“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Moving, Still - reflections on Kailas Yatra

The traveler reflects on the farewells given to men who travel, a little like the farewell one gives to those one will never see again. The ‘Goodbye, and good luck’, that the country girl or the tavern woman or the mule driver gives, is farewell forever, a lifelong farewell, a farewell laden with unrecognized sorrow. Their souls and all their five senses go into that ‘Goodbye and good luck’.

- Camilo Jose’ Cela : Journey into Alcarria.


There is an aquarium in the non-vegetarian refreshment room at the Kottayam Railway Station. 3 ft by 1 ft, it is a small fish tank. A solitary fish about 11/2 ft in length swims in it. Slim, silvery, with a lopsided mouth above which a pair of horn-like appendage flicker, it moves from right to left in two strokes. Twisting, it turns- then left to right, two strokes– on and on and on… Perhaps in the vast sea with whales and sharks and other huge fish, it might be so insignificant- yet, you wish this fish were in the deep and vast ocean, swimming as its graceful tail swishes, looking hither and thither, moving in freedom…

Alone, beside the Meenachil River at Thazahathangadi. Evening- the water sparkles in the slanting sunlight. The river moves, gently towards the sea…

In one’s past travels and those in future, there are three factors one cherishes most. Movement, freedom and solitude. In moving, one exults in the sense of freedom; and freedom in its purest form is felt only in solitude. The mind can be let loose and brought to stillness. Whether in a crowded bar or alone on a snowy peak, one feels absolutely in control, fine-tuned.

Movement is about freedom in solitude. Raise your left leg; there is nobody to question you why. Instead of the left, change at the last moment to the right leg; ditto. Freedom is to be free to choose one’s life. It may not last forever, but what is forever? You are like a blind ant balancing on a stretched thin thread; no turning back. The child holding the thread can anytime break it, throw it away or shoot you phut! with his forefinger. But, at the moment you raise your left or right foot, you are there, with the memories of the way you came and the dreams of the way you will go.

For the traveler, a particular journey begins in dreams. Pouring over the newspaper cuttings or photographs of earlier travels to Kailas, or the books of Swami Tapovanam or Swami Pranavananda or Asan (The late K V Surendranath), the dream take wings. To dream for 13 years is a long time. Its realization is just the physical experience of the dream.


Kailas and Manasarovar lies far away in Tibet or China. Geographic and political nomenclatures are absurd. In his perpetual sense of insecurity, man gives names and say that you or I belong to a piece of land. Yet, like the aborigines of Australia who identify their sacred land through songlines, Kailas and Manasarovar are a part of the Indian subconscious – to stand before the mountain and to submerge in the lake is to look deep within ourselves and recognize what we are…

One can visit Kailas for many reasons. Religious, as the mythical abode of Shiva and Parvati; adventurous, for to reach Kailas by foot, one has to trek through altitudes of nearly 20,000 ft in biting cold; spiritual, as Kailas and its surroundings have an uncanny atmosphere that reverberates to some unidentifiable yearnings of one’s self. It can also be for the sheer love for nature. But, please, don’t go there as a tourist.

One can choose the way one wants to go to Kailas. Either the arduous, traditional pilgrim route traversing across Himalayas on foot or in the comfort of Toyota Landcruiser via Katmandu. But the difference in the sense of achievement is enormous.


Journeys, though of your own choice, need not turn out to be exactly as you wish. Your ship may heave anchor in a calm sea, but how can you prevent the storms? One is disturbed – the pujas, mantras and the saffron-clad people – the string of Rudraksha, the saffron head band and book of Shiva purana offered to you – the incessant bhajans played inside the bus from Delhi to Dharchula near Nepal – people are confining themselves, covering themselves in a shroud. One yearns to shout to them – look, look! Look at the passing landscape, the passers-by, the mountain ranges, the lakes, the rivers! The drone of an electronic instrument that repeatedly plays ‘Om namasivayh’, kills the reflective mood. I had to pick up an uncharacteristic argument to kill the instrument.

The bus flings aside the wheat fields, tractors, trucks, roadside dhabas, and multitudes of humans, covering them in exhaust fumes and dust. As the bus slows down, I notice an old beggar squatting among the filth, gazing at the bus. Our eyes lock. Who am I to him? In the next moment, the bus surges ahead. I feel panicky. Are you telling me that there is no connection between the beggar and me? Between the pilgrims and I? Between the cigarettewallah who wishes Kailas yatra saphal ho and I who nods at him? Why do I have to say goodbye to all these people? Why can’t I be with them? I wish I could remember each and every being that I have seen and see them again and say hello. Are you saying I can’t do it? Should journeys mean to go away into the unknown? It should be about coming back – to my family, to my friends and to the familiar. One more day’s travel further is one more day closer to home. Then – am I really going anywhere?

After three days of suffocation in the bus, I am in the open with my haversack at Tawaghat. Bang in front is the first hill to climb. Gasping breath (I wished I never smoked!), straining muscles, slipping feet – yet, beyond the hill, I know, snow-capped mountains would have gathered to welcome me. My Himalayas. Mine. Mine.

From the humid Dharcula, the pilgrims traverse a cross-sectional path across Himalayas. The changing landscape is fascinating to watch. From tropical through temperate and alpine forests we climb to the dry, barren high altitudes.

A bird skips up the path. I know which. I am smug in my petty knowledge of birds. A furry dog sits in front of a house and smiles at me. I remember mine back home, and ask him, ‘Entheda, sukhamano?’ This tree has peculiar leaves. I wish Parvati were here to casually tell me its botanical name. Far away, I see a waterfall and remember how I had to pull away my little boy from the forest streams back home. I am not really alone.

Within a couple of days into the trek, the body gets adjusted quickly. There is a rhythm to the walking. Breathing is regular, despite the strain. Muscles move like well-oiled pistons. One is looking and listening all the time; all the senses are so sharp. There are several distractions- the pilgrims’ litter, the shouting and singing Gujaratis, nagging, complaining women from Mumbai, the filth and stink of the Himalayan villages – yet, gradually I cease to be irritated by all that- all I see are the mountains; all I know is that beyond the narrow, dangerous path, I will see Kailas.

