Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Journey is the Destination

The river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future. 
--- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

The road was a mere track of crushed stones and mud. A tiny stream cut its way on the mountain slope on the left, zig zagging its way, gushing like a teenage girl, making its way to a giggling little brook on the other end. The ice was still frozen over it, forming a cave, from within which it flowed endlessly. In the process, it also cut through the road as the bus jolted over the rocky stream and made its way into the valley. Inside the bus, the atmosphere was tense. Local Spiti men and women wanted to reach their villages quickly. The sun had already set and the landscape of the valley, like a moving picture had already changed a million shots per second, a documentary of millenniums of geographical evolution over a few hours. For the travellers inside, Indians like me and Anjali, or the foreigners - a British, three Americans, one French and one Danish, it was travel for travel’s sake. For this was not an easy ride. Every curve of the road spelt a bottomless rocky end with one mistake by the driver of the bus. By daylight, we sat mesmerised by our surroundings. Lofty peaks, rain kissed meadows of green, wildflowers of every hue in abundance, the last remains of the winter ice letting water through to flow into the speedy and mighty Spiti. As the river cut its way into the deep gorge of the Spiti valley, we followed its tracks on the edge of the mountains, round about-ing, rising and dropping altitude, over the two passes - Rohtang-la and Kunzam-la.

Time should cease to become important while travelling anywhere in India. Nobody appreciated that more, than the Danish girl. Stuck at Rohtang for over six hours due to a landslide, we munched on Manali Lichis on the roadside, trekking to precarious edges to take leaks, and making fun of Indian tourists in snow suits making their way to the pass to ski and click photographs. (I do not want to sound like a high-nosed “backpacking traveller” looking down at “tourism”. But the sight is really comical. Besides they cause loggerjams on the pass with their vehicles from the plains.) I think she said, “It is the inconsistencies of travel that make the experience annoying and beautiful at the same time.” or maybe she said, “Time is not a controllable commodity.” or maybe I’m making this up as I write. It doesn’t matter what she said. Moments like these, of endless wait, make me feel that time does not exist.

The non-existent time translated itself into a fearful, surreal bus ride into an altogether different aspect of nature itself. We crossed Kunzam-la, after a very late lunch at 5pm in Batal. There lies a small cosy mud house that serves the most precious food anywhere in the world. From here you can see the entire valley traversed from Manali onwards, only to leave it behind, to climb higher. Kunzam was crossed at 7pm, amongst raging howling winds. The darkness offset the white snow on the ranges, as prayer flags fluttered abuzz, their bright colors subdued in the decreasing light. Everyone on the bus prayed for a safe journey at the Kunzam gompa and the driver kicked in the gas at full speed. Or almost. The lack of shock absorbers on the “ordinary” HRTC roadways bus was never felt fully until now. The lights were switched off, leaving only the blue and red bulbs over pictures of sundry Gods and Goddesses towering above the driver’s seat.

The mind had already become numb over ten hours of travel and the landscape turned pitch black. If one pressed one’s face to the window, only dark outlines of the mountains were visible. The silhouettes moved with the pace of the bus, like ghostly shadows as the red-blue lighted interiors of the bus played bhajans. And we sang along. For a moment, I could not differentiate between the brown river and the muddy road. How was the driver maneuvering over water? He wasn’t of course. But he was magically jumping over stony interruptions caused by the many streams, described more romantically in the beginning of this piece. No, they were menacing. One tilt of the tyre on a stone in the stream could topple our bus on our heads. But that was not the last of my un-doped fantasies. Small lights crop up in the distance from time to time. Maybe that’s Kaza, the capital of Spiti. We are close, aren’t we? No. We cross thousands of these villages (of course they a few in number in daytime) as their lights loom close floating in mid-air surrounded by black like glow worms. I hallucinate beautiful bokehs. I give up. I’m going to sleep. I cannot imagine what I’m travelling through, what’s under or over me. I need static. But sleep is not easy, with a local lad stretched and sleeping over my shoulder from behind my seat.

