Monday, September 28, 2015

My humor book - A dog eat dog-food world

Once upon a time, I was content writing blog posts and waiting forlornly for readers to come around and read them. Then comes a short story competition and I, the bachelor, get one story into a romance anthology (Really!) called "Uff Ye Emotions". Being sort of unaccustomed to the modern world and its ways, I was embarrassed about calling it 'my book' since mine was but one story out of twelve.

Then I get wilder notions and participate with Karthik and Radha to put out a ebook anthology of crime called "Sirens Spell Danger" on Amazon. I suppose I could have called that 'my book', even by my fossilized standards, since it was, at least, edited by me but it seemed too selfish to lay claims to all the stories in the book.

Now, at last, I have a book all to myself. My humor novella, which parodies marketing management and satirizes some aspects of the world of commerce, is being published by Fablery. Advance copies are available at a 10% discount currently and the book is expected to be out by Oct 20.

A short introduction to what is in the book is here

A hilarious pseudo-history of marketing management, which explicitly denies resemblance to any actual history, and which will be horrified if some semblance be found. The story of a man who discovered that the path of life is strewn with treadmills and, if you get on one by mistake, you could keep running all your life to stay in the same place. The story of how a businessman may just be minding his…err…business and the ‘Invisible Hand’ can cause unexpected consequences to arise out of his innocent actions. There is no point blaming the tale for being exaggerated because that is precisely what it seeks to be – an ‘exaggeratio ad absurdum’ of some facets of the world. Anything you learn from the book – be it the basics of marketing management or a satirical view of Society – you do at your own risk.
The tale only dogs the doings of
Spike Fortune who only sought to feed dogs and, later, sought more dogs to feed.
Jerry Fortune who, being fortuneless, gets dragged helter-skelter behind his uncle Spike in the latter’s careening pursuit of commercial success and gets sandwiched between Spike and
Tyke who was Spike’s resident genius on enticing dogs with their wares. He also has to help Spike in his rivalry with
Tom Rich, who is unwillingly dragged into upstaging Spike and tries to do it by teasing the palates of cats, helped by the bumbling efforts of
Jasper Rich who would rather be partying than chasing cats with cat-foods.

The pre-order link where you can place your orders (if you feel so inclined) is

What has not changed, though, is the fact that - as for the other books - I am trundling my hand-cart through the streets crying, "My books for sale". An ironical thing to be doing - marketing a book that spoofs marketing management!

The other thing is that, as with the blog posts, I am waiting for readers to come and read this book!

Monday, September 21, 2015



It was my first day at IIM-Bangalore and the first thing that the Prof, who was giving the orientation lecture, wrote on the Board was this. To clarify, this was in 1988 and blackboards were still in use, even in the IIMs. AND, yes, because it WAS still the eighties, one could sort of work around a conversation about even the weather to how you are now a student at IIM, with the audience only smiling indulgently, as they would when they heard anyone being proud of any achievement (like getting a story published, say). It helped, I suppose, that the salaries of IIM guys were still somewhere around comparable levels and, thus, this simple pride did not get any connotations of someone boasting of being royalty.

"Management means to Manage Men and T(ime)"

I stiffened with fear. Did I hear that right? Managing Men and Time? (Ah! To clarify again, technology had not yet laid its claim on that 'T' of management, nor indeed had information technology usurped and ousted all other contenders to the word 'technology') Managing men? A trickle of sweat ran down my spine and my mouth went dry. Ever seen a wee lamb stray into a den of lions. The poor thing wants just to run away, bleating pathetically, but is frozen in fear with mouth too dry to even utter the smallest 'baa'. THAT was how I felt. Managing men? What had I got myself into?

If ever there was an inherently unmanageable, outright cussed species it must be Homo Sapiens. God must have had an off-day when He created mankind. And, here I was, in this institution which wanted to make me a manager of men? Eeeps! I had applied and joined the place only because of what I would get as a salary once I had passed out. I should have spared a thought to what I would have to do to earn that salary. (Yeah, I know, it has always vexed me that people thought that I needed to actually DO something to earn a salary, but this is not a post about that).

