Tuesday, November 30

... space between us.

I was meditating on a little poem that from a book 
To Bless the Space Between Us’

The poem runs like this: 

' May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the sanctuary of soul never become haunted.
May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world gather you, 
mind you and embrace you in belongings' 

Some days I just know that I am blessed...and it gives me awareness that God has been good to me without any of my own efforts or merits. Often I wonder why that happens. There is a guilty feeling about my blessings especially in the areas where I haven’t done anything of merit to be blessed. Yet, I am blessed. So I keep on thinking as to why, why and why to all these blessings. “But why should I ask God such questions?” is a quick reply that comes to my heart. Nevertheless, I have a duty to reciprocate to God’s blessing by being good to others around me and myself.  This is the little challenge that I have today...

Photo from files. 
Location: Kappadu  Beach

Saturday, November 27

...beauty with bread

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

~John Muir

At lower heights of Himalayas, 
there was a lonely temple with 
stone ‘diyas’ spread at her premises.

I saw these prayer flags intensely fluttering in the cool Himalayan breeze, 
setting afloat a million prayers to heaven! 

Friday, November 26

... what are we missing?

'Every ant knows the formula of its ant-hill,
every bee knows the formula of its beehive.
They know it in their own way, not in our way.
Only humankind does not know its formula.'

Fyodor Dostoyevsky   

Photo :  Himalayas' Spiti Valley

Sunday, November 21

...true scent of Himalayas.

'And the last puff of the day-wind brought from the unseen villages, 
the sent of damp wood-smoke, 
hot cakes,  dripping undergrowth, 
and rotting pine-cones. 
This is the true smell of Himalayas, 
and if once it creeps into the blood of man, 
that man will at last, forgetting all else, 
return to the hills to die.' 

Rudyard Kipling

Photos from personal files.

Friday, November 19

... reborn

Dear Friend,

"When old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders."

    Photo: Himalaya's glorious Indrasan Peak (as seen from Hampta)

Tuesday, November 16

... few of my favourite things

Every one has their share of favourite things.

 It is raining here most days. This kind of rain has missed its course and duration. Some say it is a Monsoon failure. When rains linger too long, people complain. For me, rain makes me lazy by not allowing me to water my plants. Each time I miss watering the plants, I miss a favorite thing in my life. Each watering section is a small break that opens a window to my kind of spirituality: Watering plants is a moment when I can talk to myself and speak to plants all about myself. They listen! ...  I can listen to the plants too and feel their total dependence on me for their sustenance. That is a great feeling. Watering my garden is more than a ritual... it is a sacrament !!   

Walking barefoot over dew-drenched grass or on round pebbles, strolling across lonely sun-baked beaches ... 
those are little joys I love.  Do you? 

Listening to the cooing of doves and pigeons is a great pleasure in my life. My office would have been a quit place but for the cooing of a dozen or more pigeons. “What are they talking about?” I wonder. I think cooing is all about family matters. There are the aggressive males who are interested only in their girl friends and building a family with them...and there are the softer girls that fly away from these advancing males. Like humans, isn’t it?

Browsing  my old books and the stamp collection can easily absorb hours from me. I would open some of my old favorite tittles and recognize the familiar ageing scent on those pages. The scent on the pages only adds to the vivid memories of reading those books and the growing ups I have made with it. It is a sheer coincidence that these days there are scented stamps too. Browsing some of those stamps, I cannot escape the fragrance of the roses and the sandalwood.  

My life would have been a lot lot more poorer if I hadn't climbed Himalayas over and over again.
How great is the Mighty Himalayas !
What is India without Himalayas !!
I can never forget when I wept  kneeling on that snow and rock of that great mountain.
It is truly one of God's greatest of creation !

By the way....I wonder how many love to peel an orange. I want to do more than peeling: I want to squeeze an orange-peel and feel the fragrance of the fresh orange all around!  I think my tryst with ‘orange fantasy’ rooted with my job in Coke's bottling plants. Those days, lots and lots of ‘Fanta’ production kept me deep in orange fragrance.  Today I continue the orange legacy by enjoying the act of peeling it! (Some say that those fruity scents are feminine. I do not agree with them.)    

Today I miss fountain pens and inks a lot. Last time I purchased traditional writing pens was from a mall. I have kept them as a showpiece. I miss those names like ‘Swan’ and ‘Waterman’ to an inexpensive ‘Hero’.... so is my old ‘Raleigh’ cycle to a another modern ‘Hero’.  

