Dreams & Ambitions

Yes, write it down. Hearing it from long long time but every time I wrote down something about my personal life, it was all about the sorrow, tears, the unfulfilled expectations, the wrong perceptions etc. etc. all the negativity of life. Yes, I wrote it down, tear it – NO – forgive but don’t forget.  It helps, yes I have come a long way out of those deep negative valleys, but fear manifests when you want to write your dreams, ambitions, something about future, the mountains you want to climb. Maybe am not ready to believe that just as writing the negativity helped wash it out, writing about my wishes, dreams, ambitions, goals will help fulfill them. Yes, mentally churning in the ocean of thoughts.

Last two days I am trying to list out the things I would like to do in future, but somehow couldn’t go beyond a few line, jotting out in an official list like format. It was like a punishment of thinking what means do I need to achieve these goals, fulfill the dreams, and oh God I was thinking of all the material benefits of the world. Everything is related to money, and yes demonetization makes the thoughts dearer. First it is all about what kind a home I would like to build with all the luxuries and facilities, the four wheels I would like to be driven around in, the lifestyle that I can give to my daughter, travelling to international destinations annually, buying diamonds, etc. Obviously next are the means to achieve all these – oh my – do I really want to run after these things?

My near and dear ones are aware of my personal front, and some of them are like – yes, show it to the world that you are capable of doing much better single handedly, move ahead in life, and acquire wealth and status. Recently, during Diwali, I had this same advice coming from an elderly relative, almost 90 years old, and yes at that moment I felt passionate about it, go for it girl, you can do it….

What do I really want in life? Can I answer my question honestly and sincerely to myself? What is the most important thing in life? My life, be precise. Yes, be selfish and answer honestly.

Feeling blessed with a beautiful daughter and my delicate darling mother, their smiles, and the special bond I share with them, blessed and gratitude to God. Daily viewing the beauty of nature, the chirping of the birds, rustling of dry leaves, seeing the tender buds and new leaves, the joy of touching an old familiar book, the smile on the face of a dirty child on the roadside, the astonishment on the face of a stranger when I give her a broad smile during my morning walks, SOS group tea, chatting and laughing on social media, the innumerable free of cost pleasures of life. But still something is amiss. Give happiness be happy, feel the whole universe as one….

And honestly, the honesty and sincerity flee at this point of time… the fear raises its head, the fear of being vulnerable, the guards are on duty, showing you a mirror from within, raising doubts about own self, don’t you dare, how dare you? But dare I must, to grow, to kill my own fears and not show to the outside world, but give satisfaction to my own self. Yes, achieve all the material goals, work hard, not forgetting the small pleasures, fill the cracks of what is missing, believe that I am worthy of all the bounty life has to offer. Heal the broken heart, gather the broken pieces, heal the soul, smile and be grateful. And never ever forget anyone who willing walks along in this journey of mine, helping me or just being there.

Dreams, yes, earn handsomely, work harder and harder, network, shun non productive and negative things, get a four wheeler and take the SOS girls on a road trip. Don’t forget to visit Europe. And one more wish, yes blurt it out…. Can’t be fulfilled in this life… oh…keep it to myself….

Saddened by Balloons

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Yes, feeling saddened by balloons… Surprising, but every day I cross the Pakwan Signal to and fro from my office, the sight of the polka dotted balloons makes me a wee bit sad.

It so happened that these are new balloons with polka dots, not tied but wrapped around a plastic straw; a real delight for the eyes are a beauty to hold. I had my eyes on them for quite a few days, wanting to buy a few. But normally ignored my wish and drove my two-wheeler away each and every day. But, finally I knew I had to give in to my urge and buy a few of the balloons.

Now my daughter is in college, so I felt that let me buy some for a friend’s niece and nephews. One day I stopped after crossing the signal, called a small about 8-9 year old girl and asked her the price of the balloon. Within a second I was surrounded by almost 6-7 balloon sellers from 6 year old to the eldest who was a young teenage mother,  let me call her “Lakshmi”. The price was Rs. 20/- per balloon. The one who I had approached, let me call her “Anamika”, said that she would give me 2 for Rs. 30/- even when I didn’t negotiate. I assume that the whole gang is together in selling the balloons. So this Lakshmi dominates all and finalizes to give me 3 balloons for Rs. 50/-. Now as I had stopped Anamika for my purchase, so I select 2 balloons from her and one from Lakshmi. I give the Rs. 50/- note in the hand of Lakshmi.

