I remember discreetly my pick when posed with a dilemma by another friend to pick one, the mountain or the sea, while I chuckled as I answered, “Over a mountain surrounded by the sea.” I know I was greedy there. I wanted everything at a single place yet longing secretly to visit them in pieces to know in real what I actually loved and why. I haven’t been able to figure out the reason though but however I seem to understand what exactly I might have loved in the enumerable trips I have been to, since I was a child.
Port Blair. Mangalore. Goa. Pondicherry.
I seemed to have strangely been in love with the beaches while being equally scared of the gushing water. So, I often used to stroll along the coast, gathering the wet evening breeze under my sobering breath before I found a spot to settle on to watch the dimming sun, set. Memory, you see, a mental picture which you would take along with us in the ever flowing journey called Life. I picked up the notion from a movie titled, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but anyways it’s a story for another day. I believe some things are meant to be remembered through the naked eye rather than behind a camera lens. Be it the famous night street of Pondicherry or the sparsely visited Anjuna beach of Goa, I wouldn’t dare to forget how it felt to be there in those moments of awe.
Sea, in particular, is kind in its demeanour yet dominating in its presence and vastness. The rhythmic sound of the splashing waves brings out a kind of music which has a soothing effect, especially on me. It brings out romanticism in its truest sense, adding colours to the existing palate of our life. The calmness into which I could stare for eternity to come is the thing that I have found to savour with time, the thing I actually seem to love about the sea.
Kargil. Khardungla Pass. Shimla. Khasi Hills. Yercaud. Dodabetta. Yumesamdong.
My tryst with the mountains began way before I met the sea. It began from the place where people usually end, “The Great Himalayas”. The dried up mountains to the south of Ladakh to the snow covered ones to its north, it’s a befitting spectacle which one rarely could afford to forget. But I have come a long way, I was only ten back then.
This December, it was the clouded mountain and the windy valley that we happen to choose, making me understand the reason why I seem to love them so fiercely. It so happens with the hills that the time we spend to get to the scenic location is far more than the time we spend at the place. The topsy-turvy road curving upwards with every delicate turn thus remains the significant part of my travel memory, organically peppered with conversations. This part of memory somehow feels a lot important, feels right somehow. The arduous journey packed inside a Mahindra Xylo with an infinite road ahead and with scenic beauty covered all around while being gently graced with differing personalities carrying different opinions yet bonded together by long years of friendship and camaraderie. I now know for sure what I really love about the mountains. Sikkim, one of the most beautiful and one of the most underexplored places that we had recently visited made me realize this over and over again.
Paradise: When the two meet
Pangong-Tso Lake. Gurudongmar Lake.
I always loved the mountain breeze as much as I adored the gushing waves; they felt to me as pious and serene in their truest sense. I was too young to remember much about the time we had visited Pangong-Tso lake. Except the crystal clear bluish water and the deep blue sky at the fore with an abandoned boat at one corner, my memory about the travel is only in bits and pieces. This makes me ponder over the recent things that happened in our week long trip a few weeks ago, which by the way ended with us missing our destined flight, however it’s a story for another day. Gurudongmar Lake, 17500 feet above MSL, surrounded by snow-capped mountains was the paradise we had been lucky to witness. Partly frozen, partly liquid, the lake has been known for its religious reasons, an extremely pious lake, the locals had stressed. I wouldn’t deny their claim, even a bit. It’s God’s own paradise, he seem to have taken an extra effort while making this one. Stunningly breath-taking, applicable even in its literal sense.
The other place, my personal favourite of the trip and one of the best I have ever seen in my life, was the Sea of clouds. The one I had chuckled about; we were at the top of a mighty mountain and below us flowed the ‘clouded’ sea.
It’s never wrong to dream; sometimes they come to life in the most unexpected times and in most unexpected ways. Period.
P.S. Back home. Delhi and its beloved winter smog!
“There was this man who I remember seeing couple of years ago, a peculiar individual in his own right. He was draped in a saffron dhoti with number of beads around his neck which in turn was shielded with his really longish grey beard. His hair was unkempt so was his walk, absent minded it felt. But his eyes had an altogether new story on offer. Despite the wrinkles sagging over his cheeks, his sunken eyes had remained full of life as if they had never aged. There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he narrated the tales from mythology related to the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of River Ganga, the place where we had been for the past two hours. Our itinerary had a long list of places to cover, but we seemed to remain here transfixed.