All photos are from my personal file. They show my much loved Himalayas and the Calicut Beach. 

Saturday, November 6

"Yes" to life...

" The unfathomable mystery of God is that God is a Lover who wants to be loved. 
The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being. 
God not only says: “You are my Beloved.” 
God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes.” 
That is the spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth."

The spiritual life, thus understood, radically changes everything. 
Being born and growing up, leaving home and finding a career, being praised and being rejected, walking and resting, 
praying and playing, 
becoming ill and being healed –
yes, living and dying – 
they all become expressions of that divine question: “Do you love me?”

And at every point of the journey, 
there is the choice for each one of us to say “Yes” 
and the choice to say “No”

Quotations by Henri Nouwen from his classic work 'Life of the Beloved'  
Photos from Hempta Trek, Himalayas. 

Friday, November 5

... a bridge to cross.

Looking down far away on Chatru Bridge 

Chatru is an important stopover in the descent from Hampta. Located at just 3400 meters, it is a nodal point for all the travellers to Lahul – Spiti region. This is the northern most frontier of India. The beauty of this location is the presence of an old bridge that everyone has to crossover. The actual crossing over of Chatru Bridge is symbolic of completing 90% of the Hampta trek. Hence, reaching the bridge itself gives us a feeling of joy and accomplishment. It is the first sight of civilization since the commencement of the trek. It is a great relief to step on the bridge and make the crossing.

This bridge is also a place where travellers halt to pray and give thanks for the safe journey they have made from distant lands. I watched the prayer flags fluttering in the chill breeze. I stopped for a while on the bridge to take a closer look at them. Written on these flags are the Buddhists’ mantras.  Are the breezes carrying the mantras far away? Looking across from the bridge, I had some thoughts to ponder. “God, how can I go away from your presence?...” I asked.

As I crossed the Chatru Bridge, I thought of some of the wonderful people who were bridges in my life...I thought of the wonderful ‘bridges’ that God helped me with.... Without those ‘bridges’, I would not be what I am. Over the troubled waters in my life, those bridges stood firm, offering me a crossover with love and care. After me crossing over, some of those ‘bridges’ have passed away to eternity.

When something good ends, it is always sad. Nevertheless, every good thing in life has to end. Treks teach me that. As a child every time my father takes me to beach, I remember me crying in the beach, refusing to return home. On Chatru Bridge too, I had the same emotion. Hence I went around the place, trying to delay the crossing. Then I  met an unexpected shaggy friend: a beautiful and camouflaged Spaniel, looking at me! 

My friends and fellow trekkers were already in an unwinding mood. Across the bridge, they had positioned themselves in the only roadside eatery. Steaming Vegetarian noodles and plenty of hot cups of tea were awaiting on their tables. I too reached to take my seat and my share of the noodles and tea.  Ya, every trek have its share of ligher moments.


Thursday, November 4

Goodbye Summer...Welcome winter

Earth is synonymous with life. Seasons ensure that every living things knows the transient value of life... time rolls away, and we ‘roll’ with time. 

In the rocky plains of Himalayas, the ‘dance of the death’ is the harbinger of winter and it is about to arrive.  The grass and the meadows seem to understand it better. . They turn blue and then brown. The winter will bring the snow cover... the green will totally disappear ... and the pasture will sleep for a while. They ‘sleep a while’ as snow sets in...  

A whistling wind brought dancing
on its twirling toes
the light yet pregnant autumn chill;
and dead leaves a dance of death
did make o’er fallow ground.
Some were tricked to see the image
of infertility . . .
But in the autumn dust,
under the leaves and the whistling wind,
all the seeds, all the seeds were waiting.
Nothing ever is fallow except, at times,
the human mind which cannot grasp fertility.
And there are no pauses ever
in the lithe and joyful dance of life.


Winter nights on the mountains are different from the summer nights. As twilight creeps in, the temperature drops significantly (-4 to -6°C). 
The trekkers struggle through snow to reach the camp.  

The babbling brooks keep quiet at night. I hear the silence of the brooks for the first time. I don't hear them at Kerala.  Brooks are frozen... they cannot ‘babble’. They are sleeping like the winter meadows for a while. The howling winds alone break the silence... 

