After Rekang Peo, you start to feel the real thrill of driving through a cold desert. There are almost no human settlements between Peo and Nako, just a lonely road that snakes through barren, jagged, craggy mountains. As we started to drive towards Nako, there was almost no vehicular traffic. Just our car and a lonely road that squiggled through the mountains.
Night falls fast in the high passes, one moment everything is bathed in the golden light of the setting sun, another moment, a black velvet curtain falls over everything and all around you is silence. Profound, complete silence. Just the sound of the car wheels and your own breath. No birds chirp here, no reassuring twinkle of lights in a distant hillside village offers solace, no car horns or even the comfort of the tail lights of a car far ahead. The loneliness is all encompassing, and the silence is deafening. After a point, it starts to feel oppressive.
This was the first time in five days since I left my home in Pune that I was feeling totally lonely and utterly desolate. For no reason. Mountains are a strange thing, sometimes they make you feel elated with their beauty and sometimes they bury you under their height, making you feel insignificant and inadequate. I found myself grieving about my father, whom I couldn’t even see one last time as I was in the US when he passed away. I was unearthing memories of the past that were long covered by the sands of time.
There was absolute silence in the car. Just the dark velvet curtain of the night, faint outline of the jagged mountain peaks and ahead of us, a tiny island of moving light as the car headlights lit up a small patch of the road.
At that moment, suddenly, a pale, silvery moon hovered on the horizon as the long fingers of the tall mountains tickled the night sky gently. Ahead lay the endless road, an untidy tangle of twists and turns. Deep down, a restless river whispered unspeakable things in a soft, throaty murmur. It was cold, bone numbingly cold. I felt a lump in my throat that refused to budge.
The car continued to weave its way on the road, it’s headlights creating a solitary moving pool of yellow light. Our’s was the only vehicle on the road for miles around. As if tired of the loneliness and silence, Pawan put on some music.
Mohit Chohan sang in a soulful voice. Haunting, long-drawn notes of a Pahadi song filled my ears.
‘Kuthi janda chandrama, kuthi jande taare ho, maiyyaji, kuthi jande dilande piyaare ho’
‘Chupi janda chandrama, chupi jaande taare ho, dheeye bhala nayyo chupde dilande piyaare ho’
(Tell me O Mother, where hides the moon and the stars, where go the ones close to our heart
The moon hides, so do the stars, oh daughter, but the ones close to our heart, they never hide.)
In one sudden moment of happy realisation, my feelings of oppressive loneliness turned into a beautiful feeling of belongingness as I thought of my children’s happy faces, of my husband’s deep reassuring voice, my mother’s soft caresses, my father’s hugs. It was true, my ‘दिलांदे प्यारे’ were never far away from me. They were a part of me.
I smiled. As if on cue, the light of Nako appeared far ahead in the distance!
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