Friday, July 31

... a leaf in God's forest.

And the priestess spoke again and said:

Speak to us of Reason and Passion

And he answered saying:
Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield upon which
your reason and your judgement wage war against
your passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your
soul, that I might turn the discord and the
rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also
the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and
the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or your rudder be broken
you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a
standstill in mid-seas.

For reason ruling alone, is a force confining
and passion unattended is a flame that burns to
its own destruction.

Therefore, let your soul exalt your reason to
the heights of passion that it may sing.

And let it direct your passion with reason, that
your passion may live through its own daily
resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above
its own ashes.

I would have you consider your judgement and
your appetite even as you would two loved guests
in your house.

Surely, you would not honour one guest above the
other; for he who is more mindful of the one
loses the love and the faith of both.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade
of the white poplars, sharing the peace and
serenity of distant fields and meadows-­then let
your heart say in silence, "God rests in reason"’

And when the storm comes and the mighty wind
shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning
proclaim the majesty of the sky, then let your
heart say in awe, "God moves in passion."

And since you are a breath in God's sphere and a
leaf in God's forest, you too should rest in reason
and move in passion. "

... Kahlil Gibran (Quoted from “The Prophet”)

Tuesday, July 28

The Striking Beauty

One of the striking beauty of the Himalayan plains is the veritable conflagration of colours that blazes across the heavens that overlook these plains. It is a striking and superb scene. Never in my life have I seen sky so vibrant and colourful. As sun’s light ray falls on the snow, the story becomes more romantic.
In the slanting rays of the setting sun the sky colours reflect on the snow. They take a delicate rosy tint...then it changes to darker shades of pink, red and gold. What a spectrum of colour that God is offering to us for enjoying His beauty! Unbelievable for my eyes!
The mountains look like a young bride, inviting us for her wedding! Strange as it is, I believe that this play of colour is the gift that Himalaya gives to her lovers. Then... soon this heavenly kaleidoscope changes... again like the sari changing ceremony of the bride in an Indian wedding... sky takes the colour of gray patches of bare rocks. I ask, “Is it a wedding in the sky which is taking place?”

Often, I wanted to hold on to the time and space...hold on to the fast changing colors...hold on to the slipping moments that passed so soon in front of me. But no...God has another set of story for me tomorrow...another love-theme for my heart to mince...and another mile to teak.

Location : All photos from my trek to the Mighty Himalayas.Photo Credit: These brilliant photos are by Mr. Saurangshu, my friend on the trek, without whom my trek would have been a little poorer

... a strange obsession to marry

I have found this quotation from London Models very interesting and good to remember. Sometimes it comes to me again and again and I laugh at it :
"For an artist to marry his model is as fatal as for a gourmet to marry his cook, the one gets no sittings, and the other gets no dinners.... " (London Models...Oscar Wilde)

Monday, July 27

A survivor’s lesson

I may not love the weeds the same way I love the flowers... but I respect them, learn from them, admire them for their tenacity to hold on to the rocks in the most unlikely and harsh places on earth ....

As I basked on the snow covered Roopkund peak, I caught the sight of weeds. At 16,400 ft. up, at subzero conditions, they seem to whisper me an important life-lesson: “We are going to be with you all to the ends of the earth”. As I heard them tell me that, many thoughts ran through me. At that height, in such harsh conditions, with no soil or nutrients, can they survive? The truth is that, they take birth, they survive...they flourish and they propagate from age to age.
Is the Himalayan weeds and grasses teaching me a survivor’s lesson?
Photo Location : Grass and weeds at Roopkund peak .

Sunday, July 26

"Be Still and Know that I am God!"

We continue climbing the narrow tracks...the steep paths of Himalaya are akin to the steep paths of life itself. There has been always tendency for me to ask our guide, Mr. Narandrabhi if further climbs were tougher ahead. He would never tell me so. It was the beauty in that man to encourage me although the trek. He would always tell me, “Take small steps, breathe deeply and climb. You will make it.” However, more than a physical effort, I believe, it was God luring me on to the mountains.

