22nd May. The one day I couldn’t get out of my head, as soon as my final semester exams started. Well it wasn’t the last day of the exam I was waiting for, I mean yes of course that would be the happiest day for anyone, but it was something else for me. My exams ended on 19th May and we partied, great fun. But I was more excited about 22nd! Why? Okay, so I was asked by one of my best friends if I’d want to go for camp with her. Where? To Tons. It’s in Uttarakhand. Why was I going? I was allowed to go as a volunteer, because of my friend who’s been associated with these camps for the longest possible time. So, I was getting an opportunity to go for this camp. I mean, who’d even say NO?
Probably the only thing I’ve always wanted to be associated with. And being so close to nature, for 8 days. That feeling, when you know you’ll be spending the next few days of your life in the hills. My friend often told me about her love for the hills, how she couldn’t wait to go back to camp. The way she described each and every thing, her experiences, the kind of people she came across, her closeness with nature, it was just the way she went on and on about it, that she never failed to inspire me. And the day she asked me if I want to accompany her for the upcoming camp, I said YES.
And 22nd May was the day I was waiting for. Well, it’s crazy but that’s all I thought of even during my exams. Don’t worry I didn’t fail, actually scored pretty well, haha!
I’ve always loved the hills. Every time I’d go to a hill station with my family, I’d have the widest smile on my face, with my teeth glowing, of course. I’d pop my head out of the car and sing loudly. I’d shout to the hills “I’m here I’m here! I missed you! You’re so beautiful” and of course my family would just laugh. And I’m 21 right now, and even till date, that’s exactly how I behave when I go to the hills. It’s a different feeling all over, and I don’t think there’s anything else in this world that makes me SO happy. No one in particular. No materialistic things. Nothing. But hills. The cool breeze. The trees. The clouds. The good vibes. And of course, monkeys. What more could anyone ask for? And who wouldn’t want to stay in a place like this? Peacefulness. Happiness. Positivity. Serenity. Aaaaah. LOVE.
So 22nd night, we had to catch a train from New Delhi Railway station to Dehradun Railway station. Left from my house with my bags packed and all, super excited and hyper, concerned and over protective parents giving me the usual care tips and that I’ll be missed. So we were on our way to Connaught Place where we were all supposed to meet. Like a meeting point for everyone before heading to the railway station. Being volunteers, we had to take care of the kids, and since we were three female volunteers, we had to take care of a few girls. Whereas the boys were in a different coach, looked after by male instructors. Had an amazing time in the train. It was an overnight journey, and I got to know all the girls, memorized their names by heart and got along with them pretty well. So I was wearing a Batman Tshirt and that’s when these girls planned on calling me “batman” so well. Next 8 days, that was my name.
We reached Dehradun early morning. And from there, we had to travel to Tons Camp by bus, which was about 180-185kms by road. Another 7-8 hours journey. Of course it was tiring but the best part was that all the kids were there with their friends. So nothing else mattered. And me? Yes, I had my best friend with me.
Well, we all reached Tons camp just around lunch time. And I’m not sure if I’ll be able to describe the campus too well, because whatever said will be an understatement. It was heaven on earth. I’m not just saying it. (Shall attach some pictures) We reached the campus, and were welcomed by everyone there. Had a great lunch and were assigned our tents. It was the world’s most beautiful place, because we were surrounded by hills, and right where our tents were lined up, just about 100-120 meters away was a river! Meant for white water rafting, and omg so beautiful. There was a nice grass field between our tents and the river.
I wouldn’t go into too many details, because there’s just too much to talk about.
Honestly, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get along with the kids too well, but I guess the reality is way way different from what a person really thinks.
” We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. We must do that which we think we cannot.”
As time passed, I got along with everyone there, the kids, the instructors, the staff who took care of the surroundings, and the ones who made food for us daily.
There was a 4yr old boy there, who was deaf and dumb, yet the cutest boy I’ve ever come across! And he definitely had the most amazing parents. Who, even though couldn’t afford a surgery so that their son could start hearing and speaking, were definitely blessed to become a part of this camp. How? Well the people associated with INME got him operated, and thanks to them, the little boy Nikhil could hear and speak.
