RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Archive for November 2012

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Birthi Falls

with 3 comments

Part 5 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

As we ate our lunch, my eyes didn’t leave the clouds that had started to darken the hamlet of Munsiyari. Panchchuli by now was completely covered with dark clouds. These are the ones that will rain, my instinct spoke with me…

Nitin and I quickly decided; we had seen all that was to be seen at Munsiyari in a day’s time, and we also wanted to save precious drive time for the coming days – the TV news had informed it was raining all over Pithoragarh. So, using the KMVN guidebook, I dialed in the Nainital booking office of KMVN guesthouses and sourced the number for the KMVN at Birthi. Readers would remember that I mentioned about this place in the part-2 of the series. I called Birthi KMVN to find a friendly voice answering it and confirming a booking. Voila! It was easy!

Birthi is a 31kms drive from Munsiyari. Sensing immediacy of rain, we packed fast, cleared the bills and started the ride at 3pm, bidding adieu to this magical town of Munsiyari. On hills, it takes about an hour to cover 30kms, and that’s what we planned. I didn’t want to get lashed in chilling rains one more time, so deploying all carefulness that we should, we rode faster than usual.

Well, adventure it really is, when you ride on the mountains! As we neared Birthi, the sunrays gave way to drizzling. Not again! Birthi was still few kilometers away and sprinkle was really getting steadier. However, this one time we go lucky. Just as we entered the guesthouse, it started to pour heavily. For the first time in three days, it wasn’t pouring on us!

Friendly smiles greeted us and guided us to the best room available. It was really nice – clean, warm beds, CTV with Tata Sky and a geyser; at only Rs.800/- per day, it was a real steal. We loved it!

By the time tea arrived, it had stopped raining and sun came back shining over hills.

Well, didn’t I say in the last blog that silence has a very pleasant sound of its own? You should come to Birthi to experience what I mean. A couple of days away from the madness of the cities, away from what some of us call life, are always welcome. Mountains are such heavens of silence and solitude. And when you get back from this heaven, you come away feeling saner, rejuvenated. You come back a better one…

There is nothing extraordinary about Birthi, at least on the face of it. It is a tiny village, with couple of shops on road and the KMVN guesthouse perched atop a hill, right on the main road. However, what breaks the silence and the dullness is the mighty roar of a waterfall, called Birthi Falls. This is what makes Birthi fall on the tourist map and makes it really a place worth visiting.

Located right behind the guesthouse, this one’s a 126 meters giant of a fall. The staff at the guesthouse guided us to a 200meter trek, which leads to the falls. Some walk it was, up the hill…neatly carved out stairs took us near to the fall. And here is what we saw! These images, I hope, demonstrate to you the beauty of these falls. I wasn’t sure, so I made a video. You can access it on Youtube at (http://youtu.be/m1fqUdPGBj8).

This one’s my personal favorite – on the rocks at Birthi! What a bliss!

Nitin and I really liked this place. Serene, quiet and captivating, as if we weren’t only 600kms away from madness of the metro called Delhi. The guest-house was really well-laid, with a pretty garden and a scenic view of the valley. This is a must-visit place and we were glad that we left Munsiyari and decided to spend a night here…

As I went off to sleep that night, I could very clearly distinguish the sound of silence, only to be broken by the sound of the waterfall. Felt really good…

Next morning, sun came out shining really bright. We bid goodbye to Birthi at 9am.

We didn’t really make a plan as to where we would halt for the day. The fun was in the ride and that we enjoyed that the whole day. Nothing really different happened, as we took the same route back towards Dhaulchhina. Nonetheless, I would definitely share this image we took at the coast of Ram Ganga, where we stopped en route…

Since we ate a heavy breakfast, we kept riding non-stop and arrived at Dhaulchhina at around 2pm. A small jaunt became our lunch-halt here. This is where we chalked out the plan for the day; we decided to ride till Rudrapur and make most of the day, so that the ride for the final day would be easier and shorter. I used my network to book ourselves at Ark Hotel at Rudrapur. Other than Radisson, this is a good option to stay at Rudrapur.

Some ride, it was! We rode almost 300kms this day, and it was 8pm by the time we reached Rudrapur.

Next day, we started leisurely at about 11am. I won’t bore you with details, as after taking you through the magic of Himalayas, describing a ride back home on the plains would be a tad bit too much!

What a lovely ride, these 5 days offered! We covered 1290kms over these five days, scaled an attitude of 2748 AMSL; crossed magical views of pristine beauty of valleys and mountains, snow-capped peaks, witnessed a river as white as if flowing milk, heard the roar of a mighty, 126 meters high waterfall from close corners and rode through the core areas of a wildlife sanctuary, amidst heavy rains…Simply amazing!

