Got this week’s bread-n-butter writing done. Phew! I hate deadlines. Anyways back to the Himalayas…
Like I said paying homage to the Himalayas was on the bucket list. So was visiting the Golden Temple (but more about that later).
We started our journey from Chandigarh and decided that it would be a good idea to pay our respects to some divine body given that we were heading into the mountains near Uttarakhand at a time when no person in their right senses was even willing to consider the idea. I have lost count of the number of people who have reacted with (and I am writing this in the right order) –
“Wow, a road trip. How adventurous of you guys!”
“To the Himalayas… oh wow!”
“Wait a minute… to the Himalayas… as in Himachal Pradesh… the state next to Uttarakhand… are you bloody nuts!?”
Okie then… couldn’t really blame them as the TVs were still awash with images of death and destruction from Uttarakhand. We convinced my parents that we would turn back (this was before I had any idea about how narrow the roads there were) if we came across something that looked insurmountable. We told my mom-in-law that we were driving around in the plains. And we promised Reva’s parents (who were based in Chandigarh) and mine and my sis-in-law Uma, that we’d call or text every day.
Cutting a long story short we planned to step out as early as possible on Day 1. The goal was if my memory serves me correct, 7.30am. So we were quite proud when we managed to get out of the driveway by 9.30. We had decided to kick start the trip by paying a visit to Nada Sahib – a lovely gurudwara tucked amongst the Sivalik foothills and with the lovely Ghaggar river running alongside it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nada_Sahib) En route we saw many kanvarians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanwar_Yatra). In Punjab they are also called Kavadiyan – but this is not to be confused with the Kavadis of Tamil Nadu. Kavadiyans are devotees who head to Gangotri to collect the water of the Holy Ganges and bring it back to the plains. That is a looooong walk in case you are wondering. Through the mountains. In the sun and rain. Bare foot. Crazy! Respect.
Image Courtesy. http://www.hindu.com
The Ghaggar itself was not in full spate and this is odd given that a peek at the weather reports would make you think that every river north of the Vindhayas was overflowing its banks. Worse still some fool at whatever government department it is that gives permission for new constructions had allowed a mini-high rise (about 15 to 20 floors I guess) to come up between the river and the Nada Sahib. Now that is smart, cause ‘hello! We all want to see an ugly steel and glass monstrosity break our view of the beautiful gurudwara.’
Image Courtesy. http://www.wikimapia.org
The gurudwara however still manages to retain its charms and we paid our respects (matha tekna) and prayed for a safe journey ahead. Locals say that whatever one wishes for at Nada Sahib comes true. So asking for a safe trip was a no-brainer. I also threw in a few personal requests for good measure. During the next few days I thought back a couple of times to my prayer at Nada Sahib for a safe trip… especially during those moments when the road ahead, its edges and the ravine and the mountains surrounding us were all sheathed in white.
We concluded our visit to Nada Sahib after ensuring that we got loads of prashad (Parisa and I love that atte ka halwa) and Sakshi and Parisa even got a kada each. In fact Sakshi picked up a kada with metal beads which is used like a regular prayer bead and trust me she used it a bit during the trip.
The Kadas in question
By now the sun was out in full force and we decided that there was no sense in delaying anymore. So we headed out on to the road aptly called the Himalayan Expressway.
Waiting at the Himalayan Expressway Toll Gate