I was excited to join the club of trekkers. Trekker’s club is an association of amateur mountain climbers who organize scheduled treks, night treks in the hillside of the country. Trekking, Nature walk was one of my closed secrets that I hid from my family. Parents were over protective of their offspring. It is natural for them. I tell them only after I return from the trip with bunch of thrilling photos of me standing on the edge of the cliff or pretend to jumping from the ground. My parents warn me every time and best part is they do know that every time I go against their warning. I go with trained climbers and guides always. Therefore, it never happened to me that I am going to fall or die. It requires much more than your body or six-pack abs or tamed muscles to do what I was doing in such climbs. Yes, it requires fearlessness and belief in yourself and your team. I always believed in my tour guide since he is best climber with a decade of experience, and survival expert. He has climbed almost all the mountains in this part of the country.
This time, club chose moderate climbing tour to attract first timers. It is good opportunity to see new faces and new enthusiasm. I knew some of them who are regular to such trips. We boarded a small bus from the city center. During the travel, we introduced over selves. Most intriguing part is an old woman in her 50s had accompanied us for the trip. We once again informed her that, it is a trekking trip not a pilgrimage tour. She was stubborn. We contacted her relative speculating some misunderstanding. Yes, she chose to come with us. This somewhat reduced our enthusiasm. We had an extra responsibility of well-being ness of that old woman. She was grumpy throughout the travel.
We reached the starting point of the mountain. We took our kits, backpack, and other first aid stuff and started. We had reached the mountain early in the morning. Climate is pleasant. Light breeze, mist-laden hills, dew on flowers and leaves of mighty trees, aroma of wild flowers welcomed us. Our guide gave strict guidelines as what to do or what not to do. Old woman is erratic in her way after the path. One thing amazing about the old woman is her dexterity. Her legs moved faster than most of us. She walked alone not mingling with group. It is obvious who wants an old granny in middle of adult youth talks. I volunteered to keep up with her.
Path was tricky with unwanted growths of grass and slippery rocks. Dense foliage of shrubs, small stunted trees garnered one side of the path, small rivulet opened at other side. Water was clear. Path is uniform with no steep climbs for at least a half KM from now.
Another hour passed and we came across two paths. One is simple crossing the rivulet and other is overgrown steep cliff side climb. Our Guide chose crossing the rivulet. Old woman much of our bewilderment started walking on other side.
Guide confronted her saying, “Mam, we are not responsible for you now. You should always follow our rules. “He couldn’t force owing the age of the old woman. She seems deaf to his request.
Guide murmured, “Old age syndrome. I have been climbing this path for a decade by now. Certainly that path is dangerous.”
I said to follow old woman for safekeeping that means I would be away from my group, my guide. I do not know why I choose to follow an old woman instead of an experienced guide on this unknown path.
Guide left us in fury. I walked with the old woman. She is enjoying her steeper climb. I was breathing heavily climbing those steps. Soon we stood at the top of boulder with full view of the valley in front of us. There were many rivulets falling from the cliff, ultimately joining a big river somewhere deep in the gorges. Old woman stood there to cherish the moment. She closed her eyes and breathed heavily. It resembled that of a yoga practices I see often in one of the morning TV programs.
I asked, “Mam, why did you choose to walk on this untamed unknown path?”
She said with little hesitation in authentic voice. A voice of wisdom. My Guide might have experience of walking on this path for a decade; this woman has lifetime experience of many things who knows.
“My dear child” Her voice is charismatic and tender.
“There are lot of leaders and lot of followers. Some people discover some new ideas, new philosophies, new moral lessons and people follow them. Some people have wonderful experience on something or the other and we accept their decisions blindly.”
“Should not we follow such experienced leaders?” I am bit confused as what this woman is pointing at.
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
Yes, we can follow them, unless what they are telling his agreeable to our common sense. We should not follow since whole world is following them, his or her social media has thousands of followers, or lacks of people had watched his video. “
It sounded rubbish to me. If lacks of people appreciated some Person, there should be something correct about the person?
She continued as if she heard my inner dualism.
“Leaders, speakers are all common people. Everyone is born different, brought up with different living conditions, different set of social, economic and cultural environments. With this mixed set, comes their own assumptions and belief system. Therefore, whatever they discover or whatever their Idea is may not be generic. It has had its root in their own vivid experiences.
“So what should we do instead of following them?”
“Think on their words, or Ideas, relate it with your life. If you find it is suitable to you, follow it or take a bit of Idea from here, a bit of Idea from there. This is your life my son. You have chance to make choices.”
I am unable to digest her words.
“So, there are many saints who preach good things? We should not follow them?”
“Look, every human is susceptible to making mistakes. No one is perfect. Life is continuous process of learning. There are many things, outside the boundaries of their vision, which they tell you to follow or believe. Have you ever found peace in hundreds of people shouting some slogans? On the other hand, cheering some star?
“No,” I did not know how to counteract to this.
“Leaders are those who don’t force their Ideas or do not expect their followers to hang on to their own ideas, beliefs. Instead, they believe that everyone can be a leader; they encourage other ideas to blossom; they do not want blind followers. They want followers with inquisitiveness. By questioning only we can expand our ideas, prove our beliefs. So a leader should be a listener first.”
Her words are making sense after a long time. We come across many leaders, many speakers, and many experienced persons time to time. We follow them thinking that so much people follow them that should mean something true about those leaders.
“Doing a same thing for a decade may add to your experience in years, but doing a same thing different way every time would prosper your experiences. We are not talking about building an experience; all I want to say is very basic thing as how can we make rich experiences”
“So how can we make experiences?” I gave a casual look. As a youth in his mid 20s, I was no more interested in this philosophy anymore. I wanted to end this conversation.
“By choosing different paths, by challenging the normal beliefs, we can make wonderful life changing experiences. For example, somewhere hundreds of years ago, no one dare to come to this hilly track. In a while, someone explored this path and built experience over this road. “
I think she somehow guessed that I am ignorant to her words.
“OK my son. I think you are bored. So let us take some pictures “She diverted the topic.
“Who gonna take pictures with this grand ma in this very romantic view?” I wondered. Yes, I agree as a youth we trek in groups to take group pictures with young dashing women and men so that we could get many likes, fan following on social media.
I took some selfies, some photos with the old women as well. We walked further facing the valley view on one side and cliff on other side. After some hard walk, we reached the top of the mountain we supposed to reach that day. Our Guide surprised to welcome us. We had wonderful photos to our credit travelling in this path.
There were many other trekking groups as well. One of the guides from the trekking group came running towards us. He gave a firm handshake to the old women and said, “ Mam, it is my pleasure to see you with us. I heard that you left mountaineering some time ago. What made you to return to this arena once again?”
She tapped his back and said, “ha ha, Do you still think me as a competitor?”
“No mam. Absolutely not. I was a kid when you first climbed Mount Everest 15 years ago. If you remember, you trained me in the Institute of Mountaineering some time ago.” He is cordial and humble.
“Yes I remember my son. I thought of giving my muscles a little work over, so I choose the different path today. Otherwise, I could have defeated you in this trek.” She winked at him in jovial way.
“As expected mam, I remember legends about you, how you choose to overtake most dangerous Khumbu Ice Falls on the way to Mount Everest much against the most experienced team of sherpas.”
“Yes I remember. It taught me a wonderful lesson I would like to cherish it for lifetime” Her voice poignant with ecstasy and a sense of achievement.
I could hardly imagine that this woman in 50s with different philosophical opinions is the respected topmost climbers in the world.
Now I agree to her words.