Spirituality & The Spirit’s Duality

I am a person who lives on simple ideas about life and SPIRITUALITY is a sophisticated concept for my lean and mean brain to comprehend. So, after some Googling and Wikipediaing, I just realized one thing. For all these time we have been mixing up Spirituality and Religious Devotionality. But, I am not here to tell the difference, hope you can figure that out just like I did.

When I hear people talk about spirituality, they talk about the meaning, purpose of life and all. I tell them, I would better live mine and learn its meaning on the go, rather than just waste time thinking about the same. For me, spirituality is simple, it’s understanding and balancing the duality of the soul. By soul, I mean one’s spirit, one’s character and by duality I mean the coexistence of extremes.

This reminds me of Yin and Yang, one of my favourite symbols. It symbolizes how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another (courtesy: Wikipedia). I feel the very first step in spirituality is to understand oneself in depth. Like the Yin and Yang, there is always a co-existence of good & bad and strengths & weaknesses in us. So, it’s highly critical to have a self-appraisal to figure these things out. The next step is learning to balance them, yes as you think it’s easier said than done. The art of channelizing one’s energy is a tough art to master and that’s where techniques like meditation help. If you ask me what’s the end result? It’s the feeling content, fulfillment, and peace within oneself. Those are the most valuable intangible asset one can gift himself.

My Yin Yang Pendant

My Yin Yang Pendant

If even the above feels bit complex and philosophical thing to you, I will try decoding it much further.

  • Be happy
  • Live and let live
  • Try to understand and be true to yourself
  • What you seed is what you reap and the rest you don’t get to keep.

This entry is a part of the Songs of the Mist contest run by The Chennai Bloggers Club and The Monk Key

Star trail as seen from Gurdum

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 5 – Gleaming Gurdum

Recap from the last post: We were at  Sandakphu witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

As said in the last post, 29-04-2016 (Day 5) started with an amazing sunrise. After near zero degrees temperature last night, all my body wanted was some sunshine on it.  With water scarcity here, taking a bath is completely out of the question. Leave bathing, even rinsing after brushing froze my mouth, that cool it was. After our typical breakfast and the customary group picture, we started to trek further to our next camp around 8.20 am.

The Customary Group Pic @ Sandakphu

The Customary Group Pic @ Sandakphu

What’s more painful than climbing up is getting down too quickly. The same not only applies to the life but also to the trek too. Yes, it’s a 10 km long downhill path with a steep elevation drop of 1300 mt. My heavy backpack and no trekking poles made the trek even more difficult for me. Though I took each and every step with precaution, I did slide and slipped a couple of times. Luckily I could get hold of the shrubs and trees all along the path and save myself. But, the best part is that the route is right through the heart of Singalila National Park. Man, this place is captivating with colorful and pleasant smelling Rhododendron flowers all over.

Going down further, the Rhododendron got replaced by the bamboo forest. They say it’s the home of the red panda, but had no luck in spotting one, they are too shy types it seems. At times, I find myself walking alone on the narrow trails. That solitude and the sweet sound caused by the breeze flowing through the bamboo forest are priceless and soul-elevating. I would say it’s one of the best experiences during the trek. While we were resting near the bamboo forest, few of our guys happily started playing Gilli-Danda with the bamboo sticks there. What’s happiness, if not from these tiny pleasures.

As we walk further, the Bamboo got first replaced by fresh smelling pine trees. I even picked up a few pine leaves and pine flowers as a souvenir. These pine flowers are unique and I like them. Most flowers are appreciated for their fragrance and vivid colors, but I admire these pine flowers for their characteristics to stay strong and beautiful in extreme environments. If you want to compare women with flowers, then pine is my type. We took some rest in a small clearing in the pine forest. One thing we found out was, our guide cute Avinash not only climb mountains effortlessly but also climb trees in the same fashion.