And the drama unfolds. Anamika asks for Rs 30/- for her two balloons. So, I ask Lakshmi to give Anamika her Rs 30/-; as I don’t have change. She tells me that she will give, I insist that she do so right in front of me, Anamika is begging for her money, I am confused, perplexed as to what is happening; the whole traffic and commotion around,  I start driving away. But this young child Anamika is confident that her money is gone and cries in a very loud voice, which is very much audible with traffic honking all around. I stop after driving almost 25 feet and turn back to look. Oh God! Anamika is lying on the road and crying loudly for her money. I look at Lakshmi, and she is totally ignoring Anamika and going her way.

What am I supposed to do? I have paid for the balloons I bought, but one corner of my heart feels that I have betrayed Anamika by not giving her the money. The road side vendor advises me to move on, as it is regular drama for him, and I do so, but with a heavy heart. I decide to give Rs 40/- to Anamika the next time I see her at the signal, and forget the episode for that day. Next day, next day, next day ….. almost a fortnight has gone, and everyday my eyes are searching for Anamika, who is not seen till day.  Now, the sight of the balloons make me sad, I long to find Anamika and give her due, maybe someday I will find her. Till then I pray and send her love and peace, hope that someone better than me has found her, and I wish from the bottom of my heart that she gets educated and has a bright future.

“Celibacy”

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The word “Celibacy” defined by the dictionary as “a state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations” has remained a mystery for me. As a young adult, during my days we could never talk about it as its antonym “Promiscuity” wouldn’t be far behind in the discussion, as oh my that “world of mine” would not hear the “P” of it. Wikipedia defines “Promiscuity – is the practice of having casual sex frequently with different partners or being indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners”. Glad, that today I have progressed enough to write on one of them, obviously mentioning the other.

Thinking of these two conditions is it purely on the physical level or it’s all in the mind?

Maybe, I consider that woman a celibate, who night after night gives in to her husband’s desire, with none left in her to look forward to; for her it is a mere physical act which she undergoes, to avoid xyz things of the life she shares with her husband and her family. Fear of her man becoming promiscuous, facing the brunt of the society that the wife was not able to satisfy him enough, that he started looking elsewhere – are one of the many reasons a woman endures such a relationship. Act after act, she remains celibate.

That again brings me to another fact that a man largely chooses to be celibate or promiscuous. For a woman? Yes the new generation girls are geared up and will choose their way. I am loving it. But, here I am talking of women of my generation, in their late forties, an average Indian woman. It is believed that if you are married, you are in a happy sexual relationship. If the society hears of your affairs (even a single one) you are promiscuous and labeled a slut; and the third respected soul – a happily celibate spinster. Yes, the aunt – your mother’s sister, your father’s sister…. any cousin sister if unmarried she is celibate. Period.  Sometimes even in my forties, during discussions, if this celibate woman is present, I have seen ladies pointing out and stop talking about anything that an unmarried teenage girl shouldn’t be listening to. There is an overload of information in this area, and we Indians are still so immature. Understand that, even if she is a single and a virgin, she understands everything.

So who is to be labeled Celibate and Promiscuous? It’s all in the mind. Draupadi can be celibate with five husbands, and someone without any physical relations can be promiscuous, night after night having desirous dreams of the super hero, cricketer, an actor, a colleague or any handsome guy sighted in the near past.

And why sex alone – you can be celibate or promiscuous for all moral values, ethics and much much more. Yes, it’s all in the mind, there are no pros or cons of being celibate; it’s a personal choice, needed to be respected by one and all. Don’t analyze anyone’s choice and behavior, as it is the woman who only knows whether she’s celibate or promiscuous.

ભાઈ બહેન – પીન અટકી

Sumant & Damyanti
મારા ફૂઈબા અને પપ્પા

આજે સવારે એક મિત્રએ Facebook પર પોતાના પિતાની યાદ તાજી કરી અને મને મારા પિતાની કરાવી. થોડું મન ભરાઈ આવ્યું, પછી વિચાર્યું કે ખુશી ની પળો નેજ યાદ ન કરું? મારા પિતા અમારી જોડે તો હિટલર જેવું અનુશાશન રખાવે, પણ વખત આવ્યે થોડી મજાક મસ્તી પણ કરાવે. જો કોઈ જગા એ પીન એટકે તો નવો વિષય ન મળે ત્યાં સુધી એ વાત પર અડી રહે.