Huts at Batal (above)

Kaza Bus Stand (above)

I don’t exactly remember now, how long it took to reach Kaza. It was nearly 11pm. We had started at 5am from Manali. Like the other travellers, we had no place to live. The town was shut. The dogs were sleeping. We were rescued by the owner of Tashi-delek guest house. Crashing the night, the altitude kicked in the next morning with splitting headache and dizziness. But I opened the curtains of my room to a landscape - so unreal, unfamiliar, mystical, so brown and so green, so desolate and so charming, so lofty and so humble, so earthy and yet sacred....where the water of the Spiti river flowed, only to pull me away with it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In the lap of the Dhauladhars

“I’ve been here since 1984”, said He. I exclaimed and replied to him that I was here last in 2007. And he said, “Yes, you do look familiar.” I wonder if I really did seem familiar to the man who ran the Magic View cafe 2500 metres above sea level, considering the number of people that climb to Triund in Himachal year after year, seasons after seasons, some who trek much further beyond and others like me who return aching and panting, totally unfit from city life but nevertheless vouching to come back again and hoping to get higher the next time. Me and Aparna had just eaten the most expensive and delicious Maggi of our life here at 80 Rupees per head. We ate hungrily looking down at the valley in front of us which nestled an eclectic civilization of Tibetans, Himachali folk, travellers, pseudo-hippies and trekkers. Up ahead the Dhauladhar range was sparklingly snow covered and shining in the sun. Below in Mcleodganj, the Dalai Lama was giving a special sermon at his monastery on the occasion of Losar while election was a few days away. Beside us two foreigners- one in a turban and the other in a hat talked non-stop of the meaning of life oblivious of us. An obese American sat quietly by himself munching the same masala Maggi concoction on the other end. Mr Magic view was rolling his number nth. Then there were the Japanese tourists, Indian boys clicking pictures incessantly and Punjabi boys playing dhinchak music as they trekked!

Where was I again? I was in the lap of the Dhauladhars, watching them watching me under changing colours of light from morning to night, going round and round them on foot and on bus for three days. At 2500 m, like all things in the mountains, we were close but way too far. “I want to be at the top of that point up there”, wished Aparna listlessly looking at the many magnificently imposing peaks in front of us. We both could do with some weight loss to even get to this same spot in lesser time when we returned again! 300 m up from here, Triund was covered with snow and we were late to get up there and come back down by nightfall as planned. Later in the night on returning to Dharamsala from our run up and down to Magic View, we sat cross legged and stared at the fantastic view of the range glowing in the moonlight from our host’s house. A single light flickered in the direction of the Triund ridge top. So close and so far yet again! I almost felt like a mountaineer who had to return back to base camp because of bad weather and just short of the peak by a few metres. It was bittersweet – much like those many things in life that you yearn for but can only reach so far.

The Dhauladhars were our companions for the three days we spent trapeezing over and under Dharamsala, Mcleodganj, Kangra and Dharamkot – they stretched out for us in full splendour in Kangra as we gazed at them through 9th century ruins atop the ancient fort. Here they had seen epic battles and the history of the Indian civilization unfold. We mellowed in their presence in Dharamsala as we woke up to catch the sun rising behind them. They played peek-a-boo in Mcleodganj bathed in a pinkish glow of the sunset as we woozied over Tempest apple cider (locally brewed). And at Dharamkot we looked up at the trekking trail we had left behind and said goodbye to the tiny speck of a hut of the Magic View cafe from where we could get to them closest just yet. Their whitewashed peaks remain a memory bathed with a melancholic glow.

