A pleasant surprise!

So off late I have taken to cycling quite regularly, especially since its winter and its pleasant to be riding knowing the sun is mild and its not too hot. We tried last week to beat our previous best of 94km ride, so we went cycling on the interior routes of Bharuch avoiding all traffic.

 

I am not writing to boast that we actually did over a 100 kms on cycle, but actually about the experience we had whilst visiting a small village on our way. We had been cycling through smaller villages, which are not too cut off from the city way of life and yet they are in their own world. So whenever we stopped at any place for refreshments or tea in a village it was kind of natural to attract attention. Whilst most of these people ply on their cycles they do look at our fancied MTB’s with a little more intrigue. It always makes for interesting conversations. They are fascinated that we cycled so far from our city on our bikes and then the obvious questions about the gears in the bike and the price of the cycle and whether these geared cycles run too fast or run without any effort.

 

Usually to have around 5-7 people around us asking and talking is normal, we are quite used to it and we infact love the attention. We get water refilled promptly, people offering cold water from their jugs or anywhere etc.

 

This time round we reached one small village Malkinpura as we took a sudden turn just because we thought the road looked smooth. This was to be our return point and so we stopped at one small shop which actually looked like the only shop around to ask if we could get some tea. The guy said no tea shop here, we could get it a further 5 kms further where a slightly bigger village was. We kind of stalled there refilled our bottles and actually bought a packet of biscuit and chips to munch on and we got talking with the locals. One gentleman then suddenly offered us to go to his house for tea.

 

We refused politely but the guy said come on, its no big deal and that we must have tea and go since we had cycled so far from Bharuch to his village, around 50kms. We did want to drink tea and so we were not hard to tempt. He asked us to leave the cycles at the village centre and to walk with him to his house. We walked about 10 mins to his house and when we reached we were worried if it was a wise idea to leave the bikes so far away. Surely no one would take them away but people would surely fiddle around with them.

 

Anyways, once at his house the guy, probably in his 70’s asked someone inside his house to bring us tea as we settled on the verandah of his house, he insisted we come inside but we resisted saying it was cooler outside. When on the verandah when one of my friend kind of lied on the floor, immediately our host said why not sleep on the cot (charpai) which was inside his house, when we refused he brought a pillow for my friend. Slightly embarrassed yet mildly amused we kept looking at each other smiling and laughing and talking to our host. The simplicity of these village folks and their willingness to welcome a total stranger was amazing. When we got to talking, we learnt he was a Patel and when the tea came the guy also brought one Papdi (a kind of papad) that the Patel’s are famous for. When we did mention that Patel’s make awesome khichdi he asked us to hang around and rest for lunch whilst his wife would make khichdi! All without a moments hesitation and sort of overwhelming us all. We said we had to go back and that we couldnt eat a heavy lunch as we wanted to cycle back. Infact he took a promise from us that we would come back someday just to eat khichdi at his house!

 

We were amused and happy and also overwhelmed at how welcoming the guy was, wondering if we city folks would ever be like this. We even get pissed off when people we know come to our house unannounced and here this guy who didnt know us was so welcoming. Over all it was a humbling experience.

 

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That is our gracious host with my friend Jay.

 

The simplicity of the life in villages is still so much more better than how we city breds live isn’t it? Can you think of finding a random stranger in the city, bring him home and feed them tea?!

 

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Mela – Kasol Diaries II

At the outset I must apologise for the digression, I have been travelling a tad too much and so this series had taken a break in between as some other things attracted my attention. Yea, I took a road trip to the Himalayas again after the April trip to Parvati Valley, and another road trip to Pune the last weekend. :mrgreen: But well it looks like I am logged back into home now for a while and so my beloved blog should come back to its full gusto.

 

So, whilst we had some unbelievable hospitality experience in Lapaas and stayed in a traditional house at an incredible height with locals, we left that abode after a day and headed to a mela in Buhad. We reached around 6’ish to Buhad, apparently the villagers are trying to manufacture a road which was  evidently not well engineered as we saw Amar struggle to make hair pin turns that were impossible to execute unless he reversed and retried twice! Eventually we persuaded him to park the vehicle at some place and took up a stiff walk of about an hour through apple orchards, and some wheat fields and well a bit of woods too we reached Buhad. The scene on the route was something like this :

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That is why you should always make an effort to walk up the slopes, there always are incredible views from the higher altitude!