Imagine a bus careening down the mountainside about to fall off the click into the ravine below, because the driver has had a heart attack. Imagine a busload of passengers, screaming in fear and imagine that I am to manage these people (I know! It will really STRETCH your imagination to do it but TRY, will you?) into working together at stopping the bus before we flew into the wide blue yonder.

"You always pick on me to do the heavy lifting. Why should I shift the driver? Why not your blue-eyed boy there?"

"I think that we should form a committee to determine how this driver was allowed to drive today. There is something seriously wrong with the procedure to check on the fitness of drivers."

"Do you really think that, even if the driver is shifted, the brakes will work? Who knows what is the condition of the bus, when the travel agency has not even checked on the condition of the driver?"

"I really think that these winding roads are a hazard. The government should never permit winding roads in such terrain and put people in danger. This NDA government..."

"This road was put up in the UPA..."

"Say, how do you have a straight road on a mountain?"

"Do not digress from the point. Why did the NDA government not set it right? AAP is...."

And, soon, it would evolve into a highly spiritual discussion of whether at all there is a mountain, or a road or a bus or what we could call 'We'. THAT last, of course, would prove right - for soon, there would be no 'We'!

Exaggeration? Perhaps. But when death or disaster is much less imminent - say a day later, for example - what are the odds of this happening? You have any doubts about it, you can always take recourse to Donald Trump and his wisdom on climate change.

So, that was managing men for me. (You say that I am inept at managing men and that is why I say all this? What, then, do you think I was trying to establish all this while?)

As for managing Time, I had always thought that it got along pretty well without my supervision. I mean the seconds ticked and the minutes tocked whether or not I had an eagle eye on the clock. So, what's the big deal about managing Time? You go your way and Time goes its way without either interfering with the other.

Soon, though, I realized that the problem was NOT Time. The problem was all about those who tried to manage YOUR time. As in, people who wanted you to do this; others who wanted you to do that; and yet others who wanted you to do the third thing. Effectively, Manage men meant that you had to ensure that you made it a problem for them to manage THEIR time and managing Time meant that you had to manage the people who were trying to manage what you did with YOUR time. Of course, we are all very good at giving names to things and, so, the former is called 'leadership' and the latter is called 'work-life balance'. (And THAT proves my point. THAT phrase effectively says that work is NOT life, so the time you take out for working is the time you have not lived!)

It was all too confusing and scaring for me. And, then, a happy thought struck me. The trick was to stay where I was more the managed than the manager. Then, ALL I had to be was what Homo Sapiens was programmed to be - unmanageable.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Standing on tiptoe

I had an amused smile on my face as I entered my home, after waving my school-friend off. It had been a long while since we had met and meeting him had revived memories of childishness from the past. We were of a height still but neither of us had felt the pressing need to measure up against each other or stand on tiptoe to prove that the other person was shorter. At school, though, it had been a daily competition.

It, invariably, happened when we were standing in line for the morning prayers. Why the prayer lines had to be from the shortest to the tallest is a mystery that I had then dismissed as one of those idiocies that adults perpetrate merely to prove that they had the power to do so. It could not have been to enable everyone to see what was happening in the middle, since nothing much happens in the empty space within a hollow square. Nor, indeed, to be able to see the flag staff since it was not all that much of a pygmy version to be hidden by a couple of inches of height in the fellow standing before you. As for the Principal, he avoided making eye-contact with any of us with the same passion with which we avoided making eye-contact with him. So…

Anyway, shortest to the tallest it was and, being of the shorter variety of humans, Ravi and I were at the forefront of all happenings. And never has anyone, vying for entry as the tallest man in the Guinness Book of World Records, fought with the fury that equal that of two short kids trying to prove that the other person was shorter than them.

