This personal essay “Wandering Among Clouds, Hills and Everything in Between” was rejected by Live Wire.
As a child, I always wondered if I could ever touch clouds and see what makes them up. Such was my fascination with them that whenever I moved out, I would gaze into the sky, closely watching them sway and change their shape and size. This fascination reached a notch higher when my imaginative skills came into play; from the outline of the Australian continent to a bunny and a face with a moustache, I would often catch varying contours whenever I looked up at what seemed to me as far-off cottony orbs in the field of divinity. Little did I know at the time what I was indulging in had a name – pareidolia.
To me, to be around clouds always seemed far-fetched, just like reaching the horizon of an ocean; as if they ripple in the breeze and make me want to sail high up. Until my soul-stirring road trip to Uttarakhand, the land of the gods, which coincided with the usual ‘unusual’ monsoon conditions there.
Having travelled over 500 kms already from my hometown, there was a quadrupling of strange excitement when the time came to travel up the curvy, hilly road to Nainital. That’s not to say I wasn’t anxious or stressed. It felt like travelling through a compression spring with sharp circular turns up to our place of stay. Although the road was narrow, it was gratifying to see vehicles move in a disciplined manner without showing even an iota of recklessness. After all, there is a deep ditch on one side with mounds of soil, sediment, and rock stacked up into hills on the other. In between is where life thrives.
Throughout the drive, with my headphones plugged in, I was listening to my favorite music. Hills, sightseeing, and a soulful playlist—truly a paradise, isn’t it? But it came about with a small vexation. At places so high up, it was no surprise that my ears detected a change in atmospheric pressure—quite similar to developing an airplane ear—that impeded me from completely appreciating the music.
Nonetheless, one melody on the list was my favourite one from the film Karwaan, starring Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salman. As the lyrics went, “…bekhabar main yahaan, befikar hai jahaan, kisey kya bataana ki dil mera hai banjara, par man mera, ye jaane na…,” I realized how clouds are banjaras (wanderers) too. Fanned by the wind to spaces obscure in the vast sky! Barely did I know, I too, was fanned to the unknown—an experience surreal and unusual like no other—which is now a treasured memory.
As I woke up from a topsy-turvy-hangover-kind-of-nap while on the way up, I saw what I never thought would leave me in so much awe: clouds walking over the lake with lushness all around. I compare the view to that of a boiling water vessel placed on a green tablecloth, with clouds emulating the steam produced.
I kept my eyes on my side of the view. Observing the localities, I wondered how it must have been for them to be in a place that is not plain terrain. Having grown up in the heart of India, I hadn’t really consciously acknowledged that millions of people live in mountains, valleys, and plateaus too. This difference in topography inevitably made me remember the central theme of Spencer Johnson’s magnum opus, Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You: As we go through life, sometimes we feel on top of the world (peaks), other times we feel numb or stuck (plateaus) and still other times we feel low (valleys). Don’t these analogies perfectly sum up our lives?
The latter days had my heart moving in and out of my rib cage like a sideways pendulum while we explored other parts of the Lake District. The clouds up in the sky were descending downwards. So much so that at first it seemed to be fog, but in sooth, those were clouds filled with water, ready to nourish mother earth. This descent makes the curvy, dangerous road during the monsoon a test of one’s driving prowess. Every turn that you take, you have little idea of what’s next because of low visibility. You feel anxious and end up opening a Pandora’s box of weird thoughts. This aligns well with what my father always tells me, “Child, when you enter a dark room, you will always take some time to figure out where the switchboard is. Similar is life. So, always trust the process with your eyes and ears open and you will be good.”
As I finally journeyed in and out of clouds in Devbhumi, I registered how travel is a way of life. I shall forever latch on to the idea of how magical it is to be a banjara at heart, to find joy in giving, just like clouds.
Aakriti is a restless sucker for life. She observes, analyses, and takes mental notes to serve something intellectually fresh each time, occasionally with a dash of humour too.