P.S: Special thanks to the invaluable Himachal Path Parivahan Nigam without whom this trip would not be possible.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Remnants of a grand legacy

The pictures taken by photographer Paul Saltzman of The Beatles in Rishikesh, while they spent three months at the Maharishi Yogi Ashram in 1968, are some of my favourite photographs of the fab four. I've always found the easy languor and freedom of spirit portrayed in those pictures very attractive. I particularly like a picture of Lennon and McCartney dressed in kurtas and chappals, composing together sitting on a doorstep. I had always wanted to stand on the same spot where the band once stood and gave transcendental meditation a shot. I wanted to visit the ashram where they wrote many of the songs that appeared on the band's later albums, especially the White Album. Maybe I'd spot a stray piece of paper with some lyrics scribbled on it that had miraculously survived the ravages of time, just as their music has. The Beatles Ashram, as it is better known, is hard to find these days. It is tucked away inside the Rajaji National Park in Rishikesh, Uttrakhand. During a recent visit, I was determined to trace it down and pay my respects. You have to cross the Ganga and walk about 4 km past various ashrams and cowsheds, till you come across a signboard that points to the Beatles Ashram. Soon you reach a shady alcove, besides which the river flows peacefully, its waters glistening in the sun. The ashram itself is in a state of ruin. There is only one guard who keeps watch from one of the balconies on the first floor. The architecture of the ashram is simple and elegant, and reminds me of a haveli. The peeling arches, the broken stairs and the crumbling jaali doors seem frozen in time. I stand there transfixed, turning back time as I walk into musty rooms that smell of decay, wondering whose private enclosure I am trespassing. It's unfortunate that this musical monument has not been restored by anyone and is falling apart every day. I'd recommend every visitor to Rishikesh to go to the ashram. If you are a Beatle maniac, then put this right on top of your must-visit list!

The above article appeared in HT Travel on 17/07/2010. To see online link click here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


"To understand Puja, you must understand Calcutta. And to understand Calcutta , you must understand the Bengali. It's not easy. Certainly, you can't do it till you come and live here, till you let Calcutta suffuse your being, invade your bloodstream and steal your soul. But once you have, you'll love Calcutta forever. Wherever you go, a bit of Calcutta will go with you. I know, because it's happened to me. And every Puja, I am overcome by the magic of Bengal. It's a feeling that'll never go away."

I rarely do enjoy reading Vir Sanghvi these days, but these words, I must acknowledge. Because he really does resound my feelings. I lived in Calcutta, following the heels of my father's posting. Like other places before it, I called it home even if I knew I was leaving someday. Leaving the people, the memories, my rooms that were full of my wall-scribbles, the loves, the places on the street, and the parts where you suddenly came-of-age.

I look back at my first day in the city. I was just a 20 year old lost in the crowd - I took refuge in the chaos of Chowringhee, chugged along slowly at a tram's pace, wept with joy in the city's beautiful rains, and drowned my sorrows in a puchka.

My most resounding memory of the city, is an early morning. On my way back from Pune with some friends from college in 2004, our 2nd class compartment (that was lashing with rains all night as we crossed the Bengal countryside) moved into Howrah station at 5am. The tracks were wet. So were the platforms. As we drove back home towards South Calcutta, I was drinking in the rain lashed roads. I was breathing an early morning of the city. People waking up slowly, hand-pumps working, water-bearers tip-toeing like ballet dancers, the breeze caressing my face, crossing Howrah and going home.

And that is what I miss the most. And that is why I'm almost tearful when I see Durga dancing in the Bengal monsoon in Pather Panchali.

Calcutta - I miss the little things. Walking early in the morning crossing Gariahat market, drinking dhap, eating a singhara at Gol Park, sleeping in class, listening to history lectures in Bangla, being clued out, taking a tram ride from Rashbehari Av to Maidan, buying my camera in Chowinghee, doing a telephonic interview with Bappi-da, pillion riding a bike in the lanes of Tangra, writing Final Cal Uni Exams in Tollygunge, watching an auto get stuck in tram lines near College street and overturn....

The other day I was in JNU in Delhi getting myself registered for an M.A in Arts and Aesthetics. I sought help from a senior on campus regarding a problem of procuring my Migration Certificate from Calcutta University. He asked me surprisingly, "Tumi ki Bangali?!" I've always felt this inside-outside connection with places....and at moments like these when a stranger is curious about my ethnicity or my home, I can't help but ask my home neither here nor there....or is it everywhere?

