A Magical Story: Not Trekking within the Himalayas

The unique plan was to hike for 3 weeks alongside the India-China-Nepal border. Two former skilled associates – Indian Particular Forces officers – had agreed to take me. Technical climbing has by no means me, however I’ve been a lifelong hiker, occurring weeks-long hikes over time within the Alps, the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains in Alaska, the Pyrenees, the Cascades, the Rockies, the Burundi Highlands, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the White Mountains north of my house… I had additionally organized with yet one more former Indian Particular Forces officer pal to have just a few talking engagements in India previous to my “trekking,” as Indians seek advice from climbing.  He’s nicely plugged into the Indian energy construction. 

For months I poo-pooed my spouse’s fully wise admonitions that I used to be, nicely, outdated, chubby, out of form, had had a coronary heart assault, and at all times have felt the altitude from about 8,000 toes and above. “The clock is ticking for us all” was my mantra response, and “it ticks sooner at 66” than it had in years previous; so, no caviling. Off I might go. 

An Sudden Royal Welcome

I arrived in Mumbai over the last rainfall of the monsoon, driving by crashing rain and whipping windshield wipers at the hours of darkness and checked in to the Taj Mahal Palace, throughout a plaza from the Gateway of India, the place Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa in 1915, and the place the final British troops embarked to depart India after over 200 years’ presence and the Raj. An attractive peacock made from lotus flowers greeted me within the lodge foyer. I had at some point to acclimate myself and to stroll round downtown Mumbai, the place I handed an Indian Naval base and noticed such indicators as, “If you happen to carry a weapon or linger, we could shoot you,” and “Do NOT spit right here.  Or there.” 

And right here issues went…astray. 

I obtained a name in my room the day after my arrival. “Mr. Glenn, welcome to India. Not fear about your inns. We now have taken care of your keep. Your automobile is ready downstairs.” What automobile? I puzzled. Who had taken care of my lodge?  Started three weeks by which I had been supplied with a automobile, a driver (nearly indispensable in India,) and two…er…guides, hand-holders, facilitators, minders, guards. 


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For the primary time of many I requested myself, and even would expostulate to anybody I occurred to be with at a given second, What the hell is happening? Who’re these folks? I didn’t know and didn’t actually discover out till after maybe every week or ten days of being shepherded from one VIP assembly to a different throughout the nation – in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mussoorie… “They’re near the prime minister,” is what I used to be advised, considerably furtively, every time I may attain my former Particular Forces pal or get one thing out of anybody. “They’re caring for you. You’re vital,” he advised me.

Individuals posed for images with me. “Why?” I might ask. “Who do they suppose I’m? I’m not anyone anymore.” “Oh, Mr. Glenn,” would come the reply, “however sure.” Mr. Glenn is so modest!  Ho ho ho! At one level my driver dared to talk with me: “You,” he stated, taking a look at me within the rearview mirror. “Good trying.” I laughed and shook my head. “Me?” “Sure,” he nodded his head. “No,” I scoffed. “I’m outdated and fats.” He seemed within the mirror once more. “Sure.”

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My time turned a whirlwind of engagements I had deliberate, corresponding to chatting with the Indian Ministry of Protection’s strategic planning workplace (“China will likely be positive,” was their primary view; “China will proceed to develop in energy however has rising issues,” was my primary presentation,) or to an viewers in IIT Gandhinagar in Gujarat (I spoke on India as a driver of worldwide financial development)…and a sequence of conferences I had not deliberate and didn’t know would occur – “Come.  In automobile. Sit. We go now. Essential. Sure,” (my minders’ English was approximate. “And your Hindi is non-existent,” my spouse would archly rejoin once I advised her the story, lest a touch of the Raj inhabit my perspective) – conferences with chief strategists for the prime minister’s social gathering, or with senior Islamic figures, or with the overseas ministry – What’s going on? I saved asking.  

Magic Realism

At one level I had a gathering organized with the chief of the Islamic Deobandi motion, one thing that nobody within the CIA may ever organize. It was like assembly with the chief of Iran, Ayatollah Khameini. He canceled on me only some hours earlier than the assembly. “He thinks you will assassinate him,” my Particular Forces pal advised me. “He’s afraid of the repercussions of assembly with a bogeyman CIA man, that’s what he’s afraid of,” I replied. 

