Monday, February 18, 2013

Ancient Pilgrims Trail in Himalayas Part VIII


Travel story ended in Part VII
Did I tell it all?
It is not over till it is over …….
Everything must be told.
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View from Vikram’s home
When we were about to leave Uttarkashi city ghat at night, many things happened. The pehalwan from Kumud (Halwai’s son) who honored us in his village, visited us on that ghat. To find us in Uttarkashi didn’t require some serious detective work. Being with OUR Pehalwan, was a sort of wearing a neon sign upon us. This gentleman first went to our hotel and from there he was directed to the ghat where I usually hang around. So he appeared on the ghat. Our Pehalwan, (his hero) lost badly but still he touched his feet and to our embarrassment he touched our feet too. Our Pehalwan, tearfully gave him a grand hug.
He gave me an envelope containing the money I left under the pillow in Vikram’s home. Also a handwritten message from Vikram that he is keeping watch but cannot keep the money because we were guests in his home and it will be a great insult to keep the money. This messenger pehalwan left immediately, we begged him to have at least a cup of tea with us but he was in rush to get to his aunt’s village in the mountains to spend night there. He had to walk 8 kilometers on mountain trails to get there; and it was already dark. We requested him to stay with us but he had to attend other errands at his relative’s home so he rushed back. I only cursed myself for leaving that money there under the pillow; it only created trouble for others.
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Before Uttarkashi area is a bit dry. After Uttarkashi it is very green.
Vikram (Ghode Wala) is by no means a rich man but rather reverse. Calling him poor will only break his big heart. The day he took us in his home, just 2 days before he lost all his life savings when he returned from Kedarnath because his horses (whole village’s horses) were denied entry on the trail due to Equine Influenza fears. Each year they took their horses to Kedarnath in yatra season to serve the pilgrims and that’s how they made a chunk of their living. In this trip they spend for themselves and for their horses for 10 days. It was at least 3 days walk to Kedarnath, 3 days to return and 4 days to struggle with govt. officials to gain entry on the trail. On the way back they got stuck in the snow blizzard and they and their horses nearly froze to death. That happened only 3 days before we met him. Their many horses were still critically sick so they desperately waited for the veterinary medical team that government promised to send.
Tragically they thought we were that team. (Sigh!)
Still he returned the money to us.
Incredible People of India.
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Valley near Uttarkashi
Second thing happened on the ghat of Uttarkashi that night; Our Pehalwan’s wife got the real account of her husband’s wrestle from his sister, because half her village also watched the inami-dungal. Pehalwan’s wife called him and there was some juicy fight between them. Although river Ganges was roaring and crashing but still we couldn’t help to overhear. Phelwan who was already broken and bruised, was beaten again verbally by his wife. He had tears in his eyes.
She wanted to talk with me too so he handed his cellphone to me. She was furious on me too saying that I lied to her and also that it was I who let him go fight when I could have stopped him because he was sick and because he revered me and because he would have done anything that I told him or rather ordered him.
Could I!
Could I stop him? Could I stop him self-vomiting? He was always claiming that he knew about the buffaloes and milk like the back of his right hand.
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After Uttarkashi, near Assiganga valley
Third thing happened: After Ganga Mai Aarti, we were still on the ghat and immersed in the roar of Holy River. Pehalwan took another call from his wife. She gave him the news that she bought that buffalo for the money they already had. There was one condition attached with the sale that they must raise the calf (daughter of buffalo) till 2 years (she was already one year old) till she becomes adult then she will go back to the previous owner. His wife also gave him the news that some pundit of Dev Prayag predicted to the owner that this buffalo will no more bear girl calves hence he was selling off the buffalo but while still owning the girl-calf for free. Also owner immediately needed money to buy a jeep. So Pehalwan’s father-in-law was to settle the deal in the morning by paying cash.
Pehalwan didn’t know what to make out of this news; weather it was good or bad. We assured him that it was never predictable about male or female prospective calf. Probably he was convinced that his buffalo may bear female calf his happiness returned.
He was to return in the morning and then next day after, he had to walk this buffalo-daughter pair from the bottom of the mountain to the top of mountain to his village.
Our Pehalwan was very happy now. This time he had tears of joy.
He did some pushups on the ghat and then sang a Gharwali song.
We went to market and bought a liquor bottle to celebrate and a bottle of mustard oil for our last massages.
I asked him if buffaloes too need massage.
“I never thought about it before.”, he replied after some serious thought, “They should and they must. They will.”
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Stepped rive plantation in Indravati Valley, next to Uttarkashi
This happened 3 years ago.
Only thing I remembered about Pehalwan that his village was near the famous Chanrabadni Temple. And this year in March 2012 when I visited Dev Prayag, I asked several jeep drives who ply on that route and one driver happened to know him so I sent him a message. In the remote mountains, sending messages through people is a way of life and it is quite reliable because these people are very responsible and they depend upon this personal massaging system. Anytime when we took a bus or jeep in the mountains, driver stopped at various places to give message to people.
