I had to face several ups and downs in my professional and personal lives in 2016. At the very outset of 2017, I was faced with another crisis when I came to know that I was suffering from acute depression.
I then knew that willingly or unwillingly, I had to change myself to break free of this state. So, I decided to go on my first solo-trip across northeast India.
Being a photographer/cinematographer, the rich culture and landscape of northeast India is worth exploring and recording. However, this time, I decided to travel without my camera.
I wasn’t bothered about planning an itinerary for this trip. I had booked my tickets for Guwahati, and I would be returning back only after 10 days. All I wanted to do was to explore and get lost in the faraway cities that I had only heard of, till then. I had, therefore, made it a point that I would only ask the local people of the region regarding places worthy visiting. In fact, I deliberately did not search for travel suggestions or pictures of places on the net, since I wanted to visit these places first-hand.
I arrived at this beautiful city, and immediately wanted to step up my game. I wanted to test and push myself into doing something that would even scare myself. The idea of replacing old, toxic memories (which were torturing me) with new and refreshing experiences seemed very alluring to me.
The kind people in Guwahati suggested numerous places which I should visit during my two-day stay in the region. Three places were frequently suggested: Shillong, Dawki and Mawlynnong.
On this day, I firmly decided to scare myself. In fact, I rented a Royal Enfield Electra for two days. I thought to myself – this can turn out to be scary indeed! This feeling of potentially being scared had much to do with the fact that I was already convinced that this solo-trip had been in vain and was a useless one. Add to this ‘uselessness’, the fact that I had in my possession a near-perfect bike! A solo bike trip through the mountains was something I’d always wanted to do – only that, this time, I feared that it would all be in vain!
It is no surprise therefore that my hands and feet were trembling when I sat on the bike. Frankly speaking, I didn’t know if I was excited or scared.
However, once I started riding the bike, all my worries and fears vanished. The beautiful landscape of the Guwahati-Shillong highway all passed by me and moved me deeply, but I could not register any of this beauty. Furthermore, the roads were so smooth and clean!
I could never have realised that this was the very ‘detox therapy’ that I was in desperate need of. Even today, I am unable to describe this four-hour journey through the mountains.
I travelled from Shillong to Dawki, which is a three-hour journey. During the journey, I stopped at several spots in the midst of the picturesque mountains. It was all so peaceful and quiet! There were no honking cars, no loud machines and no airplanes flying about. I felt one with the nature around me. Never have I felt this intimate with my surroundings!
I stopped at Dawki for lunch. I had no idea what the place known for. Dawki is a small village with a small, clean river. In fact, people there urged me to take a 20-minute boat ride through the river to a camp site. Throughout the journey, I was able to see all the way to the bottom of the river. I was particularly engrossed in watching the curious movement of the fishes in the water. Once we reached the camp, I had a simple snack of Maggi noodles. On reaching there, I was also able to compare the people’s perceptions of the simplicity and the beauty of the place with mine.
I reached Mawlynnong when the sun had almost set. It was the perfect ‘golden hour’, and I couldn’t care less about clicking a picture of what lay before me. I just wanted to have the moment to myself.
The children of the village greeted me with kisses and high fives. Their innocent smiles and laughter greatly re-energised my spirits.
I left Mawlynnong right after dinner, as I didn’t want to ride late at night. I wanted to ride non-stop back to Shillong, because I wasn’t wearing a jacket or gloves to ward off the cold. However, I did take a stop in the mountains to admire the full moon. And boy, was it worth it!
On February 14, 2017, I left Shillong early in the morning to make sure that I had ample time to catch the flight from Guwahati (which was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM). The rental house was about three hours away from the place I was staying at, while the airport was a further 45 minutes from the rental house. I figured that I would reach the airport before the check-in time.
Once again, riding on the beautiful highway while watching the sunrise was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. When I was about 45 kilometres away from the rental house (I’d to return the bike, you see), I stopped to have some chai (tea). Then I continued with my journey.
A short while later, while riding down a slope on the highway, the bike’s rear tire skidded when I was trying to turn to the left. Before I could slam the brakes and take note of what was happening, I had already toppled over the bike. My first thought was to ensure that there were no trucks in my vicinity.
It was scary! It was cold! I was numbed by the pain and the whole situation. How could this happen when the roads were so clean and well-made? Why couldn’t I get up?
A few trucks pulled over, shortly, helped me stand up and took the bike to the side of the road. My knees were severely hurt. Fortunately, the layers of garments that I was wearing had helped reduce the damage, somewhat. I didn’t even know why I had worn so many garments in the first place. But boy, was I glad that I’d done so! However, the pain was just excruciating.
After wailing for some time, I sat on the bike and realised that it had been badly damaged. The alignment was off, the rims were bent and so was the foot-rest, which made it hard to switch gears.
I realised that I had been severely delayed and I had to reach the airport before the final check-in. So, I rode the damaged bike through the mountains for nearly 45 kilometres.
Consequently, I managed to board the flight from Guwahati, only at the last moment. I then travelled from Siliguri to Darjeeling in a cab. Half way through this journey, I fell asleep. The driver woke me up only at the last stop, where I realised that I had shot ahead of my destination by five kilometres. A second taxi dropped me two kilometres away from my destination. “I have had it with this adventure!” I thought to myself.
At my destination indicated by the GPS, I received the following directions: ‘Above TB Hospital’. I walked for a further two kilometres to reach the gates of TB hospital. The path from the gate to the building was a steep slope. Besides, the building itself was not visible from the bottom of the slope. With a bruised body, a cold wind, increasing darkness and no guide, I finally reached the hotel after one and a half hours of trudging.
I went to the reception, and for all my troubles, I was given a spacious room with a nice view. I freshened up, treated my wounds and went to the dining area. In the dining area, the entire hotel staff was engaged in a cheesy Bollywood karaoke, which, I guessed, was the challenge for the day. After all, it was Valentine’s Day!
I explored new places, cultures and met with many people over the next few days. These experiences are something which I cannot divulge to you all. After all, these are too sacred and personal to me. I hope you all understand this and excuse me.
The reason why I described the first part of my adventures is because I think people shouldn’t question whether I’m still suffering from depression, after reading this. This, for me, is the whole point of sharing this experience.After all, one of the reasons we go through new experiences is to forget the old and painful ones.
I would therefore urge people going through depression to explore new spaces and possibilities by themselves. We can fix ourselves. The key lies within ourselves.
Ever since I have returned from the trip, I have been sharing my many experiences. I have also had liberating conversations with many acquaintances, friends and family members regarding mental health and life in general.
I realise that I would have missed out on all these delightful moments in my life, if I had given up when I wasn’t able to gather myself together. There is always a next page in our lives and there is always an ‘up’ after all the ‘downs’. We possess the strength to withstand all the blows that comes our way. After all, it’s only a test. You can build yourself up and change your views on love and life, in a single moment.
Finally, I would like to quote my mom: “Go through it, grow through it!”