મારા મોટા ફુઈ ને અમે પ્રેમથી બા કહેતા. આજે એ બે ભાઈ બહેન ની યાદ તાજા કરીએ.

વાત એમ છે કે મારા ફુઈ ૩ છોકરાઓ સાથે પીયરમાં જ રહેતા. તે તેમના દીકરા વહુ વગેરે બોહ્ળું કુટુંબ હોવાથી મારા પિતા જુદા રેહતા. હવે જે ઘરમાં રેહતા હોઈ તે વાપરે અને તેજ વારસદાર એટલે મારા દાદીના સ્વર્ગવાસ પછી કોઈ ભાગ પાડવાની વાત નોહતી. ઘર તો ભાડાનું હતું અને બીજું ઘર વખરી, પણ ફુઈબા નાં મનમાં મારા પપ્પા એટલે તેના ભાઈ માટે ખુબ પ્રેમ અને લાગણી; અને એવું પણ લાગે કે સાચ્ચો વારસદાર તો એજ થાય. તો ઘરમાં એક ચાંદી નું પવાલું હતું. કેવું – જુના જમાનામાં લોટા પર મુકતા તેવું કિનારી વાળું અને નીચું. બા તો એક નું એક કીમતી પવાલું હરખભેર અમારે ઘરે આપવા આવ્યા. પપ્પા પણ ખુશ થયા. પપ્પા એ તો મને હરખભેર બોલાવીને બતાવ્યું કે જો બા ચાંદીનું પવાલું લાવ્યા અને કહ્યું કે આ તારી દાદી નો વારસો છે અને બા એ આખે આખો આપણને આપી દીધો છે. તે વખતે હું માંડ ૧૦-૧૧ વર્ષની, અને રોજ રાત્રે અમારે ઉપર સુવા માટે સ્ટીલ નાં લોટા માં પાણી ભરી લઈ જવાનો રીવાજ. હવે રોજનું સ્ટીલનું પવાલું પેલા ચાંદીના પવાલા જેવુજ.  હું તો હાજર જવાબી તરતજ કહ્યું “પણ આ તો પવાલું છે લોટો તો બા એ રાખી લીધો આપણને આપ્યોજ નહી” મને શું ખબર કે ચાંદીનો લોટો તો ક્યારેય ઘરમાં હતોજ નહી. પછી તો મારી આ વાત પર બા આખી જિંદગી અકળાતા અને મારા પપ્પા પણ વારે ઘડીએ તેમને ચીડવતા, “લોટો તો તમે રાખી લીધો”

એક વાર જમતા જમતા મારા પપ્પા એ બા ને ન ગમતી વાત પર મસ મોટું ભાષણ આપવાનું ચાલુ કર્યું. મારા પપ્પા વકીલ, એટલે બોલવામાં પહોચી ન વળાય અને બોલતા બંધ પણ જલ્દી ન કરાય. બા અકળાય પણ કરે શું? હતો ઉનાળો અને જમવામાં કેરીનો રસ અને રોટલી. બા થી બીજું કઇંક તો બોલાય નહી માટે “રસ મુકું?”, “સુમન તને રસ મુકું?”, “રસ મુકું?” એવું ઘડી ઘડી પૂછે. દરેક વખત મારા પપ્પા ઇશારાથી હા/ના પાડે અને પોતાની વાત તો બોલ્યેજ રાખે. ચાર પાંચ વાર પૂછ્યું એટલે મારા પપ્પા અકળાયને ને કહે મને શું બીજાને પણ રસ મુકોને – તો બાએ કહ્યું કે “ક્યારની તને “રસ મુકું?”, “રસ મુકું?” કહું છુ કે ખાવામાં ધ્યાન આપ અને ન ગમતો વિષય પરની વાત બંધ કર”. પછી તો શું આ વાત નું એટલું વતેસર થયું કે આખા કુટુંબમાં કોઈ પણ ન ગમતા વિષય પર વાત શરુ થાય એટલે તરતજ તેને બંધ કરવાનો ખાસ સંવાદ મળી ગયો “રસ મુકું”

ગમે તો વધાવજો નહી તો comment માં શું લખવું – ખબર પડી ને?

