Upendra and his friends from Bangalore had something special planned for their trek to Rupin Pass. It was not only about completing the trek for them; it was also about unfurling their passion for their favourite football team at 15,000 feet. Hear all about it from Upendra.
I had to push myself on. I couldn’t take more than three steps at a stretch. My body refused to move. The 10kg rucksack on my back felt heavier than that. Resting on my trekking pole, I had to take a few deep breaths, compose myself and carry on. The occasional sip of water didn’t seem to help much. Every next step took more effort than the previous. But I also knew, that every next step took me that much closer to the top. I was looking forward to reaching the top ever since the day I registered for the trek; not just to climb pass the pass, but also because I had something special on my mind.
It was day six of the seven day trek to Rupin Pass. It was the day we’d actually cross the Rupin pass. We left our camp at upper waterfall at 5:30 am and so far, this day had proved to be the most gruelling. After three days of rather plain sailing, I had suffered from acidity. Now at 15k feet, it looked like I had a hint of altitude sickness too. Having trekked for three full hours on snow, where the micro-spikes and trekking pole had saved me from many a fall, I was looking at a steep ascent of 60 degrees, where one had to zig-zag his way up the slope to reach the top of Rupin pass.
Having navigated the initial climb up with the help of constant motivation from Ragha behind me, we reached the rope section. I climbed up holding the rope, taking a few breaks, some of which were enforced, some voluntary. My lungs were gasping for more air, my legs were crying out for a rest and my hands didn’t want to hold any more. But my mind, which knew better, told them all to stop whining and get on with their work and finish the ascent. The rope climb was done with and exhaustion was taking over me. The last few feet, to be covered on feet, were beckoning. And the people above who had already reached were calling out.
We were a group of eighteen trekkers, led by three staff members of Indiahikes, who in turn were assisted by three more technical staff members to navigate sections such as these. We had grown close over the days as a group. It was a group with an interesting mix. The group had first time trekkers and veteran trekkers, a few amateur and pro photographers, people from many parts of India and even one from Malaysia. But most importantly, it was a group that knew how to have fun together!
It probably was their shouts, combined with the thought of that something special on my mind- which gave me a sudden surge of mental energy. Now I knew that I had enough in me to finish the ascent without any more breaks. Weary, yet headstrong, taking one tough step after another, with one heavy breath after another, using my hands, my knees and the last sinew of my resilience, I trudged along until there was no more to climb. I had finally ascended the Rupin Pass!
I threw myself on the ground and let the wave of emotions rush through me. The first was of satisfaction. Satisfaction that I could discover my new physical and mental limits, satisfaction that those were enough to finish the climb. Now that the climb was done, looking around, I felt delighted by the sights the mountains and the sky offered. I might use the most superlative form of breathtaking to describe it, and still fall short of explaining nature’s beauty up there. A new found energy and zeal were now running in my veins. Had I really conquered this height? No. Now I felt humility too, as I had this weird sensation that it was the mountains that allowed me to reach these heights.
We all spent some time there, absorbing everything, taking pictures and congratulating each other. When at last we started to depart, I called out to Vasisht: it was time to execute the special something that we had planned. From the top of my rucksack, I brought out the big blue piece of cloth. It was a piece of cloth that was very dear to us. We had screamed our lungs out for what was on that cloth. We had gone through all the emotions of eagerness, joy, despair, anxiety and even euphoria because of what was on that cloth. Yes, it did a lot to us, simply because it meant so much to us. With the gandaberunda imposed on the silhouette of the Bangalore Palace, that piece of cloth was the flag of our local football club Bengaluru FC!
Now as I unfurled the flag, I felt yet another emotion. Pride. Vasisht and I held it across. Geetanjali and Arjun, who were our screaming partners in our visits to the home matches of Bengaluru FC, just couldn’t resist joining us in holding it! As we stood there with the flag, I couldn’t help but remark how beautiful everything looked. This was an utterly beautiful experience. Mukesh took a picture of the flag and us, who were standing amidst the pure white snow, with a clear cloudless blue sky which held nothing but the bright sun.
Bengaluru FC were the Indian champions. The club was founded only in 2013, and had won the I-League in their debut season. It had done more than just that. It was run in a very professional way, at the helm was a manager with fresh hitherto unimplemented ideas in the league, and they played a brand of football that was pleasing to any football fan. They were changing the way people regarded the I-League. And the best part was that it was our home club!
Bengaluru FC had scaled many footballing heights in India. We, the fans, have also set new standards. The now famous West Block A has received praise from many. This includes not just the people at the club, the players and manager of BFC, but also from players of other clubs. With the flag at 15,350 feet, I hope our little gesture would be another indicator for the kind of passion that we all have.
I sure hope that a day will come when Bengaluru FC scales the world. Not just their flag, but the club itself. As we continued to hold the flag, the pride and passion that we all felt was only swelling. Because we are forever blue.
To read more from Upendra, visit his blog here.