The following morning I used to be having tea with some journalists and authorities officers in a five-star lodge’s stunning, arcaded café. “And so,” the journalist advised me, “the Indian commander of India’s UN ‘peacekeepers’ by no means obtained any constructive steerage from the UN in Geneva. The scenario was unsustainable. And so the federal government advised him, ‘Act. Use ‘Indian guidelines of engagement.’ He used our Gurkhas that night time – No weapons.  Simply knives. No noise. Killed 1000’s of ‘rebels,’ in silence. No extra troubles. By no means made the media…” 


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I used to be digesting this little little bit of – information?, bravado? – when somebody tapped me on the shoulder.  “Excuse me,” a person stated, standing behind me, arms clasped, bending barely. “Are you Mr. Glenn?” Who the hell is aware of me right here? I puzzled. This was a bit ridiculous. However they did.  “We noticed you on tv.” That was attainable (however nonetheless shocking,) as I do a bunch of commentating on overseas affairs for Indian and different non-American networks. “I’m the lodge supervisor. My card.” He inclined his head. “Please enable me to offer you a private tour…” I gazed at him, and blinked as soon as. Round we went. “And right here is the place Hillary dined.” Murals of the Hindu goddess Rati – the goddess of carnal need – neglected the desk. He checked out me, “Maybe quickly you’ll dine right here, too, along with your spouse?” I spent weeks feeling that by some means, I used to be benefitting from a case of mistaken id. 

I saved telling my minders that I used to be there to go climbing and had all of it organized. “Sure, sure.  Trekking! Ha ha! We go, sure!” was the invariable response. After which they might drive me off to a different assembly, or to a Hindu spiritual ceremony the place, actually, I used to be one among (so far as I may see) two Westerners amongst 100 thousand joyful celebrants of, as greatest I may confirm, the Yajna – the Hindu Hearth Ceremony. Hearth staves circled round all sides of my head as I sat on the banks of the Ganges, 1000’s upon 1000’s of arms and voices raised up so far as I may see or hear, chanting the oneness of the 5 parts – earth, water, fireplace, air, and area – and lotus leaves crammed with flowers and fireplace swirled previous me, flickering lights on the darkish waters.

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Later, my minder burst into the cell within the ashram they’d put me in and stated, “Come.  Essential.  Should go now.  Meet Swami.” A few days earlier than I had hazarded that “I don’t suppose an ashram is basically for me.” So, they put me within the prime minister’s ashram, in fact.  I couldn’t refuse with out creating…disharmony.

“What?  Meet what swami?” 

“Swami G.”  He checked out me with a touch of contempt; how crude!  “You will need to come now.  A fantastic honor.” 

Oh, nicely, then; Swami G…  In fact. It was a proper, extremely protocol-driven affair, with small discuss and official photographers. The business-suited majordomo silently pointed me to a small oriental customer’s sitting mat, adjoining to the Swami’s bigger alpha rug, after which receded into the shadows on the facet of the viewers chamber…  Jesus Christ, I assumed as I sat down cross-legged, attempting to not fidget regardless of the ache in my bum hip (“Yeah,” stated my physician, “hockey participant”), what the hell is happening? At which level the thought crossed my thoughts that expostulating “Jesus Christ!” and “What the hell?” created the mistaken karma vibe. Swami “G” floated in, a small procession of factotums settling within the shadows behind. We rose in quiet deference. He sat and so did we. 

The Mountains Show Far Away

There was a second of supposed repose, then he slowly turned his head in the direction of me. “You’ll, in fact, want to attend our ceremony tomorrow night.” He modulated his voice in order that I needed to lean in the direction of him to discern his knowledge. “I’m afraid I will likely be leaving early within the morning to go trekking,” I stated, hope triumphing over expectation. Swami G checked out me beatifically. “Sure, I’m certain. However I consider you’ll want to delay your departure.” The briefest pause. “Our ceremony is basically fairly particular.” He gazed at me from his easy lotus pose, arms on knees. “I don’t doubt you’ll attend.” In fact I couldn’t escape, lest I create disharmony, with the superiors of my minders, as a minimum. The photographer emerged and posed us this manner and that as we namasted each other.

