When I first came across the concept of the blind list, the first thought that crossed my mind was reading "The Tao of Travel: Enlightenment from Lives on the Road" by Paul Theroux. In this enriching and delightful read, Paul Theroux talks about brilliant travel writers who went on various journeys in search of something they felt connected.
In one of the chapters he talks about Geoffrey Moorhouse who crossed the Sahara hoping to cure his fear of empty spaces and loneliness. Probably a similar account from my life is what comes next, to my mind when I think about one of the most interesting blind dates I had with the world.
That was back in 2015- when I had almost finished writing a big long story, the longest I've ever tried to write in my life till that date- I decided to do this particular night trek all alone. In the story I was talking about being courageous and about going out of one's comfort zone to do things that one is always scared to do and such.
After reading what I had written, I felt like a hypocrite. I asked myself, "Are you doing something that scares you?", and my answer was a hesitant no. I was just preaching and was not walking the walk! Thus I took that decision!
A brief internet search later, I had decided to do the Skandagiri trek and stay at the top of the hill all alone at night.
Skandagiri is a mountain fortress located approximately 62 km from Bangalore city. It has a series of fortresses as one climbs higher up the altitude. That was the first few information I got from my short research. Well they had also mentioned that Night trek was banned and whoever breaks the law will be taken into custody either by police or the local people! And that was scary to a certain extent. I instantly didn't want to do the trek!
But what did I tell myself a few hours ago?! "To do things that scare you." I shouldn't be backing off, even at the first attempt itself! But by then internal conflicts started to brew a storm! The clash was between the emotions of protecting the ego and facing the scary reality which might happen during the trek.
Finally I convinced myself by borrowing words from Mountain Dew's Indian tagline and decided to pursue success which is at the other end of fear. So I packed a couple of T shirts, water bottles and some fruits in my backpack and started the journey.
Since I didn't want to break any law, I started the hike in the afternoon. By 'enjoying' the scorching heat and the 'excitement' of getting caught by any local people, I started walking. Fortunately the trail was not too hard to figure out. Finally without much incidents I reached the top.
There were a few long slender slabs of granite arranged in the shape of a rectangular box, gravity and balance being the main bonding force, was the dilapidated temple at the top and there were no signs of any human presence on top of that mountain that evening. I quite enjoyed the solitude at the top of the mountain and even more the incredible sunset through the clouds, above the nearby mountain ranges. But the enjoyment didn't last longer.
As it turned darker, the enjoyment of solitude had been replaced by the anxiety of being alone in the darkness in a strange place. When the truth and awareness of daylight had been overpowered by anxiety brought in by the darkness, logical mind ceased to work. Every other shadow started to look like your worst nightmare, every other movement of branches and leaves looked like a wild animal ready to jump on you.
To add to this misery, it started to rain lightly and my last hope of making a fire was also gone with the rain! I was shivering with cold since I didn't have enough layers to keep me warm.
The fear also added more amplitude to my already shivering self! To escape from this misery, after my measly dinner of bananas and biscuits, I tried to sleep inside the temple, the only shelter which was available there.
Water droplets were coming inside every now and then. In addition to it, anxiety of the unknown made it almost impossible to sleep.
At some point, I fell asleep for a brief time and woke up hearing some noises. Soon a bunch of trekkers who came for the sunrise found me inside the temple! Surprisingly by then , it was already time for the sunrise!
I had somehow survived the night!!
Upon hearing my story of spending the whole night all alone at the top of Skandagiri made them look at me with some sort of respect! Somehow even without my knowledge, I became a celebrity sort! I quite enjoyed that moment.
After all, my blind date with the world turned out to be a great one in the end. Thus I started looking for the second date, then a third and so on.
My experience wouldn't be as grand as that of those travel writers mentioned by Paul Theroux, but I also had my share of adventure by venturing into the unknown. If I have to pick one such grand adventure, I would pick the one in which one of those adventurous travel writers went to figure out the secret Shamanic rituals.
It would be really interesting to go into an unknown place with an unknown language, filled with strange customs and stranger beliefs. Gaining their trust and getting into their close knit guild would be the first challenge of this blind date task. Otherwise it would be next to impossible to get any important information regarding the special ceremonies and interesting knowledge that are kept as top secret.
It would be equally exciting to think about the misadventures as well. What if it goes wrong? What if you've been taken into custody? What if you like those things so much that you don't want to come back ever again? What if you've disappeared quite mysteriously by doing so?
Well I think that is the beauty of having a blind date with the world. There are a million possibilities of experiencing the world and exploring these experiences in depth. So I would take up any such opportunity to travel the world on a self exploration by saying yes to the world!
Would you #SayYesToTheWorld ? What is #TheBlindList you have?
In case if you want to read the full incident at the top of Skandagiri, read the series here : At the other end of fear.