So I have been struck by lightning….really I have been struck by lightning.
I am sort of obsessed with presenting to the world, how divinely beautiful the Himalaya is. The amazing wildlife, the beautiful people I meet, the grand vistas, and what to say about the light. Light that paints a million shades of colors in the valleys, the mountains and the ever mystical snow-capped peaks.
But in this series, I want to do something different, very different. I want to present before you, the various challenges these mountains puts one through, the personal growth that one has to go through, to be deserving of the Himalaya.
The images and videos that I present are like 20 percent of my whole trip. While capturing these images, I have had experiences that have left me scared shitless, numb from cold, dehydrated and hungry to the point that I have collapsed. Capturing images has compelled me to face all my deepest fears at all levels.
This story is from Kartik Swami. A place that has given me some of the most beautiful and memorable experiences of my life. It’s literally a place that has changed my life.
So Last January, I was in Kartik swami to capture some landscapes. I was really keen to capture Kartik Swami covered in snow and it is for this reason that I planned my trip in a way that I would be there before snow fall and leave after it’s over. This was the first snowfall I had ever experienced live, and for two days it’s snowed heavily, like really heavily. I stayed in the ashram with panditji, quarter of a kilometer down the temple.
In these two days, I and panditji were either sleeping, sitting beside fire, or just chit-chatting. The second day nature called, and I remember taking boiling water in a container. Wading in thigh deep snow, I sat down to shat in the open and though it took me less than 5 minutes. The water in the container had already begun to freeze by the time I used it.
The snow-fall lasted more than predicted and the third day, I had to return back for some work. So that morning, despite the heavy snowfall I decided to visit the temple. When I stepped outside at around 8 am, it was still snowing heavily and it seemed as if it was 5 in the morning. In the distance I could see lightning and thunder rumbling, I was scared. The 750 meter trek from ashram to temple was a walk in thigh deep snow most of the way. As I neared the temple, the thunder and lightning intensified. The snowfall was so heavy, I could hardly see beyond 20 to 30 meters, but I had to go.
As I climbed the final steps and came to the temple, I realized the snow-fall was so heavy, I could hardly see the temple from a few meters away. I stayed below a huge temple bell for some 10 seconds undecided, then thought might as well just go to the temple, pray and get back to ashram.
Very slowly I stepped forward and had hardly taken around 10 steps in knee deep snow, when I was jolted and thrown forward by a shock. Heard a deafening voice, lost my eyesight momentarily and as I regained my balance and composure, smelled of something burning very intensely. I looked back and was aghast to see the temple bell below which I was standing a few seconds earlier in smoke. Suddenly it dawned on me, how lucky I had been. I was hit by lightning less than 10 feet away. I am pretty sure it was not a major one, had it been I would not have lived.
The realization, left me petrified. All alone, in the moment, the place appeared to be the most desolate and dangerous place in the world to be in. My heart was pounding on my rib cage and it felt as if I was the loneliest person alive in that moment. Lightning and thunder was still rolling in the distance and I literally ran all the way, falling and tumbling in the snow all along, till I reached the safety of the ashram. To this day whenever I hear and see thunder and lightning, I am reminded of that morning at Kartik Swami and it never fails to send shivers down my spine.