Monday, August 27, 2018

Your Child is NOT a Mini You.

Being an Extrovert Mum to an Introvert Son
Yes I am writing about extrovert and introvert and yet I feel these are again just some of the boxes. Not everyone is a complete either. So there are times my introvert hubs and son go out in the world and deliver a lectures, extempore and speeches. Both of them are amazing speakers btw. And me the extrovert develop jelly knees if I have to address a hall of audience. Yeah not many people understand that I can turn into a bundle of nerves, since they do know me as a vivacious gregarious loud human.
However, there are certain traits and especially in social set ups where I see this play up and come to the fore the most. So while it is easy for me to talk to people, laugh and joke like I always knew them, my son will come up with a variety of answers ranging from hunn to ah to yes as conversation sentences (yes that hunn is a complete sentence for him…the beginning, middle and the end) with people he knows intimately too.
For well meaning humans around me when he was little, not talking or preferring to remain alone with his nose in the book was something like a dis-order and not normal. And since I hadn’t had any experience with introvertism, I would also think that maybe this is not the norm. everybody around me used to say, oh he will become ok when he grows up, don’t you worry and worry I used to much. I used to take him to many kiddie birthday parties and social gatherings, where he as an infant used to howl and kept sitting in another room in the venue or howl so much we had to leave. All my close relatives will vouch for this.
Anyways as a well meaning, unconscious and unaware mother I only took it for social shyness and the poor kid used to be subjected to peer birthday parties. Here too, he would cling to me, sit with me, not swing or slide. To say that only he was distressed is half the story, I used to be equally if not more stressed, first prepare him to go, then cajole him, then come back with tears in both his and my eyes and wonder yeh theek kab hoga.
One day we were both sitting in the park, and watching kids play and run around. He was just about 5 years only. I asked him, “arnaav why don’t you enjoy?” “don’t you like to go out there and play?” he calmly asked me another question, a simple question that just entirely shifted my perspective. He said, “ mamma why do you think I don’t enjoy. I am enjoying just observing and watching. You know I enjoy books and being at home, do you think these kids enjoy the same?” it was a huge moment for me and something that completely shook me out of wherever I was at that time and whatever I was doing to make him fit in with others. I internalized that if I was asked to keep my gob shut and my giggles contained, it would be such a punishment for me, and by that logic if I am snatching his peace of solitude and aloneness I am actually punishing him. I learnt my lesson then and never subjected him or myself to another birthday party with magic shows, jumpies, games and blah.
Just one simple step towards acceptance, that we are both completely unique and different personalities brought in a lot of peace in both our lives. My son is not a mini me. Infact he is not a mini anyone, he is who he is, a unique person with his own likes and dislikes and way of living life.
Today, he accepts my loudness and I his quietness. We still do tend to get onto each others nerves sometimes with this and when we do we try to convey it politely.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Every Day Hero: Shiivaani Mahajan

When the Wound leads you to Your Purpose

Life is uncertain. What we take for granted today, can any day turn out to be what we desire, the most. I feel, it is not what happens to us that makes our life what it is, it is what we make of what happens in our life. This is a story of a courageous woman who literally smacked adversity right in its face and not only won her battle, but also found her purpose. From having healed to become a healer, and be that agent of change for others going through their pain this is an incredible journey of my hero, Shiivaani Mahajan.  

 I met her at a retreat, a lovely vivacious girl with an infectious laugh, a chatterbox and a gorgeous person. I naturally gravitated towards her magnetism and enthusiasm for life. 
My Soul Sister
One night as were strolling around in the lawn, she shared with me her life’s story and I feel it is a story of courage, love, will power, faith and surrender. It’s a story worth its weight in gold. Read on, her story in her own words:

 “Life is a journey full of twists and turns, and one has any idea where this path will lead him/her to. We can plan with details to ensure a smooth ride, chart out a route and calculate all the pit stops on the way, but none of this guarantees a trouble free drive to the destination. Speed breakers, punctures, engine failures or empty fuel tanks are very much a part of your learning curve.”

Shiivaani began her work as a complementary therapist, pain management expert and a healer almost a decade ago. She recounts, “It was in the year 2007, I was walking down the stairs of a cinema hall and suddenly I lost my balance and held on to the railing lest I fall. I had not imagined in my wildest dream that it was just a beginning of a year long ordeal.

