Sunday, 19 May 2013

Imprints of a Journey:

I travel for the journey, the never ending road that becomes your home, the beauty of experiencing the ever changing scenery, culture and people, the ecstasy of freedom...of leaving everything behind and the longing to keep journeying further and never return. Almost all the places I have travelled to have left some imprints with me like Corbett NP where I realised for the first time that all I wanted to do in life was to keep travelling, the mysterious pull of the ruins at Nalanda, the quaint tiny station of Rameshwaram which sprang to life as the only train of the day pulled in ever so slowly, an evening at the beautiful Brihadeshwara temple of Tanjore where life didn’t seem to have changed much for centuries, the strong energy that one could still feel amongst the ruins of Hampi, the torrential rain and the deep dark forest of Binsar, the walk on the empty road to Borra Caves where the echo of a train whistle filled up the entire valley.

But then, there are also places which have left a deep impact on me and these are the places where I would want to go back again and again irrespective of the pleasures of a journey. 


A gruelling trek from dry Kibber across an 18500ft pass to Rupshu Valley in Ladakh threw us right into the heart of raw nature. All around us were the stark mountains, harsh weather and numerous ‘mis’ adventures. On nights when I wouldn’t be dead tired from the day’s walk, I would remain outside after everybody had slept off. On those nights, despite bone numbing cold wind, I would sit mesmerised by the trillions of stars in the sky feeling utterly tiny in the vastness of universe. For me that defined real life, right there in the middle of those mountains and not what we lead in the cities. On the penultimate day, when we were sitting atop the Leh Palace gazing across the mountains, a sublime Buddhist chant floated up from the town below. Coming back to Delhi and resuming daily life was traumatic that year for me.        


A description for this place eludes me. It’s complex in its natural beauty and simplicity. The same can be said for its people. This is the only place in my travels across the country where I, as a woman, felt totally free and safe. This is the place where I could run (or walk) around in wild abandon (mentally) whopping with joy.  In Itanagar, you could sense the frustration amongst the youth for not being treated as Indians by others; in Tawang, people were scared and preparing for a time when it might be taken over by China. Though tribal identities are very strong, people here are one of the friendliest if you win their trust. My friend and I had a chance meeting with Tapi Mra (an Everester) who went out of his way to ensure we got the right seats in the right vehicle to our next destination.  


Rewind to a time, to a rural India of five or six decades back. That is the innocence one finds in Chhattisgarh along with high levels of poverty. But what struck me about the place was the presence of a primeval energy. It felt as if nature thrived for centuries undisturbed by humans – until now. Trees are massive here growing and spreading out as far as possible with each and every tree having a distinct character. And deep inside the forests, if you whisper to the trees....they whisper back to you. All you have to do is listen.    

Monsoon in the Konkan and Sahyadri:

Every year, the transformation with the onset of rains leaves me astounded. I love the rains anywhere but in the Western Ghats, it turns magical. The dark grey clouds rolling in from the tumultuous grey sea turns everything into a carpet of green. The consistent drizzle that characterised monsoon in the east during my childhood is nowhere close to the heavy downpours of the west. Like the village communities who go about their daily lives with a conical bamboo and plastic cover on their heads, we also have learnt to negotiate the rains here. However what becomes difficult to negotiate during these days is the call of far-away lands and the pull of the churning dark clouds.         

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