When was the last time you sat idle? Sitting on a couch maybe and watching a box displaying a sugar coated world or perhaps, updates from the ‘real world’. A seed of intellect, destined to grow into a tree, thus perishes dormant. Moreover, it spoils the entire lot of grains around it, which, but increase mass and cover up the holes that lead to depth.
There is something about this place, which lures me into writing about it again and again. Kolti, the land where sweet echoes of human songs fill the air, where birds fly singing away to glory, where the trees stand arranged and mountains seem to hold each other’s arms and cover the land, as if there was a small street show going on in here. Meanwhile Kolti sits on a ridge drained by two beautiful streams on either side. These streams then meet in front of Kolti’s ridge and rush into to the Aglar and later into the Yamuna. The land being paradisaical in nature, never fails to present its beauty. Be it summer, when the cool breezes flow through your hair or winters, when the sun comforts you with its warm hugs. The mystical Kolti sky is home to many bird species. One can see raptors soaring high into the sky all the time. Also, its streams are always busy with spotted fork tails jumping around.
After three dry months of saturated university life, we headed home to celebrate the festival of colours but the yearning to visit Kolti was the foremost objective of this short holiday. Spring filled the air with a distinct muse, which could be felt looking at the blooming rhododendron trees. Spring signifying rebirth in the world of nature, could not be understood in a better way. As morning started setting in, with two of my friends, I was already amid the forest, on the way to Kolti. Black-Lored Tits had already made their presence felt with continuous mid notes of busy chirping from all sides! As we ventured deeper into the forest, and yes I mean deeper as one has to descend constantly downhill, a lot of butterflies greeted us. An attempt to photograph them was made, but they did not seem to want a photograph clicked. It was only later that some of them posed for us!
As we came to the lower part of the forest, something green, resembling a parakeet flew by. But a parakeet does not fly in that fashion. It sat on the branch of one of the Chir trees. No time was wasted in spotting it through the binoculars. The magnification revealed a blue-fronted Barbet. Having seen it for the first time ever, was quite a surprise. But then Kolti is always full of surprises. Previous visits had already divulged species like the Koklass pheasant,
Broadbill and also the Himalayan Monal. Kolti never fails to please us and today the rhododendrons were among the delicacies! It is only when you put a rhododendron flower upside down in your mouth and then slowly chew it, that you discover how delicious they are. The raw nectar is no match for any of the decorated drinks available in the market.
After relishing the spring flowers and clicking some of photographs, we finally reached the village. The children of the village welcomed us happily and we handed over some books, which we had got with us for the village library. Then we made our way to the camping site above the village. The sun, by now had started descending from its apex and our stomachs screamed out to us for some food. Maggi, juice and oranges was the answer to this call. Smokes started rising as water in the pan reached the boiling point. Then after a while, our very own ‘Smoked- Maggi’ was prepared. Anything on smoke is wonderful when you are already high on the mountains! Atop the ridge, sitting on some chairs, savoring the food we were seen by none other than the hills, the birds and the trees. Soon cool breezes started running on the green wheat steps. A small pup had been sitting with us the entire time there. It was as if he wanted us to keep sitting there forever. The food was now finished too and we sat idle on our chairs looking at the landscape ahead.
Gradually notes from the guitar blended into the atmosphere. Being a good singer and a master at the guitar, one of my friends, started playing his own compositions. Silence, with a melody on the guitar, some voices of birds and humans, cool breezes and beautiful surroundings induced a spell! Yonder trees now looked as if they were racing up the hill, then gradually like soldiers with rifles running down for a battle. Few seemed to be swaying with the tunes of the guitar, resembling the Mexican waves! Then a tree, standing on the far end of a slope caught our attention. It seemed to be the most special tree. And one could actually imagine a new beautiful misty paradise ahead of that tree. Perhaps, this is how one is high on the mountains! The fire from the saturated university days was extinguished now. And this remains one of the happiest moments of my life. Truly this break turned out to be such a beautiful one.
After a while we bid farewell to the village and were on our way back to town. Going into the depths had left us high and now we had to climb back up the physical high, which being high already did not seem an easy task. The heavens then poured, to make our task somewhat easier. With refreshed souls then, we walked back up slowly and marked the end of this beautiful journey!
Has man really forgotten how to be free?? The rat race is killing one of the most basic need of any organism. This organisation is about making one realize, how important it is to sit and reflect in a natural environment and also experience the life of people living in close to Nature.
