The incident belongs to the last month of the English calendar. It was a usual calm and cold month of December in Doon valley. The serene landmass of Dehradun enjoys an uneven topography with the lofty Himachals in the north and the Shivalik hills embellishing its southern periphery. Darkness had no boundaries on the night of doom. It was the night of the crescent moon, with a pall of visibility scattered everywhere around us, even hindering the sight of proximate objects. Then suddenly… Without much ado, let me take you back to how it actually started.. It’s a story that is very close to my heart, a story encompassing valuable lessons for everyone!

Nitesh and I were two strands of the same thread. We had for long desired to explore the lush green valley of Doon together. Our virtual friendship that began in college went on to strengthen with a tour of Delhi a few months back. As a co-incidence of lucrative wishes, he planned a trip to Dehradun valley on my nineteenth birthday. Days went on to be extremely interesting with miles of mountain drives and countless walks through the city’s buzzing markets. As a continuation of our adventurous ecstasies, we pledged to explore another corner of the district.

The mighty rivers Ganga and Yamuna elegantly wash the district of Doon from its eastern and western perimeters. The river Yamuna, to many’s surprises, touches Dehradun’s borders and we, the explorers, couldn’t think of missing it. The day of the journey arrived but we were awake only to see the sun up there in the sky. Our long sleep that day as a result of the previous night’s talking treat.

It was sharp noon, quite late for going to a place so far. It was then, I received a suggestion from my dear father, to let the plan go for the day. The cloudy patches in the blue sky of the Doon valley were supporting the argument. But the mind of a young person rightly referred to as a horse runs from one thought to another. Reflecting upon the changing moods of youth, we had the habit of ignoring the weather forecasts, the credit for which goes to the unpredictable weather of Doon. What could have been our final decision? Our course of action could be easily predicted from the energy contained in our excited souls waiting to be released. We pulled out our two-wheeler in an air of ignorance. In a few minutes, our speed was next only to the racers. In the middle of our way, a random thought crossed my mind, “let’s quickly visit the nearby Dakpathar dam around twenty kilometers away from the route. Now, that was a classic example of being swayed off. It is well known that the human mind is impacted by cognitive biases which affect our ability to make sound decisions. Despite the heavy delay and fear of getting late in the dark, our excitement overtook our senses, and with complete ignorance, we headed towards the dam.

Dakpatthar Barrage

Indeed, driving along the river Yamuna is a picturesque sight, an enchanting experience in the full extremity of the term. The sight of river Yamuna surely fills an aura of refreshment within dry souls, more so, after sitting in front of digital gadgets during the whole pandemic. The visit to the dam was quite long and so was the next stop, the Asan Barrage. The wetland hosted numerous birds migrating from China and Siberia, that perched on the marshes in the middle of the river. Each bird was an interesting creature to observe and for the ornithologists, this was probably the best place to spend their recreational time in the whole Doon valley. Though I wasn’t fond of birds, Asan surely made me a bird lover. Meanwhile, my buddy observed a peculiar movement of a raft of ruddy shelduck, another migratory bird. In some corner of my heart, there was an intuition that it definitely signified something worse. Again, the excited mind didn’t think of warning signals. It is well articulated by wise beings that over-excitement can sink a person.

Asan Barrage

By that time, the dial of my wristwatch was striking five, the sunset was near and clouds had begun to gather in the evening sky. The confluence of the departing sun rays and darkness of grey clouds seemed to be another omen, but our last desired place was still left. Paonta Sahib had been the abode of Guru Gobind Singh Ji when he was waging a war against the Mughals. Situated three miles away from the Asan, the magnificent Gurudwara sat silently on the Ghat of river Yamuna. It was my purest internal wish to visit the heavenly place and let Nitesh not miss that. Our superfluous spiritual attraction pulled us towards the Gurudwara located miles deep inside the contours of Himachal Pradesh.

Paonta Sahib

Our prayers were decently over by six. It was already dark, with clouds battling with each other to eventually bring an end to our excitement. Alas! the joy was over and we were surrounded with concerns of rain and darkness. The temperature was already in single digits and getting wet would have surely invited big troubles for us. It was then that we took the most daring decision of our life. To travel in the perplexing dark roads amidst thunderstorms is surely a dare not to be taken under normal situations. With a strong sense of insecurity and uncertainty about our journey, we left the holy city of Paonta.

The Rain began.

Meanwhile, my father’s words were resonating in my mind “Son’ don’t go so far today, the weather isn’t fine”. The overflowing banks of river Yamuna and the potholed road made a deadly sight. The darkness was slowly sheathing our vision. It was just a few minutes after we went away from the Yamuna, I felt a strange hollowness inside my body and my heart started craving for my parents. The feeling was quite natural for a person trapped in such drastic circumstances, a hundred kilometers away from home.

Moments after, I saw a person walking towards us. I was just about to shout, but before I could do so, the next time when I got my consciousness back, I was lying in the middle of the road surrounded by a dozen people. Nitesh was with the grace of God, absolutely fine. But soon after, I felt a burning sensation in both of my hands. That was a moment of great astonishment. Suddenly, my breaths had come to a momentary slowdown. All the experiences of the day and worries about tomorrow appeared to intersect at the horizon of my mind. As I tried to stand up being helped by a layman, a strange realization crossed my mind. As I tried to walk to the nearby shop, I felt that my belief was broken. Rightly happened so because it was deemed in the miscalculated faith. The shop owner came as a messiah. 

As my ripped-out raincoat was removed and wet coat pulled up, the red bleeding wounds on both my hands were sarcastically lighting up my inner conscience. He aided my abraded hands and gave them a cover of bandages relieving the pain to some extent. Though it was the outer body that was hurt, it was the thought of not listening to others that were paining me more. It was the obnoxious sensation of the crash that gave rise to guilt inside our cold souls. It was the first one in my life, and the most terrible someone could think of. We both had tried to beat destiny by cherishing challenging dreams. In the whole process of enjoyment, it was the value of our lives and the accompanying risk that we failed to consider.

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