I called them back.
(Read the first part In a moment of panic if you haven’t, to make sense of this one)
Now tell me, how many of you would have guessed this of the Cybernag?
Back to the story now….
For a while after sighting the kids, all I could do was say, ‘Thank you God, oh, thank you God,’ like a demented soul. The place where I was sitting was flat, about ten feet square. So once I called them back, I did what my friends have all suggested — I shouted, laughed, sang, danced and screamed.
At that time my mind had raced over the options, my faculties having returned. Could I catch up with them even if I hurried fast? How long would it take for me to reach them and then the top? They were nearly three quarters of the way, within sight of the massive gate. It had been more than an hour and half since we had left bhabhi behind. We had been told that the entire trek would take an hour and half and we had added another half an hour and told her we would be back by two hours. It looked like the estimates were by people who were regular trekkers and not one-off trekkers like us.
I had two options. To take a chance and let the kids complete the trek by themselves; to take another chance and assume that bhabhi won’t worry about us and try to catch up with them. If I let them go on, could I go through another scare or even the anticipation of a scare? Also, I was not feeling as fresh as when I had set out and might not make good time if I pushed on.
I must tell you that even Chacha Choudhary, whose mind works faster than a computer would have to beg some brains from the Cybernag. For all these thoughts had literally raced through my mind and I knew what I should do.
I cupped my hand to my mouth and hollered, ‘Vikki!’ Again and again till my voice reached them and they looked back. ‘I waved my arms and shouted, ‘Come back!’
He was saying something but I couldn’t make out what. He pointed to the gate and gestured. He was saying that they were so close and should go all the way up. I was adamant. ‘Come back!’ I shouted again. They talked among themselves and finally began descending. I heaved a sigh of relief. This time though I was prepared for their disappearing from sight when they crossed the valley and their figures grew larger as they came down.
I felt rotten, mean, crummy and all the other adjectives that you guys can think of to describe the feeling of snatching away something within reach from one’s kids. But I felt helpless and…weak?
‘Why did you call us back?’ demanded the boy when they reached me. My niece added, ‘We could have reached the top in another half an hour, max.’
‘Mami is waiting for us and it would have got very late had you gone up. She might have worried and we don’t even know how or where she is.’
‘Mami wouldn’t have minded. You are the one who worries so much,’ accused the boy.
If I had had even the tiniest idea of confessing to them the things that had transpired at that spot a while ado, it evaporated that instant. And all the tension and terror of the last hour finally snapped what little self control I had. I began doing what R’s Mom said mothers do – I started scolding them for being so inconsiderate about other’s feelings, carefully skirting over mine. Had I told them, they would have perhaps laughed or even been angrier for allowing imagined fears stop them from reaching their goal.
It was time to find bhabhi. It was nearly three hours since we left her. We climbed down carefully. She was nowhere in the normal path. Then we spotted her; she was sitting under a lone tree off the trekkers’ path under a tree close to a precipice! She had climbed quite some distance from where we had left her. We didn’t call out for fear of startling her. It was a sight to freeze one’s blood.
She told us how she had taken the path she saw the villagers take and came to the place where she was then sitting. She didn’t seem to be scared, or at least didn’t show it. It was we who were! So what was she doing as she waited?
‘Throwing pebbles down the mountain to see how far they fell.’ She said simply.
It was time for the kids, especially my niece to begin hyperventilating. I realised that suddenly they were glad that I had called them back! I could have hugged them then, except the older one would have either thrown me down the precipice or have jumped himself! So I refrained from showing any emotion.
Then it struck me. When you are unaware of any danger, you don’t panic. Also you don’t panic so much when it concerns yourself. You only panic big time if it involves a loved one. Like we worried about bhabhi before finding her and when we saw her sitting on the edge of a precipice; or when I saw the kids disappear on the mountain.
Over the years the memory of not completing the trek must have first rankled and then softened in the minds of the kids, for when I asked them about the trek before writing these posts, the older one said something to this effect: ‘I remember Kavita and me not able to (or not wanting to) make it the whole way up and coming back at some stage.’
My niece said: ‘We were given a time limit of two hours, not distance but time; so we had to come back.’
Neither of them remembers my hollering for them to come back, though my niece remembers me scolding them!
But I have not been able to get over the shock of having them disappear and none of us have forgotten the scary sight of bhabhi sitting there alone under the tree at the cliff’s edge.
Bahbhi’s memories? ‘I would feel scared now. But at that time I was much fitter and younger and didn’t feel any sense of fear or panic. But after coming down, I did feel the jitters when I looked up and saw the lone tree under which I was sitting.’ Well so much for aftershock!
I am not going to ask if what I did was right because it had been the right thing to do at that time and doesn’t seem wrong in hindsight either.
I had not talked about this to anyone all these years but since the two kids are now parents themselves, I knew that they would understand the reasoning behind my decision.