Yet I am shaken at Malpa, where two years ago in 1998, Protima Bedi and nearly 300 others lost their lives. Rakesh shows me the group photo of the ill-fated pilgrims who perished – his parents were among them. I look closely at the photographs – that bearded trekker could have been me. Those girls in their twenties are very attractive. Their bodies still lay beneath the massive rocks that lie on our path. Death constantly shadows us. Beyond every curve, he lies in wait; I can see his benign smile… every step taken, every day spent, I am nearing, nearing him. I stand on a precipitous ledge and look down at Kali River. All I have to do is to lift one leg and let the other follow. I tempt fate by lifting one leg.

Somewhere on the steep climb to Budhi, I rest. I am struck by the absurdity of my life and my choices. ‘Fifty thousand rupees! You are nuts!’, said a colleague. Another huddled close and asked very confidentially: “Tell me, Balan, what exactly is your problem? Are you having any family troubles? Are you trying to get away from it all?” He is skeptical when I say that I am not escaping from anything, it is just one more travel to the Himalayas I always wanted to do. He shakes his head and says: “You were always a freak.” What is the purpose? Why is it so important to see this mountain? Do I make-believe such purposes so that I could forget the truth of the purposelessness? What difference would it make to me once I see Kailas and take a dip in the Sarovar? What am I after, some images I can retain in my memory to chew on at leisure back home? What difference is there between the flotsam in the river that runs to the sea and I? Above my head I hear a chirp. A little bird flits among the leaves and then hops on to the top of the bush and starts singing. Far away a snow-clad peaks glitter like gold in the evening sun.

“Well, my dear chap,” says the liaison officer, ex-army IAS from Delhi, “ I say, what the heck, why don’t you people drive up to Tibet in a vehicle and go wherever you want? You get a better view of Kailas from a helicopter”. Do we really believe that suffering ennobles us? I decide that I have to hone my mind more. I will sharpen it to the fineness of a rapier.

Every day the trek starts at around 0600. Makhan Singh, my porter walks beside me. He is from a village en route. He gamely tries to answer my incessant questions about his land and life. He shares his Ganja with me. I don’t smoke much because of the strenuous walk; anyway, I am on a different high. Most of the yatris ride ponies. Clinging to their animals, they look terrified at the chasms below the narrow ledge.

One has to be aware of oneself and the mountains all the time. As you walk up, you notice every brook, every rock and every patch of snow. You listen to the wind, the birds, the mountains and your breath. Every snowflake that falls on your shoulder or cling onto your beard is a gift of nature. These sensory perceptions grow inside you and gradually you become an element in the environment, like the Japanese painter who walks into Van Gogh’s paintings in Kurasowa’s ‘Dreams’. In such sharp awareness, you become that. They are, at the same time, within and without you. You become both the viewer and the viewed. In such moments that only the Himalayas can give, you realize who you are and your place in the whole system.

Passing hamlets and forests, we walk along the gorge of Kali River. Waterfalls cascade over our heads. The narrow path hardly 3 feet wide tantalizes me to the rushing river. We pass through Kharbeyang to Gunji, the ITBP (Indo-Tibet Border Police) camp where we have to face a fitness test that will determine whether we can cross over to Tibet or not. Beyond Kalapani we reach Nabhithang, the last post of ITBP. The Om Parbat, which has an Om shaped glacier, sends the pilgrims to ecstasy. “We are indeed blessed by the Lord. Very few have seen the Om Parbat with such clarity”, they say gleefully.

We pass through Lipu Lekh Pass at 17000 ft to reach over to Tibet.


In Taklakot, high on a hill, silhouetted against the sky stands the ruins of a monastery. A few decades ago, there were more than 500 Buddhist monks there. The Chinese government destroyed everything during the Cultural Revolution. One cannot imagine the anguish of the Tibetan. At home, we destroy our forests, wetlands, backwaters and sacred groves. What do I lose along with them? What is exactly my relation to all these? I remember the burnt forests near Sairandhri in Silent Valley where gallons of fuel were poured by the Electricity Board to show that there were no forests in the Hydel project area. In Kottayam, I watch the Puncha paddy fields being filled up rapidly by the flesh carved from the hills. Why do I feel this terrible pain, this tearing of my heart?

The Barkha plains are enchanting. I am among the lucky few to see a herd of Tibetan wild ass. The Plains stretch away to the horizon. Lone telegraphic poles stand like strayed travelers. En route Manasarovar, we stop at the banks of Rakshas Tal. Leave alone the myths, but one cannot help notice the absence of bird life around the Rakshas Tal. We see Mount Kailas for the first time and the pilgrims shout Kailaspathi ki jai ho or chant Om Namasivayh.

Listening to the wind beating out its perennial drums on the prayer flags at Zaidi on the banks of Manasarovar overlooking the waters that touch the horizon, I ruminate over the ecstasies and the agonies I have experienced. I am so attached to life. Over my head, flocks of Barheaded Geese fly and land in the lake. Brahminy ducks feed contently nearby. Nose quivering, a gray rabbit looks at me apprehensively. Quails or partridges tumble over a mound. Far away, across the expanse of water, the snows of Kailas glitter. I wade into the lake. Somebody from the banks shouts at me, “Is it cold?” Waist deep in the icy water, I dip my head and breathe out, watching the bubbles rising in Manasarovar. As Manasarovar embraces me gently, I am at peace. The feeling of oneness with nature – this is what I always wanted; this is what life has always gifted me. I close my eyes and remember the lush green forests back home and the rolling grasslands of Eravikulam, where I hope to breath my last. The waves of Manasarovar bring over a dead fish to my feet.

The trek around Kailas begins at Darchen. We walk westward. Sree, my friend from Trivandrum and other two friends from Tamil Nadu keep me company. There isn’t much conversation. Occasionally we sit down to rest. The altitude and the rarified atmosphere begin to tell on the trekkers. Most others lumber up on shaggy Yaks. I am slightly preoccupied by stomach upset. One has to drink a lot of fluids in such places; I am losing it faster than I should. By late afternoon we reach Deraphuk, our halt for the day. The sky is crystal clear and the north face of Kailas looms before us. Each pilgrim is awed in his/her own way by the sight of the north face. Some do pujas; some read from sacred texts. Some walk away alone. Sree and I, old friends, hug each other.

Look at the photographs of Himalayan Mountains. Unless you know the distinguishing shape of say, Everest or Nandadevi, you cannot recognize them. But Kailas! Like Shiva in Pradoshanrittam mural, Kailas stands out, with its black conical peak, unshakable and bestowing radiance on all. Past Dolma pass (19800 ft), past Zongzerbu, the second night halt, we reach back in Darchen. Our forward yatra is complete. Some go up to Ashtapad for a closer view of the south face of Kailas. We rest, waiting for the other set of yatris who have gone for the Manasarovar parikrama.

