Monday, April 8, 2013

Arrival in Kedarnath (Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek 12.)


1: Trek preparations
2: Arrival in Gangotri
3: Gathering of Motley's Crew
4: Out of Gangotri
5: Beyond Bugyals
6: Trapped over cliffs
7: Auden's Col crossing
8: Trapped in the Khatling Glacier
9: Lucky to be alive
10: Back to the ices
11: Mayali Pass Crossing
12: Arrival in Kedarnath

After many days of walk in the ices and glaciers, we arrive at the Kedarnath Temple at 3PM. Luckily place is not crowded yet, we visit temple and offer our prayers. Baba brought a small vial of Gangajal from Gangotri, he puts some drops on the Kedarnath Shivalinga then he shares few remaining drops with me and Briana for the same purpose. He refuses to share his Gangajal with Biswas saying that he is Ravana and he is after Sita (Briana).
I reason out with him saying that Ravana was also a Shiv Bhagat so this makes 1008 and Biswas brothers.
Baba shouts in the Kedarnath temple, “राम भी तो शिव का भगत था, राम ने ही रावन को मार गिराया था.”
We come out of the temple to have tea at a restaurant.
Baba says to us, “आज से मैं श्री श्री 2008 हुआ और तुम 1008 हुए. क्यों की मैं 1008 पहले से ही था.”
Briana and Biswas are exited at their Promotion and they shout with ecstasy, “जय भोले बाबा.”
“जय भोले बाबा.”
I am not excited,
I wanted more points. It is gross injustice.
I am Naradmuni, I brought them here.
“ले नारदमुनी, ले गांजा खींच.”
Baba hands me his pipe and I suck it deep and then return it to him.
Baba shouts, “बम बम भोले.”
We shout back, “बम बम भोले.”
Then he whispers in my ear looking towards Biswas, “इसपर नज़र रखना. यह आदमी खरा नहीं है.”
I say to Baba, “पर अब यह भी तो 1008 हो गया है, अब तो इसमें भी पावर है?”
“मेरे हाथ में होता तो मैं इससे सिर्फ श्री श्री 008 करता पर यह मेरे हाथ में नहीं था. यह तो देवताओं के हाथ में है.”
We eat samosas and drink tea.
Baba says, “कभी माउं अभ्रेष्ट पर जाना बने तो मैं भी साथ हो लूँगा.”
“माउं अभ्रेष्ट?”
“हाँ वोह सबसे बड़ा पहाड़ जो नेपाल मैं है.”
“अच्छा अच्छा, माउंट एवरेस्ट.”
“हाँ हाँ वोही.”
I ask Bhasmasur, “वहां के कितने श्री-श्री-श्री मिलेंगे?”
“पता करना होगा, कम से कम दो हज़ार तो बनेंगे ही.”
“फिर तो ठीक है. बनातें है प्रोग्राम.”
He leaves us to join his fraternity at some dhoona arrangement and that was the last of him we saw.

Vasuki Tal to Kedarnath

In Kedarnath we take 2 hotel rooms for 200 rupee each. We pay extra for hot water and have bath.
From a PCO Biswas calls his office but they refuse to extend his vacation. He wants to hang around Briana assuming he is already half way. He has no alternative but to reach Calcutta as soon possible. He decides to leave tomorrow morning by Helicopter.
He asks me, “तुम्हे वायदा याद है ना.”
I say, “बिलकुल, मेरे तरफ से पूरी कॊशिश रहे गी.”
“गप्प तो नहीं हांकते ?”
“मैं जमीं आसमान हिला दूंगा.”
Since I owed a spectacular dinner to all but Baba is not found so we three go to a restaurant in the evening. I order just each and everything on the menu. Bhindi Masala and Toor Daal are the best of best so we order these more.
When we return in our hotel, I ask Biswas to write a letter to Briana and I will give to her after he is gone.
He loves this idea – but where to find papers in Keadarnath.
We both go out and bring several khaki colored paper-bags (lifafas) from a Halwai.
Nights are very cold in Kedarnath as it is nearly 12000 feet from MSL. We retreat in our rooms and as usual there is no electricity.
In the morning Biswas looks all beaten up with his face swelled up. He tells that he had intense craving for ganja at night. He was not able to sleep a single minute. Although he is not a smoker but in the freezing night he went out to find a cigarette or bidi that luckily he could not find any.
He packs up his bori and we walk with him to Helicopter booking counter.