Till the next ride, wish you a happy and safe riding…

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

Advertisements

Written by RRGwrites

November 26, 2012 at 12:15 AM

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…the Sound of Silence…

with 2 comments

Part 4 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

Silence has a very pleasant sound of its own. This is what I experienced on the Day-3 of our ride to this land of snow – Munsiyari.

The whole of previous evening went by in drying the clothes in front of the heaters – trust me, that is some task! Yet, I woke up a tad bit early; didn’t want to miss capturing the rising sun and its rays falling on the snowy peaks of Panchchuli. Nitin woke up too and readied his camera – the view from the roof of the hotel was mesmerizing – the entire Panchchuli and Hansling Peaks stood out majestically in front of us. Sheer magic, this were…

In the year 2012 alone, I have witnessed many similar majestic moments – Badrinath, Kinnaur, Spiti Valley, Leh, Khardung La, Nubra Valley, et al.  However, it was a longstanding wish that came true on this Trip – to come to Munisyari, the ‘place with snow’.

For the record, Munsiyari is a far-off town in the Pithoragarh District in the hill-state of Uttarakhand, India. It lies at the base of the great Himalayan mountain range, at an elevation of about 2200 meters AMSL. Strategically located near the tri-borders of India, Tibet and Nepal, this exotic destination was until recently restricted to tourists. This place has a fascinating history. Commonly known as the entrance to the Johar valley, this is the land of the Shaukya tribe, who were carriers of salt on this ancient salt-route from Tibet. In old days, this tribe led a semi-nomadic life; actively engaging in trade with Tibet across the arduous Himalayan routes. They would trek over mountain and passes for about a month and reach Tibet, from where they carried back material, most importantly – salt. In those days, this was the only source of salt in the entire Himalayan region. Some history the place carries…

Over a lazy breakfast, we quickly planned the day ahead – treks to any of the points weren’t feasible, as we had only one day with us. However, we learnt about many of them during our interactions and I am producing information here for those who wish to travel and trek in this grandiose place.

Munsiyari is the starting point of various treks into the interior of the ranges. For skilled trekkers, trek to the Milam, Nimak and Ralam glaciers can be real paradise. This town is at the entrance of the Johar Valley, which extends along the path of the Goriganga River to its source at the Milam Glacier.

For those who are adventurous and photography-enthusiasts, you can trek to nearby places like Khalia Top, located at 11000 feet AMSL, a trek of about 10kms. The friendly Hotel Manager told us that it offers breathtaking views of Panchchuli peaks – the best that can be seen from Munsiyari. This is also a famous skiing spot in the winters of Munsiyari.

For non-expert trekkers, an hour’s walk into the nearby forests will take you to Mesur Kund (Pond). Originally called Maheshwary Kund; this is just a few kilometers walk from Munsiyari, and features into the local folklores as a sacred place.

Thamari Kund is another quaint natural lake located amidst the paper trees. We were told that it is a natural home of the Musk Deer.

We also learnt about Betuli Dhar, a large garden full of Rhododendrons, located about 7kms from Munsiyari. It is here that we got to know that Rhododendrons is actually the state-flower of Uttarakhand!

Madkote, a hamlet at about 22kms from Munsiyari, is famous for the natural hot water springs. These are believed to contain therapeutic value with qualities, which are the cure for joint pains, arthritis and for various skin ailments.

Another easy trek is to Kala Muni Top. This is also the highest motorable road of Munsiyari, at 2748 meters AMSL, located en-route Munsiyari about 10kms before you enter the town. The place is marked with a temple constructed here. The trek is brief and you get to see some truly pictorial views from here. This one’s certainly doable…

With all this information at hand, we decided to go hunt the ‘Munsiyari 0’ milestone – the mark of our journey. This is one habit that I have – of getting myself and the bike clicked alongside the trophy-signage of every ride that I have done.

Serving as my very own landmark of each ride, these images remind me of the ride in its own mystical way, over the years…

As we ventured into the town in the broad daylight, Munsiyari revealed itself in all its majesty and grandeur. Surrounded from all sides by the snowy peaks and Panchchuli looming large over this hamlet, this place is a visual treat to the nature lovers. Charming in its appeal and incredible in its beauty, this little hamlet has managed to remain rather aloof from the well-trodden tourist routes of Kumaon.

Hereafter, we rode towards the Nanda Devi Temple, located at a ride of about 3kms from the main town. Nanda Devi temple, we found out, is a small white completely unassuming structure, which to our surprise, was locked down without sign of any priest, whatsoever! There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about this temple. What is outstanding, though, is location where is it perched.

