Pillars 6

It felt like a death march
that first real day of leaving civilisation
Askole was the last town
we would ever see
and we had several days of hiking to get to Concordia
the base camp of the giants

it was hot
and already i could feel the air getting thinner
but i tried not to complain
i used little rest time with taking my camera out
i could recongnize myself weaker than my other companions
but i kept on

the porters however moved swiftly despite the weight they carried.
in lines they moved
singing in pride
love songs in Urdu

Farid enjoyed my company often siding my me
asking questions
at first i felt irritated
but i relaxed
Farid lived a totally different life from me
he was married with one son
he was very proud of himself
his achievement in life was fulfilled
but greedily he wanted more children

what did i live for?
a career, my car,
indulging myself into the night
but i left all that
maybe what i truly wanted
was what Farid has

we sat by a stream drinking the ice mountain water
it was almost sunset in Paiyu
a beautiful campsite filled with trees among the arid land
“What god do you people in Australia believe in?” Farid asked

“We believe in football and cricket” I said sarcastically

“that is not religion” Farid felt confused

“it is in a sense, australians gave up on god. he gives us nothing,
the television gives us satisfaction. people believe in material things.
the more one owns the happier they feel or more so”

“australians must be crazy. do you believe this?”

“i don’t know what to believe. I want to believe in god you know
but man askews it. they fight over it. kill each other over it. it doesn’t make sense. I just to live a happy life.”

“Are you happy?”

“You ask alot of questions Farid. I don’t think i found that true happiness my friend”

“May you find happiness my friend. Time for me to pray. Then we eat”

I watched Farid do his abolution
washing his hand, face and feet
making himself clean in the face of god
he joined the other porters by the ledge all lined up
and they began to pray

i watched from a distance
with sincerity
their perfection
like pillars till they knelt down
and part of me felt close to them

night came over us and Isa had made amazing dishes of food
He was very happy entertaining us

“Paiyu, is our favourite camping ground,” Isa said proudly
“tonight you come celebrate and come dance and sing”

My other companions were excited by this
to see what fun our porters got up to
it gets rather quiet in the mountains
but the porters have their way

we followed them into the night
all the porters gathered together from other expeditions
and they began chanting and singing
Isa sat amongst the elders of the group
he was a bard among the men
when he sang
the others became silent.
drums beat to his voice
it was melodic and resonanting

I asked Farid what he was singing
Farid told me it was a love song
about a lowly porter who sees a girl in the fields
a pretty girl who he would like to marry
and so he buys her a Fanta

“A Fanta?”

“A western drink is expensive here to buy in the mountain shops and especially for a porter”

“Why not get her flowers”

“There is no flowers in the mountain shops”

i felt like laughing but i didn’t want to offend.
Isa stopped singing his song and changed to more upbeat song, the porters began clapping and several men danced.

my porters pushed me to dance
i felt embrassed at first but i was pushed into their circle
i let go of my inhibitions and fear and let the beat take over
the porters chanted laughing
some of the men danced with me
stomping on the ground to the beat of the drums
I smiled
I laughed
something i hadn’t done in a long time
to really let go

Journal Comments

  • Trish Cooper
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