Sikkim- a memoir (Chapter 1)

Sikkim- a memoir (Chapter 1)

I am taking one of the last taxis to M.G. Marg, it shall be one of the last evenings strolls to the busiest landmark of this hill station. As the sun and the clouds are pushing one another for a space in the heaven I sit quietly and sigh while the breeze gently touches me reminding me that all good things shall pass as well.

On our way to NJP railway station on the train, Megha asked me with both excitement and a look of nervousness, “Are we going to be alright?” I just smiled at her with a nod of assurance. We had never been to Gangtok before, and when she got an opportunity to work there we knew that it was a new lease of life for us. I often hear people saying that hills are only good enough for a vacation. For me, perhaps I can never express it in words how I feel in the hills.

Sikkim has got a pleasant weather all throughout the year, but towards the end of October it starts to get chillier and that’s when one knows the winter is quietly knocking at the door. I can’t get enough of winter ever, winter makes me alive, and the gloom of this season is only when I feel everything is alright. And that’s when we arrived in this panoramic hill station, and the best thing was not to stay here as a tourist but to by being as one of them for many months to come.

Searching for a nest

For the initial five days, we stayed in NHPC guest house. As I was still recovering from a slipped disc I was taking it slowly. Working on my laptop during the day and giving some interview tips to the son of the cook who was preparing for the staff selection services. His father came to me with the request to guide his son when he heard us conversing in English, this language can be really funny on how it brings strangers together.

Be it a metropolitan or a hill station searching for a rented house is always going to be a difficult task. Megha’s colleague had a space to rent out, and we were quite relieved to know about this. So we went to check the place. We were not impressed. As much as I remember the room had a dark and cold feel to it with a typical north Indian appeal, and although the rooms were freshly painted and were big enough it still reminded me of the rented two room apartment in Indra Vihar in Delhi, and that annoying ‘Jai Mata Di’ tune of the calling bell.

Bheem uncle who happens to be the uncle of Megha’s elder brother’s friend and who works as a senior inspector with Sikkim police helped us in getting some information for the accommodation. When he came to know about a two room house to be let in Tadong he took us there. The place was sandwiched between other houses and the area felt more like a chawl. We went inside the so-called two room accommodation only to find that it was just one big hall like room separated by wooden partition panels. It was a dark and filthy room reflecting the underbelly of this beautiful state. Then my glances straightly fixed at the remnants of the Dettol soap kept near the bathroom. It was looking filthy.

Perhaps the person misunderstood with what kind of house we were looking for. We were gradually becoming anxious on these unexpected results with our searches. Bheem uncle then informed us that he has got a single room in his house which the tenant vacated a few days back but he was reluctant to give as he thought it would be too humble for us. However, we requested that if we could shift to that room until we are able to find a place. It was our bad luck that his other corner of the house which was a two room apartment was rented out just before we arrived in Sikkim.


But bad luck can’t sustain for so long, and we just have to be persistent. Bheem uncle decided to take us to his home so that we can check it out before taking any decision. His house was situated in Rajgram which is down below Entel Maruti showroom, but one has to climb down some 150 odd concrete steps to reach the place. As our luck would have it we met a lady in her mid 50’s (Padma aunty) in Rajgram whose house was located some 60 steps above Bheem uncles house. She mentioned that their tenant just vacated and its ready to be occupied. When we came to know of it we decided to check the place immediately, and yes we loved the place at the first glance. That’s how we found our first nest together of starting to live-in together.


For the next 11 months, Padma aunty and Athop uncle were our landlords. I have stayed in several rented accommodations but this one was different. We never felt as tenants here but a part of their extended family. They even took us in their car and showed us around Gangtok. I was touched by their gesture of offering prayers in the Enchey monastery for us. But the best part was when they treated us in a very hip restaurant called The Square for lunch,



The loveliest couple Athop uncle and Padma aunty!


The winter was here and I could feel the days getting already shorter. The locality was anyway very quiet but after the dusk, there was an eerie melancholic silence which was very uncomfortable to the senses as we were only used to the chaos of the cities. But we soon got used to it.

View from Entel


Monastery near the King’s palace



In the initial days though we had trouble getting a sound sleep as we would wake up in the middle of the night only to hear some fading sounds of the footsteps supposedly coming from the stairs outside. We thought since the narrow passage of concrete steps passing right beside the balcony connects to the nearby hills and they would be one of those drunk lads who lost their way back home. However, we felt that the footsteps are subtle and it was more like a small kid trying to run through the steps. Probably it was our mind that was forming the mental images, but how it started roughly at around 3 am almost daily was confusing. The chilly winter nights anyway adds a scary glamour to the subject in question. After few uncomfortable nights, we decided to change our sleeping positions. As strange it gets, Interestingly that worked for us as after changing the position of the bed we never heard the noise again.

Then almost after a month, we were abruptly awakened at the same time from a different noise. We were not able to comprehend the sound but it seemed like it was the sound of a flute like an object but with a screech. It was too sharp for the ears and pierced through the night. Without any doubt, we were terrified, horrified and what not because I have never heard anything like that before in my entire life let alone hearing someone playing the flute like object during the devil’s hour.

Later in the morning we got to know from our landlord that a group of people called ‘ban jhakri’ visit each and every vicinity of Sikkim couple of times in a month and their job is to cast off the evil spirits that may be residing in the nooks and corners of the hills and gorges where human habitat is present. Nonetheless, it’s really scary to wake up to the sound of someone playing an instrument knowing what it is meant for.

The heart of Gangtok is its people and even though I am a stranger I never felt out of place here. Perhaps it might also be because I look like one of them. As a matter of fact, people always initiate a conversation in Nepali with me, when I politely tell them that I don’t speak the language they get confused whether I am not a local.