Here nothing stands between you and the snowy peaks on one side and slopes curved by terrace farmlands on the other. Panchchuli appear as near as it can get; you feel as if walking over them. The view takes your breadth away. And the silence is almost godly. Those who say temples are a mark of peace and calm surely were referring to this place. Sitting here, I missed Neha a lot…this is the place we should’ve visited together. Well, soon someday…

From here, we rode towards Darkot. Located 8kms north of Munsiyari, this is an emblematic picturesque village of the Bhotia tribe. We had learnt about the craftsmanship of the tribals of this village. To visit this place, you have to come towards the main town, and a road diverts towards this village from the taxi stand. As we rode towards Darkot, we passed the famous local Tribal Museum, and decided to come back for it.

Darkot turned out to be no different than a sleepy mountain village rested on the slopes. However, we met some incredible people here and visited their homes – the homes of the weavers of shawls and other hand-woven garments.

This visit certainly led us to deeper knowledge of the culturally rich style of the rural inhabitants of Munsiyari – we found century old houses here with intricate work on its panels, doors. The old artistic houses of Darkot represent the rich culture and creativity of the people of the Bhotia Tribe, which actually hails from Tibet. We also witnessed the handlooms of several kinds – used to spin wool and cotton and weave them into pashmina and other sheep-wool garments and carpets. See for yourself…

After buying some superbly hand-woven pashmina caps, we rode back towards the Tribal Heritage Museum. Oh! What a treasure it turned out to be…

Also famous as the ‘Masterji’s Museum’, is a place that I end up terming, ‘simple and yet profound manifestation of a man’s desire to preserving history in his own sweet manner’.

Built by Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey, this place is a true example of taste, grit and passion. As you talk to him, his exuberance doesn’t make him look a day above 50years of age; in reality, he is 70plus! I could observe his childlike enthusiasm as he showed us around his collection of artifacts.

There is so much to see – age-old photos, long-standing maps, coins from all over the world, documents, local utensils & other items, wind-up gramophones, hand-made saddlebags, wooden bottles, native dresses and attires, hand-crafted shoes…so much that I can’t portray it in words and even if I venture to, I need to write at least 10000 words! I loved the place and captured it into a video (http://youtu.be/CQ71W9s2ANM). Must see…

With our hats off to Dr. Pangtey, Nitin and I came back for lunch to the hotel. En route, we crossed several beautiful living mountain streams – there’s something magical about these streams, indescribable in words. I’ve always been fascinated by them…the mountain-lover in me wants to halt at everyone, wishes to explore the start of each such stream and secretly plans to some day even live next to one such stream!

Here is when plans got changed for the day! Changed to what? Does the image of clouds looming over Panchchuli give you any hint?

🙂 Wait for the next and last part of this travelog…

To be continued in the next blog…

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

True Feedback

with 2 comments

Over the last few days, the whole world heard a victorious Barack Obama thank his wife of 20 years profusely for the encouragement and support he received from her during the presidential elections he contested in the USA. While he proclaimed his much stronger love for the first lady, we observed a thunderous uproar, cheers and applause, not only from those who watched this incident unfold while being present at the ceremony, but billions who watched it glued at their television sets.

This is arguably the most powerful man on the earth speaking. And mind you, he is speaking in the full public view, acknowledging the role that only a spouse can play. This is not the first time we have heard Obama express his thankfulness towards Michelle – and don’t you mistake him – he is not only expressing gratitude for her being a wonderful wife or a mother or a homemaker alone. He recognizes the role of a strong person backing him; aiding him not only with reinforcement, but also with feedback and most probably, with much needed constructive criticism at times. Well, we all know how much we need that one in our lives and careers…

I am a big fan of one taking well-intended criticism in his or her own stride, and working upon bettering self. And trust me you, no one gives a better, sometimes harder-hitting feedback than a spouse. In the times we live , chances are that our spouses are far more educated and successful than us, and chances are even higher that they are wiser ones, specially in the moments when we choose to lose it!

And why to only speak about the need of feedback when one is at the wrong end of things and needs what is now most fashionably termed as ‘developmental feedback.’ Criticism, well meant one, is most crucial at the times when one is rather powerful, successful and flowing with the good times. That is when the chances of converting our 99% good-looking results into a solid, sustainable 100% performance gets overlooked. Along with support and care that a spouse extends, that moment of her pointing at a new way, guiding towards that blind side, hinting at newer risks to be taken and higher reward to be achieved, showing that under-achieved angle of personality, hitting on hard towards that one key area of focus that we may have been missing inadvertently… all these moments and feedbacks in turn become the seeds of our future success as a whole.