Around 1.20 pm we reached our camp, Himalayan Sherpa Lodge at Gurdum (2400 m). This one is located in the valley, so one could see the beautiful view of mountains covering the place from all sides. Not just that, the sunshine and the warmth of the place felt comforting. As I haven’t taken a bath for straight 4 days, all I wanted after reaching there was to take a shower and I felt too relieved when I took one. While I was relaxing after the lunch, few of us played UNO and it was fun see them play. The lodge people were kind to give us their small hall for the evening. So, we had an eventful fun filled evening that day. Sowmya and Geetha danced classical, kathak and Bharatanatyam respectively. Honey danced folk and our MC Giri’s amazing dance moves made us all go crazy. It’s not just dance, we had Pune guys, Mumbai group, Nilofar and Shubham contributed well for the music department too. After all the fun, we headed back to the lodge for the dinner.

Post dinner, I was relaxing outside a small garden kinda place just opposite to the dining area and just gazed above. OMG, I never saw such a beautiful night sky in all my life. It was densely filled with stars, like millions of them. All I did was, lay myself down in the open and gazed at the eternity with my favorite tracks playing in my ears. In me, repeatedly prompted the below lines from one of my favorite Bharathi’s poem “Suttum vizhi sudar thaan kannamma”, where he compares her beauty in dark blue silk saree and diamond ornaments to the night sky and the stars.

“Pattu karuneela — pudavai
Padhitha nalvayiram
Natta nadunisiyil — theriyum
NatshathirangaLadi”

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That’s quite a lot a lot of stars. PC : Akanksha

star trail 2d

Earth rotates, so do I. Star trail well captured. PC : Akanksha

Wow, what a magical moment that was, the one I wanna cherish all my life. Luckily, Mayur and Akanksha patiently clicked the night sky. Then, Myself, Vihari, Upma, Honey, Rishab and Nilofar spent a while listening to Tamil and Hindi songs. We also did click some scary night pics😀, One can call it low light photography😀.

I went early to bed, while the rest of the Tamil gang enjoyed playing cards. I was woken up by my friends just before the strike of midnight. Then, we all wished our beloved MC Giri a very happy birthday. We gifted him our wishes which were written on a small paper napkin and a wonderful impromptu bouquet which buddy Jai managed to make just with the flowers there. After the celebration, I went back to continue my sleep and that’s an awesome day ended.

Enga Ooru Madrasu

Madras or Chennai or However you name it, It’s more than just a city for me. Not just me, I believe it’s the same with most of the Chennaites here. Beyond its history and rich culture, it’s its people that make this city a loving one. The People of Chennai stood strong and united against the worst floods and that portrayed the humble yet mighty spirit of the city. There are million more reasons to take pride in this city. I am a proud Chennaite. This is a prompted post written with Chennai Bloggers Club for the campaign #WhatIsYourPincode. This post is all about PinCodes that were/are not only part of my address, but also part of my life.

600081 – Tondiarpet

This place owns lots of my early childhood memories as we stayed there till my 5th grade. It’s where my dad grew up and it’s where my grandma home is.  This place earlier called as “Lebbai Kaadu” got its name cos of a Muslim saint named Kunangudi Masthan Sahib. He was called Thondiar as he hailed from Thondi in Ramanathapuram District. As he meditated in this place it came to be known as Tondiarpet.

Like many other areas in the north Chennai, this one is an unsung hero too. It houses many manufacturing units, oil refineries, warehouses and export houses. The most famous Metal Box Factory which manufactured iconic ponds powder tins and Indian Oil cans used to operate there. The factory got closed as plastic became more popular and affordable, now only the ruins of the factory remain and sparingly used for film shootings.