There I used to stand, right shoulder hunched up higher than Ravi’s left, showing that I was an inch taller. In the next Nano-second, his left shoulder was above my right – a miracle of growth that happens only when the said person stands up on tiptoe. Up went my heels and I was again the taller. Up hunched his left shoulder and there was confusion. I knew that I was still taller by a Nano-meter but, you know what, Ravi had the gall to claim that it was he who beat me by the same margin. We called in the next guy to referee, he made us stand normally and handed the verdict in favour of Ravi. I sulked, because any idiot could see Ravi seemed taller only because the soles of Ravi’s shoe were thicker than mine.

I laughed out aloud as I closed the door behind me and my wife looked up startled.

“What was that for?”

I told her my memories and said, “How childish we were, then. If I had been mature, I would have known that, if I had won that tussle, all it would have ensured is that I competed with Shiv, who was next in line. If I had become taller than Shiv, then…”

This is the problem with my wife. She never lets me complete my arguments. She says that there are only 24 hours in a day and, if she used up all of them in listening to me wax eloquent on one subject, she would get nothing done. What does she mean by that? I don’t get it at all.

Anyway, she said, “Shiv? Was that not the topper of your batch? The one who invariably beat you to number one?”

“That’s the guy. But what is the point being academically brilliant? He is working in some obscure department of the government. He has not achieved what he could have. He has not even managed to buy a house of his own.”

I looked around my three bedroom apartment with pride. Hardly 45 and I had bought this, free and clear of loans now, in one of the prime locations of the city.

“Ravi seems to have done better, though. Look at his car…”

“Money-wise, maybe. But he works in this itty-bitty company. I hobnob with the who-is-who of the city. I am a respected figure in international conferences. Newspapers interview me…”

“Still…maybe Shiv can claim all this, though he does not have as much money.”

“Look. Ravi’s father was rich. Otherwise, I daresay…”

“He looks taller only because he is standing on tiptoe. Or, maybe the soles of his shoes are thicker. Ask him not to hunch up his shoulders…” my wife went on in a sing-song tone.

Oops! How does she do this to me every time? Needle in hand, she encourages me to puff up, then pokes the needle in and lets out all the air.

Why was I competing with people who were not even aware that they were running any race against me? All that maturity that I had thought I had acquired over the years – was it all illusion after all? 

Because, the reality was that here I was…still standing on tiptoe.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Humorous Still? Top 10 Humor blogs in BlogAdda's #WIN15 AWARDS

Make My Blog WIN for BlogAdda Awards

Ever told a joke and went "Hahaha' about it with sepulchral silence in the audience? You must have felt that creeping red on the face and the uncomfortable feeling that someone has set your ears on fire, even if the audience is not exactly dialing the number of the nearest mental hospital urgently? THAT is exactly why someone blogging on humor keeps looking eagerly for comments. No 'LOL's; no "ROFL"s and he is left with no choice but to quip, "I make people laugh - either because they think what I write is humorous or because they find it funny that I think what I write is humorous."

Well, that quip can be kept in cold storage for the time being. I may need to pick it up, dust it and use it later but, right now, I can always say that the judges for BlogAdda's #Win15 feel my blog is humorous, so it must be. Coming on the heels of being considered among the top 13 humor blogs by Baggout maybe I can venture a small "Haha" when next I tell what I think is a joke.

The fly in the ointment, though, is the fact that, beyond this point, votes is what will count. This quaint notion that being popular equals being good has always been my bane. I have a very good chance of getting a million votes, if those who vote can be assured that they will be freed of any vestige of my presence if they do so. THAT is how I seem to affect people. The moment I arrive in the vicinity of any large number of people, I jog their memories about all the important things they have to do...elsewhere. (NO! I did NOT visit Syria, thank you! THAT is not why people risked their lives to move away.)

