“I decided to launch this website and post blogs documenting life experiences, incidents, and insights observed and reflected upon from time to time by me as well as by those whom I came in contact with, who profoundly impacted the course of my life journey. I am deeply indebted to each them. There will be pages on this website and blogs dedicated to their life stories written by me or contributed by others.”
If we describe a vriksha (tree) in the real sense, it is the lifeline of all living beings on earth; human beings derive oxygen for sustaining life, and in turn, vriksha takes in carbon dioxide, so it is natural symbiosis! At the same time, vriksha provides shelter to birds generously giving space for their nest that In turn make the vriksha vibrant with activities. Travellers get a canopy, protection from the scorching sun and even an umbrella while raining; thus, in a real sense, vriksha is a temple, a throne of God which sustains life over the earth! There are multiple benefits of a vriksha, but in this context, these are enough to count!
Navigating through the beautiful blogs on Vrikhsamandir, lovingly nurtured by Shri Shailendraji, benefits all of the NDDBians who are retired and are away from active life. It serves as a beautiful platform for sharing their thoughts!
You would agree with me when a person gets superannuated suddenly, he becomes inactive, and that transition is challenging to bear. Some of us continue to work even after retirement but more often than not their to ability to perform gets restricted due to old age and slowing down of reflexes!
Without active life, there are all possibilities of setting devious depression as there is no vent to let the steam off!
In this context, vrikshamandir plays a pivotal role in linking retired people with each other and maintaining communication. It happens many times retired person gets frequent moods off due to lower endocrine levels!
I feel Vrikshamamdir provides the perfect and sure-shot remedy! The modus of operandi is to recollect all your past constructive and creative experiences, which are nowhere recorded and could be treasured in the Vrikshamandir wonderfully in story forms and serve as an energy booster when one’s mood is off. It provides an opportunity to recall one’s creative contributions to the organisation and society. It also helps depict objective lessons that one can learn from one’s own experiences and contributions.
Vrikshamandir is a beautiful instrument for exchanging experiences and learnings through anecdotes and parables. It helps develop skills for storytelling and writing, which in turn ignites the habit of reading and continuously updating knowledge and being aware of the world around us.
The present generation who have not seen Dr Kurien saheb and his leadership could become enlightened by going through all the practical lessons he preached to the people who came into his contacts while working! This could help in building up morale, and thus Vrikhshamandir is entirely instrumental in teaching the values and principles for achieving success by being a proactive person!
Everyone likes the past reminiscences when they see either pictures, photographs or listening audio outputs, which are undoubtedly excellent reference material preserved in Vrikshamandir and definitely when one looks at it, they slip back into past glory, certainly raising their oxytocin level and get a ‘feel good factor ‘out of it!
Vrikshamandir provides a social e-venue where all members can flock together, and some people who knew each other but have not met for long due to a change of location or other reasons could pick the thread together and enjoy life!
In my life, I have just come across the first time such an arrangement when a blog is actively linked with the retired members of the organisation, and even after retirement, they could share their experiences!
Last but not the least, I must mention the creative endeavour of our senior and mentor, Shri Shailendraji, to keep all the “birds” in a jovial mood by compiling and editing “contributed” material – reshaping only where required- and put them on the open and accessible to all treasure trove of vrikshamandir so that they chirp for ever in good air!
I visited my home country, Bharat, from 14 November 2022 to 6 March 2023, after nearly two years and four months. There was so much to do during the four-month trip to Bharat; So many people to meet—so many places to visit. I was excited but tired too.
After all, I had just gotten over my radiation sessions in June 2022 and was in the middle of hormone injections while starting medication for my heartbeat too. There was some anxiety, but the excitement was far more than the anxiety. The first few months went very well, and I could cross out many tasks on my to-do list while in India.
The month of February 2023 was a waste as I fell sick immediately after my return to Gurgaon from a very satisfying trip to Anand, where I participated in the third get-together of former NDDB employees. I was bedridden during the month of February 2023 first with pneumonia and then with UTI.
I was lucky to have recovered just in time to travel back to cold and freezing Toronto in early March and not pay a penalty for a change in air tickets booked months ago.
I travelled more than 5000 km by road in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. I also travelled by air taking 4 flights. Roads have greatly improved so have airports.
I will write separately about my trips to my village Banduari, Gorakhpur, Anand, Nadiad, Vadodara, Netrang, Statue of Unity and Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Chittorgarh, Salangpur, Dubai and Cairo.
