Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Desirable

                       Nandadevi in the setting sun from Auli

Perhaps it is quite a matter of going overboard with our feelings and ruing the luck that was not our companion in some matters that are mundane but at the same time that we can never revisit if missed out. And we, in our middle age regret with uncontrolled difficulty. Then we gather and decide, 'well the others who follow me, my children should not stumble on to  the same desolate plateau'.

Let me be more candid. I mentioned in a few blog posts the misfortune I had vis-à-vis the relationship with my father. I remember having not felt or cared-I missed out on him when he was alive, when even we had those showdowns and the autocracy he wielded only added to the distance, the chasm, the gap. But the depth of the loss of having missed out on a vital aspect of human relationship began haunting me , more when well into my later forties.(I'm suppose it was also  his case later in his life as well). And then  when the sudden gust of wind hits you, the rush of intense damp air – the realization that, well you have now reached a phase in life from where the downhill journey will begin in man’s ephemeral life span and you got to do something different for your kids.

So I always wanted to provide my children, especially my son things and moments that eluded my grasp while I grew up. Most of all the closeness to the father! He was quite a temperamental fellow critical than the mould I’m, even while he was little and also in early teens.And taciturn too like me.

 I decided to go on a  travel with him. And it was the summer vacation in May five years ago. He was 15 then and just finished his ICSE 10th exams. The moments are so vivid in me. He was back home and I planned the journey to the Himalayas- Kedarnath  and Bhadari, (inspired by Balcahandran,). I felt a trip with him to a new part of India would be a learning experience for the boy and a soulful of gratification to me – experiencing the pleasure in a reverse way. I mean giving something I could not get.

He was initially bit reluctant .But once we boarded the flight from Coimbatore to New Delhi, he became quite at ease. We stayed in New Delhi overnight and took the early morning Shathabdhi to Haridwar. It was the second time he was in New Delhi. A few years prior four of us ( I, C and the our two kids) together , made a triangle tour of Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi in winter. It was good experience for the kids.

 Haridwar  was quite warm and sweltering in the May heat. For the boy it was the beginning of a dawn of realization, something he did not imagine. A kind of cultural shock, a bolt. The dirt, the human excreta by the sides of the road,the muck, the poor and the penury, the dust all-around when we got off the train and walked to the bus station nearby to go to Rishikesh! He became silent and gloomy, quite perplexed. We checked in at the Rishikesh  tourist lodge and went out in the late afternoon for a stroll down the Ganga and the joolas.  There were a  lepers and diseased people waiting all around begging for alms. All that, I suppose made the little fellow very distressed that he refused to walk further and wanted to go back. I cajoled him to the ghat by the mighty river Ganga. He always trailed behind very irritated and kept saying we  go back home. Then, the argument began by the Ganga. He just walked away from me. I could not leave him. He frowned and fumed and wanted to know why I was following him. I felt miserable very miserable! I sat by the ghat on the steps and I could still remember me crying, the ache in me. A dream was turning sour! Or was It?  I noticed suddenly that he was missing for a while. I got panicky and ran around frantically and utterly distressed and at last found him sitting elsewhere further down by the ghats.

I felt that I might have to cancel the trip and get back to Delhi.I spoke to C that evening to tell her A was upset about the whole thing. She suggested I change plans and travel elsewhere with him, where he wanted or even get back home. I asked him what he wanted. He refused to answer. That night he slept without eating. Next morning, we had to take the bus well before dawn to Gowrikund. At three in the morning I coaxed him out of bed. He was still moody and till almost half of the nine hour journey he was not in his elements. Then, just as the fickle weather in the himalayan heights he changed,became different and a child hanging one me,enjoying the journey .
                                       En route to Kedhar

We had very good moments that evening in Gowrikund, a tiny mountain hamlet. To make matters rather unpredictable again, I suddenly began to feel chill and feverish. It seemed I  
 was going to be stricken with fever. Fortunately , the next morning I was feeling fine. He was first to wake and arise the next morning at 4 ’o clock and we set off on the long climb of 17 kms to Kedarnath. It was a fascinating journey. Of course both of us were not at ease with the undisciplined pilgrims and their cacophony. They were missing the mountains and with it their Gods! We drank from the mountain streams, ate chocolates for energy and had a few encounters with Sadhus smoking bhang and marijuana in their rock lair by the way side. I wished I could borrow their smoking chillums! It took us almost 9 hours to walk the serpentine climb.
                                            The peak at Kedhar