Trekking to Roopkund was pleasant because there was a strong spiritual element to it. I always believed that the mountains were flushed with beauty that belonged, not to them, but to God. The journey was a poetic symbol and was a divine reality.
But what is the sole purpose of a solitude? I had to have an answer for that question. Why cut adrift from the daily generality and go uphill to Himalayas? I could not find an answer for that when I stared the journey. Only as the trek unfolded that I began to understand that some part of me really belonged to the Himalayan solitude. A strange kind of patriotism too emerged together with that feeling. I was awed about the little steps I took because I stood so small among the grand chain of the great Himalayan ridges. The air being sweet and cool, I lavishly breathed deep to speak to myself the glory of the eternal God. I was careful not to rush restlessly about and miss the beauty and serenity of His creation. The Holy Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God!” That is true as I tranquillized my mind on Himalayas... as I stood still for the presence of God on those mountain ridges. In the upper Himalayas, as the great mountains ridges looked at me,... as it flooded me with the stillness and utter placidity, the words from the Bible , ‘... to know I am God!’, rang deep in me.

Really speaking, I never went to Himalayas as an adventurer... ... nor as an explorer or as a researcher. It was more to cease my external activity and witness the brilliant surroundings of 'God made Himalayas'.

If Nature is our tutor who teaches us to be still, then 15500 ft. up in Himalayas has a great story to tell anyone who becomes a part of it.
Photo Location : Meadows on the way to Roopkund

Wednesday, July 22

Saint I was looking for...

In any journey, there are many who touch our trail intimately. Deep in our hearts, we keep thinking of them and try to contact them while the trail progress on and later.

For some reason, right from the beginning of my Himalayan journey, I was keeping eyes open to see the sights and sounds of a saint whom I might contact.

As the dirty narrow lanes of Old Delhi welcomed me, I snuggled myself in a cosy hotel room. Completely furnished with all the amenities, the room was a far outcry to an arduous and tiring Himalayan trek that stood ahead of me. So, instead to resting for the journey ahead, I got out, looking for the saint who might meet me. Found none other than the curious shopkeepers who sighted a ‘foreigner’ loitering around their shops.
In a street corner, I saw an empty studio. The showcases of the studio attracted me because it was filled with empty film boxes. “It again showed the proclivity of Indians to hold on to the daily rubbish that they generate”, I thought. Soon, a young boy called me from the shop. Sitting alone with the boy, we chatted. A few minutes rolled by and this boy was confessing to me all about his family problems, business problems and love life. He was asking me for a ‘way out’ of the troubles he was facing. How can I give him a solution when I myself was on a discovery-trail?

It was evening, when we reached the base camp. Most  were  running around and making the final touch of preparation for the long days ahead. But I was attracted to the something different: the contentious ringing of a small bells. These jingles were from the small country-bells hung on the necks of the mules. Since that time, I kept a keen interest on the life and moments of mules in our pack.
Mules are integral to Himalayas. They symbolise the spirit of those mountains. Without those wonderful creatures, Himalaya would be a little poor. Their duty is that of a mountain porter. For they haul serious loads with an astonishing attitude. For me, the sight of mules tugging step by step up the mountains were fascinating. I have read one Yogi say that one got to become like a mule to be a part of great Himalayas. Frankly, during the trek, I was so fascinated by mules that I wanted to know their names, their habits and way of life. If camels are called ‘the ship of the desert’, why cannot I call mules ‘the masters of the mountains’? Cent percent sure footed, their stamina and strength belittled all my convictions about them.

Mules are great eaters. During the busy trek they are loaded with around 140Kg. of supplies on their backs. As the mules have a great weakness for green grass, they would make a quick stop when they see grass near their trek and munch them up. The beaten and grassless mule tracks bear witness to this habit of the mules. And, as the mules are unloaded at every base, I noticed how joyful they were: some of them would roll over and over on the lush green grass trying to tell us that all of it belongs to them! There are mules who bleat across the meadows announcing their arrival and presence. These expression of freedom and achievement (are they?) really touched me. How simple there life is! God’s calls is so different and unique in His creation.

Many times, I would go near a mule and touch them on their foreheads. Like to look at the adornments they have donned. Those small and intricate ornaments tells me that they are loved by their masters and looked after well by them. Often, when I go near the pegged mules, the handlers come near me and help me in my curiosity. One ‘Godawala’ (mule-handler) in particular wanted his photo to be taken regularly.

The silence of the Himalayan nights are wonderful. They are often interrupted by the jingles of the mules. Throughout the night, mules will be roaming around the camps to graze. I could feel the busyness of their mission: to fill the stomach by dawn. At night, by moon light, I would peep out of my tent and witness this grazing mission of the mules, in the cold solitary stillness of the meadows. My tent mates would make fun of me. Doesn’t matter.

Can’t I not call mules  the Yogis of the Himalayas...? Was it the  saint I was looking for?


Tuesday, July 21

'When man in the bush with God may meet'

I am going to my own hearth-stone,
Bosomed in yon green hills alone,-
A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,
And vulgar feet have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.

O, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
For what are they all, in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God many meet.

Quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, ‘Good-Bye'
.. Photo Location : (1) Sight from Roopkund, Himalaya
(2) Garhwal Stone Hut...

Monday, July 20

Walking our way to life...

Walking through big forests at 7,000 feet in the Garhwal Himalayas was something I had never dreamt in a trek. However, as we approached the Oak forests, it was both refreshing and rejuvenating. The great Oaks looked comfortable and serene with other evergreens like the Himalayan blue pines (coniferous trees of the pine family) and the walnut trees that lose its leaves in winter. Brown leaves thickly carpeted the entire forest. Often, the trek took steep, uncharted, and winding paths through this dense foliage. However, all our physical efforts were cooled and comforted by the ever presence of trees. Moreover, it went on for hours and hours. But still, trek through Oak forest was one of the most enchanting experiences of Himalayas.

They say that Oak forests of Garhwal Himalayas is over a 1000 years old. For my eyes, they stood new and novel. Every Oak, Pine and the walnut trees in these forests seems to live in harmony with one another. I went around acknowledging my presence in the woods by taking very deep breaths and by touching my hand against some of tree’s trunks: Oak’s are rough and some are twisted. And in the forest, one sight was common: one tree seem to buttress the other in more than one ways. Now I know what the harmony in nature is all about. They share the same space, sunlight and the air, yet without quarrelling and quibbling. It always humbles a city dweller.
The real beauty of a Himalayan trek is that we never get tired or exhausted. Many ask me about the physical effort that I have to put in for a long trek. Yes, there is physical effort. But, as we move systematically, automatically our minds are rejuvenated. As the climb go on and on, we forget all about our physical efforts.
During any trek, I wear a wristwatch. However, one thing I really miss is to read the passing time. A friend of mine was carrying a wristwatch-cum-altimeter. That looked more attractive to me than a conventional watch. Nevertheless, the real fact is that, once in a wonderful trek, a trekker is not bothered about the passing time. He gets absorbed into the beauty of the meadows and the mountains. His mind wanders over the distant hills and the valleys. Every vista is a ‘raga’ for trekker’s eyes. Soon, the trek becomes a cleansing process. We let out the stale air from our life and replace it with the fresh breath of the woods and the meadows. I saw one of my fellow trekker taking a yogic breathing: forcibly pushing out the ‘trapped’ stale air in the lungs with loud noises.
On the mountains, effortlessly, it is breath after breath of cool and clean air that flows into our life. We become a pilgrim... just walking our way to life.
Photo Locations : (1) Oak forests and (2) Meadows at Pathar Nauchani, Himalayas.

Sunday, July 19

Who may live on your holy hill?

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken.

.... Psalm 15 of The Holy Bible


Photo Credit.... Mr. Saurangshu, my fellow trekker.
Photo Location..... Mt. Nandaghunti (on the left), as seen on way to Roopkund.


Friday, July 17

"Come and you will see"...

As in all true friendships, Jesus was a little perplexed when his disciples asked him, “Where do you stay?” In other words, his disciples were saying: “Tell us more about who you are” (John 1: 35-42). Jesus took them up on their inquisitive desire and invited them to spend more time with him: “Come and you will see”. That was a challenging invitation Jesus was making to his disciples around him. That is a challenging invitation Jesus is making to his disciples today!

The invitation “Come and you will see”, goes beyond the circumstantial surroundings of an evening talks that Jesus held with his disciples. ‘Come and you will see’ was a perpetual calling to know the goodness and the beauty of who the Master was. This invitation not only challenges me, but also burdens me. Why? Because, that is a lifelong invitation to go and see where my faith meets her Master.
.... Photo Location : Roopkund, at Himalayas ...

Thursday, July 16

Spirit of beauty

The evening was lonely for me, and I was reading a book till my heart became dry, and it seemed to me that beauty was thing fashioned by the traders in words. Tired I shut the book and snuffed the candle. In a moment the room was flooded with moonlight.

Spirit of beauty, how could you, whose radiance overbrims the sky, stand hidden behind a candle’s tiny flame? How could a few vain words from a book rise like a mist, and veil her whose voice has hushed the heart of earth into ineffable calm?

.... Quoted from Tagore’s Lover’s Gift
.... Photo Credit: Mr.Mahadev, my fellow trekker to Roopkund
Photo Location: Evening at Didna Camp....