Near Kedarnath
We stop to have a tea at a restaurant overlooking at the temple.
Briana holds my both hands and looks in my eyes, she says sweetly, “Praveen, would you take me to Mount Everest, next September.”
I get very angry and try to keep myself under control.
Now she says sweetly, “Am I asking too much?”
I explode at her, “Talaq Talaq Talaq.”
She screams at me, “To give divorce you got to marry me first.”
Biswas says to her sweetly, “I will take you to Mount Everest. I will marry you.”
I yell, “Yes, this is a very good idea.”
Biswas says softly to her, “And I am a man of commitment.”
I yell, “Go with him, he will cook you Navratan Korma at the Everest.”

Arrival at Kedarnath Temple
Staffer at Helicopter booking counter looks at Biswas from head to feet, and then he stares at his backpack, “How heavy it is?”
“About twenty kilos.”
“No it is at least forty.”
Biswas feels insulted.
He yelps, “No it is not forty.”
“You are allowed to carry only two kilo on the helicopter.”
Now we three walk to the Donkey booking counter, now he wants a donkey to carry his backpack saying he will walk beside the beast. There again we encounter serious harassment regarding the weight of his backpack.
They ask him, “इतना सामान यहाँ केदारनाथ से, भाई ऐसी कैसी चीज़ है जो तुम यहाँ से नीचे को सप्लाई कर रहे हो?”
Biswas mews, “मैं गंगोत्री से चल कर दस दिन मैं आया हूँ, इसमें मेरे रहने खाने का इंतजाम है.”
Now they are astonished to realize that the man has carried on his shoulders, his ten days boarding and lodging arrangements.
Finally a price is negotiated for donkey and he is about to leave.
I hand him my high altitude jacket as I promised. His jacket, tent and bedding are full of holes.
He specially went to a man in Dharavi Slums in Mumbai to get his jacket and backpack custom made but both things are very heavy. Giving him my jacket, I share some responsibility. My jacket is almost new, ultra-light, ultra-thin and feather-stuffed. It even survived the treacherous slide that we had on the loose rubble to come down the Khatling Glacier. I want to give him my sleeping bag and pad also but Briana brought these for me and she is equally possessive of her things.
He opens his backpack to push in my jacket, two donkeys approach his luggage. Very aggressively they both push all us away and dig their muzzles in the opening. One Donkey, with one swipe of his snout pulls out some underwear along with a turnip and runs away to eat it up. Then other Donkey pokes his snout in it and pulls out a baingan (bringal). Donkey driver hits the donkey with a cane and it runs away guarding his trophy.

Kedarnath Streets
Biswas reassembles his backpack and places it on his donkey.
I and Briana shake hands with him and he leaves.
After seeing him off we walk in the bugyals. Whole area is devoid of vegetation, all grass is grazed by donkeys and mules, all bushes are plucked off for fire. Nothing grows around. We keep walking up and up till we find bushes of Sedum. We sit at a high place overlooking the town.
From this height Briana is busy looking at the people coming from Gaurikund and feeling a respite as they touch the flat area of bugyal and now suddenly Kedarnath town in front of them under the massif of Kedardome peak and they are stunned. People just are astounded upon seeing the temple town after the arduous climb where everyone thinks about how or if they will ever reach the most holy Kedarnath Temple. Everybody stops there and looks towards the temple with joined hands to respect God Shiva. Now everybody has a hope and a chance of a dream coming true.
Then these people are arriving at the Mandakini Bridge after the final walk on 2 kilometers of almost flat bugyal.
Finally they arrived. It is an equal triumph for adults, old people, children and all.
Near the bridge, almost everybody kneels on the ground to pay respect to the Holy One.
They made it.
Most of them will be departing within two hours because they have to do more temples and more places and are already running short on time.
As Briana’s mind is caught up in the scenes below, to keep my pledge with Biswas I start making my point.
I say to Briana, “This Biswas is ….”
“This Biswas is what?”
“They are three brothers and two sisters.”
She is still engaged in the views. “Yeah I know.”
“All except him are married.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Three brothers and four houses – they got.”
“Yes I know.”
“Three brothers and three dookans.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Moreover he has a good job in Pharmaceutical Industry.”
“Yeah I know.”

