Today at 4:18 AM
Summer 2011 – Enjoyed the trip; Missed you!
Watching movies, going through old photographs remembering the lunacies of the past that bring sanity into the present, reading books reclined on a bean bag. Well an ideal vacation. But even the most idealistic vacation cannot be lived throughout your four week vacations. Yes, you heard it right. 4 weeks! Well the courts are shut for this time. And what will a brief less lawyer like me do, besides making lemonade – or rather a mojito – with the lemons that are handed to budding lawyer (like me) in his/her struggling years. Hence notwithstanding the holidays that I have spent the ideal way as explained herein above, being one of the more enthusiastic ones, and game for adventures, Ujjval and I plotted to convince Mom and Dad to get out for trip. And we succeeded pulling through that, for the victims of the plot were themselves desirous to succumb to the plot!
The next thing I remember is the roar of the engine. And as the gear was shifted, the wheels were forced into motion to hit the open road; with no destination in mind, and only one motive – to discover, explore and excite ourselves.
We happen to proceed towards mighty Tehri Dam via Dhanolti – approximately 170 Km from Mussoorie, where we had our lunch. I have been to this place before – when dam was complete and the town of Tehri was being submerged. It certainly takes time and some deliberation to appreciate or criticize a structure so massive whose enormity is best measured, and sadly so, by the risk it ensues.
Those who believe, at times, also believe that places of worship possess an aura that can give direction to ones whole existence. My Dad believes that our proximity to the temple of Mata Chandra-badni – one of the lesser frequented shrines, about 50 odd Km from Tehri – had bestowed upon us the wisdom to pay a visit to it. So now were no longer nomads. We were mindful of our destination! Jai ho Maa Chandra-badni ki!
The Chandrabadani Temple is dedicated to the Goddess of power. According to the legends, Lord Shiva while carrying torso of his consort Sati, accidentally dropped it here and her weapons got scattered all around the place. No wonder one notices trishuls scattered all around the temple. How can weapons and weapon systems of the past accepted as symbols of worship in future? Well, you see I am a lawyer – this is the only platform I have to show case my skills!
I believe living creatures in hilly regions find peculiar ways to survive. Gigantic trees perched precariously, defying all laws of gravity holding themselves and the earth beneath, and also supporting a host of other parasitic flora. But these things are better experienced than read. The Temple is perched on the hill top and the last test one is put to is the flight of stairs with an intimidating gradient. This done, one is well rewarded with the view of the Himalayas that the temple affords, especially the Parikrama of the temple which facilitates 360° view of the surrounding area.
The twilight pervaded the sky, and by the time we started to roll again it was dark. So we decided to spend the night at Maletha, in Rive Side Resort, about an hour and a half’s drive from Chandrabadni.
Day 2, we were off to another one of the lesser known places. Chopta. Ujjval’s discovery, thanks to an article in Reader’s Digest. Maletha to Chopta is about 5 hour drive, and the drive is made even more memorable by the condition of the road – even more neglected than India’s Women Rugby Team. It is on such routes that your faith in the higher powers claiming to dwell in these regions is affirmed. There has to be God or something divine that is preventing the ill-maintained roads in one of the most fragile regions of the world from giving way to astoundingly heavy pilgrim traffic. The road conditions improve (but after about 3 hours of drive) so does the scenery, followed by a change in the perception. And as one takes the diversion leading to Chopta, there is a marked change in the flora. Densely forested, and trees on either side of the road arch over the road as if to form a canopy to welcome. Besides being a treat to the eyes and soul, these green giants lend one a sense of security for in their absence I believe anyone could have suffered from acrophobia and inevitably driven the car off the road and into the valley.
‘Welcome to Mini Switzerland’, lured one of the sign boards outside a tea stall in Chopta in illegible font. Even the lack of that informative sign board, wouldn’t have made me think of that place in less regard. Acres of meadows (bugyals) blessed with lush verdant as if knees drawn up under the green rug of the forest, the hills reposed in dreamless siesta. We made a halt. Chopta is the base camp to begin the climb up to another shrine and a higher point – Tungnath, one of the Panch Kedars, and the more enthusiastic ones go even further - Chandrashiela.
Breathless! Both the scenery and I. But the scenic breathlessness was ephemeral, mine stayed with me. The clouds curled in, and enveloped all and sundry. I feel all things ephemeral acquire an exquisiteness that sets them apart. I am told on a clear day the place is mesmeric and sublime. And since for an atheist that I am, I was left to look forward to be blessed with something materialistic through a divine source!
After about 4 Km trek, I was exhausted. We performed some routine rituals in the temple and headed back. Mom and Dad claim they were rejuvenated by the spiritual aura palpable in the temple. For a change, even I felt lightness in my steps. Scientifically speaking, it was the utilization of the Potential Energy that I had accumulated in the process of climbing almost 2500 ft. So when we descent, the steps are lighter, aren’t they? But then why did I accumulate that energy even when I knew I would not be rewarded with the view that a clear day affords? Isn’t believing in the faith of others also a faith?
Certainly there are a few people who need a mention and are entitled to a credit.
Mummy, for driving the car all through the trip, without batting an eyelid. I was witness to unsurpassed vigilance and control on Papa throughout the trip – who held the wheel for Mom. Undoubtedly her reputation stands on being the best driver’s driver. My Dad’s drive and at the same time his driver.
Bunti Bhaiya(@Shailendra Seth), who asked me to email him the photographs of the trip, and I began composing an email not intending to write more than 10-15 words about the trip, probably something like “Trip was gr8 – enjoyed a lot; Missed you!”, carefully punctuated to convey that we enjoyed a lot, since you were missing! Ultimately I gave up the subtlety and ended up writing over 1000 words to convey the idea.
Ujjval (@Ujjval Mehrotra), for clicking horrendous pictures of mine and I retaliating by clicking his horrendous pictures. I think I won the competition. Pictures I clicked are worse.