Monday, November 25, 2019

Misused sayings

If there is one thing that can be guaranteed it is that anything that can be misused will be misused. That applies to sayings as much as to anything else. The thing, though, is that there are sayings that seem primarily to be misused, especially these days.

Take this Tamil sayings for example - 'Aindhil valayathadhu aimbadhil valayumaa?'. Literally, it connotes that what is not flexible at the age of 5 is unlikely to be flexible at the age of 50. Originally, it probably was meant to tell kids to learn as much as they can, develop mental and flexibility, while they were still young, because it would become more difficult to learn with age. It, also, probably was meant to excuse the old for not being able to learn newer things. But why would someone use it to ridicule or discourage any old person when (s)he is trying to learn something new? Yet, there are those who do it. This saying, though, has not yet achieved the exalted status of being primarily misused...yet!

And then there is this 'Money cannot buy happiness' thing. The purpose of that is to say that merely pursuing money will not lead to happiness. What sort of moronic brain would think that it also means that 'Lack of money does not cause unhappiness'? Yet, apparently, it is being increasingly used to tell the poor that they ought to be happy because they do not have money. I find it difficult to believe that most people genuinely think this way but what do I know? Human irrationality is unfathomable.

The one saying that apparently has reached the exalted heights of being primarily, even exclusively, misused seems to be 'Handicap is all in the mind' as applied to people who have a physical handicap.

A handicap obviously imposes limits. But, then, you do not need to have a physical handicap in order to be limited in the options you can pursue. If you emit sounds like the mating call of a male donkey every time you open your mouth in song, your chances of being the next Mohammed Rafi is, to put it mildly, close to Nil. If walking to the water cooler makes you hold your sides and pant for five minutes, Usain Bolt need not feel threatened by you. And, yet, you do not feel that you are fated not to succeed nor, indeed, do you think any the less of yourself for that.

Which, precisely, is the point. That a physical handicap may limit some possibilities but the concerned person should not let that get in the way of his success. It is to convey THAT that we use this saying - Handicap is all in the mind; AND to say that seeing such people as useless is a handicap in YOUR mind. But, nowadays, I believe that the tendency is to use it to mean that there is no real problem for them because they cannot see, or hear or whatever. It is all in their mind! Now THAT is an attitude which would qualify you as mentally a more rational world.

The way things are going, I'll need to adopt the other saying. 'Speech is silver; silence is golden'. Till THAT one gets messed up, too!

Monday, November 18, 2019

A modern Utopia?

"I want everyone to be able to have food, clothing, shelter, education and medicare", said the Humanitarian.

"So be it! Let the brains of the world unite and work to that end", commanded the Lord of the Cosmos.

And long labored the brains of the Cosmos. Yet, amongst them, there was dissent about how best to achieve it. And, of course, about what was in it for them.

"There needs be recompense, lest the brains remain idle rather than work to the benefit of all", said the King.

"Yes, your Majesty! AND, of course, without profit who shall set up and operate these organisations?" quoth the Minister.

"Be it so. Let the fruits of their labors be sold at profit to those who can afford them"

And time rolled on. Mightily strove the brains of the world and wonders were created. Those who could afford sought more and more conveniences. Those who set up organisations chasing profits saw more in providing those conveniences than in providing food. AND thus...

"What do we do if the Lord asks us for progress? Most people do not yet have bread." wailed the King.

"If they have no bread, let them have free WiFi", said the Queen.

"They cannot afford dresses or houses, either"

"Give them affordable data", said the wise Queen.

"Education remains a dream to them."

"Give them free entertainment."

And thus it was.

Long and hard, day and night labored the world. WiFi was free, data was almost free, entertainment was cheap, the world was a paradise. AND, still, the masses carped about what they did not have, mundane things like food, instead of counting the blessings which the wonders of technology had provided.

"Is there no end to the demands of these people? Has thou a solution?" demanded the King of the Minister.