R Gopalakrishnan, the celebrated author of bestseller, ‘The Case of the Bonsai Manager’, in his latest marvel ‘When the Penny Drops – Learning What’s Not Taught’, lays considerable stress on the role a spouse plays in explicit feedback, much differently than all other people you give you feedback:

“It is often said that if you really care about somebody, you give them constructive feedback. If you do not care about somebody, you say only positive things. However, in reality, that is not the way the world works.

He explains:

“Very little is told to you by your boss or colleagues about the negative manifestations of your bonsai traps. Why should your peer do so when it is none of his business? And why should your senior do so lest he be regarded as a nagging senior? Why should your subordinate risk his career by doing so?

Gopalakrishnan asserts further:

“You can become aware of your dark spots by someone holding a mirror to your behavior and by looking deep into the mirror…

…Wives are known to render a unique service to their husbands by telling them what no one else dares to. The explicit feedback that a leader can get from the spouse can be harsh, but very valuable…”

Now, isn’t that so true? I am sure, deep inside our hearts, all spouses agree to this one. Think of it, who would in Obama’s staff, dare risk giving a critical feedback to THE President of THE US of A! The same feedback, I am sure, the first lady would render so easily to, what we now know, much willing ears…

I lead a pretty large team – women and men who are strong & competent individuals. To every one of them, when I interviewed, asked a question…

Have you gone back ever and asked your spouse this question – Hey mate, what are the two areas of mine that if I work upon and improve, I would become a much better professional?”

Every time I asked this question, I have observed amusement writ large over the face of the person. Nearly all of them don’t answer, as they have never asked this question to their spouses. And yet I can tell you, all well-meaning ones have gone back that day and asked this question for sure…

I am sure, they heard something really sound and useful that time…

I am leaving you with what R Gopalakrishnan calls the Clementine Mirror; he produced in his book a letter written by Clementine Churchill to her husband, Sir Winston Churchill – the Clementine Advice.

It is indeed a worthy read:

My Darling,

I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something I feel you ought to know.

One of the men in your entourage (a devoted friend) has been to me and told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner…if an idea is suggested, say at a conference, you are supposed to be so contemptuous that presently no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming. I was astonished and upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with and under you, loving you – I said this, and I was told ‘No doubt it is the strain’.

My Darling Winston, I must confess that I have noticed deterioration in your manner; and you are not as kind as you used to be.

It is for you to give the Orders…with this terrific power you must combine urbanity, kindness, and if possible Olympic calm…I cannot bear that those who serve the Country and yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you…

Besides you won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness…

Please forgive your loving devoted and watchful…

Clemmie

(June 27, 1940)

Now, isn’t that the most sound business advice a leader can get? Do think about it.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Photo-credit 1: skillsconverged.com || Photo-credit 2: Flipkart.com || Photo-credit 3: Lettersofnote.com

PS: You can access the complete letter here.

That Tree Still Shakes Delhi…

with 7 comments

Circa 1984.

“Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a might tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”

 – Rajeev Gandhi; 19 November 1984

Circa 2005.

“I have no hesitation in apologizing not only to the Sikh community but the whole Indian nation because what took place is the negotiation of the concept of nationhood, as enshrined in our Constitution. On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place.”

– Dr. Manmohan Singh; 11 August 2005

It is 2012 now.

That same tree continues to haunt the streets of Delhi and no apology from anyone whatsoever has helped the cause of justice as yet.

As the seekers of justice gather today at the Jantar Mantar to demonstrate against the delay in justice in the matter of over 3000 citizens of a minority community massacred over three days in 1984 in broad daylight on the roads of Delhi, I am deeply anguished and saddened to wake up to a morning 28 years later from the day this ghastly event manifested in the most barefaced manner on the streets of Delhi.

Well, didn’t someone say justice delayed is justice denied? May be, the phrase wasn’t meant for the commoners in India…

Authors Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka, the tireless warriors for justice in the matter and conceivably the most knowledgeable people on this case, wrote in their well-researched book, ‘When A Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath’:

“Whichever way you look at India, whether as the world’s largest democracy, or as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is hard to imagine that any genocide could have taken place a few years ago right in its capital.”

Well, it did happen. And it is no solace that the masterminds and perpetrators of this rather well organized crime roam scot-free to date.

How I wish the apology of the Prime Minister was translated into actions. To a commoner like me, that would have been far more reassuring.

Not to be, as yet. The fight is on…

___________________________________________

Photo-credit: webecoist.momtastic.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

Written by RRGwrites

November 3, 2012 at 1:49 PM

%d bloggers like this: