Our Black Dogs

22 Dec 2020

This month last year there was a delay on our return flight from Nepal. SilkAir put us up at Crowne Plaza Sofitel for the night.

Amongst the clusters of travellers, climbers and pilgrims waiting for our boarding passes to be processed before we could leave the airport, there was this man by himself.

He was in his early 50s. Like most trekkers and climbers, his clothes, boots and backpack were in shades of earthy Khakis.

A couple of times we made brief eye contact, like strangers in a lift or small spaces do. Once he attempted to address me. As I was tired and didn’t have enough coffee in me to say anything worthwhile, I looked away.

But a while later I could sense that he was being contemplative, and not trying to be chatty or seeking company.

“You’re travelling alone,” I stated the obvious as our eyes met again.

“Yes, thought I’ll come to see the mountains before old age sets in,” he replied smilingly.

Over the years, he had been to the Himalayas several times with friends and loved ones. This time he had come to spend time alone with the mountains he loved so much.

“I took my son here when he was a boy. We met a black dog which started following us on our trek,” the man began.

“But at the higher pass, we had to let the dog go. It was too dangerous for him. My son cried for days when we couldn’t bring the dog with us,” he continued.

“I still have lots of pictures of them together,” he ended on a wistful note.

I didn’t add anything to what the man had said.

Perhaps this man had come to the mountains to seek pieces of himself that he had to let go in the course of preserving life.

And I wonder how many black dogs we have loved and left behind in our attempts to survive?

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