Eyes and ears !

This post follows two earlier posts describing Nepal, fleetingly seen in limited time ! This is the concluding post.

Swayambu. ‘Buddhas eyes’, they say. Peaceful and serene. Looking over all of Kathmandu. More here.

Eyes that seem to invite you to just sit there and do nothing while the bells keep whirring away, which perhaps is the most ingenious mechanisation of mantra chanting !

‘With sacred mantras written in them, all you have to do is to keep spinning’, the gentleman who accompanies me states in much of a matter-of-fact manner. Perhaps in a matter-of-mantra manner !

Buddhists and hindus jostle for space with tourists and cameras. Against a backdrop of a wistful sky, a small group of animated locals peddling stuff to open mouthed tourists set upon an evening chill. These serve as a perfect recipe for permanent storage in the mind.

The hill country is so pristine that makes you scamper for a word that embodies ‘pristine’ better. The Pashupati nath temple is simple and stately.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva got bored of Mt.Kailash and discovered the Kathmandu valley and ran away to settle down here. That was Lord Shiva. My inarticulate meanderings of how pristine the place is, needs not a single additional letter.

They speak in such an easy tone.

Beyond a point, you cant walk with shoes on and beyond another you cant walk with cameras! For many centuries now, the priests for this temple come only from Shimoga district of Karnataka, India!

People throng the place yet there is a sense of peaceful order. Just beyond the temple, infact adjacent to the temple, by the banks of the Bagmati river, is a cremeation ground with dead bodies on fire. Lessons on how close Creation, Destruction and sustenance are, couldn’t have had a better stage setting.

The Nepali cops and armed forces look majestic! A smartly dressed traffic cop with a tie on and such else is a pleasure to watch. Perhaps the only respite against the stiffest of traffic. And the cops, indeed have a way of carrying themselves and their costume err..uniform, with such artistic élan that can only kickstart envy !

The Nepali’s prominent headgear, which some of my sources tell me is called the ‘Dhaka Topi’ is a piece of evidence in that direction. It’s almost the first thing that I notice as the immigration officers sports this. The one that waved me in wore such a funky design that he caugt me staring at it and perhaps regarded me as a rather ‘slow person’ as it took a while for me to answer his questions!

The caps come in many patterns : checks, waves, stripes etc. The good people they are, gifted me one of these and the missus has since been thinking of so many designs for the headgear that she could be given honorary citizenship there!

She is mighty excited you see, one more piece of clothing to look out for and ofcourse, to go discount hunting for! Exciting i say !

The earlier posts are here and here

A wish & wisdom by the window

The Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu, has some real pretty faces and often presents to your eyes meandering queues of Nepalis packing their bags to work overseas. ‘Demand for Nepali workmen is high’ says a fellow traveler while lifting a bag that could weigh as much as my provisions. For three full years and more perhaps.

Work done in Nepal i am on my way back. A kind colleague who sympathises with my attempts at photography tells me that the view of the peaks ‘is a good thing to get on the lens from the plane. If you are lucky’.

His words firmly in my radar, I specifically ask for a window seat. Smiling one of the most beautiful smiles and after saying ‘ofcourse sir’ and a little later ‘have a wonderful flight sir’, flashing that pretty smile, the lass at the Jet Airways counter gives me hands over the baording card. Which after getting into the aircraft i realise entitles to everything else but a window seat ! An aisle seat with two young nepali boys on the middle and window seats for company. GREAT.

Soon we are airborne, and the peaks show up on the window in such majestic splendour that I let out a gasp of surprise laden pleasure. Hastening to pull out the camera and attempting to get a few snaps. Aiming and dodging my two young row mates on the middle and window and ensuring that their noses or hands don’t form part of the picture of the snow clad peaks is quite a struggle.

They can see it too as I hoover-up as many snaps as possible as they give me a look that I would reserve for corner cockroach. And fiddle with the entertainment panel and watch an Ajay Devgun movie.

For a second, I cant believe this. These young boys could actually trade the beauty and majesticity of the mountains and the snow capped peaks for a Ajay Devgun movie on the entertainment panel! Alas, what has the world come to !

Without much ado and a presumptuous air I dismissed their intellect, intent and everything about them.

Soon the peaks vanished and I retired to my world of books and work. The next couple of hours vanished like a sugar laden sweet disappearing down the oesophagus. Not very later we were all set to land in Mumbai.

