story: The Mountain

Bhat was a man who lived in a busy city along with Sukhanya, his
wife. His lifestyle was quite hectic, barely managing time between
his profession and his household chores. One day he decided to take a
break and explore a mountain next to his city in the coming weekend.
He suggested the idea to Sukhanya but she flatly declined, as she
wanted to watch a movie instead. Bhat decided to go ahead by himself.

So on Sunday, he woke up early, packed some food and started off,
after leaving a note for Sukhanya that he would return in the
evening.

It was a short bus journey to the foot of the mountain, and he
started off on foot from there.

As he began the ascent, he found it unexpectedly tiring. He wasn’t
very well built, and this kind of thing was new to him. But as he
continued, he found that the mountain had such beauty which he could
never have imagined by just looking at its silhouette from the city.
The air was fresh and energizing, and there were many colorful and
melodious birds. He could see all kinds of wild flowers with
beautiful butterflies flitting ceaselessly amongst them. Lost in
rapture, he soon forgot his tiredness and continued relentlessly
enjoying every step of the way. He discovered many things with great
delight… clear bubbling brooks and intricate cobwebs shimmering in
the sunlight. He felt as if he had found something he had lost a long
time ago, but couldnt quite pinpoint exactly what, but he was too
happy to care!

He finally reached the very top and felt exhilarated by the strong
cool winds and the spectacular view of his own city below.

It was late evening by the time he returned home, physically
exhausted and painfully cramped, but mentally very invigorated.

~~~

Tired he knocked at the door and Sukhanya opened it letting him
in, and asked “Oh finally you’re back. Where have you been
all day?” Before Bhat could reply, she continued “Today I
had to go to my friend’s dinner party all alone, it was so
embarrassing you know! All my other friends were with their
husbands!” Bhat tried to defend himself “How should I know?
You never told me.” She retorted “You know weekends are for
socializing right? Isn’t it obvious, do I have to tell you
everything?” Then noticing how tired he was she added with a
softer tone “Where have you been anyway?”

Bhat enthusiasm returned and he replied happily “Oh I had the
time of my life! I went all the way up the mountain, remember I was
talking about it earlier this week. I somehow felt there must be
something interesting up there… and I was right!” and
started to narrate his exploits. But before he could get very far,
Sukhanya happened to glance at a clock and exclaimed “Hey its 9
o’clock already! My favorite serial!!” and dived for the
remote and turned the TV on.

Luckily there were still advertisements coming on, it hadn’t
yet started, and so with a sigh of relief she turned again to Bhat
and said “You know what happened yesterday in the story?!
Mohan’s neighbor discovered his affair with Pramila and went and told
his wife all about it! And just when he meets his wife after that,
the episode got over. Chey! I just can’t wait to find out what
happens next!”

Seeing his wife’s eager face and not wanting to disappoint her,
Bhat asked resignedly “Oh yeah? Who’s Pramila now?”.
Sukhanya replied “Oh Pramila is that vamp who tries to seduce
every guy she comes across! I KNEW Mohan shouldnt have had enoughing
to do with her!Shhh shhh now don’t talk, it’s started…”
Bhat slouched into his favorite sofa and tried to follow what it was
that so captivated his wife’s attention. In fifteen minutes he was
snoring away and Sukhanya had to raise the TV volume to follow the
dialogues clearly.

~~~

The next day at office, Bhat joined a group of his colleagues at a
coffee break. He told them excitedly: “You know this mountain
next to our city all these years… I had earlier thought there was
nothing to it, but somehow I was curious, and yesterday I trekked up
all the way to the top!”

But nobody heard him because somebody had interrupted him midway,
reading aloud a headline from the newspaper about increase in petrol
price. Everybody got into an excited discussion about how difficult
it was to meet expenses these days.

Bhat waited for the conversation to end and when he got a chance,
tried mentioning about the mountain again.

Vikram replied “Oh that mountain. It doesn’t look very
big from here. It’s just a hill, not even a mountain. Oh you
should’ve seen the one I had been to on my European tour last
year… stayed at a resort in the Swiss Alps! All those babes
with their tight ski clothes… awesome man!”

Bhat: “er… yeah…. but…”

Ravi chipped in “Do you know there’s a tribal group
which climbs up that mountain every day to gather firewood? It means
nothing for them.”

Bhat: “Oh I see” and after a pause, added “…maybe,
but I myself had never seen it before. The mountain was so beautiful!
Just the view of our city from the top alone is worth the climb!”

Ram: “Do you think only that mountain is beautiful? Look,
even the garden of our office is so beautiful, why should we go all
the way to the mountain!”

Bhat: “But the mountain had so many other types of flowering
plants…”

Ram: “Are you saying that our garden is not nice?? Do you
know how hard the gardeners work to maintain it? Some of the flowers
are imported also!”

Bhat: “Er… no… No denying at all that our garden is very
pretty. But the mountain was different in its own way! I just thought
you guys would also be happy to see it”

Vikram: “Ok yaar Bhat… you climbed that mountain, what’s
the big deal? By the way, don’t you think others can’t
see it from here itself? I have a good telescope at home you know. By
the way, if you look at it astronomically, the mountain is just one
small dot on the planet. And you are an even smaller dot. So…
do you get my point? It really doesn’t matter” and smiled,
pleased with his own profound explanation.

“I know someone who has climbed a mountain muuuch higher than
that one anyway.” Ravi added helpfully.

Bhat was off balance and thought it was probably a good time to
change the topic. But it was too late.

Ram said “Bhat, I’ve seen a lot of people like you. You think
you’re such a great guy superior to all of us, just because you
climbed up a mountain. What makes you feel that YOU are the only
person who could climb it and others are lesser mortals? Stop making
a mountain out of a molehill, man!”

Bhat was taken aback… he replied weakly “No… er… umm…
“.

Ram concluded “One thing is that everyone thinks that what
he is doing is great, because he has had a good experience. But what
he forgets is that other people also have their own experience of
doing something similar or better.”

Bhat took these words quite seriously, they were very reasonable
indeed. It had never occurred to him that he was being conceited, and
felt quite ashamed. He sulked into silence, and after some thought,
he finally realized what he had actually meant. He tried to explain
“if a guy with a frail personality like me could climb it, it
should be much easier for others who are stronger! How does it in any
way imply…”

But his voice tapered off as his defence was falling on deaf ears;
everybody had started to disperse. Prathiba who had been a silent
member of the group hesitated before leaving too, and turned back and
asked “What was it about the mountain anyway, Bhat?”

Bhat asked her cautiously “Er… are you interested…
or… you’re just asking…” he couldn’t
avoid putting it bluntly “… out of sympathy or
something?” and gave an embarrassed smile.

She took a deep breath and replied… “Do you want me
to be frank?”

Bhat replied “Straight as a bullet” looking into her
eyes. She admitted “Well I just felt bad that you seemed to
have something to say… and…” He smiled and
replied “Oh well, it happens, don’t worry about it!
Thanks anyway”. She nodded and went on her way.

He was left alone wondering whether really there was any
significance to it at all, gulped down the remaining of his now cold
coffee, and got back to work.

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