Footprints in the snow.

Snowing stopped the day before yesterday. Yesterday was sunny but today is cloudy, and yesterday’s blazing sun ate through the insubstantial snow everywhere. Such as the snow suspended around the round rocks scattered on both sides of the ever-flowing Beas. Today only their heads are white; their wet black faces revealed from the sides.

I’m looking at them from Vashisht. From higher up here, the faces of the rocks look like black footprints on the riverbed snow. Big rocks are the footprints of lions and snow leopards, while small rocks the footprints of spotted deers and servals.

Hunters in the Snow, 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.Hunters in the Snow, 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

My mind begins to wonder about these footprints on the snow while my gaze continues to wander among them.

Wild animals from everywhere come here at night when no one is looking, and drink from the Beas, drink from the Himalaya. They leave before dawn, leaving the footprints behind so that someone like me can imagine them drinking from the river. In broad daylight but no one else can see them.

Some of the footprints belong to the dusty camels of the Thar who had come from afar to quench their extraordinary thirst with the Himalayan water.

Sometimes that’s precisely what you need when the desert leaves you so thirsty that no amount of water in the desert will quench it. When the thirst is not an ordinary thirst, but an illness, a crippling affliction. When you must flee the desert, your home sweet home, in order to live. Only the cold, glacial water of the Himalaya can extinguish the thirsts of the burning desert.

I’m no stranger to such thirsts. I became similarly afflicted on seeing the Himalaya for the first time, thirsty from the first glimpse at 7:30 on December 28 2019. So I had to come here again when I came here again in February 2021.

Now I’m here, drinking this water, and I will be here until I’m not thirsty anymore. I still can’t believe I’m here, still drinking this water. It will certainly take years, many years. More years than one life can provide.

February 5, 2022