Monday, September 11, 2006


There is a certain kind of silence which is not silence at all, but the powerlessness to express the many many words one suddenly must say to express the many many ideas one has suddenly acquired... but knows not how with the limited way in which popular human language has developed.

Last month, I went trekking in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, in a valley called Haramosh, some 110 kms northeast of Gilgit. From our base camp in a village called Barshi, we were to trek up to the village of Kutwal, with only a rudimentary idea of the distance... the trekking trail has been unexplored since many years. It took no less than six hours to trek up, with mountain after mountain to traverse. I have no idea of miles and kilometers, so I reckon it was no less than 6-8 kilometers with at least a 1000 meters of height gained, in scorching daylight.

Fields of Gold

We passed many a small settlements on the way. We reached levelled grounds, we trekked up steep climbs, we walked down... and the trail wouldn't end, and Kutwal wouldn't come. We stopped. We ate. We took in the scenery. And then we moved. I passed by a tiny field which was barricaded off, and in that tiny field, golden king butterflies silently fluttered by... and then I moved on. Over a rock perched over the noisy Barshi River, I stopped to breathe deep and relax my feet. An hour from our destination, we were awed by the sight of a glacier visible through a gorge, at the foot of which many river-lets dropped into the main river, and in which the few visible birds of the areas soared, aloft on the wings of wind...

But we got up and moved on. For none of these were our destinations, though they enriched us tremendously with the knowledge of hunger and thirst, relaxation, peace, the flow of water, and the beauty of life.

We talked, we marvelled, we wondered all the way. We exchanged notes on the unexpectedly long trail, the unimagined hot weather, the unbelievable beauty of the golden-flowered fields, and the unforgettable hospitality of the villagers... yet when Kutwal came, there was silence.

Plainly Hiding

The silence not just of exhaustion, but of exhilaration, and of suddenly walking onto a plateau hitherto non-visible to our eyes... yet it embraced us, took us in whole, as we stepped on to it. You have to step up to reach the plain of Kutwal, down from the hike below. And then there is a large plain patch of grassland to cross, after which, turning left, the whole expanse of Kutwal rises to the scene.

Its ancient-ness is breath-taking. Its quiet and peace has a sound of its own. And in that moment of just turning left, and letting the hidden scene meet the eye, one is suddenly enriched with the knowledge of an entire hidden village, a valley, an existence. The knowledge of a destination. And it brings an overwhelming silence... not for the lack of ideas, but the inexpressionability of a tremendous knowledge aspired for days, and acquired in an instance.

Secret Kutwal

I took that trek as a symbol of my personal development, to test my mettle, and to see what feelings does climbing up a mountain - a classical symbolic act of achievement - brings me. I can say now, with cognizance comes silence. Metaphorically, in my life, in my stages of learning and personal development too, I am in just such a phase.... I am silent.

For I feel I have walked into a hidden valley where in an instant, a whole scene has risen to my view.... a new world, a different world. A world where many things become meaningless in an instance, and others become significant, for they truly are significant.

And nothing else matters.

As always: edited many times. Photos added.

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