A memory called Kosi Valley Retreat at Simkholi!

26 06 2015

DSCN2893The summers of the North are murderous! You get roasted to the core, while you try to survive despite all the odds…every year, every summer; the cycle never changes! Let me tell you, living here in Delhi may have many other benefits, but the rather warm summers and extremely cold winters are not one of them!

So while the summer rages on, people like us look for rescue missions that can take us away for a moment of respite. Some head south, some head even north’er! The average Delhite has a few choices on 20150624_093240his finger tips – the hill ‘stations’ of Nainital, Mussourie, Shimla or Manali. They turn those beautiful little sleepy towns, into one hell of a mela – they carelessly abuse the beauty around them, and gorge day long – either on food or on shopping! Of course, it helps the locals to make a quick buck!

However, there are some folks like us, who cant stand living in another reflection of my so called city – Delhi. Its just about enough trying to survive with 20 20150624_072555million inhabitants who cant care less if you breathe or you die! Folks like us look for off beat locations that could just about revive the spirits of our lives for just a moment of life!

Fortunately google can still be helpful with a twist. All you need to do is put in the right words and presto – you have some quaint answers that the average city folk doesn’t bother to look for! My search brought me to a strange place, in a strange location – Kosi Valley 20150623_174339Retreat in a place called Simkholi. Never heard of the place before all my life! But hey, whats life without new words! Looking further, I decided to take the plunge – give it a shot to spend a few days in this unknown hinterland. The bookings flew like the breeze – in less than 24 hours Soumya confirmed our booking and told us we were all set to go! What she failed to do was, to tell us what to expect! A retreat ? A Hotel? A nightmare?

For those who love to drive – a bit of a tip! Driving out of Ranikhet you have a few options – option 1, drive via the lovely golf course of Ranikhet, via Kosi and finally onto the location. Option 2 – drive out of Ranikhet and take the left fork that immediately moves downhill. A most beautiful and invigorating drive! Option 3 – drive until Majhkali and drive straight into a narrow road going down hill (avoiding a right turn which is the main road to Kosi). Guess which road we took?? the 3rd naturally! A bloody nightmare 20150623_115737which took us through extremely narrow and broken road which we found out after 1 hour – it was under construction! Not another single vehicle in sight! As a driver I was furious – why was I driving on this road, and worse, why was I not warned about it. I had a bone to pick with the Manager of Kosi Valley Retreat the moment I reached!

On the plus side, the drive was serene – the mountains, the forests, the nightmare..all put together was a crazy experience! We drove for over 2 hours covering about 60 kms to finally reach our destination. I was pissed. period.

Driving into our ‘no options hotel’ we arrived and were greeted by a young man probably in his early 30s. Shivraj offered us some drinks of revival that kept me quiet! His demeanor made me quickly forget my practiced lines that I was going to give him – for not directing us through that harrowing experience!

20150623_120117KVR – Kosi Valley Retreat as I will call it, was hard to decipher at first. I stayed with Shivraj while my family surveyed the property. I was afraid my rather stern and strict wife was going to throw a fit quite soon. Ironically I heard her shout out from somewhere – hey Jim..the room is great! Phew, what a sigh of relief i took! The last thing i needed from a drive like that, was to be reprimanded for my choice and decision! I had passed the first test!

Hungry as hell we chose a lunch that Shivraj recommended – and we ate like pigs!

As I regained my composure, I spent some time talking with Shivraj, what can we do in the middle of nowhere? Is this a retreat or what? He laughed – relax sir, you’ll love the next few days here I assure you! I looked at him with desperate eyes, and a look of mistrust. What could he offer me here in the middle of nowhere? Now let me remind you, I’m a bloody city bloke 20150623_081830now; though I’ve spend a few years growing up in the Uttrakhand hills studying at Sherwood College so living in nature was as old as my age. What would he
offer to make our stay interesting?

Tired, we took a nap – I was exhausted and needed to re-energize. The kids chose to watch a movie. Lazying in our rooms was fine that afternoon. Refreshed we met Shivraj in the evening and asked him for the next course of action.