My body was on a revolt and kept deteriorating with symptoms like vertigo (24*7), electric sensations in my tips and toes, tingling, numbness, pins and needles all over, brain fog, memory loss, vision problems, headaches, lifelessness in my legs and shoulders and a feeling of chronic fatigue and depression. I had lost the ability to stand with balance, visiting malls was a terrifying feeling as my ears started buzzing with strange sounds in the enclosed huge spaces. My hands would tremble while taking money out of my wallet. I was limping throughout the day, was forgetting where I had kept things a few minutes ago and much much more.

What followed was a series of doctors’ visits in the best of hospitals in Mumbai without any concrete results. The orthopedic would refer to the ENT, ENT to the Neurologist and back to orthopedic but to no avail. This went on for six months and I dreaded waking up each morning as that would mean living in a difficult body. A feeling of hopelessness seeped in and I had no answer to my dis-ease. Amidst all this chaos, the only thing that kept me sane and strong was my two little children who needed me and all that I wanted was to get back on my feet for them, to feel normal for them. This indeed became my blessing in disguise. It was a sheer will of a mother that kept me going. I had no other way out.
And the path finally showed up when my intense prayers were answered during a family visit to Delhi. It was then that my mother insisted that I visit her orthopedic surgeon in Delhi, Dr. Sanjay Nijhara, who was known for his diagnostic skills and was treating people in non-invasive ways. Like all moms, my mother’s advice proved to be angelic intervention for me and a turning point in my life.
On my first visit to his clinic, he pressed a few points on my wrist and for the first time in 7 months, my eyes lit up. I could really “See”. He then put my mind to rest and ruled out brain tumor or MS or Parkinson’s in my case. My condition was diagnosed as Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome, a musculo-skeletal condition which disturbs the normal functioning of the body causing a lot of distress and discomfort in the daily functioning of life. Finally, I had a diagnosis and I knew I was not dying J.

With boundless hope and faith, I started my treatment under his supervision and would rush from Mumbai to Delhi every month for the sessions. I would feel better with his treatment but frequent travel and long stays was a big challenge to deal with.

As luck would have it, my meditation teacher asked me to visit one of her students, Freny, who was practicing “Bowen Therapy”, a  very gentle technique that did not involve any manipulation whatsoever. I had no reason to doubt and Ianded up at Freny’s place. There was an instant connect with her and I surrendered my body with complete faith and gratitude.

In the meantime, Dr. Nijhara, a believer in holistic healing methods, gave me a go-ahead for Bowen and asked me to continue the sessions in Mumbai. His recommendation and his confidence in Bowen Therapy gave boost to my confidence and eventually my visits to Delhi reduced after a few Bowen sessions. This therapeutic treatment was proving to be a miracle for my condition and my body was responding miraculously, week by week. I was feeling stable and normal again. The balance had returned and massive shifts were occurring within. It was as if one link led to the other and I was guided to my highest good. Things like walking, dancing, seeing, thinking that I had taken for granted were taken away from me and then restored magically. It was nothing less than a surreal experience.

I was so awed by Bowen’s incredible healing power that I decided to learn the technique myself in order to help people in pain. I saw them all around me, looking for solutions to their physical challenges. Little did I know that I will touch innumerable lives by bringing ease and joy in their journey. It has been close to a decade of practice now and I would not have it any other way.

There is still a long way to go and learning will never end but this profession has brought so much of abundance, love and divinity in my life along with a sense of fulfillment that is irreplaceable. So, it’s alright if plans don’t work out as desired and the journey becomes arduous for a while. Because eventually we all come out victorious with a little determination, love and a lot of prayers.

There is no end to my joy when my clients call me “ A Miracle Worker”. By the way, they don’t know that  I practice The White Witchcraft.”