I first wanted to do a quick short blog on my visit to Anand.
Next week I hope to be able to post videos of some fascinating discussion sessons that were organised during 21/22 January, meeting of former NDDB employees at Anand.
Let me begin by sharing some pictures !
I have 427 photographs and about 7 hours of video recordings taken during the third meeting of former NDDB employees held on 21/22 January, 2023. I don’t know why I am facing some technological challenges and struggling to upload all the photographs and videos. I hope to solve these issues with the help of a friend who has agreed to come home and help me on Sunday 26 March. Looking forward to his visit.
I received the following mail along with a Hindi poem from Dr HB Joshi a couple of days back. As desired by him I have great pleasure in uploading his mail and the poem on Vrikshamandir. ~ Shailendra
Recently I had an opportunity to be a “Facilitator” at “Gastrocon-2023”, a conference for Gastroenterologists, held at Mt. Abu on 18-19 March 2023. More than 130 gastroenterologists, physicians and gastro surgeons were invited from North Gujrat and south Rajasthan by my physician friend Dr Surendra Gupta whose son is Gastroenterologist at Palanpur.
Seven eminent guest speakers from Gujarat made excellent presentations on various topics in Gastroenterology !
While anchoring this conference, I recited a poem in Hindi which was relevant to the conference inducing a sense of humour. I recited it as an icebreaker during the event which was appreciated by all the delegates.
I am sharing it with you with a request to publish it as a blog on our esteemed Vrikshamandir with a view to sharing it with our friends from NDDB. ~ Hem
अचानक एक दिन मच गई शरीर के तंत्रो मे अजब सी खलबली , हम में से है बडा कौन, इस गंभीर मुद्दे पर अति उग्रता से बहुत बातें चली ।
सुनो, जीभ बोल पड़ी, “मैं सब से बडी” , “बिना स्वाद सब एक नमकीन हो या रबड़ी”, अन्न नली ने कहा चल हट, तेरा है न कोई मेल, खुराक का परिवहन नही है बच्चो का खेल ।
जठर ने किया हुंकार “मै पाचन का आधार, बिना मेरे जीवन हो जायेगा तार तार”, छोटी आत गुर्राई “चल बे हट तू कहां से आया, तू तो बस जलाता है, पाचन तो मेरा काम है भाया”।
बहुत सुनी सब की लीवर की आँखें हुई लाल, सुनो “मेरे बिना तुम सब का आ जाता है काल” तिलमिला कर बड़ी आंत ने फोडा बम “खुशबूदार” “आ जाओ किस मे कितना है दम” ।
अंतरिक्ष से आवाज़ आई “हो जाओ खामोश यहाँ इकट्ठे हुए है पाचन तंत्र के बास” , शीश सबके झुक गये लीवर की हुई अध्यक्षता, माफी माँगी सब ने , किया करार, काम मे अब होगी दक्षता ।
भूतपूर्व एनडीडीबिएन वर्तमान में प्रोफ़ेसर, एमआइएस, लाँग आइलैंड युनिवर्सिटी
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
नीला आकाश रहेगा सदा
झिलमिल सितारे रहेंगे सदा
सूरज जग रोशन करेगा सदा
जलचर जल क्रीड़ा करेंगे सदा
नभचर कलरव करेंगे सदा
थलचरों की नाद गूंजेगी सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
बाढ़ आँधी नाश करेंगे सदा
ज्वालामुखी क़हर ढायेंगे सदा
बवंडर घरों को गिरायेंगे सदा
बर्फीले तूफ़ान डरायेंगे सदा
भूस्खलन भी होता रहेगा सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
काले बादल गरजेंगे सदा
दामिनी गगन में चमकेगी सदा
रिमझिम बारिश गिरेगी सदा
झील झरने बहते रहेंगे सदा
सरिताओं सरकती रहेंगी सदा
सागर उछलते रहेंगे सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
वाद विवाद होते रहेंगे सदा
तर्क वितर्क चलते रहेंगे सदा