Taklakot. Everyone is busy picking up cheap Chinese souvenirs. Our return journey begins next day.

I look at myself in the mirror. Other than the beard that have grown, the lips that have cracked and the sunburnt, peeling skin, what changes have occurred to me? I have lost a few kilos; I walk lighter. What, in the beginning of my dream journey, the years of yearning, the painstaking planning and preparation and the excitement of the yatra, what had I really wanted? I am not a devotee. I didn’t want any moksha. I didn’t want to be rid of my sins. I had suffered but I persisted through all that suffering and realized a dream. Perhaps dreams should remain as dreams. Perhaps one shouldn’t have any achievements. It is a letdown.

On the way back, down, down the hills of Himalayas, I meet a group of pilgrims going to Chhota Kailas on the Indo-Tibetan border. An old man climbs up supporting himself with a stick. His eyes burn with determination. He touches my feet. “They touched Kailas”, he says. I am embarrassed. “I had applied for the yatra, but they rejected me. I am 75, but I will apply again next year. Do you think I can make it?”

In New Delhi, we say goodbye to each other and exchange addresses.
Within our hearts we know that we are only trying to stretch the memories of a shared experience, which will soon fade away. Within our hearts we know we will never see some of the others again. Yet, like Cela
1 wrote, our souls go into those goodbyes and good lucks. And we know that amidst the cacophony of our mundane life, among the debits and credits, among the anguish and strife, the images of Kailas and Manasarovar will remain sharp in our hearts. Again and again, we will go back to them, like the peacock’s feather we kept inside our schoolbook.

As Kerala Express slows down and comes to a halt at Trivandrum railway station, Parvati runs up to my compartment. Admiration, love and happiness shine in her eyes. At home, my dogs climb all over me and howl and bark and tug at my shirt. I had been away for more than a month. It is only 1530. I go to the bus stop where my 8-year old boy would get down from his school bus. The bus arrives. I move a little away. He gets down and looks around for Parvati. I am waiting. I am waiting for my son to see me.



Six years and many Himalayan yatras later, I, Balachandran V, male, 49, 5’9” 85kg, type out these words sitting alone in my 8x8 room in Kottayam. Kailas looks down at me from the two photographs pasted on the walls above the computer. I remember – and deeply bow in gratitude for the memories.


1. Jose Camilo Cela – Journey into Alcarria.

NOTE: This is the second article that I had to write about the yatra that I undertook 6 years ago (The first one will appear in a book soon to be published). I had to skip much of the details here to avoid repetition. And like the dimming photographs in the album, memories also are fading. For those genuinely interested, there are several books which are exhaustive. Below is a list of a few:

1. Himagiriviharam (Malayalam) / Wanderings in the Himalayas ( English translation) : Swami Tapovanam.

2. Kailas – Manasarovar : Swami Pranavananda

3. The Way of the White Clouds : Lama Anagarikara Govinda

4. Kailasa yatra (Malayalam): Swami Chitbhavananda

5. Himalayathinte Mukalthattil (Malayalam) :K V Surendranath.

6. Trekking in Nepal, West Tibet and Bhutan : Hugh Swift.

7. Uttarakhadiloode –Kailas Manasarovar Yatra (Malayalam)–M.K Ramachandran

8. Kailash Manasarovar- A Sacred Journey : Veena Sharma

Those who liked this may also have a look at this: http://mytravelsmylife.blogspot.com/2008/02/journeys-from-within-and-without-kailas.html


You don't have to look when you are in the mountains - a story

Looking back, I am not sure if I could talk about my last trip in the usual way. Like, I set off from point A to point B on such and such date and met so and so, saw this and that and finally got back to point A. Or start from the destination, walk back and forth and wind it up. I can’t. Because it happened in the last lap of the journey and I can’t think of anything else. You ask me how your trip was and I get confused and mumble well I was in this plane from Mumbai to Trivandrum. You look funnily and ask, didn’t you go to Germany and then to Himalayas and why didn’t you get back straight Delhi-Trivandrum instead of via Mumbai and why you talk about Mumbai first? Well, you see they gave me a free ticket and there I was, with seat No.8F in the first row of Economy class and the middle-aged handicapped (what? Physically challenged? Okay, okay) lady sitting on 8F at the window and I say its all right and moving to the aisle seat – Anne was sitting in the middle, you know, with her head bowed and nodding, it seemed, to the soft notes of Chaurasia[1]’s flute… . Of course I hadn’t known her name then. All I saw first was that black mop of hair and while fumbling for the seat belt I saw her left hand with those beautiful fingers and green veins.

Across the aisle this forty-ish matron wore sleeveless and her shoulder was very fair and fat and rich black hair in the armpit and the swell of her breasts was rather huge. I look the look and she knows and she knows I know and then sighs deeply and opens her mouth to ask me so so huskily, are you Mr.Pillai? I am amused at the eager jump of the fish and flash my trademark grin and say - I could be.

The Hostess appears and thrusts packs of fruit juice. She bents down right across my knees and I look in vain for the cleavage but she zooms her face close to the black mop head and shouts are you all right you want orange juice? Mop-head has a soft voice – it says, No, thank you. She’s tiny, you see, fair and fragile, nice nose and lips – she goes back to her nodding. Odd, I think, Chaurasia is playing to another beat- it hits me then – Mop-head is blind.

Oh yeah, I know that look on your face. The oh-so-sob-story about the pretty peeper-less girl romantic thing, uh? Listen, but I can’t think about Frankfurt and Berlin and Kedarnath and Badrinath,2 see? Okay, maybe I’ll tell you all about it later on, but I got to tell you about Anne first, all right?

The music stops. Sleeveless straightens the seat and her bloated belly strains against the seat belt and her boobs saaaaaaag. The plane is moving down the runway and I look at the residences of Chattrapathi Sivaji’s3 descendants just outside the walls of the airport. Mop-head is quietly nodding. Up in the air. The sky is clear and blue and the clouds are fluffy. I slip off the belt and twist around to take a good look at Mop-head. I am a big guy, you know, and Anne is tiny and sitting all doubled up. I glance at the lady at the window and asks, ‘Ma’am, is she with you?’ Anne raises her head and says, ‘No. I am alone.’

