Saturday, October 17, 2009
Trip to Valley of Flowers
DELHI TO RISHIKESH- AN ANTICIPATED BEGINNING:-
While planning the nitty-gritty of the trek, I did not have the slightest inkling of the rigors of this so called ‘Easy Trek’ to the “Valley of Flowers” in Uttarakhand. In retrospect though, I feel that had the difficulties been mentioned earlier, I would have had second thoughts about taking the charge.
The trip was planned much in advance and our guide or operator as they are often referred to- Mr.Ganesh send us all detailed mails covering the itinerary as well as the dos and don’ts and list of items to be carried along. It was exhaustive, well thought out and impressive except for the last phrase of the last sentence- ‘Eco-friendly trip- Strictly No Smoking and Drinking”. For a compulsive smoker like me this wasn’t, least said, impressive. I consulted my friend Srinivas who said “Explicitly and compulsively mentioned rules are often not adhered to- So don’t worry”. Here, I agreed with him, as every time you fly there is announcement that “DO NOT switch on your mobile phones unless the aircraft doors are opened” but most fliers switch it on immediately on touchdown if not before it. This is a part of the Indian psyche where any prohibition gives a positive impetus to deviate. Anyway, I now analyzed the wordings grammatically and comforted myself. “Strictly No smoking and drinking” probably meant that you cant smoke and then drink and that there was no bar in smoking in itself.
Our main destination was the valley of flowers and the best view of the flora is a fortnight after onset of the monsoons. This year the monsoons put to shame even Air India- our national carrier. Onset of this much awaited annual ritual was delayed and the weather man’s prognostications altered every week. And, when it came, it was as shy as the Mumbai Bai , and moved on coyly. Resultantly, its entry into Uttaranchal was delayed by more than a fortnight. Hence, our tour which was initially planned for mid-July was postponed to the beginning of August.
As planned earlier, we assembled at Nizamudeen Station at Delhi just past midnight to catch out train to Haridwar- gateway to the Himalayas. The duration of the journey was just over four hours and hence we pretended to sleep arriving at Haridwar bleary eyed at 5 am. It was here that I was, as they say ‘rest assured’ that my trip is not going to be mere academics and moron. We got to know the other members of our group- 7 guys and 3 girls and the best part was that I had two more in company for a fag!! We had our morning tea with mounds of sugar at Mishraji’sShuddh Vaishnava Shakahari Bhojanalaya.
The much awaited tea tasted more like a payasam than tea. My gang members were soon to be impressed by my skills as a polyglot when I cajoled Mishraji into making another round of tea with more tea leaves and less of sugar and milk. Punditji, for some strange affection refused to charge for this extra tea. Over tea we were waiting for our vehicle little realizing that our Tata Winger was just before us in the car park waiting for us. The next concern was to relieve ourselves and have breakfast. With little debate, it was decided unanimously that we keep moving and would look for a toilet after day break. We loaded ourselves and our bags and I occupied the last row window seat in order to get a better uninterrupted view of the places.
Negotiating the various bridges at Haridwar, Ganga presented a great view at the twilight hours. The drive to our next destination- Rishikesh was smooth, pleasant and fast. No sooner had we left Rishikesh town, we encountered our first obstacle- a three kilometer queue of vehicles ahead of us. We got down to be welcomed by a slight drizzle to learn that there has been a landslide ahead and it would take some time for the way to clear.
Another round of meeting to decide on loo over tea. Once bitten twice shy, we were specific and told the chaiwala ‘kadak chai bina chini ka’. This bore fruit and we got good, strong and hot tea giving enough impetus for the discussion and visit to the toilet subsequently. After tea we fanned off to different areas looking for a hotel which would allow us to use the toilet for half an hour and not charge us for the room. Mr.Ganesh after scouring the area was successful and entered into an agreement with an uncle who would allow us to use two bathrooms in his house for half an hour at a nominal rate of Rs.200/. This rate was a steal and before Uncleji could change his mind I darted to the toilet and started off to realize half way through that water wasn’t coming. Anyway, my friends helped me out of the crisis and brought me water. Racing against time, we finished our chores within the deadline set by uncle and settled in our vehicles all fresh to move on and more importantly to have breakfast. The way was cleared by now and we started off winding our way up on the banks of the vibrant and gurgling Ganga.
