New Year Resolutions.
It was one of the coldest of nights that I can remember trying to sleep through.
Aryan , Neepa , Namrata and I shivered through sub zero temperatures in a cold tent, a few meters away from the Pangong lake, in the Himalayas.
I spent a restless & sleepless night waiting for the dawn to break.
Barry Holland has written that a Comrades runner measures his year as per the Comrades Calendar. My year starts and ends with the Comrades marathon.
My year had ended on the finish line of Comrades on the 31st of May 2016 and now I was on the cusp to the start of a new year.
The time before the first run after Comrades 2016 is much like 11:59 pm on the night of 31 December. It is a moment when one makes ones New year resolutions. One ponders upon the year gone by but more importantly one decides upon all the things one wants to do in the years to come ahead. One plans and dreams. ( unless one is already drunk )
The year to follow is especially special for me as I enter the 50th year of my life. It's a special landmark since I know that more years have gone and less remain. Time is fleeting and fast.
I struggled in bed, cold and shivering waiting for light to break. I was desperate to step out. It had been 10 days since I had run Comrades and I could no longer hold back the urge to step out for an easy run.
Finally as light broke, I stepped out of the tent, dressed in layers. 5 t-shirts, 2 full-length pants, 2 pairs of socks, shoes, a woollen cap and a pair of gloves. The camp site was desolate. No one in their right mind had yet woken up. But the magnificent sight which greeted me was one which will stay embedded in my memory forever.
A very faint glow of light bathed the top of the mountains in the very far distance . The water of the Pangong lake was alive. It was living and breathing.
I quickly traversed the short few meters between our tent and the lake shore. It was drizzling and the air was cold and freezing. I could see my breath as I exhaled and could feel the the cold crisp air as it entered my lungs.
To my right stood majestic mountains. The top of some were covered with snow while some were barren and shades of browns, greys, oranges and greens .
There was some green grass at the waters edge but everything else was completely barren and covered with rocks. There wasn't a blade of grass visible on those mountains.
The lake ahead of me, extended to the horizon and to territory controlled by the Chinese. The water was shades of blues, greys, greens and turquoise. It was the cleanest water in a lake I've ever seen.
Wave after wave of crystal clear water dashed against the pebbles which lined the lakes edge.
On the far left bank of the lake , the mountains were again clad in fog and mist. The browns, greys, blues, oranges and white effortlessness blended into one another.
The rarefied air at this high altitude made breathing quite an effort but I just wanted to run. I knew that breath would follow breath. I just wanted to run.
And so I ran !
I also knew I had to follow Neepas strict instructions to be back within an hour.
The vast expanse of the landscape was overwhelming. There was not a soul in sight. It was perhaps how our earth was before we showed up.
The vastness of the lake, the mountains and the sky made me feel the infinitely smallness and brevity of my life.
I ran some and walked some along the lakes edge.
A half hour later I came across a large rock on the waters edge on which someone had spray painted the words "Live Pure". Although this was an act of complete vandalism, I could understand the vandals emotions. It would be hard for any human to stand in these pristine surroundings and not ponder upon the meaning of one's life and its brevity. One cannot stand in the midst of this magnificence and not ponder upon one's mortality. One cannot but ponder upon the words "Live Pure".
The local people of Leh and Ladhak have a tradition whereby they stack flat rocks, one on top of another. One can see such rock sculptures all over Leh. The driver of our tempo traveller, Mr Nuwang, had explained to me that the locals held the belief that if they made such a stack of rocks in a particular location, they would be born in that area in their next life.
I decided to make a stack of rocks on the river bank. But I decided to make it as a mark of my love for my family. I found and put the first large flat rock in memory of my father and then stack rocks on top of that to represent my love for my mom, for my wife Neepa, for my children, Aryan & Namrata, for my extended family and for our dog Lance.
I stood there on the waters edge, closed my eyes and thanked the universe for the blessings I have been bestowed.
I believe that I'm the luckiest man alive. I've been blessed with wonderful parents, with a great education, with a fabulous family, with great friends and a life filled with opportunities. I've been blessed with good health.
I stood there on the waters edge in that sacred environment and asked for some more blessings.
I hoped that the universe will grant me the ability to use my 'free will' to make the right decisions for the remaining days of my life. I wish to live my life in such a way that I can give back more than I have received and to live it in such a way that some day my children and family will remember me as a "good man".
I want all children to have the things and opportunities that I want my children to have. I want to generate enough resources for children at the Tata Hospital so that no child suffering from cancer remains without treatment.
But while I was at it, I asked for one more blessing... I prayed that I can be at the start line of Comrades 2017.
The Comrades year is such a long year that one never knows how things will pan out. Real life intervenes. One can never tell what the basket of life holds for each one of us: work and finance and health and study and all the other glorious uncertainties that unfold over the year. One never knows if one will finally stand on that start-line but one must dream and desire. I'm old enough to know that the sun does not always shine on each and everyone of our desires. Sometimes dark clouds pour rain on ones dreams.
An hour and a half later, as I walked towards my tent, I turned and took one more look at the mountains and the lake.
The sun had not broken through the clouds but the peaks in the far distance were now bathed in sunlight. It was still drizzling and windy. It was still brutally cold and overcast.
But the first rays of sunlight had broken through over the mountains in the distant horizon and I could tell that the promise of light and warmth lay not in the too distant future.
The cycle of life will always have all its seasons but one can and must always count on the sun's promise to break though in the end.
I smiled at the thought.
I too believe in the promise that my future holds. I believe that I can be all the things I want to be: a good son, a good husband, a good parent, and a good human ! I can be the "good man" that I want to be.
And as far as that one other personal desire goes, I believe that I will come through in the days and months of training to follow.
I believe in the promise that I will stand on the start-line of Comrades 2017.