Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 Years Later...

As I watch the TV on 26th July, flipping channels, the headlines are the same, Remembering Kargil, the war that happened in my lifetime, affecting my country. The images shown now are of barren hills and clear skies, of forgotten heroes and forgotten times. However, over all the discussion of the current status of the army, its soldiers and machinery, what struck me more was the discussion of the terrain and weather there. Somehow, I could envision what Nature would have looked like then, mainly because of the holiday to Leh-Ladakh from which we had returned just a couple of days before. A life-changing and humbling experience that showed me that Nature just can't surprise one enough.

The last few days of Practice School were a whirlwind what with personal commitments and the trip to Leh looming faster than the comfortable pace. However, more than a few late nights went by and 16th July dawned. Rushing some 20-odd kilometres in the morning, I submitted my reports and the final documentation of my project to start packing for the evening flight to Delhi, our stopover on the way to Leh. I breathed easy only when we got to the airport, tight as the timeline was. The journey went without a hitch and Delhi welcomed us with a blast of hot air late in the night.

We must have taxied for about 15 minutes before coming to a final halt. An old friend, living in Shankar Vihar, the Army Housing Colony, nearby, put us up for the night. Interestingly, it might have been easier to have asked the pilot to drop us on the taxi-way as a jump of the airport compound would have brought us to our home for the night. We tried to get as much sleep as was possible as it was already past midnight and the flight to Leh was at 6:15 am. Don't ever think you're going to catch sleep on the Delhi-Leh flight. The tiniest clarity in viewing would just take one's breath away. One think I found out was the reason the crown of our country is called Himalaya - Abode of Snow. Some time into flight and food was served as usual. However, for the first time, no one seemed interested in eating. Anyone with a picture capturing device was too busy hogging windows and clicking away to glory. The perfect start to a holiday.

From perfect skiing slopes with zero access, to small deliciously green lakes, to chocolate brown cones with vanilla icing we saw them all. Waves and waves of endless mountains glinting in the sunlight and peeking from the foam factory created by the clouds. The flight sorely seemed to be too short. So, imagine my delight when the pilot announced that a defense aircraft was going to take priority in the landing order. By now, of course, the field of vision was consumed by the majestisity of the world's youngest ranges in all their glory, barren and brown, imposing themselves on the tiny white aircraft trying to reach the burst of green in the valley below - Leh. And I was already thanking my parents for getting me a camera of my own for my last birthday.

The one thing I had to thank God for though was the fact that, this day had the clearest skies I would see through all the days spent in Ladakh. Curiousity mounted as the plane descended, on how this new landscape - a cold desert - would look like, how the holiday would go and how well I would be able to handle the high altitude and low oxygen. As we deplaned, I took in deep gulps of refreshingly clean air but could find the slight light headedness. It disappeared almost as soon as it came, making me wonder if it was just imagined, who knows? As per medical advice, we each took half a Diamox pill used to treat altitude sickness. A car was waiting to take us to our hotel. The scenery around Leh was breathtaking considering we had Delhi to look at about 2 hrs ago. Leh, the valley, is surrounded on almost all sides by mountains, I mean mountains of mountains. They just don’t end and redefine how BIG big can really get.

Ten minutes later we drew upto a hotel built in a traditional style where the roof and windows are buffered with bamboo shoots between wooden/cement blocks. We were welcomed with the traditional silk scarf sacred to Buddhists and had some tea and cookies. Small talk with the manager and people working there revealed to us that almost all of them were non-natives. Just before Leh closes down, they move to Goa or Kerala to continue to work in restaurants and shacks there. Hence, they manage to work through off-season as well. As per advice we decided to rest for the better part of the day in an attempt to acclimatize to the altitude by sleeping it all off. The food at the hotel was predominantly vegetarian thankfully. We ventured out towards the evening.

First stop was the Shanti Stupa founded in 1985 by the Dalai Lama himself. It is located on the hilltop of Changspa and is one landmark seen even as a flight lands into Leh's airport. A short climb brings one to a small prayer hall flooded with colour. We were greeted with the monotonous thump of a drum and what I think is Japanese chanting that went like so: 'Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Gen Ke'. A further climb flattened out into a huge plane base for the statue. Endless climbing it seemed on that day, but the stupa structure was finally reached. Colourful pictures adorned the perimeter including one with the Buddha turning the Dhamma wheel and the symbol of the Ashoka Chakra. Coming down from the stupa, the panoramas afforded at the base were simply breathtaking. Almost all of Leh with the gorgeous mountains were laid out at our feet. From the stupa, we moved onto more worldy things like a tour of the market and some shopping and scouting of other items that could be brought after further comparisons. Tired, we soon returned back to the hotel and after a quaint dinner (the altitude succeeded in reducing my appetite quite a bit), we hit the sack. That day was just the trailer, the next day would be the start of the movie.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oh! He is so Perfect.....