20150623_080032Now for those who haven’t seen this retreat, its a quaint property nestled in the midst of a valley between the mountains and the river and vast lands of paddy fields. A stone walled 2 floor building with 4 bedrooms on the first floor, and a dining and reception on the ground. The rest of the property has a lovely garden area, about 8 tents, a toilet block for those adventurous to stay in the tents, and a small man made pond right in the centre. On the right is the 20150623_080010highway leading up to Kausani 18 kilometres away, and just on its right is the river Kosi – roaring and flowing ! Take a walk on the highway and about 100 metres away you find a small local store selling basic groceries, and doubling up as a mini kitchen serving some food and some lovely masala tea for Rs. 15 a cup! Now look left of the property, and you see small hills, a few hundred metres high – but the perfect spot to be in – between the hills and the valley, and the 20150623_072429river! Picturesque you ask – use your imagination – and its ten times more beautiful! God truly created the world with all its beauty, and this is proof of it!

But I’m divulging from the topic – Shivraj offered the kids (and us two), the opportunity to experience catching fish! Now I’ve done some angling, but the rest of us had only seen fish in the market being sold, dead as doornail! Here was something that no one had ever experienced! Shivraj brought out a few local made fishing rods, some ‘atta’ as bait, and got to work. Each kid was handed a rod, while Shivraj showed how its done. In a jiffy Shivraj pulled out his first fish – whoa! The kids couldn’t believe it! They were hooked ‘line and sinker’ to this new sport! The next two hours, until sun down, was spent fishing for the elusive fish that never turned up. We had hoped for a pompret fish to turn up so the fish eaters could have a feast. Luck was not on our side. But the effort was not wasted. The kids were determined!

20150623_071144Shivraj quietly discussed with me the dinner options and we decided chicken was the way to go. I also asked him to find some beer; sadly my brand of a lager wasn’t available. Vinod took over from Shivraj helping the kids fish, while Shivraj and I discussed what we could do the next day. A trek in the area – 2 kilometers through rough terrain was the first suggestion that Shivraj had for me. A trek? Could we do that? and would it be a walk that we would enjoy? The next option was to go to the river Kosi and try our hand at some real fishing! hmm…Shivraj was throwing the bait, and I was biting!

My younger kid had brought her guitar so we gather around while she sang and few snappy numbers while she played her guitar. The evening was fun!

Dinner being done and well eaten by us hungry folks, it was time to hit the sack.

20150623_0707045:30 am next morning Shivraj got us tea to wake us up. This was perfect! In an hour our troop was ready, in some way, standing at the reception. Shivraj, was ready. The trek was ahead of us. The next 2 hours was nothing short of exhilarating. The lonesome trek through the wild forest, the gurgling streams, the rock faced walls that Shivraj made us climb was nothing short of a nerve racking experience for all of us novices. Fortunately my experience as a child in the hills helped immensely and Shivraj refused to help me across rough terrain! After an hour of a crazy trek and 1 kilometre of walking, Shivraj offered us tea from his backpack! Wow….! After a short break on a small green patch and a few of us being attacked by leeches, we moved on..crossed another small brook, to finally begin our ascend of the last hill! Reaching the top was like achieving a dream – we could look down and see the beautiful valley, and our retreat way down below.

20150623_0705078.30 am – we are back. hungry as hell again! We have a super hearty meal, my nephew quickly gobbles up 4 boiled eggs! Yep..we had done something all of us have never done before in our lives! Experienced the beauty, the challenge and the adventure of nature.

11 am – lazying after breakfast followed by showers, we’re ready for the next expectation – fishing in the river Kosi! The kids were excited and so were we. Vinod was deputed to take care of us. So we headed off and reached the river. Vinod found us the perfect spot and we settled down 4 fishing rods, and 5 of us. The fish nibbled and took our baits for the next 2 hours, but didn’t hook up with us! Sad, we returned dejected from not catching a fish; but excited – we had experienced real fishing in a real river! Shivraj joined us there, and helped us through the river crossing. Another first experience! yeup.. you guessed it right – 1 pm and we were hungry and tired!

20150622_201908Lunch and a nice nap was all we needed before Shivraj suggested – another round of fishing in the pond? why not! We were game..and we were addicted to this newly discovered sport! All gunho, we gathered and waited patiently for fish to bite! My nephew drew in 3 fishes in 2 hours! He was totally exhilarated having achieved this!

