Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hey, This is the Way to Say Goodbye

Call it a split-up and not a closure or goodbye
because you were  fooled and left high and dry.
You were caught in a trap
when you were naive and shy.

Curse yourself for each rendezvous,
for holding hand and kisses too.
Shed tears of blood if you can
and flush the humiliation in the drain.

Regret the time and money you had spent
on someone who was no less than a serpent.
You betrayed your educated self
by not having reason, logic and sense!

World is not fair even to Gods
for Krishna, Rama and Christ, the lord.
Give solace to your burnt heart,
take a shower and part from your past.

The choice you will have to make,
if you want to live in peace.
Burn every memory and move on
Or keep the virus alive to turn it into disease.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hemkund , Hospitable and Homely

Two roads diverge at Ghagaria, I am happy that  I could travel both. The one goes to Valley of Flowers and the other to Hemkund Saheb, the holy pilgrimage of Sikhs. Gurudwara Hemkund Saheb (4633 mt) is in Chamoli district of Uttrakhand. The holy shrine is associated with the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He came here for meditation and later wrote his experiences in his autobiography.

Baaronmasa, an agency, headed by three young IITiens, arranged the  eco tour for seven of us, who  came from different states of India.The journey began from Dehradun to Joshimath. After the night stay we drove to Govindghat. The 13 km walk from Govindghat took us to a place called Ghagaria. The next day was booked for Valley of flowers. The day after, which was 15th August'17 we were on our way to Hemkund Saheb.

The trail was ascending from the beginning to the end.Steep, but it was broad enough. The trek comes under moderate to difficult  category, as I was told. It welcomed us with a scenic waterfall, not very far away.

In the beginning the place looked crowded, but slowly we got scattered as every one has a different pace. People walking all alone is a common sight.It was nice to be greeted 'Happy Independence Day' by fellow trekkers and people riding on horses and ponies, as it was 15th August.

 I walked slow, and took few stoppages. I preferred to stand and rest rather than sitting.
Scenery was awesome, so just standing and gazing at the mountains, clouds, flowers and glaciers was a quick relaxation.

Even after walking for 3 to 4 hours there was no trace of the destination. The short cuts which looked very tempting were not easy to climb.This is what I had thought but  not my 'Buddy'  Sasi, who in spite of a little AMS overtook me by taking shortcuts. Bravo!

Flowers on the way were as amazing as we saw in the Valley. Flowers here looked compact, firm and brighter than the Valley flowers.My guide told me it was because these plants get a good supply of manure as so many mules and horses commute throughout the season, whereas animals are not allowed in the Valley. I found more variety here than in the Valley itself. I could spot a Brahmkamal also.

'Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing' .so I kept climbing. The only annoying thing throughout was that there was no milestones. If we ask locals around, they would say,"only little is left'' in a patronizing tone.

Had lunch in one of these Dhabas.

 There was a stretch when I felt like a snail.Just moving very slow.

                                  This glacier had mud and and grass along with, beautiful sight indeed!

                   What force and speed!

1100 in all

Finally, the Gurudwara!

I chose steps to a long road to reach the top. 
Even after the flight of innumerable stairs, 
there was still some climbing left.People 
were on their way back advised me to walk 
faster to get the prasad. 

I met my group mates who had reached there hours before.and were ready to go back. The Gurudwara people were winding up their work. Some of them washing vessels and keeping them in order.I was not surprised to see their devotion, we all know about that.
They close the Langer at 2. But I could reach only by 2.45 pm. so no Prasad for me. Prasad, which means a lot to us, Indians. I asked them if I could take a pinch of prasad from the big empty pot./boiler kept there. They stopped me and told me to wait. Just in a while they brought a big , clean bowl of steaming Rajma-chawal for me.They must have prepared it for their own lunch. I was so touched by their gesture. 

The main hall of Gurudwara was locked. Just a little request, and they opened the door for a few of us who could reach late. The place was heart warming. We were allowed to click pictures. But the place was too pious to post its pics on FB.

