He was 23, an age when a man lives alone only during the dead hours of night, when sleep comes invading his senses. But this young man was living here by himself. 7 days a week. 12 months an year.
In the high mountains distance is not counted in kilometers, but in the number of steep climbing hours. And it would take at least 7 such hours for him just to find a single person to whom he could say ‘namaste’!
So from sunrise to sundown, the man spent his day as he was…. Alone.
And so went the cycle of seasons…..
In January….when the morning lay safely wrapped in the blanket of cold fog , he woke up alone to brave it …and at night when the whiteness of moonlight at night would blend seamlessly with the deadly white of the snow, he went to bed alone.
And so summer came, rhododendrons bloomed, and young men and women gathered by brooks to celebrate.. but on this hill this young adult , so devoid of company, remained just so…devoid of company
The silence would , however , be broken sometimes. By the chirping of birds. But in this winter, they were rare to sight . And yes there was a herd of yaks…..something that the young man was committed to take care of. The herd belonged to people, living in different villages and the young man was looking after it.
But why did he choose this life? The first reason, as I just mentioned, was to serve his people. The yaks were kept on that hill because it was considered very steep and , according to villagers, safe. The herd would not stray and therefore, be safe from falling prey to leopards and other predators. But another reason is that a small group of Americans were trying to connect that remote part of the world through Internet. They chose this hill which was the highest and decided that it could be a good place for setting up a signal tower(which actually was an antenna tied on top of a tall pine tree). Strange it might sound, but this young man was the only person they could find to guard that tower and take care of it.
Or, in both cases, nobody else could be found . Nobody else was ready to stand the loneliness.
Now, the Internet tower did not need your attention unless a storm gathered. So it was just tending the yaks. In fact even that wasn’t much of a job either as all that he had to do was letting the animals out in morning and letting them at the end of the day. In between these two there was a huge mass of time which flowed as slowly as a huge stone would . You wake up. Wash. Chop firewood. Make a fire. Cook, Eat. Take a nap. And even after that it would seem, time had hardly moved.
When I told this story to a friend on my way back home, he said.. if I were there, I would either go insane , or be a failed poet
Well Gham.. the young man , certainly did not go either way. He was sane, smiling, hospitable, friendly and as if these are not enough, very, very loving. His face lit up when we met, but that was not because he was meeting a girl, but because he was meeting someone he could talk to. And so he went ….cooking, caring, fussing all over the place, all the while maintaining a beautiful shy smile…
So insane he didn’t become. But bad poet? Well once we finished dinner, he took out his guitar….something he described as his lifeline and music started flowing. It was haunting. It was cheerful. It lifted u now among the clouds….next moment it filled you with a sense of solitude too difficult to explain.
But it was only music.. there were no words. For some strange reason he would not sing . Not even half a song. Not even a single line. Maybe he was keeping them up…storing them until the day they would pour out too. Disappointed I sure was , but took it as a reason to be back someday….to hear him singing.. hear him putting his stories in lyrics.
However, he did tell me some of his stories. His stories were simple. Elderly parents. Friends. A village home…far, far down.. far, far away. Memories of years flown far , far away…
He answered my questions. Did he feel lonely? He did. Did not he long for company? He did. Did he not long to wake up and see someone.. just anyone in his hut? He did. Did not he feel like sharing his space with someone? Talking? Holdng hands? Feeling the touch of another warm hand in his hands? Smiling at someone and seeeing that someone smiling back? Shyness ruled, but yes he did
Then why was he still here? Why was he not getting away, running away, go to another place.... egt another life.... get a girlfriend...get married?
The answer was short. Because if he left, there would be no one else to be here. To fill the empty place.
Empty place. Vacuum. A strait of endless, agonizing solitude.
than letting his people down.
Perhaps this is what called madness. Perhaps this young man was insane after all
Perhaps this is what was heroism.
An act of bravery. Bravery at its purest best.
You could choose your pick. I have chosen mine. I go with the later one.