Dinner was vegetarian. Did I mentioned – it was Tuesday, no meat products available in the neighbourhood, and Shivraj brings in fresh food everyday! No worries – We would manage just fine. No 20150622_134121problem! It has begun to rain, so we sat indoors this evening ; Shivraj had managed to find my lager, my younger daughter had managed to learn a new number on the guitar! Perfect evening with the sound of rain, the sound of the acoustic guitar and the sound of some lovely voices singing! What more could one ask for! The evening done, we hit the sack for the last time at KVR.

Next morning it was time to leave and after a hearty breakfast, we bid farewell to this obscenely beautiful and invigorating place. This time Shivraj directed us on the right path – through Someshwar onto Ranikhet. We drove through beautiful valley lands, surrounded by paddy field in the mountain valleys!

My last thoughts before I close.

1. I wont want city folks to come here and destroy this beautiful retreat if they dont know how to respect it! KVR keep it this way and keep it pristine!
2. The team of Shivraj, Vinod and Pankaj (did i not mention that he is the cook?) is just perfect. The food was home cooked and oh so delicious! Pankaj even belted out some local cuisine which we just loved! He is a great cook!
3. KVR – I’ll be back. Even though it takes me almost 12 hours of driving its worth the drive! I’m going to be back to unwind, enjoy the company of Shivraj, Vinod and enjoy the tasty meals of Pankaj; and our kids are going to love trekking and fishing again!

The valleys, the mountains, the rivers, the land,
bless us in more ways that one!
Experience the beauty of nature; feel it with your hands,
This retreat will surely make you feel some.
Take this journey if your heart desires,
but promise to leave home your fancy attires!
Cross your path with nature, and you will forget
the pains of daily living, and all its tests.

Kudos KVR – you literally rock in the midst of this beautiful valley!

Will my country bring new hope?

23 06 2013

Its almost the end of June, the weather is sultry; the rains are playing hide and seek, but the sun is fierce and burning with a vengeance. We live on the roof top apartment, and that doesn’t make life much easier, as we bear the brunt of the heat. To makes things worse, the Electricity company seems shy to constantly provide adequate power – last night we fought mosquitoes and the heat, until 4:30 am, when the company decided, they would do the honor of bringing light back into our lives. Summer woes never end!

However, this morning I come with a different thought that may extend from a sleepless night. What is my charter of needs in my country? what do I, as a citizen expect?

The woes of traveling to other countries is a very painful experience; especially when you have to come back to your hometown where you suffer from heat strokes, power outages, water woes, traffic snarls, pot holed roads, irritated people, and a non responsive government! Maybe I would be better off being a rural boy having never crossed the seven seas, to experience what other countries and their governments have been quick and determined to provide..good services to their people!

India completes more than 60 years of freedom. The cry began for basic necessities; food, water and power…60+ years later, the cry continues to remain the same…though population seems to be the only thing that has grown manifold! Our government feeds us bits and pieces of everything, but ensures we don’t get everything in one go. It seems to reflect that we are at the mercy of a government that works to feed stray dogs, and in turn, they should be grateful for what little they get. We are such stray dogs in our own country.

Will this situation ever change?

This morning as I read the papers, I was astonished that the Gujarat CM has offered to help restore the holy temple of Kedarnath. Impressive. So now our government is going to use the tax payers money to fulfill their vote banks, by appeasing religious sentiments. It is a laugh. I am all for development, and indeed our historical places and religious centres demand lots of love and care, but should our politicians play with our religious emotions? and are we not suckers to fall for such rhetoric?

I go back to the time of the early 1990s. A certain gentleman decided to take our a big journey through our country – appeasing the religious sentiments of fulfilling their need for a temple. Millions would probably have been spent for such an extravaganza..and don’t worry, he got what he wanted..almost a 100 seats in Parliament.

We are a strange nation – we crib and live without water, power, basic facilities, but take religion, and we react vehemently. of course, such fires are stoked well by politicians who ensure that people who live without basic needs, are fueled to fight religious wars.

