Rohtang Pass, lost Glaciers and the hut that saved my life

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i thought it was a dream. A fantasy of my mind.
I was in high pass that was completely iced up, snow was thigh deep. The afternoon winds had picked up, and though we were warned not to go to the pass in the afternoon, we were foolhardy boys looking for any challenge that even nature could throw at us.
The wind was so high that it threatened to blow us off our feet. Temperatures dropped dramatically. It started to snow and visiblity was merely two or three feet. We realized that we had challenged nature to our cost and were now panicking. Then mysteriously we saw a hut which we thought first was an illusion. Then as we struggled through the thigh deep snow, every breath made to count, the hut turned from illusion to reality.
Once inside we struggled to keep each other warm. The threat of freezing to death in this hut in the middle of nowhere loomed large in our minds. Darkness was not far away, as exhaustion set in, and we fought the overwhelming desire to sleep by telling each other of fantastical sexual experiences that were complete fabrications of the hormonal fantasies of 16 year old minds.
Then this much older man came in. I do not remember him as a mountain man. He looked like he was from the plains, as he carried something that looked like a briefcase. He sat down and huddled next to us for warmth, and we were happy to have an extra warm body.
The man opened what looked like a brief case and brought out a half bottle of very cheap whiskey. I remember that clearly, for I was surprised it was not rum. In all my fantasies, the drink that somehow turned up magically to save you was not whiskey, but rum. In any case we were happy to share it, the mind being numbed to the fear and the cold. And then I remember the man doing the most extraordinary thing.
He started laugh. A kind of senseless laugh that we had heard was part of mountain sickness. A light headedness that came through the starvation of oxygen in the brain. And as he laughed, the man suddenly opened the creaking and half broken wooden door and ran out. The cold hit us like a hammer as the below freezing wind came howling in. The temperatures below a figure where it ceases to matter. We were not covered or prepared for anything under minus 2 or 3 max. Wind factor must have dropped it to minus 20 at least.
The man ran out laughing and trying to dance in the wind. We looked aghast and shocked. I think bravery only happens when you have no time to think or consider the results of our actions. Foolishly we ran out after him as he ran further and further away from us. Exhausted and our bodies stinging from the cold we finally brought him down in a tackle that even professional Rugby players would be proud of. Dragged him back to the hut, while he kicked out struggling to get away. The laughter giving way to a peculiar wail. The mountain sickness had got him. It could kill him inside an hour.
I do not remember more. I know we must have been rescued. I cannot even remember who the friend was with me. And often thought that this was a “fantasy’ ‘adventure young men often make up about their ‘adventurous’ past.
And then as I went to Rohtang Pass two days ago. To speak live to the UN conference on climate change from the Rohtang, I saw the hut. It struck me like an emotional bolt. It was not a fantasy. The hut now in ruins, was still there. Exactly as I remembered it.
But gone was the ice, the freezing cold. The Glaciers we struggled with, the ice that was an essential part of the landscape. I asked my guide why the hut was in ruins, and he said that there was no longer needed as the thickness of the ice never formed to danger levels. He said that he never saw the Rohtang without glacial ice on it till a few years ago. Now it was bone dry.
He told me that many years ago a man was found frozen to death clutching a brief case. He had apparently been in that position throughout the winter. Had we forsaken him ? Did we walk away from him saving our own lives ? I cannot remember, and maybe somewhere the friend with me will read this and complete the story for me. Did my mind just block out a great act of cowardice that we both committed by leaving a man behind to die ? I cannot tell,
But one thing is certain. The Glaciers are disappearing. We are killing our planet.
shekhar

19 Responses to “Rohtang Pass, lost Glaciers and the hut that saved my life”

  1. True. I crave to see Rohtang. The ego tussles are destroying the planet. We really need to work hard to wave a golden future for our coming generations.

  2. AJ says:

    vowww …
    very deep breath …
    enternity of silence …
    no thoughts …

  3. kedar says:

    Scary…
    let me Google Global Warming…
    i guess this is happening because the entire modern world is based on DESIRES…lol…
    Solution is between the TWO EYES!…

  4. Jeeban says:

    Thanks for the graphic and thoughtful reading for such a burning issue. Beautifully put in a simple and honest manner that bears your hallmark.

  5. austere says:

    Felt dislocated reading this.

  6. isabel says:

    hummm
    Where does it all begin and where does it end???
    Who was this man found frozen to death clutching a brief case???
    Who does he represent inside of me???
    so much I could say about that…
    and yet like a mystical tapestry …
    what value would that be…
    unless weaved…
    with the power …
    of a multi dimensional camera lense…
    ah…
    the melting …
    a necessity …
    maybe …
    calling us to see…
    to FEEL …
    to GROW …
    in responsibility…
    gratitude and togetherness …
    through which …
    we shall dance…
    ah …
    the yearning …
    for the healing of the earth …
    as ultimately …
    who are we killing…
    but the self???
    hummm

  7. thanks for sharing..:)

  8. p says:

    Scary…..gave me the chills..
    BTW- am dying to hear of your conversation with Sadhguru. I dont know if you know this, but you are truly blessed to spend time with him. Even fraction of a second with him is life changing as it has been for me….please write about it sooooooon. Awaiting your post.