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The fields were enviably green and this green colour does so much to help the panting, puffing me on the slopes! I absolutely am given an adrenalin rush which aids getting my heavy body up the mountains!

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and then we came across this lady returning from a hard day’s work, its about time for the mela to begin and she is headed back home. Watching the idyllic yet hard working life of the locals on these slopes in itself is a blessing. Their lives are so much more close to nature and simple that you sometimes really wonder if we urbanites are living a better life full of no hard work and gyms or these folks who work hard and then relax whilst we are gymming! 😛

 

Anyways taking in the sights and capturing some of them in my camera we finally made it to the village of Buhad, as we walked through the scattered houses and narrow lanes between fields we could sense the people being in a festive kind of a mood. The kids were chasing each other or blowing balloons, they had all sorts of toys in their hands from dolls, tops, guns, they’d be chasing each other. The males all seemed to be dressed quite formally with their hats being adorned by ‘Jau’ (barley) shoots, that are specially grown inside the houses to give them no sunlight so that they are yellow and not green. The women folk also seemed to be not working for a change, they seemed to be all sitting about and talking, some even smoking! 🙂 As we made our way into the small chowk, which made itself into a market for the day, this was the sight that had me melting at its mere sight!

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Hell yes, they were making garma garam Jalebi’s and Pakoda’s for the people visiting in the mela’s. What is amazing is that they have an arrangement where in people from neighbouring village come to make these snacks so that the village folks are all free to just enjoy! They all simply participate in the fervour that is prevalent during the mela. They all greeted each other, hugged and in general the atmosphere was very jovial and funny. You could hear laughter from all corners! They would come to their temple to offer their respect to their devta, who would soon be brought out from the temple completely decorated in a Palki (Palanquin) which would be put on the shoulders of the villagers whilst they dance with the weight of their devta on their bodies!

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All dressed and ready to mingle, the Jau(barley) shoots adorn their hats, which is grown inside the house and not in the fields, which means it gets no sunlight and hence is yellow and not green. This is considered auspicious and is offered to the God as well as put on the head as its supposed to bless you.

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The devta(God) is brought out on a Palki like this and then begin the festivities!

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Even the skies approve of this Devta(god) and seem to be sending in a ray of approval! 🙂

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A close look at the Devta!

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Its time to dance, this way the whole valley is being informed that the festivities have begun… Rush to the dance floor!

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The dancers then join in!

 

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Kids at their best are seen doing this! 😀

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The ladies in their traditional gear!

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Those who dont dance are equally engrossed in watching!

All in all its a total festive atmosphere, if you think this is it? No!?

 

Well whilst all of them are mingling, there are people like us and other villagers who come to visit these villages on the day of the mela. As a system, on this day all guests in the village are to be treated by the hosts. So one fellow named Rajinder who was chatting with us and Amar invited us to his house as we were meant to head back to Kasol, he said atleast we must have tea at his house before we left the village. He was so insistent about the fact that we guys had come from all the way to Gujarat and cannot go without seeing the hospitality of the folks of Buhad!

 

Eventually we headed to his house which was amidst a field and an apple orchard, cut off from the world, we reached his house and found that in one room his brother’s friends were all parked and eating and talking, in another room the women had all gathered up!

 

Soon enough we were having tea and pakoda’s. As that came to being wiped off the plate, would you believe it if I told you the guy came up with some 8 bottles of beer and a bottle of Royal Stag! We were like, we came for tea! He wasn’t listening, after the drinks were parked came bowls of Chhole, Rajma and Kadi with some superb Bhatura’s which were being served straight from the frying pan! To think that this guy didn’t even know us, the number of times he would get up from the party to get things for us was unbelievable. I would tell my best of friends during such a gathering to get water for himself and here was this guy, hosting people he didn’t even know and ones he might not probably ever meet again. Running errands like mad, amidst that he regaled us with his stories, he was one of the funniest man you could ever meet too. We laughed and laughed till it was 12 in the night. The guy kept insisting you sleep here tonight and go home the next day, eventually he was called for dancing in the mela and we were able to sneak away humbled to the core.

