“How long will it take? Guys hurry!” shouted Ishaan, while he bent down to tie his shoe laces.
While Diya was perfecting her stroke of eyeliner, Akriti was struggling to find the dress to wear, yet.
“Hurry up, Aku! Ishaan is so going to yell on us!”, said Diya, putting the cap of lipstick back on.
She turned back and sighed at the sight of Akriti sitting amidst a huge pile of clothes, frowning.
“Here, let me help” chuckled Diya, picking up a blue top with white stripes.
“This’d go perfect!” said she, as she handed it over to Akriti.
Just when Ishaan was to knock the door, the door opened and both the girls stood there, with their bags packed, all dressed up and ready to hike the mountain, with their faces sparkling with excitement.
Three architecture studying best friends, who hailed from the northern part of India, to explore the mountains of western ghats, all the way down, south. As they stepped out of the hotel, and walked across the streets, towards a bus stop which was half a mile away, they could hear the jibber jabber, which they couldn’t understand but appreciate. There was feel of freshness all around, as they laughed around for those silly jokes, Ishaan threw.
As soon as the bus started to move, their hearts pumped fast, every cell of blood, exploding through the arteries. The fragrance of mountain air, filled their noses, lighting up their moods. They got down, stood there, right at the foot of the mountain Ishaan gaped at the tip and said “This is it, guys. Here we are. After so much struggle to convince our parents, here we stand beneath one of the highest peaks of south India. All set to climb and conquer it?” Diya was hyper excited. She held both their hands and ran upwards, yelling “Oh my God! Guys, I always wanted to do this” Everyone was chirpy and content.
And thus, the climb started. The lane was narrow, with rocks pebbles and slippery mud. With bushes and grass had overgrown all around, they had to push them aside and make way. Ishaan was an efficient trekker. He had been on such expeditions a lot of times. He knew exactly how to keep the steps, untiringly, to reach on top. Akriti was a strong willed, ambitious girl, who was determined to reach to the top, no matter how much effort it took. Diya was a chubby, adamant yet hard working girl. She was just too excited for the journey, she was going to experience. As they ascended the mountain, step after step, there came a few hurdles.
The rays of raging sunshine, with gasps of tiresome breaths, dizzy feels but yet they were all excited to find the gems of memories and achievement over the top.
It was tiring. They were exhausted within minutes. The path was narrow in addition to it which made the hike more difficult. They somehow went on. Ishaan led the patrol. He was telling them how to place the steps, in order to not slip behind. It was a lone place. Not a single person was visible as far the vision went. They were spooked as well, but still prepared for it. Diya started to feel dizzy and breathless. Her respiratory system felt like giving up, in the middle of nowhere.
“Guys, I think I’m tired. Can we rest for a while?”, said Diya.
“No! Keep climbing. The more you rest, the more you feel like resting. Buck up ladies! We aren’t very far!”, Ishaan’s tone sounded affirmative.
He knew all the perks of the climb, after all. They kept climbing. Diya won’t tell them she wasn’t feeling okay because she doesn’t want to be a spoilsport. Akriti on the other hand, was tired as well. But she was so determined on reaching the top, she didn’t pay heed to it.
The sun was burning. Diya was utterly dehydrated. At one point of time, she collapsed. Luckily Akriti was right behind her, to catch hold of her. She shouted for help from Ishaan. They gave her water but her condition was getting worse. They had come half way already. They were right in the middle of the mountain. But Diya was in need of medical care. Ishaan looked towards Akriti. Her face mirrored her agony of getting her dreams broken. The dream of reaching the top and filling the ears with echo of her name. She wouldn’t give up.
“Ishaan, take her to the hospital. I am so going to complete this expedition. I’m not gonna give up. She needs help. Go!”, said Akriti.
“It’s not safe for you to go alone, Aku! Come with us. We can do this some other time!” Ishaan confronted her idea of going alone.
