Anil showed frustration. He wasn't interested in any lecture now.
“Believe me Anil, you are back from death’s grip. You should thank God. It’s a miracle. And another man whom you should thank is Tashi”
They were too bitter words for Anil. Mak smiled and continued. “I don't know how long you were lying there”
“1.45. It was 1.45 pm. I remember”, Anil contributed.
“Ok. Then you were lying in there for precisely 45 minutes". Tashi entered with two cups of tea and left leaving them behind. Anil went back to the memory of the high altitude, him lying, sick and nauseating, frightened and praying. He felt the chill by just the thought of it.
Mak handed the tea to Anil. "You were lucky, really lucky. A storm was anticipated. You could have disappeared as if you never existed." Storm ? Anil gulped hard. The hot tea helped him stay a little warm.
“Around 7 am, a few hours after you left, Tashi made a call to meteorology and learnt of sudden change in weather conditions. A storm or heavy snowfall after a few hours was a distinct possibility. He was worried” “We should commend him for his far-sightedness. He immediately made right calls and contacted me” “He decided he would wait one hour for the team to be back, if not back then set out for a search. But fortunately the team stuck to the plan and were back on time. But only one person wasn't back, You."
"Tashi was worried. He pulled together few other Sherpas and set out a search camp. In such times, there are different possibilities” “Either they would find you while they climb up. If not, either you are lost or you would be lying down somewhere tired or unconscious or buried or..some unfortunate accident had happened and have fallen into some crevasses...in that case there’s no hope"
He heaved a sigh. Anil was waiting. He realised how much pain these people had taken so that he would be safe. He felt guilty. All the anger and fury was gone and his face blushed with shame. He kept the empty cup down, folding his legs up, buried his face.
Mak continued "Tashi wanted to go. But they somehow convinced him to stay back and look after himself. The group then parted in small teams and set out, calling your name, looking for anything that looked human-like. They dug heaps randomly, searching, looking down the crevasses. Tashi was in constant contact with them through satellite phones. A long time had passed, and hopes were dwindling. Tashi informed the group about the lack of time. They had to hurry. The storm was probable. If they couldn't find you in 15 minutes, they’d have to terminate the search and come down without loosing time"
He took a sip and let the words settle down. "But ..WOW...they actually found you. They gathered together and dragged you down. Man, you owe them big."
Anil looked up. His face looked wilted, eyes red. He had troubled a lot of souls with his stupidity. But the question still remains. “Yes. I owe them my life…But...Tashi strangled me”
“Man, you are on Everest, at altitude you've never been before, walking more than 300 meters without rest, without caring about anything. Have you heard of HACE ?”
HACE ? “Yes. Know some stuff”
“HACE is High altitude cerebral edema. It's highly fatal altitude sickness. There’s swelling of brain tissue due to fluid leakage. One feels nauseated/vomiting, insomnia, weakness, dizziness, headache, loss of coordination and decreased levels of consciousness and sometimes even enters coma”. Anil weighed the words. He was indeed blessed to escape death. He could related all of it to the strange condition he suffered up there.
Anil was indebted but wasn’t ready to give in. His sickness doesn't make Tashi innocent. Tashi was there, strangling him. He was the witness, he was the victim. "So ?" Anil questioned with stern voice with a hint of anger. Mak smiled which added to Anil’s confusion.
Mak continued "Another symptom of HACE is disorientation, irrational behaviour… and hallucination! Your mind fooled you, man" He chuckled.
”Hallucination ? You mean my mind made up all that ?” Anil, visibly surprised. Mak grinned ear to ear.
It was unbelievable for Anil, He shook head incessantly. Laughing to himself. He pulled himself out the bag, and hugged Mak. “Thanks”, He sounded relaxed. He got up and exited the tent. It was a bit dark, affirming the past storm. Tashi was standing facing the steep edge, lost in thought.
“So buddy when can we summit ?”, Anil jested Tashi. Tashi turned.
“Never”, Tashi replied with a poker face. Anil’s grin disappeared.
“I would never summit with a mad man”, Tashi laughed. Anil sighed and hugged Tashi hard.
*** The End ***
P.S : I know that the last part is a bit too long. But dividing it would have taken away it’s essence. So kept the entire stuff together. I know I raised curiosity in the first part. I hope I could satisfy with this concluding part. I would be glad to hear your comments good or bad, let them come. And finally, thanks for reading :)