Going back to subject of Pujas, I witnessed my first ever Bhashan or immersion last year on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi. I still remember all the vivid colors and the chaos of the people and the idols jostling together to and fro to the hypnotic beats of the dhakis. I found myself in that crowd of music and chanting...I found myself coming alive trying to capture the moments as best as I could with my camera. Maybe I was certainly lost before this. As the goddess fell in one instant into the water to melt into it, I too melted a part of me along with her.

And then here I was back to the city of my early 20's after 5 long years. It felt surreal to be back, to be able to identify with the people and the places and yet be an onlooker...through a camera viewfinder. How still similar is the city to Louis Malle's 1969 film Calcutta? I didn't feel any change after five felt the same..the same old world. I was unable to place my feelings about my relationship with the city.

How did I look at the city six years ago? I kept thinking...jogging my memory to put words to a subconscious feeling. And I could only come up with one explanation - it was home. Those lanes, and bylanes and cornershops, the windows, the geography and the modes of transportation, everything everything was seeped within. So well sunk into the soul...that five years later...coming back to it all was as much a displacement of myself, as it was when I came here for the very first time.

Calcutta, Oh Calcutta...I still haven't figured you out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


heady summer days
lead to cold winter nights
and it will soon be time

it will be foggy again
the mist enveloping
love will still be a mystery
like the seasons..
doesn't everything come and go?
over and over

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Beatles
Year: 1968
Lyrics: George Harrison
Album: White Album

Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all the little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in.

Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
Always have clean shirts to play around in.

In their sties with all their backing
They don't care what goes on around
In their eyes there's something lacking
What they need's a damn good whacking.

Everywhere there's lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010




I'm trying to find a good copy of Ingmar Bergman's Summer with Monika (1953)...think it's time I saw this one, in the killing heat of Delhi. These stills from the film, have always fascinated me. Maybe its the the youth of the actors....their complete immersion into each other.....

And here are below some random words of me own.....
Summer oh summer!

let me run free in a wide meadow
ill sleep intoxicated in a flower bed
and dream sunny dreams


brown eyed boy
i watch you look
into a space
far out
take me there
where i can stay
watching you gaze


the music breathes me in
into a state of ecstasy
i reach the edge and flow
in and out over and below
closing my eyes
i enter my fantasy
dancing a dream


Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Last Director

I just read an insightful tribute to Dennis Hopper in Sight & Sound magazine written by Brad Stevens and am wallowing in the discovery of one of his directorial films that I want to watch eagerly now, and a singer whose music feels really good this Friday night.

Song: Only when it rains by John Buck Wilkin
Album: In search of Food Clothing Shelter and Sex (LP-1970, USA)
Film: The Last Movie (1971)
Director: Dennis Hopper

It's a wonderful song. Ecoutez!

Link to Only when it rains

As always my biggest grouse is accessibility! Where can I find The Last Movie? (no result on my trusted download site). Where can I find the music of John Wilkin? The internet is throwing nothing on him (not even wikipedia). This just makes my quest for obscurity stronger! I did find the LP cover below.....

only when it rains does it rain
only when it stops, it is no more

all of them princes
all of them gone
all of them lovers
in search of their own
and you can look to the mountains
and look to the seas
but don't come calling
cause you won't find me
hmmmm hmmm hmmmmmmmm

For more on the film to understand why the song has been shot the way it has, here's the Sight & Sound link.
I have over the years started believing in breaking narratives down...only with anarchy does something new emerge. Can't wait to watch this one.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Riding Easy

As someone who is a fan of Jack Kerouac, and a fan of all the crazy souls who love and live to be on the road, Easy Rider (1969) is a film that is affecting. Today, on the day of Dennis Hopper's death, I decided to sit and watch the film, his debut as a director. Hopper won for Best debut at Cannes in that year for the film.

Prepare for a real trip (drugs included) with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson across America from L.A to New Orleans, through mountains, down rivers, meeting freedom-loving hippies trying to live off the land to the other extreme of conservative white Americans who could hate you for growing your hair.

What is freedom? What is it today - to be free...?

"I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em."

I'm amazed to read online, that Hopper made a film that was almost 5 hours long, and it was edited for over a year and brought to its current size. I enjoyed the way the acid trip sequence was edited, to be able to translate the experience of a trip onto film, is usually a work of art.