Wednesday, July 15

... my thoughts on a journey

As the weak showers passed by and the clouds opened up, the heavens wore a deeper darker blue. Truly magic casements these.... for everytime I think of those skys and the rich grassy meadows, I am truly aware that Himalayas belongs to the universe rather than to just one ME or the Garhwal.
.... my thoughts on a journey
Photo Location: Meadows on the way to Roopkund

Monday, July 13

Trekking the life path...

I was wondering why I must examine the issue of prayer in life. Why ‘prayer’? If I can remember on one issue that has always bothered me then it was the manner in which I connect to my Master. One part of me keeps on nagging me and asking me if there is any worth in my relationship with the Lord. I remember a song that Bob Dylan sang asking me “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” (Blowin’In The Wind)
I think so many of my friends too have the same questions. I know that they keep it to themselves. I do believe that all of us long for some evidence that our God-relationship is true and genuine. Beauty of life is the endless excitement and mystery of our inner journey with the Lord. But then, like a doctor who examines a patient, we examine ourselves to find the value of staying in touch with God. But unlike the doctor of medicine, we cannot verify fully with absolute certainty our inner rumblings with God.

Isn’t the question Bob Dylan asked really great!... Can I ask that question to me again and agin.... “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” In a world of suppression and lack of moral courage, in the early 70s, that song swept America and the rest of the English world by storm.

Today, where will the trek of life lead me? Trekking the life path is exiting when the Master is the desire and the cause.

...... Photo credit : My fellow trekker Mr.Saurangshu
Location : Sights on the way to Roopkund...........

Sunday, July 12

...but for the lover himself.

Much have you given to me,
Yet I ask for more-
I come to you not merely for the draught
of water, but for the spring;
Not for guidance to the door alone, but
To the Master’s hall; not only for the
gift of love, but for the lover himself.

Crossing (LII) Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, July 7

Beach after a rain...

It is since four years I am watching the seashores and the beaches. I do not know why I started it all. Nevertheless, since the time I began my affair with the beach, it has been a long affair... a long affair still in progress. It is in sunny mornings that I cycle to beach. I have my own niche out there. In the initial days, I thought the beach suspected me. Then, slowly beach gave her heart to my whisperings and assurances.

Every sunny morning, beach is full of footprints. I watch the footprints and think of the thousands who had walked before me. For me, the primal attraction of these footprints is the thoughts of the past... of my own past. The beach seem to tell me to search the footprints of my grandparents, relatives, friends, and mentors... people who have walked before me. The beach seems to speak to me of our own past childhood times, adolescent companions and lost smiles. But then, soon, it is time... I walk my way leaving my own footprints on the sands. How will it be? What will be its readings? In fact, sometimes, I turn my head back to look at my footprints. Then I walk away to make the day...

The rainy beaches are different (like it was today). The rains always clean the past. They come gushing through the sky to fall everywhere, washing away the wrong doings. The beach after a rain is a bare beach...stripped off her footprints, sands offer us a chance to make fresh footprints... fresh starts to new walks of life. The beach after a rain is a wash over experience. It offers a new texture, feel and smell. Beach after a rain is a harbinger of a new start.

Let us welcome rain on the beaches.


Sunday, July 5

Love acts...

I need not make a statement for every noise in the society. However, this is something that has deeply caught my attention. I do not know anything about same-sex orientation. Nevertheless, I know that many who oppose same-sex orientation does not understand any bit of it either.

Delhi High Court surprised all of us when they gave a green signal to the gay moment in this country. In a deviation from the normality, the ruling Congress stood silent in a tacit approval of the court verdict. One of the first groups to raise voice against the ruling was the Catholic Church. They made their stand clear that they will challenge the verdict in an upper court. Then came others; and lastly the Hindi-belt under the leadership of Lalu from Bihar made it clear that this ruling from Delhi court was a challenge to the Indian way of living.

I wonder why Catholic Church wants to raise this issue in its infancy. We hear so much about the paedophilic scandals all around the Christian churches that I believe they have no right to step on the offensive. The public image of the universal Christian church is tattered so much in countless sex abuses and court cases that I am not going to hear the voice of the church on this issue so easily.

What are the feelings of the majority, powerful and the elite Hindus brothers on this subject? India is after all the nation that has gifted mankind one of the most illustrious and celebrated documentation on human love in her ‘Kama Sutra’. Temple walls portray the man-woman contacts as the acts of Gods in their amorous games. Certainly, those stories point out that the opposite-sex orientation is the real thing. They point out that the chemistry of sex is male-female chemistry. If so, the same-sex orientation is porridge cooked in wrong recipe. Holy Bible too speaks about same-sex orientation as a ‘perverted’ act. Last of all, these same-sex love acts cannot sustain procreation. Same-sex acts will always remain recreation!