Lost Innocence

I met a nice chap today at the Westside store. He is very extrovert, daring, good orator and full of life. He told me all about himself, his home and his family. I was amazed talking to him. He informed me that he had a bigger office than his dad, he owns a car, offered to drop me home (but wouldn’t give his car keys in my hands) told me I need not worry as he has a valid driving license. Followed me thrice in the store, wanted my attention to the fullest. He was even at the door when I left the store.
What are you thinking? He is a cute guy studying in Sr. Kg. He made my day by his innocent pranks. God bless him.

So, where are we adults? We have lost this innocence. Is it the only thing we have lost or maybe an unending list?

કબીરવડ તા. ૩૦.૦૩.૨૦૧૪

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૩૦મી માર્ચની સવારે અનુજાબેન, આરાધના – અનુજબેનની ભાણેજ, અને હું કાર કરી કબીરવડની સહેલગાહે ઉપડ્યા. ચાર દિવસ પેહલાજ આ પ્રોગ્રામ બની ગયો અને અમે ગાડી કરી ઉપડી પડ્યા. નમ્રતાબેનનો ખૂબ આભાર કે સરસ મજાની ગાડી ની વ્યવસ્થા કરી આપી.

એક્ષ્પ્રેસ હાયવે અને ત્યાર પછી L&T દ્વારા ખૂબ સરસ રીતે જાળવવામાં આવેલ નેશનલ હાયવે ૮, પરની સફર સુખદાયક રહી. ભરૂચ આગળ ન્યાયમંદિર ના ગરમ ગરમ ઢોસા અને ઉપમા માણી અમે સુક્લતીર્થ તરફ આગળ વધ્યા. પહોચતાં પહોચતાં સાડા દસ થયા. તડકો તો માથે આવીજ ગયો હતો, પણ અમારો કબીરવડ જોવાનો ઉત્સાહ એથીય વધુ હતો.

જ્યાં હું, અલ્પમ હોવ ત્યાં એકાદ વસ્તુના લોચા તો પડેજ. થોડી વધારે બુધ્ધિ વાપરી મેં અનુજબેનને કહ્યું હતું કે નદી ઓળગતી વખતે ચપ્પલ ભીના થશે માટે જોડે સ્લીપર રાખવા જે હોડીમાં બેસતા ઉતરતા કામ આવે અને પછી કબીરવડ ફરવામાં ચાલવું પડે માટે sportshoe પેહરીને ચાલીશું. પણ મેં તો એવું miscommunication કર્યું કે બન્ને માસી ભાણેજ સ્લીપર તો પેહરી લીધા પણ shoes તો ગાડી માં રહી ગયા. Anyway they took it sportingly, and I roamed in my sports shoes.

નર્મદા નો નદી કિનારો એટલો રળીયામણો કે હોડીમાં બેસતા પેહલાજ નદીનું સૌન્દર્ય માણવા અને આ જમાનાની ટેવ ( કે કુટેવ) પ્રમાણે તેના ફોટા પાડવામાં અમે તો વ્યસ્ત થઇ ગયા. નર્મદા નદીનો પટ એટલો વિશાળ છે, નદી બન્ને કાંઠે વેહતી હતી, અને લાકડાની, એન્જીન વાળી હોડી. અમને તો એ પાંચ મીનીટની boating માં ખૂબ આનંદ થયો. સામે કિનારે ઉતર્યા એટલે તો લાલ લાલ જામફળ, કમરક, કરમદા, જાંબુ વગેરે વગેરે વિવિધ ફળોની લારીઓ. જીભ તો એના સ્વભાવ પ્રમાણે પાણી પાણી થઇ ગઈ. તરતજ કમરક ખરીદીને ખાઈ લીધા. ખાટા કમરક ઉપર મીઠું મરચું ભભરાવીને ખાવાની મજા નિરાળી છે.  ઘર માટે જામફળ, જાંબુ અને ગોરસ આમલી તો કેમ ભૂલાય? હા, ગોરસ આમલીના બી છોલીને નિશાળના દિવસો યાદ કરી લીધા.

