We were four people – Myself, Ananth (a friend of mine), Dinesh and Sakthivel (friends of Ananth).
The initial plan was to pickup a couple of my colleagues (Mani & Rajesh) and reach the foothills of the Velliangiri mountains by 9 pm. It would take 5-7 hours to reach the top of the seventh mountain and we wanted to be there at sunrise, for the view and morning prayers. If we start to climb down around 6:30 am, we can reach down within 11 am max. It was said that climbing up/down in the day time would be almost impossible because of the hot sun, in the month of May. Not only that, the entire journey depends on one’s physical and mental strength, weather and the grace of animals.
I know Ananth since college days. He was my class-mate and room-mate. He is, by far, the most funniest guy I’ve ever met.
It was raining heavily when we are in Avinashi, 60 kilometers before the Vellirangiri mountains.
“Dei Jagadeesh, We can’t climb if it continues to rain like this. What shall we do?”, Ananth was worried.
“I don’t know! Any ways, I’m driving to Decathlon to buy torchlight”, Decathlon is one of the best in how a store should be organized and run.
“Are you stupid? I’m saying that we won’t even be allowed inside and you are talking about shopping. Moreover, you’ve written that I’m the funniest guy. I will seriously kick your butt if you talk about Decathlon again”, Ananth was annoyed and that is exactly what I wanted as a friend.
We drove past the highway and reached Neelambur. Ananth was enthusiastically telling us about his cycling adventures and records. That he cycles everyday morning; at least an hour in week-days; four hours in the week-ends; never stops in between; often pedals to office; those who wouldn’t cycle are intolerable; those who has no cycle are untouchables.
In short, though he knows none, he thinks he’s the best bicycler in the world. Naturally, it provoked me to drive right into Decathlon parking lot where he didn’t wanted to be. I looked at Ananth anxiously and said, “Let’s go in.”
He was so annoyed now that he couldn’t control his laugh. “Dei, why are doing this? It’s still raining heavily and we can’t even get out of the car.”
This is my chance. “OK. Here’s the deal. You stop your bicycle diaries and we shall drive further. Is that fine?”
He laughed loudly, “Ha..Ha..Ha.. I know you would be jealous but it’s okay.. I’ll stop”.
We drove back to the road and stopped near Porur to pickup Rajesh, a colleague of mine. It was just drizzling now but the rain would’ve already made enough damages for trekking. On the other side of the street, we saw a couple of walkers with bamboo sticks. They are for sure from the Velliangiri mountains. It is believed that bamboo sticks are used while trekking Velliangiri mountains as a spiritual companion (yogi) assisting safety and protecting from the dangers around. I bought the safety part.
Dinesh & Sakthivel went to talk to them while I and Ananth went to buy energy drinks and fruits. Dinesh looked dull when he returned back. “It looks like the mountain route is blocked due to rain. Those people returned back without climbing.”
I was standing on the drizzling rain holding a dinner pack, six packs of energy drink, four bananas and five apples.
We decided to drive and give a try. It was already 11 pm when we reached the foothills and the neighborhood was very dark and silent. Sakthivel ran to the temple and came back with a huge smiling face, “Guys, the route is open just now. We are all set to go!”
I wore a reflective t-shirt which would be visible even if I’m miles away, grey color shorts and a backpack. They were ultra thin and pretty light weight. Just perfect for a long workout day. I was proud that I got the right clothing and accessories. It awkwardly reminded PRIDE from the Se7en movie.
We all took as minimal as we could – chappathi for dinner, a couple of energy drinks, mobile phone, torchlight, cap and a towel. I also had pain relief creams, tablets and a spare torchlight – just in case. We walked to the temple at the foothills which is like the entrance of the mountains. Bamboo sticks were sold for twenty rupees and we bought one each except Dinesh. He said that if we buy the stick, then we have to keep it at home forever. Abandoning it is like abandoning spirituality. I was so tempted to comment but remembered the words of my mom – don’t scold God or spirituality.
Everybody has a threshold of tolerance, beyond which one would either burst or leave. I am clearly the odd man out in this trip. Perhaps in the entire mountains. It doesn’t make me different or proud, it just makes me realize how important and difficult it is to respect others beliefs while not allowing them to intrude or humiliate mine. Especially in places like this.
I like the story of Shiva. I like the story of Vulcan. I even get inspired by their personalities. I admire all the avatars of Vishnu and truly want my sons to learn Vedas and mantras. But do I believe those Gods? I don’t know. Do I worship them? Clearly no. I even believe that good thoughts and vibrations would bring love and kindness. But I don’t believe in worshiping or following rituals. In fact, I hate them, personally. The closest ideology that I can relate myself is the teachings of Ramalinga Swamigal / Vallalar. If I have to say one thing I’m happy about myself, it is me being a vegetarian on my own consciousness. My family is non-vegetarian and I myself even feed non-vegetarian food to my kids. I don’t think we can change anyone forcibly or arguably. We have to be the icon for anyone to see, know, realize and adapt. And it is perfectly fine if anyone chose to ignore any other’s philosophies and ideologies, as long as all the paths lead to love and peace.
