Wednesday, May 31, 2006
We were in high spirits…!
The breakfast had been lovely. It was served as a buffet in a large tent they called “The Mess”.
Delicious hot porridge, piles of toast, butter and jam and a tray full of a doughnut like sweet that was served with apple sauce ... Coffee/ Bournvita. I watched my boys gulping down like starving Labradors. I too decided to forget my diet for a day and silence the rumblings in my stomach. Hmmm..The mountain air had made all of us ravenous..!!
My heart danced…! We all piled into the Qualis. The driver switched on the music… “Meri sawalom kaa…jawab dooo…Doooo naaa….” Sang the lover..The melody fit into the curves and twists in the road. I giggled and started singing along with funny actions. Pinching Taj’s cheeks and pulling Gautam’s hair. Peeps pretended not to see. The boys looked in embarrassment at the driver. But I just sang along.
The road carrying on from Harsil, enters the dense green gorge of Bhiron Ghati. After crossing the Jadh Ganga river, beyond Lanka, the road winds its way to a halt at Gangotri at an alt. of 10000 ft, 24 km. from Harsil. All along this route, we were surrounded by dense green pine forests, enchanting views of snow mountains, around… and the ravishing Ganga in her different moods sometimes serene and wide.. sometimes narrow and mysterious deep down in the valley .. but always stealing the show..
I don’t like to repeat myself... The scenery was spellbinding. Was it the physiological acclimatisation to the high altitude…? The twists and turns making me giddy…? Was it the smell of the blue pines that filled the crisp, chilly mountain air…? Or the visual splendor of the flowing Ganga and the snow peaks that seemed to touch the sky
Heavenly.. Divine..No wonder it drove me crazy.
One sight that filled me with amazement was the Suspension Bridge at the Bhiron Ghati gorge.. The bridge was built over a deep ..deep gorge formed by the Jadh Ganga. Built by E.E Wilson..
A legend prevails in the mountain villages of a holy trail in the Garhwal hills, that the restless ghost of a raja rides his half Arab-grey horse across the rocky trails on moonlit nights. The ancient Ganga weeps in sympathy at Harsil as she listens to the retreating hoof beats swing by the dilapidated bungalow on the road to Gangotri. It was here that Pahari Wilson or raja Wilson as he was referred to settled down with Gulabi, a local girl in his Wilson hut, a grand bungalow.
Mystery still shrouds the adventurer EE Wilson’s origins. Some believe that he came from Lancashire in bonny England. Others say that he left the British army in disgrace and found refuge amongst the Garhwal Himalayas.
When Wilson built the suspension bridge at Bhairon Ghati Gorge Over the Jadh Ganga, the locals were too petrified to venture into it. Leaping onto his Arab, Wilson galloped up and down the bridge. Even today, on a full moon night, the locals believe that Raja Wilson rides again….
Thank God the last night had not been a full moon night…!!
I wanted to take a photo of the bridge, but photography is not permitted.I tried with my camera hidden in the shawl.. but just when I was about to click, a guard came and told me..”Photography karna mana hai ma'm”
The Qualis moved ahead..Wow! We were reaching Gangotri…!
(To be contd.)
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The camp nestled deep in the valley .. in an apple orchard.. the trees had just started to bloom.. A view from the back of the tent.. our tent was only about six feet away from the river..
A walk along the river bed.. note the millions of stones..
Ganga in the predawn darkness..
It was the sound of flowing water that woke me up... The quilt and the blankets felt soft and warm... Images of last night flashed across my sleepy mind..
The biting, bone chilling cold… Walking in faint light to our tents. Whisky was a must to heat up our bodies.. Even Taj was given half a peg.. Hot dinner.. Crawling under the blankets..
Peeps lay fast asleep..
Ooooh..! I was at Harsil..!
I felt so excited..!!
Then I heard a scampering noise. A head peeped into our tent..
I smiled to myself..
Gautam and I always got up early during holidays.. We were too excited to sleep..
Peeps and Taj always slept and slept..
I jumped out of the bed, snatched my camera and pulled on my shoes..
I wanted to explore..!
I zipped the door open and got out..
Oooh..! It looked ethereal..!
About ten tents stood facing each other in an apple orchard.. A faint mist hung all around..
Gosh..!! We were surrounded on all sides by huge mountains.. Most of them snow capped..!
The fresh cold air whooshed into my breath and filled my heart with exhilaration..!
Gautam's eyes glowed in the faint light.. Mist blew out from his breath as he spoke..
I followed him.. He was taking me to the back of the tent..
My heart stopped.. The visual splendor that lay out before me was spell binding..
She looked so pure and divine..
So Crystal clear that you could see millions of white rounded polished stones on the river bed.. She was milky white in areas as she flirted with the wind and silver grey as she danced along the bigger stones... . Her skirts seemed to be silver tipped as she rose in spray and foam here and there....
Pure soft silvery white beach stretched out on both sides.. Studded with the same amazing white stones..
Deep dark pine wooded mountains surrounded on both sides. Their peaks frosted with pure white virginal snow..
There was a pregnant silence all around..