How many of you know that one hospital here played a major role in eradicating SmallPox. Yes, it’s Chennai Corporation’s Communicable Diseases Hospital, which is dearly called as Cholera Hospital by the locals. All credits go to Dr. Ayyagari Ramachandra Rao a.k.a Slayer of SmallPox, who was its first Superintendent between 1959 and 1964. He set up a smallpox virus laboratory there and assisted Dr. Henry Kempe of the University of California in developing a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The improved vaccine saved millions of lives and Dr. Kempe was nominated for the Nobel Prize for the same. Now it’s a Three hundred and fifty bedded hospital with a full-fledged laboratory facility for diagnosis and treatment of all communicable diseases also and serving as a teaching institution.

600019 – Thiruvottiyur

This is one place which my heart misses so much now, I miss its people, beach, crowd and the chaos. It was my home for 13 years since we moved out of Tondairpet and majority of my life was built around it. The name of this place originated from the Tamil infinitive ‘orutral’ which means ‘to exempt’. As two stories centered around the origin of this place and both the stories were exempted in naming this place which is special. Anything that’s special gets a prefix “Thiru” in Tamil, so the name “Thiru Orutriya Oor” which means the specially exempted town. Later got its colloquial name “Thiruvottiyur“, the name which is used at present. Very interesting entomology isn’t it.

It’s mostly a residential place. It is surrounded by industrial areas such as Ennore and Manali, so most of its residents were the ones who work in factories and the fishermen who fish by the coast. Talking about factories, it used to be the only place where the Royal Enfield bullets were manufactured until an additional unit was opened near Oragadam.

Thirovittuyur Periya Kovil (Big Temple) a.k.a Thyagaraja Swamy & Vadivudai Amman Temple here is one of the oldest temple complexes in Chennai, which is said to exist since 7th Century. This temple was said to be expanded by Rajendra Chola I son of  Raja Raja Chola. Unlike my dad and my friends who are regulars to this temple, I rarely visit during festivals and uzhavarapani (temple cleaning). Very near to the coast, lies the resting place of the famous Tamil saint Pattinathar.

600013 – Royapuram

Royapuram, that’s where my aunt’s (my mom’s sister) house is. I used to spend weekends and school vacations there along with my cousins as it wasn’t that far from Thiruvottiyur. I would sit up on its terrace for hours and curiously look into the huge heap of iron ore being transferred into bulk carriers and containers being loaded onto the ships by cranes. This place got its name from the famous St Peter’s Church located there. As St Peter is called Rayappar in Tamil, the Rayappar Puram got colloquially transformed into its current name “Royapuram“.

This place is yet another unsung hero of North Chennai. Royapuram railway station which was built on 1856 is the oldest railway station in south India and oldest surviving railway station in the Indian subcontinent. This area is also famous for the Parsi Fire Temple which was built during 1910 and its the only one of its kind in Chennai. It is a major seafood export hub too, The famous Kasimedu fishing harbor which is  one of the 6 major fishing harbors in India in terms of volume belongs here. N4 bridge, my favorite peace spot is an integral part of this harbor. This might surprise you, this area also houses a museum specially dedicated to India’s greatest mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujam. One thing that’s must try in this area is C.Kunhiraman & Sons mango ice cream. This small provision store has been selling their signature mango ice cream for more than 70 years for a reasonable prize.

600126 – Madambakkam

This is where I am now, writing this blog post. We moved here from Thiruvottiyur as we got our first and only own home here. It’s  calm and purely residential neighborhood. “Madam” means multi-storied residents. As this place used to abound of such buildings, it got its name “Madambakkam”.

This place is well known for its Dhenupureeswarar Temple. This 1000+ years old temple is said to be built by Chola king, Parantaka Chola II, father of Raja Raja Chola. This old temple was restored and currently been conserved by  Archaeological Survey of India and has been declared a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains 2010 Act.

My sincere thanks to CBC for the prompt and giving me an opportunity to write about areas that are close to my heart. I felt really good and nostalgic while writing this post. Chennai I love.