Pilgrims reaching near Kedarnath
She is still engrossed in the pilgrim scenes below. Now she is looking at the people arriving here on the mules and donkeys. They are in the worse shape then those who walked and are happy to touch the firm ground and almost all have developed leg sores. As they get down they stand with the wide open legs or collapse on the ground while mule driver is waiting to get paid. Somehow they pay him and then lie on the ground for some minutes. Then they cross the river funnily walking with wide open legs as they are still sitting on the beast. I wonder about the relief that beast got after shedding the weight.
I continue my subject, “He has one car, one scooter and one bicycle.”
She is busy looking at a group of Rajasthani ladies wearing extremely colorful clothes arriving at the bridge. They all kneel down and kiss the earth.
Briana says, “Huh! Good for him but why scooter, scooters are obsolete, why not a motorcycle?”
“Scooter is more useful for dookanars, they can place large sacs at their feet.”
“Oh! I didn’t know that.”
I say, “You should. You must.”
Her mind is still caught up in the activities below, she says, “Okey.”
So not to overcook and give the seed a chance to sprout, I leave her alone.
I must do it in homeopathy doses.
I walk towards a cluster of Anemone and Gentiana flowers.
When I return she is now looking at the Pandas chasing new arrivals. They are targetting mostly illiterate and village folks because their schemes rarely work on the city slickers. They offer a basic room for whatever donations are offered voluntarily. Later on, using their cunning stories they rob almost everything from people except the return fare to get to their village. Each Panda has a unique cunning scheme or rather scam. Some present proofs that he is running an orphanage in Haridwar whereas there is just one orphanage in Haridwar. That is on Har Ki Pauri, that houses about 12 near adult street vendors. There is another Sri Ram Foundation Orphanage in Kankhal but not really an orphanage in the real sense.
But Kedarnath, Pandas are running more than 20 orphanages in Haridwar alone. Another Panda has the story that he is running a cow shelter and needs donations, some are running hospitals for wounded stray animals and what not.

Final descent to Kedarnath
To give her another dose I say to her, “This Biswas is …”
“What this Biswas is?”
“He loves dogs.”
“Oh really, I never knew he has a dog.”
“No he doesn’t.”
“He doesn’t?”
“No because they bit him five times but he ain’t got any of his own. But he loves dogs.”
She wonders, “Five times is too many times to be true.”
I say, “He worked in a medicines factory and there he brought home some smell and dogs were getting mad at him.”
“Oh, now I get it. My uncle Freddy has the same problem but it is his own smell.”
She is looking at the helicopter that just took off to Augustmuni.
She sighs, “Wish we could take helicopter to Augustmuni.’
“But we can’t, we got luggage.”
“Discard the goddamned luggage here.”
“Are you crazy, these sleeping bags, backpacks and my things. These cost me more than a thousand pounds, you already gave away the jacket that I bought for you.”
I sigh, “I guess we will pay a visit to Donkey Booking Counter then.”
Clouds are thickening and suddenly whole valley is full with mist. In some minutes whole valley is dark it becomes freezing cold and we begin walking down. As we are half way sky gets black and with a great thunderous rain and hail. We start running on the steep slopes. We cross the donkeys and mules station and then find a shelter near the bridge along with others. A mixture of rain, snow and hails is now falling in this high altitude.
There a boy comes to me and says, “पहचाना?”
“फिर सोचो ”
“उस दिन भी बारिश, बरफ और ओले गिर रहे थे. रात का टेम था.”
“यहाँ, बिलकुल इसी जगह पर.”
He is tearful. He cries, “तुमने मुझे नहीं पहचाना? मैं हूँ राजू घोड़े वाला.”
Now I remember him and I am stunned.
Small world after all.
I cry with joy, “ओ राजू, यार तुम बड़े हो गए. तीन साल पहले वाले राजू नहीं रहे. अब तो तुम्हारी मूंछें भी आ गईं.”
He touches my feet and in reciprocal I touch his feet to get even and he jumps away to prevent me doing this.
My memory takes me back to three years when I was in Kedarnath with my friends but they left for Badrinath and I stayed. We arrived in the evening and my friend left immediately after paying respects at the temple. It begun raining and then turned into a vicious hailstorm. It stopped at night, temperature went below freezing and ice was forming on the ground. I came out of my room to have a stroll because I was sitting inside for several hours. Then again suddenly it again begun raining with a mixture of snow and ice. I ran to this shelter. It was dark.
In the flash of lightning I saw a kid standing next to me, he was weeping. He looked like my little nephew Varun who was in 4th class at that time. I thought the kid was lost. I held him by his finger and brought him to the market. He was cold and trembling, I touched his forehead and he had high fever. We had a cup of tea and I asked if he was hungry and he was. We both ate food. Then I asked him his story. He told his name was Raju.
His village was near Ghuttu and his father died two month ago. He and his elder brother who was just 2 years older then him, they both came to Kedarnath with their horse to make a living. Brother got sick and stayed in Gourikund and Raju himself brought horse with some goods to Kedarnath alone. As it is a standard practice, he left his horse free to graze and horse did not return. He was whistling to attract the attention of his horse and then he walked around and went on the high slopes to find him but no success. He had no money, he was to return back to Gaurikund where they live under a shared shed with other ghodewala and cook under the sky. He was wearing torn clothes, not enough for Kedarnath weather.

