The Fear of Beauty

I’d call it a road, but it resembled a wide path: a dusty, grey path which was approximately 5 metres in width and had 2 lanes. Cars, trucks and even motorcycles were racing down, overtaking each other as if tomorrow didn't exist. They didn’t seem to care for people’s lives. After all, what’s one life in a population of 1 billion? We were travelling up the path to Shimla (defined as the ‘Queen of Beauty’). I remember seeing signs with distances, one of the first being 70km. I instinctively looked out for each sign; but they came slowly. It was a long journey. Shivers ran down my spine as I looked beyond the bollards, these were the barriers protecting us from death - I prayed we would remain on the right side of this barrier. Our lives were in the hands of our driver; one sharp swerve to the left and it could have ended horrifically.

My sister always got travel sick and this was no exception. She was on the left hand side of the car and the driver told her to open to the window. As she opened the window and reached her head out to gasp for air, I couldn’t help but think of the car becoming unbalanced. “Get back in!” I yelled, pulling her back inside the vehicle, clearly disregarding her ill-state. She was sick all over me. We pulled over and stopped on a rocky ledge.

I got out of the car to clean my sick-stained clothes ensuring I didn’t misplace a foot. At this point, I was trembling. I hesitated to look over the barrier, but I eventually plucked up the courage. I gazed up and saw the sun beaming down on the opposite side of the mountain. The rocks glistened and the saying, 'the grass is greener on the other side' could have been applied. You could just about see the makeshift shacks on the opposite cliff edge. I remember thinking, those inhabitants must be extremely brave, but boy did they have an astonishing view to wake up to each morning. They had created mini communities on the edge of a mountain.

I was standing underneath a telecommunications line which connected this side to the other. I looked up, with my mouth wide open (God knows how many flies I caught) as I imagined a cable cart that could take me from this side to the other. The driver told us to get back into the car as we were scheduled to reach Shimla before sunset. I was reluctant to go - completely in awe at the views and lost in my thoughts. As I got back inside the car, I swapped seats with my sister and reached for my camera. I began capturing everything I saw. I had suddenly overcome my fear (of beauty) and I restored all faith in our driver. The clouds were as fluffy as sheep, I began daydreaming with my eye through the viewfinder. Was I in heaven?

C Uppal

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