Anyway, BlogAdda insists that votes is the way to go. The icon below takes you to where you are supposed to Like, share on FB, tweet, comment or whatever you please. I make no promises about leaving you alone, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Badrinath, Mana and back

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of FlowersFourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

It rained all night again but, needless to say, we were much less perturbed this time since we had sort of assumed that the trek was ended. The only worry was whether the weather would cause the Uttaranchal government to stop people from traveling to Badrinath.

The next day's trek back to Govindghat was, as usual, not all that much of a cakewalk since descents have a way of testing knees and ankles. There still was some cavalry with us but a much attenuated one. Most of us did do the trek back. Thankfully, the day was sunny and the Badrinath trip was still on.

We hit Badrinath when the temple was closed, as was expected by our guides. Mahaveer was the only one of the three GIO Adventures guides to accompany us, since Yashpal and Hari had left from Govindghat to Auli to prepare for our nights stay there. The cooking staff, who had provided such great food at the camp stayed back in the same GIO camp for the next group.

Lunch was at the Sardeswari restaurant at Badrinath and we spent the time remaining in taking group pics.

The vehicle used by the other group had some fan-belt problems and, while it was being repaired, we walked down to the Badrinath temple. Necessarily in an unwashed condition, we visited the temple and had a darshan of Lord Vishnu.

After the darshan, we chose to also do the optional visit to Mana. This is the last Indian village before the border of Tibet/China. The place has the mythological significance of being the place where Ved Vyas is reputed to have dictated the Mahabharat to Lord Ganesh, who acted as his scribe. The Vyas Gufa and the Ganesh Gufa were the caves wherein the duo are reputed to have seated themselves during the composition of the Mahabharat. The day was when, apparently, the locals held a festival to worship the Pandavas and we witnessed the ceremonies for a while before we went on towards the scenic delights of the place.

The path to the caves of Vyas and Lord Ganesh forks upwards towards the caves. The other path leads to what the locals call the origin point of the mythical river Saraswati, which is then supposed to mingle with the Alaknanda. The roaring flow of the waters through the mountains was a sight to behold.

The gorge carved by the river was, apparently, impassable for the Pandavas when they sought to ascend to Heaven. The mighty second son of Kunti, Bhim, then uprooted a huge rock and made a bridge for the rest to cross. This Bhimpul still stands tribute to the tremendous strength of the son of Vayu.

A temple to the river goddess, Saraswati, is close by the gushing waters. As, also, is the 'last Indian tea-shop'!

After having soaked in the beauty of the place we reluctantly returned to our vehicle to what we fondly hoped would be a night's halt at the comfortable rest-house in Auli. We hit Badrinath and were stopped by the Police.

The Lord had, apparently, decided to wash the place clean of our unwashed presence with rains and the consequence was a landslide that had blocked the road some three kilometers further down. After the usual couple of hours of dithering, we stayed at Badrinath with a lot of nervousness about when and whether the road-block would be cleared. People with flights to board on the next day were busy with their calculations of how much the road-block could eventually cost them.

Thanks to the efficiency of the BRO, the road was cleared by 9 AM and we were happily motoring down (ME??? I am never happy on road journeys, particularly on mountains). Yashpal and Hari hired a vehicle to ferry the luggage we had left behind at Auli - which they shifted to our vehicle en route, so that we would not lose time in detouring to Auli to pick them up. We had a brief halt for tea at another of GIO's campsites, just ahead of Deva Prayag, After we left the place, we hit another unexpected problem at Devaprayag.

Apparently, some large piece of equipment had fallen there quite a few days back and the owners had picked this day to try and remove it. The stupendous logic of picking on a weekend day to block a pilgrimage route for hours on end beats me but that was the reality we had to live with then. Vehicles were piled up for a couple of kilometers. People sat on the roads playing cards; others were frantically calling up people changing travel plans; Chandru and I gave up on our 11.10 PM train back to Delhi and were discussing alternatives (Trek back? THAT was not one of the options, thank you).

