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We never know why we do certain things at certain times. We might think these are some random chances at play. But when you look back they always seem to connect. Don't they? If you haven't felt yet, then you should probably be giving some more time to it. 

I thought I would recap my trip to Sikkim. A trip which was gigantic by any proportions or by any scale of mine. The people whom I went with, the experiences experienced, the beauty fathomed, the journey itself are stories to tell for generations to come. 

Now I understand why people say 'Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller'. 

The map is huge. Be it the world or India. We are mere tiny particles in it. Yet sometimes we think the other way around. Travelling puts you in perspective. I, for one, became comfy with Uttarakhand. If given a chance I would tour that place every year till my being. The place resonates with cultural, religious, spiritual, adventurous aroma. You can choose your fragrance. Once that place was washed out by floods, I was washed out too. Should I wait and tour later? Or risk it and head to Uttarakhand anyway? Or should I choose another place? 

Within a few moments it dawned upon me that waiting and touring later was never my idea. Once you are bitten by the travel bug it doesn't leave you. Heading to Uttarakhand wont serve a purpose as my idea about the place would be twisted. So, the last option seemed to be a viable one. 

I wanted to trek to some place. Some place where I knew nothing - the language, the people, the cuisine, the weather, the terrain, the whatever. And it had to be some place which was white. Beyond all this, you do not choose the place, the place chooses you. With all this in mind, still without any prejudices I let myself like a leaf floating on a stream, unaware of where I would be heading to. That is why the title of the post - Within & Without. 

It was precisely the time I was reading 'The Inheritance of Loss' by Kiran Desai. A poignant story set in Kalimpong, a small town in the Sikkim-West Bengal border. That was the time I got introduced to Mt Kanchendzonga, Teesta river, Chang (The local rice beer) et al. Like attracts the like. 
Chang - The local rice beer

The place that came up was Goechala in Sikkim. I found this place while casually browsing some forums. I chanced upon it and found an instant connect when I saw the place, the altitude, the terrain. It was a strenuous trek for 8 days which will scale to 16000 ft with passages through many tiny Himalayan villages, seated precariously over mountain tops, with Teesta river gushing along, the vegetation preparing itself to be blanketed by the snow. Himalayas is best visited during October. The time when the skies are pure blue, without any cloud patterns and the mountains in their transcendent glory. Quite a sight, it will be. 

So, 8 days trek spanning 100 kms with strenuous climb north wards. With travel included it will come to 10 days. How am I going to find it? I set out to know about the place. I browsed lots. I thought of joining a trekking company for Rs 12000. But later decided against it. Going alone is going to cost me a fortune which I didn't have yet. So, a few more heads will certainly help. I told my friends who had asked me to inform them before I set out for the next trip. And, 2 most unlikely candidates emerged. 2 people whom I didn't even imagine I would be going on a trip with. But if that's what the course nature is going to take me then, whom am I to run against it? This created an interesting topic for discussion among my friends who thought more about the people and their disconnectedness than the trip. It was fun. 
The more detailed map

A rather easier one
The trip also demanded that we be at our physical best. I also wanted to improve my Hindi articulation. And most importantly I had to ask for leave from my office. I wanted to ensure that there are no last minute hiccups. So I told my office that I would go on 10 day leave in October. After a lot of discussion, they agreed for 9 day leave. A huge sigh of relief. 

It was 2 months to the trip. And I woke up every day at 5.30 am, go for a walk and a jog, have some green tea and then learn hindi for an hour. 5.30 to 8 am became by regime time. I was happy and surprised at myself. That is when I understood why short term goals are important. And there should be a good incentive to drive towards the long term. Just long term alone wont help. (After the trip, I have fallen back to my old ways. That is another story altogether.)

We read about the place in lots and lots of forums, articles, newspaper bits etc. A week before the trip, we knew where we would break and dine. The basics were spot on. This being first time trek for all 3, we shopped more than necessary. When you plan for a trek, I would personally recommend Quechua bags and Forclan 500 shoes. They were our saviors. Not to forget the energy bars. 

So with our bags full, we headed to Kolkata by Air India. We had our train Darjeeling Mail at 10.30 pm at Sealdah station. Finding good food has come a hobby now and it was no different at Kolkata, a place which houses some fond memories. Outside Sealdah station is a market place which has plenty of small eat outs and sweet shops. I tried Roti with Egg mixed Dhall for Rs 30. Then headed to a sweet shop and tried some 6 different sweets and 1 'hot' rosogolla. Heaven!! That is when I understood how sweet shops elsewhere fool people by giving fake rosogollas! 

