Sunday, April 30, 2017


One has to reach Joshimath in Uttarakhand to follow the trails to Badrinath, Valley of Flowers, Auli and some other beautiful treks. It took me more than 9 hrs to reach here from Dehradun.
Joshimath, originally called Jyotirmath drives its name from the fact that here under the Kalpvriksh, Adi Shankaracharya did tapasya and had the darshan of the Jyoti.
Kalptaru,uner this tree Adi Guru did tapasya for 2 yrs
On my way to Pangarchulla trek, I reached Joshimath late in the evening.The hotel didn't serve the  food so I went out to  explore the city and look for my dinner. Ah! The bliss of a new city where nothing is familiar and monotonous. This city seemed lucky for me, as I got the clothes fit for the trekking. The shopkeeper suggested me 'Chauhan Tea Stall, run by a lady, for dinner. Food tasted home cooked and lacked the dhaba taste, good enough for me.

After a fantastic trek to Kunwari pass I came back to Joshimath on my way back.I was not exactly tired, but had bearable body pain due to the trekking on snow, grass and stones for four days. After a hot shower I walked towards the Marwari Hotel for a cuppa of hot tea.With a little limp I climbed up the ascending road to Kalptaru, the famous Tree under which  Rev Adi Shankaracharya did the tapasya.

In the evening I strolled through the streets of Joshimath leisurely. I was more aware of the surroundings with a free mind, as the trekking part was over successfully. The moment I came out of the hotel, I noticed cleanliness all around. Each and every nook and corner of the city was spotlessly clean. From Shankaracharya Math at the top to Narsingh Temple at the lower side of the town, it was a pleasure to walk. To reach the Narsingh temple I walked narrow lanes with the houses in a row beside it, with friendly residents who guided me reach the temple. I wished the lanes of my lovely Benaras were also equally clean.

It was getting dark so I couldn't go further and gazed at the temple from the distance.I found the clean lanes more worshippable than any temple in the world. I thought of the holy hands behind cleaning the place and keeping it in that way.

At Marwari Chawk, I congratulated one of the sanitary workers for keeping the city so clean. About his routine he told me that he, like twenty seven others are given particular areas. He works from 6 to 11 in the morning and then 2 o'clock onwards in the evening.

He thanked me for the compliments and said that it was nice that I had noticed it. My dear sanitary angel, you are no less than a soldier, or an engineer or a politician who is doing his bit in taking India forward.Keep shining!

I think there should be rewards for the cleanest states, city and area.The sanitary workers should be given uniforms and right to object and punish the people who litter the street.

 I'm thankful to the cool shop-owner of the Marwari Sweet Shop, who allowed me to sit and wait in his restaurant to make and wait for phone calls as there was no signal available in my hotel room. Tea was good and sweets were tempting.

Joshimath please call me again for my dream trip To Valley of Flowers in coming August.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Post Valen'day Thoughts

I belong to the generation who watched News, one-day matches live from Sharjah, Gulzar’s movies on Doordarshan and discussed it the next day in college. Unlike now, we believed what all we watched on TV. News in the newspapers used to be fresh, and not already read and devoured on TV channels and Internet. So some of the incidences shown on TV infused in my mind so deeply that even after decades I think of them often.

I never fell in love the way they do in films, nobody does. But seeing it in the lives of celebrities intrigued me. A person committing suicide after getting rejected in love never had my sympathy. Just like Elizabeth Bennet I believed in pride and self esteem. Admired successful people, especially if they were from economically weak background. At this point I read about Syed Modi’s murder. Syed modi married to an another shuttler. Inter-religion marriage and must have been against the wises of their parents. What a lovely picture of love and romance that was! But he was shot dead at the gate of KD Singh Babu Stadium Lucknow. I still wonder why the lady didn’t just go for divorce and parted ways.Why he had to be killed?

The other stories involved Kamal Hasan, who every North Indian adored after the block buster EDKL, left his wife to marry his pregnant lover. I read very sophisticated Vani’s detailed interview and felt her pain deeply the way young girls do. Dimple Kapadia, who got the most expensive ring (in India at least) from her beau came back to films to raise her daughters.

After three decades Kamal Hasan, who does not believe in the institution of marriage, divorced twice and got into a relationship and parted too. I was happy to see vivacious Vani’s pic at a book launch in Bangalore. Ameeta has become the queen of Amethi and contesting for election against Sanjay Singh’s first wife Garima Singh.