My heart danced… I wanted to float ….. And gather all the loveliness around me..
I wanted to surrender myself to the glory… the splendor..
I walked as if in a trance. Wow..! There was a bridge.. ! I crossed to the other side.
Dark deep woods.. Huge pine trees.. Deodars.. Silver firs.. I walked on. There was only the sound of birds chirping.. And the musical sound of Ganga flowing..
I sat on a fallen bark.. And sipped in the silence the enchanting, bewitching, ravishing Mother Nature showered on me..
Ganga was beckoning me.. I started to walk along the beach.. Her dry river bed… Studded with millions of stones, she had polished out from the mountains..
I removed my shoes..
“Acupuncture walk..!” I told myself..
The camp was soon far off.
I was alone.. Not a soul to be seen.. Only the river, the mountains, the birds and the deep pregnant silence..
It was then I noticed the driftwoods. Lovely pieces.. Huge ones.. With hundreds of stories to tell if you cared to listen to them..
Some of them smelt so mysterious and sensuous..
I saw a temple ahead on the bank.. Over a piece of land jutting into the river..
There were steps leading up to it..
I walked up.. A local woman and her daughter were offering pooja..
On the east side of the temple,another set of steps lead down to the river.. An arch was seen over the topmost step from which hung a huge bell. The arch looked as if it was the frame of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in my life..
Dawn was breaking out on the eastern sky.. The view was spectacular.. Ganga was broad, deep, dark powerful, wild and majestic.. With mammoth mountains as backdrop.The mist gave mystic air to the whole scene..
I seemed to be floating..!!
Few log cabins set in an apple orchard formed a village near the temple.. Probably the families who looked after the temple ..The poverty was stricking..
I noticed something there..The local people seemed to be very spiritual.. Maybe the struggle against the harsh terrain, the climate and the stricking poverty made them seek spirituality as a comfort..
Few young women came out smiling.. Light skin, grey eyes, nubile bodies.. I wondered if Raj Kapoor had chosen Mandakini from this area.. They all seemed to resemble the pure heroine in his film..
I grinned at them..
“Main from kerala..”
My Hindi is horrible..
“Keral..?”.. They looked at me with wide eyes.. As if I was an alien
“Thumara jagah bahuth acha..” I smiled at them..
They giggled ..
I clicked their photos, they clicked mine.. With the mountains, the temple and the Ganga as the backdrop..
"Kal ayega main." I grinned at them as I waved goodbye.
I walked back slowly. Embracing, savoring and saving each tree, each stone, each driftwood and each drop of water in my heart. I filled the pocket of my sweater with the beautiful polished stones…to be used as paperweights. I would have collected some driftwood also, but I knew that I would be ragged terribly if I turned up at the camp carrying stones and twigs. besides i would need a lorry to take the huge ones home..
The camp was stirring awake... The generator was running
Peeps was sitting and sipping his tea. . I zipped open the door to the toilet. Thank god….! There was hot water!!
Gautam looked fresh after his bath. Taj was still sleeping….
It was time to get ready, have breakfast and visit Gangotri…
(To be contd…)
ps. plz click on the pixs for better view..
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Dehra Dun was a disappointment…… Just an old, dusty town……
I don’t know why, I had imagined it to be a lush green hill station with crisp mountain air, quaint cottages, misty meadows and picturesque schools.
Maybe it was because I had heard about the glamorous Doon School…. Or maybe, it was my cousins who used to come from Dehra Dun during those summer holidays long back…. They would come..... with their glowing pink skin, lustrous hair and a confident air about them making me feel a scrawny, ugly duckling than ever.....
‘Doon’ means valley mama’ Gautam pointed out when I murmured my disappointment.
Gangotri can be accessed only by road. Our plan was to camp at Harsil and to visit Gangotri on the next day. We could stop at Mussourie on the way.
We started our journey at 9:20 am.
“The view on the way would be worthy of the tedious journey”. I hoped.
Mussourie was another disappointment. A shabby town with old buildings and a few hotels. We didn’t feel like getting down there.
Our Qualis moved ahead slowly. The road was winding along huge mountains. The mountains looked sort of dried up. People were few in number and the poverty evident. There were waterfalls and ropeways in between but it all looked sort of dusty and dry.
They towns on the way were also unimpressive, shabby and dirty. There were no good places to eat. The roads were narrow and bad.
We had tea at Uttarkashi, another unimpressive town.
“The road ahead is bad.” The driver told us.
It was 5 pm.
“The route from UIttarkashi follows the Bhagirathi river with sharp twists and turns. Sometimes the road ascends high above the valley, while at other times, it drops right down to the river. The entire Bhagirathi valley is amazingly green and at Harsil, the river suddenly opens out into this wide picture perfect valley, cutting a broad path with sandy beaches on both sides, surrounded by apple orchards, pine forests and beautiful snow mountains. It is this beauty which made Raj Kapoor choose Harsil as the setting for his film, Ram theri Ganga Maili”. I remembered reading it..
I looked forward to the glorious view.
