Love in the Blue Mountains
When Reena was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in the month of October, 16 years ago, she was given a probability of six months to live.So we came home, fell into each other’s arms, cried for two minutes, and then she pulled away and said, “Right, you are not allowed to cry anymore, because you need to be my rock.”
I never broke that rule.
Over the years, obediently dry-eyed around her, we travelled the world. Her health ebbed and flowed, but her spirit always flew high. Often, I would ask her what her favourite place to holiday was, and she always replied, “Kotagiri! Because it’s the one place where you belong to me completely and I never have to share you with anyone else.”
Kotagiri was more than a second home to us. It was the elixir of life. Standing together on an evening patio, watching the sun dwindle into the peaks as the light turned red-gold and then black and then moonsilver, we gratefully acknowledged the gift of days gone by and the promise of a day at a time. The air we inhaled was endlessly pure. The mountain silence enveloped us in understanding. Nature embraced us with unconditional love, and troubles gave us rare room to breathe.
It was during the monsoon that the magic was most indescribable. We loved the pioneering sounds of the first rains announcing themselves with a gentle random splatter upon the roof tiles, then growing into a metronomic rhythm of continuously falling water. By the time a crescendo was reached, we were cuddled together in the coziest, warmest spaces possible where the music of the rain made our hearts dance, but the pouring drops left our bones dry.
I truly believe that there is medicine in these hills. Intangible, but undeniable!
The enduring beauty of grand peaks, and their grander shadows, the lusciously aromatic tea gardens on windy slopes, the occasional bison that presents its enquiring head over flimsy wire fences, the crispness of the oxygen; ensconced in nature’s basket, we were not only at peace, but we were healing. Even frequent power outages reminded us that the power of existence comes from within… and we used the darkness to discover the light in so many other ways and things.
If monsoons were magical, winters were heavenly. As the coldness of the season and of the sickness came ever closer each year, we clung to Kotagiri as our life support. These were the months when the fireplace (yes, we had one) was ignited, marshmallows (yes, real English ones) were warmed, and a sinful glass of wine was guiltlessly enjoyed by her (I’m a whisky man!). Glasses clicked, and we fell asleep upon another day gifted.
Reena left me behind one February night in 2017. She lived for eleven loving years in a vast celebration of life. We fought cancer and we fought each other, but we loved more than ever in that time.
She left my devastated world with a promise that she would never leave my soul. I cried for the first time in front of her, but of course she would have forgiven my own broken promise. She left me to the permanence of a cold and endless winter.
I have never gone back to Kotagiri since.
But I recall every drop of rain, every glass I poured, every sighting of the sun and moon, every marshmallow I warmed in every fire I stoked. Every mountain day was a gift, every moment spent was a voyage of discovery on a ship with a two-person crew as Reena and I navigated our rocky seas together. And when it rained, on magical evenings, we found ourselves ever closer to a grateful understanding of the secrets of life and love.