Her eyes are pale milky green. You know that soothing shade of green, like that silk tie you used to wear. What? Yeah, maybe, the colour of phlegm on the third day of the cough. I say, ‘Hello What’s your name?’ ‘Anne.’ I say brightly, ‘Ever read The Diary of Anne Frank?’ Anne says, ‘No. You see, we don’t get many books in Braille. Who is she?’ I say- ‘Someone like you, as beautiful and tiny like you.’

I sense the familiar wrench creeping up my heart. I think of the walk up to base of Nilakanth at Badrinath, yeah it was snowing, what do you expect in mid-November? I see the wind-swept hillsides and the glacial stream and the ice clinging on the grass as I bent down to lick the water. I see Nilakanth soaring up to the sky and the glittering snow.

The Hostess stuffs up the curtain and rattles down the meal-wagon. Gives me a look, says Non-Veg and without waiting for my answer, dumps down the meal tray. Anne says, No thank you and the Hostess moves down the aisle. I bent down to Anne’s ear and tell her, ‘See, they are supposed to ask Veg or Non-Veg, you know. But this lady with one glance decides I am a Non-Veg.’ Anne giggles softly. ‘How do you look, Uncle?’ I say disparagingly, ‘Me? I am big, bald and black. I have a grey moustache and my lips are cracked and the skin is peeling off on my nose.’ Anne giggles again. Whatever happened, she asks. I have been walking in the mountains, I tell her.

Can I tell her, I wonder, about Nilakanth? About Kailas, about Manasarovar? Can I tell her about Nandadevi or Kanchendzonga or Nun-Kun or Ladakh? Can I tell her about my wanderings all these twenty-five years, the peaks I have seen, the dregs I have been in?

‘Anne, were you always blind?’ She nods- ‘Born blind, I was.’ A hot iron sword is run through my heart and I whimper. ‘Do you wish you had eyesight, Anne?’ Anne’s head is erect and she looks straight ahead. Anne shakes her head, ‘No. What’s there to see in this dirty world?’

Dirty? Dirty? I frown at her. ‘How old are you, Anne?’ ‘Fourteen. But Uncle, tell me about the mountains.’

Anne. Anne. ‘When I am really up there, you know, among the mountains walking alone slowly and then leaning back on to a rock where I would rest my haversack, I would close my eyes, Anne, you don’t look at the mountains then, you close your eyes and listen. You listen to the wind, you listen to the Chough or the Thrush, you listen to the stream bubbling by, you listen to the flutter of the prayer flags, you listen to the silence and after sometime you become it. For a time, you are that. Then of course, you have to wake up. But really, Anne, you don’t have to look when you are in the mountains.’

Anne is silent. ‘My Dad also likes mountains; and my Mom too did. He is up there in Kashmir, you see.’ ‘What’s he doing there, is he a terrorist?’ Anne purses her lips; she isn’t keen about my weak wisecracks. ‘No, he is in the Army.’ ‘Aha’, I say, ‘what is he, Captain? Major?’ ‘No, Much higher.’ I sense the reluctance; I sense the shutters closing down. I fall silent. Anne says, ‘Uncle, I am sorry…’. ‘Its okay, Anne.’

I open the food packets. The thimble-size sachets of jam, sauce, butter, pepper, I put into my bag for my kid. I ask Annie why she isn’t eating. She doesn’t say anything first. ‘Its difficult for me, you know, to open all that without spilling’. Oh, my child, my child! ‘Shall I ask the Hostess to bring you some? I will open it and give you?’ NO, No, Uncle, thanks.’

I plunge into my chicken and cheese or whatever. I am careful with the chicken, because the Lufthansa chicken on my way up to Frankfurt had burned my entire goddamn mouth. I couldn’t spit it out, I couldn’t swallow it. I had to roll and roll the piece in my mouth and the oven-fresh chicken merrily burned on. Well, I always gorge my food, I like it that way. Moreover, it was the first meal in more than 12 hours.

I tell Anne about the incident and off she goes into fits of laughter. Sleeveless is obviously disgusted. The Hostess keeps a wary eye on me.

Anne is a beautiful girl. She doesn’t have that odd disfigurement around the eyes like some blind people. Anne has a north-Indian look with her pale skin and clean features. Little diamond-like studs glitter on her ears. A small gold Cross hangs on her neck.

‘Uncle, which language are you most comfortable with?’ ‘Well,’ I say, ‘ Malayalam is my mother tongue and good enough for me, but when I start talking seriously or when I want to express myself better, I unconsciously slip into English.’ Anne switches, I am surprised, to Malayalam. ‘I can talk Hindi and Punjabi as well, but I like Malayalam the best, even though my Dad is a Punjabi. My Mom is half-Malayalee that’s how I learned it so well. And I study in Kerala, you know.’ ‘ Ah, so you are going to your Mom, uh?’ Annie smiles, ‘Not really. She died an year ago.’

I tell Anne that her father must love her so much; he must be so brave to bring her up all by himself.

I tell her, ‘Anne, my wife’s name is Aditi and she is a scientist. My son is Agastya and he is 10 years old, no he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters.’ ‘I am a single child myself,’ Anne says. ‘Why didn’t you have more children?’ Agastya once asked, Acha4, why can’t I have a brother or sister? I told him we got married rather late and it is difficult to have many children late in one’s life. I don’t tell him about my decision not to have another child because that would affect our research work and future plans.

‘I am a single child myself,’ says Anne, ‘my parents too got married late. And I feel terribly lonesome. When Mom was alive, she was my best friend and I never felt lonely. In the hostel where I stay, its a Working Women’s Hostel, you see, they all are elders and say Po Kochche, Po Kochche (Get lost, little one) all the time.’

‘Listen, Annie, do you think no one else is lonely? We all are lonely. The thing is to be comfortable in your solitude, to be comfortable with yourself.’ In the mountains people ask me, Aap akele aya hai Keral se? (Have you come all alone from Kerala?). In Kerala, people ask me, Ottaykko? You went alone? In the mountain people’s eyes I see admiration and understanding; back home, I see envy and caution (the look says, you got to be careful with this chap). ‘But then, Anne, there is a little game I play. You know that there are these two guys inside you? The Good guy and the Bad guy? These guys are always talking to each other, you know. Always talking and fighting. And I listen to them and I never feel lonely.’ Anne breaks in excitedly. ‘Yes, Yes, Uncle, I know them, but Uncle, he is not a BAD guy, you know, just naughty.’ I say, ‘Right, just naughty.’