The early morning sunrise, the moderating winter breeze and his nonchalant manner of storytelling became the perfect foil for the day. It was Tara’s idea to start our trip from Varanasi which I was hell opposed to, atleast initially. I had my reasons; it isn’t a normal occurrence for a couple to reunite after thirteen years of divorce and to start that journey together from a place of pilgrimage was something which I had my inhibitions about. After all no one wants to be reminded of their receding hairline and greyish hair, atleast I didn’t. Tara on the other hand had remained elegant and beautiful; her greying hair seemed to have complimented her much more. I am not denying that I may have been biased in my description about her, why wouldn’t I be? But she did, indeed, look graceful as always.
We were seated along the banks, facing the river, while the old man stood to our left as he narrated the story from Mahabharata. He continued in a deep tone, “King Shantanu…” while we sat hand in hand with a smile on our face. I realized only then how much I missed her. More than the place it was her all along who made all the difference, who made the world a little more bearable for me to survive. She placed her head over my shoulder as we kept hearing the old man’s endless stories with a child-like curiosity in our eyes.
A year later, the saffron cladded man was present with us again, this time hearing our Ramayana with a graceful smile while wishing us a successful marriage, which I really hoped to be this time around. He, although, remained a peculiar man with those youthful eyes and a frailing body but we, however, remember him often when we narrate our story of getting back together where he remains a graceful influence who rekindled our common love for stories, all over again.”
Picture Courtesy: Getty Images
“Sea. I had heard a lot of stories, a few from my parents and a few by my friends but I as such never witnessed the spectacle, the grace of the deep blue sea. However, events of the past few nights had left us with no option but the sea. It took us over six hours maneuvering through the forests to reach the coast. We had been extra careful to avoid the trigger happy guards, after all it was my dad who was leading the escape. There were over fifty of us moving together, some were carrying steel boxes on their head while a few brought along their cattle, but the most astonishing was the woman cladded in red. Her clothes were tattered at the edges while her skin bore many visible bruises, however she as such carried nothing with her but I somehow felt that she carried more baggage than anyone else in the entire group. She bore a dead pan expression, and spoke to none apart from my mother. I often wondered what they spoke but never dared to ask Ammi.
The night was shining with its full flare and the hushing sound of the waves began to rise as we reached our planned destination, an abandoned stretch of the mighty Bay of Bengal. The sea looked beautiful, way better than the stories. The waves blended with the moonlight as they rose high in the sky before crashing into the rocks on the way side. The excitement caught be by surprise as I began to pace ahead of the rest, rushing towards the coastline, finally feeling the sea breeze for the very first time. I called out my mom, describing her the beauty that I was becoming a part of but all I could see was desperation in her eyes. The boat that was to ferry us hadn’t arrived, the food that we carried wasn’t left anymore, and the beloved roof that we built and lived for centuries wasn’t ours anymore. All that was left was the sea. I hoped in silence that unlike the land they won’t divide us from the sea, I just hoped they wouldn’t.”
“People usually fixate on how Delhi has only two seasons, the pinching heat of summer and the scathing cold of winter. Their premise is neither completely wrong nor completely right but for a person like me who loves the very onset of winter, there exists four. The two additions are very short in nature; they tend to disappear before we could realize their surreal existence. It was in March of ’96 when I made my first addition.
I was born and brought up in Delhi but the transition between winter and summer remained unacknowledged until then. It wasn’t a blink and a miss phenomenon; it took its own sweet time to mature while providing the time for us to adapt. But I only noticed it when I fell in love with Priya.
I and Priya had been studying in the same college and were from the same department but we had never really spoken with one another until our penultimate year in college. Project Work as it had been labelled back then was the glue which started it all for us. We were grouped together, with a deadline which spanned throughout the winter holidays while ending with a strict date of submission on 5th of March. I do remember the date, why wouldn’t I? You always remember the day for which you have prepared helter-skelter for; mind you, I wasn’t talking about the submission.