This week i was evaluating the Delhi government’s developments –

Increase in tax for Air conditioners!!! Did you know that even today, according to the government, owning an A/c makes you a rich man living in luxury? So what if you’re a middle income person trying hard to find some quality of life..the government will suck your blood even more. I wonder what would ever happen to our politicians if they had to survive on their own income without power, air conditioning…would that still be a luxury for them? for now, we fools are paying for their power, their lifestyles, their super cooled homes!

Increase in property tax! Wow, that is impressive..last year I paid about 52,000 for my property..quietly that was increased and this week i paid close to 1 lakh!! And what happens with the tax? The MCD has a huge gigantic building where they live and prosper with our money, but there is no significant change in our quality of life. We’re still beggars, not choosers.

Sigh..elections are back in 2014..but will anything change? will someone bring real hope for us and our country? will the government stop screwing the middle class who is fighting tooth and nail to survive in a highly inflating economy? Will the government improve our services or will the middle class be totally ignored for want of votes from the people who are paid to vote!

God bless my country!

All about friends and people!

18 01 2013

Its been eons since my last write up and i wonder why i’m doing it again; considering the last time i wrote was for some inconspicious reason. In the last few months i’ve lost my desire to write, and i imagine, the quality has dropped drastically too. This was bound to happen – stop using a pen and move to a keypad, and you’ll lose the experience of holding one in your hand! Which i suppose should mean, a lack of pen would be a lack of writer’s skills🙂 Suffice it to say, this is all nonsense but atleast i can use it as an excuse for now.

I’ve decided to touch on a funny topic – friends and people. Funny indeed because its more ironic, as probably the whole world talks, writes and rotates life around it. Nonetheless, i’m only trying to re-invent the wheel; to understand what it means to me and to people whom i know.

When i finished school, peers and friends meant recognition! it was great – some people finally wanted to be with you and join in your horrendous jokes that were in all probability made, to impress them anyway. Some friends moved on; the jokes were too thin and bleak. Others with less mental abilities stayed on – it proved, birds of the same feather flocked together. But with time they moved out too. Eventually we had to start surviving in the world – friends had little for each other. We might have spoken occasionally over the phone but finding the time to meet was rare. We were engrossed in finding our feet, getting a job and making our first steps into the financial arena, and sadly one where we become slaves to it all.

Its been 20 years since then, and friends have changed again. Those very friends who i lost touch with, are now coming back into my life! Wow, look at that chap..wasnt he the real bum we detested and made fun of? Look at him now – Vice President of a large corporation! Suddenly our different level of geeks, superboys and romeos have all changed! Family, kids, and probably a wife or a husband too! Decent looking folks with respectable jobs. Who could have imagined that 20 years ago?

However, with time we’ve also evolved with new people we’ve met on the path. I’ve crossed quite a few, some stayed on to become buddies; others stayed to create very emotional moments and then disappeared with the breeze that brought them along; leaving beautiful memories for my scrapbook of life.

Every person added to the impression of friends and people. I’ve learnt new things about friendship in different ways.

Through thick and thin, pain and sorrow, I still meet new people; still love making friends. I often ask myself what am i still looking for? I’ve got tons of friends, people I know; acquaintances. What is my search about? Is it about love and the romance that seem to be elusive and existing just in my thoughts or the beautiful poetry of lovers? Is it about a friend who could be as special as a soul mate? It is about just someone with whom I can let my hair down, party and have a great time with?

I have no ‘needs’ to say. Technically everything i wanted has been fulfilled. Life through all its strange moments has given me the various flavors of life. I admit there is still so much more I’ve not known but I dont know if I am in a position to fulfil that need.

People and friends, I’m grateful that you came into my life. You bring something special and unique; your individuality which no one can imitate, continues to enrich my soul. You are a part of the beautiful flavors of life that make life worth living. My Quest in life is not yet over, but you make it all worthwhile. Will you be a trusting friend whom I can share these moments with, or will you be a part of people who might choose to use my friendship as a weapon against me – adding yet another flavor of life?

Writers around us!

1 08 2011

P.G. Wodehouse has a beautiful way of writing that reaches into your mind, stirs it up with some salt and pepper, and tickles your funny bone. The addiction of reading, of being amused and above all, of being transported in your mind to the imaginary world of his stories, is awesome!