And that’s what's been running in my head ever since I came across Arulmozhivarman ('zh' pronounced by rolling the tongue as far back as it can go) the scion of the Chozha clan, in the words of Kalki himself. These holidays have been the perfect time to catch up on all the reading I have been missing out on. Lost in the worlds the authors describe is an immensely satisfying feeling. So this holidays it’s a mixed bag of books I have so far sampled.

First up, is the Rainmaker by John Grisham, though this was on campus. I have become a fan of litigation and law thanks to reading his books. Extremely engaging and quite informative too, his lead characters are almost always upcoming lawyers…at least in the books that I have read. So, this book talks about a guy who accidentally finds the case of a lifetime against an insurance company that tries to rip off its customers and all the topsy-turvy things that happen to him in the course of fighting the case. Also made into a movie, it’s a good read. Another book of his that I read was The Associate, about some guys blackmailing a newly become lawyer on revealing trade secrets had a good pace but the end was too abrupt and the continuity seemed suddenly cut off.

Next up is Crisis by Robin Cook about medical malpractice and a concept called concierge medicine. Patients who can afford to pay a retainer fee to the physician who then makes himself available to them at all hours of the day with house visits if necessary too. Not so much to my liking as there seemed too many loose ends left. It seemed to drag on for longer than what was necessary in my opinion.

A new author in my list is Amitav Ghosh a new age Indian writer. The book, Hungry Tide, describes the tide-country of West Bengal, the Sunderbans. An extremely vivid description of scenes and leisurely paced, I have come to enjoy this book though still half way through it. Two parallel stories in the first half of the book involve a cetologist looking for dolphins in the Sunderbans and a man from Kolkata come to visit his aunt who lives on one of the 'islands' that form the delta of the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers. The intertwining of their paths is the second part of the story.

Last but definitely not the least, I have been re-reading the Kalki's Tamil epic 'Ponniyin Selvan' a story par excellence that has everything to make it the perfect script. Based loosely on historical facts and the few inscriptions found, this book will keep you engaged throughout the read. Of course, I am reading the English translation and not the Tamil version which might take me eons to finish! The first surprise of the book is that the hero of this story, in the author's own words, is not Arulmozhi Varman the 'Ponniyin Selvan' but Vandiyathevan, a Prince of the Vana clan who leads the reader throughout the story. The characters in this book just jump out at you as you are drawn into a world that probably existed millennia ago…..

Intrigue, mystery, revenge, greed, kingdoms, wars and warriors, kings, queens, ministers, commanders, devotees of Siva and Vishnu, conspiracies, conspiracies in conspiracies, counter conspiracies, not to mention spies and counterspies, magicians and bewitchingly beautiful women (all if them look like heavenly damsels! Damn that gives one such a complex!!) and the heart-throb of the people-Arulmozhivarman who gained fame as Rajaraja 1. You name it this book has it. From Kanchi to Thanjavur and Pazhayarai to Lanka, the book travels the extent of the Chozha Empire and each book reveals a new secret of the ruling dynasty.

This book, a work of fiction, is based on the youth of Arulmozhi and last days of his father Sundara Chozha. It mainly deals with the question of succession that arises at that time as Sundara Chozha was the second son of Arinjaya Chozha. He succeeds as his elder brother died on the battlefield. Arinjaya himself was the younger son of Parantaka Chozha 1 who took over from his elder brother Kandaradhitha Chozha as his nephew was still a baby. A great devotee of Siva, Kandaraditha did not want his son to rule (but lead a life devoid of material attachments) and convinces his brother to anoint Sundara Chozha as his successor.

At the time this story begins, Kandaraditha's son Maduranthaka has started to desire the throne against his mother's wishes and takes part in a conspiracy against the Crown Prince Aditha Karikalan, Sundara Chozha's eldest son, and his younger brother Arulmozhi Varman. With twists and turns, and the dead Pandya king Veerapandyan's bodyguards seeking revenge as well thrown in, it seems like the dynasty will not survive all the traitors in its innermost camp. History records a mysterious end to Aditha Karikalan's life with no info on his murderers and the book only throws suspicion on half a dozen people present in the room when this act occurs.