After a content dinner, we woke up at Siliguri at 9 am. From here, our 8 hr long journey to Yuksam, our base, will start. We split our journey to Jorethang and then took a taxi from there for Rs 2400. We reached Yuksam, a tiny Himalayan village at 4.30 pm. It was cold and getting dark. By 5.30 pm, it was pitch dark and was drizzling. I enjoyed every bit of it. We found a neat place for the night and spoke to guide in the morning regarding our plans. We were asked to shell out totally Rs 27600 for a 7 day trek and we were promised we wont be needed to spend a dime for the rest of the trek. How wrong we were!!  Cant expect anything less when you have 3 - half baked, under cooked, uncooked - Hindi speaking guys. 
A familiar sight
Our first day trek of 16 km was scheduled for 6 hrs. We completed in 9 hrs. We were clearly over packed. And it took a toll on us. Later that night we came to know that we could have possibly been fooled by the guide. We packed one bag with all 'non-essential' items and sent it back to base camp. What a start!!  

Sample this for everyday meal:
6.30 am Breakfast
10.30 am Lunch
2.30 pm Evening Snack
6.30 pm Dinner
7 pm Sleep

And, lunch would invariably be 'Boiled aloo, a fruit, 1 boiled egg and a pack of biscuits'. You can take turns between 'Soupy noodles' and 'Rice, dhall & aloo masala' for dinner and breakfast.

Harbhajan Singh, overdid
Just beside were a group of french people, who got to sat in chairs, had spoons and fork, and got hot pancakes. Such a luxury!! 

We kept going higher everyday from Yuksam 5700 ft (our base) to Tshoka (9650 ft) to Dzongri (13000 ft). 
The strenuous ascent to the heaven

It is lonely at the top
The HEMAN with his romantic look

The Bulkman with his standard posture
At Dzongri, We woke up at 5 am to see the mountains shimmer with golden light at 5.45 am. It was freezing and I was dressed minimally. That is the way I liked it though the guides advised me against it. 
At a height of 13500 ft at 5.30 am
Comparison between me & a foreigner
At that height, with the white mountains & a cool breeze for company, you will feel a sense of calm which is not there elsewhere. 
The Panorama

A walk in the valley
We started trekking to Kockchurang (12000 ft) the next day. Kockchurang was just the kind of place I had dreamed of. A mountain base, a small wooden house, a few streams, a few stones, clear blue skies, some white mountains, barely a few people tagging along. It had everything. I didn't need anything more. I was content. 
From one mountain to another. At the base was Kockchurang
Entry to Kockchurang

The gushing Teesta

Thats the view I was telling about

Poetry in motion
The next day we started to Thangsing (13500 ft). It turned out to be a valley. A place where streams become half frozen in the morning. The other 2 guys didn't want to trek any further. I wanted to. But we had no proper guides and the group I was supposed to join, fell sick. So, our last day of 12 hr trek got cancelled. I had mixed feelings. Another time, maybe. 
Half frozen streams at 6 am
We trekked down to Kockchurang to stay for the night. And I was content again. By 4.30 pm, a huge mist got settled in and the place got darker and more beautiful. One of the guys came and asked, 'How did you choose the place?. Just too beautiful'. I replied, 'When did I choose, the place chose me'. 
This mist at 4.30 pm

The Landmark picture
A few learnings from the trip:
  • People have their own needs, interests, goals. It is not bigger or smaller than that of yours. Infact, no dream is smaller or bigger. It is all our opinions. Give it due respect and see the things that follow you. 
  • Trekking is all about preparation and perseverance. It is more about your mental being than physical. A 55 yr old guy covered more distance and altitude than us. 
  • Try the local cuisines. It will show you how the people are. 
  • Adjust with people and go. You wont be all by yourselves everyday. A few experiments with yourself will certainly help. 
  • Know the place. And don't get too happy or bogged down by it. Neither will help. 
  • Nature has its own of telling things. Most places didn't have water for essential survival. Infact, a stream which was there when we started was not there when we returned. Nothing is permanent.
  • Learn a new language. You will find interesting comparisons with your own. 'Baki' in Hindi is same as 'Baaki' in Tamil. 
  • Find a purpose. Small term should lead to long term. So that you never get bored with life and you will always appreciate its niceties. 
  • You can't do everything by yourself. If you do, you are not a leader. 
  • People around you might goof it up for you. Pardon it and enjoy the ride. 
This is by far my most expensive trip. I didn't expect it myself. A few trips like these every 2 yrs is pivotal though. 

Waiting with bated breath on where to set out on the next leather tramp..  

Followed from here.

We were all seated for dinner and we were served rotis, subzi and aloo jeera. A combination which I would be eating for days to come.

I got introduced to the group and came to know that one of the guys was from Chennai. He was a chartered accountant from Mylapore. I didn’t know about the other people. There were 2 ladies, one kid and the kid’s father.

