As I looked at the mountains from my room in Leh early in the morning, I knew for sure that I would be leaving the high mountains that day. It had been snowing in the upper reaches of these mountains since the past few days. But that day, the clouds had turned darker and come down lower than usual. Up until then I was uncertain as to when I would leave, trying my best to extend my stay as much as possible. Despite the bad weather, I understood that the mountains were permitting me to go.
When the realization set in, each second seemed to pass extremely slowly yet very fast at the same time. My mind was trying to accept the fact that I was leaving while my heart tried to memorise all the moments. As the minutes passed and my turmoil grew, it seemed that the mountains understood what I felt and mirrored it back. The car ride to the taxi stand to book tickets, feeling happy to find only Ladakhi drivers there, glimpses of heavy snow even on the lower ranges as the clouds parted, the growing cold, the hushed lunch with colleagues, the walk back to the guest house as the wind picked up speed, autumn leaves raining down all around me, the clouds growing thicker by the minute, the meticulous yet hurried packing, TC rushing back from a wedding lunch to say goodbye and calling me to open the gates, the sudden silence all around as the first tiny swirls of snow fell on my face and hair when I rushed outside without a jacket to open the gates, the goodbyes at the guest house which did not sound like goodbyes, rushing back to the office for a short farewell which did not feel like a farewell as people discussed the sanity of leaving by road on that day, the clouds almost reaching the ground and snow falling hard as my time to leave approached, the tight hugs and goodbyes to my colleagues said with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat.
As my luggage was loaded into the tempo traveler and I settled down in my seat, the sky cleared as if by magic. The last orange rays of the setting sun lit up the stray clouds that remained in the dark blue sky, as if the snow had fallen in my dreams. We stopped thrice in the first few hours of the journey, once due to an engine problem and twice due to tyre punctures, after which it was a bitterly cold but a smooth ride all the way. Once in the first dawn light, I opened my eyes and saw immense snow peaks all around me faintly glowing in the pre-morning light.
I felt happy as I closed my eyes and fell asleep once more. The mountains had spoken. I knew then that I will be back again soon.