An announcement that was accompanied by what best could be described as a mild frenzy of of nepali boys peering through the window in other seats.

Greatly surprised I turned to the window on my row, which is when I noticed my own neighbours had pulled out their simple cameras and shared every bit of the window between themselves, cheek to cheek.

Perhaps they were sure they would see someone like Ajay Devgun outside the window, I thought, and suddenly they yelled ‘samundar’ ( ocean ), describing the waves and boats on the Bay of Bengal, with such energy that perhaps dwarfed my attempts to capture the peaks on the camera lens.

It was my turn to fiddle with entertainment panel and theirs to dismiss my intellect, intellect and everything else about me with presumptuous élan.

At that moment, one of them turns to me, grins a sheepish grin, points to the Bay of Bengal and says, ‘Samundar – me first time’. I broaden the sheepish smiles further and point to myself to say ‘Himalayas – first time’. The sheepishness of both our smiles intensify. He returns to look at the Bay of Bengal. And I to the entertainment panel.

I keep smiling. Realising that in the sheepishness of our smiles lay an acknowledgement of our different pasts, a happiness at the present and a deep wish for each other for the future.

I realise that there cant be better wish on Christmas day ! Merry Christmas people !

Himalayan Heights !

the Bhaktapur valley

This blog is almost a becoming a travel blog of sorts ! Truth be told, travel inspires me like none else. New sights, people and cultures that are different than the ones that I am familiar with hold a certain intangible temptation that wafts in and stays put.

So much so, several readers write in to ask, if I travel for a living! How I wish. I am indebted to all those readers, for it is that precise question that helped in the hastening of the realisation that my writing flows with ease when I write on my travels. A certain sense of indefatigable urge to share of the places that are looked at with a new set of eyes and hoping perhaps that it could kindle a possible reader to set sights on a new land.

sunset beyond the wavy mountains

To cut all the blah aside, I have been traveling. Work, took me to Nepal. Spectacular sights awaited my packed schedule with such perfect imperfection, that it resulted in perhaps the heaviest sighs mankind has heard.

However, a couple of hours wrenched from nowhere, waking up when the clock struck three and it was still as dark as middle of the night, shivering in the cold, snatching the camera, sipping green tea with perfect strangers and clicking odd pictures brings you this post.

By now you would know, this post is a fact assortment interspersed with some pictures.
the sunrise at Nagarkot ( which deseves far more than a separate post dedicated to it)

Nepal is a rather unique country. For starters, if you are an Indian, you don’t need a passport. A voter ID is enough for the officer at immigrations to wave you in. A lovely country balanced with the most snarl prone roads that makes Mumbai appear juvenile. This snarl prone recklessness despite some outrageously obtuse pricing for cars ( A Santro, I am told costs 18 lakh Nepali Rupees).

They have a 15 minute time difference with India. 15 minutes! Longitudinally speaking I couldn’t piece it together, given that Bengal and Assam that are further to the East, yet maintain IST. But hey, they are a free country and have the freedom to do as their watches will.

If that wasn’t this wasn’t tall enough, well the next difference indeed was. The calendar that’s followed is called Bikram Samwat and by that standard, the current year is 2067 ! While you could be waving in 2011, the Nepal is in 2067 folks!

And the one statistic though that made me not just jump out of a chair, but shoot straight to the moon was that they have 550 + members of parliament. For a country of that size, i imagined having a 100 was a truckload. But i am no geo-politic expert that answers stray questions on national television and fair to say that the Nepalese have their own strong mind.

I must only hasten to submit though that all of the above are empty statistics. The facts that perhaps must hold your attention aren’t really the facts but pictures. Pictures of the great Himalayan peaks as they catch an unfamiliar crimson even while the plains that you stand in are yet to say hello to the sun. And such else.

There is one other ‘fact’ that will keep me going back to Nepal again for sure. (Not counting the fact that the missus has issued an ultimatum that the next trip will be in her grand company, which like every dutiful husband would do : has been agreed to).

That fact..yes the fact… is the people! Ah the people! Absolutely delightful and beautiful people! An accent that drips concern, oozes love coupled with a genuine warmth and that goes the extra mile to lessen the Himalayan chill.

It was enchanting. Plan a trip people. Pristine beauty guaranteed.