The Chennai guy (traveller) asked me what are my plans for tomorrow and I said I want to visit Tungnath. They also had the same plan and asked if I wanted to join.

I didn’t have any second thoughts. I said 'Yes'.

We headed to sleep and I woke up at 5 am to see crystal clear skies. I decided I will skip the bath for now. Bath means taking buckets of water from the lake and pouring on yourself. We packed bags and started downhill at 8 am.

I went along with the traveller and was talking with him. Apparently he back packs every 4 months. He gave me tips on what shoes to wear, what bags to carry, what places to visit etc. It was a good experience.

We came down at 9.30 am and had a little breakfast. After a lot of hassle we got a car to Chopta, which was an hour journey. We were again escorted by splendid views. Since we were a group, booking rooms was easy and I took bath over there. 

Time was 3 pm and the other lady was sitting on the grass and watching the mountains. She was aged 30 and was a PhD in philosophy. I was surprised when she asked me if I follow zen philosophy. I said I knew a bit and shared some stories with her. She told that she is following Sri Aurobindo and that he has attained even bigger than Buddha and Adi Sankaracharya. She told me that she was surprised to see me travelling alone and said may be I am in search of something. I laughed.

The other lady was a retired army colonel who had served for 22 years. I was amazed at her discipline and her trekking abilities. She even cleaned our table after we had food. I was humbled by her discipline.

After a while I took my kindle and sat on a stone downhill. I found there was lot of energy in the mountains. It was lifting my spirits. May be that is what spirituality is all about. Tapping energy sources from small small things around you so that you are always afresh. The understanding dawned upon me. Spirituality is about being yourself and enjoying it. It is difficult to attain. You may attain it in spurts but sustaining it is one of the biggest ever challenges. You lose to build again. That is what many people are after. Only a handful achieve it.

By being spiritual, you help transfer energy to people who are down. And you not lose energy in the process because you know ways to refill yourselves fast. You have the mindset to not be carried away by emotions and see everything as one. Nothing is bigger than the other. Success and failure are just two sides, the coin is still the same. It is not different.

That moment made me calm. I didn’t want to walk, I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to eat. I was just looking at the vanilla mountains. I thought I saw a cloud somewhere near the sun. How mistaken I was. It was the Himalayas and not the clouds. Man!! I can’t imagine the size of it. I smiled. The evening was getting dark. My hands were shivering. There was voices at the back calling me. I turned back to see the kid calling me. They had started a bonfire. I headed to it.

And forgot to mention, a few days 'Sada' became 'Shiv'. That was how I was called by the group. 

The time was 7.30 pm. The clouds were devoid of stars. I thought it will rain and told the dad the same. He said 'Wait for 15 minutes'. After which, I had to eat my words. The sky was  exploding with stars. They were all so cramped. Oh when did the sky had so many stars????

The people from my group were singing and chatting. I just kept quiet looking at them and the fire. What should I do? What to take and what to leave?

Just then the dad called me ‘Shiv. Come here.’

I went.

Dad: See the stars up above. See the 7 stars there. It is called sapta rishi. The stars give you answers. See what they are telling you.
Me: Oh.. Which 7 stars?
Dad: See that 7 stars in the shape of 7?
Me: Oh yeah.. I will see and tell you.

I looked up at the sapta rishi. I couldn’t see the shape of 7. All I saw was a ? (question mark). And it didn’t seem to give answers. Just kept throwing more questions. I told the same thing to the dad.

Dad: I will talk to you tomorrow.  

The cold night went off in a cushy bed and a blanket. A luxury I was happy to take. I was tired.

We woke at 5 am. The clouds are clear only in the morning during summers. I took a cold bath and was afresh. After having tea and biscuits, we started our 3.5 km trek to Tunganth.

It was a strenuous walk strewn with beautiful colorful flowers, ice capped mountains, mules, people, trekkers etc.

Let’s keep it as a photo journey so that the message is conveyed.
The steep climb to the top

Some familiar sights on the way to Tungnath

Boys, the top most tip is Chandrashila for you!!

Since we didn’t carry the bags it was a lot easier to climb. Again I related that to the baggage which people carry. I climbed 2 km stretch of Deoria Tal in 2 hrs with big baggage. I climbed 3.5 km steep trek in 1.5 hrs with no baggage. A point to note.

Tungnath Temple
We reached Tungnath, the highest Shiva temple in the world, at 7.30 am. The temple was closed and was due to open a week later. We knew that. We started our trek to Chandrashila. It is another 1 km walk and took 40 min to reach there.

Now a short note about Chandrashila. The place is famous because it gives 360 degree view of Himalayas. 180 degrees snow capped. 180 degrees green capped. And you are bang right at the center. When you read about such places, you have an opinion in your mind. I had one too.

