Of Dogs & Mountains

Whenever I have hiked in any part of the Himalayas, there has always been a dog that tagged along. And this is something everyone experiences – anyone who has taken a trail leaving a village or a town. The reasons will not be known as to why these mountain dogs accompany travelers in their treks from one village to another, only to mysteriously disappear and reappear again. Maybe they do it as a duty or with the hope of getting some food; or for their own sense of security, to have a human to walk along with through these isolated paths that might harbor some danger. These dogs are the much-mentioned, often-photographed but seldom-discussed aspects of everyone’s Himalayan journey. Their stamina will surely surpass yours and they could do the same trek several times in a day, both ways – your challenge is their neighborhood and one should never forget that. Their friendliness comes from seeing this world right from their doorstep – these are wise beings that must be treated with respect.

Climbing right now, my legs hurt and these urban lungs gasp for the very cool air that makes my ears hurt, and I slump down on a rock to rest. If I climbed too fast, the four-legged friend will come trailing along, I ask him whether it was the flower in bloom that slowed him down or if it were the bones in the grass I had quickly glanced over; if I climbed too slow, he will be up there ahead of me, gazing from some vantage point waiting for me to start again.

In the towering silence of the mountains, away from humans, I become aware of this other being’s presence and the trust and familiarity we have in this short duration of knowing each other. Briefly, I understand what Yudhishthira might have felt when asked to let go of the dog at the end of his climb to the heaven. And maybe the dogs that climbed with me (and you) were indeed Yama in disguise – who knows? But anyway, a part of this story about the final test of a demigod repeats in each and every such climb; staying alive as long as there are dogs, mountains and men.

mount_doggo_climb

Hey Dog!

Fidgeting with my phone while sitting on a park bench, I am waiting for a friend to show up. The only sound is of the hissing garden hose, it has leaked and flooded a section of the field and those plants are definitely going to die. There is not a single person to be seen in the sun which beats down on the living and non living alike. Usually I too have no business of being out here on this afternoon, but I still am. Sesh is important.

And then I see them, the boys, a pack of dogs heading somewhere. They are striding determined, but with an urgency. They have a goal and they are on a journey. One of them limps but he matches up to the speed of the pack. The brown one is the alpha, and right behind him is his sidekick, slightly smaller but looks the sharpest with his black spots. If there was a Quentin Tarantino movie on dogs, it would be this.

In admiration, all I am capable speaking in my mind is a question, to them I ask – “Oh, Brave travelers, what takes you where you go – is it food, is it the riches, is it the fair-maidens, or is it war?”

They diagonally cross the park and exit through two gates loosely chained just enough to let one person pass in between them, provided that they bend under the now infused chain and lock. I used to be puzzled by the flakes of rust in my hair whenever I used that entrance.

And then I see my friend, scared, standing in the corner waiting for them to pass. It is a tense few seconds for him. “Hey Dog!” – I call out.