નદી કિનારે થોડું ચાલી આગળ વધ્યા અને આ શું? અમારી સામે વિશાળ એવો કબીરવડ ઉભો છે. શું થડ, કેટલા થડ, કેટલી વડવાઈઓ અરેરે જોતો જોતા અમે તો આભા બની ગયા. બધી ગરમી તો આ વયોવૃક્ષ ના છાયડામાં છુ થઇ ગયી. અમે ત્રણે જાણે એક નવી દુનિયામાં પ્રવેશ કર્યો હોય તેમ બે કલાક સુધી કબીરવડ ની સુંદરતા માણતા રહ્યા. કેટલા કુમળા પાન, કેટલી ડાળીઓ, વડની આસપાસ આસોપાલવના ઝાડો, થોડી બોગનવેલ… વાહ વાહ ઓ કુદરત. અને આ શું…. વડના એક મોટા ભાગ પર અગણિત એવા ચામાચીડિયા… (bats) બધા ઊંધાં લટકી ને દિવસે નીંદર માણતા. આટલી મોટી સંખ્યામાં તો પેહલીજ વાર જોયા. જો રાત હોઈ અને બધા ઉડવા માંડે તો મારું તો આવીજ બને. ઉપર ચામાંચીડીયાઓનું રાજ હતું તો નીચે કુતરા, કાગડા અને વાનરો એ મેહફિલ જમાવી હતી. વાનરોથી તો થોડો ડર પણ લાગતો હતો. એક તો water cooler માંથી પાણી ભરવા ગયા ત્યારે એવું વચ્ચે આવ્યું કે અમારે તો ભાગવું પડ્યું. સુંદરતા ની સાથે સાથે એને કેમેરામાં કેદ કરતા કરતા વખત ખૂબ સરસ પસાર થઇ ગયો.  નદી પાર કરી કબીરવડ ને સલામ ભરી, જલ્દીથી પાછા આવીશું નું મનોમન પ્રયોજન કરી અમે કબીરવડની વિદાય લીધી.

નર્મદા નદીને કિનારા નારેશ્વર એટલે શ્રી રંગ અવધૂત મહારાજ નો ધ્યાન આશ્રમ અને નર્મદા નો નિર્મળ કિનારો. આ આશ્રમમાં દર્શન કર્યા, દયાન કુટીરો જોઈ, બે ત્રણ દિવસ માટે રેહવા જવાય તેવી જગ્યા છે. એટલું શાંત અને સુંદર વાતાવરણ. મોટા ભાગે ત્યાં ધ્યાન માટે રેહવા માટે રૂમ આપે છે. નદી કિનારો પણ રળીયામણો છે. મોડું થશે ની ચીંતા કરી નદી કિનારો તો દુરથી જોઈ સંતોષ અનુભવ્યો.

વળતા ગાડીમાં બધું જોયાની, ફિલ્મોની અને અમારા જૂનાં જમાનાની વાતોમાં વખત પસાર થઇ ગયો અને અમદાવાદ આવી ગયું. છેલ્લે સફરમાં સાથ આપનાર પ્યારી દીકરી વિષે: આરાધનાને હું આગળ એક વાર મળી હતી, પણ વધુ સમય સાથે વિતાવવાનો આ પેહલો પ્રસંગ હતો. ખૂબજ સુંદર અને નમણી તો છેજ, પણ ગુણ અને વિનયશીલ તો એથીય વધુ. એને જોઈએ તો આજકાલની છોકરીઓ જેવું ઉછાછરાપણું જરા પણ નહી. ખૂબ ખૂબ આશીર્વાદ

બદ્રીનાથ કેદારનાથ and North India 1983

badarikedar

What excitement!!! Here I am going for a trip for the first time in my life. Till now maybe I have travelled out of Surat till Ahmedabad to મોટીબેન’s place and went to Bombay for 4 days. When I was four, I had gone on a trip to સૌરાષ્ટ્ર with my parents, brother and ઉર્મિલાફુઈ and ફુઆજી.  So, till date no great trip, this is going to be the first one. My Std X exams are over and we are off to હરિદ્વાર by દેહરાદૂન express – catching the train at 2:00 am from Surat. By “We” I mean my parents and my brother. Our neighbors’ કનુકાકા, રેણુકાકાકી, બા – દમયંતીબેન, ઉર્મીલાફુઈ and our loving Bhalnish got tickets after 4 days, so they would join us in હરિદ્વાર.

