Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let the truth set you free!

Sometimes situations will force us into telling lies. It will look like a comforting solution in tackling the situation at hand. Truth will look bitter and daunting. But beyond every lie told is a pricking conscience that will not let us forget the incident and sleep with peace of mind. I am sure each of us faced one such situation at some point or the other in life. Here is one of my memorable experience where I preferred truth over lie at a most difficult point of handling choices. Though handling the situation at that time was very difficult, the end result was definitely sweet and that's what probably made it more memorable!

Not very long after I developed my interest for high altitude trekking (read my story here), I seriously wanted to trek to the most fascinating Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal at 19,500 feet, a mere vertical 10 km below the summit of majestic Mt. Everest, the roof of the world. I trained very devotedly for the next two years to develop my stamina and physique demanded by this trek! With just six months to go for my planned schedule, three of my friends expressed their keen interest in joining me for this trek. Out of them two of them were used to trekking in higher altitudes before but one of them was totally new to the world of trekking. Even after I explained him all the intricacies involved in trekking in the higher altitudes, he was just not convinced and unwilling to listen. He promised to workout everyday to develop his stamina in the next six months and be prepared to face the mountains. As promised he did hit the gym devotedly. Finally the tickets were booked for four to Nepal, with lot of dream and excitement!

On the d-day, we were flown from Kathmandu to Lukla to begin our exciting trek to 'the bottom of the top of the world'! As expected the trail was challenging with its fair share of ascend and descend. Three of us had no problem handling the terrain since we had experience in hand. The newbie was finding it difficult to carry his backpack and negotiate the terrain. He was slow but our local trek leader gave him company and took care of him all the time. He managed the day but was badly tired at the end of it. Next few days we saw him trekking at a much lower pace finding all the ascend very difficult to handle. Our trek guide even offered to carry his backpack and ease the pressure on him. Three days into the trek and we were already at 13,000 feet. We crossed the last treeline into the barren snow territory. Oxygen levels in the air dropped consistently.

Fourth day at 14,000 feet was very difficult for all of us but he was determined. It was on that evening he felt very weak, developed a mild headache, opted to skip his dinner and go to bed early. At high altitude, people can develop headache for multiple reasons. One common reason being the cold weather not suiting the body and another, a bit serious reason is acute mountain sickness (AMS), a condition when body is not able to cope with the reduced levels of oxygen in the air. All body parts are not getting sufficient oxygen to perform their essential functionality. It is serious because ignoring this condition can lead to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which are potentially fatal. Having read about all these conditions and symptoms before the trek, I suspected him of catching AMS.

At high altitudes, nothing should be taken easy like in plains. A mild headache when ignored can potentially become deadly. As a rule of thumb, person with the headache should be taken down to the lower altitude as soon as possible for them to recover quickly. Over the dinner, I discussed this potential situation with my fellow trekkers to take a call. We were at a juncture of taking some big decision of quitting the trek and going down, since there was no option of sending him alone - Live together, die alone? On the other hand there was this big dream collapsing and all the money going down the drain. With regular day jobs there was no option of taking more holidays again and doing this trek from scratch, spending more money. Keeping all this in mind and after some heated arguments, folks took a call that we will observe him for the night and if required we will take a final call in the morning. Also it was decided, when the trek leader comes for status check, it will be only portrayed as if everything was fine! Though I was unhappy with the call, unfortunately I had to go with majority at that time.

Though the lie satisfied all our egos at that time, it started pricking my conscience in no time. I went for a long walk in the cold weather and spent sometime introspecting the situation. When I returned back to the tent, I directly walked to the trek leader's tent and broke the truth. I explained the situation to him and additionally told him what made us tell a lie about his condition at the time of inquiring. Though he was pretty upset with our approach, he was very thankful for me opening up at least later. Straight away we both went to check his condition. As expected he was running high on fever and had all the symptoms of AMS. Since our guide was an experienced person, he had the medication in hand to handle the sickness. He gave my friend a tablet and advised him to drink loads of water & urinate regularly that night. I later went to bed with a little satisfaction of telling the truth!

Thankfully my friend's situation became all fine in the morning and he was feeling much better & willing to continue with the trek. That afternoon over lunch, our guide offered me special thanks appreciating my decision to open up and speak truth instead of concealing my friend's condition. It was when he told us about one of his bitter experience from the previous trek when people simply hid the fact about their fellow trekker suffering from diarrhea (to continue with their trek) and went on trekking to higher altitudes. Due to the heavy lack of body fluids, that trekker's condition worsened on the higher slopes and he developed AMS. It was too late when the group figured that. By the time emergency evacuation was called and he was brought down to the plains, the trekker sadly breathed his last. It was when it stuck me how that simple of decision of telling the truth was just the right decision to do!! My happiness and satisfaction found no bounds that moment. Later my friend slowly got adopted to the altitude conditions and we all went on to complete the trek together happily and successfully!

In all this, I learnt an important lesson that a lie will only bring happiness for a short while but will keep pricking the conscience forever. Holding on to the nerves and speaking the truth will permanently bring happiness and satisfaction in life!! Check out this wonderful Kinley 2014 TVC that demonstrates this simple truth in life in a more beautiful way :)

PS: This blog post was written as part of IndiBogger topic "Kitna chain hota hai na sachchai mein"

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