I have always tried to figure out how he does it; in plain simple English that too! There is just a style that flows, that edges your mind to enter that world of imagination. Sadly when i read many other writers, i’m perplexed by the complexity of words they weave – to impress people of their writing skills no doubt!
However, what really amuses me was the many blogs I’ve read primarily on rediffblogs. I shudder at times when I remember some of them. They were species perfect for a scientific journal or for dissecting on a bio lab table, but definitely not for entertaining or catching a readers’ attention. But again, knowing our education system and the desire to impress upon the reader, our writers weave a web that seems to get so entangled, i half wonder if they can finally decipher what they wanted to say in the first place:)  Suffice it to say, they should be awarded the Nobel Prize for evolving a new dimension of language complication! Nonetheless, it proves a point – and as i remember the movie 3 idiots – our ultimate desire is to be surrounded by complexities and challenges, instead of simpler ways of finding solutions! If things can be fixed easily – its not worth the challenge isnt it :))
I read “A night at the call Centre” by a very well known writer. I was disappointed. In fact his introduction caught more of my attention then the rest of the story.
On the other hand, I had the privilege to read a book called “Sepia Leaves” By Mr. Amandeep Sandhu. What quality and what finesse. What a flow of words! That book touched my heart and i not only could sense each part of what the author said, but at the same time, read in awe, the quality of his language and expression.  I look forward to more books by Mr. Sandhu, and i hope he will weave something different this time. Aman soon became a very good friend of mine and we live across the street – while i can never reach his quality of writing, i can definitely reach his place for sharing a beer and a laugh!
We might never find a P.G. yet again! However, thats my personal view and choice. Jeeves & Wooster – a pair that uplifts my soul at the most difficult hour! But we can definitely look forward to great reading from some fantastic writers. And if any of you reading this want to play with your pen (or in today’s world) the keyboard, please warn me in advance if you’re going to become a latin dictionary!
Have a great week ahead!

A Journey in time

31 07 2011

There are moments in life which will not repeat itself; unique experiences that will never come back!

Its been a long day, and I’ve been busy, doing my usual chores that require me to run hither and dither, in some form, trying to fulfill some need, but eventually just going round in circles! But at the end of the day, something remains on my mind and i’m wondering why is it pondering so much, or keeping my mind preoccupied?

Let me go back in time and see how it goes!

Twas was a humid day, and i sat dazing out of my window aimlessly. That normally happens when i run out of thoughts, or out of beer! However, this was not one of those days …i was gazing at the drizzling rain that fell incessantly on my window sill. I loved the rain; i dont know what i loved more, getting wet in the rain, or jumping in the puddles after it had stopped. Blame it on my male hormones i guess! As i gazed deeply, almost wishing i was’nt sitting in my office chair behind a stretched out desk that never seemed to end, my thoughts were interrupted by the presence of a beautiful little bird. It came out of nowhere, and seemed to want some umbrage, as it sat shivering. My eyes wandered and stopped to gaze at this new interference in my view finder. It was a small bird, not larger than the size of my wrist. It shivered, it was wet. I looked on. It probably would sit quietly, and i could go back to my distant gaze once more.

I was distracted. My vision was obscured by this little thing that just stared at me. I had lost my ‘concentration’! I watched as it shivered; it was wet and cold. I slowly reached out my hand and touched it, and it didnt move, almost as though it was wanting me to reach her. I gently took her in my palm and brought her on my table. I took out my handkerchief and gently tried to wipe her dry. It was effective, as i saw her brighten up and begin chirping. She had a beautiful voice and it seemed to speak out to me. She came over and sat on my shoulder and i was astonished! It didnt stop chirping away, as though she had a million things to say a the same time. I listened patiently. Her voice began to make sense to me and I began to understand her ‘words’.

My new friend had me enthralled while the rain quietly disappeared. After a while, my friend decided to leave and out she flew, out of the window and was gone! I was suddenly sad to see her go, and wondered if i would see her again. My day went back to its usual monotonous tone, but it was no longer the same.

The next day, as i sat to work I wondered if i would see my friend again. Almost magically as though she read my thoughts, she appeared and flew right over onto my shoulder! I was amazed and ecstatic to see her again. She was looking happy today; she wore a beautiful smile and her voice flowed magically into my ears. I loved every word she ‘spoke’ and we began our endless chatter. Soon she left but this time, i was no longer sad; i knew she would be back.

