Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ramblings of an Idle Mind:

While in Chopta, we saw a bus from FRI – Dehradun (Forest Research Institute) stop there in the evening. Boisterous students got out for a cuppa. Long time ago, when I was trying to figure out a meaningful career for myself, I had thought wistfully of joining this very institute (of course I couldn’t since I had given up science in Plus 2). Watching the students talk and shout, I thought about all the wrong decisions I had taken in life.

Of leaving Science because I was forced to take math; of not trying enough to get into geography; of not being persistent about a career in archeology; of quitting my job without anything in hand, of not being friends with a person…..the list is endless. After all this, when I look back at the path that has finally brought me here, one thing stands out so clearly. It’s not destiny that can be blamed but my very own choices!

Now, my idle mind is working overtime. But I just can’t help thinking what would life be like had I taken any one of those decisions correctly. Would I have had a satisfying career, would I have been as restless, would I have found ‘the’ man, would I have been happier or would I have been worse off, would I have met all my fantastic friends, would I have traveled the world by now? What?

So it’s not Destiny that brought me here but my many faulty choices and hopefully a few right ones. Life is a jigsaw puzzle of choices then with many permutation and combinations which we are messing up everytime instead of simplifying and making sense of it. In the end, unlike what I have believed so far, the pieces of life’s puzzle might never fall into place.


Now taking this whole thought forward… me others’ lives are also dependent on their choices (like a massive game of chess). Looking at most people’s lives around, I can say that 50% of their choices have been wrong. So if we look at a larger picture, the current status of earth and life here is basically a cumulative result of the wrong or right choices of so many people – dead or alive. If some people long ago had chosen not to use the wheel, probably the earth would not be dying right now.

But then the Mayan calendar ends at 2012 – a prediction of the end of the world or the beginning of the end of the world. And now The Report on global warming warns that we have only 8 years (year 2015) to current our mistakes (wrong choices). 2012 or 2015 – give or take 3 years. The Mayans as usual have been right!

If you we go by the Mayan prediction, then 2012 is Destined. So does it means it’s not our choices which led to this but destiny OR are we destined to make wrong choices at the right time?


The report on global warming is just an attestation of what we all knew (but chose to ignore)….the signs of destruction are everywhere….right at our doorstep.

- the extreme climate of Delhi (blast furnace like summer and freezing winter) has now changed to a rather temperate climate
- Bombay’s once temperate climate is now soaring
- Rain in the cold desert of Ladakh
- Snowfall in Dubai
- Grass in Antarctica
- Near freezing temperature in California
- Forest fire in Germany in the ‘spring’ month of April
- Massive floods in Europe
- Where 7 years ago I was enthralled by the beauty of the Gangotri glaciers, now pictures of the same place shows barren hills with people wearing sleeveless shirts
- Germany is trying to save its ‘last’ glacier from melting
- And many more

I envy my father’s and grandfather’s generation – they lived a simple life and experienced nature at its best. I am happy about my generation – at least we have still managed to lead a simple life and we have still managed to see the pristine, untouched beauty of nature. We however will suffer the maximum pain because only we know what we are losing. I pity the teens of now – they will never know what real beauty and life is. I am terrified for those who are being born now – they will face the full brunt of the destruction.

Despite the bold writings on the wall, we continue to choose the wrong things in life. We still choose to run after money, to buy that ‘home theatre’ than seeing the real life all across the world, we still choose to tell lies and not change, to ignore the old people on the street, not to love, to take our parents and friends for granted, to keep our eyes shut, mind closed and hearts dead…..

…….even when we know that we do not have too much time and all these in the end will be absolutely fruitless?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Chopta Chapter:

N & I decided to rough it out…local buses and jeeps and at our own pace and time coz we both badly needed a break (me – a break from a break!). The idea was to go as far north and as close to the snow peaks as possible in those 4-5 days. So we hopped, skipped and jumped all the way to a tiny peaceful hamlet called Chopta.

Beyond Haridwar, the entire Garwal region is called the Dev Bhoomi and rightly so. Each town we crossed or stayed was steeped in mythology and set in fantastic valleys and on edge of gorges; one can only bow down to the might and beauty of nature there.

Reaching Haridwar in the middle of a sun-baked day, we plodded onwards to Rudraprayag in a bus that was hot, sweaty, cramped and dusty to say the least. Instead of a promised 5 hours by the driver, it took an un-ending 6 hours to reach the small town. Heavy rained poured and gushed down the narrow road when we reached Rudraprayag in the evening. We reached our guesthouse just in time to see the evening aarti being performed at the Prayag of a muddy Mandakini and a green Alaknanda river. A complete ‘ciggie moment’ as per N.

Saying a quick prayer down at the Prayag in the morning, we headed north. The sense of community and solidarity of these hill people never ceases to amaze me everytime I travel this area. The helper in the bus knew and waved out to so many people on the way. And the bus waited as the passengers went about doing their own personal business along the way….a guy had to pick up petrol from a station, a woman collected a packet from another village while a man had to give a packet to somebody somewhere.

The short ride took us to an unassuming yet enchanting little town of Ukimath. The GMVN at Ukimath overlooks a valley and opens to a fantastic view of the majestic peaks of Sumeru and Madhmaheshwar. We sat at the balcony of the guesthouse hogging Maggi (Its amazing how Maggi tastes so wonderful in the hills) and sipping hot tea while the rain lashed outside.

We got up the next morning just as the first rays of the sun lighted the tip of Sumeru and in an hour’s time we were off to our final destination. The narrow empty road was exceedingly beautiful with deep gorges – so deep that the river below looked like a ribbon, dense and fabulously green deodar forest and snow-peaks just over the shoulder. The dangerously overloaded bus dropped us at a juncture with a few dhabas and told us that it was Chopta.

Chopta, we realized was not a hamlet (you will not find a single woman there!) but just a ‘breakfast and lunch’ point for pilgrims taking the trails up to Tungnath - a temple set in a spectacular valley (which we did not visit….am still upset about it!) On the other side a beautiful meadow opened up to the massive and beautiful Choukhamba range. We hence went down to the meadow - a mini and very rustic Swiss setting….and amazingly with no soul around. Pure silence broken only by the tinkling bells of the grazing cows. I sat looking at the clouds fleeting in and out of the entire snow range - one can pitch all the emotions at those silent, sturdy and cold peaks and know that one can always find salvation there in the Himalayas.

I love the travel, stay, pack and travel again routine - constant change and complete freedom. I was just warming up to it and my itchy feet were dying to travel way up north and away but N had to come back. So another hop, skip and jump routine brought us to Devprayag the next day, where Bhagirathi meets Alaknanda to form the Ganga. After collecting water from the prayag and warding off a pesky pandit, we retraced our steps further south to murky Haridwar and the unwanted reality.

A journey both short and long – a journey which began with an end


Some Signs on the Roads

Ab itni bhi kya jaldi hain.

After Whisky, Driving is risky

Drive Slower and Live Longer

Go slow on Curves