The reader has no time to feel bored in this book as secret plots and side stories keep one engaged throughout. Of course, the complete effect of the poetry written in Tamil is, I guess, lost in translation. However, every other description is quite vivid and colourful. The way Kalki talks about Arulmozhi in the books even before the readers meet him is in such superlatives that the picture in the reader's mind is of a superhuman character! Girls swoon for him all over the land, he says no when presented with opportunities to usurp the Lanka throne, has an amazing way with animals, is wise beyond his years, an amazing warrior, very righteous and just, totally unpretentious though being the second in line to the throne after his elder brother, model son and brother and an extremely dependable friend. In other words, a perfect persona!!

The last part of this epic novel is the cherry on the icing on the cake. A prince giving up his right to rule, not for promises made to anyone but because it was the right thing to do when someone elder than him had a right toe ascend the throne, especially when everyone around wants one to be crowned is no mean feat of sacrifice! From certain historical records the confirmation that such an act did take place in history, in itself, speaks volumes of the man who was crowned as Rajaraja Chozha I, truly a King of Kings.

Would we ever find anyone else remotely close to the character etched in the mind of thousands due to the pen strokes of a certain author, in history, fiction or the future? Maybe not but then I guess that was the point after all…..

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Badrinath - The Picturesque Tranquility

Who takes which post? Who will be the kingmakers and the who gets to grab the power? Think I'm talking of our elections?? No. This in short is the hottest topic in BPGC with the committees and clubs deciding their leaders-to-be for the next year, passing the baton for the successors to carry forward. This has been discussed with as much intensity as the news channels talk about elections. Since the power positions are held by third years which will be us, there has been more than enough gossip, speculation and bated breaths to spice things up just before the dreaded compres (our semester exams).

Continuing on the journey of the Char Dhams, next stop is Badrinath…….

Late evening saw us landing at Ukhimath, the stop for the night. As soon as my feet hit the floor on getting down from the car, it felt like a sleeping dragon was awoken. Muscles I never knew I had were screaming with pain. Yeah, 32km in about 40hrs is a mammoth wake up call for the body!!
Settling down, we ordered for some food and that’s when it hit me, the nausea. There was another family who had a similar itinerary to ours with a pretty experienced guide and he put the nausea down to some form of altitude sickness what with the constantly changing conditions at Kedarnath and all. The smell, let alone sight, of food was the last thing to be tolerated. Thankfully, the property albeit small had a delightful garden.

Facing a valley, the garden opened to the mountainside on the other side of the valley we had crossed while coming to Ukhimath. Stunning greenery and a quiet peace endeared the place to a tired body. A little later, we decided to take a small walk to Kedar Baba's winter home (hence the name Ukhi-Math). Strangely, walking though painful was more satisfactory to the muscles, all that stretching gradually helping to reduce the pain. The nausea still stubbornly persisting meant I couldn’t even walk into the dining room. As my parents took dinner, I took the time to savour the garden again. The opposite valley was all a-twinkling with the town on the other side lighted up and smaller lights scattered along the mountain side indicating the existence of humanity. The stark loneliness of those lights just then brought home the distance that some people still have to metropolitan life. A life possibly without televisions and one definitely far off from laptops iPods and iPhones, an essential for so many of us now! Sitting on a chair with my feet on another sipping some buttermilk (about the only thing that my mind agreed to then), with the cool mountain air of the night kissing my face and for company, the roving thoughts that could carry one to the stars and beyond. Silent Contemplation. Now that's a life I could get used to!

Next morning was a rush to catch the earliest gate to Badrinath. Yes you read right, a Gate. The path to Badrinath is slightly treacherous for two way traffic and gates at different points help to regulate this. This is what happens. There are three gates , one at Badrinath, one at Jyoshimath and one half way between these endpoints. The ride is for about an hour if memory serves right. So a gate opens simultaneously at Badrinath and Jyoshimath. The traffic from both sides meets about half way where its wide enough for the transition. Then its one way all the way to the other gate. A pretty effective method, the goal is always to make the open gate or be first for the next one. Luckily, we made it to the gate without delays and made the first afternoon gate. The scenery is absolutely surreal here and now river Alaknanda is a major portion of it. Some dam being constructed made for a bumpy ride for some parts. There is this one absolutely terrifying stretch our driver called the Rambagad or some such thing. Of all the landslide prone areas this is supposed to be the worst. It definitely looks like giants have played with giant legos and forgotten to arrange them properly. Mounds of precariously held up rock and soil weakening even more with all the construction going on, the place in all of silence has a spooky feel to it. Towards the end of the drive to Badrinath, we spotted by the riverside, a puckered piece of rock eroded in a weird manner and it turned out to be a piece of unmelted glacier dirtied with soil on it!