At her Healing Space

the healer Shiivaani with Gaur Gopal Das, 

at an exposition 
I don’t know about the white witchcraft my friend, and what I do know is that it is a hero’s journey.
To know more about Bowen and to get in touch with Shiivaani:
Call her at: 9619116531 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Badrinath and Mana Village

Bolo Badri Vishal ki Jai

Well in the land of Dev Bhoomi and char dhams, you expect this don’t you? yes this was the cry before the tempo traveller rolled on for any and/or all our sojourns. On reflecting back I think it was very apt cause we did need divine intervention to save our bums and our knees in the cramped TT with NO AC when it was ascending. Infact some of us (I wont name, you know who you are) got soooo angry one day that if we had broken an egg on her head it would have scrambled and fried.
The second day en route to Govindghat, though it wasn’t in the itinerary the guide and WOW buddy, weather permitting agreed to take us all to Badrinath. Fortunately the weather was great with a clear sky and shining sun, and off we rolled. We reached around lunch time which was perfect and checked into our Hotel Bhagat.
room with a view 
The rooms were nothing to talk home about but omg the view from my window was breathtaking with a small stream flowing into the gurgling river and just flowing onwards and a helipad on one side. Couldn’t go dip in my feet in the rivers here due to paucity of time but the way it roared at night when it rained was both, beautiful and scary.

Post lunch we headed to meet the lord at Badrinath and reached the temple premises around 3.45pm. our timing was perfect as the lord had just woken up from his siesta and the crowds had not yet descended. The temple looked beautiful with myriad colours and patterns on its fa├žade, more like a Buddhist monastery rather than any temple I had seen before. Beautiful gorgeous colours and a lovely dome with Om sculpture, topped off with glistening golden spires. The architecture of the temple was a symphony joining in two distinct temple architectures and bringing them together. As we climbed up the steps to enter the garbha griha we were greeted by the bells and sounds of the hymns. We requested the priest to tell us about the temple a bit and he obliged. The darshans were relaxed with no jostling around as I am told does happen on certain busy days. Prasads and circumambulation later, we stepped down to the sulphur kunds and dipped in our hands in the very warm water.
As is on any place of popular interest there were many vendors and photographers and we got a group picture done. On our way back, Abhimanyu pointed out to the NeelKanth mountain top covered with snow, visible only on clear days.

Feeling blessed and lucky for all that we saw and did in Badrinath, the happy lot now proceeded to the last village Mana.
This village on the Indo-Tibet border is a characterized by small houses opening up on the trekable road and with smiling women knitting woolen caps and small rugs. A cave called the Ved Vyas cave and a Ganesha cave at the end of the trek upwards is considered to be the cave where Ved Vyas is said to have composed the Mahabharata.

We trekked up to the Ved Vyas cave and found a small tea shop that is considered to be the last chai ki dukan this side of the border. The climb up was not difficult on retrospect considering the trekking we all eventually accomplished but on that day it looked pretty much.
Pic Courtesy: Tanya Gupta 

On the way up our guide pointed out the Vasudhara falls in the distance that looked like a ribbon fall and reminded me of Brides Veil of Niagara. This fall is the fall that lore says was the one crossed by the Pandavas to reach heaven. On one corner also lies the Bheem bridge which is actually a huge boulder that Bheem is supposed to have kept so that Draupadi could cross the river. There are many tales attached with the entire thing and we enjoyed each one as was narrated by Abhimanyu, our guide.

I­­n the evening on our way to the hotel, we stopped at yet another temple which is the abode of Nar Narayan in the winters.
Yog Badri 
At the twilight, looking at this small ancient temple in the hills with its black stone, a red flag flying high and sounds of small streams and waterfalls standing testimony to the ravages and beauty of nature was a sight I cannot forget in a hurry. Away from the family, facing and living with many questions and the unknown of the days ahead, a conversation with the deity was an experience I cannot even put to words. All I can say is, this was the beautiful beginning of what would turn out to be some of our most memorable days together. And what a beginning it was.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Dirty Dozen and then some …