The 180 degree snow capped mountains

The 180 degree green capped mountains
I thought that the place will have a small temple on top as customary in any place in India. What more can you expect on top of a big mountain? Debris, may be we can walk 10 steps here and there. Highly prone to falling down. And some splendid views. These were my thoughts about Chandrashila before heading there.

First view of Chandrashila temple

But what I saw there was a sight beyond belief. I was welcomed by a temple and beyond the temple is a big stretch of uneven land. Certainly cannot be covered in 10 steps. And most important was I didn’t see any debris. Instead I saw creation!! I saw a lot of ‘Chinna Chinna Karkovilgal’ or ‘Small small temple like monuments’ or Cairns. Yes I saw a lots of them over there. They all looked so beautiful to me. I was overwhelmed.

Imagine at a height of 4000 m or 13500 feet above sea level, you are surrounded by mountains on all sides, a temple nearby, 100s of cairns all around you, the mild cool breeze, the energy atop the place.. You become humbled by nature and bow to it. There are a few things which are ineffable. It was one such moment.

The 100s of Cairns on top
Well what I do there?
First of all, I created my own Karkovil. I created my own monument. I found the best of stones, of different sizes, shapes, texture and built a monument. It looked the most beautiful. A creator’s delight!!

With my own beautiful monument
After that I meditated for 20 min. I had not been able to close my eyes for the last 6 months. But that day I did without any efforts. The mountains started talking to me and I listened to it. We had a good discussion. The mountains told me to let go and it is all for good and there is nothing wrong. I felt light.
The View from the top is scintillating

This is view from the back. Such a big area

The way down from Chandrashila to Tungnath
We stayed atop for 90 minutes and headed down at 10 am. Had maggi at Tungnath and headed down. We reached the base at 11 am. I had not trekked to many places but this would be among the toughest, back breaking ones. I was not enervated but energized.

Dad: Shiv, are you free now?
Me: Sure. Why not?
Dad: So tell me what did the stars tell you? And by the way, you look a lot clearer now than the last 2 days.
Me: The climb was good sir. And the stars.. They just threw more questions at me. I don’t have any answers to it.
Dad: Ok I know astrology. Shall I see for you?

I was stunned. India works in mysterious ways. The mystical mountains even more. I was just about to go mad in solitude when I was introduced to a group. The group consisted of people with atleast one trait that I share with them. Sometimes you cannot ask any questions. Because you won’t get the answers. You just have to accept some higher power exists and keep walking.

Once you visit the mountains, you cannot resist going again. That is the Himalayan magic for you. 

The time was around winter of 2012. Our placements were just around the corner and my friend and I had planned for a trip to Chopta which houses Tunganth. Tungnath is a shrine which has the highest Shiva temple in the world. We made all plans to it and later found that the place was fully covered with snow and that it was not reachable at that period of time. So, we shifted our focus to our plan B - Rafting in the Ganges.

Now, my college was getting to a close on May 8 and I had to join office on May 15. I had so wanted to go on a trip to Uttarakhand before my work started. The college dates got postponed and made me more restless. But I was determined to go to the place where I couldn't go last time - Chopta.

I just thought I had some answers in the mystic mountains. And it was imperative for me to make the trip. And it did have.

I did a few things which I had not done before. I went both ways by flight and took my cell phone along. It might look trivial but it was a sea change for me. I prefer going by train because the effect of going to a trip sinks in. And coming back in train lets you savour the essence of the trip. I have always seen cell phones as a hindrance. Something which keeps making some noise and disturbs the beauty of the place.

So, nevertheless I started my journey by boarding Indigo. Seated beside me in the flight were a lady and her daughter. Just like any careful mother does, the daughter was in the window seat, then her mother in the middle and followed by me. I took my kindle and started reading ‘The Celestine Prophecy’. My friend had been continuously telling me to read this book. And so I did. And slept off sometime after the flight took off. Food came, I ate and I slept again. I did see a few times that the daughter was winking at me. Or definitely smiling. But I don’t know. I just didn't have interest and slept off only to wake up again in Delhi.

Delhi – The place I have been to the most in the past 2 years. I do not plan my trips. If I do plan, the only thing I do is book a to-and-fro to Delhi. Rest all I leave it to destiny.

Well you know some people say this movie doesn’t have a story, this book doesn’t have a plot. It sucks. Don’t know what they are upto. No storyline.

I beg to differ from those people. Just ask these people again ‘So does your life have a story and a plot?’ They are clueless and get edgy. What if the movie doesn’t have a story? Didn’t it appeal to you? Sometimes you have to connect the dots looking backwards. People cheer when they read it but cringe when they want to follow it.