On weekends the M.G Marg is significantly congested with tourists and locals alike. But it’s quite different from the other crowded places of India as it’s not chaotic or noisy. Although exceptions are there in the form of those typical tourists who flock from the nearby states.

In M.G. Marg my favorite two things to do is to hog and to sit on the bench with Megha to admire the smartly dressed and beautiful people walking by. For the first one, The taste of Tibet serves really nice momos, and they have various stuffings ranging from chicken to beef, besides momo I love their thukpa (I am salivating as I write this). M.G. Marg has only Khan uncle‘s which serve good tandoori dishes.

However, I like Thakali for their authentic Nepali thali and a good range of cocktail drinks but it still can’t beat the Newari thali we had in Singsor bridge. There is a snack corner which serves healthy smoothies with waffles. Coffee shop serves good pizza (it’s big!!) and spaghetti, they keep beers too! Densberg and Hit which is brewed in Sikkim and the former is owned by Danny Denzongpa and it tastes really great. Although I like Densberg better if you are with friends with some couple of mugs to gulp down, it really sets the tone of the conversation. Hit is another brand of beer gets to your head really fast and it can really give you a bad hangover. Mu kimchi is a Korean restaurant that serves delicious kimbap, bibimbap and other delicacies. Once you go there you can’t help but visit this place on numerous other occasions. I found the aesthetics and taste of the cuisines quite similar to the tribal community. I forgot to mention their mouth watering sushi!


Towards Tibet road which is adjacent to the M.G.Marg Cafe Live and Loud is located. After many months, we finally thought of giving this place a try and it became one of our favorite places in Gangtok. I remember how dead drunk I was after sloshing down several drinks in our first visit. We never visited Thungdel though but of course, there is always the next time and I would visit when I am there again.

But Sikkim is not about restaurants and cafes but it’s people. It’s about the innocence and honesty that is ingrained and imbibed in the culture here. In the next blog travel with me in Maruti 800 to the nooks and corners of Sikkim when one of my favorite people come all the way to Gangtok in his legendary car. And also how our stay in Gangtok became all the more exciting with Sudarshana joining us in Gangtok all the way from Delhi.

Excerpts from the next chapter of Sikkim memoir…

Our stay in Gangtok was more special as it gave us an opportunity to host our friends and family. Himadri, was the first one to give this opportunity to us, and he came all the way from Guwahati in his Maruti 800 (a small family car from yesteryear) and it was in his small but very sturdy car that we mapped almost all the parts of Sikkim. The irony is that when you are living that mesmerizing moment you don’t even realize it that the moment is passing by and what is left is a just distant dream of memories.

So we packed our bags, took out some cash, and got some food supplies and we three headed towards the interiors of Sikkim. Our first stoppage was Jorethang, it easily became one of my least favorite places in Sikkim as it’s a valley of a commercial hub with its developing congested buildings. Nonetheless, all the districts of Sikkim have a similar look in the form of its nicely paved pedestrians way and wide alleys for the people to take a stroll. But it was very humid there and I didn’t see much people from the hills living there but mostly the people migrated from neighboring states in search of a livelihood. (…to be contd)



Judima Festival-2nd

Judima Festival-2nd

The number of times I have traveled to Haflong last year would be more than thrice the number of times I have visited the place before till now. And the reason behind the frequent travels was the second edition of Judima festival.

Interestingly, I went to Haflong to attend the maiden edition of Judima festival as a tourist and an outsider. And when the team behind the fest decided to go for the second edition, I got an opportunity to be a part of the organizing team.

Unlike the two days of first edition of Judima festival which was held in the month of January last year, the second edition of Judima fest was a three day long affair which ensured more coverage, more activities and music, and much larger crowd than what I witnessed in the first edition. And even in the midst of nonchalant protests by a meager section of people to ban the fest, the festival pulled a large number of crowd from both local and tourists alike.

The Chief Minister of the state was to inaugurate the fest but he couldn’t make it due to some last minute exigency. However, a few ministers from his cabinet graced the inaugural event of the festival.

Nonetheless, our cities and for that matter any part of the country even being the remotest of the regions can get a face-lift if an important leader makes their visit. And Haflong being the only hill station of Assam got its fair share of makeover too.

I just wonder how it would have been if the CM’s cancellation of visit would have been announced even few days prior, say at least three days in advance- no need to guess, the roads and beautification would have been left incomplete in the middle.

However, in spite of the absence of the CM, the fest started off well. A few ministers from his cabinet graced the inaugural function.

The first two days of the fest was really warmer than what normally the temperature would have been around this time of the year. The fest started with Dr Ronald Bathari’s singing of “We welcome you to Dima Hasao”, this welcome number from him was raw and refreshing at the same time, I guess that’s where the uniqueness of the place lies too.

They even have an interesting and very nicely made YouTube channel, click the link below:

Judima fest prep with Dr Ronald (The guy behind in purple sweat shirt is Dr Ronald)

Conventionally any given day the fest in this part of the world starts with a welcome speech, the speech by the guests and a customary vote of thanks. But what got my attention as always was the prayer offered to Barai-Sibarai (Goddess Shiva) by the elderly village head to mark the beginning of the festival. However, I felt the prayer recitation was not flawless unlike last time.

The showcase of ethnic cultural dance and music was initiated by 100 plus Dimasa drummers and dancers assembled together. It is indeed a sight to witness this synchrony  live, and perhaps I now understand better why your feet starts to tap and your arms want to sway the moment you listen to Khram-Muri (Dimasa drum and flute).