So began our journey together. Every morning she would come and visit me. I had begun to carry some seeds and crumbs of bread to feed her as she spoke gently and give me wonderful stories of the skies above, her friends and family and the life she lived. She was a free bird! Some days i talked, some days i listened. Each day was unique and beautiful and I looked forward to the next.

Days and weeks went by, and our friendship grew every moment through it all. A day would not go without her being with me, even if it was a short visit. We spoke of endless things that came to mind and we seemed to have come to know each other’s life in and out. She would laugh at my jokes and I would guffaw at hers! Weeks went by, and then months.

Winter came and it began to get cold. One morning as she sat with me, i saw her shivering again. This time she was not wet, but she was cold. I reached onto my shoulder and quickly grasped her and brought her into my palms, so to warm her. She seemed sad today. She chirped softly and slowly. I could see something was on her mind. That morning we spoke less, but just holding onto her, i got a strange feeling, an inkling of pain was overcoming me. Yet i knew not what it was. She stayed longer than usual, but spoke little. She hardly nibbled on what i got for her to eat. Her chatter was soft, and her message was not the same. She didnt speak of the blue skies or her friends, but of something different. She spoke of reality, her life in the sky, and her need to fly away for a while. And then she flew out of my palm, and sat on my shoulder, as though she was hesitant to go any further. I could hear her sigh, and with her good bye she flew away.

Something was wrong! The next morning as i sat waiting with her usual food, i saw time go by, but she did not come. I was upset. And yet I hoped it was something that had kept her busy and she would be there soon. The day went by, and i let it pass; the next day would bring sunshine and her, back into my life. I waited patiently, and a few birds came visiting, but she did not come. I felt a stab in my chest. Where was she? why would she not come?

Days went by, and i waited. Days turned into weeks, and i was losing hope. Where had she gone? What had happened to her? I missed her laughter and her incessant chatter. My eyes were moist from staring at the window sill. Would she ever come back?

I thought of her last words, of reality and her life; her own needs. I tried to understand what they meant, and then slowly it dawned on me. She had shared a great moment in life and I had the pleasure of being there on that journey. Our paths had crossed unknowingly and we had embarked on a unique friendship that could withstand time, but not reality. We had lived a great moment of our lives together, and wherever I would be, she would always be a part of my life, my memory and my existence.

