“What you do with two hands, I can do with one!”
On the third day of the Chadar trek, we were to traverse 10 KMs to our next camp, Shingra Koma. This was to be the real test of our mettle. While Tilat Sumdo gave us a vast expanse of solid Chadar, the kind you can play football on, as we moved towards Shingra Koma, we encountered sparser Chadar and more flowing river. At times, the Chadar was relegated to the river banks, with just enough space for one person to walk on. At other times, it was almost non-existent, and we had to climb up the mountain and rejoin the Chadar further ahead. In retrospect, this was the most difficult day. For one, it was the first day of physical exertion. Two, CAP and I had decided not to offload our bags. So we were carrying our 10 Kgs on our backs while we walked, climbed and crawled. Three, we were not completely acclimatized. We would feel like we were freezing and then suddenly we would be sweating buckets after a bit of climb. Body temperature oscillated between the extremes, making us very uncomfortable.
Mid- trek, completely famished and tired, we stopped to have hot soup and Maggie. We could not have done the Chadar trek without the industrious porters and cooks. They carried our tents, sleeping bags, food and much else. Our cook, Stanzin, was the best. He took such care with the cooking, tasting the food while he was making it, in intervals. He made the best Maggie and soup I have ever tasted. These running lunches became something I started looking forward for. It was at this stop that CAP told me she couldn’t feel anything in her right hand. While trying to grip a rock while climbing, the hand fell down ineffectual. Worse still, stones that fell on her right hand bounced off without her feeling a thing. I mentioned this worrisome
detail to Tinker Bell who laughed it off. Uncomplaining, and completely amused at her on physical state, CAP moved towards the camp. When she arrived, lots of climbing later, Red Hot Pants paid attention to her ailment and the porters led her to a fire they had begun for themselves. With fire and some forced rubbing of the hands, they were able to get her hand to move from elbow down. For the rest of the trek, CAP’s shoulder remained immobile and she offloaded her bag. This right-handed girl learnt what it was like to be disabled.
That night Gudiya, CAP and I lay exhausted in the tent. Gudiya had developed a very bad cold in the meantime. She was sick. CAP had a non-functioning right hand. And I, while physically all there, started to have misgivings about my ability to do this trek. It had been a difficult day. I reminded myself of my age, the fact that I was not fit, and how I should be aware of my shortcomings. Even as these thoughts flooded my head, I knew, in my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t give up. For one, there was nothing back home that was luring me back. And I knew the sense of accomplishment would be tremendous. Sometimes the Tam Brahm competitiveness gets the better of me. I applied generous doses of muscle relaxant and was soon fast asleep.