked him too many questions, went along and did whatever he asked of us. I’d like to think that I am a good judge of people so from what I saw of him it was obvious that he was an adventurer but something from his past had extinguished the fire in him.
No one has the power to predict the future, but the superstitious few always know when something is going to go wrong. This is exactly what happened on January the 9th. Pavan woke up with a start, sweating like he’d been working out in his sleep. Pavan was the kind of guy who wouldn’t invest in stocks, if he saw a black cat that morning or if someone sneezed when he left home that day. He had had some nightmare and tried desperately to convince us to limit ourselves to bead shopping and temple visits that day. Though we were a close bunch of people, Sneha was closer to Pavan than the rest of us and reluctantly agreed to stay behind . So all suited up, Harsh, Isaac and I made our way to Mountain View Restaurant, where Captain usually picked us up in his rickety old Willy. He informed us that today’s trek would take long and was the most dangerous yet. We were pretty kicked about it, since we had done very exciting stuff in the last 2 days, so were waiting to push the envelope this time around. But time to time, I kept remembering Pavan and his nightmare. I marched forth nevertheless.
Four hours into the mountains and we had passed probably the most beautiful terrain that we had ever laid eyes on, the light mist floating above the mountains, the small stream gushing with a force like it had to get to work on time and the sheer majesty of the mountains themselves, standing tall like grand old men. Isaac started complaining that his wife Irene should have come along and that being stuck with two guys in such a beautiful environment was frustrating. I felt the same and I’m sure it was the same with Harsh, we looked at each other and tugged Isaac’s backpack to make sure we didn’t lose pace with Captain who was leading the way, unaffected by all breathtaking beauty around him. Was it because he was indifferent or was it because he had seen these places before? I will probably never know.
It was almost 4 in the afternoon, we were famished. Captain suggested we go a little further and make camp. But we insisted since we our legs would not carry us anymore, even though we knew that the base of a mountain wasn’t the best place to make camp. Harsh was a chef at one of the better hotels back home in Hyderabad. So he started working on our mini feast. Isaac & I went to gather some wood while Captain sat a few metres away on a rock eating the single paratha that was his standard meal on all our treks.
We ventured further into the woods, the trees on the border of the woods were soggy and unsuitable for making a fire. We were still searching, when we noticed something in the distance. A musk deer I think it was. There was an abundance of the beautiful beasts on the Indo Nepal border areas. But I remember Shiv had told us that poaching was a big problem in these areas. And surely enough, we noticed a few hundred metres away, behind a foliage, two burly men taking position like snipers with a rifle. I took out my SLR, and zoomed in to get a better view of things. The guns were armed with tranquilisers with yellow feathered tails. We didn’t want these guys to succeed. So we decided to scare the animal away from danger. So I started yelling and Isaac hurled a few rocks at the deer. It immediately noticed us and darted into the bushes. Mission accomplished we thought, but little did we know that these poachers would now turn their attention to us. Captain came running towards us and pushed us to the ground. As we hit the ground, we heard shots fired and bullets whizzed past us. The sound echoed. This was bad news. We were in avalanche country.
We were grounded in our positions, and the poachers reckless fire had triggered huge echoes. Soon enough, we could hear the rumbling snow. Something had to be done and fast. Captain had informed us that as soon as heard me yelling he had asked Harsh to ring up the Mountain Rescue team through his satellite phone. But it would be impossible a helicopter to land in these circumstances. Captain crawled closer to us, informed us of what he was going to do. We hesitated furiously. He slapped me back to my senses and asked me to make a run for it. What happened after this was like a movie is fast forward.
Captain sprang up, ran towards the gunfire as fast as he could, and hurled himselves at the shooters on the ground. “Run”, he yelled. Isaac and I dashed back towards camp, we could see Harsh at a distance signaling us to pick up speed as the snow was rushing towards the base of the mountain. I turned around to see what was going on. Before I could realize, one of them got shooters got a shot away and it hit my leg. It felt like something sprang up from the ground and bit me real hard. I collapsed in the pain. Isaac turned around, I yelled at him to keep running. He came back, put me his shoulder and trudged along. This would get us nowhere I thought, I wriggled out of his grip and warned him to save himself. Tears welled up in his eyes, he threw his back pack at me and made a run for it.
The snow came crashing down. I managed to make half a tent in the next few seconds and crawled into it. Meanwhile my eyes scourged the place, but there was no sign of the Captain or the poachers. The tent collapsed under the weight of the snow, but I had room enough to move around. I assumed that the snow wasn’t too deep since I could hear the groan of the helicopter. I grabbed a torch and checked the provisions I had, minimal food, this diary, a pen, 2 torches, 2 sleeping bags and a long rope.
As the day turned into night and loneliness engulfed me. My thoughts started wandering. I thought of my family back home, my cubicle at work, all the laughs that my I had shared with my friends, the memorable trip that this had been. I was glad that Harsh and Isaac were safe, or atleast I can assume so. I’m glad Pavan and Sneha never came along. The fat bugger could hardly run. Finally I thought about Captain. I had to remain sane, so I picked up my pen and I’m writing this. I wish someone would save me.
I must have blacked out sometime while writing that. I woke up in a cozy room to see Harsh, Isaac, Pavan and Sneha around me along with some strange men. My arm was bandaged; I felt a stinging pain in the right leg where I was shot. It was January 14. The authorities had found me as I was on the edge of the avalanche. I still had a pulse and so they shifted me to the best hospital in the area. After a few long distance telephone calls, a few forced smiles. They left me to rest.
I still think about Captain Sarvesh Singh to this day. He was a Hero. Heroes aren’t born, heroes aren’t nurtured, heroes don’t beat up 15 goons with their bare hands, and heroes certainly don’t dance around trees. A hero is an ordinary man who conjures up the courage to place himself before others in extraordinary circumstances. Had it not been for the Captain, three of us would have never lived to see the sunrise again. I read those pages in my diary once in a while to remind myself of the rebirth that I had been granted at the cost of another’s man sacrifice.