Sunday, December 13, 2009
In the Summer of 1987 we were in Delhi .My mother too was with us.We had plans of going to the Kashmir Valley but due to heavy rush the bookings were not available. We then met up in New Delhi with a very close friend of Sudhir who was on his way to Haridwar with a group of family and friends on way to the 'Chaar Dhaam Yatra'.
He had arranged a Yatra( Pilgrimage) party of people to the 'Chaar Dhaam ' or the four holiest of holies of Hinduism----Gangotri-Yamnotri-Kedarnath-Ba
drinath. These places of Pilgrimage are situated in the Himalayas at heights beginning at 8000 feet and more.Gangotri is the source of the River Ganges or Ganga,Yamunotri the source of the River Yamuna, Kedarnath,an abode of Lord Shiva and Badrinath,an abode of Lord Vishnu.
This trip had been arranged through the Garhwal Nigam--a Government of Uttar Pradesh(U.P) board.On New Delhi Railway Station we learnt that 5 seats were available on this journey due to the cancellation of a family of fivewho could not make it because of some personal problems.Tickets were not available anyway for Kashmir so we decided to join the Pilgrimage group and make the Yatra instead.
The first stop was Haridwar--the gateway to the Yatra.Here we spent 4 days sight-seeing and absorbing the ambience on the banks of the River Ganga.The highlight used to be the evening prayer on the banks of the Ganga.It is a very mystical experience to be there physically and take part in the worship----the roaring sound of the Ganga with the tolling of bells,clashing of cymbals and a thousand voices raised in hymns of worship---Har Har Gangey!!!
Our journey started on the 7th.May 1987 from Haridwar in the afternoon.We drove through dense evergreen forests to the first stop which was to be at Daak Patthar on the way to Yamunotri.The beautiful Sunset gradually faded into pale purple and later indigo shadows dotted with the tiny twinkling lights of the scattered hamlets we passed.The cool wind was sighing in the trees and the smell of distant wood fires flirted with our nostrils.It was an enchanting experience!!
Dawn was streaking a pale light on the horizon when we left Daak Patthar---bathed and breakfasted----it was 4.30 a.m.As the day came up,the bus traversed through deep gorges and steep Himalayan slopes winding upwards to Hanuman Chatti--the beginning of the 13km.upward trek to Yamunotri at 9000ft.above sea level.We reached here by 9.30 a.m. and we hired horses for the climb.Some of us decided to trek up.Chaitali was amongst those who decided to walk it up.The winding path was barely 2 feet wide with steep drops on one side.We could see the Yamuna winding like a black ribbon at the bottom of the sheer marble cliffs.All the pilgrims preferred to hug the mountainside and it was an acrobatic excercise when two people from opposite directions had to pass each other.Slowly we climbed up, seated on our horses---none of us knew how to ride at all so we were clinging on for dear life!!Finally by mid-afternoon we reached the top through constant icy cold showers.There is a Temple dedicated to the Yamuna and a hot Spring. People tie Potatoes and Rice together in Muslin Cloths and cook these in the hot bubbling Water.These are eaten with a sprinkling of Salt and Red Chilli Powder as a blessing of Yamuna,daughter of the Sun.It is said that whoever makes this pilgrimage attains Moksha--freedom from the cycle of re-birth and is allowed to enter Swarga(Heaven).
We spent the night at a small shelter constructed by the Nigam.We all had some amazing hot stuffed Aaloo(Potato)Parathas at this shelter the next morning for Breakfast with hot sweet tea---yuuuuum!!!At night the view was truly magical-----lofty snow clad mountains shimmering in the moonlit night---an forgettable sight etched forever in my memory.
Next day we reached Hanuman Chatti by 10a.m. having left the shelter at dawn.Our next stop was Uttar Kashi----not a great distance away but the slow speed and chilly weather made it difficult to move ahead.It was so cold that the Diesel would freeze very few kilometres!!!The driver and the cleaner would then light a fire beneath the fuel tank to heat it up.Passing through amazing starkly beautiful scenic wonders we travelled with the Mandakini as our constant companion .We reached Uttarkashi late in the evening------a bustling small town with beautiful Temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and His Consort Parvati in the form of Shakti.Here we had to wait for a full day due to a heavy snowfall on way to Gangotri.
This day we spent doing our laundry and paying homage to Lord Shiva and His Consort Shakti at the Temples.
