Friday, 12 May 2017

The Mountain Story - Kedarkantha Diary

I want to go someplace where I can see snow”, she asserted. 

It was last few days of the college, and mandatory graduation trip was already in place. Our group was heading Indonesia for possibly the longest duration, but we craved for more and thus began the search for a snowy destination as she desired. We explored options from Sikkim to Everest base camp and finally zeroed down to Kedarkantha trek. It wasn’t easy to convince the lazy bones in the group for a trek, but we managed to establish a consensus. Just when everything looked fine, the plan received its first jolt when one of us had to drop because of early joining date. However, it didn’t stop the rest of us, and we embarked on the journey. 

“If anything can go wrong, it will”, says the Murphy Law. A quick stop in Delhi to buy trek gears looked impossible even when we had buffer time, all thanks to the great Indian railways and the dreadful journey that continued for 36 hours. It can be a whole new story on how we did everything just in time and managed to catch the connecting train to Dehradun. Early morning, we reached Dehradun railway station where we met the rest of the trek batch. Our transportation was ready, and it took 8-10 hours to reach Sankri village. It wasn’t a pleasant ride. It was almost evening when we checked-in to our hotel. A quick batch meet was called, and we were introduced to trek leader and the staff. It was followed by a session on detailed rules and scenarios in trekking. Later after dinner, I thought of going for a walk to explore the place, and I was accompanied by my friend. However, there was nothing much to see except few open shops and basecamps of other trek organisers; therefore, we mostly spent time chit-chatting while discreetly strolling the street from one end to another. It had been a long tiresome journey in past three days, and I dozed off early. 

The next morning, after quick breakfast and a mandatory group picture, we started our trek. The destination for the day was ‘Juda ka Talab’. It is approx. 4 KM from Sankri at an altitude of 9100 ft. Though the distance sounds less the steep climb and slippery track made it look like never ending path. The queries about distance kept coming, and there was always one standard reply from the guide – ‘another half hour’. Perhaps that was true for someone living in the mountains but for city dwellers like us that half hour was taking hours. A much-needed break came halfway when we stopped for lunch in an open meadow. A small Dhaba served us bread omelette and Maggi. It gave us some energy and with renewed vigour we continued. The first glimpse of campsite finally brought a smile and an end of today’s journey. I spent the evening sitting idly near the lake shore. The body was yet to acclimatise the mountains and the night wasn’t easy as almost everyone struggled to sleep. I had a sleepless night too but for an entirely different reason. 

Juda Ka Talab
The girl who yearned for snow got sick and had a restless night, but she recuperated by morning. “I drank a lot of water, and that’s how I recovered”, she said. It is true that hydrating adequately is an essential aspect while trekking as it keeps body and mind energised. It was time for us to march ahead and move to the next campsite, the Kedarkantha base. It is approx. 1.5 KM from ‘Juda Ka Talab’ at an altitude of 10,800 ft. Everyone was expecting another hectic day, but this was the easiest part of our entire trail, and we reached there even before we realised. There I witnessed the most picturesque sunset, and it was pure bliss. I spent next one hour trying to capture the remarkable moments. The darkness engulfed the entire place soon after sunset, and we headed to our tents after early dinner. 


A starry night greeted us at 3 AM in the morning as we got ourselves ready with crampons and gaiters to push for the Kedarkantha summit. I had started showing weariness, and my health card readings went alarmingly low in the morning. 
I told you to drink more water. Why don’t you listen?”, rebuked the girl. 
It is so scary to go out of the tent in that darkness.”, I replied sheepishly. 
Under the moon holding a torch in hand, we began hiking in the sleepy trails of the snow-clad Himalayas amidst the dark trees. I saw moon fading slowly as the sunshine engulfed the sky and the summit was visible but still far away. The trail was getting steeper, more inclined and challenging as we marched ahead. However, the landscape in front of us was getting more beautiful, and that kept us going. As we reached halfway, a sumptuous treat of deliciously baked omelettes came from the Barfani Dhaba. There we stopped for a while to fill our stomach and regain lost energy before continuing to the summit. The last leg of the trail was toughest where at some point inclination was almost 70 degree, but it didn’t deter us reaching the peak where at 12,500 ft. altitude breathtaking 360-degree views of mountains welcomed us. 



The descend started after spending 40-45 minutes at the summit. I felt exhausted and weak. However, it didn’t stop me as going downhill was comparatively easy and was more fun when we had to glide down. We traced our path back to Kedarkantha base and continued to our next camp in Hargaon. It was at an altitude of 8,450 ft. but not very far from Kedarkantha base. The body was drained but a jubilant mood wanted to celebrate the successful summit, and we continued playing games till late night. The next day we began descending back to Sankri. It was the last day of the trek, and we slowly but steadily followed the trail that was mostly through forest cover. 