  9. Aysha says:

    🙂 All of us just saw the crumbled cottage and walked by after a glance… I should have guessed that for you, it was another story line, that you would see a story in it’s unpainted walls…

  10. Horst Vollmann says:

    Hello Shekhar,
    what an incredibly poignant tale of adolescent daring and foolhardiness that I am sure has greatly contributed to shape the man you are today. It is obvious that something happened on this fateful day of your youth that your mind can no longer piece together accurately and that may feel to you as though it had been a dream. Our dreams often feel like reality as reality at times takes on the haziness of a dream. If it had been a dream one could spend days to analyze the meaning of this Kafkaesque sequence of events, but you did experience it, as many decades later you found out when visiting Rohtang Pass.
    Has this subconscious feeling of guilt over the death of a man who to you may as well have been a figure from Hades, surreal and incongruous and at the same time oddly normal within the confines of absurdity and madness been with you all your life? Has this experience fueled your creativity that later in life has made you a film maker par excellence? Have all your later encounters with important contemporaries been subliminally influenced by this harrowing experience that you may very well have suppressed over all these years?
    Do we assign too much importance to a near death encounter? I dont think so. I believe that moments like the one you had gone through on that mountain pass whose clarity has not been compromised by the kind of amnesia we resort to when we want to block out memories we feel only can hurt us, stay with us regardless of the pain they inflict. And yet it has taken a large portion of your life before this moment, when you stood on Rohtang Pass, had opened a window again that let you look into your soul to search for the answer to the question whether or not you had been a hero or a coward. Whatever it was, you have become a man who has a deep yearning for the truth, for fairness and social justice. You have championed worthy causes and in the course of it have become a better and stronger person, stronger than you ever thought possible. Maybe the parts of all your accomplishments have shaped the sum total of the man you are today and in this recognition may lie the true and self-evident answer to whether or not you have done the right thing back on that mountain pass eons ago.
    With kind regards.
    Horst

  11. Jeeban says:

    Very searing and apt analysis by you Horst. Must be very cathartic to Shekhar, I believe. Creativity, afterall, comes from tormented souls.

  12. KS says:

    Your post bought many memories. It was in early 80s that my father had been to Rohtang pass for a science expedition. He wrote me a post-card from the trip describing the glaciers how beautiful they looked in little sunlight. Three years back i had an oppurtunity to visit rohtang pass and to my surprise could not relate to the old postcard at all. The locals told me that it isnt the same rohatang any more and it had hit me very hard that how long will it take these glaciers to vanish completly. We are slowly surrounding ourself with more toxic things around in name of convinence. It is a sad state of affairs.

  13. nimi khanna says:

    Amazing…a broken down hut and you have used it as a setting to weave your message of melting Glaciers_–brilliant… this is what being in the moment is about!!

  14. Vasanta says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    You have said a fascinating story about your trip to Rohtang. Without doubt, this is one of your best narratives. I read it many times over, still unable to comprehend and separate reality from fantasy.. Awesome initiative for a good cause! And breathtaking views!!

  15. Cinda says:

    hmmm…
    metaphorical no doubt!
    perhaps a trusted hypnosis or a psychic specialist, if you feel a need for some answers.
    the symbology and meaning most likely runs deeper than “death~rescue~melting~creation~continuation~”
    fantastically interesting and thought provoking, our past is really so much our present…since there is no true past or future, then all we really have is nothing, because even now is gone!
    Cinda

  16. Geetika says:

    Hi Shekhar, reading the article was like a picture moving right in front of the eyes; very vivid and breathtaking.
    This reminds me of my story of the Happy Valley ( A valley near Ajmer. Rajasthan). It was so rich with vegitation that even tigers could be spotted in late evenings and Botany students used to go for specimen collection. I had heard so much about it from my mother (she has finished her education in Botany from Ajmer) that I could hardly wait to visit the place upon my 1st visit to the city. I must have been 17/18 years old and my mother was visiting the city after approx 20 years. To our shock and surprise we could not spot the pond that was famous for its predators (Tigers) and vegetation was reduced to very thinly populated zero fitic plants. The land was barren as if it was ashamed of without its dense green suit and the road-traffic was just a few meters away…. Do I need to say more.
    (AJ: you say desires have given way to such destruction.I kinda agree…”Necessity is the mother of invention and desire, the root of all evils.)

  17. Pawan says:

    SCARY!!!!!!!! IS THE WORLD LISTENING…BUT SOMEHOW I HAVE ALWAYS FELT…IT’S NOT THAT WRONG HAPPENS THAT IS SURPRISING..IT’S THAT IT IS ALLOWED! IT’S THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO ARE AT FAULT BECAUSE THEY HAVE SAT LIKE COWARDS WATCHING A FEW PEOPLE RAPE THE PLANET..JOINED THEM AT TIMES EVEN, AND ALSO MANY ‘GOOD’ PEOPLE FEEL THAT GOOD PEOPLE STAY SILENT, DON’T MAKE NOISE AND ACCEPT SUFFERING! I AM ACTUALLY SICK OF SO CALLED GOOD PEOPLE WHO ARE NOTING BUT EVIL ENABLERS!

  18. Radhika Menon says:

    Two years back my two sons who were in Rishivalley school sat me down and made me watch the Al Gore movie. most uncomfortable indeed it was as an experience of movie watching. recently i happen to see Leonardo De Caprio talk about the 11th hour. There is one statement an old native American made that stayed with me…. “the planet is not dying, it is human race that is in danger”. Mother earth will heal again…. life will spring again but then it would be too late for us and our children. My twelve year old son, Rudran Menon is an ardent environmentalist. Bless him for lecturing teh supermarket clerk about why she should not give plastic bags to people If only i could be like him.
    May more Shekar Kapoors get caught in the cold icy wilderness and get in touch with their deepest self and existence. … May there be millions of 12 year olds who make it happen.

  19. Hare KRISHNA !!
    It is amazing…i am just thinking of you to write some important information on fighting GLOBAL WARMING as narreted by LORD KRISHNA in BHAGVAD-GITA.I am delighted to know your realisation.You are a true YOGI.Lord Krishna said that “A true yogi observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me.Indeed, the self-realised person sees Me ,the same Supreme Lord,everywhere.”

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