‎Unbecoming Modern – a blog about Roopkund


Written by Sumesh Dugar

It has been my dream for a while now, to completely break away from the digital jungle that has creepers like Facebook, Whatsapp, amongst many others. These creepers held at your fingertips, drain your mind and give you a false feeling of being connected. The more densely you ‘connect’ in this jungle, the further you disconnect from yourself. So this autumn Suyash, a dear friend, and I decided to go on a trekking trip to the Himalayas.
We reached the base camp on our scheduled date and time, to be introduced to our accompanying trekkers.They consisted of people from all walks of life. From a captain of a merchant navy to a doctor, from software engineers to a lawyer, from a UI designer to a globe trotter, from a program trader to an aspiring chartered accountant, among others. The diversity was startling. In a small briefing held by the trek lead, Gurdit, we were all united by a similar goal: to reach the very top of Roopkund, a mysterious lake at 16400 feet with numerous hidden skeletons.
Day 2 began early and after a short car ride, we were left to the mountains with our backpacks on our back. The first hour was enchanting, with a few gorges and streams pass-ing us, as we trailed upwards. However, as the mountains got steeper, we started question-ing our physical abilities to see through the upcoming 6 days, already. We were out of breath and thirsty at the same time. Every stop that we took was a sigh of relief only to be disrupted by the whistle blown by the trek guide. Even though we felt like halting for long-er, we fought with our inner cravings and moved on. The motivation from fellow compa-nions is what made us as a whole pack reach the very first Camp. May I tell you what a pleasant sight it was. Lost in the gently rising, green terrains was planted the hooks of our yellow tents. After a quick and reviving lunch, we started introducing ourselves to each other, to our lives away from the trek. A little while later our exploratory instincts took over and we started our walk into the mountain jungle, nearby, only to find ourselves lying down and listening to the music of nature at one of the mountain slope edges. We live in a life of constant notifications. Just to hear birds chirp and not as a twitter notification, was such a soothing departure.
Someone, meanwhile, had an idea of doing a bonfire in the evening. So we started the hunt for wood in the jungle. Everyone put in their efforts and carried wood back to the camp. By evening time, we were learning how to keep the fire going for long. As we circled around the fire, our mind started melting and this time it was not influenced by a romantic video we watched on YouTube. We started playing mafia, this time we didn’t have to deal with Angry Birds or Flapping ones. We looked at each other’s eyes, in the fire-lit faces, trying to hunt down the mafia. Oh! How could I be looking for that since I was the mafia!
We rested in our tents after dinner and a round of ‘antakshari’.

I woke suddenly at midnight, feeling the cold pierce my skin. Only to wake my tent buddy Suyash, who was kind enough to get me another sleeping bag, which ensured a rested sleep.
So after being blown away scene by scene and from one camp to the next for the next 3 days, the day of summitting had arrived. Yes, before that let me rewind to the night before that. Suddenly at 1 am in the morning I realised that I had to attend to nature’s call. At almost -10 Celsius, you can’t even laze around because the urge to pee is so strong that holding yourself can lead to a complete disaster. So I ran out of my tent and exploded in the first barren site I could find. I could see my pee freeze as I looked down on the moon-and-star-lit mountain. Once I turned back I had this belief that nothing could stop me from summitting now.
At 4 am with our torches we started climbing this epic mountain. But our torches could hardly make us feel the magnanimity of the place. As we kept rising, the sun rose with our steps and we started admiring the beauty of the place: the different tones of the sky, the changing hues of the sun, and the awakening of the world around us, slowly and steadily. One place after the other, all of it seemed like the visuals were pulled out of a National Geographic magazine. This time, we weren’t just liking the picture but feeling it, breathing it and falling in love with it. A while later we summitted and more than the beauty of the place surrounding the peak, the inner sense of achievement and pride made us stretch out our arms in joy, like a sprint runner does at a race, only this time we were not watching it on TV but experiencing the joys in our hearts within.
Once we got to the lake we did something that I really regret – we played and posed with bones of people who are believed to have faced a tragic death by a snowstorm in early 1000 AD. It made me wonder, would we do such a thing at 9/11 memorial? It also made me think how we could not completely get back to cave days, where a picture with a dead bone mattered more than respecting their past tragedy.
This apart, we had a wonderful time. As we speedily trekked down in less than half the time what it took us, to go up. We made a couple of stops on the way playing volleyball and enjoying a snowball fight as it snowed.
Let me just close this by mentioning how I recall each of my trekking-mates in my head today. Ashish, the photographer with muscle power. Chaitali, the ever smiling face that would make a smiling emoji blush. Dhruva, the super strong girl who was always motivating. Right from day one on Fa-cebook.
Harsh, the super motivating and fun husband. Kogilanivashini, a crazy doc who can even laugh off her toughest troubles (which may also include the Malaysian government). Meredith, the free bird who has seen a lot of pain, however, she has come out defeating all of them! A fighter. Pim, the intellect who can solve unsolved puzzles and the one who introduced the pattern game. Pepijn, the honest athlete.
Moh, the man who can make anyone laugh with his humor. Priyanka, the ever fun to talk to, supportive soul. Pulkit, the so in love UI designer. Rahul, the man who has an unrelenting passion for getting to the top. You will soon, make it. Raj, the young explorer. Who was delighted to get a roti cake, on his birthday, in the woods. Rizwan, the man who silently took on the toughest things without complaining.
Suyash, my soul mate who took care of me like only a best friend can. Miss the poems and the songs.
They said you can’t make a family in six days, they were so wrong.
We travelled away from being modern, but we travelled within ourselves to feel the meaning of life away from the vast outer world. Special mention to team India Hikes who made this wonderful experience accessible to us.

Read more:

Roopkund: An unusual trek in the Higher Himalayas

How I dealt with AMS on my 28th trek