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The story of my death

“You are going to die. Few more breaths, and that’s it!” alerted my dog-tired mind.

“No no! You can do it. Push yourself. You are an achiever. Go…” encouraged my I-can-do-it mind.

Hold on! I’ll start from the beginning. It was the summer of ‘15 in India, the same period when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. Sikkim, one of the most beautiful states in India, shares the international border with Nepal, Bhutan, China and being a neighbour of Nepal, aftershocks were experienced there. The exact same time, my 2 friends- Siddharth and Prachetas and I were cycling towards North Sikkim under the campaign ‘From Free India to Green India’. North district is known for its steepness of the valleys. The ‘what if’ factor had already started infiltrating our minds- What if the landslides happen due to the aftershocks? What if we get stuck? What if we get carried away? What if we get buried? But we being the stubborn travellers, wrapped that thought, kissed it and kicked it into the valley. May it rest in peace! There isn’t any place for the negative thoughts in our journey.

 

 

With the excitement and energy to reach Gurudongmar Lake, we were steadily cycling up the Himalayas. Already stunned by its massive scale, it had completely soaked us into its energy. The mountains seemed fierce proud- Proud of their beauty! It felt like a live exhibition. The view at every turn was like a dream world painting exhibited. The more you see it; you just can’t get enough of it!

People we met along asked the only question, “Where are you heading to?” And the moment we said, “To Gurudongmar Lake…” a big WHAT came our way! Everyone told us that it’s impossible to cycle till the lake without any support. But as I said earlier, stubbornness is in our blood. The more you say it’s unachievable, the more passionate we are to prove you wrong!

We reached Thangu where we met Captain Savio Thomas and a few soldiers from his battalion. Captain was amazed to see us on cycle. But the dialogue with him was a game changer. (Press play to see the dialogue)

 

 

The moment he told a story of the guy who died on his way back from the lake, our terror-stricken eyes glanced at each other. Yet again, negative thoughts started infiltrating our minds- Should we give up? What if we also die? We don’t even have support in case of an emergency. The dream for which we had cycled up the Himalayas was just 30 kms away but now it felt impossible. We had no support vehicle, no oxygen cylinders, and no thermal clothes. Knowing the fact that the temperature was 1°C, just 13% oxygen in the air and fierce winds post noon, we had to find a solution.

The battalion hosted us for lunch. We were grateful for fresh and warm food after many days. Soon after some hilarious moments, they started sharing their stories of war, sacrifice and that was the kind of inspiration we needed at that moment. After the inspiring story session, we settled down to plan our next step. First and foremost, we will do it! Secondly, we will leave at 4:00 am and lastly, we will cycle together in a line so that if anything happens, one would be there to help others. And if we fail to achieve it, we will try the next day again. We won’t give up. But here was the catch- We had to reach the lake and come back to the military post before 11 am. We had 7 hours, 1221 m altitude to cycle through 40 kms rugged terrain. We couldn’t eat anything, just drink until we get back to Thangu as we would be in low oxygen zone.

 

 

We couldn’t sleep that night. Every passing minute tested our patience for the big day. It was pitch-black when we started! Tourists in jeeps which crossed us realized that they had just seen 3 aliens cycling on earth. We cycled hardly a kilometre or two and could feel the heaviness in breathing. Siddharth was ahead of us when he saw a truck going to China approaching us. He waved and asked if they could give us lift till the lake. Gurudongmar Lake is about 5 kms south of the China border. They agreed and Siddharth loaded his cycle on the cargo bed and waited for us to come. Prachetas also reached and loaded his cycle. And when they saw me, Siddharth cheered, “We have got the lift. Load your cycle as well. Let’s go on the truck.” There were two options for me- To take a lift or to go alone. I shook my head in disagreement and continued cycling. I was by myself if anything goes wrong.