Travelogue part 1

1 12 2010
The summer has an ironic twist; it makes you travel to the wierdest places, at the most horrendous hours! Such was my journey a few weeks ago, when I set out by train to spend a day in a true blue rural setting amidst farms, cattle and tractors.
A call on an highly confidential mission left me not more than a few days to plan it all. Punjab was the destination this time. Interim destination – Jalandhar. Temperature warnings showed it was already 40 deg plus, and i could be in for a hot seat. But business is business.
Fortunately the shatabdi express has a good first class coupe which serves you until you are filled to the brim, and
gently brings you into your destination at a ‘earthly’ hour of around 10 pm. A rikshaw seems to be a good bet as we haggle for 20 Rs to bring me to my hotel. A Delhi boy, i am rather spoilt for luxury, so i wonder what awaits me. As i am taken to my room i take a quick peek around – a rumbling air conditioner, a working television, and a bathroom to match. On a closer inspection, its actually not bad! Alright, its not the luxurious Taj or Oberoi, but what the heck! I need to rough it out once in a while! I contemplate a beer – its 11 pm, and i must work early. The boys are eager to supply me as much alcohol i can quite imagine. I probably turn off expectations when i give them a mororse look of rejection.
Early morning i awake; the air conditioner rumbled through the night but in a friendly manner. Almost like the rumbling of my own tummy when things get too hot. Naturally chai was in order! Realizing i hadnt carried my usual ‘mug’ for my morning tea, i quickly reminded room service ‘ek pot chai, cup se nahin chalega!’.
Suddenly the phone rang, “Sahib, gaddi aa gaye, i’m Deepak, your driver for the day!”. I retorted ‘Deepak, give me a break..its only 7:30 am. Come back by 9. i still havent gone through my morning rituals, and i’m famished for breakfast too!’
With my job done, and breakfast nicely tucked away, i joined Deepak in his small but comfortable indica. A young smiling soft spoken man, i was immediately taken in by his warmth. He spoke with respect and surprised me; ‘Dilli waalas’, by far, are rather crude and nasty. I felt i could trust the man without a worry. As we got in, i began giving him directions. Now that was not really directions, considering i’ve never been to Jalandhar! However, i knew i had to go closer to Hoshiarpur but not quite. I actually needed to get to a village somewhere in the middle.
I shook up my phone from its slumber to ring up my contact, and immediately handed the phone to Deepak. Do the job – get the directions. i wouldnt know it from Adam anyway. Deepak and the other gentleman immediately sorted out their dialect and began to speak at a speed i couldnt follow. I tried to catch phrases, words; but it seemed like the TGV rushing out of Paris on a busy monday morning. Deepak gave me my phone and asked me to write down some names. They would come in handy as we drove. I didnt question a word – he was the boss now.
Driving out of Jalandhar was pleasant, and as we drove on, we came through farms and open spaces. Deepak chatted kindly, explaining what they were -a city boy was in town. Soon we hit the narrow lanes of the villages and stopping for directions became our constant companion. Deepak took no chance and cursed the roads. To top it off, a fancy road roller decided to pave a new path ahead, and we had to cut off in another direction! We moved a while until Deepak felt he better ask. What better than 2 young ladies walking in our direction. Actually i stand corrected, what a disaster! Our questions revoked giggles and stares, which seemed to lead us no where. Deepak was exhasperated “Kudi, mein sirf rasta pooch raha hoon..flirt nahin kar raha!” The girls guffawed and walked off, leaving us where we started, and Deepak cursing some indelible words under his breath.
Eventually we drove on, and one village through another we got our directions. In about an hour we reached our destination. Surrounded by farms, cattle, a gurudwara and about 100 houses, i had reached my mission point.The village has a population of about 3000 people. At first i thought i heard wrong – 3000 people actually live in a village? What luxury…we have 16 million trying to survive in Delhi! Mr. Singh, my contact, was an elderly gentleman but strong as an ox. He worked on the farms he said, and spent his days with his cattle, his family and his gurudwara. He scooped up my bag before i could even look around, and he refused to let go. I was his guest for the day. As we walked to his house through a small lane, i noticed the houses were no longer made of thatched roofs or mud walls, but good concrete stuff…the same we city blokes live in. Ok, so not as fancy, but fair enough to provide for a family.
Walking into his house, i sat on a large bed and began our discussion. ‘Sahib,feel free to ask anything. This is your home. We are simple people; my children help me with my farm, and we have no more needs.” I looked around; there was a feeling of peace and tranquility i never experienced at home. The faces of these people were calm and shone with unique brightness. No fancy clothes, no ipods or laptops, no perplexing desires seem to surround them. We began chatting. Children, farms, cattle, the gurudwara; i listened as he spoke. Each word told me a new story of life. Shortly in the midst of it all, i caught the sight of a few cups coming in with some namkeen. Aah…it was time for my next cup of chai..i was missing it sorely. Instantly i reached out and brought my cup within view – but it wasnt chai! it was milk!!! warm milk to be precise. Okay, now this was going to be something new. I stopped drinking milk for more than 10 years, and except for the chai accompaniment, i never sip it alone. But here was my test – drinking milk again. With courage i took my first sip, and it tasted surprisingly fresh and lovely. Hey, this isnt the ‘mother dairy’ or ‘nanak’ stuff we get in Delhi. Its positively different. Are you sure this is milk? I sipped it down until i had no more, and almost wished for another cup to come my way.
Mr. Singh is a farmer, and while we spoke, he also shared the hardship of life. Working from sunrise to sunset, tilling his farm, milking his cows, running each errand keeps him fit as a fiddle no doubt, but doesnt bring in luxury or money. What they earn for their product is peanuts for what we eventually pay for it. Here was the man who worked his life to feed our basic needs, and there were many more middle men who didnt raise a finger but took home the lion’s share of it all. What irony and tragedy. But Mr. Singh reminds me, this is life. The chain is hard to break; its impossible actually. We are happy and as long as our needs are fulfilled, we shall need no more.
Here was i, a city boy, thinking of the rambling airconditioner, the honda city car which i should have bought, the not so tasty juice on the shatabdi express. And there was Mr. Singh – oblivious of it all. Should i envy or sympathise for him? Didnt i have much more in my city? Or did he much more in his village?
Time to come back to reality. I bade good bye to Mr. Singh as Deepak drove us back to the more ambitious city of Jalandhar. He reminded me “sahib, yahaan to sabh ke rishedaar Amreeca ya Canaaada mein hain!” I smiled…in a distance of 30 kms I was back to seeing what i lived in; luxury. I had traveled two ends of the world in a matter of a few hours.
I look forward to another trip – maybe further?