युद्ध विनाश करते रहेंगे सदा
भूकंप से भयभीत होंगे सब सदा
बीमारी महामारी आयेंगी जायेंगीं सदा
वनाग्नि आक्रोश दिखायेगी सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
झाड़ झाड़ियाँ रहेंगी सदा
रंग बिरंगे पुष्प खिलेंगे सदा
भ्रमर तितली मंडलायेंगे सदा
शादियों का समाँ रहेगा सदा
निराले नन्हे नाचेंगे सदा
नई पीढ़ियाँ पनपेंगी सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
धनवान धन से खेलेंगे सदा
गरीब भूख से तड़पेंगे सदा
अन्याय यह सब चलता रहेगा सदा
बंदूक़ें दनदन चलेंगी सदा
नर नर का संहार करेगा सदा
पुरानी पीढ़ियाँ ओझल होंगी सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
चाँद चाँदनी बिखेरेगा सदा
उषा की लालिमा रहेंगी सदा
चंचल शिशु गायेंगे नाचेंगे सदा
यौवन में हर्षोल्लास करेंगे सदा
वृद्ध वृद्धा यादों में जियेंगे सदा
कल खेल में हम हों न हों
पृथ्वी सौंदर्य आनंदित करेगा सदा
ब्रह्माण्ड के रहस्य जानेंगे न कदा
जीव अजीव की चर्चा चलेगी सदा
अन्य ग्रहों पर जीव खोजेंगे सदा
मैंने एक अमरोहवी दोस्त को लिखा, पेशे ख़िदमत है जौन एलिया का एक शेर,
ग़ौरतलब हो कि “जौन” अमरोहा के बड़े ऐसे घराने से थे जिसने कई पुश्तों तक अदब, शायरी, फ़िल्मों आदि में अपने योगदान से बहुत नाम कमाया । जौन बाद में पाकिस्तान चले गये । मेरे अमरोहवी दोस्त के अंदर का छुपा शायर जाग उठा और उनका ताबड़तोड़ जबाब फ़टाक से आ गया।
“मियाँ अमरोहा का शायर ढूँढ लाये हो । पूरा नाम है “ सैयद हुसैन साबित-ए-असगर नकवी”।क़रीब क़रीब हमारे मुहल्ले के थे यह बात दीगर है कि हमें हमारे मुहल्ले का पता ही नही।अगर, मगर, किंतु, परंतु, चूँकि, इसलिये, आबादी, बर्बादी, इश्क़, मोहब्बत, रोना , पीटना वग़ैरह कुछ लफ़्ज़ों में ज़िंदगी बयां हो जाती है।”
मै भी बावजूद बुढापे कोई कम नही । उन्हें जबाब दे दिया है, देखें अब उनका क्या कहना है।
“लफ़्ज़ों के मायने समझाने, समझने, समझ कर मायने बदलने और भुलाने में ज़िंदगी बयां हो जाती है। वाह उस्ताद तिरी लफ़्ज़ों की लफ़्फ़ाज़ी से तो नाकों दम है वाह वाह ततैया खां फ़क़त तेरा ही तो दम है”
एक २००८ विडियो क्लिप यहाँ लिंक कर रहा हूँ। फ़ेसबुक पर था । कुछ दिन पहले अचानक मिल गया।
यह विडियो उस समय का है जब मैं गाँव अक्सर हर दो तीन महीने में एक बार हो आता था। सोचा था रिटायर होकर वहीं रहूंगा। पर ऐसा हुआ नहीं।
कुछ मित्रों का भी कहना था “आप गाँव में ज़्यादा दिन टिक नहीं पायेंगे। यह बस एक रोमांटिक आइडिया है”।
उनकी बात सच निकली । सपने सपने होते हैं। सब सपने सच नहीं होते। कुछ सपने सच भी हो जाते हैं ।
सपने देखना और अपने सपने को साकार करने के लिये प्रयत्न करते रहना मानव की नियति है।
तीन साल से ज़्यादा हो गये मुझे गाँव गये।
बिजई बाबा अब नहीं रहे। २००८ में बिजई बाबा हमारी पट्टीदारी में सबसे ज़्यादा उम्र के व्यक्ति थे। तब वह बहत्तर साल के थे। और मैं चौंसठ साल का। बिजई बाबा का देहावसान २०२१ में पचासी साल की उम्र में हुआ । अब मैं सतहत्तर साल का हो गाँव पर अपनी पट्टीदारी में सबसे अधिक उम्र का। हूँ।
बिजई बाबा अब नहीं रहे पर अब भी जीवित है उनके द्वारा वर्णित किसान जीवन की त्रासदी । उपज बढ़ी नहीं कि बाज़ार दाम कम। अमूल / एनडीडीबी ने ने रास्ता दिखाया इस समस्या का निराकरण करने का । दूध के मामले में बहुत हद तक सफलता मिली। तिलहन और खाद्य तेल उत्पादन वितरण क्षेत्र में सफलता नहीं मिली। मेरा सौभाग्य था इन संस्थानों ने लगभग तीन दशक तक जुड़े रहने का। पर मैं अपने क्षेत्र के लिये कुछ न कर पाया। आख़िर क्यों ? ख़ैर इस बात पर चर्चा फिर कभी।
His text message forwarding the video clip forwarded read;
“I always thought that WA university fowards are bullshit…. but … this person speaks something true. Similar to Geeta Gyan: क्यूँ चिंता करते हो …..”
