Wednesday, November 28, 2012

lets be men

I wonder how we came to be so fond of people who were so unlike us. Timidity was our connecting thread, I guess. We couldn't dare to look into the other persons eyes, or the soul, and we chose others who with similarly lowered gazes. This was back then. I thought that was our prime at some point. I was wrong in that assumption. They changed. The problem with such people is a strong sense of disassociation they can feel. This makes them manufacture a way of inclusion, necessary all by themselves. This results in idealism creeping in. idealism brings a strong sense of identity. And having attained an identity, they could confidently live on their own terms, cut the strings of their circle, and give the world a finger. Then they are, like everybody else, trying to be like everybody else, that is unique.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I've been reading about this city held hostage in the past few days. No living person could've demanded such glorification, forget a dead one. Death is either to be perceived as a great equalizer, an event undemanding of any reverence, one outside the course of life of a person who could be revered for his life; or it could be perceived a celebration, necessitating a revelry of sorts, which might not be irresponsible, but surely doesn't impinge on others' freedoms, or rights. In one aspect, the 'believers' could be seen as enjoying themselves in the revelry of reverence, albeit a revelry of the irresponsible sorts, which is what nobody likes.
In footnote, let me mention I'm the lesser informed/learned/opinionated of the citizens of this country. I don't even have a PhD.

In a sutta-shop-conversation style, I could say that the past week was a good one for India. The leader of its fascist party succumbing to age, hopefully stalling the party synonymous to the word "goondaraj" ("The reality of the Sena will soon degenerate into virtual reality. The virtual reality of the Shiv Sena will then disappear in cyberspace." source). And an infamous liquor baron, and the owner of a (black) empire, also dead in a shootout, hopefully initiating an investigation that gets our nation a few thousand million crores of corruption money. Big and rich people dying is very hopeful for this nation; our past has been mired in corruption, cronyism, and communalism.
Note, again, that this is a "sutta-shop-conversation style" opinion.

Okay, now remember this name - Ludovico De Varthema.
He's an Italian traveler of the 1500s, who extensively traveled India, and captured its customs so precisely and artistically, that it was made into a book. He was T3H man. I couldn't imagine traveling so consistently. On a sidenote, his paintings feel a lot like tribal (Gond) art that still survives in India.

For High Class Matrimony

Perplexed mummies and daddies and sons and daughters, take notice.
Seen on the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road

Friday, November 16, 2012

Homecamp Basecamp

Didn't get to debut the tent on the previous trek, so thought of doing so right here in my apartment. Blogging from inside my tent right now :)
Short note: Today was curious - got up in time, had a bath, got a slick new shaved look, got ready to move out, and then just spent the entire day in front of the computer. So I have been "camping" in more than one sense today.

Say hello to my tent buddy, Blush

This one with the sheet on

Shiftfaced at Dayara

Fecal brown is the color of the day! Though there is an ongoing colorful show of daybreak at 11,000ft at our eye level - a sky of changing hues, an alpine meadow coming to life, a sun climbing up clandestinely behind an amphitheater of snow-bound god peaks to inject color into our surroundings - with us being the sole audience; but despite all the color, nothing strikes more than that particular shade of brown that I mentioned. Color of my previous night, color of my present dawn, and color of my soon-to-commence retreat back into civilization.

Over the next 24 hours, I, alongwith my buddy Y, will be backtracking our route - from this hamlet at Dayara Bugyal, to the village of Raithal, to the town of Uttarkashi, to the city of Dehradun, to the metropolis of Delhi. We are returning home, on time for the grand festival of Diwali, but with an embarrassing note on our faces that tells that we really didn't mean to. We had a much longer trekking route in mind: Raithal - Dayara Bugyal - Morpada - Dodital - Darba Top - Hanuman Chatti; but so were the considerations of the moment that we had to call it quits. Now, "quit" is a word I don't understand when in the lap of "mother" nature, since she made things to be possible (otherwise we won't have evolution, to begin with), so I was taken aback and had to pretend I understood what Y meant when he proposed that.

But first, let me give some foreground on that. I might switch to a third-person narrative for better effect.

So there were these two guys, twenty-somethings. One was a true man of the outdoors, charged, hardy, active, rich, brash, smart (womanizer), sentimental, decisive. The other was a jobless software programmer. They had been friends for a while. They had also been playing bait-and-hook with a lot of trekking plans for a while. They had done a single trip that qualified as 'trek', The Hamta Pass, in last year August; so understandably the itch of outdoors was strong. By October, the itch was intense. Coincidentally, they were equally unsocial in nature, to interpret the November week of Diwali - the Indian (Hindu) festival of lights and celebration and family reunions and prosperity - as a void in their schedule, waiting to be filled. So they decided to trek, and after brief research (or should I say under-research) worked out a 6-day itinerary in upper reaches of Uttarkashi. It was to be of a double honour, of visiting two destinations - Dayara Bugyal, one of India's most beautiful meadows at 11000ft, and Dodital, an enigmatic lake at 10800ft, also claimed in mythology as the birthplace of the Indian elephant god, Ganesha - in the same week.