When I was preparing for my trip, my father asked me, “so beta are you going with friends?” and I said “no papa, I will make friends…” and to think how prophetic were those words. The characteristic giggles and selfies started even before we met at the airport, thank god for whats app. A group was created and all were excitedly putting in their whereabouts and as some of us were taking the flight from Delhi, the breaking of the proverbial ice started at the gates itself. A couple of minutes into the conversation, Rama was coronated the wise one, and with a mop of silver hair and signature wisecracks the title sat very well on her. Then there was Doc Geetha, and a doc on board gave everyone a secure feeling…as is lag raha tha pahad chadna hai bhai. Sheela in her inimitable style and beautiful smiles looked very friendly and also no nonsense. Like Mala told her, “very corporate”. While Bindu’s laughter echoed all around and Hema enjoyed all the mirth. In waked Ipsita with her small big bag, I mean small for being the “only” bag and big if you think carry on. And compared to my largest suitcase this one looked as if holding only “bare essentials”.
Our buddy Tanya from WOW played really elusive and none of us could guess that she was on the same flight. She very nicely let us all create ruckus while waiting and when we asked her later why she didn’t respond to “who all boarding from delhi?” on whats app replied, “ah well, if I had then it may have become formal so I let you all introduce yourselves and that made my job easy!!” Hmmmm….smart kid huh!
The half hour flying time flight from Delhi to Dehradun got an hour late after boarding, and that meant we missed our lunch at Padmini Palace which sounded pretty palace like and instead ate daal chawal with mix veggies at a Dhaba. AH well…we met the rest of us at the Doon Airport and settled in the tempo traveler taking some random positions that actually became almost fixed throughout our journey. The 5 or 6 hour journey was pretty much like ass whipping and leg cramping at the end of the day but chalo koi nahi abhi toh pahad chadna hai.
As the journey and days kept progressing we kept finding each other and ourselves more and more. The first round of comedy was always trying to remember names, so Geeth used to scream out Anubhaaaa when I was right next to her thinking that Bindu was Anubha…and she took a long time to get over it but thank god before the trip ended. Shalini was actually Shailini and the one who couldn’t sleep any of the nights except one when she had slight fever. Tanya the “little buddy” was the youngest of us all and with a very solutions approach, managing 11 headstrong women is no mean task!
Poor Abhimanyu, our guide on the trip was a soft spoken guy who used to either blush or avoid us hearing loud conversations. He was inspiring and I guess had good experience too in how to field the queries pretty well. However, it always seemed to me that he true to his name was in a chakrahvyu of women with no escape for the next couple of days.
The camp site provided for a lot of laughs too…my question to Radhika was always, “kitni dandi hai” which meant how strong is the signal on her BSNL phone cause that was the only network working. Yeh airtel ki ladki ko koi batao bhai…like I said I felt pretty much at home cause I don’t get a signal there too. Mala was always smiling and had everything in her arsenal from dirty jokes to band aids and much more. Dipti the other kid on the block was the quite one, never hungry and nibbling on food after everyone had finished.
Some of the hilarious moments came after every trek cause trek pe toh hum pahad chad rahe the na. saala saans hi nahi aati thi hansi toh ….the camp were luxury tents with attached bathroom, albeit the slope, that always made it an act of balance to sit on the pot. Everytime my very nahane dhone waali (I am opposite) roomie kept her shower gels etc on the seat they would invariably tumble down. I don’t want to get in graphic details as to how we managed!
The camp after the first trek from govindghat to ghangaria looked like a spa, with all the ladies half pants pulled up till knees getting massages done. Eeww at 200 bucks just for the claves it was a pain literally and yet unavoidable kyonki yes you guessed it abhi toh aur bhi pahad chadne hain. While I shared my affirmations with the group, Ipsita shared her observation of how laughter yoga in her park was done, Ha Ha, Ho Ho, He He….had all of us in splits.
Post each trek the care takers were the ones who used to be most bullied, “bhaiya hot water…”, “bhaiya 2 cups black coffee(1is too less for me)”, “bhaiya maalish walaaa”, bhaiyaaaaaa….. I am sure they must have heaved a sigh of huge relief after our departure.
After the valley of flowers, the camp turned into a mini dhobighat, with all wet clothes hanging along with the colorful flags in the camp. Wow the waterfalls, the moss laden and lush mountains, frothy clouds, pink sunsets and wet pants furling in the wind.
The shoes came out too and then came another vendor who believe it or not had the business of drying clothes and shoes in some bhatti. Now we all gave our shoes at a princely amount of 200 bucks a pair cause abhi ek aur pahad chadna baaki tha na…Abhimanyu kept shouting out instruction, “please ladies put all your clothes and sandals inside before sleeping cause it will rain at night…” and we all did. And rain it did. And the next morning before hemkund sahib trek Abhimanyu emerged in chappals…like hello what happened? Sheepishly he confessed, “mam I forgot to put them in at night”….rofl.
Rama with her two poles used to trek with focus and Sheela with no poles had a ramrod straight back a small pouch on her back and surety in her gait. Radhika was the determined one, always self motivated and inspiring others. Bindu and Sheela stuck together and Hema used to be with them or on her own. Sheela after the treks wondered out loud how could Bindu chatter so much while climbing, so I guess that means Bindu babes you rock girl! At one point in the trek, Sheela and Bindu chose to negotiate one shortcut which was a little rocky and kind of tough and while they were doing all of this, Hema emerged from the normal route wondering what these 2 were doing?! And these 2 were jaw drop…and then rofl…you know what I mean. I am unsure if they told Hema this ! On the VoF trek while we were all scattered Shailini made friends with another group too and after the previous days trek wondered how she was so charged with the horsepower to today come first and went far off. On the last day too she was fueled and all charged up and came back down much ahead of the rest. In turn, making more friendships and knowing more groups.
Many hilarious incidents happened and one of them was, the horse Geeth took to Hemkund Sahib, that was named Hema. And Geeth would go on and on describing her attitude and gait and how she was so competitive that she always wanted to be the first one ahead. Now we also had Hema in the group and at one time when we were all sitting in and chatting Mala whose horse was towed with Geeth’s Hema said, “Hema shat on the way…” and in the split second before it registered, I had weird visuals…as did Geeth…and the rest of us…before bursting out loud…please don’t ask me to elaborate now. At Ganga arti also when they started singing hey Maaaa….our thoughts turned to our own Hema who was oblivious to all the natak happening around and got told later. By the way, she was also the star of the last day as it was her Happieee Burdae…and yes we had all come down in one piece and yesss…celebrations were double cause ab toh pahad chad chuke the!!!!
All said and done, it was one of the most beautiful experiences and we will all remember it ever so fondly, having experiencing it together. Though we all may have experienced it our own way, and added our own flavour to the group, one thing is for sure, my words did prove prophetic. I made friends. The testimony to all of it were the wet eyes, promise to remain in touch and tough to sa Goodbyes. So long girlies...Group Hug !