At around 8 PM the road cleared. With just 3 hours to go, it was impossible to hit Haridwar in time for our train. Or so it seemed to us but our driver Kuldip, like Dhoni, had other ideas. So skilfully did he drive at speed to Haridwar that we never seemed in any danger and, yet, reached the Haridwar station with some 15 minutes to spare.

After rushed farewells, we boarded our train. Yet another wonderful Himalayan experience was ended.

Pics: Jaya and Chandru
Video: Chandru

Friday, September 4, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Hemkund Sahib

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of FlowersFourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

The cavalry regiment was back with a vengeance. Whether it was the forced 'demotion' or the previous day or the fact that the Hemkund Sahib trek was supposed to be far tougher than the previous day's trek, I do not know. It started off with almost everyone deciding to join the cavalry from both groups. Hemant, of the other group, checked with me about my intentions and I told him I intended trekking up (Yes! I do have my insane moments). Hemant was also of the same opinion. He ended up convincing Suhasini and Nikitha to trek up as well. Geeta, the intrepid night-trekker of the previous day, also joined that 'I shall walk up or bust' contingent.

Chandru, still not recovered from the leg issues of the previous day and developing a mild fever to boot, opted out. He refused to ride mules, maybe because of the fact that he had grown up without restraint and, if he bestrode a mule, there would probably be the strange sight of a mule with six legs. So, he stayed back in the camp in solitary splendor. Shanthi, despite a similar fever, was insistent upon making the journey up by mule and, as events panned out, did make it.

The depleted infantry set out at about 6.30 AM with the cavalry to follow around an hour later. Hemant , Suhasini and I were in the lead and, in short order, Hemant was very much in the lead. Just after we crossed the Check-post, a group of Sardars joined us on the trek. One, in particular, took a shine to me, probably because I was nearly 80% of his weight and had this attractive habit of stopping every twenty paces to blow like a bellows, which so endeared me to him. Matching pant for pant, I never noticed when Suhasini too fled ahead to join Hemant nor did he notice that his companions had raced up the trail as though they were on a mountain marathon.

The trail was virtually all ascent with no small declines or flat parts to provide a breather. Up, up and up we climbed or, more to the point, up, gasp, gasp, gasp, up, gasp, gasp, gasp, oh shit, up...we climbed. My new companion was full of advice about how best to climb the trail. Over time I realized that there was a lot more talk about trekking than there was trekking. Three hours down the line, we caught up with his companions waiting for him at a tea-stall. Our man was a man of strategy - he was carrying all their way-eats and water!

It was somewhere around 9.15 AM and, though we could hear the chants from the Gurdwara, the flag of the place seemed far away in the distant horizon. My sardar friend was happily talking of the fact that the Gurdwara would close by about 12.30 PM and, going by the distance and the exemplary pace we had set till then, it seemed unlikely to me that we would hit the place anywhere before 3 PM.

I, rather selfishly, abandoned my companion (not exactly alone, was he now, busily wrapping himself around cookies that he was digging out of his bag in the company of his friends?) and pressed onward. After another twenty minutes of ascent, there was one small blessed stretch of flat track and back it was to the same up, gasp, gasp, gasp, up routine.

The cavalry had passed by me before that tea-stall stop, gaily waving at my toiling self and passing encouraging comments about how I had barely done a fourth of the total distance. Ignoring them with haughty disdain, I had pressed on and I continued to press on, though the haughty disdain seemed to have leaked away through some hole.

Eventually, I reached a place where I found that I could either climb up steps to the Gurdwara or take the long path around. I stopped and considered. Both were inclined upwards, of course (rather tough for the path to incline downwards and yet lead to place some 500 feet higher) with the steps being steeper and, thus, promising to be the shorter route. Since I was panting anyway, it looked like the gasping would happen on either path and the steps promised a lesser period of gasping.

Up the steps I went and, after about 45 minutes of climbing, I staggered into the Hemkund Sahib at 11.30 AM. Almost immediately, I was partaking of the delicious Khichdi and tea that was being offered to all comers. Revived, I went to the serene Gurdwara and soaked in the ambience.