 

Can you quite comprehend this!? A total stranger takes you to his house, serves you like the best of hosts would, insists you stay a night in his house, generous and gracious, humble to the core and friendly at heart. Would we ever do something like that to someone in the city!?

 

Think it over and do let me know. Also let me know if you guys loved reading this, I loved recounting that day all the much whilst writing this post. 🙂

 

I will leave you with one more image of a local house in Buhad on a Glorious day when I took part in a local mela in a distant village in the Himalaya’s that is not even connected by road!

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Kasol Diaries – 1

Every time I have visited the Himalaya’s I have been awed, apart from being awed at the sheer magnanimity and vastness what has always fascinated me are the small houses and settlements I would see on some pretty steep mountains, I would always wonder, why on earth was someone living up there and why not somewhere lower, perhaps they liked the view or perhaps they liked to stay away from the noise and dust of the lower altitude. Why on earth would someone live up so high where he/she would have such a task taking and bringing things down.

So this year instead of trekking to meadows or cliffs where there was no one, we were trekking to the many little hamlet’s in the lap of Parvati Valley. We were actually looking forward to getting a closer look at the lifestyle of the locals, see them whilst they carried out their daily life, the villages where you couldn’t drive to but had to undertake stiff climbs to reach.

What soon struck me when we stayed with a local in Lapaas was how simply calm they were. Oh yes they were courteous, knew about the world, internet and all that but the simple relaxed frame of mind they all seemed to be in. They never were seen rushing, they would carry on the work in their apple orchards or paddy fields or cutting grass for their cattle in the most easy manner. Whenever I would stop panting for air during my climb and if someone would be crossing us, there would be a “Namaskar” or a “Ram Ram” or an even more concerned “Thak gaye kya”greeting always around. They were always ready to have a chat till you had caught your breath and were ready to resume climbing again. Off they would go on their merry way. Wonder if we city folks would ever have time for others like this.

Coming back to our stay in Lapaas, apparently our friend Amar had told us that he has told one family that we would be coming to stay at their place. When we reached there, we delivered some of the biscuits we had brought for them from the shop at the road below and we were served with Hot Chai with even better biscuits that they already had! Resourceful! The family we stayed with was of 4 members, of which the daughter was not around as she had gone to Kullu, the remaning three Mother, Father and son greeted us with utmost humility and welcomed us. The house was a little away from the main settlement of Lapaas which pleased us a lot, also it had a location to die for, describing it is a little difficult as I lack the vocabulary to describe its serenity & grandness thats where my photography comes in handy. Here are a few pics of that place.

The home where we stayed was perched aside on this hill with valleys on two sides and beyond the valley were snow peaks.

The home where we stayed was perched aside on this hill with valleys on two sides and beyond the valley were snow peaks.

That picture I think tells you about the location completely, at the bottom is the house and the terrace outside the house was where we would sit all day soaking the sun and talking no end!

That picture I think tells you about the location completely, at the bottom is the house and the terrace outside the house was where we would sit all day soaking the sun and talking no end!

Sigh, how I miss the place already. The family we stayed with served us with endless cups of tea, loads of talk about their life, the son was pursuing his 12th and was planning to do B.Tech after that. We wondered if he liked the city life (he studied in Kullu) and the  answer was a negative. He was actually fond of living here, he said he would like to do some proper study and see if he gets some career near by so that he doesn’t have to go to far from his home.

The one thing that struck us was, whilst we may wonder why are people living so high up, its like they have always been high up there. Thats home for them since many generations, its as natural as it can be, they never ever come to the question of climbing a slope for something or not. Yes, modernity has invaded their spaces too, they too have mobiles, internet and tv and whilst maybe say 50-60 years back they never needed anything from the town, now they do need a bit of supply from the town. Perhaps they are not as independent as earlier when they managed to get everything they needed without going to the town, yet, home it is for them.