Despite having ample time to complete the project, we spent our winter holidays cozying up in our blankets while playing the occasional hand cricket with our siblings. It was in January when we felt the first buzz; it was a silent roar from the other groups who were tottering around the city to collect fodder for our respective projects. The progress of Jaykar’s group spread like wild fire, catching all of us unprepared. It was on one such day in January that I had received a call on my neighbour’s landline, the only telephone in our entire three storied building. Sunitha Aunty knocked at our door, informing us that there was a girl named Priya on the call.
We met the following evening near our college. It was a group of four, out of which three had turned up. I don’t remember my exact words but I do know that she smiled. It was the first time when I noticed how beautiful her eyes were; they were special, atleast to me. She came up with an idea to work at her father’s garage as the cold had made it unbearable to work outside. We kept sipping her home made coffee day after the other for the entire month which she occasionally bragged being the best in the world. “You should try coffee in Chennai; it’s an out of the world experience” she often used to say. While we continued pouring in our efforts for an early completion, atleast Sakshi was eager to. She had her sister’s wedding in February and therefore wanted the project to end as soon as possible. May be that was the reason why she seemed to agree on everything; she never pointed or raised any doubts even if the work was outlandish in nature.
But whatsoever the fruits of our hard work remained unrealized as we were in month of February and the project was not even half way through. Sakshi had ditched us for the wedding while Aman remained as usual irregular. That’s the time when I and Priya actually bonded. The winter had slowly started to recede while we began to venture outside her father’s garage through our long strolls in the nearby park. The conversations were always deep between us but it became longer with those walks. The sun began to set late, the days became longer, while I & Priya found more time to be together. The transition was gradual but unlike the climate, I noticed it at the very first instant.
It was on the 5th of March that I had decided to tell her what I felt. I spent more time in front of the mirror than behind the books in preparing for the viva, and once we were done submitting, I asked her to accompany me to the college cafeteria where I finally professed my feelings which she gracefully reciprocated with her cheerful nod of acceptance. It wasn’t a kind of jubilation that I had felt back then but it was a sense of assurance that I had found. An assurance, that she felt the same as I had always felt for her, an assurance that felt like bliss for the very first time.
But seasons change. So did us. It was in month of October’00 when I acknowledged the second and the final addition in my season list, autumn. It was a sudden phenomenon, and it began when our four year old relationship ended abruptly.”
“Trouble finding framing engaging
Words that remain prudent to you
Me and them; words that keep the unruly
From uniting, from blabbering their way
Across with their nonsensical frame
Of reference that divide you and me
Into us and them through simmering discontent
Spread by exploiting the fragility in our mutual intent
To break the harmony by monopolizing the reality
Established over a land buried with the trampled voices of dissent,
The voices that fought for you, me and them,
The voices that were finally silenced through the barrel of a gun
Leaving ideas in the word without their needed halo
While keeping the oppressed divided and the oppressors united
By building a notion in our mind to make us ponder
And leave us troubled in finding framing engaging
Words that remain prudent to them and them alone.”
“Why do our movies and us try finding our answers in black or white while our life remains grey from start to the end. Isn’t exaggeration a ploy we tend to use to put our point across for wide unrelenting attention.
I find people mooted for an ideology, giving irrelevance to change while exaggerating the untrue to make their side of truth, the only reality for others to believe. The left think they are right, the right think they are no wrong, while I stand with many in the middle, watching the sheer Idiocracy both try to paint. I like many fail to understand, what does ideology have to do when you know humanity triumphs all. Why do you want to paint red or saffron when we are still unable to help the Gandhi’s Talisman.
Seventy years is a big number while poverty still remains an unforgotten cousin. When there is no food to eat or water to drink, there is no teaching or color better than food and water itself. Empty stomachs, malnourished children, trafficked women, landless labourer, construction worker, these Gandhi’s Talismen still search for a voice from us, the privileged. They ask for a helping hand, a voice to narrate their stories, a heart to accomdate one and all, isn’t that a lot to be asked? I don’t think so.
If you are still stuck in the black or white, red or saffron era, don’t worry I will simplify. There is no Antagonist in our story which might dishearten you all, but if you are still adamant then try finding a solution to the problem of poverty. Try all your colours in this effort, I like many won’t mind, but get me that rainbow when you finish, a rainbow of inclusivity and life.”