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 4 – Sillunu Oru Sandakphu

Recap from the last post: We were at Kala Pokhari

The title “Sillunu Oru Sandakphu” directly translates to “Sandakphu, the one which is cold”. On 28-04-2016 (Day 4) I woke up with the sound of the wind vibrating the metal panels of our room. With nothing much to do, I laid down for a while beneath those thick woolen blankets. I did what I like to do often, dream with my eyes open, for no reasons too many things rushed into my mind. You will know the tea is ready when you hear the whistle. I filled my cup and headed outside hoping for some fresh air. All it resulted in was my tea getting cold in minutes. Here, the Sun rises as early as me. Probably cos it’s summer and one common time zone across India. The morning looked too beautiful than yesterday eve, think the sunshine made the magic. I went around with my camera to capture some light along with Prem and Lavanya. Everything around appeared fresh and green. The sky was clear and the view of sun rays reflecting over the small dark lake was spectacular. As usual, had out breakfast, clicked the customary group pic. packed our bags and by 9.00 am we started to trek further.

The path was much steeper than ever. My fine stamina and some good company helped to cope up with the terrain. Initial 3.5 km wasn’t that demanding. On the way, Sowmya climbed somewhere and got a bunch of Rhododendron, a flower quite abundant in that area. We even tasted a bit of its nectar. Then, there was a huge staircase kinda structure which housed a small shrine on its top. We all sat on those steps and took a group pic. Our guide Avinash (Cute Avinash) took us through all those sharp shortcuts. They were too steep that at times I have to catch hold of those small bushes to climb. With occasional rests, I somehow managed to keep myself moving. Around 12.15 pm, myself and whistle Vihari reached Sandakphu (3636 mt) and we were the ones in out group to reach there first. Our camp leader Mr. Abhijit Roy was already there on the top to welcome us. While waiting for other friends in the group to return, we simply relaxed outside the lodge as the weather was clear and pleasant. Once everyone is in, rooms were allotted and was served a hot & spicy soup. Soups are always comforting, especially in the cold weather, aren’t they?. The Soup induced my appetite which was later neutralized by the lunch. As the water is much scarce here, we were advised to use it very wisely.

A few of us decided to take rest in the lodge while the rest (including me) were too certain about trekking further to the viewpoint along with our camp leader. We trekked another 500 mt uphill to reach there and it marks the highest point in West Bengal. “Yaay, Mission Accomplished” I shouted out of joy and that feeling is worth all the pain trekking all along. It felt like being on the top of the world. The place was awesome and the view was spectacular with the clouds pass by. I really pity the ones who missed it. As we were on the Indo-Nepal border, there was a pillar with “India” written on one side and “Nepal” on the other. So, all I did was, kept on jumping between two countries and try to be in both countries at the same time. Though it might sound crazy, it was total fun. In a fine weather, one could view both Mount Everest and Kangchenjunga from the viewpoint, but unfortunately, the weather was cloudy. We waited for the Sun to show some mercy and show up, but no luck. As they say, the weather was unpredictable on the mountains, suddenly it became freezing and windy. We started to descend back after having some hot tea and soupy Magi from a small hotel there. As much as you, I too wonder about the existence of hotel in such extreme places. The visibility went down below 30%, luckily our guide’s torch and Mr. Abhijit’s headlamp guided us back safely to the lodge. As usual, our MC took charge of the evening. This time, we played truth or dare and for a change, Mr. Biswas sang a song for us as his daughter and wife felt too shy to sing for us. We all decided to finish off our dinner quick and sleep early so that we could see the sunrise early the next morning.

As always, our Whistle Vihari was spot on in his duty. His whistle woke up all our tired souls. It was too cold outside. Only a few of us were there, patiently waiting for the sun to raise. After a few minutes, I saw the Sun slowly rise between two mountains, just like how I used to draw when I was a kid. I witnessed one of the beautiful sunrises in my life, as beautiful as that bright bindi between her eyebrows.  With my hands trembling out of cold, I managed to click a few pictures.