Bai-dima being performed by more than 100 dancers and drummers: Pic credit (Pappa Raozza Karigabxa)

There was a Judima tasting experience for the tourists, however, at the same time the second edition also ensured that no wine was being sold to any minors. It is a symbolic step as Judi in Dimasa community is intrinsic to the everyday use in offerings in rituals or offered to the guests at home as a gesture of respect.

Dancers and singers from various other tribes and communities added more charm and shades of various colors with their performance. The surrounding hillocks echoed their rhythm.


(Photo credits: Dr Chandan Sharma & Mr Bankim Phonglo)

Although the day was very sunny, the pleasant winter evenings compensated for all the complaints, and made the ambience ready for some scintillating time ahead. From Daniel Langthasa’s (Digital suicide’s front-man) satirical take on the current socio-political guitar solo to Koloma’s folk fusion kept everyone wanting for more. While the former presented some intelligent slapstick through his music and the latter performed some refreshing Thripra songs to listen to (it is their second performance in the fest).

Another fusion rock band from Guwahati by the name ,Celestial Way, performed Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ and indeed made the crowd go wild with the energy to warm up the night. And when it was time for the show stopper rock band from Dimapur- Dima Project to perform, I was waiting for them to play my favorite number ‘Lailangkha’. They reminded me of the rock bands from the 90’s. The last day of the event saw completely two opposite genres performing, one was Rain in Sahara- a hip-hop fusion band and the other was the veteran of Blues- Spreading Roots. And only one thing was common between them- their electrifying performance!

Spreading Roots in action: Pic credits- Pappa Raozza Karigabxa)

The festival was thronged by lads and damsels with their enchanting spirit and beauty, and it was an ocean of rainbow all the way. Spellbound!

Dimasa damsels: Pic credit- Dr Chandan Sharma

The other attractions of Judima were the trekking events and heritage walk to the abandoned railway track (another unique tourist attraction which is yet to be utilized to the fullest by the tourism dept of DIMA HASAO).

Heritage trek to abandon railway track: Pic credit- Pappa Raozza Karigabxa

Apart from the above itineraries, there were fun and thrill filled sport activities for young and old alike, like boating, zip-lining, burma-bridge, and wall climbing which was well supported Assam mountaineering association and Climbing circle group.

For trekking enthusiasts both the treks to Barail hill range, and Trek to the picturesque Samparadisa was successfully organized. It not only gave the nature loving tourists a taste of varied flora and fauna of the region but also introduced them to the typical Dimasa village and a peek into their daily lives.

Trek to Samparidisa village: pic credit- Colours of northeast India

Interestingly there was a section of people who were against the celebration of Judima festival as according to them this celebration is parallel to promoting consumption of liquor amongst the youths. And as I write this piece these handful of people are still wondering how to handle the progressive and inclusive nature of  the present generation who are already tired of the hypocrisy and double faced political leaders.

Fortunately, their negative publicity could not deter the much awaited second edition of Judima fest which was celebrated in the right spirit without any untoward incident eventhough this place is known for its political and social disturbance in the past.

My mother urges me to work for the development of this community which has a foundation of rich culture, and I too empathize with her. Only thing that concerns me is the lacklustre attitude of the so called leaders who are busy reaping the public fund and ill informed people who are yet to understand the inclusive all round development of the region and the community.

With the belief that I will be able to contribute more to this lovely initiative taken by the Judima fest team and the beautiful people of Haflong, I am positive that things will change and Haflong will be visited more by the rest of the world.


Enthralled crowd at Judima festival- Pic credit: Pappa Raozza Karigabxa

Note: All the pictures are the property of the photographers, the featured image is also being clicked by Pappa Raozza Karigabxa


Fearing your Fears!

Fearing your Fears!

Fear, the word itself can echo so many emotions that may be visible in the surface or stay hidden in our subconscious mind. It’s a dark and unknown zone where we hesitate to put our foot into. As a behavioral and life skills trainer, it has provided me the opportunity to look closely the unique spectrum in which the fear resides in humans. The phenomenon of fear can be as simple to understand as the ‘fear of needles’ to the more complicated ones such as the fear of closed spaces also known as ‘claustrophobia’, and yet there are other forms of fear which comes under the bracket of social phobia, now known as Social Anxiety Disorder. I wanted to understand what kind of fears do people suffer from, therefore, I asked my friends in one of the popular social media platform to share one of their fears; I got some interesting insights, few of them are- a single mother was anxious that she would lose her only son to the worldly possession when the child grows up, another respondent was fearful of not being able to complete the professional course he has enrolled into, yet another respondent replied that she was afraid of losing the man in her life. The different insights helped me garner further perspective in how fear present itself in different facet in one’s life according to their relative truth.

The wordweb dictionary defines fear as “An emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger”, if you re-read the definition it gets more interesting as it involves ‘anticipating’ or expecting the outcome of a particular situation you might be in. Let’s start from the individual point of view and understand how he may see the world from a fearful state of mind. If I have to regress my thoughts some time back to the point where I started writing this piece my mind was clouded with doubts, I even thought of giving up this piece of write up, reason being that I read through the blogs of my fellow writers and thought that it was marvelous, but my mind didn’t stop there, it started comparing with their quality of write up with that of mine and surely I felt I had pathetic sense of writing. It took me a while to contemplate and looking at things from a vantage point where I could sense back things as they are, the answers I got was divine and its true for all with no relativity involved; maybe my writing is not as good as my fellow bloggers, but, yes, I am doing just fine wherever I have reached and I am writing on the topics which might inspire someone. There was a sense of calmness after that, I could see that there was no reason for any comparisons and I am doing just fine. The fear that someone is greater and better than you is deep-rooted from the self-doubt, and once your doubt is gone your fear is gone.