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Life is a trek

Recently I went trekking to Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib; both challenging and by that extension equally satisfying and transforming. I have noticed that most of the things in life are actually microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmic qualities of life and art of living. Some of my musings and life lessons I gathered from the experience are as under:
1. Everyone is on their own unique journey
2. Everyone has their own pace and that is OK
3. There is ample support available and yet you have to move your own bum and take your own responsibility
4.Travelling light is easier than travelling with baggage. Keep it light baby
5. Cause, You gotta carry your own load
6.There are resources available all around you, you have to decide which ones suit you and remain in allowance of that choice.
7. Your resources are your own, don’t judge others for what they are choosing. You never know when you may need those same ones.
8. And if you do need those resources that you may have mentally shun earlier, take it with chin up.. don’t judge yourself
9. Make a goal and then forget the goal. In this case the goal is to reach the summit and yet that’s just a goal.
10. the minute you arrive at one goal, the goal post shifts. Once you reach the summit, the goal is to reach the base.
11. As in life goals will keep moving, enjoy the journey
12. Hustle and pause both are required
13. Mindful small steps will make you literally and figuratively climb mountains
14. Pause to breathe in the beauty, gaze at the waterfalls and smell the roses. Look around, life is beautiful
15. Dont judge the pace of others. Everyone is on their own path. Koi aage koi peeche
16. You never know you may meet people who were behind you, go right up ahead
17. Don’t compare your journey with anyone else. Be kind
18. No one will get a medal on reaching the top. Life is not a race to the position
19. How “you” arrive matters. What does not matter is what others think of the resources
20. Those resources could be your own or hired towards the goal. So be it. Don’t judge yourself or others
21. You never know what’s lying at the next bend. You may need that exact same help or support.
22. A smile or a kind word spoken to/by the stranger is a big gift. Give that gift. Receive that gift. You never know who you are inspiring
23. Kabhi dhoop kabhi chaon. Its not important that the weather changes whats important is how you weather it.
24. There are human angels all around someone offering you a sip of glucose just so that you remain revved up in your journey is amazing
25. Give and receive with equal joy
26. Gratitude is supreme- grateful for this body, life, spirit, nature and everything and everyone. Express it!
27. You may need both mantras and affirmations -energy from divine and empowerment from within
28. When you are in synch with your breath you are optimal
29. Age is actually just a number. You are as old and capable as you think you are
30. Growth and expansion happens outside your comfort zone
31. If you think you can, you can!
32. Celebrate your micro wins
33. Keep the humor alive
34: In the end though it may seem that YOU have climbed the mountain and done it all. I don’t think you can do it without the support of your fellow travelers, whether they are cheering you from home or walking along. Support is both visible and invisible!
35. Last but definitely not the least, it may seem that life is a zero sum game- you reach the peak only to come back to base, in my opinion it is not. Cause you are far richer with all the experience and ready to face the world with renewed vigour.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hemkund Sahib Trek