We walked about the village of Lapaas in the evening visited their temple, which is again located in a superb place, apparently next day there was a mela to happen in Lapaas and the family kept insisting we must not go without seeing the mela. The gent in the family also told me it will make for wonderful photography opportunities.

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We had already committed to attend another mela in Buhad, a slightly bigger settlement which promised an even bigger gathering but we thought we could still stick about till noon and see and immerse in a bit of the festivities the next day.

 

As night fell we returned to our house and in the moonlight the snow peaks looked absolutely ethereal.

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Long shutter click of the night view from Lapaas

As chilly as it was our hearts were warmed by the sheer humility and the glee with which our hosts were talking with us. Chatters we all were till we all realised it was time for dinner. We were served an amazing meal of mutter paneer, aloo gobhi, rajma chawal and salad! Sitting and eating with them was a moment that will stay with me. Not only was the food delicious but the way the hosts went out of the way to make us comfortable and ensured that we all ate to the full was unbelievable.

The hospitality they were indulging in was beyond us city folks, complete strangers, invited to live in their house, sleep in their beds, eat in their vessel and all with genuine smiles and affection.

We slept with our tummies full in this traditional wooden house which was amazingly warm compared to how cold it was outside.

 

The diary continues….

 

Blown away in the wind

I love travelling and I also love capturing what I see with my camera whilst I am on the move, yet there are so many things that go amiss, that are not captured by the lens but only by the naked eye. Whilst somethings stay with us all our lives in our memory and some are captured by the lens or written down somewhere we do forget so many things which at that instant we thought were simply magical.

 

Recently, during our trip to Parvati Valley in Himachal, we tried to attend local festivals and understand local customs as well as living with locals. Stories about the whole experience will come up on the blog a little later. However, I must share this one picture I took. We had gone to a village Buhad, about 15 mins drive and from there a good 2 hour climb away from Kasol to see their mela, their Devta comes out of the temple the day of Baisakhi, people rejoice and dance and worship their god, kids play about and there is a festive atmosphere all around. So whilst I was busy witnessing the little village of Buhad immersed in festivities, my eyes fell upon this little girl. She apparently had bought a bubble blower and decided that she needed to climb up the first floor of her house and watch things from a vantage point. After a while she decided she had enough of watching and took out her bubble blower and started blowing bubbles. Luckily I was able to capture a few of her photographs! I simply loved them and I thought I must share atleast one of them! Here she is looking on at one of the bubble she blew and is sailing away in the wind. Hope you like it as well! 🙂

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The Miracle

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“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marvelling at birds and revelling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”
Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir

I read that quote at Cedo centre in Moti Virani in Kutch and it made me stop and think, the world is abundant of things to marvel at and revelling in ain’t it? If you want to that is, if you are able to stop for a moment, pause, breathe, think and let it dawn upon you! How busy have we become in our routines that we have just stopped noticing so many wonderful things around us. Let us endeavour to just give things one moment more, let us soak up things around us, find the joy of small things and I am quite sure they can make us so much more thankful to this world around us! 🙂

Indomitable – Faces of India!

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Yes that is the only way to describe the spirit of this lady. Like her smile tells you, she lives life to the fullest. At 94, she is a managing trustee of two schools, drives with precision, climbs two storey building without panting, all this amidst thinking of such wonderful events like our school’s reunion. The event was not just a grand success but like many ex-students will tell you a memory that will remain with us like our school life. She not just thought of the idea but also ensured that everything was being done and organised in perfect order. That truly is the way to live a life, with an indomitable spirit like her’s! In her words, her age is only 39! No wonder they say age is only a number, in your mind you can live any age you want to be. This lady is living proof of that!

Hats off to Pushpa Madam! 🙂

Tee hee…

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A group of children were curious on seeing us cyclists rriding in their village first up on monday morning. Some of them chased us and even rode our bikes when we stopped at the ghat to take some pictures of the river.

This lil girl was all tee hee on seeing her friends ride our cycles. I managed to capture a bit of her. 😀