Extraordinary in the ordinary

The height of joy isn’t on the summit

After summiting two peaks, I realized it is all about the experience of reaching the summit, not the summit itself. The journey, not the destination.
Published at Hindustan Times.

October 2015 was extremely memorable for my husband and I. Monsoon was coming to a close and flowering season was at its peak. We undertook a spree of adventurous treks over weekends, and in our beautiful journeys traversing the ranges of Maharashtra, we both re-visited a precious lesson for life.

To begin with, we decided to ascend the second-highest peak of Maharashtra, the Konkan Cliff on the picturesque Harishchandragad Range. It was by far an extremely challenging trek. Climbing four waterfalls at steep gradients, crossing gorges, proceeding in incessant rain and thick fog, and spending a night in caves inhabited by crabs – the trek was a concoction of grit, decisiveness and risk-taking ability. But we did it.

Motivated by our first success of climbing the second highest peak, we decided to keep up the momentum by ascending ‘the highest’ peak of Maharashtra on the very next weekend. Ambition and human instinct to ‘reach greater heights’ couldn’t be more befitting to our situation. During the week, we prepared ourselves, mentally and physically, for ‘a very thrilling trek.’ Amazingly, we ascended the Kalsubai Peak in a credible time of less than two hours (about four hours is what it takes usually). However, in our overly focused haste to reach the top, we forgot to enjoy the challenges enroute.

We had presumed that the coveted ‘first’ is the toughest, and that reaching the ‘second’ in the order of height is easier than racing the ‘first.’ I understand now that ‘first’ and ‘second’ are nothing but empty milestones we judge our successes by, even though such judgement kills the joy of the journey by moving our focus from “the ascent” to simply “reaching the top.”

We used this lesson in our third consecutive weekend trek. Aptly called ‘a high-level endurance trek’, it involved covering 55 kilometres on foot from Lonavla to Bhimashankar Sanctuary and back in two days. Focusing patiently on nature’s goodness and the gorgeous route that would unfold every hour, I consciously deleted from my mind the self-imposed burdensome targets of being the ‘first, best, fastest, highest’ and any such ‘completion goals.’

The experience of covering these 55 kms turned out to be absolutely amazing, more than we could imagine. It did not matter that in the last 10 kms, we could hardly feel our legs out of exhaustion. My mind was in a different zone – crossing the playful streams of cold water, enjoying the fragrance of the purple Karvi flowers, traversing carpets of tiny, yellow blossoms, soaking in the fresh moist air, refreshing my heart with nature’s pure goodness.

I understood that it is all about the experience and not the summit. The journey, not the destination. Let’s not allow expectations, apprehensions and never-ending bucket-lists to sap our mind’s creative energies at the very start of the journey.

So next time you happen to see nature’s magnificent creation such as a rainbow, see it as it is. Feel it. Bask in the glory of its vibrant colours. Marvel at the magic of that upturned U in the sky. But don’t wonder what lies at the end of the arc, because sooner or later, we may discover there never was, and can never be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. All that there ever will be is an opportunity to savour a stunning, ephemeral experience – the rainbow, just as it is.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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