I wake up to sunlight streaming into my hotel room. I smile. I am in Leh and I am going rafting today. 9 am and I meet my friend at the hotel lobby. The four of us walk to the rendezvous spot. We wait for the van that will take us to the starting point of the ride.
We travel upstream to Chilling to raft the mighty Zanskar down to Nimo a little after its confluence with the Indus. I look out of the window of the van. The river looks swollen and lazy. I don’t see any rapids. Disappointment. I wonder if this is going to be an exciting ride.
We reach the starting point. I count six rafts and about twenty people. We get into our gear, pick up our paddles and board the raft. Amidst all the excited chatter I hear the guide repeat” Do not panic if you fall into the water”.
Finally after what seems like hours of safety demonstration and last-minute instructions we are on our way. Ten minutes out and this seems like a slow joy ride. Not exactly the” adventure of your lifetime” the banner in the town market proclaimed it to be.
I look out ahead and I finally see some rapids. I tighten my safety vest and adjust my helmet. “ Row, Row” I hear the urgency in the guide’s voice. Before my brain can react I find myself floating I know not where. I am being pushed down, I am being thrown up. This dance continues for a while. Suddenly I am coughed up. My brain starts to react. I need air. I gasp. I look around. The water rages around me. The Zanskar is not lazy anymore. She is furious and unforgiving. I go down again. The dance has not stopped.
I am angry. I am frustrated. I feel life is passing me by. There are a million things I want to do but I feel resigned. I know I should wake up and get ready for work. But I choose to sulk. My alarm rings again. I know it is past 8.30am. I hit snooze. I turn over and begin to cry. I know not why.
I feel the stinging sensation of the freezing water. I cough. I gasp. I look around. I see the guide on another raft throw a lifeline to me. I reach out but a wave lashes against me. I find myself dancing again against my will.
I complain to my friend of many years. I crib about my life. She listens to me patiently, smiling. It irritates me that she is smiling. It irritates me that I am the one with all the complaints. I ask her how come she is not unhappy with her life. She replies patiently “Lis you have not given me a chance to tell you how I have been doing”. I look at her and feel ashamed. I am meeting her after long years and all that I can do is complain.
A rough push brings me back to the surface. Oh Lord I don’t want to die. I am sorry for all the grumbling. I know my life is not perfect from many angles but it’s still great. The dance starts again but this time I am not going to partake in it against my will. I lie on my back and float. I wave my paddle to catch the attention of the people on the road. No! Don’t wave back. I am not having a good time. Please help me. Dear Lord you do have a sense of humor. You brought me cross-country to kill me!
I see a rope across the river. This is my chance. I am going to make it. I am not going to die today. Oh no! the rope is too high. I succumb again to the dancing waters. I am forced to keep rhythm with the Zanskar for another 15 minutes. I am drained of all energy. I am giving up. Lord I surrender myself to you. If I have a choice in the turn of events I vote for being rescued.
I let go of my paddle. I am ready to die. I just lie on my back with the sun directly above me. Death is so peaceful.
Suddenly a hand grabs me. But the Zanskar lays a bigger claim on me. I slowly drift in and out of consciousness. The hand grabs me harder. This time the Zanskar loses the fight. The hand holds on to me. Salvation is close. I feel the hand pulling me into a raft. I don’t hear the waters flow anymore. All I hear is silence.
Ouch! That hurt! And again someone hits me hard. I open my eyes and look into the worried eyes of my guide. “Tu teek hu na??”
“ Yes Bhyya” I hear myself reply. ” Yes, I am ok”.
I stare into nothingness. I start to cry, this time I know why. I am crying for the life I nearly lost partly to negativity and partly to the mighty Zanskar.