They say that it is ‘the little things that count’. But wondering what small meaningful gestures you could make while you are battling the severe cold atop snow- capped mountains?
Maybe reading about Pranay Mundra’s Kedarkantha trek can help you put together a “How to Elicit Smiles on the Mountains’ listicle of your own.
Pranay Mundra is a 26-year-old engineer hailing from Mumbai. Although at first glance he comes across as a shy young man and an avid birder. But Trek Leader Karthik was quick to pick up on his amiable nature.
“Pranay always had a smile on his face and he was the politest trekker I have encountered till date. I don’t think there is a negative bone in his body. He was courteous not only with his co trekkers but each and every staff member. Everyone felt good around him,” says Trek Leader Karthik.
Lending a hand on summit day
On the summit morning, Trek Leader Karthik discovered that apart from his pleasant disposition and impeccable manners, Pranay also went out of his way to help his co- trekkers get ready for the climb.
“Summit mornings can get quite crazy,” says Karthik.
“Being the Trek Leader, I was all over the place helping people get trek ready. And mind you, this is at 3:30 in the morning. Suddenly I saw Pranay quietly making his way around the campsite, assisting his co- trekkers. Helping someone roll up their sleeping bags and strap on their gear may not seem like big things, but a helping hand to get these tasks done means a lot on the mountains.
I’m sure Pranay’s gestures prompted many smiles that morning. At the time, I was definitely considering Pranay for a Spirit of Trekking award,” add Karthik.
Another thing that Trek Leader Karthik associated with Pranay was his camera, which according to Karthik, soon became part and parcel of his identity.
“Pranay’s face was invariably hidden behind his camera, trying to spot the next exotic bird to click. In fact, one of our first real conversations was over a faraway click of a pair of vultures he had taken during the bus journey from Dehradun to Sankri.
During the trek, he actually took my permission before venturing off with his faithful camera,” says Trek Leader Karthik. “He was very keen on clicking a Himalayan Griffin before the end of the trek.”
As luck would have it, Pranay managed a double whammy of sorts as he scaled the summit and photographed the elusive Himalayan griffin on the very same day.
Don’t know griffins? They look like the vulture quartet from the Jungle Book. Some great shots of the Himalayan woodpecker (a common alpine bird with black, red and white markings) and the Himalayan Black Lored Tit (a little black and yellow bird with a Mohawk shaped crest) were also in store for this ardent birder. Ironically enough, Pranay’s most memorable click during the trek wasn’t about his feathered friends.
Going that extra mile
During the group’s descent from Hargaon to Sankri, on the last day of the Kedarkantha trek, something happened that fortified Trek Leader Karthik’s belief that Pranay deserved the award.
Karthik spotted a beautifully bizarre tree with clusters of little pink flowers. Karthik and Pranay decided to capture pictures of it from up close.
Adjoining the tree was an apple farm with a family residing there. When Pranay was capturing pictures of the tree, a local lady from the farm approached him. In her arms was a cute little mountain puppy, called Sheru.
She requested the trekkers to take a few pictures of Sheru. Pranay immediately obliged and took pictures of the black ball of fluff.
In Pranay’s words, Sheru was quite a natural and there wasn’t a single annoyed ‘woof’ during his entire photoshoot. Pranay then suggested that the local woman strike a pose with Sheru and she happily obliged.
Pranay was to head home that day, but he insisted that Karthik get the picture framed. When Karthik went down to Moore, he framed the picture and trekked all the way up again to the apple farm. Needless to say, the local woman was euphoric.
Small acts of kindness
“The lady was so touched when I handed over the picture. She was especially thankful to Pranay. We were actually on a very tight schedule that day and it was very nice of him to take the time out to capture those moments in her life,” says Trek leader Karthik.
“I was already impressed by the little things Pranay did in his own quiet way for his fellow trekkers but the fact that he extended that gesture to an unknown woman sealed the deal as far as his Spirit of Trekking Award was concerned.”
Pranay was surprised when he learnt that he was the recipient of the Spirit of Trekking Award.
He sure was excited but felt that there were more deserving candidates.
He was further delighted at the news of Karthik handing over the frame to the local woman.
“The fact that my Trek Leader Karthik took the trouble to frame Sheru’s picture and then trek back the entire way that very same day to hand it over to the local woman speaks volumes about the kind of person he is. My picture wouldn’t have held any meaning if Karthik hadn’t done all of that. To have been able to share that little adventure with him itself means a lot to me.
These people are so isolated from the rest of the world. The least I could do was to bring a small measure of happiness in her life by clicking a picture of her with Sheru. Just because of the joy that picture gave her, Sheru’s picture easily beats even the Himalayan griffin’s click,” Pranay says.