Follow the link below to read more on this…
After a long tiring week of work, leisure is what your soul yearns for. Solitude, a perfect state of being, gives you all that you need to get back at the world. Ironically, we are all so busy getting back at the world that slowly we lure ourselves into becoming the part of the system. There is no time left to stop, sit, and reflect: “Where are we heading to?”
The system only but steals one of freedom along with reason. For the mind also needs a free environment to function. Humans, as we are called and considered to be above the rest of the species, have destroyed the very essence of life. Mastering the nature is by no means the greatest achievement of mankind! Moreover, education teaches one to renovate a building that can never stand erect. In such a world, free souls are a rare sighting.
Standing in my balcony I see this beauty offered by the night. With “Coming back to life – Pink Floyd” playing in the background, the chilly winter breeze and this scenery transported me to a realm of a unique experience. Traveling, not with the physical body, but with the mental state of being… Music is a substitute for the mode of transport used for the journey and the destination is unknown. With shades at an arm’s length, you can really enjoy this form of travel if undertaking a journey (physically) is not possible!
The concept of cultural – eco travels to generate employment in a village and thereby curtailing the mass exodus or rural population. Hidden Treasures, is one such firm, which aims at village empowerment. To read more on this please follow the link below…
Strange are the roads and strange are the people on them. Encircling mountains, dividing plains and running through the valleys, they lead you to places unimagined and cultures exotic. Connecting different locations, roads symbolize the veins in human body. People, like blood, flow through this network of roads. To keep this frame, governed by reason, hale and hearty a consistent pumping of blood is required, lest the structures would collapse. Sadly, in the dawn of this new era, we are so busy making our own organs sturdy that we have completely forgotten about the complete structure. Due to an increase in the quantity of blood, we are constantly digging out new veins. Veins, which not only eat up resources but also damage the body and the dependence of other species, have all of a sudden become the need of the hour. Everything, ranging from materials to people, is transported through these roads. Luxuries on wheels are on the verge of becoming the most abundant specie on the planet. Travel, today has become a mere transport of blood vessels from one part of the body to others on wheels. It is so easy and comfortable for one to get into a car and ask the driver to take him to a desired hill station, beach, desert or any place for that matter. This reduces the process of travel only to a matter of boarding and getting off a vehicle. Driving the vehicle too reduces the experience of the beautiful journey between two places. A desire to experience the shades embedded in a journey, resulted in a decision to travel from the queen of hills to the Lord’s abode on foot.
On a misty monsoon morning, as the roads were being cleaned and the birds sang in their sweet melodies, the journey started with two backpacks, a camera and footloose spirit, we set off on a 150km journey. The first step was quick, second quicker, and third even quick and we gradually managed to set a decent pace to cover 42 kilometers in the first day. As the sun was getting ready to shine the brightest, we were already sliding down a forested slope. Covering 20 kilometers in the first half, seemed easy and stomachs too wanted some compensation. Thus, a lunch break followed in a small village of ’Bhatauli’ where we feasted ourselves to “Ready to Eat” ‘Rajma’ and freshly prepared ’chawal’ with a healthy orange drink. Picking up the backpacks again, we now ventured into a thick forest on a steep slope. This would lead us to the banks of River Aglar, which makes a confluence with River Yamuna. Descending the slope, introduced us to the perils of going off road. No passages to descend, regular hissing of snakes, fear of leaches, a penetrating noise of a wild creature in the bushes, mouldering soil and heavy backpacks made the hair on our body stand up. A small village settlement on the opposite river back could be seen while sliding downwards, this is what helped to subdue the fears. On reaching the banks, a splash of cold water on the face was rejuvenating, but a pair of legs had oozed out a lot of blood to aid a leach’s hunger. This demanded rest, thus a spot of top of a small hill was used. The magnificent view of mountains, with the sound of river flowing beneath and a bottle of glucose water helped in speedy recovery. Bidding farewell to off- road routes for the entire journey, we started once again. Up came a milestone showing 12 kilometers to the end of the first day’s journey. It was all roads now, with a danger of landslides!
This walk of 12kilometers drained us out of all the energy. Stopping at every possible bend, which offered a luxury of water or shade, we halted at a small village to replenish the energy banks with milk. This was the first experience of how these areas are being poisoned by commercialization. Two small glasses of adulterated milk for 40 rupees!
