January 2007: rafting in Teesta river, Sikkim
White sand; cold green water; rushing air and hotfooting rapids.
It was the same cold Teesta where I, Ashutosh and Anupam would put down our naked legs inside cold water in winter just to see who resists the colder water for longer time, each morning after bunking from our summer training program.
What lay ahead?
Teesta had horrifyingly earned a bad reputation those times during floods in which it crossed 70 feet above the danger water mark and had swamped the entire Teesta Valley as far as the town of Jalpaiguri. The raft was all set to float through slow rapids later turning into giant waves amid high Georges of Teesta. All set to leave the white sands behind and plunge into green Teesta.
The gushing cold water; beating hearts; exciting and we were all looking forward to meet something enthralling, something awing ahead. Since that was my first rafting experience, i almost felt as a part of some advanced expert rafting team who venture into dangerous rapids for “I don’t know” reasons.
And we left with a huge roar. Oars touched the water. Cold water splattered and sipped through neck vent freezing lungs and stopping our breathing dead for a while.
After fifteen minutes:
What happens to raft? drenched.
Rapids? overtaken us.
Oars? We were waiting to utilize their features.
I clung to the front ropes and watched a big dreading water wave engulfing us.
Time stopped and life went into slow motion mode.
And again a cascade of splashes. Someone put thousands of liters of water over us. Drenched and cold!
Hollering trance by cascade of splatters amid ruffled rapids had transported us eternally to some other world while physically we were left behind on earth. -Totally unaware of the mundane world on-goings. So, sometimes, raft would slowdown in slow rapids: A recess awaiting next period of tough subject.
Another cold wave chilling down your spine; beautiful like a frozen rose. Raft crisscrossing through rock-pivots; getting stuck in drifts and sometimes left on mercy of currents.
For a moment, we were concealed under blanket of cold water. Shout and live the ephemeral moment as much as you can. We cherishing an opaque world for an instance.
And an the albatross rises from ashes again.
Water chilled our bones to the marrow. We still had an hour to go.
– A colorful raft pitched and yawed in frantic flumes of white water in a ‘River of no return’. Each time we met a rapid, we met with Niagara Falls in a barrel.
We peddling hard to pierce through strong current of Teesta amidst deep and high Georges but the raft, like a drunkard, pulling us either towards deep waters or falling in love with high standing strong stone Georges. Stream would further aid the raft to go crazier.
Somewhere around 29th mile along Teesta, we met final rapid.
It appeared as though somebody was pushing our raft from behind. Facing the truth, I was moving on the fastest ever raft. Thug! Tons of water spilled over us. It was crazy. We had narrowly escaped rocks and minutely avoided striking against standing stones.
The first step over warm sand sounded better. We turned behind; saw the raft; the thing on which we lived thousand of years in a moment was smiling at us. Yup buddy it was a lifetime deal.