So, where is love? In small pieces here and there in moments and memories, may be.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Day 1/7
Solo travelling may be a bliss, but travelling in a group has its own joys. I met five of my group-mates who were from different countries of Europe, at Rishikesh. All of them but Ami were into Hinduism and Yoga, which brought them closer to me. My trip began well when Matte suggested shopping from the crowded market of Rishikesh. She took a long time to find a kurta, loose and long enough to cover her knees. She took me to a gem jewellery shop and also bought herbal products of Patanjali and Himalaya. Actually I felt like a foreigner and she a native.

Devprayag is 46 miles from Rishikesh Which is on the way to Guptkashi, our destination for the day. It is a place where the two rivers meet and then is called the Ganga. Alaknanda from Badrinath and Bhagirathi from Gomukh, 18 km from Gangotri temple. I had seen this amazingly colourful confluence from the the road many times before, but never thought of walking down to take a dip. How much the company you keep can change the way you look at things. I walked down, touched and heard the holy water roaring. I came back carrying that sound and sight in my heart


My white companions were prepared for the holy dip at the confluence. Then I knew the urgency behind buying the long kurtas in Rishikesh. No way they wanted to temper with the sanctity of the place. Thank god they have not seen us bathing at Sangam during kumbh.

 By the confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi stands an ancient temple. Lord Rama meditated here after killing Ravana, the demon king. 

We continued our journey and reached Kedar Camp which was my our abode for the next seven days.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Brick by Brick

Apna Skool for kids of kiln workers.
A brick-kiln at Tatayaganj, Kanpur

Make a picture in your mind of a school in which every door and window opens to green and blue of the earth and sky. Where students willingly stay back during their four month long break. Teachers keep them occupied with Maths, Evs, Science and English labs.The co-curricular activities include music, story telling, performing plays, making paper toys, games and other outdoor activities. This sounds like any other elite school. I had the opportunity to visit such a school and even if you are not a teacher like me, you would love to meet the confident students who have an urge to learn. These students, children of brick-kiln labours, have made to come to school by pampering, coaxing, requesting and luring by the volunteers of Apna Skool run by Vijiya Ramachandran near the brick kilns at  the outskirts of Kanpur city. They run 11 schools covering around 28 kilns.

Sangita, a devoted volunteer took me around the school. Class 1, the youngest in the school was the chirpiest. The classroom had two batches of kids as some of them joined late. Opposite walls had black boards and two teachers taught them. Each child stood and gave his/her introduction in English. All 54 of them wanted to speak. The teacher in me saluted the volunteers for such a show. They recited poems and talked about the little pleasures 'Apna Skol' offered them. They learn to read and write in an academic year which doesn't even have 12 months. Thanks to the books specially designed for them by Eklavya. Students are evaluated on the basis of exams conducted by National Institute for open schooling.

Class 2 and 3 shared one classroom which was big enough for around 20 of them. I asked them the  question which we adults are never tired of asking. Most of them wanted to be teachers when they grow up. Did they know any other profession? I wondered. Then someone told me that he wanted to be a 'police' and would catch thieves. Before I proceeded to the next class, they said they too had some questions for me, which ranged from my qualification to my favourite season.

Class four side of the room had the model of 'Rafael' fighter plane hanging from the ceiling. I was told by a student  everything about the model in Wikipedia manner. In class 5  a child told me how to create table of 19 by a math-magic and many interesting games with numbers. (write odd numbers from 1 to19 vertically, then write 9 to 1 backwards.) After that they challenged me with crossword puzzles.
Table of  19 made easy

It was time for lunch, but there were still things they wanted to share. Ashok,who is from Bihar played the guitar and Rohit played the violin. The child who knew to play the flute was absent. They had all the praise for their music sir who gives special classes on Mondays.

Brick-kiln labours live  at the worksite itself  from the month of June to October when the production is on. for rest of the months, with no work in hand they go back to their hometowns. Apna Skol volunteers arrange jobs for them so that kids could study without interruption.This year for the first time, 20 boys and girls were lived in the hostel for 4 months.
After class 5, kids are sent to other private and government schools. Neetu, a class 7 student showed me how Excel works. She goes to Adarsh Inter college.When her school is closed she comes to Apna Skol with other ex-students to clarify the doubts in Maths and science.Today is one such day when DM has declared a holiday due to some reason.

What would she do here for the whole day, I wondered. "She loves to teach class 1 and 2 students and she does it so well", beamed a proud teacher.

It was a pleasure watching the little ones going towards the light of education from the darkness of illiteracy. A day well spent indeed, but not without guilt that what am I doing for the adorable underprivileged kids of my country?