Here, I am writing about this trip after more than 30 years…. so the memories are a little blur. We stayed at the ગુજરાતી સમાજ.  Before the others joined us, we went to સપ્તરિષી આશ્રમ, various other આશ્રમ’s, the દક્ષપ્રજાપતિ temple, etc. Vividly remember seeing એક મુખી રુદ્રાક્ષ at the સપ્તરિષી આશ્રમ, which at that time was costing 800/- rupees.  These Rs. 800/- were like અધધ for us at that time.  પપ્પા bought 9 ધાબળા and almost 20 sweaters for all family members. So, at the start of the journey પપ્પા અને હું both became the baggage carriers – in those days coolies were a luxury which we could not afford. Between four of us we had nine baggages and mummy and Jwalant would only carry their own, rest 7 were our responsibility.

Then after the others joined us, we went to the મનશાદેવી temple, હર કી પૌડી – had evening આરતી દર્શન.  The floating દીવા made in leaves are a sight which I can never forget. Another thing I remember clearly is that sitting at હર કી પૌડી and watching the Ganges flow. We sat for almost an hour. But constantly watching the river flow at a terrific flow rate I felt as if the river will come and catch me and take me in its flow. The same feeling I had experienced in 1998 when there were floods in the Narmada River; and I was driving my two wheeler, on the Golden Bridge.

From હરિદ્વાર we went to ઋષિકેશ and saw the લક્ષમણ ઝુલા. I remember seeing a lot of lepers sitting on both the sides of the bridge. They sold 2 પૈસે coins pack amounting to 84 પૈસે for Re. 1/-. We bought 2-3 packets from them and distributed among all the beggars. When I revisited ઋષિકેશ in 2008, I was glad to see that the lepers were rehabilitated in housing colonies @ 1 km from લક્ષમણ ઝુલા.

All our journeys are by Government Bus. So the modus operandi was to ask for the bus timings of our next destination and plan for the next day. In those days there were no prior bookings, or maybe we were not smart/rich enough to have one.  The next bus took us to ગૌરીકુંડ, કેદારનાથ ની તળેટી. The journey was almost for 14 hours. I was lost in the scenic beauty of the Great Himalayas. Never been to any hill station before, so all the time during journey, I was like cut-off from all the people – lost in the natural beauty.  Jwalant was feeling nauseated, so he was almost sleeping in all the bus journeys. It was maybe first time in my life that someone in my family was not feeling well, still I was enjoying myself.  Remember having રગડા પેટીસ and પાપડ as big as the થાળી, enroute in the whole Himalayan journey. At ગૌરીકુંડ there were hot water springs – ગરમ પાણી ના ઝરણા. We all took bath in the piping hot water. It was very refreshing, as the atmosphere was very cold and we were tired after the long bus journey. This was my first experience of bathing in a public place, and it was very embarrassing. I remember that the ladies had to coax me to take the bath, but once I was inside the કુંડ I started enjoying myself.

The next day morning we started out climb from ગૌરીકુંડ to કેદારનાથ. We all took the mule – ખચ્ચર. કનુકાકા, રેણુકાકાકી, દમયંતી બા,ઉર્મીલાફુઈ took the ડોલી as the mules would go only upto 8 kms, as the path from there-on was covered with snow. We all planned to walk the rest 6 kms. We were equipped with લાઠી to support us in the walk. It has a special pointed iron bottom, which would hold the લાઠી firmly in the snow. The ride on the mule was enjoyable. Drinking in the beauty of the mountains, watching the mules walk in a straight line on the winding paths. ખચ્ચર ખાઈ side ની કિનાર પરજ ચાલે. We were sometimes very afraid when the valleys were quite deep. I remember the whole path my father is instructing the ખચ્ચરવાલા to make the mules walk in the centre, but they would pay no heed. In fact, today I understand that the mules used to walk on the edge, the ડોલીવાલા in the centre and those on foot would walk near the mountain side. This system would ensure that those on foot are safe.

We alighted from the mules after 8 kms and started our પગપાળા journey. There was a third type of transportation – કંડી. A bamboo basket is tied on the head and waist of a man, and a person can sit inside this basket, back to back with the કંડીવાલા. The કંડીવાલા surrounded us, but we refused to take the સવારી. Despite this three of them started following us. Their target customers were Bhalnish 11yrs, Jwalant 14 yrs and I 16.  Initially we walked with all the gusto. First it was a small break after say 250 steps, then say 200… and it went down to 80 steps. Those ડોલીવાલા knew this beforehand, so they had followed us. After walking for about 3.5 kms, the pointed part of the લાઠી carried by Bhalnish – came down with force on my ankle and pierced it. No first aid nothing. So finally the decision is taken to travel by કંડી. All 3 of us are seated in the કંડી and carried by કંડીવાલા. My parents still are taking the journey on foot. As we are being carried by experts in mountain climbing we reach the કેદારનાથ temple before my parents reach. Those travelling by ડોલી have already reached and even completed the દર્શન. We decide to wait for my parents and then go for દર્શન.