The road to the lake passed through rugged terrain with moraine, which had high alpine pastures covered with many rhododendron trees. It was getting colder than the hinges of hell and I was pushing myself. Every pedal tested my strength. My breathing was heavy and was already hungry. I stopped, opened the tetra pack and had a sip. It was orange juice and I hate orange flavour. But at that moment, it felt like heaven! Thanks to the Indian Army who gave the juice packs. With every pedal, it was getting difficult. Thoughts were louder than the music in my earphones. I was scared. I fell off the cycle. I had no energy left to pedal even one rotation. I was completely drained. I wished there was someone on this tremendous landscape to motivate me to go ahead.

 

 

“Oh child, you had an option of taking a lift. But you did not listen. Suffer now!” prompted my dog-tired mind.

“You chose another option because you know you can do it!” said my I-can-do-it mind trying to motivate me.

Before negative thoughts start coming, I had to go. I screamed of pain as I was getting up. The cold was slowly causing an inflammatory response in my joints. Bearing the pain and trying to shut my thoughts, I started walking with my cycle. Around 10 min after it, I got the feeling of chest tightness. I could barely breathe and I fainted. Lying unconscious for a while, I wheezed as I slowly opened my eyes. I had no idea how far the military post was and had no energy to cycle back to Thangu. I was caught in between. I could feel the muscle rigidity. I had given up. I believed I was going to die. I was lying on the cold sand, listening to the music and hoping for some miracle to happen. I wanted to live.

“You are going to die. Few more breaths, and that’s it!” alerted my dog-tired mind.

“No no! You can do it. Push yourself. You are an achiever. Go…” encouraged my I-can-do-it mind.

The mind-fight was on and the miracle happened. An instrumental version of Indian National Anthem in my playlist started playing. Within a few seconds, I could feel the blood rushing through my veins, goosebumps all over the body and belief that I can still do it. I had always heard that music has the power to transform, and now I experienced it. It made a dying man alive! Emotionally and mentally I rose, but physically I still had no energy. I kept the anthem on repeat and used every inch of energy to go ahead. Having a sip of juice after every 5 steps, I started again. After trudging for a kilometre or half, I saw an Indian Flag waving. It was quite far but at least the military post was now in sight. Knowing that the lake is also a few kilometres more, I started cycling and I forgot the pain I was in. The only thing I knew was, I can do it!

 

 

I reached the military post and had just 45 min left to cycle till the lake and come back before the fierce winds start. Lake was still 10 km away. And if I fail to make it back, I could get hit by the stones due to the stormy winds. I made it to the lake. Believe me, its beauty is indescribable. In 10 min, I started cycling back to the post. I reached on time. Siddharth and Prachetas were waiting for me. I waved at them, left my cycle and rushed inside the bunker.

I couldn’t hold back my tears. I sat near the window staring at the mountains, crying! The realisation of what I had achieved, just hit me hard. This achievement wasn’t just about facing death and cycling until one of the highest lakes in the world, but it was about overcoming my comfort zone, pushing myself beyond my capacity, proving others wrong. It was the birth of new Tanay. Tanay with more self-confidence, Tanay who appreciates what he has in life, Tanay who wants to live life inspiring others, Tanay who never wants to stop!

…and this was the story of my death.

– Old Tanay

 

COMMENTS
  • February 2, 2019
    reply

    Kedar Gokhale

    Experienced your thrill while reading!

  • March 30, 2019
    reply

    Parshwa Mutha

    This is just Amazing

  • April 16, 2019
    reply

    Parnavi Habde

    Hi Tanay ! I’m truly inspired after reading the ‘story of your death!’ It usually so happens that people’s life stories inspire us to be better. But this is the first time that your story of death has been a great great inspiration. The way you experienced goosebumps after listening to our National Anthem, even I could feel the goosebumps and inspiration, motivation inside me after reading the story. I wish I had read your story before, but better late than never!
    I’m sure your works, travel experiences, photography and architecture has changed me, inspired me to be better! I will write the story of my new birth for sure!!
    Thanks a lot!!

    – ‘Old’ Parnavi !

    ( a new born architect seeking to explore and learn)

  • July 20, 2019
    reply

    Tanay Bothara

    It was so good to read through your comment Parnavi. Keep unfolding yourself to better. Cheers!

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