I replied to Dr Malhotra; “बहुत बढ़िया बोला है । 1990 के दशक में Deepak Chopra की एक किताब ख़रीदी थी । पढ़ी भी । उसमें भी कुछ ऐसा ही वर्णन था।”
फिर मूड बना मैंने अपने आप से कहा चलो आलस छोड़ो कुछ इस विषय पर लिखो।
चिंता, आशा, ममता और मैं
डाक्टर मल्होत्रा द्वारा भेजे विडियो क्लिप देखने के बाद मुझे पूज्य दादा जी पांडुरंग शास्त्री आठवले से सुना यह प्रसंग याद आया।
बात उन्नीस सौ नब्बे के मध्य के दशक की है। मै आणंद में नौकरी करता था। दादा जी पाण्डुरंग शास्त्री और स्वाध्याय परिवार से जुड़ चुका था। वडोदरा के किसी गाँव मे दादा जी आने वाले है मेरे मित्र और सहकर्मी प्रवीण भट्ट को जब यह जानकारी मिली तो वह दादा जी के दर्शन के लिये तैयार होने लगे। मुझ से पूछा और मै भी झट से तैयार हुआ । फिर हम पहुँच गये माही नदी के पार उस गाँव में जहां दादा जी स्वाध्यायियों के बीच बैठे थे । जाड़े के दिन थे। सूरज अभी डूबा न था।दादा जी चिंता के विषय पर उठाये गये प्रश्न के उत्तर में एक उदाहरण दे कर समझा रहे थे।
दादा जी कह रहे थे, “भगवान जन्म के साथ ही मनुष्य को दो नौकरानियाँ दे देते हैं। एक “चिंता” दूसरी “आशा” । मानुष बड़ा हो कर भूल जाता है कि चिंता और आशा नौकरानियाँ है और उनसे घरवाली की तरह बर्ताव करने लगता है। यहाँ तक की अपनी घर वाली की जगह अपना अधिक से अधिक समय समय चिंता और आशा के साथ बिताता है।”
मुझे लगता है इस विषय में मैं अकेला नहीं हूँ। चिंता और आशा तो जीवन पर्यन्त साथ रहती हैं । कमबेस हो सकता है । एक ओर चिंता आशा की उड़ान को रोके रखने में कारगर है वही आशा, चिंता की बदलियों को हटा, मानवी को कर्तव्य पथ पर चलने के लिये सहायक बन सकती है। पर कैसे ?
संवाद को आगे बढ़ाने के लिये तब बातचीत, बहस, बकवास, बकैती, बड़बोली, बदगुमानी, बतफरेबी, बतफरोशी, बकचोदी में से किसी भी एक और एक से अधिक विधाओं का उपयोग किया जा सकता है।
जैसे दादा जी ने कहा था यह तभी संभव है जब हम आशा और चिंता को नौकरानी समझें और उनसे उसी तरह का व्यवहार करें । घरवाली जैसा नहीं । पर यह बहुत कठिन कार्य है ।
अपनी बात करूँ , और सच में कहूँ तो विशेषकर बुढ़ापे में बातें छुपाने का या अगम बगडम बोल निकल जाने का कोई फायदा तो होता नही, इसलिये जो कुछ कहूँगा कोशिश रहेगी कि जो कहा वह बतर्ज खर्री खेल फरुख्खाबादी ही हो । पर हूँ तो आदमी ही इसलिये गलती भी हो सकती है।
पहले जब मै जवान था लगता था जो दिन हैं ज़िंदगी के बहुत हैं । मैं जवानी में बुढ़ापे के बारे में ज़्यादा नहीं सोचता था। समय भी नहीं होता। बहुत सी आर्थिक और पारिवारिक समस्याओं से निपटना होता था। काम पर भी बहुत सी कठिनाइयों से जूझना होता था।
पहले लगता था ज़िंदगी बड़ी लंबी है। पर अब तो लगने लगा है कि कुछ ही दिन, महीने या साल बचे हैं इस जीवन के।
प्रभु जाने !