Fear is paradoxical because it doesn’t exist because when we confront the situation (which is in the form of fear) it either vanishes or gives you weapons (solutions) on how to face them, however, fear itself is imaginary. What about fear of death? We have a mortal body, and sooner or later it shall be lessened to ashes, however death is only a medium or a passage where the mind and soul travels to its next destination. People who have gone through near death experience (NDE) might have more than a vague idea about what exactly went through when they approached ‘death’. Many experience reveals no particular pain and suffering and if there’s any they don’t remember. However, what happens when you confront and stand face to face against your death; there can be only two possibilities- either you die, where the fear of death is no more, because you have just met it, or perhaps you now know how to better deal with the circumstances that can lead you to your death. We might be extinct in human form but we can never cease to exist.

Some phase of your life may be lonely, you might hanker for acceptance but you may not find any. Your ‘false ego’ will lead you to think that you don’t belong anywhere, and you start to think that you are not being loved, or you may lose your most precious possession in the form of friends and loved ones someday. If you have observed carefully then you must have noticed that the source of happiness in all these are all lying outside ‘you’. The ego seeks to control, it seeks acceptance, and it seeks love not knowing that both these elements are inside you. You cannot seek it outside, you shall probably find your own reflection outside and that is only possible when you are ready, so there’s no fear, and therefore, there is no fear of separation, there’s just the ‘ego’ reducing and gradually shrinking.

In my formative years I was extremely shy, later it developed into a mild agoraphobia where I would get really anxious about going outside, and being present in a social gathering. Even now I would be conscious while eating and being stared at in the public. However, when I confronted my fears of social anxiety it was once again proved that fear is actually non-existent, it’s like a ghost that we may feel but can never see, and take varied forms through powerful human imagination. Although I am an introvert, I enjoy my work as a behavioral trainer and motivational speaker, and I like to speak to a sizeable audience. Someday, I wish to speak in front of a packed auditorium.

Fear and the world order

The very existence of fear in the form of insecurity is the reason for wars and unrest in this planet. Mass murder, genocide, taking control of the resources are all stemming from the ugly variants of the same. Religious principles are not based on the foundations of spirituality but on the foundations of fear, i.e. the fear of insecurity, trying to propagate the theory of ‘One God’ but will condemn other’s belief. The deep rooted psyche goes out to believe the ‘other’ non-believers in their Gods or ways as enemies, and propagandas are laid out to annihilate them. As we move forward in the cycle of life, the sphere of fear will widen, however, with divine faith in oneself, by walking in the path of self-discovery one can definitely revive this process, as they say, one needs to look within, search for the calmness, hear the silence. Then, the ‘self’ will reveal the things as they are, it shall be bereft of any judgments, when that happens no fear can exist. At this point there comes no one but Viktor Frankl in my mind who survived the Nazi concentration camp to tell the tale of exemplary human endowment of love. Even after losing his wife and his entire family to the gas chambers of the camps he survived this ordeal of extreme nature. After losing everyone who was close to him, he contemplated why he was even alive, and wished for death for himself. He almost lost all his will to live, but there was a divine intervention in his heart and he realized that no one can take away his inner freedom. The Nazis can strip him off his clothes, cripple him or cut off his tongue, and send him to the gas ovens but they cannot take away his freedom, no one can snatch the love that is inside him. He came face to face with his death only to realize that no one can take his ‘life’ away from him but him.

People spend most of their lives in fear, you are fearful of dying, fearful of your circumstances, you fear that you may never be able to achieve what you aspire to do, but you are ready to live a life of mediocrity. You want to see what’s in store but are reluctant to turn the pages of life, and most importantly you are fearful of living. When we live in our true self, no fear can ever touch us, no doubt can surpass us because when one lives and leads with an enlightened self, full of love that’s when one starts to live fearlessly.

“Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.”

-Victor Frankl

Those days of Janmastami…

Those days of Janmastami…

As far as I remember I have never been a God-fearing person but you can perhaps call me a God-loving person, and at times venting out my frustrations and anger at him and even calling him names. It’s a very personal relationship that I share with him and I believe I don’t have to justify to anyone how and what I feel for him. I guess I don’t have the sanctity angle of how to fear him, that might be even foolish. For him I would like to believe that he understands, although I am so fallen in the true aspects that I might not be even considered if he is looking out for the candidates who are ready for liberation. But that’s alright, right now I can’t care more about salvation and other things beyond our world and metaphysical dimensions but the topic in itself have always fascinated and intrigued me. But I can’t focus my mind in the spiritual endeavors that I wish to undertake. It’s a sign of agitated mind, and a mind like this can’t fathom much about the transcendental path to be taken.

With some questions that started bothering me 17 years back I went to Rukmini-Krishna temple with a friend. Like most of the times I was skeptical, I was uncomfortable with the very idea of meeting strangers and that too draped in saffron cloth with ‘Tilak’ made of sandalwood paste. The first experience of anything in this world is something which we never forget, but this was something which was not of this world. When we entered there was such a calmness in the air, the aroma of the sandal incense sticks burning in the corners of the temple hall was spiritually intoxicating. I was in a momentary pause, I never felt that aura before in my life, I just didn’t know how to handle the experience that I was encountering that moment. I was in a different galaxy, the ecstasy in my senses was invigorating. Debarun, my friend gave me ‘charnamrit’, a purified water that was fused with rose water, tulsi leafs, and flower petals. The chamber of Rukmini-Krishna was not yet open for ‘darshan’ and we would have to wait for another half an hour before the ‘sandhya-arati’. My friend introduced me to the deity of the old man sitting crossed legs in the opposite direction facing towards the chamber as Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. I learned that he was the founder of this organization who sailed to America in 1960s with the sole idea of spreading Krishna consciousness. Debarun told me how he established the first temple in the soil of USA in a tiny shop named-Matchless Gift.

