Once upon a time, in a land large and unwieldy, full of delicious little complexities and mysteries, was a camp, Aquaterra, nestled in the mountains, that housed people who dreamed of adventure and challenges. An hour or so away from it, was the magical con fluence of the powerful Bhagirathi and the meandering Alaknanda, creating the holy Ganges. People flocked to this place called Devprayag, to pay homage to this beautiful river that gained her unique, deep, aquamarine from the algae is replete in her waters. The Ganges represents truth, love, freedom, clarity and peace – she is the river to whom millions flock to perform last rites for their loved ones; she is the river where souls finally come to rest.
The Ganges is also a river that trips and floats and meanders around with a mirror image of herself, calm and vigorous, in equal measure. She is one who calls to arms the soul of an adventurer, the kind who dreams of rafting down the aqua rapids, because, like we all feel no houses can ever burn down when the diya of a puja is lit, no one really believes they can drown in the Ganges. If you have been lucky enough to take a dip, you will go to Heaven or a beautiful version of it. And that is precisely what I went to do, earlier this year, because I knew the river would alter my life somehow.
There comes a point in every girl’s life when she decides she is living the dream and the dream has changed. With forty five birthdays successfully under my belt, I decided it was time to either immerse myself in a real fairy tale, take myself out of the one I was living in, call it quits with the world or just brazen it out when anyone asked me the same question I’ve been hearing that would make me retire a rich lady if I were given a paisa every time I heard it, ‘You’re so lovely, why are you still single?’ Many frogs later, a princess can really give the male species the benefit of the doubt so much until she begins losing patience. So, I did the next best thing I could think of. Instead of going to a place where I could dress up and catch the artificial charmers, it was time to dress down, find authenticity and break open my heart walls enough so I could find my heart again.
It’s not easy growing up in a world when the emancipation of women continues to be a battle – it’s not only men who aren’t able to deal with it. Us first world, educated women are totally confounded. After attempting to break that veritable glass ceiling everyone talks about, the one everyone imagines but hasn’t quite seen, women the world over have sought out their place in the sun, whether it be establishing their positions as equals in the home, the work place or even standing in line for a visa; that perplexing question of whether we are actually as independent as we want to be, if we have a diamond on our fingers or a mangalsutra around the neck, looms large. In fact, after many years of working independently, setting up my own business, proving myself to be stellar at my job, travelling to my heart’s content, not thinking twice about buying beautiful gifts for my loved ones, I was told by my favourite significant others they felt bad because I didn’t seem to need them and I began to wonder about how we actually interpret togetherness and which gender is actually the more insecure.
For years this question has plagued me, am I really independent if I am not reliant on a man? Do I automatically become reliant on him if we are in a relationship? The conflicting platitudes of, ‘you don’t need a man to be happy’, ‘you have the strength to do it all yourself’ and ‘why haven’t you found someone?’ are frankly, exhausting. The infernal, ‘good-natured’ teasing - ‘so and so, sitting in a tree, K I S S I NG’, raise the bar in embarrassment regarding a relationship, leaving girls and boys incredibly ashamed of falling in like, much less being attracted to and falling in love with each other. Then, while everyone is caught in this magic whirlwind of flustered-ness regarding the purest form of togetherness, Andy Williams sings Love is a Many Splendored Thingand Madonna belts out Love Makes the World go Round and we spin like tops, groping our way blindly through the labyrinth of liaisons and think, if I had just done one thing differently, we may still be together or if I had changed the way I was, he or she might like me a little more. And then, Gloria Gaynor’s, I Will Survive has no other choice but to become the anthem.
It was not long into 2023, three years and a little bit more after the drought of socialising during Covid, that I decided I had had enough. Restless with the desire of catching every second of time now into fullness, I began thinking and feeling from what I know now to be a ‘deepest positive intention’ and things started rolling out in front of me like a red, gold-edged carpet. The world opened up and people I had not known very well began to extend invitations for a drink, dinner, coffee, a walk in the sun and soon, a man with a big belly laugh, took my number and decided to gift me stories of incredible experiences he had, being a companion of adventure. He introduced me to the ‘Warrior’s Path’, a leap of faith that consisted of tents, a river bank and a decidedly long bath in the holy Ganges, sans hairdryer and mascara, in the freezing cold. In the hope of some of this river’s enchantment making me see clearer, I decided to, literally and figuratively, take the plunge. As it turned out, it wasn’t a kiss from Prince Charming but a chilled embrace from the Ganges that woke me from what felt like the slumber of a thousand years.
Much like Snow White’s dwarves, the two who noticed a single cell of adventure inside of me and gently coaxed it into flourishing were a company called Syngrity, based out of Delhi and Camp Aquaterra, tucked away in the foothills of the Aravali mountains in Atali, Uttarakhand. The ‘Warrior’s Path’, or journey I embarked upon, was a workshop that put its tendrils firmly into my soul and began the painful expedition of my voyage back to myself. It was nothing I expected and soon I discovered, was everything I needed. The first cracking of either the nut (me) or nutshell was the drive to Rishikesh. Being the only girl, surrounded by Hungry, Thoughtful and Cuddly, it seemed a road trip with sandwiches, bad jokes and a whole load of pampering was all I needed to remember I had a heart again, could laugh without being judged and didn’t have to work doubly hard to prove myself in a ‘man’s world’, up in front, riding shotgun the way I wanted to.
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Words Pallavi Narain
Date May, 2023