All the food available here is Sattvik---free of Onion and Garlic and not too heavily spiced either.Uttar Kashi is however a very important stop for pilgrims.If some of you would like to hear the Legends I'll be posting those later.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The second time I became a mother was a few days after my 21st.birthday.This time too we had a beautiful baby doll who was happy to see me!!!She looked so much like Lotta that the Obstetrtician asked me how I managed to print a carbon copy of the earlier one!!!
Sayali was born at night.Outside my hospital room was a creeper with blossoming Sayali(a type of Jasmine) flowers---so because she came into our lives with such a sweet scent we named her Sayali!!
Sayali too was a light sleeper but her main problem was that she loved to babble---almost 24 hours a day---she still does!!!A very active baby she just wouldn't put on weight---she was always of average weight!!!She had a good appetite and was blessed with a very curious and enquiring mind. She turned her milestones early---sat up at 4 months---walked at 8 months and began talking at 10 months old.Sayali loved being cuddled and fussed about but she was fiercely independent even then.Sudhir was her idol whom she worshipped.Even today she is totally blind to his faults!!
Fiercely independent and competitive her race to beat her peers began early.She drove me crazy with her antics.She threw her Milk bottle out of the window at 7 months and insisted on drinking Milk from a glass.She didn't like being fed either---she wanted to feed herself as well!!! By this time my father had passed away and my mother and sisters were living with us.
Those days we used Kerosene stoves because we just were allowed one Gas Cylinder per household.I used to store the extra Kerosene in the kitchen.One morning while I had just sent Sudhir and Lotta off at the door, Madame waddled into the kitchen and managed to lay her hands on the tin of Kerosene.The tin had barely half a liter left in it---she opened the tin and poured it over herself!!!She thought it was Water and she was bathing herself.Our full time domestic help Vithoba happened to see it and shouted out for us.Mummy and I both rushed to the kitchen---Sayali was almost fainting under the strong fumes of the Kerosene.I just rushed out of the door and ran up three flights of stairs to the apartment of a doctor who had just moved in.Mummy in the meantime upended Sayali and putting her fingers down her throat made her vomit in case she'd swallowed some ------luckily she hadn't and as Mummy managed to wash off the Kerosene from her face, Sayali began to recover.Even today the memory sends shivers up and down my spine!!! For some days after that I'd wake up shivering---a terrible nightmare!!!
Sayali was very focused on what she wanted from the very beginning.A model child, she never gave me any fuss where eating or the basic needs were concerned.She is good mimic and was a very comic child who entertained us everywhere.She loved dancing and the moment she got the oppotunity she'd start dancing!!!We'd gone to Kolhapur for a Wedding in my sister-in-law's family.While we were all drinking afternoon tea somebody just suggested that she entertain us.That was it---Sayali was dancing for almost 3 hours non-stop!!!Unfortunately she couldn't take lessons due to the distances from a reputed Dance School from our home.She sang very well too.A student of Bombay Scottish,her Music Teacher chose her to take part in an inter-school competition.She had to sing Frank Sinatra's "New York,New York" and wasn't very happy with the outcome.I suggested she sing it in a husky voice with a sexy pitch----that really worked and she came first!!!Her Teacher asked her what happened overnight?She simply said"my mother said to make it sound sexy!!!"People were shocked to know that she was not formally trained in Music.She was in Grade 9 then.
Sayali was however as stubborn as the proverbial mule when she wanted something!A very social and outgoing person and blessed with a sunny and happy nature she was very popular and formed strong friendships wherever she went.She has so much of my Father in her that I sometimes feel he's back with us through her.
Sayali set her goals at a very young age and followed through single mindedly on fulfilling them.Blessed with an independent spirit along with a brilliant mind and ambition she scored academically and today is working with big corporate on Wall Street.
Sayali's kept contacts with all her school friends.I have cooked for her get-togethers at our home whenever she wanted a party.Once while she was doing her Master's in Mumbai,she invited 35 of them home for Lunch and I cooked the entire meal at home!!!
She has completed her B.A. and M.A. from Mumbai University.In fact she stood fourth in the Merit list for her Master's in Political Science.After that she did her Master's in IT from RIT, Rochester,NY.
Today my Sayali is a beautifully poised and confident individual.She is working in New York and is married for the last 9 years.She has turned handling both careers into a fine Art and developed into a highly efficient Corporate Executive and Home Maker.She loves Food--so cooking--- and she also loves company so entertaining as well.Sayali cooks for all her get-togethers herself.A highly efficient wife she cooks daily for her husband after coming home from work---I am very proud of all that she has achieved and of being her mother!!!
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