Each day, there would be lots of outdoor activities, games, and fun! Mountain biking, River rafting, Rock climbing and lots more! And there was a small pool in the campus, so every day after spending hours and hours in the sun, the kids would jump into the pool and splash water on each other! Not just the kids, the volunteers too! 😉
“Educating the uneducated”
The best part was that, even though all these kids came to this camp with the basic motive of just having fun, there was one really great move that the camp people made. And that was, through education. Each day, kids from the village around would come to the campus with their books, with a simple motive of learning something. So, it was the duty of all the kids who had come for camp to teach one subject to each kid! So every day, an hour would be devoted to such a brilliant cause!
And almost every night, I’d sit by the river after having dinner and just look at the sky! A gazillion stars. So beautiful. So magical. I’d never in my life felt so close to the stars! And this is not it, I saw a freaking shooting star. Not once, not twice, not thrice, but multiple times! The first time I saw it, I didn’t believe my eyes, I thought I was just imagining things. But when I saw it the second time, and then the third, and then again, I really had to believe what I saw, and it took me a while to digest that. People say, when you see a shooting star, you should immediately make a wish, because before you know it, it disappears! So I gave it a shot, but I couldn’t have wished for anything else, because I have all that I want, and I was in the world’s most beautiful and heavenly place ever! And I was happy. That’s what matters the most right? Since the sky is so clear, you are able to see all that you can’t see otherwise, since we all live in crowded cities, where there’s so much pollution. I got to see the Milky-way galaxy. Well just a part of it, but it really was true! (It’s a faded white path). I sat on the grass, around 12 in the night and just stared at the sky, and I realized I had tears in my eyes, not only because I’m an emotional person, but also because I felt so alive and happy for the first time in my life…I clearly remember that moment when I was gazing at the sky, I could only picture a few faces in my head, my family, my best friends (especially this one girl, who’s been with me since nursery, who’s been my best friend and sister for 18 years, and still is, and will always be) and a few other close ones, who’ve really inspired me and been with me and loved me unconditionally.
“Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen”
We volunteers and instructors spent one whole night sitting by the river, on the rocks, singing songs. It was a chilly night, and surprisingly none of us was sleepy. Six hours, we all just sang and talked. And as soon as the clock struck 5, we all went for a long stroll, uphill! It couldn’t have got any better than that. Meeting the most amazing people there, learning so much from them, and taking back so many memories. And what I experienced there, I don’t think I can describe it here, I just cannot. It was simply magical. Everything about it. The walk. The quietness. The sound of the river. The smell of leaves. And of course, the best possible company. A best friend.
The last night at camp. The kids were super emotional. They didn’t want to go back. None of us wanted to go back. To THAT life. Away from the one we were all living. So we all spent the last night out in the field, with our sleeping bags and quilts. And since no one wanted to sleep, all the kids wanted to hear scary stories. So that’s what we did. And within 3-4 hours, everyone slept off. Except us, the volunteers and the instructors. We walked around all night, stood on the bridge and stared at the river, dressed up as ghosts and scared the kids and it couldn’t have been more memorable than this. The last night in heaven, at camp, in Tons.
So the next day, we left from camp and headed back to Dehradun railway station by bus. Trust me, leaving from camp was the hardest part ever. Everyone cried, I cried. Nikhil came running to me and hugged me for the longest time ever and didn’t let go of me. In these 8 days, we’d all got so attached to each other, that letting go was so hard. The kids cried in the bus. But we had to leave. We had no choice.
Again an overnight journey by train from Dehradun railway station to Delhi. We reached Delhi around 6 in the morning, and everyone’s parents had come to pick their kids up. So many hugs, kisses, the kids missed their parents and were so happy to see them again! And me? I went back home.
This was so far the best trip of my life. I don’t know how those 8 days there passed so quickly. But there, I not only had fun, but I also learnt so much! Dealing with kids, getting to know them and spending such good time with them made me feel like I’m one of them, and not just a volunteer! (Hey, I’m still 21!) I can’t wait to get back to this place. It changed me in a lot of ways, and I definitely came back as a more positive and happier person.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
This is how I define a Life full of Happiness. How do you?