The Hostess walks by, and throws a blank look at me. She is an experienced lady. Seen a bit of the world. She notices this middle-aged man huddling close to a blind, pretty teenage girl and her look says it all; Brother, I am watching you.

‘Would you like some water to drink, Anne?’ She shakes her head. ‘It’s difficult to go to the toilet here, Uncle.’ I am numb. I try to imagine walking blindfolded to the toilet. I try to imagine being a young girl with no eyes, no one to love me, staying in a hostel far away from home (Home? Where is it?). I wonder what Anne would do when she has her periods, who will help her?

‘Uncle, I was in Delhi for the last couple of weeks, you know, at my Aunt’s. Dad had come there too. We had a great time. I got so many presents for Diwali, see the bag near my feet, it had nothing when I went, now its so full.’ The travel bag was indeed full; its sides bulged, its curved top strained at the zip. ‘Yes, it looks like a potbelly’. Anne laughs. ‘Its full of presents for my friends.’ I am glad. ‘Do you have a lot of friends, Anne?’ Anne’s face changes. ‘No. Not really. Just classmates and those at the Hostel.’

I am your friend, Anne. And I will bring Aditi & Agastya to meet you, he is a great kid. Can we come and meet you, Anne? We go to the forests often, you know, and maybe we could take you with us in the weekends, will you tell your father about us, will you let us come and see you, Agastya would love to have a sister like you and Aditi could tell you a lot about plants and animals and we have a couple of dogs at home, do you like dogs, Anne, you do, please Anne, do let us come and meet you, here is my card, will you call me, Anne, will you call me?

Anne straightens her Duppatta and her hand touches my arm. ‘Men are so lucky, Uncle, you don’t have to wear all these complicated dresses. In the flight from Delhi to Mumbai, there was this man sitting beside me and my hand brushed him a couple of times and he got angry and scolded me.’ ‘What? Didn’t you tell him to go to Hell? Or jump out of the window?’ I was really worked up. Annie smiles gently. ‘This man didn’t know I was blind, see. I was wearing sunglasses and he thought I was just another silly girl. I used to be very short-tempered, Uncle, but somewhere I realised that people get angry because they don’t understand things fully.’

The plane droned on. Suddenly there are a couple of thuds and we are jerked up and down. The captain regretted the turbulence. Lots of white clouds all around.

Anne asks: ‘Uncle, when will we reach Trivandrum? I have a tuition class at 1530. Would I be able to go? Do you think I should?’ ‘What tuition? Nonsense! You go and relax. Sit with your friends and have a good time.’ ‘Shall I? Shall I? Its okay?’ Anne clasps her hands and giggles excitedly.

‘Anne, what do you think of your future? What plans do you have?’ Anne smiles shyly. ‘I want to help people, Uncle. I want to start a school for people like me.’ She pauses. Wistfully she says, ‘But then how can I help others, I am so helpless myself!’ I grope for an answer. ‘No, Anne, you can help others. You know just like you have helped me now.’ Anne turns her head at me. ‘Helped you, Uncle?’

I tell her why I went to the mountains. I tell her about my sick mother, I tell her about the fights with Aditi, I tell her how much on the brink my marriage is, how we are about to fall apart. I tell her how sad Agastya is, how easy it is for people to bring down something they built together. ‘But then, Anne, I am sitting beside you and when I listen to you I realise how trivial my problems are. You helped me, Anne, to hope and perhaps put things correctly all over again.’

I would like to touch this little girl, hug her close and tell her that I would take care of you, Precious. I yearn to mess up her mop-head, to tweak her beaky nose. I would like to dress her up like a princess and hold her arm as she walks up the aisle.

We are nearing Trivandrum. Anne says, ‘Next to New Delhi, I like Trivandrum the best’. I look out and tell her about the green carpet of coconut palms and the coast and the blue sea.

The crew are at their stations and the hostesses look at me from near the door. Do they see this middle-aged boor with tear-filled eyes? Do they see this once handsome man now devastated?

I think of my trip; the fun and happy times at Berlin, the respect and recognition they gave me, the self-respect I earned. I think of the walks up to Kedarnath and Nilakanth and the pure bliss as I stood before Nilakanth. I look at Annie’s little fingers and her bowed, nodding mop-head. I weep. I am chastised. I think of the ways God takes me, I am His favourite stone in the catapult, as he sends me higher and higher…. I say- ‘Lord, when will you tire of me?’

Anne doesn’t take my card. She says she’ll remember my number. She doesn’t tell me where she studies where she lives who her people are. I can see that it is difficult for her to trust me, just a fellow-traveller. But aren’t we all just fellow-travellers? In a bus, in a train, in an office, in a house, in this world? Do we know when and where the others would get down? Do we trust more if we live together a lifetime? Do we like less if we knew only for a short while?

The plane lands and slowly comes to a halt. Its been raining here. My home. My Trivandrum.

Anne and I haven’t been talking for a while. I tell her, ‘Anne, I have every respect for your privacy. I won’t try to trace you. But if you call me, if you need me, I will come over the next instant.’ Will you, Anne, will you call me, even if you don’t need anything? Because I need you, Anne, I need to love and take care of you.

Out there, I wait. Then I see the uniformed soldier holding Anne’s hand coming out of the building and moving towards the parked Army car. ‘Excuse me’, I say. The soldier stares at me. I tell him Anne & I were in the plane together. Anne’s face is remote. I blurt out: ‘Anne, you haven’t forgotten my number, have you, you will call me, won’t you?’ I grab her hand, press it once. ‘Its been great knowing you, Anne’. She walks by me towards the car. Did she nod her head or was it just my imagination?

Could Anne sense something else? Like the fact that I was once the father of a blind baby girl which I gave away to an orphanage on the third day of birth? Like the fact that Aditi was sick and Aruvi was born eyeless because of the medicines? Like the fact that Aruvi is somewhere in the USA, happy and beautiful, a swimming champion, the sisters at the orphanage tell me? Like I had to give her away for some reasons, justifiable or not? Will she pass judgment on me, will she?

I once asked Agastya whether Anne would ever call. He looked out through the window and with all his 10-year old wisdom, pronounced: ‘No, Acha, I don’t think she will ever call.’ Okay. But she can’t stop me from hoping, can she?

[1] Famous Indian flautist.