The falling water fails to fall. They stand like elongated needles, frozen from cliffs and rocks.

I believe seasons are one of the most mystical elements in creation. 
It is a cycle of change... 
a cycle of birth and death... 
a cycle of dormancy and rejuvenation... 
and a cycle of falling in sin and awakening in grace.
Poem 'Fallow Fields' by  William Melnyk    
Photo location: On the way to Hampta Pass

Tuesday, November 2

... the Hempta

Every trek has a destination and a climax. Coming back home, friends ask what is the climax of  Hempta Trek. I find it difficult to tell. May be it is because this trek has a climax at every corner of its journey. When I heard ‘Hempta Pass’ I thought it was something like a superhighway on top of the mountain. No.... not at all. It is a simple sacred path that the shepherds use to cross over to Spiti... it is landmark destination since ages... a gate way to the northern most parts of this great nation and most of all, it is a holy ground. 

Reaching Hempta, the first thing that I did was to pray. I found that I am not the first person doing that!  No one takes food on top at Hampta. They descend to lower mountains to open their food basket.  That is a sign of respect. 

The beauty of the pass is that it is a ‘bridge’ that one has to use to cross over to lower lands. And, for a trekker, it is an absolutely mesmerising sight to be at Hampta and keep watching the beauty of the Himalayas.  

As these mountains unfold, the sunlight plays a drama in colours across huge landscape. This is impossible to perceive. I have understood that green has millions of shades in Kerala. (I remember a friend of mine telling me about the beauty of the greens of Kerala. Ya, he is correct.) Nevertheless, Hampta tells me that the blacks, the browns and the blues too have millions of tones to enthral a wary trekker. What more than a million year old mountain can offer me? I tried to decipher the secret of it all... I stood with tears in my eyes. “What am I crying for? ” I probed myself. All my pride, all my strength, all my ‘what I am’ is just a figment to the glory and the might of God’s creation. Then there was a second question that troubled me...“God, why did you open up all this beauty to me?” Suddenly, I thought of all the blind...I thought of all those people who are unable to witness this physical magnificence of God’s glory... I thought of home and the people who make it happen in my life.

From Hempta, I was confused as to what to photograph. In fact, over powered by a surge of thoughts, I could not do justice to my camera. The enormous and mammoth gorges of the Spiti Valley kept me gasping for breath. With one strike in my heart, I stood with tears humble and contrite. My friends did a better work on their cameras.   

From Hampta, across Spiti Valley, the glorious Mt. Indrasan stands looking down on us. The Indrasan peak is 6400 m high. It is the most significant peak in sight. Beyond this peak, nuzzled deep in the mountain valley, India is proud to foster a unique and distinctive Buddhist culture found only in Tibet.

The minuscule shaped trekkers set against the huge backdrop of the mountains reminded me of my own transient days on earth. 

As I humbly trekked across the Spiti, I thought how correct is the statement of Edmund Hillary when he said,
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” .

Photo credits : Photos of Mt. Indrasan and most pictures of Spiti Valley were done by my friend and fellow trekker 'UC' (you see!).  

Monday, November 1

... the rich

“A rich person is not one who has the most, but one who needs the least”

Photos from the personal files.

...the flower

I find it good just to let my gaze wander, without any concern for time and without any attempt to force concentration. Gradually one part of the mountain terrain catches my attention...or a lone fellow trekker trekking far away, or a strange looking rock. My scattered thoughts come to focus on a single experience and then drive deeper and deeper into that one reality... to glimpse the universe in a grain of sand.

Oftentimes, the result is that some small wild flower or a leaf at my feet (that I had not even noticed before) absorbs my attention. The flower, standing all alone looks so cut off... so deserted. I suddenly wants to adopt her...and be her Godfather... I tell her, “ Yes, I have noticed your beauty and pride.”

I wonder if this is the best manner to place my hands on her shoulders!!  
I am at peace!  


What am I tagged with?

It is always imperative that the objects he uses intimately distinguish each person. Often the attire distinguishes people. Else, it is the wallet, pen or a bag that distinguishes him. Cartoonists have an eye to pick the most distinguishing and visible character of a person. Then they will tag him with it. If tangible elements are lacking in a personality, then intangible elements are looked into : like the slang he uses or the twist in his language.

In a trek, guess what am I tagged with?