I am amused by people who say they have no dreams. When even animals dream, how can people not? An evil thought comes about subjecting such people to dream deprivation, if only to advance scientific understanding.
I dream both in color as well as in black and white. As with most people, I have recurrent dream topics – school/college journal submission/examination, flying, fast trains, accidents/disaster, etc. But most of my dreams are pretty straightforward and predictable. A college friend of mine had dreams with distorted metaphysics. Once he lived in a world where consciousness and physical bodies were randomly exchanged and he spent dreaming that his body was searching for his consciousness and vice versa.
I have often dreamt of my blogger friends. I once received Krish Ashok at Chennai when he was about to arrive from abroad. After he came, we had some interesting experiences negotiating with rickshaw drivers in Chennai. In another one, Ashok and I were at a conference-cum-exhibition, and we were discussing the latest software web trends. I and Nita have once received a group of tourists from China, and we were their tour guides in the Mumbai-Pune region. I remember being amazed by how Nita was impressing them with statistic after statistic, fact after fact, about Indians. More recently, I was explaining to my wife how Rambodoc is going to monetize his SixPackDoc blog by adding ads and selling services. See? Straightforward and predictable.
Nita had once commented, ‘Born to fly – these words seem to be entrenched in your heart’, and that shows. I have come very close to fulfilling this dream when I para-glided in the Himalayas. In my dreams, I don’t need no paraglider! An interesting observation in my numerous flying dreams is that if I hesitate and doubt my ability to fly, I can’t take off. It is only when I do so with full conviction, that I am able to successfully take off. I have flew several times over several areas of Mumbai, Pune, San Diego, and San Francisco.
As dreams are connected with long-term memory, my ‘home’ in my dreams is still the place I grew up in Mumbai, even though I left it 12 years back. Dream incorporation is also pretty common with me, where doorbells or ringtones become assimilated in the dream sequence. I’m a déjà vu addict – I always try to predict what’s going to happen next, but I fail every time. I used to talk a lot in my sleep when young, and there is only one reported incident when I went sleepwalking!
A couple of unusual dreams come to mind. One was a nightmare. During an examination, my fountain pen began to leak. And surprisingly, it began to leak in red (I always wrote in black)! Aghast, I got up and the red trail began following me all around. I ran out of the classroom, outside on the roads, where I realized that the trail of red was not ink but blood. Gasping for water, I reached for my water bottle, only to find it contained blood. Panicked, I decided to rush home, managed to reach VT station in Mumbai (it will always remain VT for me), where there were many other people all drenched in blood to varying degree.
In an other recent dream, I was telling my wife that I thought that I was not really myself. Me, as I am today, was just a concoction, an illusion, role-playing a script written by someone else, Matrix-style. And being aware of this made me feel very lighter, since there was nothing I needed to take seriously in life. I was waiting for the day when the director says “Cut”, and I snap back to my real, original, self.
But the best part of my dreaming is that I am fortunate to be a lucid dreamer. Though not as successfully as in my younger days, I am still able to do it sometimes. Controlling your dream script is a fantasy come true. Now don’t ask me what I write in that script!
I was a novice blogger when I started out posting my Spiti travelogue. Thanks to feedback and comments, I’ve realized that it was very difficult to actually navigate through the travelogue. It even led to some folks thinking that the “Introduction” post was the whole travelogue itself!
They have only me to blame. I apologize. Now, I’ve added a nice index to the introduction and added navigation links to help
Thanks for the patience and bearing with me. Also, note that comments are enabled only for the first and last posts.
Once an issue becomes a mainstream news item in India, you can be sure every major religious group, political party, student organization, and celebrity will have an opinion on it. After the Shiv Sena, it’s now the All India Minorities Front’s (AIMF) turn to freely express their views on Orkut while living in democratic India.
What are odds that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) will not be the next to express their views from Gujarat?
How does one issue become mainstream? Well, one of the TV channels has to take the bait, and the rest will follow. The print and electronic media will then aggressively offer the right platform for everyone to get their views miscommunicated, taken out of context, and misquoted. Competing with a dozen other news channels and newspapers, the one creating the most sensationalism and misunderstanding will win the most eyeballs, goes the wisdom. There will be talk shows with pundits, and opinion polls, and public talks shows.