To Be Continued …

The Liebster Award & 11 Random Facts About Me

First of all, I thank Janani Viswanathan of Jan’s Doodles for nominating me for The Liebster Award and It was a pure surprise. Nothing is more delightful for me than people reading my posts and it’s even more motivating to get nominated for such. Sorry for taking so long to put up this post on my blog, my procrastination is to be blamed.

LiebsterAward

So, What is the Liebster Award?
The Liebster Award is an award that exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

Liebster Award Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog.
  3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Answer the 11 questions you were asked.
  5. Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the Award and have them answer 11 questions.
  6. Let the other bloggers know you’ve nominated them.
  7. Copy the rules into your post.

11 Random facts about me

  1. My name spells unique is not cos of  numerology, but cos of a mistake.
  2. I was born in Pondicherry, but I don’t booze.
  3. I am an ardent A.R.Rahman fan since my childhood.
  4. I am a big foodie. Even talking about good food will brighten my eyes and put a huge smile on my face.
  5. I am not much of a sweet tooth person, but I love chocolates.
  6. I dislike dairy products. So, a big no to Milk, Cheese, Butter and all that.
  7. I love beaches, nothing feels like the touch of the sea waves on my feet.
  8. I have travelled 8000+ km across India continuously for 15 days by train.
  9. I love to read, my fav genres are crime, mystery and sci-fi.
  10. I love minions. I love to be like them imperfect, silly, happily smiling, food loving and do what I love to do.
  11. I love Bharathiyar poems. A Bharathiyar poem book gifted by my Tamizh teacher while I was in my 7th class is one of my most prized possession.

11 questions answered

1. If you could move to any part of the world right now, where would you go and why?
There are many places I would like to visit.

  • Japan to experience its people and culture
  • Venice and Sicily in Italy for its scenic beauty
  • Iceland for northern lights and some snow
  • Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia for some self-reflection
  • Costa Rica for beaches and mountains
  • Turkey and Morroco for their cross culture

But, like they say, “Sorgamae enralum athu nam oora pola varuma” (though it’s heven it doesnt feel good like my place), It’s always Chennai and Pondicherry where I could LIVE.

2. What’s your favourite season of the year? And why?
Monsoon. Cos it rains and I love rain.

3. Which three novels would you recommend to everybody you meet because you couldn’t put them down?

  • Once I though Harry Potter is for kids and I hated it, cos my friends loved it. But, once I started reading I couldn’t stop until I completed it.
  • Ponniyin Selvan, A must for someone who reads Tamizh.
  • The Kite Runner, It took me a couple of days to come out of that book after completing it. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.

4. What is your favourite way to recover from a long and bad day?
Some good food and music can calm me down.

5. Coffee, tea or…?
Both, but black.

6. Name one thing you taught yourself to do.
To smile, to smile at my failures, to smile while it pains, to smile at myself.

7. What’s the one thing on your bucket list that you absolutely have to do?
Go backpacking alone for a month.

8. Is there a teacher who taught you something that still sticks with you even now? If so, who’s the teacher and what was the lesson?
Yes, my librarian Mr. Kannan. He is the one who motivated me to read books and it still sticks with me.

9. If someone made a movie about you and your life, what genre would it be and why
Definitely comedy, SERIOUSLY speaking, I am a crazy funny person.

10. Is there something you love to do, although most people dislike it?
I love to sing, but unfortunately, I see people having a tough time with my musical skills.

11. What do you see in front of you right now?
My laptop, my office desk and a few toys on it.

Now, 11 people, I would like to nominate for the award.