In the meantime we decided to meet Vrindapati Das. Debraun told me that he was a learned scholar and did his Masters in Metaphysics. His room was in the other building, we knocked the door and someone from inside asked us to come in. He was sitting and was probably meditating and chanting, he was a man of tiny stature with a magnificent nimbus surrounding him. He didn’t speak much until inquired upon, when I enquired couple of questions from him, he said, ‘One needs to develop the required faith to understand things as they are, start chanting, and start meditating’. He himself was living a simple life of simple sustenance, most of the times he was devoted to the study of books and translating scriptures. Probably this very encounter of a pure devotee so many years back is still a reminiscence of spiritual path that I undertook whose seed is still inside me. It was time for ‘sandhya-arati’ and also to witness the deities of Rukmini-Krishna, devotees have already gathered to sing the names of the lord, I could see the ‘Mridangas’ and ‘Cymbals’ being readied to accompany the hari-naam. I think it was the most beautiful deities that I have ever witnessed. I believe it blessed me and bestowed with the wisdom to undertake the unique spiritual journey for the next seven years which I consider it as a golden period of my life. That evening, I surrendered myself to the chant of Krishna and his wishes.

Since that day, and till the end of seven years I never looked back, chanting his name in glory, talking about Krishna with friends, singing his gospel. When Debarun and me initiated Bhakti-vriksha, a youth forum to preach Krishna consciousness some years later it was such blissful moment. Singing kirtan, cooking prasadam was the best of memories from this spiritual phase of mine.

Today, being Janmastami, I remember how we used to immerse ourselves in the name of Bal-Gopal, and used to witness ‘Nirjala-vrat’ (fasting without water) to purify our souls. By the end of the day we would sell and distribute thousands of books and dance in ecstasy. Waiting till the end of the fasting and having the first bite of prasadam as we if we were lying there hungry for thousands of years. I think about them, those days, and I perhaps want to go back to them. As another year passes by of not visiting ‘You’ in Janmastami, I pray that you forgive me of all my sin and pave my way which leads to you, may be give me back my innocence so that the bygone days come back…the days of Krishna!

Thread of a lifetime bound together- a memoir

Thread of a lifetime bound together- a memoir

Friends this will be long, and I would really feel delighted if you take out some time to go through it, especially those whom I have tagged. I shy away from symbolic gestures, and at times even avoid people these days because I have become a person who loves his solitude. Having said that it doesn’t stop me from remembering all those people whom I have encountered in various phases of life. And, I had this restlessness to express. Therefore, this write up is dedicated to all my friends as memoir of the bond called friendship or whatever you would like to call.

It was in the year 1989 when I was studying in Pragjyotish Boripara I met a boy in my nursery class (there were no preparatory classes back then) named Pintu Bhattacharjee. He used to fold his sleeves till the elbow in a peculiar way, I still remember his tiny features, although we more or less kind of shared the same feature but he was tinier than others, and he was my ‘best friend’. We used to share our tiffin during the lunch break, and we understood each other well. We lost contact when we shifted our home and I took admission in K.V. Maligaon. Ever since that day and till now I don’t know his whereabouts, no, the social media network didn’t help me either. I just hope he is alive, and probably he remembers me too just the way I do.

I think Arunjyoti Deori aka Kon was the first person whom I have met the earliest and our bond is still fresh like the morning dew. It was in the year 1990 when Deori family came to meet Doulagupu family and I played the whole day with Deori brothers. It won’t be incorrect to say that we grew up together. In fact, we spent the glorious 12 years of school together, of course it is also a fact that every time he soiled his pants I had to call his home and deal with it, after all I was also the class monitor. Most of my friends know how talented Deori brothers are, and their drawings were something which awed the whole school. Varun, his elder brother was genius (now he is happily married with his love and father of a lovely son) in was a gifted soul. I remember, how we used to ride cycle, fly kites (I would just watch you guys fly, I still don’t know the trick) together and try to pick some projects to make hot air balloon from my science project digest. Those days’ evenings were only about cricket…yes street cricket with the cosco ball. And, oh boy, how proud we used to feel when we scored runs and took a wicket. I miss those days, and if I can go back, I would probably go back to those days.

I guess back then everybody knew our friendship Satyajit…I feel strange writing about you, and I don’t know why but I have to do this, these word are mere expressions and expressions are always deceiving. It was probably in 5th standard that we came so close, we were class monitors then. Our favorite moment was narrating stories of movies that we would watch in the theatres nearby, there were only two theatres-Anupama and Pragjyotish, they have demolished Anupama and built an apartment instead. We would always have our lunch together and whenever we would not, I would feel whether something is wrong. Once, I ate the apple that you brought, you were suffering from some fever and your jaws were swollen, next day I came to school with my jaws swollen. We grew up so fast and the person who joined us next was Subhankar…

We had our differences in the initial days, those silly fights but when we came close I had one of my best times. Every evening we would spend time talking about UFO’s, aliens, laws of physics, metaphysics and about the galaxies. We three became inseparable, I miss those long walks in the misty winter nights. We would go for a long stroll, there was some unexplainable magic in that moment. You guys probably remember my red Nike pull over. We three were one of the initial owners of Ranger swing- the cycle with Shimano gears, and we took such a pride flaunting it on the streets of Maligaon.


After 10th I took a different stream and got separated from you two. Although it was a virtual separation only, but some things really distanced us. I miss them, and I miss you guys, it’s actually not possible to be the same again. But I remember and wish that you do the same. May be someday when our hearts are sown back together, perhaps we would sit and click some glasses of wine together and talk about all the old memories we created on the way.