2020-2022 के दौरान कोविड का भारत से दूर लंबा प्रवास, हृदय रोग और कैंसर से उत्पन्न परिस्थितियों से जूझ कर निकल आने पर यह अहसास भी है ही कि जितने भी दिन बचे हैं वही हैं और बहुत है।
बहुत से परिवार के, मित्र और सहकर्मी मुझे छोड़ कर अपनी अनंत अनजान यात्राओं पर चले गये । जब उनकी याद आती है तब तो मन में अक्सर प्रश्न उठता है करता है कि मैं क्यों रह गया ।
मुद्दे की बात यह है।
उम्र खिसकती रही, बचपना मरता गया, जवानी चढ़ती गई फिर ढल भी गई। बुढ़ापा आ गया। अब वृद्धावस्था का इंतज़ार है।
पर अब भी “मर गये” बचपन और “ढल गई” जवानी की यादें अक्सर उभर आती है अचानक बिन पूछे बिन बताये! ग़ज़ब !
यही हाल “चिंता” का है । चिंता का उत्पात ख़त्म ही नहीं होता। ग़नीमत है मेरे साथ साथ मेरी “चिंता” भी बुढा गई है अतः अब उतनी तेज तर्रार नहीं है ।
“आशा” का भी वही हाल है । वैसे शेष जीवन तो अब केवल बिताना ही है । जो करना था कर चुके । जो होना था हो चुका। जो है सो है।
अब बुढ़ापे में चिंता और आशा से जब भी बात होती है तो दोनों कहती है दादा जी के प्रवचनों के बाद आप ने कोशिशें तो बहुत की पर हम से पीछा न छुड़ा सके । ऊपर से आपने एक और “मित्र” ममता जो पाल रखी है। आपकी जो “ममता” है न उसी के नाते तुम्हें यह सब हुआ, हो रहा है, और आगे भी होता रहेगा।
ममता, सुधि पाठकों आपको बता दूँ मेरी कुछ पूर्ण और बहुत सी अपूर्ण इच्छायें हैं । उन्हें अब भी मै भुला नहीं पाता। चिंता और आशा अब ममता को अच्छी तरह से जानने लगी हैं।
मैंने गाँव छोड़ दिया पर गाँव ने मुझे अब तक न छोड़ा। मैंने एनडीडीबी छोड़ दी पर मेरी “पुरानी” एनडीडीबी ने मुझे अब तक न छोड़ा।
ममता और मूर्खता दोनों शब्द म से शुरू होते हैं। लगता है कि ममता, ममत्व और मूर्खता में घनिष्ठ आपसी संबंध है।
मेरा गाँव मेरे बचपन का गाँव न रहा , मेरा परिवार प्रतिष्ठित था, दूर दराज तक “एका” के लिये जाना जाता था अब पहले जैसा न रहा।
पुरानी एनडीडीबी और आज की एनडीडीबी में कोई साम्यता नहीं है ।
समय बदला, बदलते समय में संदर्भ और सत्ता के साथ समीकरण बदले । बहुत कुछ वह हुआ जो न होना चाहिये था, पर शायद होना था इसलिए हुआ।
पर फिर भी दिल है कि मानता नहीं । यह वस्तुस्थिति को न मानना और चिपके रहना ही तो ममता है और नहीं तो ममता और क्या है ?
फिर भी, आज भी मुझे गाँव, गाँव के परिवार और पुरानी एनडीडीबी से उतना ही लगाव है जितना पहले था।
एनडीडीबी छोड़ने के बाद गुड़गाँव में ग्रोटैलेंट कंपनी में कार्यरत हुआ। कंपनी के बोर्ड का मेंबर और कर्मचारी नंबर दो बना। मेरे मित्र और भाई समान श्री अनिल सचदेव तथा बोर्ड के सभी सदस्यों और कर्मचारियों सभी से सम्मान मिला। जीवन एक नई डगर पर चल पड़ा। एनडीडीबी का कर्मचारी नंबर पंद्रह जिसने वघासिया बिल्डिंग वाले आफिस के किचन से मई 1968 से नौकरी शुरू की थी उसने सन 2000 अगस्त से अनिल के घर के बेसमेंट को अपना आफिस बना नया काम शुरू किया। ग्रोटैलेंट और SOIL से जुड़ा हूँ अब भी। लगाव भी उतना ही है ।
मेरी घरवाली को मेरी इन दो नौकरानियों मेरी चिंता और आशा से शुरू से ही तकलीफ़ रही है । आख़िर उसकी भी तो वही नौकरानियाँ है । चिंता, और आशा । साथ मे ममता भी है !
