Monday, August 21, 2006

One Last Travel Diary???

Shan, one of my dearest buddies, took one hell of a risk...he travelled all the way from kerala to join me(i actually lied to him i had all things planned!) on one last adventure to see a part of India, we knew till then only from textbooks. The beauty of our trip was that it was unplanned, we barely knew where we were going, if we realized a jeep was going close to our destination, we would hop in, hoping that another vehicle would take us from there closer and closer to yamunotri. When nothing came our way we hiked, the rain-gods seemed intent on accompanying us for the whole trip and ruining it, the cold fear at seeing landslides on every curve wondering which one would take us away, the happiness at seeing a hotel to rest our tired bodies for the night(there were many, thanks to the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd(GMVN), and having a few pegs of whiskey to call it a day. I know the fotos we have here are not the best...i'll need to start a flickr site to upload the scenic we are the protagonists and our faces had to feature in the snaps...eitherways we both kept squabbling all thru the trip on who was the worser photographer...compressed these pics 20 times over to get it to 50kb!!!

Through Haridwar we reached Rishikesh and the faint beginnings of the Himalayas showed, besides for the first time in my life I set eyes on the Ganga. So majestic from afar, enjoying a position of superiority amongst all the rivers of India, but cursed with a people intent on destroying its aura. The sight of human refuse at the Triveni Ghat which looked so clean in the movies was jarring, the brown colour of the water was disconcerting...just for the sake of it we dipped our hands and feet...will that suffice for my sins to be forgiven?

From Rishikesh, we took a jeep to Dharasu, 100 kms away. The road here diverges into to Uttarkashi, Gangotri and the other to Yamunotri. From Dharasu we get a mini-bus which dropped us at Barkot, the last village/town where civilization as you and i know it sort of ends. From there another mini-bus took us to Hanumanchatti, 80kms away where we decided to cool our heels for the night at a GMVN inn.The snap is from there.

We begin our trek from Hanumanchatti to Janakichatti, 9 kms away hoping a jeep wud pass-by. The scenery from here-on is absolutely breath-taking...the snap here shows Shan all-edgy, next to a cliff, with the Yamuna beneath in all raging fury, with me fumbling with the camera as always. We pass by several locals...all very people, infact we noticed all through uttaranchal the women were hard at work while men mostly hang around tea stalls.

We had walked 2kms and not a single vehicle was stopping for us. The place where we took this snap looked eerily similar to the ones in Yodha. We threw our bags to the floor here and decided to wait for a lift. I saw some kids hard at work here...we had not seen a single school for about 75 kms. Would people in Kerala be able to associate with something like that!

And Behold!...along comes a tractor and the good man in the pic takes us along. It must have been the bumpiest ride of our lives...but we enjoyed it immensely. After all, how many people get to travel on tractors when they are on vacation! The man wouldnt take any money from contrast the rich jeepvalas where charging Rs.15 per head for traversing just 3-4 kms. He lets us off with a warning to watch out for stray rocks falling from above.

Shan mournfully mulls wetting his brand new sneakers...what the hell did he expect...a tarred road!!! The whole place was littered with marble rocks that came down in previous landslides. In that part of the Garhwal, the pavements and milestones are in marble...i sincerely hope quarrying is banned there knowing how expensive marble is elsewhere.

We reach Janakichatti where the road ends, and began a 5km grinding trek to Yamunotri. We huffed and puffed our way up in 3 1/2 hours upto what was a height of 5000mts. Yamunotri is for all purposes a pilgrimage, we had to keep greeting pilgrims with Jai Mata Di, Jai Yamuna Mata, and i forget the other slogans. Young men were taking pilgrims up on their shoulders, on palanquins and ponies which made us trekkers real miserable. The air was thin, we struggled to breathe, the temp must have been 2-5degs, the rain continued to irritate us and foiled our plans to trek further to SaptarishiKund 14 kms away where the actual glacier that feeds the Yamuna and overlooking a beautiful valley of flowers where a mysterious BrahmaKamal flower which has an intoxicating smell and in which Saraswati Devi supposedly resides. We stayed that night at the Kalindi Ashram hotel at Yamunotri and started our return journey the next morning.

If Yamunotri symbolized what must be the most beautiful creation of Nature we set our eyes on, we headed out next to Agra and the Taj where Shah Jahan gave expression to human creativity at its zenith, the sight of which totally blew us away. We were speechless, just gaping at the magnificence in front of our eyes, amazed at the power and the riches the Great Mughals commanded over India...Shan vowed that when he would marry, he would bring his wife here and promise her that he would build her a Taj in 10 years time! I was amused coz my dad used the same line with my mom when he built our home.