The most ambitious aspect of this trek was that they planned to do it all by themselves, that is, no reliance on guides, or load-bearing mules, or opportune chaiwallahs, or greedy hotel owners. To be self sufficient, they had equipped themselves with sufficient clothes - for keeping warm, a tent - for stay, food - for survival, and a stove - for the food. Not to ignore other emergent facets of human isolation, they were also equipped with music - for the dull evenings, texts - for the idle moments, cameras - for the memories, and (most spectacularly) a bottle of Old Monk rum - for the madness (or escaping it). They had been sincere, at least in their preparation.

They left the city of Delhi very happy, because they could see - as they inched in an autorickshaw towards their transit destination to catch a bus into Garhwal - of what deplorable a setup, that is sadly called 'society', they were running from. The whole city was going crazy, like there was some zombie outbreak - policeman, miles of traffic jams, sirens, pollution; they were happy to be leaving it all behind. They felt a shudder seeing the clamor at the bus depot, where all levels of civilization converged to act equally uncivilized. The bus conductor was probably sympathetic to their condition, which is why he didn't force them to cram like chicken at the backseat, making their journey a rather comfortable one.

Their route was:
Delhi >--(bus)--> Rishikesh
Rishikesh >--(taxi)--> Uttarkashi
Uttarkashi >--(taxi)--> Bhatwari
Bhatwari >--(taxi)--> Raithal
From the village of Raithal, they started their uphill climb to Dayara Bugyal.

Reaching uptil Bhatwari was easy, but reaching Raithal from Bhatwari - the last 10km - wasn't; they had to nervously wait for a couple of hours before an overloaded taxi showed up and crammed them like chicken alongside other human chickens (and little chicks, with schoolbags). By the time their jeep labored up the bends like a dying hag and reached Raithal, it was already 16:30. There had been a persistent drizzle in the last half hour, which though had now abated, made the weather unpredictable - "If the clouds do open up on our way, it would probably come down as snow," they reminded themselves. But being arrogant, finicky, indecisive, and - consequently - embarrassed at the idea of giving into the subtle coercion (to stay, waste a day, and prosper the village economy) by the villagers, they chose to trudge ahead. It was already 17:00.


At this point, I must give 'them' an individual identity, since their individual characters/strengths/handicaps shone through by the time they'd barely made it beyond the village. It was somewhat like the ribbon of the rainbow that wrapped the mountain at that very instant, white light being subjected through walls of moisture at funny angles and broken into individual colors that had their own names (VIBGYOR). Let us call them Nagraj and Doga [1, 2]. (those familiar to Raj Comics might subconsciously pick their favorite at this time, which might be detrimental to the narration, so please avoid making any connections).

Doga was the slower one, though surprisingly Nagraj was the more burdened among the two. They trekked up the well-defined trail from Raithal village, taking frequent breaks for rest, water, change of clothing, or bodily discharge. Inside an hour, darkness had taken over, so their CREE headlamps had come out. The temperature had also taken an abrupt (albeit expected) dip, so their fleece jackets were out as well. It was a paradoxical situation, as the jackets which were sufficient protection against the cold, also hampered the ventilation when the body would heat up on a tough section and produce sweat. They had no clue of how far they'd come, as the trail, though broad and unambiguous throughout, isn't marked. They had no clue of how far they had to go, as there was not a hint of human presence anywhere up ahead, despite the villagers confirming of a team of workers employed for trail maintenance camping somewhere along. Though tired, they were thankful for the clouds that still maintained their dignified calm, and kept trudging ahead in the dark with damp clothes, breathing heavily, sticking close.
To be continued...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No show on Diwali

Filaments of smoke make in through the grille and the sounds constantly play hockey in my ears, but I do my best to shut myself away from these revelries of Diwali, and shift my mental frame into a day in the past, when I was somewhere really special.

Right now, I should be at Dayara Bugyal, or somewhere on that route spanning two ends of Uttarkashi - Dayara to Dodital to Darba Top to Hanuman Chatti. The intention I'd set out with, was to be lighting up a single candle firecracker on this day, at that mystery lake which mythology managed to claim as the birthplace of the Indian elephant god. I did set out, but I returned too soon.

