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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fruit Chaat

A confused retelling of the trek to Marhi peak

At length they reached the base camp: mostly-pleasant trekking,
they were tired but happy.
He did not want to wait here for too long,
the peak was still not visible on the horizon,
no clue yet how to get there.
Marhi: tourism videos offered a seductive peek,
breathtaking landscapes set to lush soundscapes.

"Fruit chaat". They noticed a feeble old man with
neatly sliced tropical fruits arranged attractively.
The mango was too ripe to refuse, they gathered around him.
"Don't bother peeling the skin, uncle", he piped.
"Are you from the Garhwal Himalayas, uncle?" he asked,
small talk soon to be forgotten. "Chamoli" he nodded.
"City-folk are enamored with Rohtang", he continued,
"Marhi is so much better. You will like it here.
Here, try these peaches,
these fruits from around here aren't quite our Chamoli size,
but the flavor is just as good."
He launched into a monologue about Chamoli and Marhi,
most of which would have been forgotten if the
stuck-in-a-landslide-outside-Chamoli-for-almost-a-day thing
hadn't happened less than a week later.
"And these delicious fruits are just wasted on city-folk,
they want it cut and spiced till there's nothing of the fruit left."

"So, what's there to do at Marhi?", they interrupted.
"Well, for some, its the journey to the peak,
for others its the view. What is it for you?"
He hedged and parried, "And how do we get there?"
"You folk seem tired and in a hurry.
There are some mules for hire there", he gestured,
"but I suggest you walk up if you can.
The horse trail heads to that waterfall there, and a little beyond,
there's a bit of snow and if you look back and squint,
you'll probably see me with my fruits". He gave a toothy grin.
"That trail is unremarkable, and even if you change your mind
and try to explore on foot, it is filled with horse droppings."
They squinched their faces, mountain-folk say the darnedest things
when others are enjoying delicious fruit chaat.

"And if you want to walk up, well you can go wherever you want.
Following the river to its source is one way to get there."
"There? Where exactly?"
"Oh you need to basically scale that sheer cliff there,
and from there you will be able to see the peak in the distance.
If you are following the river, you will need to cross it
in two places at least.
There isn't a bridge at the first spot, so be careful.
The second spot I'm thinking of,
there should still be a layer of ice on top.
It has been a warm week though,
so you might want to find a longer way around".

Jaws dropped. "How is any of this safe?!"
"It is worth it", he laughed gruffly.
What a silly perspective.

One mumbled, "So, about the mules."
Another said, "It is getting late as it is. We could just stay here and rest a while."
He was not convinced. Sure, that cliff looked mighty menacing from down here,
but that probably meant there's so much hidden from view up there.
They don't sing songs or write stories about the easy way out, so no mules then.
"I'm going up. We've made it this far, look around,
we blinked and we got here. We'll go up and be back in no time too.
And the chaat-man says it will be worth it."
(This sort of bravado got him in trouble in the Valley of Flowers a fortnight later,
he got lost following a trail up a vertical mountain-face alone.
What a silly perspective.)

"Well, if you put it that way, there's no way I'm staying here either.
To the top we climb" chimed one.
"Slowly, steadily we'll get there. No dilly-dallying though,
and no hurrying, ok?" confirmed another.
A third sighed, crackpots each of them.
And it would be up to him to ensure no one broke their limbs in this crazy trip.
And it would be up to him to figure out how to scale each obstacle they found.
He framed a rough timeline for when they should reach the top,
and when they should get back.
At that point the pictures from the brochures tempted him.

They got back to the fruit-seller's stall a little after sunset,
and saw another group of travellers huddled around him.
"Cut those pineapples thinner, uncle."
"And dice those apples smaller,
And peel the skin a bit more?"

They gave him a knowing smile and he winked back.
Bah, City-folk.

1 comment:

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