LURE OF THE HILLS
By Neel Anil Panicker
Sheena loved the hills.
Her earliest memories were of her on a train as it whistled past the verdant countryside.
Seated in her corner window seat, and surrounded by an army of squealing and giggling siblings and cousins twice and thrice removed, she would peep out only to gaze past the never ending colourful carpet of undulating fields, vast expanses of rural landscape that changed their tapestry every half an hour or so.
From thickly set mango groves to rhombus shaped rice, wheat and bajra fields to huge tracts if sugarcane fields, she would see them all in the course of a roller coaster childhood spent going back and forth between Calcutta, her birthplace and Gangtok, the place where her ancestors came from.
But once the initial excitement of watching so close Nature’s wondrous bounties, her gaze shifted yonder.
She strained her eyes to catch fleeting glimpses of the snow clad hills and watched with awe as Father Time drew heartwarming images on the hilly contours.
She would wake up to the godly sight of the first rays of the sun that rose from the distant horizon___almost indistinguishable golden specks that fell on distant hilly edges.
Come afternoon, the same hills would be bathed in a reddish hue quite reminiscent of the Himalayan apple slices that would be passed around by her mother or one or the other of her umpteen aunts.
And as the long day would make for the night, the vision would change__this time taking on the contours on a dark, purplish hue with the only lights being that which came from one or the huts that lay at the footsteps of the hilly terrain.
Such was the magical impression that was cast on her impressionable ten year old self that a decade later when her friends were grappling with what carèer paths they wanted to chart for themselves, she had her sight set.
‘Dad, I will be a world class mountaineer,” was what she declared, the tenor of her voice affirming the conviction of every word that she uttered.
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