The sun slowly hid behind the mountains and we reached ‘Nainbagh’, where we spent the night in a village guest house. The rates were descent and the people too. Next morning we started early with a light breakfast and receiving constant updates of bad weather ahead. Nonetheless, the journey progressed and the sun showed up too, like never before. A realization slapped our faces hard. In mountains, the sun provides shade to only one side of the mountain. We were on the side where shade seemed to be a fantasy. A 4 hour walk in the hard sun led to dehydration. Water bottles were empty too. But the walk continued, until a leaking pipeline was spotted. What more could we have desired? The water was icy cold and the bath was more than just orgasmic! Completely refreshed we continued once again, but slowly the steps going forward seemed to drop back. The direful moment of giving up had arrived, until the idea of hitchhiking surfaced. On the second attempt, a pick-up truck stopped by took us 5 kilometers to ‘Damta’, a small village. This meant food and rest. Resting for almost an hour, we started again. It was a spoil, which had made us forget the journey. Thus, it was very hard to get back at the journey again! A short 2km walk took us an hour and all the energy. Fearing to stop again, another hitchhike of 10 km helped us to reach ‘Naugaon’, a small village 10km from our day 2 stop. It was beautiful to stand on the back of the pick-up and speed through the perilous curves of the road. But, the hitchhike ended as a commercialized ride, as we had to shed some money for this luxury. We had 3 hours of day light left, in which we needed to walk 10km, to complete the 50kilometers of the second day. Step by step we managed to set the pace again. Even though shoulders ached and feet welcomed blisters, the walk seemed easy going, perhaps owing to the cool breezes.
Day two came to an end with violent storms threatening the night. In ’Barkot’ a comfortable GMVN (Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) guest house helped us get away from the tiredness. As morning broke, we left the guest house completely refreshed to walk the remaining 48kilometers, only to encounter poor road conditions, worsened by the last night’s rain. But these conditions quickly faded way. Now the problem of bad weather arose: the sky was fading away to grey and we were short of one raincoat too. A raincoat had been lost, descending the slope above Aglar.
Soon the clouds started pouring, a polythene rain suit purchased in one of the villages helped. But the fear of water penetrating and destroying the camera constantly plagued us. It was then, a nine year old boy, Abhishek, approached us. He thought we are travelling on a motorcycle and would take him along to ‘Jankichatti’ (last motorable stop before Yamnotri), as he worked in a hotel there. On finding out that we were on foot, he too walked along! The rain had stopped too and the three of us walked for around 10kilometers, when the boy told us that he hadn’t eaten anything since morning. We were hungry too, so we stopped at a small village ‘Kuthnor’. In a small village shop, we prepared our own food and conversed with the people from this village too, while the clouds continued to shed tears in the background. They were friendly and it was nice talking to them. But this experience too ended in a familiar journey feeling, when the shopkeeper demanded 50 rupees for using his stove!
The journey continued and it began raining heavily. Owing to the rain and the constantly dropping temperatures, the young soul could no longer keep up with us. He managed 2kilometers, before he gave in to the temptation of traveling in a jeep. A jeep stopped and the boy wouldn’t go without us. All those kilometers did seem to have an emotional effect. Ironically, there was no room in the jeep! The next event in the journey was: the both of us hanging behind the jeep with our backpacks amidst the chilling winds and a mountain road full of sharp turns, while the boy sat inside the jeep! A 7 kilometers hang till ‘Phoolchatti’ and another 5 kilometers to ‘Jankichatti’ on top of a jeep was a beautiful experience. The snowcapped peaks, a waterfall spurring out of the green hills could be seen at every bend. White waters flowing out in the green, seen in between a curtain of mist offered romantic scenery!
On reaching Jankichatti, Abhishek opened up a room for us in his hotel and the prices, he claimed, were nothing in comparison to the high rates of other hotels. We spent the evening and the night in his hotel and the following morning, we climbed the last few kilometers to the shrine at Yamnotri. A bath in the hot ‘Surya-kund’ (a natural geyser) in Yamnotri marked the end of all weariness in our bodies. The journey had come to an end and we headed back to our homes. Sadly, not the way we had come.
Crossing all those places again, which had now become a part of our experience, gave an unfamiliar feeling. Reminiscing upon the events, thinking about the boy, the leaking pipe, forests, rivers, and valleys filled our eyes and a hearts with happiness, which was never felt before. Perhaps such are the joys of having worked hard and achieving a self-set goal. A basket full of emotions: Fear, disappointment, happiness, weariness and leisure did really make us experience the varying shades offered by the roads…
Festivals have always played an important role in the history of all human societies. It is the time of the year when everyone puts the daily chores aside and celebrates with all their heart. The rituals associated with festivals may vary across cultures, but the spirit of merry making remains unchanged. Special dances, rituals, music, food, decorations and clothing add to the beauty of festivals. Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the biggest festivals and has become a popular mainstream festival. Over the years, firecrackers and fancy lights have replaced the true joys contained in the festival. In this Modern age the new generations stand no chance to witness the real beauty of celebrations. Buried under the thick layers of complexities our souls have forgotten the very basic festive sentiments.