Hargaon Camp
It felt good to see roads again though we started missing the harsh terrain soon. It was a relaxing stay in the hotel in Sankri, and we geared up to leave for Dehradun next morning. I looked out the car window as we ran parallelly to the river amid continuous drizzle. It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful landscape, the never-ending trail we covered on foot, the bonding and pain we shared. Though our journey ended we’ll continue to cherish the lifelong memories made in the woods and mountains. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Not Just Friends #HalfGirlfriend

I am sharing a Half relationship story at BlogAdda in association with #HalfGirlfriend

“She is my best friend, but then I don’t know how to stop these feelings for her”, Rohan exclaimed. “I wonder what she will think if I tell her that I love her. It will spoil every good thing that is between us and that scares me to death.” He said.

I have known Rohan for two years, but we became friends only in the last couple of months of my graduation year. He was a quiet, thoughtful and introversive person. Sanya, on the other hand, was full of life, cheerful and congenial. Destiny brought them together, and they became friends; soon something more than that, best of friends! Their friendship was one of the favourite gossip topics in the campus, but they never cared what everyone talked about and continued being together. Three years of togetherness where both remained quietly by each other’s side. They had redefined friendship and rejected a popular misconception i.e. “A girl and a boy can be friends but sooner or later one will fall for the others” in all these years. However, I was witnessing an entirely new angle in their story that day. It was last day of our college. A farewell party was thrown by the juniors.

I didn’t know what to tell him, but I wondered how Sanya feels about the whole thing. In the corner, we were sitting when I saw her coming to us.

“If I were you, I would have told her without expecting a relationship instead just acknowledging how badly I am in love and without putting any conditions wants to continue loving her”, I replied and went away giving them some privacy.

I don’t know what happened next, but I saw tears rolling down their eyes. I stood motionless not knowing what to do next. It was heartbreaking to see her crying. I closed my eyes and wished a happy beginning of their love story. A minute later everyone was being called for one last group picture. I didn’t feel like going.  

The next morning, I met Sanya on the bus while we headed to the railway station. Rohan accompanied her, and they looked happy just like the old days. I could sense the love she felt for him. They lovingly waved at each other till the bus left. She looked at me.

“You were right. It is all about being there for each other”, she smiled.

I was happy for her. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

More Indian Than You Think

It was summer of 2012 when I graduated and had an offer to join one of the biggest Indian manufacturing company. I was more than excited to begin the new phase of my life. The early days in the organisation mostly involved interaction with the officials, workers and various level of training before I was given the first work assignment. The job included assisting in managing one of the smaller plants in the suburbs of the Jharkhand. The productivity of the plant had declined continuously over the year, and the management wanted to bring some changes to keep it profitable. This had caused resentment among the workers, and it further aggravated the situation. 

I was sharing my workspace with Ajay Sinha. He was senior plant manager and my mentor. He was in his early 50s and had spent thirty years of life in the organisation. A man known for his values and widely respected among peer and workers. However, the bitterness in the workers was growing, and he was snubbed a couple of times while addressing them in the morning. The same day something happened that frightened me to the core of my heart. At 11:30 AM, approx. 40-50 workers came into our cabin, and there were more than 200 workers that stayed just outside in the lobby. I had recently read about the deadly riot in 2012 at Maruti plant in Manesar in Haryana that happened due to a certain conflict between workers and senior management. The workers there had smashed properties, set the factory on fire and burned manager to death. I was literally scared playing out different scenarios that could happen. I looked at Ajay helplessly. 
“What happened? There is still an hour to go before lunch”, said Ajay. 
“Nobody is working until we know what is management’s decision” replied a voice from the crowd.  
“Very well” replied Ajay with a calmness in his voice and then continued, “You know these things take time. I have conveyed the issues to management, and appropriate solution will be implemented keeping in mind everyone’s interest. However, I cannot defend us if the management comes to know that you are halting the work.” 
“We’re not moving from here till our demands are met. No work today. We are ready to go on hunger strike” came another voice from the crowd after a pause. 

Nobody moved or spoke anything for next couple of minutes. The tension in the room was palpable. Breaking the silence, I said, “I am not asking anyone to go out of the room, but then some of you can sit on the sofa.” I then vacated my chair and looked at Kartar Singh. I knew him because he was retiring in a couple of months and was one among many who had been in the manufacturing unit since its inception. He was respected figure among the workers, and they used to affectionately call him ‘Sardarji’. I pulled him from the corner and politely asked to sit on the chair. He was startled with this gesture and couldn’t refuse. I went back and sat on my desk. A dead silence prevailed in the room. 

I looked at the clock. It was about lunch hour. I said, “I know we have issues here and I am trying hard to resolve it, however, if you think skipping work or lunch can help it then let me try that also.” I switched off my computer and put aside my lunch box. Everyone looked puzzled. At this, Sardarji got up from his chair and with folded hand said, “Sorry, that we all barged into your cabin, but we were just concerned whether management is taking necessary steps to safeguard our interest.” In next couple of minutes, the crowd dispersed, and it was just two of us in the cabin. I looked at the big screen in the hallway where Lufthansa ad was playing. I believe a major incident was averted that day because of the values that I learnt as a kid.