When Kedhar welcomed us with its snowy shining peaks he was thrilled. I enjoyed his happiness. We went around the  town. The temple were they have faithfully incarcerated Lord Kedhanath  was too crowded. I wondered how God can be comfortable in that melee and the unrelenting petitions and lobbying from pilgrims and devotees. We were fascinated how he would handle his misery. I suppose he  vanished from the shrine long ago and moved further up into the inaccessible snow clad ,wind cold mountain. Far from his maddening devotees.It was six in the evening and was fast getting dark. We devoured a good meal of rotti, dal fry and sabji. Now either we hang around the night and try our luck of getting space to sleep or must descend. But it was not so wise either way and a storm was gathering. It was going to be risky walking back in the dark. We fixed a deal with two ghardwali  men and for Rs 500 per head they agreed to give us two mules for the downhill journey. A, enjoyed the precarious ride on the mule in the heavy rain and over the tricky terrain. I was hollering the hell out in panic. And A was smiling and laughing, all the while enjoying the ride on the mule. The mule-men were irritated with my moaning and were laughing amongst themselves at my precarious perch on the mule. One said to the other, “ye ladka teekk hai. Wow admi pagal”.And one said , certainly not thoughtful of my knowledge of  Hindi, "Arey, chillana math".

We reached back at Gowrikund by eight at night.  A, asked me why I was throwing tantrums all the way down and shouting like a kid. He was laughing at the comedy that I was, on the journey on the mule.
I felt immensely happy that he was enjoying the travel, the togetherness at last!

Next morning we traveled by bus and broke journey at the ski resort of Auli where we stayed for a couple of day’s .Being the height of summer and the absence of snow was indeed disappointing.  We went to Bhadarinath from  Auli , before coming back to camp at Joshi Math and then traveled back to New Delhi. There were quite a few moments to cherish for both, ordeals as well!
                                              At Auli a moment

He now wants to redo the tour with me. I jestfully tell him, "not me anymore with you”. Now he has grown out of teens, he is twenty and went with a couple of friends of his to a remote mountain side in Utarakand. They even went to Rishikesh and set off on white water river rafting. And elsewhere near Kasol, even were caught unawares in a hailstorm in the forest. They lost their way and spent the night in the forest. He travelled second class “two way’’ from Thpuram. A fifty two hour journey one way and we wanted it so .Journey in second class (cattle class) on Indian Rail is the surest way of perceiving the throb of India.He understood quite a bit of what life in India is all about and he has many more miles to go to understand much. That it is not the comparative cocoon of comfort and security that some children like he is fortunate to have.

He wants to plan another trip up north soon.He has begun to enjoy moments that eluded me while I was his age! I guess, at long last, me too giving something I could not feel , enjoy!


Balachandran V said...

Having been the instigator of the trip, I vividly remember your panic call from the mountains; I also remember my reply that to reach great heights, one has to traverse the lower plains below the mountains. I am glad you guys took it up.

Nothing like good old Himalayas!

Insignia said...

Happy ending all smiles :)

Anil, you spoke my mind. I feel its poorer up north than south. I am going to do a bit of analysis on this. Remember Chidambaram's statement? India's economy is fueled by southern states which create a furor?

Oh sorry about the deviation. You know your son will cherish those moments spent with you forever; its these thoughtful things as these build stronger bonds. It is heartening to see you have taken greater care to see your children do not feel the inconvenience and pain you faced as a child.

kavita said...

Your post filled my eyes.I am mesmerized by your vivid description .Though families that travel together don't always get along.Small conflicts do help us learn about each other and life a lot.Traveling and life are similar in so many ways - highs,lows,beautiful,painful ,difficult and rewarding.Both of you smiling -- the most beautiful picture.

Makk said...

I am travelling alone since I was 6 or 7 I guess.

though initially there short journeys but I expanded them very quickly perhaps. My parents some how knew I could manage. :)

Now I want to go to a long journey with my dad with whome I am not in sync :)

Wishing more such moments to you.

Now Serving said...

fantastic pictures - how fortunate you are to have been there :)

Mélange said...

'Paagal Aadmi'..ha,tum to itna bhi pagal nahin,arre,usko kya malum ?