The Hemkund is such a beautiful serene lake that it is no wonder that this place was chosen for the contemplation of the divine. Dipping the feet in the ice-cold waters of the lake was such an invigorating experience. People who know my penchant for jumping into Himalayan lakes would be surprised by the fact that I did not venture into this lovely lake. The problem is that I am wary of dipping in ice-cold lakes when the sky is overcast and a breeze is blowing. Hypothermia lies that way. (No matter what you think, I am not exactly insane).

After an hour or so at the Hemkund Sahib, we started on our return. I decided to take the long path down this time. Just as we started, Geeta and Nikitha - the last of the infantry - reached the place. Leaving them to enjoy the place, we started down. The view of the flower-laden mountainside, with a profusion of the rare Brahma Kamal, made it a wise decision for me, since this was not visible from the steps.

The Brahma Kamal was not in bloom, but the buds were lovely to view. We stopped on our way down to have lunch at a tea-stall, the GIO Adventures guys - Yashpal, Hari and Mahaveer - having lugged the lunch for us, as usual. After lunch, I rushed down back to the camp, since the sun was out by now and I had an aversion to getting dehydrated. (Yes - the sweating is not something that creates a problem only for you).

Of course the day did not end without further drama. Geeta and Nikitha had not come back to camp by sunset. After the previous day's experience, though, we were sort of blase about it, only pausing to comment about the foolhardiness of Nikitha in trekking along with Geeta, knowing the latter's penchant for night-trekking. The ever-suffering Yashpal was with them and, as expected, the trio landed at the camp about the time for dinner.

That was about the end of the trek, though we still had to trek back to Govindghat the next day. If weather permitted, we intended visiting Badrinath and Mana before reaching the Auli Guesthouse at night.

The mountains decided that the three days of good weather had left us feeling that things were as predictable as in our homes. It was time to show that taking things for granted does not work on the mountains.

But that is the tale of the next day.

Pics: Nikitha

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Valley of Flowers

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of Flowers; Fourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

The cavalry regiment suffered a major setback today. No mules were permitted on the route to Valley of Flowers. The horse-warriors had to, perforce, descend ignominiously to the ground and trudge along with the infantry or had the choice of riding the back of people sitting crunched up in baskets, which were called pittus if I got the word right. Well - actually, the back of the basket is cut open so you do not actually feel like a sack of potatoes, but still...

Anyway, except for a child from the other group - comprising of three Nagpur families and a Delhi couple (Hemant and Suhasini) - all of us decided to trek to the Valley of Flowers. We crossed Ghangaria, which was half a kilometer beyond the campsite and went on for about another kilometer till we hit the check-post at a fork in the road. THAT was apparently where we had to register if we were trekking straight on towards Hemkund Sahib. The route to the Valley of Flowers was on the left fork and there was another check-post further down, where we registered and set off to cover the three further kilometers to our destination.

You know how it goes - the guide says it is easy, you think you will float along admiring the scenery, and you find that it is as usual a lung-buster. As trails go, this was not too tough actually. It was in the mountains, after all, and one hardly expects to be walking on flat terrain. The weather was great - slightly overcast, thus cool enough not to enervate you, but no rains. It is just that, being accustomed to city-dwelling, the slightest hint of an incline sets you huffing and puffing. (And so, if you are already tired with my walking travails, take a break and look on the video of the valley of flowers from the depths of your armchair. IF it opens that is. I am both video-challenged and tech-challenged)

At the entrance of the Valley, in a shaded place are a lot of convenient rocks to sit upon or sprawl upon as the mood takes you. Chandru, having acquired a cramp in his quadriceps for his pains, sprawled. I walked on through the valley, instead of sitting around and waiting for the rest of our company to join us.

Flowers, someone said, are nature's smiles. Whether that was poetic fancy or true, I wouldn't know, but that walk did fill me with unknown joy. Shy smiles, these flowers of the Valley were, not the bright come-hithers of the roses and the lotuses and, yet, how they beguiled.