As we live in God’s presence, the fundamental truth is that we are addressing a holy God. He is the Holy of holies. His holiness far surpasses the standards of human judgements and reasoning. In addition, our life is a worshipful act to God. In that process, can sexual orientation stand on its way? I have gone my way out and have tried to understand the life, sadness and moments of these unfortunate brothers and sisters of ours. From our vantage point, they are ‘unfortunate’. But they are going to be with us. Hence, we cannot ignore them. Though not share their way of living, we have to give them respect, love them, dialogue with them and show them that there is more of beauty and ecstasy in our way of living. After all God designed human organs and put human anatomy in place for our kind of living. Will they ever understand that? Till that happens, the legislation, the court, the police and the public will battle it out.


Two feelings at the mountain...

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God… Psalms 90:1

On a short voyage to the remote niches of a mountain range, I saw sights that fascinated me. Towering above us, mountains point to things we cannot see. Moreover, climbing on a mountain, we see things that others cannot see. Our perspective changes during a climb. As a mountain range unfolds the beauty, it also isolates us from the crowd, the plains and the conventional. What surprised me is the great enormity of the vastness of the Himalayan meadows. Eyes cannot go tired and mind cannot fathom the immensity of nature and her green calling.
At the peak of the mountain trail, there were two instant feelings that stormed me. “Yes, I have done it!” is the sentence that I whispered many times. Nevertheless, another question that came out of my heart was a simple one, “Yet, what has all this climb taught me?” The vast panorama that seems to span the whole world gave me a breathtaking view. Up there, there is the howling noise of the chilled winds and sometimes the cold silence. The green meadows gave way to the brown stones. Then came the black granite fortresses covered with ice and snow. What a sight! And I say that I am insignificant in comparison with all the grandeur of God created nature around me.
When I am so bemused at the opulence of the God’s creation, can I connect to God’s presence through these experiences...?

Photo Location: Himalayan panorama on the way to Roopkund


Friday, July 3

Suddenly something...

One of the most interesting aspects of human beings is the fact that every individual likes to look at the world through his pair of glasses alone. As tomorrow the Finance Minister will roll out the Union budget, I was seeing the frenzy of the investors and the Dalal Street. Each section of the Industry wants the budget to be theirs alone. “Come what may, the prices of the shares I am holding must go up”, says every investor. However, can any finance minister anywhere in the world do such a trick? The problem is again the ‘selfish’ perspective that individuals have. This same emotion trickles down to every corner of the society. A swimmer may call the whole world to swim with him and a mountaineer may want everyone to be a part of his adventure. However, seldom should we expect that to happen.I remember reading a dog story written by the British vet James Herriot. An elderly rich widow named Mrs. Pumphrey was owing a beautiful pup of Pekingese breed by name Tricki Woo.
Dr. James Herriot was often called to attend Tricki’s mischief. When Christmas came, this woman posted gifts for James Harriot. He called back the woman to thank her for the gifts. Woman was cool to point out that it was Tricki  Woo, her pet dog who had sent him the gifts and  Tricki  Woo was alone the one who should be thanked. Keeping aside all the professional shame, this vet penned a thanking letter to the doggy and addressed it to
Mrs. Pumphrey!Tonight, Finance Minister must be pondering as to whom he has to address his grand budget!

Wednesday, July 1

Woods again...

Though we hear a lot of Aesop’s fables in our childhood, we never get a chance to walk around woods. I remember, as a youth, the first time I walked around woods. Everything was a surprise. Going through the unknown roads, a lot of adventure overtook me. ‘Hi’ here and ‘Hi’ there, I sprint through the forest. But as a grown up, today, it’s all different. The same woods would offer me another teaching course through life. Last time I was in the woods, I stopped a while. I began noticing myself and my relationship with her. No, I did not encounter a lion or a leopard! Yet, everything that I looked was anew. The vista that woods offer speak to me of my own roots. The silence and the stillness of huge trees enchant me. The news from the woods is the same day after day. Yet, without uttering even a word, they speak to us a million different words. Though woods are unable to move, they move our spirit and perspective.

I have read that Beethoven used to walk through the woods before he contemplated on his piano. Is it that the woods he loved and walked around, very much a part of his music too? Listening to Beethoven tells me so. The flow, the rhymes and the rhythm of his Concertos are like walking through the woods he loved.

When we walk close to nature, we come to a better understanding of life. Woods offer a certain portion of her stillness into our own living. That is the beauty of the woods.