Entering Badrinath, our driver exuded extreme jubilation and the reason for it was the most majestic visage ever! Neelkanth Maharaj he was called. Clad in pure white snow and benevolently towering over the Badrinath valley with a perfectly cloudless sky behind him, Mt. Neelkanth left us all in a revered silence. So huge was he that in a moment of inspiration, he looks close enough to be scalable. Only the trek to just the base would be a victory let alone climbing the mountain since the base was at least 50km away. The temple itself in all its splendour is decked in what I like to call the happy colours. Bright yellows, oranges and reds greet you in the first glimpse of the temple. A darshan in the evening was decied on as an early departure was essential next morning. Not very crowded, we even afforded a double darshan. Dinner in a Badrinath version of South Indian food and it was time to head back to the hotel. Early next morning, we tried to glimpse Mt. Neelkanth again but to no avail. Angry clouds cloaked him and I could have almost sworn there could not be anything hiding behind them. We left Badrinath, the last of the Dhams amidst a slight drizzle and made it back to Jyoshimath in time for breakfast. The cable cars and Auli called to us.

The longest and highest situated cable cars covering 3.96kms and an altitude change of approximately 500mts is the only way to Auli, one of India's most famous ski slope. The mountains extend into the Nanda Devi National Park and are India's very own Switzerland. Breathtaking panoramas to feast your eyes on while fighting the biting winds and occasional clouds that rush up (oh yes, we are higher than the clouds) to greet one, it is a unique experience in itself. With a small horticultural strip, a mini food stall and a menacing forest reminiscent of the Fangorn from Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings fame) a few hundred metres away its almost like paradise is just around the corner. Especially, when one can hold onto a steaming cup of sweet black tea too. After lazing around to our hearts content it was off to the Jyoshimath (also called Jyotirmath) where Adi Shankara gained enlightenment. Apparently, it was him who pushed for establishing Badrinath after barbarians had destroyed the older temples there. And in almost no time we were heading to Dev Prayag.

Witnessing the birth of a river is an amazement in itself and when it’s a river as big and important as Ganga Maiya as she is fondly called, all one can say is that the smile on the face and sparkle in the eyes stays for a long time. To our left was the Alaknanda and to our right was the Bhagirathi and right before our eyes, the waters were mixing and creating the Ganges. Much more peaceful was her flow than either of her predecessors. And suddenly, with the Ganga for company, the miles flew and after a quick lunch, the familiar sights of Rishikesh were looming ahead. After dumping luggage at the riverside resort, we took the share auto to the lakshman jhoola for the evening aarthi and prayers offered to the river viewed amidst rainfall and a swelling river. We relived a lot of our previous trip to Rishikesh with dinner at the Purohit.

Then it was off to Haridwar to catch the Shatabdi to Delhi, then a flight to Bangalore the next day and back to civilization as we know it. All that was left was relief that the trip went without too much incident, sadness as it was a goodbye to nature's mountains and rivers, happiness that it was one of the best experiences of my life and might be for a long time to come, pride for all that I can say belongs to my culture and my country and as an afterthought some glee that Kedarnath would have let me lose some weight big time.

And they lived happily ever after……

Two and a half days to go for my penultimate exam and I am ticking off the days to pack and leave for the summer break and PS1 (Practice School 1 - BPGC's Summer Internship Course). More on that coming soon…especially since I shall be back in home.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kedarnath - The Challenge

Hostel life is not the most conducive environment for regular blogging thanks to all the distractions on campus especially since this is the "Fest" semester. Oh yes!! 3 fests (Techfest - QUARK, Cultfest - WAVES, summer edition and Sports fest - SPREE) in one semester and we'll all be packing bags before your head can stop spinning around.

Coming back to Uttaranchal, however....

From Gangotri to the next Dham, Kedarnath, there was to be a stop overnight at Tehri. This was to be among the longest single stretch we were to cover. This warranted for an early morning which though uninviting turned out to be quite good actually. As the sun rose, the splash of colours was just breath taking. The clouds still threatened to disrupt life and our journey but as they broke apart, stunning snow covered ranges could be seen. It just feels so thrilling personally because that is one thing I've never experienced - snow, with the snow fights, snow man and all. Deserts, mountains from the Western and Eastern Ghats, tropical forests are all fine but it is snowy areas that have eluded me till now. Seeing snow covered peaks just like one sees in television just, well, just makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Tracing our route from the previous day, we reached Uttarkashi for a late brunch. Then headed off and reached Tehri with a grouchy driver who refused to eat for God only knows what reason. So, the last leg was done in a RUSH! I think the GMVN at Tehri was the worst with pretty poor positioning and a hard-pressed staff, very few in number. We got through the night just fine especially since I got to the see the Formula1 race in the room....The next day dawned pretty early and saw us heading to Rampur our base camp, of sorts, before the climb to Kedarnath. And as we were getting used to the loveley scenery around us, we suddenly got a feast for our eyes in the form of the Tehri dam. Huge is a gross understatement for this stately man made form! And if that weren't big enough, the resorvoir created because of it is a mini sea in the middle of the Himalayas! It stretches for all your eyes can see and then some. Whole villages and towns have been relocated due to the water level rising and thus came New Tehri into existence.

Moving on, there was a drastic change in the scenery back to the lush tropics and we had for company now the Mandakini river, a tributary of the Ganga. The skies seemed to have cleared up for a few more days and the blue skies were a welcome sight. We reached Rampur without incident around lunch time and it was suggested that we go to a place called Triyuginarayan nearby, it being the marriage ground of the Divivne couple Shiva and Parvati??. The sacred fire is still burning today and is fed by devotees constantly as well. The manager of the GMVN property we stayed in was from the village of the temple and offered to take us there. After lunch and a short rest, we drove to Triyuginarayan.

Now, this place was about 10km from where we were staying and was high up in the mountain where Rampur was. It was a treacherous road, almost broken with places where a landslide was waiting to happen. Interestingly, there was a bus service to the place everyday though how buses climb on those roads eludes me. We finally reached the temple, offered our prayers and a tidy amount for the "spirituality" enterprise happening there and were just entering the clouds when big drops rushed to the ground. Then of course we were told by another driver that a stone had just rolled down the slopes and quite a few people had laboured together to remove it out of the way. And to top it all, the conversation on the way back between our driver and the GMVN manager was of happier times when cheetah had been sighted on the slopes, how the car had suffered damage with a rock hitting the door on the driver's side and had to be replaced and how rocks the size of a car's roof were seen falling on the roads! Of course, they were oblivious to the increasingly alarmed look on my face. My parents conveniently ignored the conversation I think!

We did reach back in one piece, the car and all, finished dinner deciding to sleep in preparation for "The Climb". Leaving very early next morning, we were dropped 1km away from the start point thanks to a traffic jam and then began the ordeal. For more than 1km from the start point, we were in the middle of people wanting to get onto Mules and into Planquins(Dholis). All one can smell is tobacco smoke, occasional stench of mule dung/urine (yuck!) and an even rarer whiff of uncontaminated air. As you go higher though, the tobacco smoke becomes the even rarer whiff though the smell of mule dung/urine taunts you throughout the whole journey. An unwanted "souvenir" of the experience. Soon you try to break out of the packs of people, settle into a pace navigating through people and mules(moving up and down). A four laner would have still been small what with having to constantly let the dholis go through and mules being the among the dunces of the animals. Firstly, their trainers don't care if people are thrown off the roads as they lazily stroll behind their mules. Secondly, the mules have mastered the art of bumping into people very efficiently either themselves or with their burden. Lastly, and not least, not much place is left to trudge ahead on after the mules use most of it as part of the biggest toilet in the world!

Speaking for the steepness of the path though is the fact that these problems soon start seeming minor compared to the effort required to put one step in front of the other after 5-6km. A few kilometres into the climb though bought a scare when my mom started feeling dizzy. I have never felt so freaked out in my life! I held onto her and she in turn held on to the rock wall and waited for the bout to pass. In that moment I forgot that I could have asked someone to stop my dad ahead and ask to come back for us. So, it was almost an eternity when a few minutes later he came back for us noticing our absence behind him. Luckily, it was just one of those things that happen when your a bit hungry, so a chocolate and a rest later we were back on the road. 5km into the climb the crowd does start thinning out and left with your own thoughts there is time to take in the scenery, the Mandakini river and the occasional last bit of ice that somehow survived the sun and didn't melt, and even click photos amongst other things. 7km brings with it Rambada. Breakfast and comprehensive rest point and we had been climbing about 3hrs if I'm not wrong. Resting for more than half an hour, I was so loath to leave that place! We were visited by the occasional sprinkle when we started but thankfully nothing worse than that threatened our path.