The Nominees Are (oscar style)

  1. Dr. Sai Sriram – Random Ramblings
  2. Rajathilagam Velmurugan – ARATRIKA SPEAKS
  3. Vid Dev – The Pensieve
  4. Deepak Raghuraman – Namma Area
  5. Gowthama Rajavelu – Creatikaa
  6. Aditya Mantha – Blue Dendrite
  7. Thiyagarajan B – Aadhavum Appavum
  8. Shreya Sudesh – Verve
  9. Uma Muruganantham – WANNABE HUMANE
  10. Upma Singh – Travelling by heart and Author of life!
  11. Hetansh Desai – 50 Shades of Gujju

Dear Nominees,
I have read your posts, liked them and that’s the reason why I have nominated you for this award. I hope this award motivates you to write much more awesome posts. I hope you accept the award and write a post. It’s absolutely fine if the content of your blog doesn’t align with the award post or simply you don’t like to accept the award. Happy Blogging.

My 11 questions to you

  1. Who/What inspires you?
  2. Why do you blog?
  3. Do you have a favorite book – if so, which one?
  4. What do you value most in life?
  5. What does a normal day in your life look like?
  6. What’s your most favourite food?
  7. What’s the most memorable gift which you have ever received?
  8. What do you admire most about yourself?
  9. One favourite track that you like to listen on repeat and never get bored of it?
  10. What’s your dream travel destination?
  11. What’s your peace spot, the place you like to visit when you are down?

One bonus question, an optional one.

One thing that you like and dislike about me?

Pokri in front of Kala Pokhri :p

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 3 – Trembling Tumling & Kickass Kalipokhri

Recap from the last post: On 26-04-2016 (Day 2) we left Darjeeling by van early in the morning.

It was fun listening to Bollywood songs on the way. DJs Nilofar and Vihari didn’t fail to play a few of my favorite tracks like Patakha Guddi from Highway. First, we made a short halt at Manebhanjan (or Mane Bhanjyang) which is the gateway to Singalila National Park. Bhanjayang means Junction in Nepali and Mane means Buddhist Stupas. So the name Manebhanjan means the junction of Stupas. Then, we resumed after collecting our entrance and camera passes from the Forest and Wildlife Department check post there. After an hour drive, we reached Dhotrey around 11.00 am. It’s a small village 2550 m above the sea level, most of its residents are guides and porters enabling trekking and tourism. We relaxed and clicked some pics around while our organizers were busy fixing a few logistical issues.

Around 12.00 pm, we started to trek along with our 2 guides Mr. Avinash and Mr. Rajan. The path is an elevated one with more than 500 m in altitude and with the added weight of my backpack, trek has already become a back-breaking one for me. I was surprised to see a couple of women selling tea from nowhere, and that happened to be our first resting point. Just the tea and the rest weren’t enough for me to cover the rest. I needed electrolyte, pep talks, nature, and music to keep me moving. It was already 3.00 pm when we reached Tonglu (3036 m). The weather has changed to cloudy and the view of the village was breathtaking. While my eyes were feeding on nature’s beauty, my stomach demanded its part. An awesome lunch was provided at the Trekker’s Hut there, their Tamarind Chutney tasted very unique.