आप की भी अपनी चिंता, आशा और ममता होंगी 😃🙏।
क्या ख़याल है ? ब्लाग लिखेंगे आप या अपने कमेंट्स से इसे और आगे बढ़ाने में मदद करोगे ?
आवाहन है जुड़िये , संवाद को आगे बढ़ाइये । सुनील शुक्ल ने कहा कभी कभी बात अड़ जाती है।
संवाद को आगे बढ़ाने के लिये तब बातचीत, बहस, बकवास, बकैती, बड़बोली, बदगुमानी, बतफरेबी, बतफरोशी, बकचोदी में से किसी भी एक और एक से अधिक विधाओं भी का उपयोग किया जा सकता है।
Ramanujam cycled from Manali to Leh in 10 days and then wrote his first blog. I had an easy job. I with his permission copy-pasted it on Vrikshamandir!
This is my first ever blog. I had always wanted to write about my first 50k cycling which I did at the age of 56 and half marathon at 57. However I never got around to it due to sheer inertia. This time I was determined that I should not allow any more excuses to come in the way. Through this blog, I also want to encourage other adventurists to try this expedition. It is an incredible test of one’s physical ability and endurance. And if I could do this expedition at the age of 64, they can too!
The idea of doing the Manali-Leh-Khardungla (MLK) expedition germinated in my mind when I took part in the Jalori pass cycling expedition organised by the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) in May 2019. Then Covid happened and all outdoor programs ground to a halt. In May 2022, as Covid was under control, I got the urge to participate in some programs of YHAI. I noticed they had planned to do the MLK expedition in July 2022. As there was a lead time of 2 months to prepare, I consulted some who had done the program and they encouraged me to go for it and also gave valuable tips for training.
I called the cycling officer, Shashank and he too encouraged me saying that if I can cycle uphill for 3k continuously on the lowest gear, I should be able to complete the ride. From him, I also learnt that the registration for the MLK program will remain open for another 4 weeks or so. However, I decided not to wait and registered immediately in May and booked my air tickets to Manali and return from Leh, lest my mind may develop second thoughts. I also informed several of my friends about my plan to ensure that I remain committed to this program. Now there was no turning back! I began to train sincerely to be ready for this adventure that was to begin from 15 July at Manali.
My training program:
I was advised to do a couple of 100k rides, perform planks, lunges, squats and other strength building exercises. I was also suggested to ride to the Nandi hills.
Since I am not a regular cyclist, I was determined to train so that I am able to cycle at least 4–5 hours a day. My mental calculation was that if I can cycle for around 5 hours at an average speed of 10k per hour, I should be able to comfortably complete the daily average ride of 50k in MLK.
I cycled on the road for about 2 hours in the morning and used the gym cycle on the hill mode for about 1.5 hours in the evening. Thus I was able to cover about 70k of cycling each day. I also did my squats, lunges and other leg strengthening exercises twice a week.
End of June, YHAI arranged a zoom call for all participants to discuss the MLK program. During the call, the field director informed us that all those who do more than 100k of cycling regularly will complete the MLK trip easily. Those who do 50k will have challenges but will be able to complete it. This was a big morale booster for me! He also told us to do climbing in top gear while standing to enable us to prepare for the tough hill ride. I religiously followed this advice and I must say that this part of the training really helped.
While I was not able to go for the climb of Nandi hills, I was confident that I had trained well. The absence of the Nandi hills ride however did occasionally raise doubts in my mind.
During the training Nirav Patel, a triathlon champion from my housing society who had also done the Manali-Leh cycling, reviewed my progress at various intervals and gave me valuable feedback for improvement. My sincere thanks for all his support and advice.
