"Come on. Take it easy. Give it a go. The sky won't tumble down. Join us and let's spend one night in the bosom of the rocky mountain, under the bright stars, with night breeze rising from the fragrant wild bushes and flowers. Let's hear the call of the wild in the dead of night. Forget about clean bed sheets, TV, World News, politics, glamorous celebrities, greed, plots, promotion, etc."
I gave up and succumbed to the will of school friends of the past to spend one night in the mountain, under a shepherd's tent.
It was late afternoon when we reached the plateau. I call it plateau because it was just like a huge mantelpiece extending forward as if resting on two giant stone braces. Beneath the projection, way down, about 3000 feet, lay the flat desert with a winding dirt road and very rare traffic. On the flat top of the plateau, stood an area the size of a football field. The rear side of the plateau rose up, high enough to scrape the blue sky and to defy the summer heat with display of some patches of snow. On the plateau, a little cold spring patiently gathered in a small pool for a flock of about 100 sheep.
The shepherd boy, dexterously killed a two-year old male goat, and prepared the meat for barbecue. A bed of stone was used as a pit. The fire consisted of dead roots and stalks of bushes and shrubs. The fume was a mixture of fragrant essences of wood and smoldering meat drippings.
I remained outside of the tent to watch the sun set. When it got dark, the camping gas lamp inside the tent turned the tarpaulin into a tapestry. The patches and holes gave it a unique character. I could see the men inside the tent sitting on an old threadbare rug. The surface of the rug was scarred by frequent accidental drop of burning charcoals. The men were singing in chorus and laughing. The shepherd boy was busy preparing a special fire out of cubic charcoals.
The men inside the tent occasionally pointed at me, and burst into laughing. I did not mind, since, in their eyes, I deserved their teasing. I somehow envied their happiness. At the same time, I realized how I had reached a point of no return. Sometimes there seemed to be a huge gap between them and me.
Anyway, I was called to join the rest, sitting cross-legged on the carpet in the tent. There was a portable fire pit brazier full of white ash and containing some burning charcoal; a bon china teapot, filled with steaming tea; a brass kettle for hot water; an opium pipe, resting on the fire pit; a pair of tongues, leaning against the edge of the fire pit and enough tea glasses.
(to be continued)