Though we were done with the tough stretch of 5 km uphill, we still had 3 km downhill left for the day. So, we didn’t rest much post lunch and started our decent by 4.00 pm.  The weather was perfect and the route wasn’t that tough, can’t ask for more to admire the beauty all around. All it took us was some 45 minutes to reach Tumling (2970 m). We were welcomed with hot tea and some snacks at the Siddartha Lodge. There is this one incident which I can’t get out of my mind. I was sipping my tea glancing down the beautiful valley and was conversing with Upma. Now don’t ask me, how I could converse with my least favourite breakfast. Upma is my friend from Delhi, whom I meet at the trek. She was like, “I am feeling too happy, I wish I could shout out loud here” and I was like, “You should actually do it, you might not find a moment like this again”. She actually did it, she did shout out loud. Then, she asked me to try the same, but I was feeling kinda shy, yeah, It’s easier said than done. Though I was kinda skeptical, she went ahead and dared me to do it. Then, I gathered all my guts and screamed out loud “This feels Awesome”, moreover, it was awesome to hear my voice echoed back from the mountains. And, the craziness was followed by Giri teaching us some awesome steps to dance and “Pudhiya Vaanam Pudhiya Boomi” steps are worth mentioning.  At times, silly and crazy things like this do give us so much happiness, don’t they?. We all gathered at the guys dormitory for the evening for some entertainment. We were also joined by Mr. Biswas and Family from Kolkata. Tushar from Pune started off the evening with a fine rendition of Bombay Meri Jaan song in his mouth organ. He along with Kishor, Mayur, and Akshay (Pune Guys) sang few Marathi songs that eve. Sachin, Rupali, Manali, Gargi and Akanksha (Mumbai Gang) along with Pune guys sang yet another Marathi song “Hi Chaal Turu Turu“. Though little Miss. Biswas was too shy to sing any song for us, her mom, Mrs. Biswas sang us a nice Bengali song. We Tamil guys sang Tamil Songs, mostly A.R.Rahman’s which have got a Hindi version too. Nilofar sang a solo Hindi song. Upma narrated us the plot of her debut novel, ONE DAY INSIDE A BLACK HOLE. The closing song of the eve was one of favourite John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane sung by Shubam. It would be a shame on me if I am not crediting our MC Mr. Giri for all the fun which we had on that eve. The fun was followed by food and sleep, that’s an end of an awesome day.

The day started well with a good cup of tea and breakfast. Before we could pack our bags and leave, we clicked a customary group picture with the awesome people who run the lodge.  It was 8.45 am and we finally started moving towards our next destination. Initial 7 km is a fine downhill path and it’s kinda flat, compared to yesterday’s terrain. We reached GairiBas (2625 m)  which is an army check post of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on the border around 11.00 am. We got to rest for a few mins and resumed our journey back by 11.15 am. The next 2 km happened to be a steep uphill stretch. Luckily I had a great company of Manali and yet another guide Roshan. Did I forget to mention that Manali is an awesome baker and she gave us all muffins after the induction programme? As you might have guessed most of our conversations was about food. On the way, Roshan stopped near a pillar on the side of the road and wrote the word “MY” on it. When asked, he said, he does this every single time he passes the pillar and the word “MY” cos it belongs to him. That’s something kinda cute about him. It was 12.20 pm when we reached KaiyaKata, where we relaxed for a while and had our lunch. A hot tea at the end was energetic and refreshing.

A whistle from Vihari or Shubam always denoted only one thing, enough of parking yourselves comfortably and keep moving now. So, after one such whistle at 1.45 pm, we resumed again. Most time I walked alone with my music on cos I think, it’s probably the best way to enjoy the nature. Though this was an uphill stretch, it wasn’t as intense as GairiBas-KaiyaKata one.  I could feel the weather turn more foggy and windy as we go up. When I was almost about to reach Kala Pokhari (3185 m), I met Prem on the way and continued walking with him. I was surprised to see a small lake with many PrayerFlags over it welcoming us into the village. “Kala” means dark and “Pokhri” means lake in Nepali and that’s how this village got its name. With mist, small huts, cattle, grass, lake and mountains in the background, the view was spectacular. I spent some time trying to capture those eye-catching scenes with my camera. After a while, we were served tea and snacks. The rest of the evening was fun, as usual, few notable things to mention are Vihari and Sowmya doing the cartwheel and Sowmya teaching us Yoga, Salsa, and Zumba. After trying to follow Sowmya’s steps, it didn’t take us much time to realize how rigid our bodies are. Later that evening, just before the dinner we all gathered to played Anthakshari and that was quite a fun too. As usual, the day ended with a good dinner followed by a sound sleep.

To Be Continued …

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 2 – Dear Darjeeling

Recap from the last post: We reached Kolkata by flight, roamed there for a couple of days. Then, we took a train from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri.