"A wise Roman once said 'Give the masses bread and circuses and they are happy'."

"We have given them the circuses. It's the bread that is the problem."

"Blame the Lord of the Cosmos", said the Minister.

And so it was. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Trekking near Dharamshala - II

When we left for Dharamshala, what we checked on the Net indicated the possibility of some three to four day treks. As it turned out, though, Triund Peak was expected to be a 4 hour trek from Gallu Mandir, up to where we could motor down. Lahesh Caves, another option was a 4 hour trek from Triund and beyond lay Indrahar Pass. Which essentially meant that we either trekked only to Triund or we gave up on returning each day to Club Mahindra. It is one thing to start off knowing you are going to rough it out. Quite another to find yourself having to abandon the idea of comfort on the fly, as it where. Vinod would have drooled at the thought - being the sort of weirdo whose ideas of enjoyment are totally warped; we frothed. And decided to do just Triund.

It was one of those early morning starts, when I perforce verify for myself that 6 AM really exists and is not merely a figment of other people's imaginations. That is one of the things that I could not avoid despite this being the most deluxe of deluxe treks. With four hours up and four hours down to do, one really did not want the Sun beating down on you while you are huffing and puffing up a mountain.

After breaking fast en route, we reached the Gallu Mandir, which was the starting point of the trek. (Yup, motored down, so?) And, as you all know, I did my celebrated imitation of a steam engine, gasping all the way as we started climbing. I had competition, though, since this time my companions were not really of the caliber of Vinod the mountain goat.

Nearly halfway up, by distance only, was a teashop where we sat down for a cup of tea. And the view.

This halfway mark on treks is a bloody tease, I tell you. I mean, it is all OK to say that you have covered half the distance but what these guides forget conveniently is that you have not climbed half the total height you are expected to climb. Not to mention the fact that if it is really half the distance and only a third of the height, you are in for increasingly steep slopes from there on.

It did not start out that way. For a distance, it was almost a ridge walk and one sort of started dreaming of casually sauntering up to Triund Peak and emitting a 'Yippee'. And, this time, with the companions I had, I sort of assumed that I could well be the first past the post.

Yeah, right, it did not turn out that way. After what seemed like a short distance, the trail turned out to be one of those which relentlessly climbed up. AND, Rammohan, blast him, was running up the slopes with me holding on to my sides, every now and then, and blowing like a bellows, with the blood thundering in my ears. ('Let me have about me men that are fat; Sleek-headed men as of waddle up mountains; yon Rammohan has a lean and hungry look; he runs too much; such men are dangerous' was the refrain running in my mind, with due apologies to Billy the Bard.) Chandru and Bala spared me my blushes, yes, but come on, they always do, so it does not say much now, does it?

Eventually, I did hit the peak to see Rammohan running about like a gazelle, clicking pics. (All the pics in these posts were sent by him, by the way.) Taxed with his abnormal speed, he gives a specious reason that his head was pounding and, so, he was running as fast as he could to get it over with. Sounded reasonable but for the direction. When my head pounds, I too run as fast as possible to get it over with but, damn it, I run downhill, not up. The headache must have addled his brains!

Bala and Chandru landed up leisurely and we lolled about, eating the ubiquitous Maggi and drinking tea, at the small shop there. And, then, the descent.

One generally tends to feel that, having hit the peak, the exertion of the day is done and all the rest is a cake-walk. Even after so many years of trekking, that subconscious feeling does not go. Which is why, every time, the descent seems so painful. (Sort of like you have written your school exams, think your job is done, and then get socked with qualifying exams for various courses? Yeah!) Age and creaking knees make it all the worse. The only entertainment is people on the way up asking you 'How much further?' and your smug feeling that THEY have to do the uphill part still AND then the descent. (The most interesting was the girl who, sitting on a rock, asked us this question and we said, 'One more hour'. Whereupon, she complained that she kept hearing that for the past hour from everyone. Well, if she had been sitting there for the past hour asking this question of various people, exactly what did she expect?)