Why do we associate ourselves to a group?

28 02 2010

Its been ages since I last wrote and my fingers are rusty. A long weekend, overeating, and a tad of laziness has set in. Another holiday in the offing, and I’m probably going to make the best of it. During these moments, I took the time to ponder on a very crucial question that keeps popping up – why are we in need to identify ourselves to a group?

As I look at ourselves in different situations, I find we all want a source of identification. Whether its high school, university, religious choice, family orientation, political views; name it, the choice is vast ! However, I’m keen to study the choice we use to be a part of a fraternity calling ourselves an alumni of our alma mater!

In the past many years, I’ve taken this trip down memory lane, and the first time I returned to my school(s) I was totally and emotionally moved to be back. To walk down the corridors, meet the teachers that once taught me, took me back in time. What moved me most was to look into the classrooms and visualize myself on those chairs – 20 or more years ago! Life has indeed moved on. I tried to use those moments to re-create, to remember the exact thoughts I had when I was back in school; the trials of education, the pains of not doing your homework, finding an excuse to miss class, or worse! Of course, they were all great memories because after 20 years you realize that stage will never come back again. It was the moment when you were still groping in the dark, learning each step of the way and making endless mistakes! It was also the time when we thought we were ready for the world and were the greatest humans beings with a perfect life! Ironic – today I am humbled when I think how we were! Yet i distinctively remember those thoughts when I felt, I had the world in my hands; I was ready to conquer it all; I was invincible; nobody could stop me; I was positively arrogant!

In the past many years, I tried to recreate this nostalgia, by motivating people to join together once again; to be associated together with a common thread – of being an alumni. I’ve seen people with excited views and many more who probably yawned it away – yet another waste of time! I realized a few very important points that I learnt from these experiences!

1. School matters! Where you were educated matters!! Period! People want to associate themselves with a group if its reputed, well known, and there are famous personalities who’ve been through those gates. But many feel embarrassed to mention the name of their little known school in front of people, if it has nothing to write home about. We want to feel proud of where we come from, and that pride comes not from the building or the classrooms, but the achievements that can be recorded from life’s journal. I’m reminded of the alumni of Sherwood College (of which i am still associated with). Great names like Amitabh Bachhan, Kabir Bedi; Sam Manekshaw, and great Indian generals of the Army spring to mind. Perfect alumni to boast about even if we haven’t achieved even an iota of their quality. Nonetheless it does make a difference doesnt it – people immediately look at you and say – aha..another Sherwoodian, Sanawarian or the likes. However, you seldom or never hear of names like a Mount Carmelite of New Delhi! Probably one even shrugs a bit when someone asks you, which high school?

2. Age and Nostalgia are probably interlinked! When I got out of school I shuddered at the thought of going back through those gates again. The pains were probably raw, and the strong desire to avoid seeing it again was high! I stayed away for ages – probably more than 10 years. During this time, I grew through the steps of life. I thought nothing of nostalgia. I lost touch with my friends and classmates. I didnt care – life was only about me! With time, it moved ahead..family and kids were naturally on the cards. Finally there came a time when I woke up with a desire to find my batch mates again. It dawned upon me that some of the real people who knew me best when i was growing up were my best friends and mates from school. No other friends came close through the past 20 years, as those who shared the innocence of growing up together. I desired to meet them again, see what they looked like, where had they gone, what had they done with their lives! Nostalgia set in and so did the strong desire to find them again.

But what happens next? I’ve spent enough time on developing and re-networking with those who were my buddies. I still trust them more than the endless people who i’ve known through these many years.  There has to be a future purpose of coming back together again. Where does this group head to?