Ananth was in bare foot and wanted it that way. Myself and the others were on shoes. It was 11:30 pm when all the six of us were at the first step of the first mountain.
It was pretty dark all over and I used the torch-light to see how the steps are. Obviously, they were pretty steep, hard and uneven. The thought of climbing 7 mountains in this surface scared me. I tried to remember the “as much as possible” philosophy, as much as possible.
Up. Up. Up…
Up. Up. Up…
A lot of people of climbing up – different sizes, different languages and different speed.
Dinesh & Sakthivel were over-enthusiastic and ran faster. “Let’s go slow and steady guys, safety first”, I insisted them.
“Boss, be confident and keep faith in God. This is nothing and we can easily do it.”, I didn’t know how to react to this statement. I started to gasp already.
Myself and Ananth halted once in fifteen minutes, and rested for five minutes. There was no sign of Rajesh & Mani. We called them whenever we rested. They asked us to keep going but Rajesh was not sure if he can make it. Mani accompanied him.
Up. Up. Up …
Up. Up. Up …
Walking/Jogging and Climbing are different flavors. I am a slow Jogger and once took a TMT (Tread Mill Test) during a full-body checkup where I couldn’t keep walking when the inclination was getting increased. I gave up after fifteen minutes when my head started to spin. Even after stopping, I gasped for more than fifteen minutes and felt restless all the time. I must say that incident made me Jog regularly thereafter.
I looked at the time. It was 12:30 am and legs started to pain a little. Well, not as bad as I took TMT.
“Did we finish the first mountain?”, Ananth asked for fifth time.
“Nope, we might have completed half the way”, I heard that the first mountain is as big as Palani temple. The last mountain is the toughest with just rocks and we have to crawl all the way to the top.
“Dei.. Would you be able to make it to all seven mountains?”, Ananth was sure to climb however difficult it’s going to be and he wished me to company him.
“I really don’t know! I’ll tell when it gets too tough for me.”
We were all sweating and even the thinnest dress I had was becoming a burden to the body. I removed the shirt and became half nude. Ananth took off his shirt as well. He had a bigger backpack carrying shoes, bed linen, towel and what not. I’m sure he would have carried rocks too if an astrologer suggested to.
I felt pity for him. And for myself too! I asked myself for seventh time if we have reached the end of first mountain.
Up. Up. Up …
Up. Up. Up …
We took a little amount of water and fruits all the way. It was windy and cold but our body was too hot and sweating. We took a sharp right turn where we saw a lot of local shops and we rushed there for one particular reason – Is it the end of the first mountain?
Yes sir, a shop guy said. Good! Great!! It was 1 am. We were hungry.
We sat on a rock, had a sip of energy drink and biscuits. I was doing okay. It is only there I believed myself that I can do all seven mountains. “Ananth, it’s feeling awesome. Let’s reach the top before sunrise. What do you say?” He nodded happily.
There is a Vinayakar temple and a mountain spring to re-fill water. It was just me, Ananth, Sakthivel and Dinesh. Rajesh and Mani had returned back after the first mountain. I heard Rajesh took an oath of losing weight and getting fit to revisit the mountains again.
We started climbing the second mountain. Now most of the people were half naked and telling mantras all along the way. “Arogara.. Arogara.. Arogaraaaaa”, Dinesh shouted as if lord Shiva is calling for help. Ananth recited it back too, “Arooogaraaaa”. After a few arogaraas, Dinesh started saying “Govindaa.. Govinda…” and Ananth was reciting it too.
“Dude, Govinda is for Vishnu, the protector God and we are traveling to see Shiva, the creator God!”, I said.
“It’s okay Jag, it’s all the same and we don’t mind”, Dinesh said. That’s it. This is all the knowledge for peace and love.
Up. Up. Up …
Up. Up. Up …
The path was of different types but all types were unusual. We have to either climb or crawl or peek or even roll. Nature helped a lot – moon light, birds, views, trees, rocks and animals. Determination helped a lot. I’m sure devotion should have helped a lot of people too. Love of God. Love of Nature. We stopped every now and then trying to figure out which mountain we were. At one point, we stopped figuring it and just walked along. The more we went up, the more chill it was. Though, the more we went up, the more the body heat was. Equation solved.
The crowd was getting less as we climbed up but we found shops in almost every mountains. It’s locals. It’s their mountains. We are like their guests. They were climbing up and down easily with heavy loads on their back. It is as if they communicate with the mountains. Perhaps they do.
We started realizing the chillness when we stopped for long. We must keep walking, at least slowly. We did. The sound and view of nature was more and more admiring. Evolution may just be a curse.
It was 3:30 am when we reached the end of the sixth mountain.There was one local shop serving hot herbal tea. It’s pretty famous and almost everyone was having it. We did too. It was damn good, especially when you walk the whole night, hungrily. We realized that we did not had the dinner that we brought along. We had time and decided to take it on the top of the seventh mountain.
The seventh mountain.