So, no plan is the plan. This time was no different.

I took the overnight bus to Haridwar at 11.30 pm. And was woken up from my slumber at 4.30 am. I took the share auto and headed to the Ganges, the magical river. Every time I take a dip there, something happens. There is something about this river. Something beyond human comprehension. Just enjoy the experience. Do not ask questions. At times I used to think, may be that is why millions of people head to this river. For the sheer experience. People over there call this river as ‘Ma Ganga’. The mother is everything to them. Gives life, sustains life and also takes it away. Even after everything it is a site to adore.

After the bath, I was back afresh without a tinge of tiredness and had a cup of hot cinnamon tea. It was just 6 am and the sun was already shining bright.

My first destination was Deoria Tal. There is an episode in the Mahabharat, where the pandava brothers go to a lake to quench their thirst. The yaksha there says that you cannot drink this water before answering his questions. The brothers don’t take him seriously and as a result die. Atlast Yudishtra comes and answers all the questions of the yaksha and brings his brothers back to life. The lake that the brothers came to quench their thirst is Deoria Tal. Or that is what we are led to believe. It can be the truth or it can a white lie to promote tourism in this place. How does that matter? I just wanted to visit this place.

I was looking for shared taxis and after a short search found one. You will have to break your journey as finding a taxi to ‘your’ destination can be tiresome. So my 6 hr drive to Rudraprayag started at 6.30 am. All my way, the light green ganges came in different forms, shapes and textures. I saw the river as Ganges, Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi. It was a mesmerizing site. You see water gushing down, people do rafting out there. Do camping just a few steps away from the river. Play cricket, drink, do pot and what not.

I had my lunch at Rudraprayag. And saw confluence of 2 rivers below. The water was light gray. Waited for a while and was looking to find a taxi to Ukhimath. Well you know during the winters, Badrinath and Kedarnath are not accessible. So they bring the idol to Ukhimath and then when summer sets in they get the idol back. So Ukhimath was the winter shrine of Badrinath and Kedarnath. And I was headed there. My 3 hour journey was a tumultuous one with rocky roads. And there I saw a glimpse of the snow mountains. Like a kid hiding in the corner and peeping out when a visitor comes and then runs inside. It was an enjoyable site.

Well after reaching Ukhimath, I came to realize with my broken hindi that I might have travelled beyond my destination (Deoria Tal). I had read in sites that I can get buses to Deoria Tal every 30 min from Ukhimath. Only when I came here did I realize that there were only 2 buses. One at 7 in the morning and other at 5 in the evening. Time in my watch was 4 pm. They also told that buses won’t go to Deoria but will stop at a place called Thala. You have to walk for 4 km to head to another small village called Sari and then trek for 2 kms to reach Deoria. I was gasping already.

Attached is the hand drawn map I got from a shop keeper after a lot of brain storming:

Hand drawn map!! This is how I made sense of where I was. 
I didn’t want to wait. So there was another vehicle heading to Thala. And not to Sari. I hopped on to it and headed to Thala. It was a short 20 min drive. They dropped me at a junction and said climb uphill 4 km. You get Sari. I said fine and began my ascent.

I was accompanied by the chirping of birds (no I didn’t think of eating them), purple coloured blossoms, mangrove trees, rocky roads, golden farms below and a mild cool breeze. The events of the past 2 years were playing in my mind and I wondered how things turned up. And I rewinded back a few more years and thought how much I have changed. I have changed a lot since me being a sentimental idiot taking decisions based only on emotions. And so how I view things have changed too.

I stood a while to take a few breaths. I had walked for 20 minutes thinking about myself. I turned to my left and was filled with joy. Not afar I could see the vanilla flavored-choco dipped mountains. I was suddenly reminded of ice creams. They all looked like huge scoops sitting on top of each other waiting to be eaten. With no one to disturb me, I just stood gazing at the mountains. Unadulterated pristine beauty.

You cannot stop at a place for too long and hinder your journey.. So I started walking again. I thought I had covered 2 more kms. The air was getting cooler, the fragrance of flowers was enveloping me and then I saw a small waterfall. A very small one. The elegance of the waterfall made me drink a few drops from it. I refilled my water bottle. I sat in a nearby stone and saw crystal clear water falling into the textured sand. The water got a little muddy but as it kept dripping down and as it gave time to settle, the water became clear again. I could see my face on it. I smiled.

Now there were a few cows to my company, and an old lady to help them graze. I could now see the village. May be 2 more kms. Just then I could hear a car honking at the back. The car stopped and asked me to get in. I did and in 5 minutes I reached the village.