In all this brouhaha, two things happen. Not only is the true issue misrepresented to various extents and typically blown out of proportion, but other significant newsworthy items are all but ignored.
How many of you recollect tomorrow’s British PM-to-be, Gordon Brown’s high profile visit to India? No? Not surprising, because the Indian media never knew of anything else happening in the world apart from Big Sister Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother!
Not only is this phenomenon unique of India. For e.g., in the US, the retirement of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman was relegated to the background over more important stuff like celebrities being jailed for drunk driving.
While US Cable TV was obsessed with drunk-driver-celebrities (DDC, a long wanted title):
“President Bush skipped the final session of the G8 Summit, Vice President Dick Cheney needed to have his heart pacemaker replaced, and NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis prepared for launch!”
In India, it’s Cricket Coach Controversy, Big Sister abused on Big Brother, the AAA (Abhi-Aish-Amitabh) wedding, Big Uncle kissing Big Sister, so on and so forth. Too much coverage, too many opinions, too many mountains out of molehills. When this happens – and its happening with increasing frequency – I need a break. To regain my sense, rejuvenate my capacity to reason, to make this world meaningful again.
Then I listen to Kumar’s Nirguni Bhajans (or read this review) , or Mozart’s 40th in G Minor. Watch Ek Doctor Ki Maut, (or read this review by my friend, Asuph), or dream of taking a yacht cruise like Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead. What can you do? Escape to the Himalayas by reading my Spiti Travelogue! Just kidding…though I do that too, sometimes!
“To see the greatness of a mountain, one must keep one’s distance. To understand its form, one must move around it. To experience the moods, one must see it at sunrise and sunset, at noon and at midnight, in sun and in rain, in snow and in storm, in summer and in winter and in all other seasons. He who can see the mountain like this comes near to the life of the mountain, a life that is as intense and varied as that of a human being.“
Words from Lama Govinda, a 20th century holy man, quoted by Richard Blum, one of the three editors of National Geographic’s book, “Himalaya: Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge, and Hope“.
Some say the book is worth buying for the photographs alone (more than a 100 from some of the most accomplished photographers in the world). But the 40 short essays accompanying them are what gives this book its real meaning.
“What the collection of writings in Himalaya does is take those experiences among the tallest mountains of the world and bring them back to where they most touch people that spend time in the Himalaya, which is in your heart.”
“Conrad Anker, one of the world’s most talented climbers, writes in his Himalaya essay, the mountains he had gone out to first ascend in Nepal and Tibet, had faded into the shadows next to the people that lived there. “The mountains have taught me humility, but the people who live in the shadows of these mountains have taught me acceptance, respect and kindness.“
The words of the world’s foremost wildlife biologist, George Schaller, in a voice light on science and strong on feeling: “Standing at this convergence of snow and sky, I lift my face and feel afloat like a passing cloud. Spirits soar in such infinite space, one feels euphoric in the cold clarity of the peaks, and the silence speaks to the soul.“
Himalaya approaches this from so many different directions, from the Tibetan monks who live in the high monasteries, to Jimmy Carter on a trek, to climbers scaling the heights. Yet a consistent theme runs through each essay, and if we approach this book as we approach the Himalayas, looking for it to give us something, ultimately we come away with a greater sense of self and what we too could achieve.”
Sounds like a great addition to my library…:-)
I received offline as well as online feedback to update my Spiti Travelogue with more pictures. I was humbled, and have updated the travelogue posts with a large number of additional pictures…take a look!
All your comments, criticisms, and suggestions are most welcome!
Back Where We Began: Home sweet home at last!
All this time, the wheels of our train were constantly bringing us closer and closer to our home. At last, we reached Pune! Wherever you go in the world, there is no place like home! Moreover, after such an extraordinary trip, this was as true as ever.
We waited to develop our film rolls, and share them and our experiences with friends and family. I decided to write this travelogue because I felt too many things were missing from verbal narratives. It has been a different pleasure altogether to write about our trip.