I remember you fondly Samuel, but I am not sure about you. You were the first person with whom I learnt the first chords of guitar and sang songs. We used to talk and giggle sitting at the last row in the class. Exchanging cassettes of different albums, and took my first puff of cigarette with you.

Debarun, I don’t know where the hell are you. You brought one of the most important turning point in my life when you introduced ISKCON to me, but that also became my nemesis later. I was like the other son in your family, I miss that, I really do. Where have you vanished?

Abhijan, I like you more with your moustache, but you wouldn’t listen. Remember, how we used to sing Lucky Ali’s song…’O sanam, teri yaadon ki kasam’.. it still puts a smile on my face. The combined study of accountancies, and how it would turn into a discussion of dilemma of not being able to express our love to our crushes. I miss Monalisha who used to read my palm and tell me interesting things about my future, although I don’t remember anything materializing but I miss you, I heard you went missing from your hometown Nagpur, I pray that wherever you are may you find peace and protection. I remember that quite girl called Mili, I at times would think how dumbo she was in those days. But it was your innocence only that has made you so spiritually inclined. I am glad we are still in touch.

Then came the college days, and I met you Abhishek in the first week of my college. You would take half an hour to finish a vegetable wrap, by that time I would already have finished two. I remember when I inspired you to go ahead and talk to your crush and you simply destroyed all my instructions, you were so shy, and you still are. You have stood by my in all my desperate times, you have supported me in all decisions whether it went right or wrong, this is also a moment when I say ‘thank you’ for all the things that you have done for me, I am indebted to you, and I love you.

Dipankar, I met you on the first day of my college, and connected straight away. We don’t talk much now, but that’s alright, we become busy as we grow old. Those unforgiving, sadistic winter nights of Delhi, we have drank our share of liquor together and shared the joys and sorrows. I remember getting drunk with you and sobbing on each other’s shoulders. It feels so funny now.

Diana, I think this is the first time I am calling you with that name of yours after ages. I cherish our days in Convergys. You remember when we went out for lunch in the café (I was going through my vegetarian phase then)? The way you respond to my doubts and questions, at times becoming my punching bag I think no one could do…thankfully, you are still there. We have supported each other well and having known you for nearly a decade now is a blessing. I love you…dholu.

Shivam, I know we shall remain family till we are buried in ash. You know very well my mother loves you more than me. You know how to make her happy. I have to thank Megha for letting you hijack from her. We don’t have to chatter over the phone, we know we are there for each other. I remember the nuance we created in Jorhat circuit house, at times I regret but I love that. You literally were there when my life was into a deep shit, but you pulled me out. I am sure we would kick some more asses in the days to come.

 These expressions are not random but I think of them every now and then. They linger in my heart and at times bother me with a tinge of nostalgia. Those friends who are long gone I remember you too, yet some friends are lost in the oblivion, they have left us with some beautiful lessons, lessons to learn and smile back at them. I have always found solace in expressing myself and that’s what I have tried to do it here, you guys stay happy wherever you are, and whatever you do.

*Image is taken from Google images.

Expecting the ‘Expectations’.

Expecting the ‘Expectations’.

The motivation of my write up is triggered by some bittersweet aftertaste which you experience when your expectation doesn’t meet the outcome. You might expect the crystal clear aqua-blue sky with rainbows emerging from a distant valley and you get dark clouds and mist instead. I tell you if what you get in real and what you had expected don’t come any close it will be a disaster. One might not express but deep down he is hurt, the wounds might not be visible but the deep-rooted scar remain unsheathed until it is again made right. It is futile to think that someone else would come and ease the pain because that is another expectation.

Everyone’s expecting something, whether it’s from your siblings or from your parents, whether it’s from a friend or from your better half we all end up falling for the same trap. We not only expect from our social circle but also from people whom we don’t know, and who are actually complete strangers to us. We expect our friends to respect our feelings, we expect them to be there when we need them, we expect them to not to betray, not to be talking behind our backs. What about parents? We expect a lot from them and in turn they do the same, an important portion of our life’s road map is shaped on it. Our spouse or our better half would tend to occupy most of our lives, and this relationship is again much elaborated in nature. The most important of them is the relationship that you share with yourself, many a times we go harsh on ourselves based on the expectations we create, the kind of relationship you share with yourself would define or become an underlining principle to understand whether you have positive expectations or negative expectation from yourself.

Why do we expect?

I guess it’s in the human nature to expect, I can take the foundation of this understanding of whatever spiritual insight I have. Human beings have the profound need to hanker for happiness, when we are ‘expecting’ it inertly means we want to belong, we want to be secured, we want to be assured and everything combined we want to be happy. We don’t want the opposite of it, we don’t want anybody to show our vulnerabilities and scratch our wounds. Why do we get offended when someone we don’t know behaves rudely with us? At times we feel so bad about it that we start to sulk.

It’s very comfortable to say, the question might even confuse you, but if you try to dissect you will understand or at least try to see things from that angle too. As a spiritual being our constitutional position is to always remain in bliss or happy but in the material realm we tend to move away from this position. We in turn start to ask for recognition of this position from the nature. It’s always functioning and existing right from the time of your existence for eg. When a baby cries it is simply expecting the caress of her mother, you will often see a baby becomes quiet and peaceful after feeling the mother’s affection. It is simply the outcome of baby’s expectation. Therefore, it won’t be incorrect to say that to expect is natural and is perhaps in our DNA.

I don’t write to educate people on what to expect and what not to, I write for myself, to find solace. Now, when I wrote the prior sentence I can see that I am expecting to find solace…peace. At times I might even find it, and yet many times I may not. Therefore, understanding yourself is primary, whether you find peace or not is unimportant, but what do you do to attain that is very important.