2 Hindu shrines deep in the Himalayas.

3 Legendary Maratha King; Mumbai Airport is named after him. Slum dwellings abound around the airport.

4 Dad.

Kailas Yatra -Journeys from within and without

‘Thus the pilgrimage in the outer space is actually the mirrored reflection of an inner movement or development, directed towards a yet unknown distant aim which, however, is intrinsically and seed-like contained in the very direction of that movement. Herefrom springs the readiness to cross the horizons of the known and the familiar, the readiness to accept people and new environments as parts of our destiny, and the confidence in the ultimate significance of all that happens and is in harmony with the depth of our being and the universality of a greater life’. (Lama Anagarika Govinda - The Way of the White Clouds)

Sree Kumar flicks the handycam’s switch and focuses on the old lady’s face. ‘Okay, tell us why you want to visit Kailas and Manasarovar’. Ma Gouri beams into the lens of the handycam and lets out a stream in Gujrati. As I vaguely listen to the unintelligible words, I try to read into her expressions to understand why at the ripe age of 68, Ma Gouri wants to risk her life to see a mountain and a lake.

We were part of a group of Indians going on the yearly pilgrimage to Kailas – Manasarovar. In the foyer of the Ashok Yatri Nivas in New Delhi, my friend Sree and I had begun the making of our ‘epic’ on the Yatra. We had already decided that the shoot would be developed with Ma Gouri as the central character. In our early forties and holding a Sony Handycam for the first time in our lives – yet, fantasies ran as bright and wild as it did 20 or 25 years earlier.

I have been dreaming of this trip since 1987 when I took a passport. Every year I would cut out the advertisement of the Ministry of External Affairs that said ‘Kailas- Manasarovar Yatra’ on the top, go through the articles cut out from Frontline or The Hindu, re-read my books on Kailas, call up Sree and say how about this year. I would get the latest exchange rate of US dollars to be paid to the Chinese – and that would mark the end.

I saw Himalayas for the first time in 1986. The original plan was to take part in the Kumbh Mela at Hardwar and return. But after being nearly pushed to death in the melee’, I thought why not see Rishikesh too. At Lakshman Jhoola there was this ex-army officer’s lodge- he dug out maps of Garhwal Himalayas and urged me to push on to Gangotri. Mid-April and all I had was a sweater, borrowed from my brother in New Delhi. At Uttarkashi, people told me, Yaar, oopar baraf pada hai, gadi nahin jayega (its snowing up there, buses won’t go). I said, fine, where does the bus stop last? Harsil, they said. Okay, I said, I’ll go to Harsil. With a stinker of a goat by my side, I ride the early morning bus to Harsil. Turning a bend, I see my first snow capped mountain far away. Kya nam hai wo pahad ka? I break out excitedly in my broken Hindi but the goat gives me a baleful glare and says nothing. I never learned its name – but years and many trips to Himalayas later, that mountain is still within me. I still see the morning glow of sunshine on its peak… At Harsil, I gape at the snow-bound road. The army officer and men standing nearby look at me amusedly. Go on, the officer said, its only 25km to Gangotri, my men are up there at Hanuman Chatti, go to them if you need anything. I heave the bag up on my shoulder and walk on. The first touch of snow. I make a ball of it and throw it down to Bhageerathi. I think of my colleagues in the Bank mulling over their credits and debits and lets out a guffaw. I crawl over the snow piled up on the road. I am hooked for life.

Journeys have always been like that ever since. I have been content to reach wherever I can, never frustrated with unreachable destinations. There is a goal, but striving to reach it was what really mattered. NOW was all that mattered. The last point is always just ahead and one could go on further. Really, there aren’t any last points. One could go on and on ……

From New Delhi, it takes two days to by bus to Dharchula, the base camp on the Indo-Nepalese border. By the time we left New Delhi, I have interacted with most of my fellow- yatris. At Dharchula, the Yatris engage ponies and porters. Sree & I decide not to take ponies and to walk the entire stretch. Sree hires a porter so that he can shoot his video unhindered. I am the tough guy, veteran of so many treks, I will carry my own bags, thank you. I had forgotten the first lesson that the mountains had given me. Lessons in humility. The first day of trek from Tawaghat to Sirkha via Pangu, we have to do two days’ walk in one, the sun shines oh-so-brightly and my legs wobble half-way up; like the Lammergeirs that hover over our heads, a boy latches on to me, says, saab, oopar bahuth chadayi hai, bahuth mushkil hotha hai, aap porter lijiye (it’s a steep climb ahead and its tough for you, Sir. Let me carry your stuff). Panting, I shake my head – weakly. A kilometer below Pangu, I give up. Whew!

Our politicians and bigwigs should be brought to Himalayas occasionally. Make them walk, make them look at the awesome mountains, let them realize the abysmal insignificance of their petty being –

The pony riders move out, like tied-up lump of sacks. Sree and I, with the other trekkers, lag behind. Basu, the Bengali clerk in FCI, is a tough trekker – he surges ahead. I wonder whether he notices the scenery. Along the path, I periodically come across plastic covers, ‘Tiger Biscuit’ wraps, Cadbury chocolate wraps and even a plastic water bottle. Red, yellow, golden, blue. I diligently pick up every shred and put them into my jacket pockets. Makhan Singh, my porter, is puzzled. I tell him – ‘what these buggers think, are they walking in their backyard?’ His frown clears and he laughs. At the camp at Sirkha, after dinner, the liaison officer discusses the day’s journey. The policeman tells us what to look out for the next day. I pip in – ‘ Tell me, who eats Tiger biscuits?’ A fat Gujrati raises his hand – I love Ttiger! ‘Then,’ I say, ‘ keep the bloody wrappers in your pocket or is it too heavy for you to carry on the pony?’ The liaison officer calls me the ‘environmentalist’ and admonishes the group not to litter. The Gujju darts a malevolent glance at me. But since then everyone was careful about littering.

