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In my 36 years of existence, the term ‘existential crisis’ only evoked a sense of curiosity. I am grappling to make more sense of the pandemic and its eventual resolution. Yardsticks change every day; definitions, counter-measures, mortality rates, zonal demarcations, economic plight, clinical trials, possible cure, the curve and death, and more death. It is impossible to keep up with all this.
The great lockdown manifests globally, changing in shape and dictum. The freedom to be alone is replaced by coping strategies to combat isolation, food shortage, fear, violence, and the sheer will to survive.
The walls have closed in on us with time to reflect alone and delve into memories. In the past, my mechanism to combat the demands of urban life was escaping–to the mountains for solitude, adventure, love, energy, strength. Such a quest is impossible now. Our collective irresponsibility has led us to this crisis.The unabated tampering with our host is the inescapable reality we must confront. Ironically, I continue to draw inspiration from my rendezvouses with nature.
I hope to be a tourist again; in memory, I continue to be one. I have the past to fall back on; the memory of vast landscapes and meandering rivers nestled under the singular, daunting, inhospitable Himalayas.
I was on the trail to Goecha la in 2014. A high-altitude pass, accessible by traversing the mountains in Sikkim. Before approaching the pass, one must cross the Samiti Lake. Then the climb begins. From a vantage point, a few souls can be seen approaching the lake.
The Fury Road
Jump back to the vast plains of Ladakh in October 2013. The Fury Road challenges riders across the world. Many wish to experience and conquer the cold dessert. In truth, there is no conquest here, only camaraderie.
Fast forward to a sunset in Spiti in 2017. The lesser-known cousin of Ladakh is by no means lesser. Here, on the approach to Tabo, one of the many distant villages, a break as evening dawns.
We are in this together. The trek to the peak of Kedarkantha, Uttarakhand brought strangers from across India together as a team. They became friends, helped each other, and trekked through the snowfields to reach the top. A point where a collective is well and truly by itself, a community. January 2018.
Under the universe. One of the unique experiences of the Himalayas is the night sky. The Milky Way is only a term confined to textbooks nowadays, but not quite. By banks of River Baspa in Chhitkul, Himachal Pradesh. Solitary and miniscule in comparison. The year 2019.
A lot must happen. Organisational transition coupled with individual commitment is the path to redemption. The goal cannot be of survival alone but to rectify and build. We must learn to challenge ourselves. This is the path which can lead us back; not to the past but to a responsible future. Shimla 2016.
I wish to go back to Nature with respect. I wish to go back with more responsibility and shed prejudice. I wish to reclaim an iota of innocence.
(Written by Anirban Saha and Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Anirban Saha is a hobby photographer based out of Noida. He has been travelling to the Indian Himalayas since 2005. He doubles up as an IT professional and a father of two toddlers. He has already seen the great mountains and hopes to return to travel in a post-corona world.