The Agra Fort was equally grand, and obviously more subjected to the ravages of consequent invaders like the Afghans, Marathas and the British. Agra was my opportunity to download all my history knowledge on poor Shan, and the good sport he is, was all ears to my chance to show-off! I was dejected to hear that Fatehpur-Sikri the ill-fated capital of Akbar was 80kms away...another place i will have to put off to visit for some other day.

At the end of the trip, the poor guy had lost several kilos, missed his mummy and her food, had got severely tanned, was so sick of roti, sabji and daal and kept muttering he wanted chicken and was crying at the kolam he had become...i was really amused with his woes because i never felt any of it...wandering through so many places and situations, the last many years, had hardened me. I dont know when i'll venture out like this many places still out there that entice me, so many years of life left, yet so little time for things like these. Pops calls me up a few weeks back and jokes..."i tell folks who inquire about you...avan civil service paditham onnumalla, Discovery of India ilaanu"!!!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Vagabond Comes Home...

Every time I decide to let the blogging habit die in me old friends, family or casual acquaintances show concern that leaves me a little perplexed! I have fed everyone with so much juicy details of my life that its become hard for them to detach from me and even harder for me to forsake one more reason to keep blogging. So I guess its fare enough to blog down both the good and the bad bad days.

A Summer of Discontent, And...
When I reached home, I peaked into my spotlessly clean bathroom, the first thought that struck me was what a fine place it would make to sleep unlike my 8ft by 6ft dinghy that served as my room in Delhi made worse by 8 hour blackouts that killed the zest for sleep and aggravated by rains that raised the humidity rather than dipping the mercury. Playing hop-skip-jump on cow-dung littered streets and developing batman like skills to traverse those same streets at night, flea infested bylanes, an array of colds, throat infections and dysentry's that kept dogging me and my friends. It helped though...the dissatisfaction with my surroundings fuelled the interest to venture out to the world around. Delhi's ancient wonders, Agra, Yamunotri, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, Mussorie, Haryana, Nainital and Mukteshwar...some of the many places I have dreamt of visiting ever since I was a kid...lay conquered at my feet. The trek to Yamunotri was an adventure to paradise...a picture post is on the way!

A Sabbattical at 25
Exactly 12 hours since I am at home. The sights on the train right from the Konkan Coast upto Veli Lake have been so colour in the world makes me so happy as green, The weather in tvm is so pleasant, so balmy...i just love this place. Well, Almost!!! What are your plans...enthaanu ninte future plans...i keep getting the same question from everyone except my parents who have continued to be so wonderful and supportive though i just dont deserve it. Everyone wants to discuss with me, help me out, talk me into a firm decision...i dont blame them, the jiby most of them knew was never like this...noone realizes I just cant be helped. I wonder if i should go back to coding, i wonder if i should go back to the US, i wonder if i should continue with this mockery of a civil service prep that I've lost interest in, i wonder what to do next and all i have is a curious optimism that i will somehow strike a absolute vacuum stares me...but i am oddly happy...i realize this is the hard path to maturity...its sad, everybody would have loved my story to end up like Swades but its turning out all like Varavelpu and I have only my personal failings to blame.

Some New Beginnings...
25 years on earth...yet this fine dawn when i should have have been cozy in bed i woke up to a new win back my health. The few earlybirds must have wondered why a 55kilo crackpot needs to jog but man i feel so good now...i barely could run the 1/2 km to Pattom Junction and struggle back today, but in a month by Sep 15 I will be running all the way to Kawadiar Palace and back. The 6km trek up Yamunotri when we were humbled by several oldies was a wake-up-call as we struggled to catch our breaths and egg our tired bodies on...i realized my body had aged almost 20 years over the last few years of inexercise, poor sleeping habits and irregular diets. The hard part is to win back all the pounds I lost in Delhi...

Books, Movies...and Guilt
I am so in love with reading again. On the two days in train I lapped up The Alchemist and Five Point Someone, both books which had a distant echo of similarities to my personal life. Today I have picked up my uncles novel and am just breezing through it...I need to put up a review on the blog and try to get more of you to read it if it releases in India...problem is i am so proud of his work i wonder if i can be objective...he seems to have kicked up some controversy in the US Church but I think its high time more reforms came up there! Today i wandered around tvm and picked up a jhumpa lahiri and tolstoy from roadside vendors. So many good movies too coming up this Onam. Man i really am having fun...oh shit, the last thing i want to feel is guilt...its odd...peer pressure never bothered me all these years in life but now I think of my friends hard at work and here I am lazing away in the comforts of home. Dang! I am seriously messed up or what.