RISHIKESH TO GOVINDGHAT- IN THE TRAIL OF GANGA:-
As India is one and many, so too the river Ganga is diverse in its forms and moods. The holy Ganga which we see at Varanasi is calm and poised for most part of the year. The mighty river which is the cradle of many a civilizations attains its composure at Haridwar and as we ascend the hills of the Himalayas and drive up on its banks, there is a discernible shift in its moods and looks. After each confluence or prayag as it is referred to in this part of the world, as you drive up the course of the river it becomes more and more naughty and near Vishnuprayag, the mood of the river can be liked to a calf jumping and swirling in the air bubbling with energy. It is this course of this river which one has to traverse as you drive up from Haridwar to Badrinath crossing five prayags- Devprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Vishnuparayg. Our first halt after the breakfast was at Devprayag. Its here that Ganga becomes Ganga. It’s the confluence of two rivers- Bhagirathi and Alakananda. On the banks of this confluence lies a 10,000 years old Raghunathji temple where the principal deity is Lord Rama. It is said that this temple was destroyed in an earthquake in the year 1803 and later rebuilt.
The winding roads from Rishikesh had taken its toll on many in our vehicle and the stomach seemed to be churning, owing much to the large helpings of Aloo Paratha but blaming the terrain for all ills. No sooner we stepped down from the vehicle to view the prayag, we sighted a vendor dispensing lemonade with soda. We took turns to drink down this concoction of lemon, soda, sugar and black salt. It was thirst quenching to say the least, but more importantly it arrested the nausea which was building up within many. Having cooled and invigorated our systems and subjecting ourselves to the feast for the eyes at the confluence of two great rivers we got on to proceed further. Our next stop would be for lunch.
Our stop for lunch was between Nandaprayag and Karnaprayag. The restaurant was on the bank of the river Alakananda and believe me, the sight out of the window was breath-taking. Not only that you could see the mighty river goring its way down below with a thunderous roar but the thought that your window is on the edge of the precipice sent chills up your spine. The lunch of roti, dal, yoghurt and subzi was tasty and filling. After having lost an hour in the bargain, we set off again. The next stop in the way was just before the cantonment town of Srinagar. Much like its namesake, this town too is resplendent with natural beauty. It is here that Alakanandamakes an arc-like curve and there are large expanses of river beds with polished pebbles presents a beautiful sight. My memories of this town were very vivid and enduring. But this time around (after a gap of 15 years) development seems to have taken its toll on the beauty of the river banks. A large power project is coming up very fast and the whole place is enveloped in a cloud of dust. The green trees are brown due to layers of dust. May be the project is a big boon to the local population in solving their energy issues, it has caused irreversible damage to the precious ecosystem. Two more stops enroute and we were at Joshimath by nine in the night.
It was at Joshimath that we could actually feel the lull of the Himalayas. The biggest disappointment during our journey was the intense heat. We southerners coming from scorching summer expected cool climes as soon as we left Rishikesh. But the sun was beating down and by the time we reached Joshimath, we were all slimy and smelly due to heat and perspiration. So our first concern was a good bath and some sleep. Our accommodation was moderate- Kamath Hotel. With our backpacks weighing us down, we climbed up the narrow alleys to a dimly lit room. Though the room was big enough for three of us to enter, we could not move thereafter without trampling others. Ignoring all these, we took a good bath and settled for dinner downstairs. The dinner was very tasty and we indulged in the freshly made succulent paneer curry and bhendi fry. More fascinating than the food was the cook- a character straight out of any Chinese movie. He was a small, frail man with a leaner pony tail and a goat beard. He was quick with his nimble hands and much sprightlier for his 70 or so age. I thought for a moment that he is not sucked into the exhaust fan above him only because his hands are always clutching the fry pan which seemed to weigh more than him! A man whose face will continue to haunt me! After dinner we decided for a small walk as the air was light and the dinner was heavy. Having no sleep the previous night, we were thrilled when our guide informed us that we need to start only at six in the morning. We bargained hard and he succumbed to our demand to leave at 6.30. This meant we could sleep well over five hours and get ready.