The music is great! Good ol' Steppenwolf, The Byrds, Hendrix and whole lot of others I must listen to. It's the music that really adds to its cult status. The opening credits cut to Born to be Wild...I don't think anyone can re-create that magic of Fonda and Hopper on their bikes riding out onto the great U.S Highway...looking for their America. Like a true nature's child, we were born to be wild, we have climbed so high, no never gonna die....

No, you are never gonna die.

Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Life is a Haiku

I've been attempting haiku writing off late...inspired while reading Kerouac's Dharma Bums mostly. Some crude attempts below (all are not technically correct).

Copyright: Harmanpreet Kaur


under bodhi tree;
writing haiku poetry

the inane brings
sublime joy;
kills mundane

yellow wildflowers
sing in autumn;
riverside blues

Depression -

need that love
in you;
i sink

thanks for the drink
i die

i fall into
the abyss;
rising from within

waves of melancholy
rising and falling;
time stands still

feel so gone
at my age;
i need - a drink, a good meal, dessert, deep inane silly conversation, love. besame mucho. s'il vous plait.

Random -

on my workstation;
coffee spills

she fills the blanks
of an excel sheet;
colored boxes

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Glass Onion

The Beatles Ashram or more appropriately, the Maharishi Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh is located at a tranquil end of the city, a way that takes you through temples, ashrams, everything sellers, quaint cafes with foreigners dressed in crisp kurtas, chappals and rudraksh malas. At the end of the road, we spotted a yogi teaching a foreign lady the correct posture for an asana under a giant old tree. The river Ganga flowed on by, with its water glistening in the sun. We wandered on, till we reached a dead-end and dipped our feet in the cold river and felt the overhead sun beating down. Lazy after the walk, we napped. We walked back and spotted the Ashram's ruins. It felt like a shrine, a broken down haveli.... haunted with the spirits...of music...tangible structures too hold many things intangible.

I hope the Indian Government, which has taken control of the structure, restores it, and makes it open to all Beatles fans and visitors alike.

“Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”

- Andrei Tarkovsky

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The drive down from Dalhousie in the Chamba district of Himachal towards Pathankot in Punjab is through sleepy hamlets with small patches of bright yellow sarson flowers in full bloom. It is a descent that takes you through the hills of the Dhauldhar range, a memory for which I have no exact photograph, because I wanted to view it from my own eyes instead of a camera's viewfinder. (this does not mean I am lazy when it comes to clicking the shutter. Just a sensual state of languor)

It is in this state of semi-hypnosis that life feels clear often. Though what is that clarity, I cannot describe. Round and round, around you go, up and down over those curves, looking at crop circles of pahadi aloos (mountain potatoes). They are ingenious - these step farms. You can see the crop patterns from afar. They feel singularly alien. And as the mountain draws closer, you can see them pop up close with a lone farmer woman working by herself at the edges. Then a single house perched somewhere in the middle of the mountain. I next imagine a house for myself perched precariously somewhere at the heart of a mountain.

I burst out of that fantasy, for a clear view of the Ravi river. The light of the setting sun has painted a strange spectrum of red over it. The water glows basked in a bloody glory. And you leave it behind, craning your neck for another glimpse, another angle. The mountains surrounding it leave you. They come into view, and they go away again as your car spirals on downwards. You're watching them, they're watching you. And then they're no more.

Then there are villages, with cow dung cakes and wisened old sardars on charpoys. There is a sweet scent in the air and the sun escapes into the trees to the music on my ipod (Led Zeppelin are crooning Over the hills and far away). A finely cut-music video - where the view in front of my eyes intermingles with my day-dreams. In those moments, I want to hold on to the experience, knowing very well that it is only passing away. In another hour I'll be eating aloo paranthas in Pathankot. In three hours I'll be in a train reading a book. In ten hours I'll be crossing Kashmere gate. In a day I'll be posting my pictures on facebook. In weeks, I'll be writing about it. And there I've written it.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about a beautiful descent lying in my memory as fresh as those bright yellow buds of sarson.