In a way,this is about journey,may be a travelogue.But to me,this is a serious post.The way you began and entered into a very keen scenario,with a Boy of adolescence! I was totally enjoying the scenes of that 'boy's' growing tantrums seeing the 'real' life..Indeed a real life situation.A turning point in all senses.To tell you frankly,I haven't seen such a heart warming scene of father-son trip cum life-together in any films so far.This had everything.The new beginning,the anxiety,the dilemma,then realisation,fun and finally togetherness..

Thank you so much for this journey;the journey into a Boy's heart,the journey of a father's mission.

Why don't you attempt fiction ?

Lucky your Son may write and fill many blogs like these about you in future..God Bless !

anilkurup said...

@ Balan,

I presume the "great heights" is a metaphor.
And you are qualified to stake the claim more than the Surveyor General of British India Sir George Everest, for traversing Himalayas.

@ Insignia,

B, yes it indeed is true that the souther states prop the northern ones economically.Economically it may be changing while degenerating at the social level.

Whether kids cherish what we gave them or otherwise is immaterial, when compared to any gain they can get from the relationship we offer.

@ Kavita,

I appreciate and value your feeling and the comments. Yes life indeed is a difficult journey but worth making if we can cherish the outcome.

@ Makk

"Now I want to go to a long journey with my dad with whome I am not in sync" .

make amends that is my suggestion.
And thank you for the wishes.

@ Now Serving

Thanks for the visit. I had a peep into your blog. I will be back again. Found that you have an arena
devoted to culinary exploits.

@ melange,

I'm overwhelmed by your comments.
Yes look forward with hope , though that calls for a lot of difficulty. but then what is the option that is wiser?

I hope he gained values from the journey.

NRIGirl said...

That is a beautiful story you shared. Thank you!

I was too laughing hearing your tantrums on the mule ride...

....Petty Witter said...

Good to hear of the bound you have with your children, such memories are precious as you well know.

anilkurup said...

@ NRI Girl,

Thanks for the comments. Yes You could laugh , and me too now. But the 1 hour odd ride back was scarier than anything and at night.

@ Petty Witter

I hope so. Thank you

Happy Kitten said...

It is good that you have not let history repeat.... may this Father and son bond grow stronger as years go by....

Kunal said...


sir, this is a very touching post..and I am greatly enlightened and enriched...almost every time I read your post...Moments spent with your son..I am sure..both you and your son will cherish forever :)

Best Wishes

anilkurup said...

@ Happy Kitten,

Thanks . good so far

@ Kunal

Thank you. I value your appreciation . Lets hope for the best.

Munir said...

Beautiful pictures and beautiful mountains along with inspirational writing. Here in Orange County New York we drive over Snow King Mountain almost every weekday but never get a chance to capture it's beauty. That is the difference between India and New York.
Great Post. Thanks for sharing.

anilkurup said...

@ Munir,

Thanks for the visit and your comments. The photos are ordinary, good you liked them. I value your general appreciation and comments on the post. Do come regularly and comment good or bad.

Erratic Thoughts said...

Beautiful pictures and moments...Lot of emotions in there,thank you for sharing them with us...

Kalpana said...

Truely heart warming. This reminds of various phases of my relationship with my mother. (I am very close to my father and trying hard to get closer to my mother). Journeys always evoke mesmerising feelings and you have depicted this beautifully.

anilkurup said...

@ Kalpana,

Thanks , I 'm glad that you understood the feelings and one dosen't have to begin the plains to reach the heights- literally.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Good to read your post after so long! I can completely relate with your experience. My relationship with my mother was a bit like how you describe your relationship with your father to be like. So I was very keen not to have this kind of gap with my daughter. The post Xth experience with her was not too good as she had designated me as the villain in her life- the women who held her captive for three months at home before her Xth exams! But post her XIIth standard I find our relationship has improved. We spent some time together in Hyderabad where I took her shopping around places where I used to buy clothes when I was in college. The place thankfully remains the same and she seemed to enjoy all the options that they had to offer. We ate snacks at all my old haunts which she enjoyed.
But traveling to tourist destinations with daughter has not been great. I think teens prefer to do it without their parents. The traveling with parents is a one off thing that some times is a hit! However Auli for us for a good experience. We went there when she was a pre teen and enjoyed the cable car and ski lift rides! Innocence of childhood I guess. But religious places are generally a "no no" with her these days