In the serenity of nature, at the banks of river Ganga with a pinch of adrenaline rush for river rafting & cliff diving in the Ganges. The trip was filled with a lot of lessons and first time experiences.
But, let’s start from the beginning because Indian Travel stories would be incomplete and unauthentic without the drama of our parents. It’s one of the most tiresome tasks: convincing one’s parents for a road trip with friends to a river rafting site or anywhere in this world, especially if you are a girl. Firstly, the unfamiliar people aka your friends accompanying you will bother them to the endless skies even though they might have met those unfamiliar people. Secondly, it was the location, the mountains, hilly roads & river banks, etc.
However, Introvert me was adamant about making a change in my life & start to take risks. And yes, I had to engage myself in too much self-talk to finally encourage myself to go on this trip & for the war to convince my parents. I needed this trip!
Before I could sink further into depression, my friend came to my rescue. She & her school friends were planning a trip to Rishikesh and they had an open seat for 1 more person. That was my cue, without a second thought I made up my mind and decided to venture out on this trip. Initially, I was scared and skeptical of how things would turn out cause I knew nobody except my friend on this trip and everyone else was either an acquaintance or a stranger.
Once, I had made up my mind, my parents had no control over me, after 3 days of constant fighting and arguing they gave in but, mind it Indian parents don’t give up that easily, the most frequently used tool is emotional blackmail & it works wonders for them. Even I had bowed down to this tactic of theirs for years now, but not this time. I was adamant about going on this trip.
The most difficult task was over and I had decided to go on the trip even though my dad had stopped talking to me. Well, I am as stubborn as he is & I am going on this trip! I had read enough articles and watched enough movies to hope for a life-changing road trip it could be. Scared, confused and a little skeptical about the whole plan I sat patiently in the car with everyone else, mostly I kept to myself but now and then someone or another would talk about something and I would add to it. It was a long journey as one of our friends fell sick, vomited and had some serious stomach issues all the way till we finally reached Rishikesh.
I had never been so happy to reach in the middle of nowhere than here! Our campsite was located in Shivpuri 16 kilometres from Rishikesh. The car was parked at an extension of the hillside road and then the camping site was 2 hours down trek at the bottom of the adjoining hill. Not an easy one, it was not a zig-zag or circular path, in fact, there was no path at all. Most of it was a straight down trek, way too risky. It was a steep down trek and then a hand-made bridge connecting the two hills somewhere between their valleys. We all picked our luggage and walked hand in hand down the hill towards our camp, we had a few slips here and there. Our heartbeats fastened every time someone slipped or a pebble fell in the depth of the hill.
There were moments when I thought I might die and my last conversation with my parents was an angry one. You do get these thoughts when it’s the first time in your life taking a risk on your own terms. Well by our very patient and humble group of friends we reached our camp safe and sound, we all had gotten comfortable with each other by now. It had become dark and we were hungry as hell, so we lit a campfire ready and quickly changed into comfy clothes & in no time everyone was singing, dancing, drinking, eating. The night was calm and the moon was shining on the still river water, I couldn’t help but bury my feet into the sand of the icy cold water. It was chilling but it had the most peaceful feeling.
The next morning we woke up early and sunbathed in the Ganges, just floating on our back in the shallow area of the river, now we could see the hilltop and the distance and the height of the hills we trekked down from, it was massive and beautiful; The water of the Ganges was sweet like you had never tasted before, just perfect. We lay in the Ganges enjoying the sun over us, till it was time for us to trek back up the hill and reach our rafting campsite in Shivpuri.
After 2-3 hours of the deadly climb, we reached our car and left for the rafting site, there they gave us a brief training session on how to, not get ourselves drowned. After that we were all geared up for it, we took our positions and oars on the raft and started. It was a little scary at first because I am not a swimmer but as we proceeded I had forgotten about it and started enjoying it way too much ;), the beautiful scenic view combined with the sudden adrenaline rush, an amazing feeling. It was so much fun that I didn’t want it to end at all but it did.
Once we reached Lakshman jhula in Rishikesh, the 13 white water rapid rafting came to an end as we got down from our rafts, there were a lot of food stalls located on the right bank of the river, we got down and before gorging on all the food we took another traverse on our adrenaline by finishing this trip with cliff diving. We were wearing life jackets so nobody was scared and we got in the long queues to reach the cliff, as we reached the cliff the panic in others started gripping us. I was unsure if I would be able to jump or if the guard would have to push me over like the other people on the cliff but when I reached the cliff, I looked down and jumped, no thoughts, my mind was completely calm, a sense of nothingness & I jumped.
In that minute, that second, that moment it was this sense of stillness, so quiet, so peaceful, I was calm. The mind was clear, empty, white spaces, no regret, no pain, no self-loathing. a moment where my joblessness, my fight with parents, my so-called character, others perception towards me, nothing bothered me, nothing mattered, all I knew was just existence, my existence, the river, the water hitting my body, the calm.
As I submerged into the river water and was contained in my thoughts, the life jacket brought me back up on the surface and I swam across to the banks, to one of the food stalls, reunited with my friends who were waiting for me.
We all came out, walked towards the food stalls and crammed down on all the food we could find. Once full, we left for our camp. After reaching the camp, we played some music and talked and danced and just lay there on the riverbank of Ganga watching the stars. Like everything else, it had to come to an end and we left back to our home. The return journey was fun, filled with random games and blissful music. However, as we started nearing my home, I had a sinking feeling within me. That peace, the wholeness that we left behind, once I was home everything was going to be as it had always been, except me. I had left behind a home that I was never born in but longed for. Something in me had changed and it was a good change!