 Right and Wrong Expectations.

I really don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know what set of expectations are right and what are not. But knowing your truth and accepting as it is brings one closer to the answer. So what’s the truth that I am talking about? It’s the moment, this very moment…do you know what your reality is this very moment? Or perhaps you are bombarding yourself with questions and sulking. The more you resist, the more power you give to it. You can’t fight out of it, perhaps the metaphor can be understood by recalling the situation when you get ready to go out for a party and it suddenly rains, you keep wishing, ‘Rain, please go away’, but all you get is a set of downpour resulting into flooded roads that spoiled your evening. At times your wishes might work though. Generally, we would make ourselves understand and accept the situation. When it comes to people it works differently, we curse, we get upset, we become indifferent and surround ourselves with negativity. At times we switch on the self-pity mode and blame ourselves too. That is sad, I have been there, I know.

So what can be done to deal with ‘Expectations’? Well, nothing can be done or rather needs to be done. Just like we cannot do anything regarding the ‘Rain’, it is futile to expect stop ‘Expecting’. It is natural for human beings to expect. But we can change our approach, our outlook for the same.

If you have reached till here then let me also give you two words to deal with it: Assumption and Love.

Well people, stop assuming! If you thought that the person for whom you have done so many things and in return you didn’t get what you expected then perhaps stop and think. You took out time to plan and bring happiness to that person but it didn’t quite match up to ‘your’Expectation’ when they reciprocated. Every single person on earth is unique and they have their own unique ways to express. If you have gift to express your love in a special way then it is wonderful, but it need not be necessary to expect the love in the similar way from others. So stop assuming that all individual are same.

You just don’t have any better way to deal with it except for love. These days it will be difficult to understand this term because it is diluted. Diluted in such a manner that it is increasingly becoming synonym with expectation. But love is only love and nothing else. Even if the earth becomes dry, lifeless and bitter the rain will fall over it making it full of life again. When one tends to love without any conditions, that itself is a blissful position, that itself is the right and positive way of ‘Expectation’.

 Next time you are surrounded with a somber feeling when you were let down, know that it is but natural to expect, but if you are in harmony with your ‘self’ you shall do just fine. What I try to do is to try to live ignorant of any understanding of expectations…I fail every now and then but when life gifts you happiness in small amounts in the absence of it, I surround myself with surprises.


*Image courtesy: Google images.

As a ‘Jajabor’ in Himachal (Chapter-II)

As a ‘Jajabor’ in Himachal (Chapter-II)

The bus was small, and since it was morning it didn’t had many passengers either. But the vehicle was going at a speed  which I thought was not appropriate, it was going too fast, speeding at the sharp turns where it should have slowed down a bit. I hold on to my guts and had to put my faith on the driver. We reached Ghatasni by 8:00 am in the morning, quite a speed. The bus stops at a market place after half an hour, and the people in the bus rush towards the bus stalled in front. Confused, I asked the driver, “was it not a direct bus?” “Yes, go to that bus” he said. I did what he told me to. I see the bus and the driver have changed, the conductor remains the same. I don’t know but it is for some reason funny for me. The plan was to reach Mandi by 9:30 am where Megha and six of her friends would be joining from Delhi, and another four from Dehradun. At first, I was unsure about joining them as crowd always suffocates me, then I thought, why not? Its alright to be with friends, anyway at times its good to know people during a trip.

WP_20160410_08_46_29_Pro modified
The three-storied pagoda.

It was 9:45 when I reached Mandi, Megha and friends were yet to reach but they forwarded me the number of Mr Biswajit. Mr Biswajit, his wife Monalisha, and their friends Bhaskar and Suru came from Dehradun to join us, they were already waiting there for the group in Mandi. The duo call themselves ‘Monajeet’, I am talking about Mr and Mrs Biswajit, they seem to have traveled across Himachal and trekked through various hills and mountains. We instantly stroke some common chords. Soon, Megha and her friends joined us. They all looked sleepy and hungry after the overnight journey from Delhi. Everyone agreed on heading straight to Prashar lake. Prashar lake is located 50 kms north of Mandi, and the drive from Mandi would take almost two and half hours to reach there. I already saw some majestic pictures of the lake when it snows here. There’s no snow at this time of the year (during April), but no doubt the place and the view itself will enchant me. Situated at a height of 8960 ft above sea level, the three storied Pagoda like temple is dedicated to the sage Prashar (Wikipedia). The drive till Prashar itself is mesmerizing, the valleys and hills again greet me. Pragyan and others were following us in the other car. Pragyan is one of the many special friends Megha is blessed with, when I last saw this guy in a busy street of Fancy bazaar in Guwahati he was picking something for his sister. That was some six years back, now he is all grown up into a man. He keeps things to himself and doesn’t talk much but I like his company, after all an introvert can open up before his own kind. We stopped somewhere in the middle to fill ourselves with something, and what else better than a bowl of Maggi noodles with half-fried egg (poach). We all had more than a bowl of Maggi and I’ve lost the count of egg poach we had. Basically we filled ourselves like greedy hogs and soon ready to charge the lake. From here it was another 20 minutes of drive to Prashar lake. It was late afternoon when we reached Prashar, everyone looked a bit tired and took their own time to freshen up and get ready. Well getting ready to nothing, we were still confused whether to stay in our tents, or book couple of rooms in the nearby guesthouse but we were running short of a tent to provide shelter for 13 people.