Our great expectations were short-lived when there was a knock on our doors at 3.30 informing us that we have to set sail at 5 am and have to get ready immediately as the road would be opened from Joshimath up till 6 and later only at 9. Cursing our luck, got down to have a good tea at the hotel below and got ready to hit the road at 5.30 accompanied by a small drizzle. The journey from here to Govindghat was uneventful but the view was panoramic. Shifting from one bank of the river to the other we were for most times among clouds or above it. Only once did I look at the rear tyre of our vehicle which was just 4 inches from the edge of the gorge 1000 feet depth. I wanted to distract myself from the very thought of the proximity to the bottom of the gorge and listened to the conversation of our friend Karthik over phone. He was animated in his discussion with the caller and kept on asking whether ‘he’ is going up, coming down etc.,. He used to then tell the caller give ‘him’ up take ‘him’ etc.,. He was then asking him how is ‘bull’? Not knowing him so closely, I was wondering whether this man was dealing in cattle, realizing later that he trading in shares and the bull was nothing but the shares of a company called ‘India Bulls’. In between his ‘buys’ and his next query regarding the trading rates, he would have gone out of range and lost out on capitalizing on the rise. We knew that with the erratic cell phone range in the hills, our man is going to lose out and so he did. Anyway, that was the only comic interlude during this trip to Govindghat.
GOVINDGHAT TO GHANGRIA- A TEST OF AGE
Govindghat was the last we were in civilization of some kind, though of course, here too our breakfast was the same old Aloo Paratha. It was from here that we set off on our much awaited trek. The fashionable backpack which was specially flown in from Singapore by my friends was ready for use. Never having tried out a backpack, I realized in a minute I have become a beast of burden! Anyway, we decided to set off and we did, crossing the suspension bridge which was tantalizingly poised over the gurgling river below. Again, sun was at its mighty best and was scorching down. Soon we came out of our jackets and then sweaters and in moments we were sweating like pigs. After a tiring climb which appeared to be more than two kilometers, we stopped to look back at Govindghat which was way below us and the milestone told us a different tale. We had completed only half a kilometer of the 13 we had to! The sight below was spectacular. Of the many sights one which caught everyone’s eyes was a car which had fallen off the banks of the river at Govindghat. The car appeared like a tiny speck in red. With every bend the mountains started opening up its glory and sights became more and more resplendent. A rush of rhododendron was the first feast to the eyes. We stood there and admired its beauty and more importantly catching breath pretending to savour the beauty. An hour had passed by but we had climbed up only a kilometer. Nevertheless, our younger compatriots were making faster strides. It was then that we realized how it is at the wrong side of forty? Our only solace was the numerous banners of Uttarakhand Government urging us to move slowly enjoying the beauty- and we did heed to their considered advice. I could for the first time realize that I had so many muscles on my legs when each of them started aching and craved for rest. Right from Rishikesh we had a river for company. It was incessantly reminding us that at whatever pace we proceed, it wouldn’t abandon us. At times it is so near that it could be felt and at other times it could be heard. After innumerable stops of sitting and lying down, we reached Ghangria after 8 eight hours of setting off from Govindghat. As we approached Ghangria, the flora too transformed fast and we were treated to some exotic flowers and lichens as if heralding the sights in store. What seemed like an endless walk or may I say climb ended.
I remember as a child when we had to walk to places, which we did most often, my late grandfather used to assure me incentives like a candy for walking on. When I found that my friend Ravi was sagging in strength and spirit I promised him Samosa-chana with mirch. Presumably, it was a temptation hard to resist for him. No sooner we threw off our backpacks, Ravi sought out the promise. We went out searching for the samosa and yes we did find a shop selling the fare. In the struggle to climb we had forgotten to have our lunch and so went on a rampage on samosa, chana, aloo tikki, jalebi et al. On the way to our dormitory, we found a malishwala and decided to make use of him. After a revitalizing massage with mustard oil, we had our bath and felt fresh from all the fatigue. But unfortunately, my friend Srinivas was by now running high temperature- a cause of concern for all and more so for me. By dinner time Srinivas was shivering and was getting bouts of chill. Administering him a dose of paracetamol, we slid under the heavy quilts to beat the cold and catch up much needed sleep. Our next trek was to begin at six in the morning to the valley of flowers. Much to my dismay, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to catch sleep. The cacophony of snoring in various pitches seemed endless. At least six varying frequencies could be heard vividly. I tried to cover my head with the quilt but couldn’t stay in for long as the stench was overpowering. Soon I realized that I was shivering. I tried my best to control but to no avail. It would have been twelve by now. I didn’t want to be a nuisance to the people around me. In the meantime I could hear footsteps and managed to muster enough courage to get up. I declared my plight and in a few moments anxious friends were milling around me offering one advice after the other. A pill popper that I am, my stock of medicines was exhaustive. Declaring that I wouldn’t be able to take the trek the next day, popped up a paracetamol 650mg and went off to sleep. What a way to end the day?
TREK TO BHYANDER VALLEY
I had waited expectantly for this trek to the ‘Valley of Flowers’ and here I was sick and down. Though I had declared myself unfit for the trek the previous night, the lure of the valley wouldn’t let me go. By the time others were ready I shook myself off the bed, brushed and was ready to go. Today the trek was a mere six to seven kilometers with the only exception that you wouldn’t get even a bottle of water in the National Park and hence one had to carry everything. We set off the trail and entered the park early in the morning while the sun was still down in the horizon. Cold it was and so we had donned our sweaters, jackets etc.,. No sooner you enter the park one would realize that it is place away from the world. Endless varieties flowers welcome you in every stride you take and swing you off your feet with its stunning beauty. It’s only then that it dawns on you that there are so many colours in the world. Honestly I was like the bull in the china shop. Not knowing what to click and what to leave, I went on a spree. All the physical woes of the previous day seemed to vanish in a whish. I stopped taking pictures and only then did the beauty of the valley started sinking in me. The floral pastures, unhindered by human incursions, dew covered petals, varieties of bees, chirping of birds, the clear air charged with aroma of flowers and the river singing lullaby- could you ask for more? It was then that I remembered what someone had said regarding Kashmir “Gaur firdaus ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto” meaning “if there is heaven, it is here, it is here, it is here”. These words cannot be more true to a place than to the Bhyander Valley which is popularly known as the Valley of Flowers. On entering the park, there is an initial climb down and then you reach theLakshman Ganga river. Crossing the river, one has to trek up to reach the valley. On the way, a glacier too can be seen. After a steady climb, we reached the meadow surrounded by snow clad peaks. As you walk deep into the meadow a bizarre numbness engulfs you. There is an eerie silence and you realize that you are watched by an inscrutable power which has laid out the beds of flowers. Its not that there is a haphazard outgrowth of plants and shrubs- there are definite patterns and each appear to be assiduously planted there by someone. It’s not merely a valley containing flowers. There are endless varieties of lichens, weeds, berries- all adorn this valley.My knowledge of botany being poor I would not know the names of numerous flowers which I photographed. Nevertheless, I was least bit concerned for I was more overwhelmed by its sheer spelndour and grandeur. I have taken umpteen photographs of the flowers. But let me confess here that no camera can capture the vividness and vibrancy of the place as the human eye does. No wonder they say- seeing is believing. Tired by the walk and scorching sun, I sat down and moments later, was lying down. Digging in the umbrella at hand for cover, I went into a deep slumber. Waking up after an hour or so, explored the valley to some length and started our trek back. There is so much of allure in this valley that though your conscious mind prods you to return to the base, the unconscious mind pleads to stay back. We couldn’t stay long as the park closes at nightfall. Only when I left the valley that the fatigue returned. The walk back from the gate of the national park to our camp was, least said-excruciating.
DAY OF REST AND INDULGENCE AT GHANGRIA
It was only four days since we left Chennai but our palates were craving for sambar, dosa, chutney, pongal, rasam etc.,. Though I am a foodie and would love to eat the local fare wherever I go, I was fed up and was looking for alternative. The only handicap of Ghangria was that the food available is monotonously stale. Fresh milk was unavailable and all tea and curd are from powder milk. Our digestive system too had began to rebel. I scoured the area and to my utter dismay found a hotel selling dosas! Before initiating other team members I thought of trying it out first. Dosa was manageable but the chutney was stale. Sambar too was good and tasty. I took two lusty portions and brought in my friends. One of our team members Rithick was happy but sought improvement in the spread of the flour on the pan and so he decided to try it out and promised us a better fare. The cook was very obliging and allowed our friend to try out making dosa. Try as hard as he might but the flour wouldn’t spread more than an inch in diameter. After two failed attempts he gave up the idea and settled down to enjoy the dosa as it came from the chef’s pan. Of course, we suggested improvements and the chef readily obliged. Like instead of masala dosa we requested him for a vegetable dosa with lot of vegetables. Honestly, it was a treat. After the morning dosa we went out exploring the neighborhood of Ghangria not venturing out too far. After the morning round we had Dim Curry Rice (a Bengali fare) and went into an afternoon siesta. In the evening I decide to just sit out in the verandah and enjoy the cool climes but some of our friends decided to take a walk and were lucky enough to sight a Himalayan Sloth Bear. The next day was the trip to Hemkund Sahib and we were assured of an arduous expedition.
TRIP TO HEMKUND SAHIB- A TREAT OF DIVINITY
My legs slowly started protesting and before it could stage a sit on, I decided to make my next trip on horse back. The decision was influenced more by timing of the trek-3 am! I had Karthick for company and we decided to start from our camp at six instead as the horse would take only three hours while on foot it may take 6 hours. Though I knew that the trip would be easy as I need not labour my legs, I was equally sad that I was missing out on adventure of some sorts. We mounted our respective horses at 6.30 and started the ride only to realize that it was more arduous than the walk up. The narrow bouldered path had just enough space for one or two persons to move and when a horse or a group of people came in the opposite direction my horse always moved precariously to the edge of the path. A small miss of hoofs and I would land headlong into the valley thousands of meters down. In fact, many a times I could see the valley very clearly perched on the horse top. Initially though the fear was more consuming, I overcame it soon and began to enjoy the ride. My friend was more concerned from the horseback than me and I could constantly hear him giving commands to the horse and horseman in chaste English! The irony was that the poor man knew only the local language and only traces of Hindi. To me it was no wonder as my friend would use only English even for the beggars on the road. Notwithstanding the gripping terror of sitting on the horseback, I was happy that I was not required to climb on foot else all my attention and energy would have been to somehow make the climb. Now I had the leisure to look around and enjoy the beauty. The sights around were, to use a very conservative word, captivating. Like the valley of flowers, this route too is decked up with flowers. As we went up, we caught the first glimpse of something which we had missed out in the valley of flowers- Brahma Kamal. The large white flower was a treat to the eyes. I was told that this flower can be seen only in this part of the Himalayas and only in the months July-Oct. By now, sun had lost its sheen and we were among mist or clouds. It started drizzling and the wind too was howling cold. With every hundred feet of climb, the weather started changing fast and by the time we reached Hemkund Sahib, it was biting cold almost freezing. Despite wearing a sweater, a jacket and a raincoat, the cold was piercing. But the sight around was too overwhelming. We hurried to the langar to be served with hot kichdi and tea. Honestly, I have never tasted such a fare which gives instant energy and relieves from the terrible fatigue of climbing and the chill.
Hemkund Sahib is Gurudwara sitting atop on the banks of a frigid lake which is surrounded by snow clad peaks on three sides. There is something very inimitable about this place- its air, the lake and the peaks around. The lake at one moment is blue in colour and immediately the next moment its turns blue. A small drizzle and wind and in a moment it turns white. But the best part is that standing on its bank, just five feet away, in moments the lake itself disappears among the clouds. My friend Srinivas and I wanted to take some pictures of this splendid lake and by the time we adjusted our camera and opened up our umbrellas, the lake was totally invisible. It is something out of the world. One feels like standing there and enjoying its beauty despite the harsh weather. After visiting the Gurudwara and the Lakshman Temple, and another helping ofKichdi, we set off on our way down. Soon we realized that the down trip on horse back was much more scary and dangerous than the up hill trip and soon we abandoned the horses and started walking down savouring the splendor of this wonderful place once more. By three thirty, we were back to our base camp. The next day we would return from this land of nature’s bounty.
EVENTFUL DAY- GHANRIA-GOVINDGHAT-BADRINATH-JOSHIMATH
The journey down from Ghangria to Govindghat was uneventful. But as things turned out during the day, it was more eventful and exhilarating as it could ever be. Back at Ghangria, I proposed that we may visit Badrinath which is a mere twenty five kilometers from Govindghat. After some deliberations, we decided to start off and soon we reached the check post skipping our lunch. But the policeman wouldn’t allow us to proceed before three thirty. The route to Badrinath is very narrow and on the edge of the mountains, it’s very risky for two vehicles to pass by and hence this restriction. We tried cajoling the Inspector who was unrelenting but allowed to proceed by around three. The journey up to Badri was smooth and we made it in around one and half hours. Immediately we set off to have darshan of the Lord. Again, like Hemkund this place too has something very serene. There is an alluring appeal to this speckles clean pilgrimage town. Generally pilgrimage towns in India are full of dirt and squalor- Varanasibeing a good example. But this town is well beyond the mundane. The policeman at Govindghat had warned us that if we do not return by 5, we would have to spend the night on the road as he wouldn’t allow us to pass through. So we decided to skip the trip to Mana the last village on the Indian side of the border. Though trailing by half an hour in our schedule we left Badri by 4.30 very sure that we wouldn’t make it to Govindghat by the ultimatum set by the cop. But we knew that in India anything but the rule of law prevails and we were confident that somehow we could win over the resolute cop.
On our way up to Badri, we crossed a harmless stream flowing over the river. The water looked crystal clear from the car and perhaps only ankle deep. The road is so narrow that in these areas two vehicles cannot pass through. Our delayed departure did not only pose the threat of the cop but also that the traffic from the opposite side would have commenced and there would be many places which would be perilously dangerous for two vehicles to cross each other. We met our first hurdle in the seemingly harmless stream which we crossed on our way up. As our vehicle approached the bend, we could see a Tata Indica stuck in the stream and at the risk of getting washed off if there is a gush of water which is not at all rare in this part. The stream which had only ankle deep water when we were going uphill now seemed to flow menacingly with at least knee deep water. A good Samaritan Mr.Ganesh, our guide was immediately got down and started walking to the crowd of people who were trying to rescue the car. Much to our amusement, by the time he reached the spot, the car had extricated itself. We laughed and laughed hard at the plight of poor Ganesh who couldn’t make any use of his Samaritan empathy and while we were relishing the discomfiture of Ganesh our vehicle crossing the stream got struck. Initially it appeared to be only a temporary snag to realize very soon that we were in for trouble much deeper than we thought. We alighted into the chill freezing waters. The harder our driver tried, the messier it became and the vehicle was ploughing its way into a puddle. Within minutes there was a kilometer long queue of vehicles in the opposite direction. We soon got into the act of pushing the vehicle and perhaps in half an hour successfully disentangle our vehicle from the mess. After a brief but livid squabble with a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, we were on our way. Much to our dismay, the cop did not stop us and we reached Joshimath by around 7 tired and famished ready to devour anything and everything. Soon, we helped ourselves to kachori, smaosa, chana, jalebi et al and stared off. Our night halt was to be atPeepalkoti , 2 hours drive from Joshimath.