The 14th batch of yatris was on the third day of the trek. Going up, up all the time. We reach Malpa, where 2 years ago, nearly 300 people, including 60 yatris died in a landslide. Only 20 bodies could be recovered. We were going to do a small pooja there. Rakesh, whose parents died here, is with us. Rakesh is a brawny, paunchy, raucous fellow, but the death of his parents here softens us towards him. Swamiji lights the dhoop sticks and the rest of us do the same. I look down at my feet and at the gap between the blocks of rocks fallen from above. THEY ARE STILL DOWN THERE. Past Malpa and up and up to Budhi along side the river Kali. My heart chokes, my legs fly, I chant Om Namasivayh. Tears, as forceful as the waters of Kali explode and stream down my face. I am in a trance as I climb up the steep, slippery narrow ledge. Makhan Singh, my porter, has stopped singing Hindi film songs and silently tries to catch up with me before I slip into the abyss of Kali’s womb. I say, O lord, here I am, let me take all the pains and sufferings and misfortunes of the world, I will bear it and bring it over to you. My son’s face flashes before my eyes and pain grips my heart. Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow. I am unable to understand the whys and wherefores and wonder what am I doing here. I weep and weep and my heart emerges crystal clear and pure and peaceful. I realize that I have crossed the Pass. The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. (Katha-Upanishad).

Come to think of it, journeys whether to Himalayas or to the grocery next door are by itself a microcosm of life. A single misstep on the narrow ledge and you’ve had it, man. And you cannot really opt out. No point in singing Stop-the-world-and-let-me-out. You can’t say, NO MORE. Even if you did, it doesn’t end there, you are only going in a different direction.

Beyond Malpa we climb a steep hill and reach Budhi. Cannabis indica (Ganja) grow lush on either side of the path. Makhan Singh plucks the leaves and presses and squeezes and rolls them into balls. Khar jaake dam maro, bhai saab (go home and have a drag, bro!), he says and offers the balls to me. I remember the HAPPINESS and put them reverently into my bag.

Every climb is followed by a steep downhill run. Occasionally you pause for breath; one doesn’t rest for fear of losing the body warmth. There isn’t much thought; mind is focused sharply on every step. But then, suddenly you come across a gushing stream or a waterfall. You see the tiny flowers clinging onto the rocks. You see a bird or two and are at a loss to identify them. And all the time, looking at you benignly, slightly amused, stand the snow-capped peaks. I pester Makhan Singh by asking the name of every mountain and he is vexed. Wo sirf pahad hai, saab, naam koi nahin unko. For him every mountain, every bird, every butterfly and every flower are just that. Sirf. Sirf. And I, like a dog let free, must explore, must see everything, must listen to every sound and smell every flower. I pause at a tree and run my hand over the bark. I bent down to look close at the millipede that crosses my path. At every little brook, I cup a mouthful of water. Sometimes I just stop and look. I wish I could take all these and put it into my haversack. Makhan Singh gets impatient. If we are to go like this we will reach the camp only after nightfall, he mutters. But after two days he is resigned to my ways. I know he likes me. Whereas his friends have to carry heavy loads, he has it easy. Every time I eat a chocolate, I make him take one. I talk to him about Kerala; about the ocean, the elephants, the green, green paddy fields and cashew nuts.

Sree passes by with his porter, Puran Singh. ‘Enthedey?’(How goes?), he nods and moves on. Sree is a good companion. In the trips we have been together, we never make it point to walk side by side. Sometimes we do, sometimes don’t. Sometimes we sit and chat. Sometimes the silences lengthen to hours. But we are content with each other. Each has his personal space. Each goes on at his own pace. Yet we sense that we look out for each other.

Crossing the Rowling Pass, we go by Kharbeyang, a small village. The houses have beautiful, intricately carved wooden doorways. On a steep slope I slip in the muddy, dungy slush, break my stick and fall on my back. Biscuits in my haversack are crushed and soggy. I throw it to the ferocious-looking dogs.

Gunji is a bigger village. The Kali and Kunti rivers do a prayag (confluence) here. It is a major frontier post of the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police). There is a perceptible tension on the face of the yatris. Tomorrow morning there would be a physical check-up; those who fail will be detained. We meet a couple from the previous batch. Gloom spreads on the face of the older yatris. They huddle inside their sleeping bags. Home-remedies are whispered to counter the risen blood pressure. The younger set look nonchalant and crack jokes. I wander around. There is so much to see.

‘Everybody MUST hire a pony at Gunji’, the liaison officer orders, ‘or we cannot cross the dreaded Lipu Lekh Pass together’. We pass along Kala Pani, another ITBP post where we eat lunch and then further, walking along the pleasantest meadow I have ever seen, camp at Nabhithang, the last post of the ITBP. Towards our right, a few kilometers away, a mountain rises from the mist. I see the unmistakable ‘OM’–shaped glacier. Swamiji reads Sanskrit verses from a holy book. Dr.Ramachandra clambers up a rock and meditates, looking at the Om Parbat. I longingly gaze at the glacier and wish I could be there. Sree and I look around for a Malayalee jawan but have to be content with a Tamilian.

At 0230 in the night, 17000 feet high, we clamber up on the ponies, but I can’t stand the pain on my buttocks and the cold biting my toes. I walk most of the way. Up there near the Pass, we pass a dead pony and the live ones rear up in terror. The yatris shriek and fall thumpingly on to the snow. Velankar cries, o kahan hai ye khodawalla, kisi ne pakado ye janvar ko (where is the horseman, somebody hold this bloody animal). I mutter in the ears of the pony, Sabash bete, chalo bete, achcha bete.

We reach the top of Lipu Lekh Pass at around 0630. Exhausted, shivering; yet grateful that we have crossed the Pass. I look beyond the ledge into Tibet, now part of China. Faraway and all around- snow. Snow. Then, up came the 12th batch. They have a veteran look. They look at us patronizingly. We shake hands and hug. We ask them how it was. ‘Great, marvelous, you’ll find out yourself’. Some shout ‘Kailaspati ki jai ho!’ Some on their knees kiss Indian soil. Some shout anybody from Bombay, anybody from Baroda, etc. Makhan Singh, like the other porters who cannot follow us into China, is busy catching a client for the journey back home. Sitting slightly away on a ledge, I smoke a cigarette after many days. I wonder what makes the soil Indian or Tibetan or Chinese. I wonder at this frenzy of us humans to identify with some piece of earth. I pee on the Indian soil and move on to Tibet/China. Faraway, I see the Gurla Mandhata Mountain. Kailas must be somewhere out there.