After this excruciating session, I used to be making my method again to my ashram cell, when my minder in fact blocked me within the hallway: “Come. Now. Comply with. We eat.” Nicely, okay, I assumed, that may’t be so unhealthy. Ashrams have communal cafeteria eating and I may finally chill out and determine just a few issues out. However he took me by wending corridors to a small non-public eating room the place I dined with…the ex-foreign minister of an Asian nation. The minister and I sat in awkward silence for maybe a minute, concentrating on the lentil paste on our aluminum trays, till I launched myself. We spoke, astoundingly, of mutual associates, our eyebrows respectively raised that in an ashram’s non-public eating room in Rishikesh, India we had found that our lives had intertwined unseen and unknown over the many years. 

I had lengthy since concluded that there was no escape and after the non-public dinner with the ex-foreign minister I jotted a be aware to myself, “Go along with stream, what a hoot vs dammitall!”  “Rishikesh, the yoga’s Mecca” an American Hindu monk in saffron had advised me over yogurt the earlier morning. 

The next morning I as soon as once more enjoined my minder, “The trek?” He checked out me and smiled. “Get in automobile. Sure, sure. Trek, trek! Ha ha ha!  Trek! We go now!” And he had me pushed off to different non-trek occasions, adventures, conferences. We rafted down the Ganges, the smoke from burning corpses rising on each riverbanks and generally enveloping us. Mourners earlier than the pyres slowly poured libations of their incinerated family members’ ashes blended with cow’s milk into the river as we handed mid-river. The water was a fathomless vortex of grays and browns. 

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My raftmates have been all giddy and jumped overboard for a swim. “You soar. You swim, sure?” my minder urged. “I’m not swimming in that,” I replied to the extended dismay of my raftmates, Indians all. “However, right here” I stated, to get better the second, “I’ll educate you how you can sing ‘Dip, Dip, and Swing,’ an outdated American Indian canoeing music,” (nicely, shut sufficient, I assumed,) that I had realized in 1965 as a boy within the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We erratically paddled down the Ganges shouting-singing in dissonant enthusiasm, “DIP, dip and swing and BACK! Flash-ing like SIL-VER! Quicker than the WILD GOOSE flight. DIP, dip, and swing!” I turned fairly common on the raft.

The “trek” lay someplace far above, within the far-distant and unseen peaks the place solely, it appears, swamis generally tread. 

I by no means met up with my two former Indian Particular Forces officers. They awaited me within the foothills of the Himalayas, questioning, I realized, what had change into of their American trekking associate? I by no means noticed, I actually by no means noticed, the Himalayas. 

The Hindu Universe

It turned clear, and I realized finally, that some parts near the federal government had determined (erroneously, I saved saying) that I used to be a VIP, and wished me to depart with a superb impression – “You’ll write of India, maybe. No matter you’re feeling.  The New York Instances and The Washington Publish don’t perceive India as I’m certain you do…” and that to them I used to be too outdated and too out of form (not true!) to danger permitting me to wander across the Himalayas “trekking.” If I stumbled or had an issue, my minders would have been in hassle. 

However in India, within the Hindu universe, time circles upon itself, there is no such thing as a merely linear progress, our avatars stay variations of our lives generally in sight of our personal and it’s unclear ever “what’s going on?”, for we must always know from my heroine, Michelle Yeo, that every part occurs in every single place abruptly, and which means is a number of and disjointed at the same time as it’s profound and vital.  The Himalayas have been throughout me even after they have been past my attain, my body-guard minders with damaged English have been maybe my gurus if I had the knowledge to see them correctly, to seek out serendipity in chaos and which means in absurdity, and all my conferences have been vital even when I didn’t know they might occur and even who I used to be assembly or why, or even when they have been preposterous, or even when they by no means occurred.

And I used to be vital and influential and insignificant, in fact I used to be, and just like the lotus leaves carrying flowers and flames down the Ganges in the course of the yajna, I swirled and turned and glowed and sputtered and was misplaced within the stream of complicated days, a kaleidoscope of damaged however glittering pictures earlier than my eyes, disjointed and of shapes I couldn’t make out, all stuffed with which means and nothingness, if solely I may see, at the very least stuffed with which means on this explicit actuality, as long as it, as long as I, exist.  A hike, a trek, may not ever attain the hills, and what’s a path, anyway? 

Such have been the previous 5 years.  Such have been the previous forty-five.  Trekking, sure!  Ha ha!

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.