“Ram Prakash ji koo bool dena ki Chandpur gaon mai Om Parkash ji to keh dae ki ………………… ”
I knew that pehalwan will get the message.
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Dev Prayag Ghat
He showed up next day at our guest house there he was sent on the famous ghat of Dev Prayag and all the sudden he jumped in front of me and gave me a tight bear hug and then a forced massage (he had mustard oil bottle in his pocket). My wife was very scared of him initially but then she realized that he is a gentle soul. Then I gave him a massage. It was quite a scene at the ghat. A pilgrim party from Tamilandu clapped on us and cheered us.
He also brought us lots of food and lots of homemade butter. We returned the butter because we were in no position to carry it back in our home. He insisted that we come to his home but may be next time.
So here is the current news about Pehalwan. His buffalo gave birth to three girl-calves one after another in succession. Not just his buffalo’s khana-abadi, but his wife too gave birth to a baby boy. Now he had 2 milk giving buffaloes and another will be ready next year. He has a little diary farm going and they are very happy.
A note about Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa)
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Punarnava
After this trip I studied more about Punarnava and it has become my favorite herb. I have treated many people’s liver and kidney ailment with this herb. Works wonders on alcoholics. This herb grows all over India except at high altitudes. It is very easy to identify it. This is a wonder herb and works like magic if taken as raw green leaves. It is also sold in market as Punarnava ark, Punarnava-aristh etc. I can write thousands of words about Punarnava but this is not the theme of this website.
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Punarnava
There is a little catch to identify it. A almost similar herb also grows around it the only difference is that Punarnava has larger leaves. Second most important feature is that Punarnava leaves have leathery and rough texture whereas the identical plant has delicate and smooth leaves. Third difference is that Punarnava has red stem.
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Punarnava
A personal note about Ganges Ghat in Uttarkashi:
I am addicted to this ghat. I love this place. Everybody loves this place. Pilgrims visit this ghat in yatra season and they all say that it is difficult to move away from this ghat. This ghat always brought me luck. Anything that I wised came true. Pehalwan’s wish came true, mine came true. Once I brought 6 friends to Uttarkashi, they all wanted to settle abroad and all six are now settled in their choice of countries. Once our driver (a well known drunkard and also a chain smoker) asked me on this ghat to take him to USA. I sent him the supporting documents in assumption that he will never get USA visa, he was illiterate and forever drunk. He got visa and came to USA in just 45 days (in USA he created some serious troubles for me) and then gained Canadian Permanent Residence (in just 2 years) … (long story).
Call it superstition, call it emotions or call it whatever you wish.
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Ghat of Uttarkashi
This place brings you luck and I guarantee it.
Vikram’s name is not real. He is a typical Sagittarius moreover he is a horseman too (Symbol of Sagittarius)
We took this trail 3 years ago, several cell-phones ago and several SIM cards ago; I lost his phone number. I also forgot the names of 3 villages on our trail including Vikram’s village. At that time I never thought that I will write a story about this all so never kept any notes or reminders. I never kept any note in my life.
I might have written a letter to him, it was so simple. Just write his name + ghodewala + “The last village on the mountain on the trail from Budha Kedar to Kumud”; and send this letter to the postmaster of Budha Kedar or Kumud. Unfortunately I didn’t …………..
Harish’s name is not real because he is a very discrete and private man; a typical Scorpio. Although he equally participated in this journey and took part in all the joys and mischief on this trail. He traveled/travels a lot with me and I mentioned his name in other blogs but he was not happy about it so his name is not real. He is an engineer, 20 years younger than I, and also lives in USA.
Pehalwan’s name is not mentioned in this whole story because he WILL not like to see this fact advertised that he lost in wrestling competition in Uttarkashi; a typical Leo.
BUT He won our hearts.
He won his buffalo.
My name and my story is real; I am a typical Cancer.
All people of Uttranchal always won our hearts.
Hotel where we always stay in Uttarkashi is: Hotel Gautam Park.
A decent budget hotel but I am stuck there anyway whenever I am in Uttarkashi. Owner is my deep-deep friend (another very long travel story). Time and again he discovered that I am staying in other hotel, when I returned to my hotel I was given the news that my room was raided and belongings transferred to Hotel Gautam Park. Scenes of Ganges are stunning from this hotel and its terrace.
We
Harish and my wife Vimla on Uttarkashi ghat
Final Note about how to do this trekking:
Budha Kedar can be accessed by Srinagar (Garhwal) to Ghanshali and then to Budha Kedar. Plenty of hotels in Ghanshali but only 2 shack like hotels in Budha Kedar. The trek we took is not very difficult and nobody is denied accommodation and food on this way. I heard stories in the village when accommodation was provided to even foreigners and all.
Budha Kedar is more famous for the other more ardors trekkers who take Belak to Bhatwari and then to Gangotri route. Those trekkers come equipped with their tents and provisions.
Our journey didn’t end there in Uttarkashi but the theme of this post ended because then we diverted from the Ancient Pilgrims trail in Himalayas towards Barkot, that is in Yamuna Valley.
Now that requires another series.
Travelling is good; all good things happen in travel.
Walking is good; all best things happen in walking.
Jai Ganga Mai.
Jai Mother Ganges.
She is always travelling and she is always new.

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