The lingering taste of the delicacies and the cool mountain breeze enlivened everyone’s mood in our van. Enjoying the sight of the dark night interspersed with tiny lights on the far side of the mountains we were cruising down at a decent speed, when suddenly our van screeched to a halt missing the bus before us by a whisker. Our driver wisely backed out a couple of feet to see that that the bus too was backing out and trying to make an about turn on the narrow road. We had got down from our van to ascertain what happened to see that there is a fresh landslide and while backing out, one the rear wheels of the bus had left the road and were tantalizingly hanging above the valley hundreds of feet below. Heeding to our screams to halt, the driver took a forward leap to run into the hard rock on the hill side. By this time, the silent mountain air was filled with the screams of women in the bus. With our help, somehow the bus reversed and went back. We too counseled our driver to back out and after driving back a kilometer, parked our vehicle near a hut on the road side. Much against the counsel of other people, I Srinivas and Karthik decided to walk up to the spot of landslide to take a picture. The area was pitch dark and so we put on our miner’s lamp and proceeded on foot. We were about hundred meters away from the landslide and while Srinivas was adjusting his lens rocks and boulders started hurtling down with a roar. Before we could realize our feet started pacing. Within seconds, we had reached our van parked a kilometer away. Only after reaching the safe zone that we started taking head count to discover that Srinivas wasn’t there with us. Fear fading by now, we ventured again in search of Srinivas who was walking down to us like a cool cucumber, perhaps not able to run. With fear running through the spine, we decided against venturing out again and decided to explore for a tea. My knowledge of Hindi came handy again and could sweet-talk the lone resident there to give us tea. We had tea and then came the irresistible urge for a smoke. The stock of cigarettes had fast vanished by now. My friend Ravimanaged to obtain some beedis from a truck driver and we indulged in the them much to the discomfiture of the ladies in our group. We decided to return and halt at any place where we could get accommodation as everyone except me opined that the way would not be cleared before day break. Though I was a minority, my view was firm that Border Roads Organization (BRO) which manages the road in the hills would clear it soon. India is a land of majority opinion and therefore stared retracing our way back. On our way back, we were informed that BRO is on its way and so we turned back again. I would be doing a great disservice to this great organization if I do not write a few dedicated lines for this great organization. Hence, I propose to write a separate paragraph for these brave souls and how they serve mankind day in and day out.
KUDOS TO BRO!!
People in India derive immense pleasure in government bashing. They are often painted as corrupt, inefficient, lackadaisical, callous etc.,. Our intelligentsias often rise up in arms whenever there is any pay rise for the Government servants. It is painless to reel out innuendos sitting in the cushy comforts of the drawing rooms or office rooms. But, these pious souls have to be in the midst of crisis against all odds and unpredictable vagaries of nature to discern and comprehend the hardships the Government Officers face. As stated earlier, the entire traffic on this only road was closed due to a landslide which came out of the blue as there was no rain on that particular day. This is the only road which connects the upper parts of the hills to the lower more developed parts and to the plains. In cases of medical emergencies, people have to at least reach Srinagar if not Haridwar. Now with this trunk road was cut off. As I stated earlier, in less than hour the BRO team was on the spot with a earth mover and to our utter surprise, the team consisted of only three people! In private sector such a task which no doubt is of elephantine proportion would have called for very scientific analysis of the crisis and then meticulous planning and strategic execution. But here we have just three brave hearts ready in minutes to solve the crisis. Though initially, we were scared to approach the spot, the bravery of the BRO personnel rubbed on to us and we ventured closer panning our cameras and then lo behold! Came a thunderous roar and the mountains started to give in again. We ran and the fright took us to more than a kilometer in seconds. We would put Michael Johnson to shame by our rate of knots. The roar silenced and we retraced our way back to the spot measuring every step and wondering what would have happened to the BRO guys for they had not fled as we did, merely because they couldn’t. We found them nonchalantly chipping layer after layer the large boulder which was in the middle of the road. Undeterred by the danger lurking at every move and sound they carried on because for them clearing of the road for public use was a priority. In less than an hour of reaching the spot they cleared the mess which any intelligible man would have estimated to be completed in more than 24 hours. My heart went out to these brave hearts and involuntarily I went into attention and saluted these great men.