But our perception was different. It was getting dark. The Qualis trudged ahead slower than a snail. There was a light drizzle. It was getting chilly. There were not many lights to be seen. Just the narrow, rugged, winding road……
From the way we were climbing up, we knew that the valley on one side was pretty deep. The roads were water logged at the base of the valleys. We had to climb all the way up and then down towards, the bridge, to cross the river as we passed from one mountain to the next.
It was almost nine pm. We were tired and hungry. There was not a single restaurant to be seen.
Finally, the milestone showed that Harsil was only a few kilometers ahead, but there were no lights to be seen ahead. Each kilometer felt exactly 1000 metres.
Finally, we saw four or five lights ahead. Few men covered in shawls were coming out of a shop. We asked for directions. To the camp. They showed a path winding deep down into the valley. Into the eerie darkness..
There was just one light. The gate was closed. The sound of a generator could be heard. There was an arch above the gate which said, “CHARDHAM CAMP”. A bell hung down from the arch.
Peeps got out into the biting cold and rang the bell, while we sat in the warmth of the jeep, cocooned in sweaters, shawls and woollen gloves.
(To be contd…)
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I was in my Op yesterday when the cell rang.
It was Taj on the other side.. he sounded strange..
“Hey what’s the matter..?”
I am used to my sons calling me while i am on duty .. for demands for something nice to eat to be bought on the way home, to bitch about the other.. To complain about some vague health problem.. and it’s the third one that makes me immediately jittery..
“Mama..” he started to sob..
“OMG..!! what’s the problem.. ?”
I forgot that a patient was sitting in front of me.. I forgot about my ‘calm doc act’
“Mama I was zipping my shorts.. my ding-dong is trapped in the zipper..”
His sobs came out louder..
My baby in pain.. and I am so far off..
That’s a situation when I lose control.. I lose all my professional coolness..
The jelly soft mother in me surfaces.. almost to the point of hysteria..
I blabbered something to the patient .. called my colleague.. sent the patient to her and was out of the hospital in two seconds..
The car wouldn’t run fast enough for me.. I cursed at the traffic jam..
My baby was in pain and I had to sooth it away..
Ooooff..! I had reached home..I honked at my gate repeatedly..
He was rolling on the bed crying and howling.. wouldn’t permit me to look or touch....
Finally I coaxed him.. tried to unzip it.. no it was jammed and edema was building up slowly..
Ohhhh..! he was yelling.. tears streamed down his cheeks..
"Ok we will go to the hospital." I soothed..
“Go away…!” He howled at Goutam who was standing and watching the scene , grinning spitefully..
“Go away..!!” I yelled at Gautam..
The maid came running..
“What happened..?” she looked confused.. she had seen him sitting and watching the TV only a short time back..
“Go away..!!” my baby screamed in pain and shame..
“Go away..!!” I yelled at her… Hiding my 13yr old’s private parts..
“ The surgeon will give local injection and remove it..” I hugged him tight.. kissing his tear soaked chubby cheeks..
“I want anesthesia..!!” He screamed.. “Not injection..!!” ..
“Ok.. ok..” I fussed.. stroking his hair..
But he couldn’t walk.. the pain was too much.. he had himself cutoff the shorts away with scissors.. only the zip was attached to the body..
I rang peeps..
We took him. Wrapped in a dhothi..
The pain subsided as soon as the local anesthetic was given..
The pediatric surgeon tried his best under local anesthesia.. but the zip was jammed.. Edema was building up..
Finally emergency circumcision had to be done under general anesthesia..
He is ok now.. Shy about the incident but loving all the pampering he is getting now..
A small act of carelessness.. but the pain and shame he suffered was terrible..
I felt so incompetent and frustrated .. Unable to do anything.. Even taking him to the hospital, I couldn’t manage myself..
The soft ,emotional side of me that I hate.. The mother in me that i love ..
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
“Being a woman is hard work. Not without joy and even ecstasy, but still relentless, unending handwork. To become and remain a woman commands the existence and employment of genius.
The woman who survives and be happy must be at once tender and tough.
She must convince herself or be in the process of convincing herself, that she, her values, and her choices are important. In a time and world where males hold sway and control, the pressure upon woman to yield to their rights - of - way is tremendous. And it is under those very circumstances that the woman’s toughness must be in evidence.
She will need to prize her tenderness and be able to display it at appropriate times in order to prevent toughness from gaining total authority and to avoid becoming a mirror image of those men who value power over life, and control over love.
Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible and live long lives.
The struggle for equality continues unabated, and the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory.”
Forty two years of being “In all ways a woman..”
Thank you God for all the blessings…
Happy birthday to me…!!
My birthday wish – I wish that the days ahead filled with
Order.. quietness.. simplicity… elegance…dignity.. calmness…, sharing… good cheer… refinement…prayer.. forgiveness.. beautiful sunsets.. starry nights… bible.. night breeze.. nature walks,. lots of sleep.. pure water to drink lavishly… music… flowers.. books lots of them....sprouts.. Soyabeans..fruit…, nuts( supposed to be good for me)… … oil baths…greenery.. laughter..
And my sweethearts besides me to share all these things with…