You lift your eyes and the wide vistas that open entrance you. In the mountains, people have claimed that they felt small. Somehow, it has never struck me that way. My CONCERNS seemed much smaller, certainly, but the more important thing was the feeling of exaltation and being a part of something so noble, so wonderful. Well, of course, if I did not feel happy there why would I keep going back? After all, everyone who knows me knows that I am the escapist upon which the entire species of escapists were modeled.

The pleasure of these visits lay not only in looking on these places on a 'landscape' basis. There is so much beauty if you stop to take it in - a shy flower, an oddly shaped stone, a lovely bird...Nature graces both the minute and the vast and, if you have the eyes, you could spend an eternity, entranced in the Valley of Flowers.

One of the attractions of GIO Adventures' arrangements for me was that the guides carried along the lunch for the entire group and served it at the specific spot for lunch. Today, of course, it was at the Valley of Flowers. In the normal course, the lunch packs are distributed to the trekkers and, so, you had to lug it up and then eat it. Not too onerous, one may say, except that someone like me ends up spilling more than he eats when he tries to manage a lunch pack while squatting on uneven ground.

We met an interesting couple while relaxing at the Valley. The girl was carrying a small bouquet of flowers culled from the valley. The guy told us that he had been wooing her and proposing to her in all such interesting places but was yet to get her assent. Poor chap! Maybe she so loved the way he was wooing her that she wanted to prolong the experience for as long as she could.

Chandru and I started off early, since he wanted to get back to camp and care for his cramped legs. En route, we sat quietly by the Pushpavati river. Lulled by the rushing flow, captivated by the 'ever-moving, yet ever in the same place' nature of the river, I was startled out of my reverie when Chandru called me to proceed onward.

Later in the evening there was much drama. Geeta and Chandra had not come back. It was night and there was a power-cut, leaving the area pitch-dark. (Alas! THAT power-cut put paid to the hot water bath, I was looking forward to but that is another tale of woe). Yashpal was with them, of course, so the anxiety level was lesser though still palpable. Mahaveer rushed back with torches.

There was a sigh of relief when they landed back at the camp followed by outrage when we heard that, while we were busily biting out nails to the quick, they had calmly parked themselves in Ghangaria gorging on gulab-jamuns!

Well - a 4 Km trek had proved a lot more testing than people had bargained for and Hemkund Sahib was, by all accounts, an unrelenting ascent for about 7 Kms. But that was for the next day.

Video: Chandru
Pics  : Jaya

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Ghangaria

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of Flowers; Fourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

There may be those intrepid trekkers, who disdain to travel by vehicles when they could walk; beings who could walk all day, arrive at the camp at 6 PM and bemoan the fact that the day's trek was too short to challenge them. I would have called them mythical beings, but for the fact that I have had the misfortune to trek along with a few of them. All I can say about the experience is that, at the end of it, I heartily wished that they had truly been only mythical beings.

Be that as it may, the reader of these chronicles knows full well that I do not belong to that ilk. if anything, he/she is faintly surprised that I bother to trek at all. So, after the comfortable night at the Himalayan Ecolodges rest house at Auli and the drive to Govindghat, when Yashpal suggested that there was an option to travel the first three kilometers by shared taxi instead of trekking, the reader would not be surprised to hear that I was the first to jump at the suggestion. The only surprise there would be the fact that I did not choose to travel all the way to Ghangaria by mule...but, then, that is only because my feet are less tender than my...err...backside, shall we say? Incidentally, the shared taxi option got unanimous consent and, seeing the unrelieved steep ascent when we actually did travel, we were quite pleased with the decision. Toiling up that road in the sun, with vehicles spewing exhaust and dust on me, was not my idea of fun, no matter what the intrepid trekkers may have to say about the matter.