I asked the way for Deoria Tal and asked if tents were available. They had also sent a guide along to carry the tent. I had to carry my bag and also a mat for the tent. It was a 2 hr steep climb. The baggage was getting heavier with every step. I symbolized that with carrying your debts. You reap what you sow. After a 40 min walk, we took a short break. The guide knew only hindi and I had to make sense of it. He showed me some mountain which was about to touch the sky. He said that was Chandrashila – My next destination which is 1 hr climb from Tungnath. Chandrashila means moon rock. I knew why.

We kept climbing up and up. After 2 hrs, reached Deoria Tal. After reaching the top, I could see green grasslands. And my tent will be put up there. I saw the lake. It was green. 

The entry view to Deoria Tal

What stunned me were the mountains. My tent was put right in front of the Himalayan mountains. It was like the mountains were zoomed in to make you see it better. The guide said the left is Yamunotri, this is Gangotri, that is Kedarnath and the last is Madmaheswar. I didn’t talk. I was out of words. I have not seen the mountains this close.

Those family of mountains
I saw that there was only one other group. A group of 4 maybe. I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t mind too. I was just thinking that this is the perfect spot for an artist or a director or a book writer. This is paradise.

The guide left me saying that he will come tomorrow morning and I unpacked my bag in my tiny tent. A tent all for myself. You unzip the tent and you see the vanilla flavored-choco dipped mountains shining at you.

Time was around 6.45 pm. I was all alone. The place was in absolute silence. The weather was getting cold. Still no sound. I have not experienced this much silence from nature. You can experience it if you close your room, switch off everything and sit. That kind of silence. You can hear yourself breathing. Even if a pin falls down, you can say where it fell. That kind of a silence. Such a rare kind coming from nature. I came only for this silence. Nishabd is a better word. I got what I came for.

But the least did I expect was it was making me go mad. I just couldn’t stand there. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t enjoy the mountains, the weather, the snow, the water. That is when I switched on my cell phone and called a few of my friends. Signal was poor but still I spoke for a while.

How long can I keep it going like that?? Time was 7.30 pm and it started getting dark. I had serious questions of how am I going to tackle this? Will I be able to do this? Is there a way out? Wont I like solitude here after?

Time was 8 pm and the other group who were there called me for dinner. And that is when things were about to change. 

Followed by Part 2

At Medall, I was told to create a graduation backdrop for the Management Trainees of 2012.

Well you know for the stages. Apparently there is a big graduation ceremony planned for these guys and they are doing lots for it.

'Hey Sada, make it a little more colorful no?'
'Oh, but you were the one who asked me to make it black and white!!'
'Ah, that is ok, a few more colors will make it better'

I told them I did something similar in DoMS. The Yearbook.
I just showed the cover page and they all started that I have to use the same as backdrop. I vehemently said no.

They were persistent. But I was even more.
I plainly refused saying 'It is an insult to my creativity'. I, as a policy, do not repeat my creations. I avoid using same font twice, albeit it's a little difficult.

I was heading kcab home and thoughts of Yearbook flooded me. 

I had bragged about it to my friends, went to every faculty to show it personally, spoke about it in farewell party, sent it to juniors, seniors, alumni.. Still there is a lot more to it than that was covered in the book.

Initially the design was sober. Very sober. It was more reflective of my mood.

Initial color scheme -  The sober one

I had designed the 4 main layouts and was heading to faculty page. I was looking at some good layouts and accidentally dropped some colorful vectors.   

Ram, a junior guy, chanced upon it and said the colors look good.  I liked the colors too. But Kumar (the editor-in-chief) and I felt it was going against the sober colors which we had used for student pages. 

The colors which I ended up using

So what to do?

We replaced the entire layout for student pages.

Suddenly the book looked like a sea of colors. This is interesting too. It went well with our Kites theme. The theme was chosen to represent that you fly high after MBA education at DoMS. So, it gave r o o m for a lot of colors.

I designed everything and was getting late for print. Headed to the printer guy.

What he told brought me to tatters.
'A part of the border will get cut. You will have to redesign'

Those are the nuances with printing. What you design is not what that comes in print. You have to make a few adjustments to layout and then only design. I had left gaps on all sides except on the side of the name.

So how to correct it?
I had to rework the entire portion which had the photo. 

The only software that I know is photoshop. So working in it is like 68 separate JPEG files which are joined together atlast. Took me 8 hours to rework 68 pages. Had I used a book designing software, the work would have taken less than an hour.

So much for a software!! Well, I couldn't complain. It was my teeny tiny mistake. 

The only thing I had in mind was the purpose of the book. It is something for the future. Something to ponder about. Something to get you back to your roots. At that time these space issues shouldn't put a frown on your face.

So, I printed a page and saw a copy. I felt that the photo part could be moved a little bit again. Currently the view was not symmetrical.

