After three hours of constant trudging in the full moonlight from my fifth and final camp, I finally reached the summit of Mt. Godwin Austen, dubbed as the savage mountain.
For anyone, achieving a childhood dream would be exhilarating. Not for me. It was just satisfying, that too to a specific extent. No on-top-of-the-world feeling being on top of the world, along with clouds.
I sat down to calm myself and take in what I had just accomplished, legs outstretched. I closed my eyes and instantly time travelled twenty years back, when I was 8.
Dad was leaving the house for the final time. He had decided to abandon us for his passion – mountaineering. He was what you’d call a professional in conquering peaks, famed for being the youngest person to scale Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps, without artificial oxygen.
He was my hero. My idol. And to see him driving away from Mum and me was heart-cracking. But he never consciously lost contact with us. I’ll never forget the feel of brown parcels that arrived every month, containing some money, and a note of his well-being at times. He’d also call me before and after every expedition, voicing his excitement or the thrilling adventure. At the age of 41, he had conquered almost every major peak of the world. It was one such expedition to this very Mt. Godwin Austen, when he didn’t call me even once. He was supposed to reach the base camp on 21st of August, from where he’d call me. But on no call, I felt ignored, locked myself in my room and fell asleep after half an hour of crying. I was just 11 years old, then. The next morning I woke up earlier than Mum and went out. The newspaper was lying on our door. I don’t know why but I opened it quick.
Famed Blanc conquerer supposedly dead on K2
I kept on rereading it but wasn’t ready to believe a word. According to the article, he was on his third camp uphill when an avalanche struck, leaving no materialistic traces behind.
I shot my eyes open to break the horrific imagination. It was that day I decided I’ll scale this peak as a tribute to the great hero, obviously with no oxygen. I began training myself with regular swimming, marathons, trekking and most importantly, meditation.
On reaching the peak I was satisfied on completing my tribute to him but disappointed too. In my dad’s tales, mountains and peaks seemed so beautiful and serene. But to me, being surrounded by no colour but white was irritating. To top that, the peak was no better. No view due to the clouds, colours drained off everything I could see. How disappointing!
Is this what Dad left us for, these disappointing all-white ‘beauties’? Was it worth the cost of our happiness?
I guess I’ll never be able to understand what his excitement was all about. But I was glad to achieve what he wanted to but failed. His last wish, maybe.
On my journey downhill, I saw my last two camps completely destroyed, pieces of red tent fabric scattered, along with few other destroyed commodities. Avalanche! And just then, my eyes fell on a shiny object. I went closer and saw it was a compass. Oh Wait! the compass. Yes yes yes! It was that compass on the back of which, during my childhood, I had scribbled my name with a kitchen knife. I had a feeling that he was somewhere near, but I didn’t dig around to find him, and continued downhill after pocketing his present.
I shook my mind off everything and decided to head home straight.
To return to where I belong and give my life a new beginning.
As for my Dad, I’m content he’s resting amidst what his passion and love was.