This climb has been the ultimate test of resilience and sheer willpower because there was nothing else to drive me forward! Personally, the reason for my climbing had nothing, I think, to do with a temple being at the end of the journey. The one thing that made me continue the climb after a point of time was the simple but hugely helpful fact that it was too far to go back and I can't stay the night in the middle of nowhere! I just realised how hugely motivating a roof over your head, warm food and dreamless sleep can sound. One way to while away the lonely (because even talking, which we love to do incessantly other times, starts eating into the energy required to climb, at least did so for me...), not to mention tiring time, is by thinking of repetitive slogans or something on the lines of the Gayatri Mantra to intonate your steps. Surprisingly, that throws your brain a task better than concentrating on the pain and breathlessness as it does become rarified as you climb! As we trudged the breaks were lengthier and more in number (like how about every 500m or less??). About 2km from the destination the road does flatten out(i mean there is horizontal visibility along the road for more about a km) in comparison to the monster slopes one has crossed previously.

The view is stunning enough to make you forget 14km worth of trekking!!! The mountain on both sides of the river have carpets of immaculate green all the way to the top. Everywhere except the walking track!! A delightful herd of sheep with a shepherd were found grazing on the other slope. They looked amazingly healthy and nimbly jumped their way across to the lush grass. It was like almost seeing black and white darts on a green dartboard! Look carefully, and the grass is not so immaculate anymore. Interspersed in between, with skill no Persian carpet maker can match are clumps of the most vibrant flowers exactly how one would have drawn them in art classes. And then when you were thinking how satisfying it all looks, the clouds parted to reveal a breathtaking mountain of snow hiding behind there. And no, of course, it could not be just one mountain, it had to be a whole range still playing hide and seek with the clouds so much so that you are tempted to crane your neck thinking you can see behind the cloud! It sure makes all the trouble taken worth it.

The last 2km was like a sprint compared to the previous 5km and we flopped thankfully onto the beds in our hotel room. Hot food and a nap later we went out in the evening for a Darshan if possible. On the way we discovered a tea shop which became our personal hang out joint during the next 15 odd hours of our stay there. Then came the waiting in the lines to enter the temple. It wasn't crowded considering crowds are defined as the human traffic in Tirupathi. Once done with the visit to the Almighty, we returned back, had dinner as it was dark by then, and hit the sack in what must be a personal record in at least 5 years as far as an early bedtime goes. Just for the information, the temperatures to merely 5 degree Celsius at night. Boy, weren't those quilts a godsend!! Early morning saw us getting ready for visit no.2 to the Almighty. This time the lines were long, winding into and out of makeshift stay areas. And this of course means, the essential Indianness surfaces in certain people. Cutting into lines by the family not the individual! Feigning faintness and age as an excuse to go ahead. And a certain person who thought she was being extremely smart when she moved from just in front of us to the other arm of the hairpin queue. This hairpin was going through a room and coming out and this esteemed lady had apparently (unknowingly), decided she wanted to go through the room again when she cut into the other arm!! I thought I might collapse with laughter what with the jelly legs (effect of the climb) and all.

Nothing short of entertainment. Well, the clouds had parted that morning and we saw all that had been brushed under the carpeted heavens, a huge range of the most breathtakingly exhilarating snow-capped mountains. I couldn't help but let my mouth open up in awe of God's creation in his backyard (Literally!!). Nothing has ever made me so speechless ever (Yes, there now are degrees to speechlessness after this trip). The Darshan happened without much more incident and soon we were rushing on our way down after the delay at the temple.

The climb down was like flying over stones, gravity lending more than just a helping hand with it. Caution was of utmost importance as the smallest slipup might mean at least a broken leg and at the most, broken everything! A painful knee for dad meant we paced the descent steadily after our break at Rambada. Luckily, it didn't worsen too much later on. After the appropriate number of breaks and shoving those mules out of the way, the Kedarnath experience was suddenly over and I was sitting in the car with the most numbest legs I have ever had. They were constantly throbbing but never seemed to belong to the same body as the rest of me. Well after a few stretches after the mammoth trek down, feeling and circulation returned to them. Lunch at Rampur was the last stop before heading of to Uttarkashi, the stop for the night.......