Friday, December 18, 2009

From my Travel Logs dated 26 July '09


"If you keep coming to the mountains long enough, one day when you get old, you will realise that those who keep coming here, are closer to the Gods." - Mr Sethi's parting words to me who I'd met on the bus to Kaza.

A strange early morning exit from Keylong at 3:30am, through non-lighted streets and rugged fields of scented flowers, a torchlight, hotel assistant and clear star-lit pristine skies.....
Caught the bus to Gramphoo.....slept.....and awoke to mist. Waiting for the bus to Kaza at 6am at Gramphoo...... and a lucky bus came along.....empty army bus.....with only us, two ladhakis carrying their wares, and the elderly 60 yr old Sethi couple. Most friendly company.
Journey into Spiti valley - breathtaking (complete loss of adjectives!)
Change of landscape and the feel of Ladakh creeps in. Very interesting to meet the Sethi's - they drove to Kaza in a Wagon R from Shimla, travelled to Leh via state bus and are now back heading to Kaza. Young at heart!
And peeing in the wilderness is getting trickier.....!

27 July '09


Headiness. Altitude sickness....did nothing but laze and visit a government hospital to get pulse and O2 levels checked. Walked to the market in the evening...ambled but faced breathlessness. Lovely breeze and gentle drizzle.....people wondered looking at me walking alone.
German Bakery of Kaza! Saved the day with a brownie and postcard shopping...ambled on across the homes and the lanes of Kaza town.......

28 July '09


Headed to Ki monastery and sipped tea with two friendly monks inside......and then onto the village of Kibber. Crossed a group of foreigners hitching a ride on a tractor - and spotted our Slovenian couple again - waving like crazy!
Rest......more lazing and reading......and doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.

30 July '09


2 days of a lot of driving - Pin valley and Chandertal today.
I leave Kaza tomorrow at 4am for Manali. Kaza is such a small place.....I can see foreigners in the market who simple seem to belong here. Sometimes, hanging out at bohemian places in India, makes me feel......I'm sort of invading or visiting their territory.
Locals are really play chess all the time while women carry children on their backs, lots of labourers from Bihar here and lots of new constructions taking place.
Never ending Landscape.
It is hot, dusty.....but I look at rivers that keep it too cliche to say I see a meaning of life here.......?
William Dalrymple mentions (In Xanadu) - Oriental ism of Europeans during Colonization.... so true on this journey....... Westernization of us?
No Indian Woman traveler in these parts!
No Indian Male traveler in these parts!
Except for bikers and army men.......!
Bye Kaza!

31st July '09


Back to Manali - rain and the gurgling Beas. After a 12 hour bus journey from Kaza at 4am.....
What a bus ride! Crowded, packed and shaky as ever, bad roads again, blinding mist, blinding curves, rain, people sitting on the floor of the bus.........
Another interesting couple (I seem to meet only couples on this trip!)....from Scotland and England - archaeologists Helen and Paul......on a 5 month sabbatical from their firm due to the recession.

Heading to Delhi tomorrow but everything about a city feels alien.....after watching the glory of nature untamed, unbound for the past 10 days.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fading Light

what's better than fading sunlight at dusk
does the heart feel a slight chill
as the sun escapes into the thick of the trees
or do those receding rays leave their last touch
of warmth on your face
with the breeze blowing gently in your hair
and the sun glowing its way about
what's better i ask of you my dear friend
than this time that fades in, and fades out

.....written on an aimless Saturday as I sat in office looking out at the rays of winter light.

[Photo: Moonpeak Cafe, Mcleodganj - I clicked this on our last day there during our trip in 2007]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From my Travel Logs dated 24 July'09


I enter the Kullu Valley and catch a glimpse of the Beas river from within my bus early morning at 6am. The gushing sounds of the river, the beautiful entry into Kullu Valley surrounded by massive mountains and the encircling river listening to Jimmy Page's guitar on my ipod...falling asleep and waking up to sunlight filtering through misty mountains and hamlets. I'd lost all memory of the Beas, only remember pictures of it from childhood trips. A beautiful river! I am a pagan worshipper! Mountain Gods and River Goddesses.........