Did I forget to mention that, at Rishikesh, there was a biometric registration and that we were given biometric cards? I suppose I did, just as I forgot to carry them on my person and packed them away, causing some small ruckus as we drove up in the taxi. I was not the only one, though. Anyway, I found that the government does move swiftly at times as it had done in the aftermath of the Uttaranchal disaster to ensure that tourists are tracked on their trips to the mountains.

Anyway, once we reached Pulla (if I have got the name of the village right), we had a eleven kilometer trek in prospect. Yashpal assured us that it was an easy trek - a bit up and down but fairly even till the last stretch where there would be a climb of some three kilometers. Having been to the mountains fairly often, I knew that what, to the guide, is a walk in the park normally turns out to be a lung-breaker for the ordinary trekker (which does not include those intrepid ones I talked of earlier) much like what, to a mountain goat, is a level plain is a slippery slope to oblivion to you.

At Pulla, what was supposed to be only infantry acquired a cavalry regiment. Chandra and Poornima (or was it Renuka, the other of the co-sisters?) decided to ride mules, while the rest of us walked. Indeed, all through the route, you found the muleteers tempting toiling trekkers with the option of comfortably (comfortably? Egads! My fundament complains) riding mules to their destination and, as it happened, our cavalry grew in strength at the cost of the infantry as the day's trek progressed.

Just as we exited the village, we found ourselves walking by the side of the beautiful Pushpavati river. There is something about the muted roar of a river running over rocks that is very soothing to the human soul. Feasting your eyes on the vistas ahead of you, with the music of the river filling your ears, is one of the pleasures that keep dragging me back to the mountains.

Onward we trekked and, as is the case with us, seeking to know how much farther the destination was, once every half-hour, in the wistful hope that our dragging steps had covered the eleven kilometer distance so fast that we would find it around the next corner. By the time we hit the lunch spot, we were, shall we understate, just about ready for lunch. Poornima (or was it Renuka?) had, meanwhile, apparently galloped on to the destination causing a bit of worry for her co-sister but all was well since it ended well.

Around the time when Chandru and I were getting ready to give up, we hit a plain road with the camp in sight. The late additions to the cavalry regiment - Lalitha and Lekha - met us with the welcome news that it really WAS our campsite that we were seeing. (Do not be mislead into thinking that the trek, itself, was too tough. By the standards of even the non-intrepid ones it was a moderate day of trekking. It is just that we guys had hit an age where definitions of easy, moderate and tough have changed drastically for the worse)

AND - what a camp! Running water and power! Tents where you could stand upright; beds...yes BEDS! An attached bath tent with a western closet. Hot water on call! A huge dining tent. Sybaritic...that's the word I am looking for. There were hotels in cities where I have had far worse experiences than this campsite in the middle of nowhere (Well - not exactly the middle of nowhere but a little exaggeration never hurt anyone!) The GIO Adventures guys had even provided towels and soap!

 Well, if you see more pics of the campsite than of the views here, do not blame me. After all, on every trek I see these vistas and, much though I love them and like to revisit them, they are not novelties. But a camp like this? Where I did not have to crawl in, scrunching my not so slim belly every time I had to put on my shoes? Where I did not have to go bottle in hand hunting for a safely hidden spot and do the long forgotten full-squats? Where I could actually bathe in hot water and avoid smelling my own sweat (THAT though was more a matter for Chandru to be happy about. I still remember a tent-mate in a long ago trek spending every evening of the trek hunting for the dead rat that he was sure was somewhere in the tent.)

I am sure that, by now, you must have sort of got the impression that this campsite and these tenting arrangements were not really the norm for treks. Not even for GIO treks everywhere, I am sure. You can organize all this only where you have a permanent campsite and not when you erect campsites as you go. Still, this was an experience that I would not have wanted to miss. After all, one of my dreams has always been to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the mountains without sacrificing too much of my bodily comforts.

The food lived up to the rest of the arrangements. So, after a good meal and a small walk to take in the beauty of the surroundings, we went to sleep.

The next day we would trek to the Valley of Flowers.

Pics : Chandru