As soon as we reach the temple veranda, a huge landslide occurs. We see a big rock of ice/snow the size of 4 buses put together fall from a high mountain into the valley. It crosses the road that leads to the temple. I am seeing this landslide, an unable to see my parents who are coming by foot. I start asking બા and the other people around me about them. Someone from the crowd says that if they were on that road then they would have fallen in the valley and died. I am shocked and worried; thousands of thoughts come to my mind. બા and ફુઈ tell us to go and do the દર્શન, but I am not interested. In fact they force us and I have to go inside. But within a moment I am out, even call my brother out and wait besides him. I keep myself positioned in such a way that I can see the whole road. After almost 15 minutes my parents along with the પંડા emerge and I am in seventh heaven, relieved to see them. Maybe my જાત્રા is complete doing their દર્શન. As soon as they are near enough, I run to inquire after them. Luckily they met a man in a small hut preparing tea. So, they sat there to have a cup of tea. I am very much indebted to this tea cup, as it has saved the life of my parents. My father too had seen the landslide from his side, and concluded that the cup of tea had saved him. My strength in a supreme power – call it God or anything is strengthened.

I was more attached to my father, vividly remember going with him inside the temple. The શિવલીંગ in કેદારનાથ is not rounded, but like a mountain top. The story goes that Hanuman had broken it with his ગદા. Obviously, I think that someone has made up a Hanuman story, built a temple around a mountain top and cheating people to take so much pain and come for દર્શન. My views in all areas including religion were always revolutionary from the beginning – like my fathers. Maybe we think and analyze too much.  Finally કેદારનાથ દર્શન is over and we return to ગૌરીકુંડ by evening. We are so tired that we hit the bed and go to sleep.

Meanwhile my father inquires about the bus to take us from કેદારનાથ to બદ્રીનાથ. There are two buses – one at 6 in the morning and another at 10:30 am. Our elders decide to take the bus at 10:30, so that we can have a sound sleep after the tiring day and wake up late. So the next day, we are relaxed, ready and take the 10:30 am bus. There are no tourists in this bus, only some locals. The entire tourist has gone by the morning bus. The bus travels for 2 hours, comes to a small village in the mountains and stops.  Oh….Oh….Oh we come to know that the bus will stop here and resume its journey only the next day morning at 6 am. So here we are 9 of us in the bus – in a village where there is no restaurant even for food. We dig into our ગુજ્જુ નાસ્તા packed from home. The driver and conductor inform us that we can’t stay in the bus and will have to find a place for night stay. My father finds some log cabins which the people give for staying, but all are booked for the night. The people who have booked the cabins came at 9 pm. Luckily it is a tourist bus from Mumbai with all ગુજરાતી people. They are kind enough and spare a cabin for us, offer us dinner. We are happy to have ગુજરાતી થાળી after a long time. In the night we can hear the water running nearby, there are a lot of springs in the Himalayas.  Morning’s a big surprise. In the dark we hadn’t seen the location of our log cabin. Morning sunlight we saw it clearly built over a running stream – with a quite heavy flow of water.  Oh my… had we seen the location earlier, we would not have agreed to sleep in that cabin. Anyway it was over. We board the bus and were on our way to બદ્રીનાથ.

Only remember that I spent all my time in the bus journey looking at the beautiful mountains, valleys, small streams, waterfalls, the winding roads….  and enjoyed myself thoroughly. There were mountains of slate stone. In that area the roofs of the houses were also made by slate stone. The slate stone mountains પડ જેવા હોય. There are mountains of Mica. These shine brightly in the sunshine. The mica dust is all over the road and valley. It reflects the sunshine wonderfully. Nature during those days was clean and not polluted. Almost for the last two hours the whole road was covered with snow. The army had cut the snow from the road. So as the bus rode, there was snow on both the sides. Even in the valley side, snow formed a huge wall, almost 20 feet high. It was chilling and I believe the passengers were even frightened. They were all chanting જય બદ્રીનારાયણ on top of their voices. We reach at night, come to know that due to heavy snowfall government is planning to close the દર્શન for one week, so all the hotel owners have closed shop and returned to lower heights. Again we face difficulty in finding a place to stay.  Modi’s Hotel gives us one room. So we have 4 adults and 2 children on the 7 feet double bed, ઉર્મીલાફુઈ the heavily built up one on the sofa, બા અને હું on a dining table. We are so tired that we sleep like logs. The temp is below 0 deg C. Even the toilet water has to be heated up, in the tank – so that it can flow through the tap and flush.