Going back was comparatively easier, but not easy. My companions were faster so they had all gone. Two boys ran past me, exactly the way my brother and I did while climbing down from our village in Rudraprayag during vacations. I felt like a lady Bhishm Pitamah , the great-grand old man of Mahabharat. The guide was with me so I was not tensed. Climbing down was the same endless trail. It was normal till it was not dark. After  that moonlight helped. The guide told me that there is no problem except sometimes Bhalu (bears) come out from the jungle and may attack. The bhalu part was a bit scary for me.

To the relief of my friends, I reached the base by 8.30. I was told that they had already chosen a pic of mine to be put on the posters to search me. All in a lighter vein , of course.With bhalus around, they were really worried for me.

 With this I put a tick mark  on one of the destinations in my bucket list.

Next: Badrinath and Mana, the last village on the India -Tibet border.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Valley of Flowers, a Walkothon to Remember

pic: Vivek Negi
Day 1, 12th Aug
It's not about the destination. It's about the journey to get there. This was the line that was flashing in my mind while I walked long trails and climbed steep mountains during a week long trip to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb.
The journey started from Dehradun to Joshimath, a nine hour long bus ride with a group of fun-loving people organised by Baaronmasa. Throughout the ride the bus movedalong the river. We meet four out of five Prayags, confluences. The fifth confluence is ten km north of Joshimath at Vishnuprayag.

The confluence at Devprayag is amazing. Even though you are sleeping through the journey, you must wake up and have a look.

Joshimath is a lovely little town. Street food and a few tourist attractions can be explored to keep one busy for the evening. Hotel Auli-D offered us a comfortable stay. Next morning we drove to Govindghat which was 20 km away and took us less than an hour. The names of the places which were just the words in the itinerary were taking shapes. As a habit I don't google before any trip to retain the surprise element, as I am always with reliable people who would never leave me in a jungle where bears roam around.

Govindghat to Ghagaria is 13 km walk. A long walk indeed, but later I knew that this was easiest of all the treks in the trip.We walked along the Laxman (Ganga) River. There were many small and huge waterfalls on the other side of the rivers. There were food and snacks stalls at some distance throughout. They sold boiled Channa with onion, chilli and lemon, Pahari cucumber, which was juicier than the one we get in plains and neembu-pani. I can't imagine eating all this back at home from roadside stalls, but there was something in the fresh, clean and dustless surrounding that I couldn't resist.

Took the signboard too seriously and followed it till the end and it surely didn’t disappoint me.

We were asked to be with at least one member of the group.So in case of emergency one is not alone. The person is called Buddy.

After walking 13 km for around 7 hours we reached Ghagaria. Colourful tents at the campsites can be seen from the distance, giving the relief that we are almost there. As we reached the hotel Holiday and had tea and pakoras we got a feeling that our stay is going to be comfortable and friendly.

Day 3 Valley of Flowers

Ghagaria is the starting point for Valley as well as Hemkund Saheb.
Valley is around 3 km away from the starting point. The trail is not as smooth as we had treaded a day before, from Govindghat to Ghagaria. It’s rough and boring at times. It’s a long long way.

As you think it’s boring, something interesting comes up.

Shades of Green

Suddenly appears a glimpse of the valley.
And then the Valley!
Pic: Ashish Kundalia

I chose to go to Joan Margret Leggy’s grave. She had discovered the Valley of Flowers in 1885.She died here in the valley while visiting it for the fifth time. The other way lead to a riverbed.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence commeth my help. -Joan Margret Legge.

It is advisable that where ever you are in the valley you should should start walking back as soon as the clock strikes 2, then only one can reach Ghagaria in time. We were lucky to have clear sky. Rains would have made the walk difficult.

Who would not envy him. What a place of work!

A picture speaks a thousand word, then how many would a video speak? An amazing video by Ashwin, a fellow trekker.

Day 4: Hemkund Saheb
To be contd...

Sunday, April 30, 2017


One has to reach Joshimath in Uttarakhand to follow the trails to Badrinath, Valley of Flowers, Auli and some other beautiful treks. It took me more than 9 hrs to reach here from Dehradun.
Joshimath, originally called Jyotirmath drives its name from the fact that here under the Kalpvriksh, Adi Shankaracharya did tapasya and had the darshan of the Jyoti.
Kalptaru,uner this tree Adi Guru did tapasya for 2 yrs
On my way to Pangarchulla trek, I reached Joshimath late in the evening.The hotel didn't serve the  food so I went out to  explore the city and look for my dinner. Ah! The bliss of a new city where nothing is familiar and monotonous. This city seemed lucky for me, as I got the clothes fit for the trekking. The shopkeeper suggested me 'Chauhan Tea Stall, run by a lady, for dinner. Food tasted home cooked and lacked the dhaba taste, good enough for me.