Kedarnath temple in the town of Kedarnath
There was no sense in finding his horse at 9PM in the snowing. I brought him to my room and gave him paracetamol for his fever. He slept with me and whole night he was clinging to me in the fear that I will leave him alone and run away. In the very morning he woke me up and begged me to come with him to find his horse. I gave him some of my clothes to warm him up. We came out and walked to the bugyals after the bridge. He whistled and shouted for his horse. We went all over the slopes and shouted “Titu”. Then we returned to Kedarnath in utter frustration. As we were near the bridge and Titu came running to him.
Wow! It was a happy ending.
Then at that day we had tea at the stall where horse people drink tea as beasts are not allowed after the bridge and Raju and Titu departed.
Raju tells me that now they have 3 horses. His brother and sister got married and brother now has a small shop near Ghuttu and they are now in a better financial shape. We walk to the market and have tea and samosas near the temple.
Briana asks me to ask Raju, “Where is Mr.Titu?”
Raju tell, “Mr. Titu got his leg broken on a trip to Kedarnath and he was abandoned. He roams free in his village and having good time.”
“At least someone got lucky,” sighs Briana.
Then Raju departs because it is his job to shuttle between Gaurikund and Kedarnath. He says tomorrow early morning he will be visiting us in our room.
Now Briana is very curious to know this whole story and I tell her.
At evening, to have some fun I tell to Briana, “Last night Biswas wrote you a several page long letter.”
She is flabbergasted.
She stares at me with her big blue eyes and says, “Really – He wrote?”
“Yes. He was saying he wrote his heart contents, songs and poems of sort.”
She says surprisingly, “But he didn’t give me any letter.”
“He gave it to me, told me to give it to you only after he is gone.”
“Where is the letter, I want to read it.”
“I don’t know, it is somewhere in my or your backpack. I got to find out. I forgot all about it.”
She is desperate now.
“Then find the Goddamn letter, I want to read it.”
“I am tired, I will find it tomorrow.”
“I haven’t read anything for the last two weeks, I want to read it. NOW.”
“Its too dark, I am going out to buy mombatti.”

