A chance talk can save someone's life.
True story of my vacation in an English hostel resulting in love & friendship.
A GIFT FROM LAKES.
It has been a long and tiring journey in the coach and my legs were cramped. It was a relief to leave the vehicle and stretch my body. It was refreshing to breathe again the cool mountain air.
Though the main part of my journey was finished, I still had to cover another few miles, by a mini mountain vehicle, which was not due till about two hours hence, as this kind of service, was sparse, due to lack of regular passengers. I decided to walk through the coach station and then on to the town, to pass away those tedious waiting hours in observation of fellow passengers and the throng of the tourists who come in droves, every summer to sample outstanding scenic beauty of the region.
People were milling around and some were doing window-shopping. The high street was crammed with souvenir shops displaying arts and crafts of the region and especially of the Lakeside town. It is a common urge among the tourist to pick some tangible memento of their stay, to take back home and thus savour the pleasant sensations and memories associated with their sojourns in the district as to while away those dark winters evenings at home.
When they come over here there is always an air of expectancy among the visitors. Every body is looking for a scene, a beauty spot which will send perhaps shivers of unknown sensations along their spines and would remain with them perhaps rest of their lives. Sometimes the unexpected coincided with their secret desires and when this happened, it took a semi permanence place among fleeting moments of their fleeting lives.
It may be a romantic notion but even romantic notions have their place in our lives. The normal routines of life do not allow any multidimensional sensations to intrude into our pragmatic views. We are so accustomed to follow our preconceived ideas in day-to-day life and in our practical attachments to mundane ensue. These drive away any strong emotions dealing with uncommon aspects of human existence. We are apt to live our lives in a very disciplined way dictated by needs of our habits.
Back to the bus station where more tourists had arrived with their multiple cameras hanging around their necks, men with walking sticks and shoes. Small statured females with big rucksacks at their backs looked as if they would be toppled over any time by their loads. My attention was drawn to a man with three different cameras; a metallic case and a heavy stand folded under his arms. I introduced myself
and we began to chat. He was called Alan and was going past my intended hostel, to his destined locality. He intended to walk all the way to his destination. The evening light was fading and I reasoned with him to stay overnight in the town and travel the following morning, as it is always dangerous to walk those narrow hills under the cloak of darkness. I did not know whether he took my advice. Soon my bus arrived and I was on my way to my destination.
My ride in the small van was very bumpy due to zigzagging mountain paths and as I reached the final stop there was just fading light of evening still lingering on, which was a good thing as I had to climb a steep hill to reach the top where my hostel was situated.
At last I reached my hostel and after unpacking, I rested a while until I felt pangs of hunger. I went into the kitchen area to prepare myself a meal. I warmed the cooked vegetables, which I have brought with me, and then toasted some slices of bread and it all smelled good. I also made a hot cup of tea and took the things to a table by the window to eat my food in comfort.
Through the window you could see the range of mountains outlined against the twilighted skies. Those seemed to usher in a vastness of space beyond their silhouetted forms. One could loose into that vastness there was an outer and inner silence, which took away one’s trivial concerns for life, momentarily.
As I was eating two young girls came and sat on the nearby table and we started a conversation. They were about seventeen. One was brunette and the other a blonde. The brunette was called Janet while the other was named Amelia. There was something extraordinary about their presence. They were gentle creatures and an airy tenderness exuded from them and which enveloped me in its fold. I felt in touch with inner dimensions of life, in a sort of poetical musings. We talked about different things until it was time to go to bed and I bade goodbye to them as they were leaving for their onward journey very early in the morning.
I was very tired myself and soon went into a pleasant deep sleep. I woke up at about six in the as the rain was pattering the roof tiles. I decided to stay in the bed till the breakfast time.
I had my breakfast later and the rain has stopped and sun was shinning in all its glory. I went out to explore the surroundings. There was a rivulet beside the hostel full of white gushing waters and hurrying downhill with all the music of its hastened tunes. It had branched itself into various arms as to hug numerous pieces of strewn rocks. Polished pebbles smoothed by its touches were scattered all around its path.
The rivulet invited me to listen to its symphony for a while and so I sat on a boulder to listen to its watery music and soon realized that it had so many tonalities within its musical compositions. One had to listen carefully to appreciate that variety of tones unlike the man’s stereotyped mind, which only can appreciate a single tonality.
I went down the hill into the valley. Suddenly I felt a burst of sunshine filling the valley and enveloping it into a sort of celestial grandeur which reminded me of certain paintings of old masters with their breadth of subtle beauty. I was enjoying that breathtaking panorama.
Beyond the valley there was a rocky precipice where light played its dark symphony of silence. The cries of the birds filtered through, arousing strange emotions within one’s heart. The valley was strewn with many boulders with whimsically carved rocky shapes just like an open art gallery. I started viewing one by one, those interesting exhibits.
These ancient monuments of withered faces were creating in me wonder, solace and inspiration like some high art. Grey and faint yellow boulders against the green background of hills were fascinating. Those looked like some early cubist paintings with their tight geometry.
The sun began to create in me dreamy sensations and I decided to lie down on the grass to savour those. A flock of sheep were grazing on the slopes and soon came down to examine me, sniffing around as to make sure that I was not a hidden danger to them. I slept for sometime under the warm sun and then got up to explore other beauties of the valley. The tops of hills looked inviting and I decided to do some physical exertions by climbing those and thus spent pleasant time till it was time to return to the hostel.
As I returned, I found something unexpected. Amelia and Janet had returned and were in tears. As I approached them, they nearly fell into my arms crying. Somehow I comforted them and asked them to relate as to what had happened.
Amelia and Janet had started early in the morning when it was still dark and cloudy. It has been raining all night and the ground was wet and slippery. They had to cover a few miles to reach the adjacent hostel where they were spending another night. They were hurrying as to reach that destination before lunchtime.
Amelia was walking in the front and suddenly she heard a scream behind her and to her horror found that Janet has slipped from the edge to sloping ground beneath stretched over a precipice. Her feet were dangling over the precipice and she was just holding onto to a stump of a tree. Amelia suffered a shock to her system and became hysterical and started screaming too.
Janet was holding on with all her strength and told Amelia to cry for help. Suddenly time stopped and only thing she could hear was her scream. Somehow she took control of herself and shouted for help.
Like a miracle someone shouted back and told her to hold on. Suddenly a man appeared with a coil of rope around his shoulder and slowly calmed down the girls. He instructed Janet to hold on to the rope and eventually pulled her over, beyond the imminent danger. It later expired that he knew me from his meeting with me at the Lakeside bus depot when I persuaded him not to start on his walking journey that evening. He must have taken my advice and delayed his departure the following morning. His name happened to be Alan.
I marvelled at the coincidences of chances of in our lives directing our fates. If I have not started by chance a conversation with him, Janet might have slipped down the ravine to her death. Hearing this my eyes became moistened; I reckoned it to be moistures of joy. The girls were sitting snugly out of danger. I looked through the window and the hills and lakes waved at me. I thanked them. It was indeed a gift from the lakes.
Copyright © 2015 Durlabh Singh.