So what did I do?
I reworked again. This time on 52 pages.

Time just flewwwwww by.

One another problem with me is that the l  o  n  g  e  r   I work on something, the more frequently I keep opening the file and see what more updates can be done. I was getting more and more obsessive. Time to head to print!!

At the same time, we also had budget constraints. 

I saw it as a hindrance at start. It would be just simple if department gives money. Going behind students to collect money looked to be a uphill task which I didn't want to do.

Later truth dawned upon me. The entire class should be involved in the activity na? If they seriously wanted it, they would definitely give it without a question. So, before class meet we decided to collect 200 from each. And when I spoke, I said 300. If extra, can return anytime later. And, boys, that was the easiest collection I had ever come across. I was delighted. There was indeed a purpose!!!

Went to printer this time with the third design. He said it looks perfect now and asked 'How should the print be?'

I just told him 'Sir, I want the book to be kept in pooja room and worshiped. Even after 10 years, the book should be the same. Pls do what needs to be done to match it'. Only a hard bound book can match it. Then so be it!!

The printer said the copies will come in a week. That was the week I took a               break and relaxed. It took a lot out of me and I was happily exhausted. The class was too eager to get the copy. Wow!! Marketing at its best!!

On a sunday morning at 8 am I am disturbed by my mobile ring. It was the printer. 

Why is he calling now?
'Sir, you had given red color for the text Yearbook in the cover page. Red is not good. Gold will suit.' 

I am very touchy about colors. And I had no clue how gold will suit it. I was a little hesitant at first. But later conceded and said 'Sir, you know it better. Whichever is good, please go ahead with it'. And that is how the gold foiling came in front.

A few hours before the farewell was about to start, the yearbooks arrived. 

I was the first to see the copy which came to dept. I just took it straight to pantheon and opened a copy.

I was stunned. With no one around, I just looked at it like a kid secretly holding his first candy in hand buoyed to get the taste of it. I turned every page and saw. It was divine.

I went straight to TTN sir to show it.
'Sir, when I came up with the idea of yearbook you had told me 'Let it see the light of the day'. I didn't understand what it meant. Now I did. The book had seen the light of the day. Here. See how it is!!' 

Went to ATR sir's room. It was locked. So headed to Kumar's room and shared the experience.

And then what transpired at the farewell was beyond my comprehension. That was when I realized what does 'purity of purpose' means.

The happiness made be float and I felt I became lighter. 

What do guys and girls want? I mean the most??

Guys: They want care and attention from the opposite sex. But they don’t want it every day. Once they get it from a girl, they would be happy about it and don’t want to spoil the euphoria by going for it again and again. May be they go again once they feel the effect is diminished.

Girls: They are a more interesting species. They search for a guy with whom they can shower their hitherto held emotions/stories. Once they find ‘that’ guy, they start their love shower and also expect the same in return. Expecting is not a problem at all. But what they expect and how they expect can be a complication. They want the love and care every single day; time and again.

So, in rudimentary terms, all guys and all girls need is care and attention.

I was wondering how I could relate this to. That is when a petrol pump came to my mind. It’s a nice place you know: to refresh yourself, to take a break from the hustle bustle, to have a cup of coffee/tea, and the likes..

Love is like driving a car. You need gasoline to get the car going. Let us keep the gasoline as care and attention. Guys want to fill the car once for may be 1000 rs and get going; They might fill it sometime later. Well you see it’s a long journey and you cannot have frequent stops in between. Girls, on the other hand, want to fill for 50 rs for now, then stop at every single pump on the way, and then reach the destination. They eventually reach the destination but time to reach is pretty long.

I told this to 2 friends of mine. One a guy who laughed his heart out. Another a girl, said that guys always take girls for granted and that if you come to us for help then it’s right; but if we ask you for help, then it is silly.

Now it was my turn to laugh out loud!! 
Well, surviving relationships is all about maintaining this delicate balance right?

Traveling - It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. 

I should say I have indeed become one. 

I just came back from my 2nd trip in 18 months to Rishikesh. And, the tale just got better. Having come back, I was thinking what made me go on the 1st trip. Of course, you don’t choose a place without reason. It might be a place which you had heard or seen somewhere. Or may be some subliminal perception might have driven you towards it. In my case, it was the former.

Choosing Rishikesh before and now are both conscious. Fully conscious. I chose Rishikesh to visit Parmath Niketan and then do rafting in Ganges. I was heartbroken when they said Rafting was not there as water levels have risen because of Monsoons.  