Our late night train brought us to New Jalpaiguri around 10.00 am on 24-04-2016 (Day 0). The best way to reach Darjeeling (2,042 m) from there is by car or van. But, we had a tough time finding one for us. Most of the drivers weren’t ready just for the drop, they were looking for passengers who would take a package which is profitable for them. The other problem is the language which made the bargain hard. But, somehow our guys managed to get an SUV and a Car for a better price. Around 12 pm we had a pitstop for out brunch. I should call it lunch, as we haven’t had our breakfast, I would better go with brunch. That place served us yummy MoMos, Chowmein, and Fish curry. After the lunch/brunch, our cars continued to climb up the mountain. As usual, I enjoyed peeping out the window, observing the changing landscapes and feeling the temperature of breeze caressing my face drop. The enjoyment continued until our car’s tyre became flat, luckily it got a Stepney and we decided to take a walk around till it’s fixed. While walking we heard a voice “Neenga Tamil ah” (Are you Tamil?), probably it’s our looks. The voice turned out to be Harish’s, who’s from Pondicherry and got settled in Darjeeling. Though he made fun of us that none of us drink, he pointed us to his shop where his wife served us some good tea. In the meanwhile, the tire got fixed and we resumed our journey to our base station. For me this place, Darjeeling reminds me of only one thing, my uncle. Me being a naughty and talkative kid during my childhood, he always used to scare me that he would put me in a strict convent in Darjeeling if I am not behaving myself. He would also mention that it’s on top of the mountain and I can’t even escape. This thing flashed in my mind on the way and all I could do was laugh at myself.

We reached our base camp Youth Hostel Association of India – Hotel Kadambari around 3.00 pm. Then, we got our rooms allotted in no time after registering by submitting our admit card and medical certificate. After freshening up and resting for a while we assembled for tea followed by induction programme. Out of 40 registered 38 reported  and the programme started with an intro section, where we all gave a brief introduction about ourselves. Then, the programme coordinator instructed us about the schedule, route, safety and other DOs & DONTs. Then, he also distributed our ID cards which are must be worn through out the trek. We also selected the group leader, sub-leader, Master of Ceremonies and environment leader who are Shubam, Sowmya, SakthiyaGiri and Geethakala respectively. After some chit-chat, we wrapped up the day with dinner.

The next day, 25-04-2016 (Day 1)  started with a short run and some stretching. Post our breakfast few of us visited a nearby Buddhist Monastery, it really felt calm and good to interact with the monks there. Then, we had an acclimatisation walk to the Zoo and to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). It was fun all the way, singing and enjoying the beautiful scenes around. HMI not only train mountaineers but also got one awesome museum where so many artifacts related to mountaineering, especially mount Everest. Even the original gears used by Mr.Tenzing Norgay and Mr.Edmund Hillary, the ones who successfully summited the Mount Everest is preserved. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to click pictures inside the museum. But, outside the museum, there exists the final resting place of Padma Bhushan Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and a beautiful sculpture commemorating his Everest summit, which was unveiled by his companion and friend Sir Edmund Hillary himself. Mr. Norgay was also HMI’s first director of field training and HMI is one of his most favourite place on earth. Just thinking of this man would give me goosebumps, such an inspiration he is. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park a.k.a Darjeeling Zoo is home and captive breeding center for endangered species which are adapted to alpine conditions like snow leopards, red pandas, gorals (mountain goat), Siberian tigers and a variety of endangered birds. After roaming around the Zoo for a while, we walked back to our base camp with singing, even more, louder all the way in spite of strange looks from the locals and others in the group. We never miss a chance to enjoy, you see. Taking a bath (as we won’t be able to bath for next 4 days), a bit of shopping and finally packing our bags for the trek consumed the rest of the day.

We woke up early on 26-04-2016 (Day 2), had breakfast early and prepared to leave. After the ceremonial flag off we boarded Vans that would take us till Dhotre which 2+ hours drive from our base camp.

To Be Continued…