I can hear me breathing. Deep, powerful breaths as gusts of cool mountain air glide across my face. The sun on my back, powerful and determined, forces my neck to bow down to its will. The two trail runners have left me behind now. All I see are two specs, up in the distance, drifting further away from me. The group behind was probably resting and equidistant. I was alone and climbing.
I remember my first hike, along the narrow forest tails of Shillong, flanked on either side by tall and fragrant pine trees. The morning awash by a cacophony of song birds in a feeding frenzy. It was here that I learnt of the symbiotic relationship between man and forest and how the fruit of a pine tree can cure a sore throat. I learnt how to welcome the silence of thoughtlessness. I learnt how to find myself. My thoughts wandered, from one memory to another, as I trudged up the hill and in time, lost all sense of time and space.
Then I heard it. That soft flutter of something caught in the wind. As I lifted my head up towards it's direction, two determined eyes looked right at me. Two dark and mysterious eyes of a female Amur falcon riding the undercurrents, bemused by my presence. Bathed in sunlight and awash in specs of brown and white, it stayed there for a while. I stopped. Something in the back of my mind told me to take a picture. Something else told me to stay still and watch. Then in a powerful flap of wings, it was over. I stood there camera in hand, eyes tracing the bird's path into the horizon. What lay in it's wake was the endless expanse of the deep rolling Kudremukh hills. Drenched in shades of green and encased in a sea of blue skies and the choicest of clouds, it was a view I'll never forget.
It was as though the falcon had come down from the skies to bring me out of my tiny little world. A wake up call, to a reality that would always be better than any memory.