Inside the temple premises. (photo credits: Pragyan)

The lake is surrounded by hillocks and the moment we reached near the lake I leave all my belongings to climb one with Pragyan and Bipin (friend from Himachal). The climb to the hillock looked easy, but when I reached the midway of it I could feel my chest was pumping out blood to every inch of my body, I could no longer breath and felt as if my heart is going to pop out from my mouth. Took some breather, caught my breath again, and finally reached the top of the hillock. I could hear the wind, see the whole Dholadhar mountain range and the lake, the three storied Pagoda looked so ancient, the place itself must be thousand years old. Someone told us that once a researcher from U.S. came here to study the lake and measure its depth. She came prepared with all her equipment’s and gadgets but eventually had to leave without any success. One can feel the intense energy surrounding the lake provided you have the ears to listen to it. The priest of the temple shared a story with Pragyan where his great grandfather once dived into the lake and discovered a cave beneath the lake, he went on to meditate there for a week, I would like to believe in that fairy tale.

IMG-20160414-WA0009 (2)
A difficult climb!

Soon the sun sets and we fix our tents, since there is very less vegetation its difficult to get firewood, so we could not start any bonfire, and therefore no merry making. I was alright with that as my eyes were fixed on the starry sky, the star seems to take over the sky when its pitch dark and there’s no moon to be seen.  My elders are right when they say never to compare the beauty of the nature between the day and that of the night, what might seem to enthrall you during the sunlight might appear creepy and scarily mysterious in the absence of the light. The whole place went quite, only the occasional giggle and vague sounds coming from the trekkers who were camping in some distance. As the night progressed I could hear some noise from the temple, it happened to be the ‘bhajan’ which would continue throughout the night. I was quietly lying down in my tent and listening to this magical noise coming from the pagoda. Megha fell asleep early as the terrains were too tiring for her. I couldn’t sleep that well that night for two reasons, I didn’t want the moment to slip by in the hills in my sleep, secondly, I felt as if someone was standing near the tent, and I had to stay alert. The night was freezing, and only thing that saved us from it was the tent and the blankets which we rented from the temple sources, you can borrow it for a cheap 20 bucks for the night.

WP_20160410_07_01_35_Pro modified

Everyone was still sleeping in their tent when I woke up. I was too sluggish to do the morning chores so I sat down on the rock nearby gazing towards the temple. As some moments pass by I see flock of people in the open pavement near the temple. Gradually I see some people with a fully grown Himalayan goat moving inside the temple entrance, they together repeat some mantra after the priest, I could only hear the echo of it. I was just waiting to witness the obvious. After some time they took the animal to one corner of a nearby hillock, with a blow its head was chopped off, I sighed. The spell broke loose when Pragyan greeted me, he brought me prasad from the temple, the prasad was suji (semolina) made with ghee and it tasted delicious, he told me that he was there witnessing the whole affair. People started to wake up from their slumber and we begin to fold our tents. Before we leave, I took a parikrama of the lake with Pragyan. I could feel the soil near the lake is pretty spongy, I could just imagine how it would be to take a dive beneath the surface of the lake and reach the lake-bed. I quickly freshen up and changed my undergarments into fresh ones. People would depart and leave for their respective destinations, some would leave for Dehradun, some for Noida and Delhi, and I just decided to leave for Manali after reaching Mandi. Mr Biswajit suggested me to stay in old Manali as it shall interest me with less crowd and various cafes. After spending there for a day or two I could decide my next destination. I nodded to myself.

WP_20160409_16_39_25_Pro modified
When the sun sets in Prashar Valley!

After reaching Mandi I quickly departed for Manali. Ideally where it should have taken some odd three hours to reach Manali from Mandi, it took almost  five and half hours to reach the place. Being the conductor of Himachal State Transport he should have been more responsible in telling that the bus is going to Kullu and not to Manali, rather he tells me that I can get another bus from Kullu and would take responsibility to get me one. I said, “OK”. It was not a bad decision though, I was anyway not in any hurry. I thought in a way I could also get a feel of Kullu.The road from Mandi to Manali can be tricky for drivers who are new to the valley, with sharp turns things can go pretty rough if you are not alert enough. We pass by Pondoh dam which looks serene and quiet for the moment. There’s also a tunnel which is around 2.8 km in length on the way. I love tunnels, last time I remember the excitement while crossing the tunnel near Maibang with a Royal Enfield. I was trying to look through the window the size and the feel of the tunnel, it was cold and huge. It took some minutes before we could see the light of the day. The bus finally reached Kullu, the conductor helped me to locate the bus which would take me to Manali. I made myself comfortable and when the conductor of this bus said, “Sir, this bus can only drop you till Manali road, you will get another bus from there which would drop you till Manali”, I could have got down then, then I thought it would be fun to see at what time I reach Manali.I finally board the bus which would finally drop me to Manali, we passed by many restaurants and food joints, I was a lot hungrier to see them. I also pass by many rafting points beside the river Bias. I would like to try rafting next time I visit Himachal again. The bus finally comes to its final halt in Manali. The place seemed to be crowded with various shops of different interests, people who appeared to be tourists from different states and people from different nationalities were flocking everywhere. I got down from the bus, it was almost 8 in the evening, I knew where I should be heading to, I ask the autowala, “Old Manali?” “90 bucks” he said. We bargained at 70. Within 10 minutes I was in old Manali. I got down near a Tattoo parlor after crossing the bridge. With no arrangements of stay for the night I started to search for a room, but first I need to kill my hunger. Then there in the distance some few meters away I saw Richiek’s cafe. Contd…

In the picture (from left): Suru, Mrs Monalisha, Chayani, Kimi, Megha, Bhaskar, Nikhil, Pragyan, Rajiv, Bipin, Kunal, Farhad. (Photo credits: Mr Biswajit Bharali)