Luckily there exists a place where simplicity is given respect. Only a few kilometers away from the queen of hills -Mussoorie- ‘Badi Diwali’ is celebrated in its true spirit. Away from the cold stone Kings and Queens, the entire community prepares for two days of dance, music and celebration. The ‘Dhols’ and ‘Damaus’ are taken out and fill the air with a festive muse as they begin resounding filling your souls with raw music. The sunlight gives way to majestic darkness after the village folk has feasted on ‘poori – subji’ and savoured the taste of delicious ‘Haskya’ (a dish prepared using three flours namely mandwa, jhingora and gehun which iseaten with curd). The folk now gets ready to play ‘Bhyonla or holda’. These are small box- like structures made of dried grass fastened by a small metal wire which is then tied to a long jute rope. The boxes are then lighted and spun around holding one end of the rope. The motion resembles to that of an Olympic hammer thrower. A surreal ring of fire illuminates as the motion of the holda speeds up. One gets a firsthand psychedelic experience witnessing these rings of fire…
The sun now drowns completely and dwellers of Kolti gather themselves slowly at the ‘chaupal’ (village center). Children play ‘Dhols’ and ’Damus’, walking in the entire village signaling the time for the evening celebrations. A fire is lighted in the fireplace at the chaupal. The music and dances intensify as the numbers pour in. The proceedings come to a halt when a diya is ignited in the chaupal temple. Both men in women engage themselves bare feet in a holy dance that is performed to call the deities. Following the rhythm of the instruments the dancers feel a holy spirit entering their bodies. As the performance progresses many dancers feel high amounts of energies passing through their bodies. This is then exhibited with speedy body gestures in the dance where one reaches a whole new level of trance. The music slowly subsides and the effects of the spirits too fade away. With the rituals complete, the whole village now dances in the chaupal. The dhols are beaten more strongly now. Everyone is engrossed in the celebrations. The dancers divide them in two distinct groups of men and women, who dance and sing around the Dhol players standing in the center. The dances are performed late into the night. No one seems tired, even the kids dance with full enthusiasm. The dhols slowly fade away and the first day celebrations come to an end with a final dance before it is time for the cock to announce the beginning of a new day.
A new morning sets in and Kolti dwellers are a little late than usual to get up. Everyone performs their share of daily duties and is ready for continuing with the celebrations as sun descends from its zenith. This starts with a special dance ‘Tandi’ which is performed as everyone sets out from their homes dancing to reach a place called ‘Dhimsya’. It is a common village field where a big pile of wood is burnt. The entire community dances and sings along with the beats of dhols till the fire dies out. After this the folk gradually dances back to their homes. This brings the two day celebration to an end.
Away from the cities, this way of celebrating Diwali is really an eye opening experience. Everyone takes part in the celebration, unlike the so called modern towns where Diwali is reduced to a solitary family celebration. Even family celebrations go for a spin as some family members are always busy with their professional lives.
Let me share with you two incidents that took place around Kolti. On the first night of celebrations, when it was time for us to go back to our tents, we realized that we were short of a matchbox. We simply asked a man standing next to us for a matchbox. He was all ears to our request and took us to his home, gave us a matchbox and even some dry firewood as he knew the wood outside would not light owing to winter frost. He even urged us to have food. Yes, such an event can take place anywhere else too but the feelings with which he helped us, were pure. This help didn’t have any strings attached to it. Rightly said by Mark Twain, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”.
The second incident is of a lost wallet. We had gone for a simple trek to the village and a wallet had somehow fallen out of my friend’s backpack in the forest. She realized it only after completing the trek. Going back into the forest to find the wallet was out of the question as it was dark. We informed the village head and requested him to inform us in case it was found. After a few days the wallet was found and returned with everything intact. We could only thank the village head for this help. A few months later, my friend noticed an inbox message on her Facebook account from an unknown saying “Madam we have found your purse. Please call at this number”. One of the village youths had found my friend on the social network and had only created this account to send her this message.
We the educated people from growing towns cannot even think of taking so many pains to ensure the delivery of a lost wallet to its owner. Travelling helps one to discover such varying shades in our society. The people living in villages may not enjoy so many luxuries as us in cities, but they really have hearts of gold. Thus, in conclusion I do not find it wrong to call these people the real Kings and Queens. Looking at the lives of people in this village I’m reminded of one of the sayings by Leonardo Da Vinci – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”