My name is Zain Siddiqui and this is my mountain story; The story of a wannabe traveller who lived his dream for just one day. 

Let me begin by telling you a bit about myself. I weigh 70 Kgs (way above healthy standards for someone just 5″4) and have a massive pot belly. I barely move out of the house. I don’t remember the last time I ran or worked out. I’m a far cry from what I used to be. Until a few years ago I was 60 Kgs with 6 pack abs. I loved playing football and had eclectic hobbies. I used to read Ruskin Bond novels fantasizing of life in the mountains and pursuing film making. Now I teach online marketing from my room in Kota.

This story began 5 years ago when after a period of great depression, I decided that I wanted to live in the mountains and travel for the rest of my life. I wanted out from the day to day rigors of a city life and from the senseless workload of corporate offices. 

The problem was, I had zero money to live this dream and a family that was unsupportive of anything out of the ordinary. Naive that I was, the plan I hatched was to quickly earn as much money as possible that would last me a lifetime, calm my family down about my financials and find myself a mountain house and consequently my peace. It was a steep ask. Jobs would not cut it. The only solution that came to my mind was that I needed to create a unicorn internet startup to find quick success in a field I knew would grow massively – Internet marketing. That would mean I could continue some part of work when I permanently shifted to the mountains. 

Over ambitious and the romantic that I was, I thought I could undertake short treks and explore where this mountain house could be. Maybe I could make a movie on the Himalayas while I was at it. I started working as an internet marketer. After office hours, I started pouring over internet resources about the Himalayas and discovered the The Himalayan club on Facebook, a treasure house of pictures of my beloved ranges. I got inspired by the feats of greats like George Mallory and Conrad Anker in films like the The Wildest Dream and Meru. I listened to Himalayan sounds of birds and waterfalls on Soundcloud and read Wikipedia articles about fascinating places like the Jwalamukhi where flames erupt from the ground eternally.

The one place though, that stuck to my mind most, was the Triund trek. I had heard a great deal from friends and sources about it being a perfect beginner trek in the mountains. Having been to Dharamshala when I was young, it was in the heart of hearts the place I felt most connected to. If there was any doubt where I wanted to go first, a picture I found in the Himalayan club of a girl sitting on a lonely bench in the snow, overlooking the Dhauladhar range sold me completely to the magical view from Triund. Maktub – It was written.

As per the plan, I was preparing for the life ahead. I found peace and confidence in the easy treks to Sinhgad and Tornagarh forts around Pune. I left my 1st job. The time had come to take a leap of faith and do my own internet startup. The trek to Triund seemed like the right pilgrimage for a 15 day break.  I was so excited. 2 days before I was to leave for Dharamshala, I visited Mumbai, trying to meet some friends. I was a pillion rider as my friend and I wrapped up our meeting and were returning to his place. A bike came out of nowhere. One operation, a flight and a week later I was in bed at my parents place in Delhi. I had 12 stitches and a metal plate in my right ankle.

I could couldn’t run for the next 10 months. I put on weight and got engrossed in plugging holes in my new startup. Hope they say is the worst thing that you can give to a man. I still wanted to go to Triund. But as the fight to earn even daily bread became harder and harder, the dreams of the mountains starting fading. I stopped playing football and started sleeping in the office. Stopped reading about Himalayas and watched YouTube videos of how to setup Facebook marketing campaigns instead. I let go of my rented flat, I let go of my research on the Himalayas. Reality came crashing down each month as I failed to pay myself a salary and with each call that my mother made reminding me of what a stupid dream I was trying to live.

Fast forward a couple of years. My legs were fine, weight had soared to 70 Kgs and a noticeable belly had popped out. The startup I had hoped would lead me to the mountains never picked up. Pressure from every side got the better of me and I finally quit.

It had been 4 years since I first dreamt of going to Triund. A small trek had become an impossible dream. Wiser with my learnings from marketing, I realized that my plan was never really a plan but the dream of a child sold out to a lifestyle choice, running away from his troubles. Sadness flooded me. In that sadness and moment of complete defeat, I quietly packed my bags and with only a few thousand Rupees in my pocket, left for Delhi by train. I didn’t tell anybody where I was going except one person. I caught a bus to Dharamshala and was met by my friend who already lived there.

For the next one week, I drew fresh air of the mountains. I was letting go of things one breath at a time. I met a few of my friends friends and one fine sunny morning set out with them on the 3 hour trek to Triund. Each step felt like a victory. Each new view felt as if I was watching the world as a new born. By the time, we reached Magic View Cafe, I was back to my former self. I had a smile on my face which no one or nothing could wipe out. This was it. 

I chased sheep on the mountain side as I sped up the slopes. I stopped and listened to the sound of a lonely bird singing its solitary song in the valley. I walked over fallen over trees and jumped across fresh water streams flowing out of invisible cracks in the ground. 

The sun was setting as I finally saw the Triund grounds. Tents lined the entire site. Moon peak and the Dhauladhar range stood mighty and proud just as they had in the countless pictures I had seen. As everyone rested and looked around for tea, I went to the edge of the mountain and saw the valley beneath. I took a deep breath and I don’t know why, but in that moment, alone, I cried. Tears fell down from my eyes. I made no effort to wipe them.

Everything that I had thought and what I had planned, nothing mattered. Only this moment did. A few hours later the most beautiful full moon rose over the edge of the mountain and I could do nothing but stand there mesmerized. Late into the night we cooked a bonfire where unknown Tibetan youth danced with me as we sang songs of praise for India. I was living Eutopia. 

The next morning, I woke up to the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I was still in a dream. The green Triund Pasteur is home to a few wild horses, mules and cows. I spent an hour lost greedily clicking everything I could. Everything seemed to be waiting for me. Even a large eagle made repeated flights over head begging to be on my reel.

While going back I couldn’t resist creating a tag on one of the rocks – Maktub – It is written. I did something else on that trip that would bring me on another adventure back to Dharamshala. But that’s a story for another time.


Story by : Zain Siddiqui


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