This place is called Parmath Niketan. And it has a Shiva statue a little distance away from  the banks of the Ganges. So what is special about this? There are a million other statues like this. But you should understand that statues, words, poetry, places all appeal to your inner self. Once you find one such a thing, you should experience it fully. Because they start driving you. They show you what you like. They tell you how you were before and how you are now. And, then you start enjoying yourself in the truest sense.

Except the funny thing was I had missed the place which I wanted to see: Parmath Niketan. May be I was too confident about my broken Hindi or just too casual that I can find it anyhow, I didn't note the name of the place. Unfortunately, I couldn’t verbalize it last time. All I knew was a Shiva statue in the Ganges. I tried lots but couldn’t locate it. Disheartened, I boarded the bus to Haridwar. To my surprise, I saw the statue from the bus from a far distance. And without haste, I showed the place to a co-traveller and asked the name of the place. So, it was near Ram Jhoola and the place was Parmath Niketan. I immediately noted it down in my pocket book which I had carried (I lost the pocket book even before I left Delhi is another story). Anyways, I just told myself that next time I come to Rishikesh, I will start my journey from here.

And, that was precisely what transpired. 

We boarded the train to Delhi and started our 33hr journey. In just 12 hrs, I lost my wallet which had 5000rs, also lost my driving license, my college id and bank card. In short, I was a man with no identity. I was disheartened. I was livid with my lack of responsibility and carelessness. Then, I realized that identities are not framed by cards which an organization gives but that which we create ourselves. And, it’s only money. And I can earn it back whenever I want to. And, may be it’s a forerunner to something else. Once this thought surfaced, my tour took a new turn. I had my friend along, so I can rely on him. I didn't get my mobile too. So had he not come along, it would have been of series of mistakes but anyways I would have found another way out.

We reached Delhi on Tuesday, had breakfast at Ministry of Finance, discussed India’s political and economic scenario, visited Rashtrapathi Bhavan, India Gate, Red Fort and boarded the Shadabdi to Haridwar.

After a lot of planning, we decided that we won’t see many places but choose one place and explore better. It turned out to be wiser. Reached Haridwar at 8 pm. Headed straight to Har Ki Pauri. It is the only sight seeing place in Haridwar where they do daily Pooja at the Ganges. It was a beautiful sight last time I went in July. Lighted lamps being floated across. It was a river of light. So, with the same idea went there only to find that the place was totally deserted. Only we were the people out there in the cold. I found this was interesting too. I just imagined how it would be to the only person to take bath in the cold water!! The thought was compelling. Took a short cold bath and wow I felt elated. The ambience was just too good. Had dinner and headed straight to Rishikesh. Totally tired. Anyways, I decided what ever happens I am waking at 6 and head to Parmath to start my day. And, so it turned out to be. With just a sleeveless sweater, a head cap and a thin Tshirt, my walk took 45 min in the freezing morning. And then, in the mist saw an amazing sight. The flawless white majestic statue of a meditating Lord Shiva in the river. I was overjoyed by the mere sight of it. Atlast, I had seen what I wanted to see 18 months back. I meditated for half hour and with a refreshed mind, saw a few other places nearby.

Then came the next purpose of the trip. Rafting.

Dunno what to say. Having beaten, bruised, slapped by the sheer force of the water for 5 straight hrs, all I can say is I want more. No doubt that is the top adventure spot in India. Would be best to go as a big group.

The next day, we rented a bike and started the 70 km uphill journey to Dev Prayag. It is the place of confluence of the rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda to form Ganges. The roads twisted and turned along with flow of the Ganges and so did we. Temperature changed quickly and in narrow roads with stunning views of the mountains, the drive was splendid. After 2.5 hrs, we came to Devprayag. It was an interesting sight. Bhagirathi was violent in light green. Alaknanda was calmer in dark green. They mix to form an unique green Ganges.

My mom said not many people name their daughters as Bhagirathi as she is violent. No wonder. I also related figuratively to it. When in anger you are acting shallow like Bhagirathi. So light green. When you are calmer, you take informed decisions and add more depth to you. Dark green like Alaknanda.

I drove the return journey. It was my first time ever in the mountains. I was shaky at first but later was at ease. We returned to Delhi the next morning and was having our fingers crossed for rail tickets to be confirmed. It didn’t. We will have to wait atleast 2 days to board the train. We didn’t know what to do. I thought if we can visit Agra or Jammu in the meantime.

Then dropped all plans and got the unreserved train to Chennai. 200 people in a 90 seater bogey. I have never travelled like this before. It was like watching the movie Swades where Shah Rukh sits in the overcrowded train with no space to stretch his legs. We could have made things simpler by booking a flight. But anyways that is what we would be doing in future, and this is the only time you can take the unreserved train.

So, and we came. The journey turned out to be worthwhile. Afterall, I was able to finish 2.5 books of Harry Potter. 

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