From my Travel Logs dated 25 July'09


The route to Keylong form Manali had the narrowest of passes, landslides, bad roads...and a bumpy bus ride over 8 hours from Manali starting 5am. So bumpy that my intestines were shaking in and out.....but I was thrilled that I was taking this bumpy hop across mountains......never-ending majestic mountains of Lahaul Valley, friendly people on the bus; a tiring ride ending in a killer climb to the hotel, hungry, dead and panting for O2 at this mighty altitude. Felt like a drive across to the other end of the world, and it's only been one day. Note to self:- I should have asked the Slovenian dude for a rolled up joint.

Tommorow:- Over 10 hours of bus again - I hope to reach Kaza! Keylong reminds me of Leh, although smaller and seems to be a pitstop for those moving onto Leh. A very small town compared to Manali. Hot day and chilly evening....but landscape breathtaking. Kullu Valley, Lahaul Valley and onto Spiti Valley......rivers and mountains.....nothing but landscape dots the mind.....long to meet interesting people living and visiting this landscape. be continued.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shift Focus

Friends, I've begun a new chapter in my blogging activity by starting a fresh new blog on Wordpress. This one will always stay, as I plan to continue fuelling it with my vagabond-ness! But I'm moving from my random writings towards something more focussed, atleast for a while. So, do drop by at :


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Memory is the only paradise from which we cannot be driven.

Jean Paul Richter

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bibi, Begum aur Patni

Well, I've had a mammoth film viweing day of three classic hindi films depicting the social life of Indians in three different periods.

1. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962)
2. Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977)
3. Katha (1983)

Although Sahib Bibi and Shatranj were set in a time older than their year of release, I found certain similarities and observations on the role of men and women in Indian society in all three of them.

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam: Meena Kumari's character is of a woman who is married to a rich landlord of Calcutta (pre-independence) who is given to heavy drinking and womanising at the kotha. But she is not like the other women in the house who quietly ignore these antics of their husbands and as according to her sister-in-law even support it as a 'manly' activity. She wants to spend time with her husband, or what else does she have to do the entire day! Her Husband is like a God, and she must serve him at all times, so much that she will drink liquor and sing for him (blasphemy in those days). I really liked her performance, it was powerful and conveyed the dichotomy of her situation very well. The song, "na jao sayian" is haunting with her drunk presence and Alvi's camera movements. But why does she have a deep devotion for her husband who clearly does not care for her? Was it a survival technique for women in those days who could not be economically or socially liberated? Or was it in some sense a powerful effort on her part to claim her husband back to where he belonged?
But there is only a slight retribution for her at the end, as her husband lies bedridden and she ironic role reversal.
Waheedas's character on the other hand is of a woman who is also taking charge of her life, even though it is within archaic child marriage rules.

Shatranj ke Khiladi: Shabana Azmi is Sanjeev Kumar's wife who has clearly lost interest in her to his chess board. Here too, Azmi's character tries to connive Kumar's character into spending time with her. She is desperate and even sexually deprived. But the man here is not interested in being physical. On the other hand, Jaffrey's wife (a robust Fareeda Jalal) is cheating on him with his nephew and clearly expressing her sexuality. I found these to be brilliant characterisations.

Katha: Deepti Naval's character is easily attracted to the "bad-boy" Farooque Sheikh. While on the other hand Naseeruddin is never able to express his love for her till the last moment nor does Deepti's character guage his emotions. But what struck me was when Farooque's character asks her if she is 'modern and liberated'. As soon as she admits she is (hesitatingly), he finds it easy to canoodle and get her into bed. But even after facing humiliation from him, Naseer's character accepts her in the end as who she is.

All in all......I'm trying to place how women are portrayed in Indian Cinema through the ages. Why is a woman portrayed to be begging for a man's affection? And yet, they are infinitely free and powerful. It says something about our patriachal society, which has been, and still is going strong, if not directly but subtly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Thinker and Miss Curious, Kaza

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wade in the water, Children