Wish I could imagine myself there. Wish I weren't to suffer the violence of nature's economy or of the manipulative (to its means) human spirit. Sometimes we desire for freedom, but our body itself would not agree to this freedom and make its own demands.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dream connect

D, my friend sitting 5200 miles surprised me, when he told me about his previous night's dream, where I was taking refuge at his apartment, after having killed a former batchmate (though some in the real would find relief in the prospects of that happening). This connects with my own dream the same night where - the sketchy details that survive tell me that - I was disposing a body by the end of my dream. Creepy.

That gives me the idea of making an online dream channel for each person on this planet, where people who had them in their dream could add their narratives (even anonymously). Isn't that rad?!

Odd resurgent memories

This broke me out of my drowsy state (that is like a permanent feature soon as I engage myself in any office work).
For one, it starts with a panning shot of their camp-site, which featured the same Quechua T2 tent I've been eyeing for upcoming treks; just seeing Jeremy Clarkson next to it has me sold - but besides the man worship, the fact that he's huge makes me trust that the tent would be comfortable, if not luxury, at high altitudes. JC does complain about other stuff "my sleeping bag broke, my blanket was see through..." but I can do better than the BBC crew there.

And another, in that I could pinpoint their exact location in all the scenes. The roads beyond Manali, I know all! It starts with them waking up at a three-hut settlement called Dorni, midway Chhatru and Gramphoo. There's a beautiful Stupa (overlooking a death fall), and waterfalls abound on either face. See the other side of that milestone in my pic. There's also a second picture to add more cred.
The Top Gear team did the Spiti Valley, which is really cool, albeit the condition of their cars suggests torture.

Then they are seen winding up the Koksar-Rohtang La gatta loops.

Then, they take a pitstop at Kothi, a noveau-rich village 13km from Manali, where they invented a new form of cricket with the locals. Their impromptu playfield is the exact spot where me and D hitched a ride on bus (to take us beyond Rohtang) on our bike trip in 2007.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Polygamy v Promiscuity

The word “polymath” teeters somewhere between Leonardo da Vinci and Stephen Fry. Embracing both one of history’s great intellects and a brainy actor, writer, director and TV personality, it is at once presumptuous and banal. Djerassi doesn’t want much to do with it. “Nowadays people that are called polymaths are dabblers—are dabblers in many different areas,” he says. “I aspire to be an intellectual polygamist. And I deliberately use that metaphor to provoke with its sexual allusion and to point out the real difference to me between polygamy and promiscuity."

Crucial distinction, thanks to - Last days of the Polymath (

Call him a machine

Its 2 am. despite being ultra mobile for the entire day, I don't feel sleepy. The last movement of the day saw me out, at 9pm, to Noida to catch up with the C, then heading back, at midnight, to the far end of Delhi to abode of the Y - where I now am - to make it by 0130am, totaling about 60k on the bike*, that too with a heavy backpack. Before that I was looking forward to a night of libations, which sadly didn't happen; so I just busied myself doing the dishes until bro returned. I had just been back from a ghoom at Chandni Chowk, in search of randomness - and needless to say I was suitably rewarded. Prior to that I was a part of the spirited lunch conversation and ideation about present and future prospects of travel with the A&A- which had a silver lining in the form of a (slim) commitment by all, for the Annapurna circuit next summer.

And to think that earlier I had been cursing myself at a late start to the morning, declaring dead all hopes for an eventful day. Just another 3 hours, and then tennis, followed by a long day in places with shady sounding names. The weekend's still young.


Friday, November 02, 2012

Difficult fruit

If you ask me what the most difficult fruit is, I'm gonna say, straight off the bat, "Anaar" (pomegranate). The day before, I I finished one. Yesterday, while cleaning out my fridge, I found its purchase receipt, dated 19th August, 2012. That makes it 2 months and 13 days, but you could discount a couple, since I didn't immediately crack the pomegranate open. So, as it was, it took me 70 days to finish a single pomegranate, on and off in my eating routine. I'm perhaps the most conservative pomegranate eater in history of human civilization.

Mind you, I love this fruit, more so for its longevity - any lesser fruit would have been diseased by the first week itself, and sent me into the doctor's clinic.

Today, on a visit to Chandni Chowk, I got another one - a huge one. It weighed 400g on the scales, which was (almost) thrice that of the last pomegranate I finished, and cost me INR 50. It larger than the size of my fist. I shudder to think how long consuming this one would take. Handing it to those butchers whom I refer to as "others" could probably see it devoured in a single day. I could keep it as a showpiece, and in the meantime secretly nibble away its hidden half (which could last at least a month, if not more).