We all met again on the weekend when all of us were in Pune – recounting our memories, reliving our experiences, sharing our thoughts and planning for future trips back to the Himalayas…
Wheels Back In Motion: Reflections on the way back home
I always feel uncomfortable and out of place in Delhi. I was anxious to be on our way back, and we caught the Jhelum Express the next day. The others from our group were flying back to Pune, while only George was with us on the train. Vidisha and I had a relaxed travel back. It was mostly time for reading and reflection.
The world up to Manali was the civilized world, as we knew it. Above that, once you crossed Rohtang Pass, it was as if you entered a different world. Indeed this distinction bears out even with the seasonal disconnection of the upper region. The Rohtang and other mountain passes are open only after summer, for a few months. For the most part of the year, the Spiti region is isolated from the rest of the world. The region has remained in isolation for centuries, and hence has an introversive culture and life focused around its monasteries.
What does ‘Spiti’ stand for? Si means Mani, Piti means place, Spiti means the place of Mani, the jewel. Rudyard Kipling writes about Spiti in these words: “At last they entered a world within a world – a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains…Surely the gods live here. Beaten down by the silence and the appalling sweep of dispersal of the cloud shadows after rain, this place is no place for men.”
Our rare glimpses of tourists in Spiti were those of foreigners. We never saw any Indian tourists. I was saddened that apart from the local villagers and the military, Indians rarely ventured here. In contrast, I thought of Kedarnath and Manasarovar, where there was no dearth of Indians.
Reflecting on the purity of the people’s culture, lifestyle, and religion, I also wondered whether we were invading the region with our tourist paraphernalia. The civilization of the valley was significantly changing the lives of the people. There is now electricity, irrigation, and primary school education available in Spiti. Crime is still virtually unknown. The government has installed few antennas through which many people are able to watch Doordarshan. Telephones have reached Kaza. Overall, the changes in recent years are more than those that took place over several centuries.
Devilish Delhi: Return to civilization
The next morning, we came to Manali with our Gypsy vans to catch the buses to Delhi. We bid adieu to our vans, and our drivers, Sonam and Mahinder. Our drivers had gained our tremendous respect in the past few days ever since we began our journey with them from Manali. Both were from Ladakh, Tibet. Sonam was an entertaining orator, and passengers in his van enjoyed long entertaining narratives of his trip to Goa and his experiences with other travelers. His cousin sister was the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest at the age of 17.
As drivers, they were top-notch. We felt safe and secure with their hands on the wheels. Driving in the rugged Lahaul and Spiti valleys needs courage, endurance, skill, patience, and wisdom. Few people would be able to do the job, and Sonam and Mahinder did it exceedingly well. We bid an emotional farewell to them at Manali while thanking them for everything.
We did not speak much on the bus. We were back in the crowds and back in civilization. It felt dreary. We reached Delhi and checked into hotel for the night. I called up a couple of cousins, and had long chats over the phone, before resting for the day.
Serene Solang: Relaxation before the return journey begins
The quaintness and solitude of this town attracted me tremendously. It was a place where artists of all kinds could swathe in the beauty of nature and rejuvenate their creative powers. Our hotel owner, Sohan Lal, himself was a master of several arts. He knit beautiful carpets and blankets with ornate designs. He had built the hotel furniture on his own. He was also an excellent cook, and we enjoyed his delicacies so much that we did not eat anywhere else.
His eldest son was India’s national ski champion. All his sons and daughters had won innumerable medals and trophies in many winter Olympics. Yet, he was so humble, serving us tea/coffee and meals with reverence. I wondered whether humility was an innate trait in the people of this region because of the powerful forces of nature that dwarfed man here…
Sohan Lal with his son and his children’s numerous trophies adorning the shelves…
Today was a day of rest and relaxation before we began our return journey. We strolled to the Kullu/Manali forest range, the protected forest area. We discovered a small temple, built recently, bedecked with wooden bells and intricate wooden carvings. This would be our last day for scenic photography, so Vidisha was busy clicking close-ups of flowers and I capturing the snow-clad peaks around.
Friendship Hotel in Solang
We wandered around aimlessly that day, with no purpose, goal, or destination. I felt as if yesterday’s paragliding was an orgasmic climax of days upon days of relentless adventure and building tension.