Morning we go to the બદ્રીનાથ temple. Here also there are hot water springs, but it is too cold and we decide not to take a bath. The memory of બદ્રીનાથ is not very clear today. Maybe કેદારનાથ was eventful, so remembering it clearly. We return to ઋષિકેશ. My leg wound from કેદારનાથ is still sore. We visit a local doctor – dresses the wound and gives medicines.

We then take an onward journey – all by state transport buses to વૃન્દાવન, મથુરા and Agra. Lots of temples, but I am not allowed to enter – a lady’s monthly cycle instrumental.  Jwalant and Bhalnish both do not understand, and are after me at each temple, why I am not coming inside. Sometimes I tell them that I am tired, sometimes tell them that I don’t believe in God; and what not – a series of lies. Maybe at that time I had accepted that during those 5 days I am not supposed to enter the temple, so I accepted my situation. In Agra I was very eager to see the Taj Mahal. But here too my ill luck. Both my ફુઈ’s બા and ઉર્મીલાફુઈ came to a conclusion that the Taj was a religious place of the Muslims, as it held a sacred મકબરા, so we have to respect the sentiments of the Muslim religion. So I am banned from entering the Taj Mahal. I am alone and sitting outside for almost 3-4 hours in the same position and same place (warned not to move from where they had left me). My only sightseeing is seeing people enter and exit the gorgeous monument. Today at least I can say that I have been to the Tajmahal and seen it. The Taj is a beauty described and written about by many – so I need not elaborate on it. Remembering a small ગુજરાતી શાયરી written on the Tajmahal – author is unknown to me.

                                      અરે ઓ તાજ જોનારા, તને ગુલઝાર લાગે છે

                                       ઢોળાતી ચાંદનીમાં ઝૂલતો આરસ તણો અવતાર લાગે છે

                                        મળે જો શાહજહાં તો એટલો પૈગામ તું કેહ્જે

                                         કે સુતેલી મુમતાઝ ને પથ્થર તણો આ ભાર લાગે છે

We bought an almost 1 feet big Tajmahal replica – it housed a light bulb inside and looked beautiful when illuminated. One more baggage to carry till Surat.

From Agra we went to Delhi. Reached Delhi at almost 10 pm. The station and nearby area wore a deserted look. We took three auto rickshaws’ and told them to take us to ગુજરતી સમાજ. After driving for almost an hour we reached, paid the fare, and relaxed. Next day morning the sight from the window surprised us to the core. What is this? We could not believe our eyes. Is this really so? Oh no, the sight was that of the railway station. Those રિક્ષાવાળાઓ turned out to be દિલ્હી ના ઠગ – made us ઉલ્લુ and took the auto fare. First experience in Delhi. So, we became all the more conscious. Maybe next day we took the Delhi દર્શન bus. It was April and very hot in Delhi. I was down with fever, gulping down medicines. I didn’t get down at રાજઘાટ to see the સમાધિ of Mahatma Gandhi. It still pinches me today. Maybe the heat was too much for me to bear along with the fever. In fact, the Delhi sightseeing and shopping at ચાંદની ચોક are erased from my memory.

The return journey to Surat by train was also very painful. We had no reservations, were sitting in the passage area between seats and near the toilet. It was a long journey and we got seats only after half the journey was over.

Yes, as the budget was tight and we were 9 people on the tour પપ્પા had decided not to buy a roll for the camera. So no snap shots of this tour. Maybe for બા, ઉર્મીલાફુઈ and Bhalnish, he must not have charged more than the train fare, so the trip of 21 days was a bit heavy on his purse. We could take this trip only on the insistence of our neighbors’ મદનભાઈ, બાલુભાઈ and મંગુકાકા. Thanks to them. Today I feel that my father didn’t have all the luxuries that we enjoy today; maybe this trip was a major joy in his life. After many years too, he used to remember this trip – which has helped me today to write down many things.