Meet Sunny from Chamba [left] and Rahul from Dharamshala [right]. Sunny is 23 and Rahul is just 18. They both work in a gift shop in McLeod Ganj.
Real heroes don’t wear shining armour. Neither do they strut across cinema or sport or on social media to the thundering applause of likes. Instead, real heroes live amongst us in our everyday lives, usually in anonymity. I met my two real, true blue heroes last week. 🙂
It all started with a mention of Dip Tse Chok Ling monastery whilst reading up about Dharamshala. The idea of a secluded monastery, perched half-way up the Dhauladhar range, wrapped in green forest was appealing. An alley, followed with a few hundred steps deep into the bowels of the valley, led me to it. On the way down, unfortunately, my hiking boots, perhaps at the end of their tether, gave way, and I had to pack my shoe’s sole in my camera bag.
After having explored the serene monastery, the idea of climbing back up those daunting steps in the middle of the afternoon gave me the jitters. Can you blame me? I was one shoe-sole less at this point. In the same mention, I had also read there was a shortcut from the monastery to the Dalai Lama’s Temple. When a young monk pointed ahead and told me to keep going straight in response to my request for directions, I jumped at it.
Cheered by the thought of a five-minute walk, I pranced down to only realize the straight path kept splitting into dead ends. Fifteen minutes later I was deep in the jungle, totally alone, surrounded by dense vegetation with mere rocks and rivulets posing as paths. The more I walked, the most lost I became. Moist earth seeped in through my broken shoe. Overhead, heavy grey clouds grumbled and roared, ready to pour at the drop of a hat. Leaves rustled around me. If I indeed had company, it was not of the human kind for the plunging forest was deserted.
For the first time in my life, I was super.shit.scared.
Fraught with nerves and a pounding heart, I found a pair of water pipes hidden under the bushes and decided to follow them uphill. I hoped it would lead me to civilization. Instead it led me to a garbage dump. In the distance I could see a couple of buildings. Encouraged, I screamed for help. There was no answer. It was almost a hundred minutes since I had lost my way.
I screamed again and this time I was rewarded with a reply.
“Where are you?”
“Near the garbage dump.”
“We can’t see you. Don’t move. We’ll come and rescue you.”
After what seemed like a lifetime, two young men slithered down the colossal pile of trash. For one random moment I was more scared of them, than I was when lost, fed as we are on all the negativity the media keeps dishing out. But the two youth simply took my hand and led me out, one step at a time, gently, carefully. Neither of them was familiar with the jungle. So, one would go ahead and search for a “path” and then the other and I would follow. Till eventually we were back on the road.
Filled with gratitude, I opened my wallet to give them some reward, well aware no money could compensate for what they had done. But they put up their hands and refused to take even a cent.
“Aap de ke chote nahin honge. Hum le ke chote ho jaayengey [By giving, you will not be demeaned, but by taking we will be demeaned].”
“You have been my angels,” I gushed.
“Yeh toh inzaaniat thi [This was just being human],” was their answer.
And the next moment they were gone.
I know for certain this would not have happened elsewhere in the world. Nowhere would two youth have left their work and slid down garbage to save an unknown woman. They may have called the police or 911. But to actually reach out knowing there were no accolades in the end? Would you have done it? I know I wouldn’t have. 😦
I met two real heroes last week. I asked if I could take a picture of them just before we were about to emerge onto Temple Road—so I could always remember them with thankfulness. This is what they looked like. ❤