Donkey in Kedarnath
Now she is busy doing biopsy of both backpacks and I come out of room to roam free in the damp streets of Kedarnath.
Two days later we left Kedarnath on the helicopter. It lifted to barely just enough height where we saw a glimpse of Mayali Pass and then it took a plunge in the valley over the Mandakini river. Within a minute it made a curve over the ravine and Gaurikund was left behind. In five minutes it passed in between Guptkashi and Ukhimath and then we landed at Augustmuni.
There we found Raju waiting for us with our goddamn luggage.
About Kedarnath:
I wrote this post in March 2013 and same day it was submitted. Kedarnath town was mostly wiped out by mudslides in June 2013.
It was bound to happen.
Too many pilgrims, tourists and vendors. All vegetation is plucked away as fodder or as fuel. Poor horses, mules and donkeys too don’t get enough to graze they settle for eating roots and dirt. Nothing much left in those bugyals where too many people venture. That includes Hemkund area and Badrinath also.
It appears that these events will become a routine and a part of our lives unless every single person does something about it.
Every single person is responsible.
I am responsible for all this.
About Shri Shri 3008 Avdhoot:
Yes he was 3008 last year and probably even higher now.
I haven’t been to Gangotri since then. I went up-to Harsil twice but it was not temple season and roads to Gangotri were blocked with snows. If anybody visits Gangotri and finds Baba, I will be happy to know about him.
About Shri Shri 1008 Biswas:
He reached Delhi and took a flight to Calcutta. At home he cooked the Baingan that he carried from Gangotri to Kedarnath and then to Calcutta. Actually he made its curry and distributed it as a prasad to whole of his family and friends.
(Donkey ate his other Baingan in Kedarnath)
And magic happened –
Same girl called him. Before she rejected him saying that he is lacking personality and is not stylish enough for her but after his Auden’s Col story published in the newspaper he was again worthy of her.
He told me that she said to him, “Although you have many flaws in your personality but true love must be rewarded. I will marry you. I will attend to your each and every flaw and fix you up and make you a real man.”
I guess it was the power of those 1008 points.
And he was very happy about this all.
Then he also said, “Now there is even bigger Panga – now my family hates her.”
He got married and also got recruited permanently in the personality-improvement Boot Camp. After that I never heard from him. He just vanished. He never replied any emails after that.
Probably I was the first person his wife ordered him to blacklist followed by many others.
May God Bless Him.
I told Briana about that Baingan-magic and she expressed her opinion that since that Baingan too undertook this Narad Muni’s route with us on so it became Sri Sri 1008 Baingan. So it possessed magical powers. She was relieved that Biswas is now engaged because he was bombarding her with love-song emails about ten each day. He even sent her the pictures of his backpack that he has made ready for Everest Expedition with her. His backpack was about the size and shape of a Bajaj auto-rickshaw.
About Shri Shri 1008 Briana:
She says she cannot trade off the memories of this walk with anything else in the world. This walk rejuvenated and reinvented her. This walk erased everything of the past from the slate of her mind and she started afresh.
About Shri Shri 1008 Praveen Wadhwa:
He was not happy about being given only 1008 Shri Shri-s. After-all he was the leader and deserved more points but Baba could not allot him more as per rules and regulations of the Upper World.
Baba said to him sternly, “Rule is rule and order is order. I cannot make you even 1009.”
PW wanted at-least 500 points more than others.
1508 – Yeh hoo naa saka.
As usual life was always unfair to him.
However Baba did him a favor, he made him Avdhoot, he recommended him to puff Ganza often to keep his senses alert and eventually he also will be enlightened like Baba himself.
और बाबा ने उसको हिदायत दी थी के उन सब लोगों से दूर रहना जो भी बोरी जैसे दीखते हैं और बोरियों से प्यार करते हैं.
Auden’s Col Series Ends here.
Most probably this series may come to the notice of Mr. Biswas Mahajan (name slightly changed). If he feels my version of events is different than his own – he is most welcome to comment here and bring this to the notice of all readers.
Had I known his whereabouts – I was to send him this series prior to it came online.
However I deeply respect and admire Biswas and give him a big salute. He is a very courageous person unlike me. I did this trek because I was under obligation but he did it with his own free spirit. He did it when he was never even prepared to do it and never planned or never dreamed about doing it.
I was very reluctant to write series this because I though it would be very difficult to explain the emotional toll in encountering such circumstances.
Still I feel I am unable to explain it as it happened.


  1. “आज से मैं श्री श्री 2008 हुआ और तुम 1008 हुए.


  2. Praveen Ji,

    Found you on net after you disappeared from Ghumakkar. Great to see that you are actually writing books now. Would love to get my hands on your books. The t-log is fantastic as always.

  3. Praveen Ji,

    Found you on net after you disappeared from Ghumakkar. Great to see that you are actually writing books now. Would love to get my hands on your book. The t-log is fantastic as always.

  4. After marathon reading of your series i'm made me smile, it worried me, it made my heart beats go higher....thanks for writing this gem.
    A big salute to you sir...i crossed col through your eyes
    Tell briana that one more guy is ready to take him to everest ;)

  5. Hi Praveeen,

    I got to know about your blog sometime back thru' a friend who sent me your blog link and was a bit curious to browse thru' ...the click on “Auden’s Col” link aroused my interest to read more on Gangotri – Kedarnath exploration as we had been contemplating to do this trek from quite some time and reading from various blogs about the route map. Your trek routes opened new avenues which were till date unknown to us.

    The travelogue is quite interesting as well as informative not only in terms of its content but also filled with lots of humour, romance and each very character portrays quite lasting effect in reader’s mind. Had any of these characters been missing, be it Briana or Baba or Biswas or the little boy from Kedarnath, the story surely would not have been so gripping as it had been…

    Coming to the mail trek part, your detailed study and data collection worked quite perfect in accomplishing your goal to reach Kedarnath the way you had planned. I am quite curious to ask if you can share the detailed trek route maps thru email as we have been planning to trek thru this route and any info / guidance received will be highly valuable in making planning/preparations.

    I look forward to reading more links of your blog now and wish to stay connected thru your blog …

  6. Sir please inform where r your new posts published

  7. Hi Praveen, Good to see you, Can i know your book names so that i can read those.


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