 Day 5: the trek to Hemkund Sahib
From day 1 most of us had been consistently asking our guide if the trek to Hemkund Sahib was difficult and all we were getting as an answer everytime was “one day at a time mam”. Finally on Day 4 he sweetly says that yes it is a difficult trek and if any of you would like to take the mule up, after the Valley trek, please do. Some of us opted for the same. To be frank before I booked for the trek i had spoken to a friend who had done this tour with WoW and told me that she had opted for the mule and that it saves a lot of time and energy leaving much more time at the Gurudwara too. I was like ok I will do that too. However, I got so inspired by the ladies in the camp that I decided to give the mule a pass and trek it up, all the while thinking that if I am not able to walk, I will be kind to myself and take the mule from anywhere en route.
The night after the trek to Valley was painful as one had climbed down in all the rain negotiating all those stacked up kind of stones. My knees and legs were hurting and as was in the camp, I couldn’t sleep beyond 12.30 am. Each time I turned in the bed there was a silent cry out of pain. I had liberally applied Moov spray (the smell of which I hate) and also wore the knee support for a while. Anyways in the morning at 7 am post breakfast, I popped in a Crocin for pain relief and with renewed hope and enthusiasm began the trek with the group. Being in the group the dynamics of inspiration and the feeling of “can do” becomes stronger. I can now relate to that saying of “if you want to walk fast walk alone and if you want to walk far walk together.”

Taking it slowly yet surely we all set out on our different paces, pausing at every 5 minutes to inhale and look around. After crossing the Ghangaria bazaar we reached the fork path from where, today we moved towards Hemkund Sahib. At the base of the mountain we looked up and saw 2 seemingly very small poles that from here looked like pin heads at the peak of the large large mountain and yes, it was where we were to go. I cannot even begin to describe how it felt at that time. It was so far away and the fatigue of last 3 days was catching up too. Gathering all the strength from within and with a prayer we started the climb up.
The path here is wide and cemented with rocks and there are mules aplenty, which also means navigating and saving yourself from them. The path is swept very regularly and is clean. It definitely is steep though. Today, it took all ounce of energy and will power to move and I kept mentally switching from mantras to the affirmations and everything in between. 

It was important to remain self motivated and moving. Faith, they say can move mountains and I saw can make you climb mountains too however majestic they may be. On the way I saw so many people going up with small babies and old parents, some on foot, others on mules and pitthus. Each one on crossing saying “wahe guru”. It was this and a smile that one gave and received by the strangers that also became a source of energy.
As soon as we crossed a milestone we all felt “galat hai. Ho hi nahi sakta…” we walked so much and it still showed that it was just a kilometer that we had done. Anyways, it also started to rain and the ascent became even slower. We finally thought we have achieved a feat when we spotted our guide waiting for us at a shack and asking us to rest. As soon as we tumbled in he said, “half hua hai”. I rolled and fell only, mentally and physically. Took the bench quietly and sat looking at the beautiful red mountain finch that were pecking on soaked rice. 
mountain finch

Anyways when my walking partner Radhika reached there, I told her, “radhika he is saying its only halfway (I seriously thought he was lying) what do we do?” Radhika coolly replied, “nothing we have decided we will do and so we will.” That sentence and her calm demeanor worked its magic on me and off we started again.
After having walked a distance again, now we could hear some shabads from the gurudwara and walking in the rain listening to those while fully mindful of each breath was nothing short of a walking meditation. We crossed a couple of streams on the way that were flowing right on the path making the entire landscape surreal. The air had thinned further. Fortunately none of us encountered any breathing issues or dizziness. We kept moving step by step. At one place someone going down offered a sip of glucose and that gesture in itself was one of the most beautiful ones. I felt so touched and realized that in life as in this trek we really do meet earth angels if we are open to receiving. We received and gave many blessings. Most of the flowers that we saw at the Valley were all here too on the mountain slopes, and it was a delight to see them. Everytime I spotted blue poppies it was like encountering a friend I now knew.

At a turn when we were pretty close to the gurudwara, we – me and Tanya – had the option of taking the stairs or the path. Some people coming down the steps said the steps are fairly good and we also felt that now if we don’t reach the ardaas will get over, so we chose to take the stairs. The initial stairs were very steep and then they became pretty consistent and not very high. If we looked up the stairs seemed never ending and reminded me of my very favorite song, “stairway to heaven.” The long winding stairs were beautiful, however at each couple of steps I needed to stop to catch my breath. Tanya, the youngest one was leading the way, she was looking up at the stairs and me at her. By the way I later read somewhere they were 900 of them. Anyways as with the stairs, they ended. Yes they ended. And opened up in to the gurudwara compound. Oh my good god, we had made it, we had climbed, we had reached! After a minute or two of catching our breath we started to feel cold and quickly ran in the gurudwara.
the entrance

Once inside, we went to a small prayer room and then into the main hall. It is so endearing to note that there are many blankets available in the gurudwara hall for people to wrap them and sit for the prayers. As soon as I reached in and sat, it was like opening up of floodgates within me. I was all tears and very wet eyes, I cannot explain the feeling, maybe surrender feels like this. After having toiled, pushed mental and physical limits to simply just reach the divinity within and out, it was the most beautiful experience I ever had. In a minute or so bhai ji came and doled out a huge ball of halwa Prasad and we ate hungrily, the manna from heaven. I prayed for everyone, each and everyone I know, have known, and then just every one.
Darbar Sahib 

Thankfully we had reached in time and had some time to spend in the gurudwara. We were allowed to take photos and we did. Finally at the end of the ardaas they started announcing that all return as weather was becoming bad. It already was misty and raining and it seemed will rain more. Anyways we went to the langar hall and were served khichri and tea Prasad, most yummy one I had ever had. 

After having our fill, we were just around when Abhimanyu started to call out for us, “jaldi aao”. We rushed and saw that the mist over the “kund” lifted just for those 30 odd seconds before it came down and engulfed the lake again. It was a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. 
just for me the veil of mist lifted 

in the morning before we reached 

And with all done, we started now to begin our descent. Oh yes, and while we were coming down suddenly right next to the long winding steps we had taken Tanya pointed out to a most gorgeous multi layered waterfall, which believe it or faint we missed seeing while going up. Yes, and we also spotted the elusive Brahma Kamal. 
Brahma Kamal 
One step and one breath at a time. The coming down was not as difficult as the day before and it was raining all the while but became excruciating with the knee hurting and ankles swollen. But with joy in each step and pride of having done it and group mates sharing their personal stories made it worth its while.
Just as I came down, a group of youngsters stopped me and asked me if I had trekked it all the way up and down? I was elated and said yes yes. The exhaustion and the elation was I am sure writ large on me. They asked if it was tough and steep and the 1000 doubts and I motivatingly replied to all of them just as someone had earlier replied to me. It had come a full circle. I was back at the base, richer and enriched.

PS: Some pics are clicked by me and rest by others in the group.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Valley of Flowers

Day 4: Valley of Flowers
All right so we got cosy in the camp and slept early to be rested well to start for Valley of flowers. The best suggestion our guide doled out was to not have a shower in the morning and instead come back and bathe…and anyone who knows me knows I am most ecstatic with this piece of advice. Legs aching and hearts hopeful, I slept sending healing to self and hoping it will be a clear day tomorrow. Since I am not used to sleeping so early I mean 9pm is in Delhi time for me to start making dinner, I woke up at exactly 12.30 and kept lying dead in the bed. It was pouring and thundering (is that a word?). Sending prayers for a clear day, I kept drifting in and out of sleep, and before we knew it, it was time to get up and have breakfast at 7. Cause at 7.30 we had to move out dahlings!

Thankfully it was a clear day, and with this I mean it was not raining at that “moment”. We crossed the already awake and buzzing small bazaar of Gangharia and reached the small office from where we needed to get our tickets etc to the VoF. It was crowded and we were told that since at night it had rained heavy, the bridge had got washed down.
waiting at the start 
The authorities concerned had made some make shift arrangements and helping people cross over by stepping on big boulders etc. What seemed right from the beginning as an awesome river flowing and gushing suddenly seemed scary and barbaric. It was gushing with full force and the thought of stepping on slippery stones was not very inviting and there was no option but to cross it and so we did. Each one holding the hand of the guys helping there and heaving a sigh after having achieved it. Human memory works in small bursts, the minute we all crossed over, that same river again started looking amazing and selfies worthy. Well, well, many poses later the ascend began. 

The air was full of mist and the morning looked bright and promising. The path was a different story altogether. The entire path leading up to the valley is as if strewn with stones of varying shapes and sizes and as Geeth said, “lego pieces waiting to be fit”. Well she was right they hurt like lego pieces too…remember stepping on them bare feet ….ouch!
The Path 
The 3 kilometer stretch was mostly a climb up and the respite came only at the last half a kilometer or so when it was flattish (not flat …haan)! Again we all went at our own pace and with adequate stops to breathe. No mules and their shit on this path. The path is much narrower and there is help in terms of pitthus, the guy with the tokris (like the ones you see at tea estates) who offer to carry you up.
As we were trekking the vistas kept changing from beautiful to amazing and to exceptional all in its full glory. Before we started the trek our guide had amply warned us to not think of valley of flowers as some tulip lined farm or something. It is replete with flowers in the wilderness and is speckled with colours of myriad hues, but it is all natural and not cultivated or manicured. And I think there in lay its beauty. There were flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours; big ones, tiny ones, rare ones and mundane ones. All in all it was a beautiful bouquet that reminded me of paintings of the age of Romantics.

After having crossed various small streams on the path and gaping awestruck at the lush green mountains and waterfalls that could be spotted far away through the rolling mist and white feathery fluffy clouds, we finally reached the expanse of the valley. Now hungry we found a spot on a huge boulder and opened our picnic lunch of paranthas and alu subzi. Post this we all wandered off into the valley to see more sights and flowers of course. There are many small streams with bridges made of aluminum planks that we crossed and kept moving through the bushes of flowers on either side of the now kachcha muddy path.
Besides many other flowers, we also saw very low lying almost buried in the soil fresh blueberries and oh my god, I have never seen such a stark blue as that ever. unfortunately I ate up the blueberry without first clicking it ;p and the season has just started so couldn’t locate more. Another one that really stood out were blue poppies with bright yellow center. The guide had told us that there is a laughing mushroom in there too which if you eat you keep laughing for 2 hours, I so wanted to but couldn’t find it and the botanist who was with us was playing hide and seek…more hide than seek.
Anyways the clouds had started rolling in and becoming darker and ominous and we had to turn back to exit the valley. There is no provision of staying back. It’s a UNESCO protected site and does have any stalls or vendors or sheds like the trek to Ghangaria. Before we left the valley the three of us decided to dip our feet in the deliciously flowing cool stream and we did. But seriously the water was soooo chilled that not more than 4 or 5 minutes and feet start to feel numb. Now though we wanted to savour the valley and do everything in slo mo we knew we should ideally start back and so we did. Not long and it started pouring. Rain jackets out and the descent began.

Now this was a challenge I never realized. I always in my head thought that climbing up is difficult and going down easy. But it seemed pretty much the opposite here, since the path is stacked with stones, the climb down was a hard test in balance, especially with rain lashing too. I think I managed to save myself from slipping at least 5 times. And while on the way up, mindfulness and pauses were the tools, on way down, saare bhagwaan yaad aa gaye. Anyway slow consistent steps and absolute concentration took us down to the stream from where we crossed to the other side. Thankfully they had made a better crossing over arrangement now than in the morning. The next kilometer or so to the camp was full of reverence for the feat accomplished. On reaching the camp we couldn’t stop raving about it all and though it was the most satisfying trip as such, a feeling of not enough lingered. A hot shower and foot massage later we were now all of us getting ready for the tough one to Hemkund Sahib now. Cause this was again just a teaser my friend….jaw drop….really!!!