After a fantastic trek to Kunwari pass I came back to Joshimath on my way back.I was not exactly tired, but had bearable body pain due to the trekking on snow, grass and stones for four days. After a hot shower I walked towards the Marwari Hotel for a cuppa of hot tea.With a little limp I climbed up the ascending road to Kalptaru, the famous Tree under which  Rev Adi Shankaracharya did the tapasya.

In the evening I strolled through the streets of Joshimath leisurely. I was more aware of the surroundings with a free mind, as the trekking part was over successfully. The moment I came out of the hotel, I noticed cleanliness all around. Each and every nook and corner of the city was spotlessly clean. From Shankaracharya Math at the top to Narsingh Temple at the lower side of the town, it was a pleasure to walk. To reach the Narsingh temple I walked narrow lanes with the houses in a row beside it, with friendly residents who guided me reach the temple. I wished the lanes of my lovely Benaras were also equally clean.

It was getting dark so I couldn't go further and gazed at the temple from the distance.I found the clean lanes more worshippable than any temple in the world. I thought of the holy hands behind cleaning the place and keeping it in that way.

At Marwari Chawk, I congratulated one of the sanitary workers for keeping the city so clean. About his routine he told me that he, like twenty seven others are given particular areas. He works from 6 to 11 in the morning and then 2 o'clock onwards in the evening.

He thanked me for the compliments and said that it was nice that I had noticed it. My dear sanitary angel, you are no less than a soldier, or an engineer or a politician who is doing his bit in taking India forward.Keep shining!

I think there should be rewards for the cleanest states, city and area.The sanitary workers should be given uniforms and right to object and punish the people who litter the street.

 I'm thankful to the cool shop-owner of the Marwari Sweet Shop, who allowed me to sit and wait in his restaurant to make and wait for phone calls as there was no signal available in my hotel room. Tea was good and sweets were tempting.

Joshimath please call me again for my dream trip To Valley of Flowers in coming August.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Post Valen'day Thoughts

I belong to the generation who watched News, one-day matches live from Sharjah, Gulzar’s movies on Doordarshan and discussed it the next day in college. Unlike now, we believed what all we watched on TV. News in the newspapers used to be fresh, and not already read and devoured on TV channels and Internet. So some of the incidences shown on TV infused in my mind so deeply that even after decades I think of them often.

I never fell in love the way they do in films, nobody does. But seeing it in the lives of celebrities intrigued me. A person committing suicide after getting rejected in love never had my sympathy. Just like Elizabeth Bennet I believed in pride and self esteem. Admired successful people, especially if they were from economically weak background. At this point I read about Syed Modi’s murder. Syed modi married to an another shuttler. Inter-religion marriage and must have been against the wises of their parents. What a lovely picture of love and romance that was! But he was shot dead at the gate of KD Singh Babu Stadium Lucknow. I still wonder why the lady didn’t just go for divorce and parted ways.Why he had to be killed?

The other stories involved Kamal Hasan, who every North Indian adored after the block buster EDKL, left his wife to marry his pregnant lover. I read very sophisticated Vani’s detailed interview and felt her pain deeply the way young girls do. Dimple Kapadia, who got the most expensive ring (in India at least) from her beau came back to films to raise her daughters.

After three decades Kamal Hasan, who does not believe in the institution of marriage, divorced twice and got into a relationship and parted too. I was happy to see vivacious Vani’s pic at a book launch in Bangalore. Ameeta has become the queen of Amethi and contesting for election against Sanjay Singh’s first wife Garima Singh.

So, where is love? In small pieces here and there in moments and memories, may be.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Day 1/7
Solo travelling may be a bliss, but travelling in a group has its own joys. I met five of my group-mates who were from different countries of Europe, at Rishikesh. All of them but Ami were into Hinduism and Yoga, which brought them closer to me. My trip began well when Matte suggested shopping from the crowded market of Rishikesh. She took a long time to find a kurta, loose and long enough to cover her knees. She took me to a gem jewellery shop and also bought herbal products of Patanjali and Himalaya. Actually I felt like a foreigner and she a native.