Eventually, as it must happen, the descent was done and we, yes, motored back to Club Mahindra. A nice hot water bath and a couple of beers - now THAT was the sort of end to a trek that I really did enjoy, especially since it does not happen all that often!

Trekking near Dharamshala

There are those who feel that it is not a trek unless they crawl into a tent every night, stuff themselves into a sleeping bag and try to sleep on a sleeping mat carefully avoiding those couple of pebbles which lurk around on the ground waiting to give you an acupressure treatment when you least expect or want it. There are even those who believe that it is namby-pamby of you if you do not lug all your luggage yourself and erect your tent yourself before doing all that crawling in and stuffing yourself etc. However did you guess? I am not one of them.

So, when the offer suddenly came to go to Dharamshala, stay at Club Mahindra there and do day treks, I jumped at it. Walk up mountains, take in the Himalayan views and end the day with a hot water bath, a couple of bottles of beer and sleep in a comfortable bed?  And with good companions? Best of both worlds!

Well, as it turned out, it was more tourism than trek. It started out all right, bar the minor hiccup of a delayed flight from Delhi to Dharamshala. The first day we booked in for one mini-trek in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The trek in the morning was what Club Mahindra called the 'Waterfall Trek'. Buffalo that I am, when it comes to wallowing in running water, I was all enthusiasm to hit the waterfall. We duly motored down to the starting point and started the climb towards the waterfall. The entire path was full of rubble, slate is what the rock was called I think, but, barring that, it was practically a walk in the park. At the end though was this minor trickle of water falling down the mountain, with half a dozen people industriously chipping stone and shaping them in rectangular pieces. I do love plunging into water but...suffice to say that my idea of frolicking in water in not to lie around in water in a place that seemed more like a stone quarry.

The 'Himalayan Safari' of the afternoon was not something to write home about. Unless, of course, food bloggers consider Maggi and tea to be gourmet meals worthy of covering in loving detail.

We motored down (yes, again! If motoring down for a trek did not cause you to complain, what's your problem with motoring down on what is billed as a 'Safari'?) to pretty close to the stream which was to be the site of that Bacchanalian orgy (Remember? Maggi and Tea? That one). From thereon the guide took us on what was supposedly an optional trek. The others, rather wisely, decided that opting out was one way of exercising that option. Rammohan and I went ahead on the trek.

Somewhere around half-way, the guide pointed out a tree, halfway up the mountain, and said that THAT was the destination. Of course, I had to ask him what could be seen from know, treks end up at some viewpoint. The guide said that you could see the tree from up close there. Naturally, we felt that we had seen the tree anyway from here and felt no pressing need to improve upon the acquaintance. Back we went. Well, Maggi and tea sitting on chairs in the middle of the stream was fun...though we could not really make up our mind about whether we thought it worth driving up and down for the pleasure.

The next day our program was primarily touristy. What with the Tibetan monasteries(Norbunligka and Namgyal), quite a few Shaktipeets and Siddhapeets (Kunal Pathri, Naina devi, Chintpurni, Bhaglamukhi, Chamundi, Jwaladevi),  and Shiva temples - one where Arjuna was supposed to have received the Pashupatastra from Shiva (Aghanjar Mahadev temple) and another which was supposed to have been built by Ravana(Baijyanath), there was no dearth of touristy things to do. Not to mention the Kangra fort and the highest Cricket ground. Anyway, those formed the program, not only of day 2 but day 4 and 5 as well.

(Lest I forget, there is an option to do some paragliding at Bhir-Billing. We had planned it for Day 4/5 but there was some doubt about whether people weighing over 80Kg were allowed to do it or not. Considering that all of us comfortably exceeded it and considering that we had a quaint aversion to plummeting down rather than gliding down, we decided not to put ourselves through a 150 Km drive on such a chancy proposition.)

The one real day of trekking was the third day. Which we shall see in the next post.