“No! I’ve been dreaming about this since forever. I’m not gonna step back after getting so near. You guys go. It’ll be fine. Perhaps, there’s no one around. And no animals will wander up, so high. Take her. She needs help ASAP! “, as she continued to walk upwards.
“I’ll admit her to the hospital and come back for you. Take care of yourself. Call me!” said Ishaan, as he picked up semi conscious Diya, in his arms and walked down. Diya wasn’t able to walk. He made her sit and climb down, while he held her hand, so she won’t fall down.
While Akriti climbed higher and higher, she looked back on the path she had covered. The view was mesmerizing, her every nerve exploded with thrill. Her mind was aflame with the idea that she’s going to conquer her dream on her own. Though she was exhausted and tired, her enthusiasm never gave up. With all the effort and strength of her determination, she finally did reach the peak.
It was her paradise. The wind waved towards her as it were to welcome her to her kingdom. The leaves fluttered in a tune, while the birds chirped in delight of hospitality. She shouted her name, which echoed back as to silence all her insecurities proving her capability that she could do anything and there’s nothing stopping her. She eagle eyed downwards. She could see the towns like a small blocks of bricks, a few large lakes, seeming as small as a puddle. She saw water, running down the other peak looking like a mere thread, from afar.
She lied down, gazing at the sky, of how it was pleased to have her so near. She buzzed off unknowingly because she was exorbitantly tired of the escalade.
On the other hand, Ishaan admitted Diya to the hospital. They cannulated her and applied a few drips of re-hydrating fluids. The doctor warned her to be adequately hydrated all the time, especially when there is extravagant heat outside.
It was almost dusk. Ishaan and Diya came back to the hotel room, only to find Akriti wasn’t there yet. Diya was shivering of anxiety. Her unstable mind started imagining all the disasters that could happen. She was freaked out. Ishaan was worried too. They called her a thousand times but her phone was unreachable. Their worry turned regret when they became aware of the fact that the area was naxal prone. There was total chaos, as they had no idea of what could’ve happened to their best friend.
Meanwhile, a mosquito kissed Akriti’s cheek which woke her up. She was still over the mountain peak, and the sun had almost set.
“Oh God! Why did I sleep? I need to get down ASAP! It’s almost night!”, she exclaimed to herself as she ran downwards. But it was a slippery narrow path. Remember? She had to sit down and crawl downwards. Moreover she was out of water. Her throat was experiencing a drought. She went on descending with the fear of encountering any snakes or frightful animals around. She felt alone, deserted, and helpless. Yet she was too strong to be hopeless. And yes, she somehow managed to get down, and stood on the road right when the night set in.
She stood there, amidst darkness, on the deserted road, no one around. Her mind started beaming towards potential threats of her situation. She was experiencing the chills down her spine. She was worried. A ray of hope arose within when she heard a honk of a car, approaching near. There were two men, inside the car. She stood in the middle of the road, in order to stop the car. They mumbled in the local language which she couldn’t understand.
She said “Help!” But they couldn’t understand her. But her eyes showed her fear, which they understood. They told her to get inside the car, through actions. She was scared of the empty road. But she was more scared of these two men now. She kept her hand over her heart, as it pondered. She was shivering. One of them
smiled at her. As if he was trying to tell her there’s no need to be afraid. As the car entered the city, she told them to stop and that she’d go by herself from there. Those two men smiled at her while she hesitantly smiled back, while they drove away. That moment she realized there”s still hope for humanity. That not all men are the same. That there are a few people who believe in helping and healing.
She walked fast towards the hotel, while she saw Diya and Ishaan, walking on the road, apprehensive. She ran towards them, gripping both of them tight in her arms. That group hug, it’s warmth redefined their strong friendship.
They had dinner, walked inside the room, and talked about their day, and slept off. As both of them slept, Akriti took up her diary, penned down a single phrase, “Best day of my life.” and smiled in content. Her eyes flashed with visions of her bravery and that she finally had fulfilled her dream. She closed the book, lied down, and her sigh let out the fireflies of those ups and downs she had that day.