The members of the 14th batch are as diverse as Indians can be. And the motive or inspiration for the Yatra varies from person to person. Nearly half of the 30 are Gujaratis. Seems the state government has offered them quite a number of incentives. Money, haversack, T-shirts and stuff like that. Arre yaar, if the Muslims can get a subsidized pilgrimage to Mecca, why shouldn’t the govt. subsidize us Hindus for the Kailas Yatra? Understandably, the rest of us are envious. 4 Delhiwallas as Delhiwallas can be. 4 Tamilians, 1 Kannadiga and we the 2 Malayalees form the South Block. The Southies sleep together, and the 4 Bengalis keep company. We snicker about the Northies and the Northies despise us. 5 or 6 of us trek all the way; the rest shamefacedly ride the ponies, gripping on to the animals in utter terror. The Bengali swami is on his 7th yatra but still very much a man of the world, however nicely he sings Robindra Shongeet. We sing bhajans in the bus, do puja chanting Sanskrit verses out of a book and throwing all sort of things into the sacred fire. The middle-aged businessman from Bombay throws schoolboy smut around and expects us to laugh. The fat matron from Gujarat presses herself against any whiskered male. The lady executives from Bombay complain about the lack of proper toilets. The Baroda sisters yak and yak and yak. Sree and I assess the sex appeal or the lack of it among our fellow women Yatris. People hardly look around. They don’t see the birds or butterflies, the flowers or the trees, the mountains or the streams. Getting to the next camp is the most important thing. Get to the camp first so that you can get the best bed. Get into the bus first so that you can get the best seat. Get into the dining room first so that you can eat before others do. The liaison officer says, ‘I wonder why people are taking so much of trouble coming this way. One could easily fly down to Lhasa from Kathmandu and then take a vehicle to Kailas and Manasarovar’. I am puzzled and disillusioned with my fellow Yatris and myself. Have we come here to relieve our past Karma or take a new bag of it back with us? But then at Darchen, at the base of Kailas, Lama Anagarika Govinda tells me – if you wish me to be your Guru, do not look upon my person as the Guru, because every human personality has its shortcomings, and so long as we are engaged in observing the imperfections of others we deprive ourselves of the opportunities of learning from them. Remember that every being carries within itself the spark of Buddhahood but as long as we concentrate on other people’s faults we deprive ourselves the light that in various degrees shines out from our fellow-beings.

Hore is our first stop out of Taklakot. In the morning, Sree and I take plastic bottles of water and defecate in the Barkha plains. Tibetan Mastiff dogs hover around our rear. A Tibetan walks by, singing an ethereal song that waft across the plains. Lone telegraph poles stretch away into the horizon.

Qugu. Wading slowly, I feel the cold creeping up my legs. Now my knees; now my thighs; Manasarovar gently beats against my chest. Head submerged, I look at the stones beneath. I let out breath slowly; bubbles, one by one plops – I am one with the lake. I am one with the world. I am one with all that Is.

At Zaidi on the shores of Manasarovar, the prayer flags beat out a strange rhythm in the strong wind. I sit on the leeside of the small mound and watch the blue lake. Out there four or five of Bar-headed Geese bob up and down as a large flock of Brahminy ducks feed contentedly nearby. Couple of Hoopoes fly over my head. I close my eyes. The vast expanse of the lake begins to flow into one’s mind. Amidst the drumming prayer flags I could hear a dog barking faraway. A Brown-headed Gull screeches as it climbs against the wind. The mind becomes still like a pot of water filled to the brim. The moment is so pregnant with inexplicable feelings and I feel things are about to be let loose. I frantically search for a break – then relaxes. Peace fills the mind again. Away, across the blue waters, Kailas glimmers in the sunlight.

Kailas. There are many mountains in the Himalayas – great height, sheer beauty, awesome power, infinitely remote – but Kailas is not a mountain. It is a huge magnet the size of a mountain that pulls people’s hearts towards it. Amidst the bare brown mountains this huge conical block of black rock topped with vanilla, lords over the Barkha plains. I talk to a Norwegian trekker at Parkha. He is a postal clerk back home but has been coming to this area for the last 4 years. I don’t believe in God, he says, but I can’t help coming back again and again and walk around Kailas. I have to. I must do it every year as long as I am alive.

Dolma Pass 19800 ft. Walking had become rhythmic in the lower altitudes. 20-25 km a day and one have to walk to a beat. Mine was Om-namasi- vayah –Om. Here at Dolma in the blistering cold and steep climb and rarified atmosphere, I cannot spare my breath for chanting. As the trekkers slump down gasping for breath, the Yak-bound brethren lumber up. In spite of the exhaustion, we have a superiority feeling. We WALKED, our faces said. The Yak riders are embarrassed. They say Om Namasivyah. It is the struggle to achieve that really counts, that makes the achievement worthwhile. One can do the parikrama (circumambulation) even in a helicopter.

There is story about a Zen master whose hut was ransacked by a thief who found nothing to steal. The monk was away and when he returned he caught the thief. The monk took off his only garment and gave it to him. Then, in the night, sitting in the nude, watching the sky, the monk said- ‘ I wish I could have given him the moon!’ Zuthul Phuk, the top of Dolma Pass. Snow falling continuously. It could turn out to be a blizzard. Around me are the prayer flags, the odds and bits left by people over the years - for here, the pilgrim has to leave something he owns. Snow falls over my gray beard as I silently stand witness to nature. You have nothing, my mind tells me; you own nothing. Even you, my mind laughs, belongs to nature. I lick the fresh snow and move on.

Kailas North face. Sree looks at the snow clad peak through binoculars and mutters- ‘Jeez, look at that snow balcony on top! Is that a white curtain draped over there? Sivan Pillai and Parvati Akkan have to be there and must be looking at us now’. Sree walks up alone to the higher ridge. He picks up a stone and offers it to Kailas- ‘this is for my father’; another one- ‘this is for my mother’. Velankar digs out a Bhajan book and starts chanting verses. Dr. Ramachandra bellows – ‘I want to die here at this moment! I don’t want anything more! I gaze at the mountain unblinkingly and am oblivious to the dipping mercury and the blowing winds. I am full-filled.

Aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo vibhuthvacha sarvatra sarvendriyanam.

Na va sangatham naiva muktirnameya chidanandarupa sivoham sivoham.

(I have no form or fancy; the All-pervading am I; Everywhere I exist, and yet am beyond the senses; Neither salvation am I, nor anything to be known: I am Eternal Bliss and Awareness – I am Siva! I am Siva! ( Shankaracharya – Nirvanashalkam)

Post script: On the first night halt of our trek at Sirkha it rained. In the fibre-glass hut where we slept, water leaked little drop by drop at only one place. Just between where Sree and I slept, near the pillows, right on top of the Sony handycam, with its waterproof cover open.


(The above forms part of an intended book by the same name)


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