Devprayag is 46 miles from Rishikesh Which is on the way to Guptkashi, our destination for the day. It is a place where the two rivers meet and then is called the Ganga. Alaknanda from Badrinath and Bhagirathi from Gomukh, 18 km from Gangotri temple. I had seen this amazingly colourful confluence from the the road many times before, but never thought of walking down to take a dip. How much the company you keep can change the way you look at things. I walked down, touched and heard the holy water roaring. I came back carrying that sound and sight in my heart


My white companions were prepared for the holy dip at the confluence. Then I knew the urgency behind buying the long kurtas in Rishikesh. No way they wanted to temper with the sanctity of the place. Thank god they have not seen us bathing at Sangam during kumbh.

 By the confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi stands an ancient temple. Lord Rama meditated here after killing Ravana, the demon king. 

We continued our journey and reached Kedar Camp which was my our abode for the next seven days.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Brick by Brick

Apna Skool for kids of kiln workers.
A brick-kiln at Tatayaganj, Kanpur

Make a picture in your mind of a school in which every door and window opens to green and blue of the earth and sky. Where students willingly stay back during their four month long break. Teachers keep them occupied with Maths, Evs, Science and English labs.The co-curricular activities include music, story telling, performing plays, making paper toys, games and other outdoor activities. This sounds like any other elite school. I had the opportunity to visit such a school and even if you are not a teacher like me, you would love to meet the confident students who have an urge to learn. These students, children of brick-kiln labours, have made to come to school by pampering, coaxing, requesting and luring by the volunteers of Apna Skool run by Vijiya Ramachandran near the brick kilns at  the outskirts of Kanpur city. They run 11 schools covering around 28 kilns.

Sangita, a devoted volunteer took me around the school. Class 1, the youngest in the school was the chirpiest. The classroom had two batches of kids as some of them joined late. Opposite walls had black boards and two teachers taught them. Each child stood and gave his/her introduction in English. All 54 of them wanted to speak. The teacher in me saluted the volunteers for such a show. They recited poems and talked about the little pleasures 'Apna Skol' offered them. They learn to read and write in an academic year which doesn't even have 12 months. Thanks to the books specially designed for them by Eklavya. Students are evaluated on the basis of exams conducted by National Institute for open schooling.

Class 2 and 3 shared one classroom which was big enough for around 20 of them. I asked them the  question which we adults are never tired of asking. Most of them wanted to be teachers when they grow up. Did they know any other profession? I wondered. Then someone told me that he wanted to be a 'police' and would catch thieves. Before I proceeded to the next class, they said they too had some questions for me, which ranged from my qualification to my favourite season.

Class four side of the room had the model of 'Rafael' fighter plane hanging from the ceiling. I was told by a student  everything about the model in Wikipedia manner. In class 5  a child told me how to create table of 19 by a math-magic and many interesting games with numbers. (write odd numbers from 1 to19 vertically, then write 9 to 1 backwards.) After that they challenged me with crossword puzzles.
Table of  19 made easy

It was time for lunch, but there were still things they wanted to share. Ashok,who is from Bihar played the guitar and Rohit played the violin. The child who knew to play the flute was absent. They had all the praise for their music sir who gives special classes on Mondays.

Brick-kiln labours live  at the worksite itself  from the month of June to October when the production is on. for rest of the months, with no work in hand they go back to their hometowns. Apna Skol volunteers arrange jobs for them so that kids could study without interruption.This year for the first time, 20 boys and girls were lived in the hostel for 4 months.
After class 5, kids are sent to other private and government schools. Neetu, a class 7 student showed me how Excel works. She goes to Adarsh Inter college.When her school is closed she comes to Apna Skol with other ex-students to clarify the doubts in Maths and science.Today is one such day when DM has declared a holiday due to some reason.

What would she do here for the whole day, I wondered. "She loves to teach class 1 and 2 students and she does it so well", beamed a proud teacher.

It was a pleasure watching the little ones going towards the light of education from the darkness of illiteracy. A day well spent indeed, but not without guilt that what am I doing for the adorable underprivileged kids of my country?