Manali — Leh Cycling Timeline:
I took the HPRTC bus from Chandigarh airport on 14 July and the bus reached Manali only at 11 am instead of 6 am due to landslides on the way. Not a great way to start. There were 87 participants of which 8 were women. More than 60% of the participants were from Maharashtra, mostly from Pune/Mumbai. Of the 8 women, 5 were from Maharashtra and 3 from Karnataka. At 64, I was the oldest among the men. Among the women it was a brave 67 year old woman from Mumbai. We spent 3 days in Manali for acclimatisation.
Our picturesque campsite at Manali
We were 8 people in a tent and being the eldest, my tent mates ensured that I had a comfortable time and were very helpful to me.
There was a test ride of 8k today to the nearby Naggar castle. The field director told us that the ride to Naggar castle is to test the preparedness of the participants. He asked us to complete it without taking a break. At the end of the ride, he told us that those who completed the ride in 45 minutes will find the MLK ride easy and those who completed it in less than an hour will find it a little difficult. I completed the ride in 52 minutes and that too without a break. That ride boosted my confidence.
All set for the test ride
Today was a rest day. We roamed around the campsite and relaxed.
My amazing tent mates — (L-R) Ramanujam, Swapnil, Nilesh, Swadhin, Monti and Pinaki on the banks of Beas
The first day’s ride was one of the toughest as we were to cycle 49k to reach our campsite at Marhi (3360 M — Metres above sea level) and in the process, gain an elevation of some 2200 M. We were to carry only our warm clothes (in case of downhill ride), rain pants and shirt (in the event of rains) and lunch on the cycle. Rest of our luggage used to come in a truck. We had an ambulance with a doctor, 4 volunteers to cycle with us and 2 mechanics on a motorcycle with tool kits and water cans, accompanying us.
Everyday our sumptuous breakfast and dinner consisted of eggs, idli/poha/chole bhature/chapatis, vegetables and sweets. For the ride, we were given a packed lunch and a goody bag consisting of biscuits, chikki, juice, dry fruits and candies.
The route was quite scenic with waterfalls, small villages and green landscape. I started at 7.30 am and reached Marhi at 5.30 pm. During the ride, my max heart rate was 154 bpm. I decided that I should not strain myself too hard and ensure my heart rate does not exceed 140.
Every evening, there was a medical camp when the doctor addressed the health issues of the participants.
Started from Marhi at 8 am and reached Sishu (3100 M) at 2.30 pm, a distance of 50k after crossing Rohtang pass (3978 M). It was a steep ride for 17k till Rohtang pass, downhill of 19k to Koksar and thereafter it was a mild up and down road. The river Beas originates near Rohtang pass. There was thick cloud cover upto Rohtang leading to poor visibility. There was a possibility of rain and hence, we did not stay long at Rohtang pass. Though no effort was needed when we were riding downhill, we needed to be very careful as any mishap could be quite serious if not fatal. Maximum accidents happen when going downhill! While climbing, my speed was 5.5 kmph and on the downhill, it was 20–25 kmph. Many enthusiastic participants in the group reached speeds as high as 60 kmph on the downhill ride.
The campsite at Sishu was by the side of Chenab river with a beautiful view of a waterfall.
On the way to Rohtang pass
First major pass on the way to Leh
Started from Sishu at 8 am and reached the camp at the Mountaineering Institute, Jispa (3200 M) at 3.30 pm. It is a distance of 54k. It is an ok ride with no big elevation or downhill ride. However we had to negotiate convoys of army trucks on narrow roads along the way. Since we had been told beforehand not to expect any facility to take bath during our 10 day ride, our joy knew no bounds as we found that the Institute had bathroom facilities with hot water. The simple luxuries of life!
Waterfall at Shishu
Started from Jispa at 8 am. We soon lost mobile connectivity and did not have any till we reached Rumste on 26 July. Though I had a postpaid Jio connection I could get a signal only in a few locations and none at our camp sites. I reached Zing Zing Bar (4270 M) at 4.30 pm, a distance of 35k. It was a slow and steady climb to reach this place.
On the way, there was a water crossing. Fortunately there was not any rain in the previous 2 days and hence the water flow was less so we could cross it without much difficulty on foot. A few energetic ones even cycled through the water without falling into water.
During the ride, I met with an accident but luckily escaped unhurt. I was going behind a truck on a downhill slope. At a turn where the uphill started, there were multiple large potholes. The truck was not able to climb and started moving backwards and hit my cycle toppling me over. Due to the potholes, the truck’s reverse movement was very slow and I could move away to the side of the road. However, my cycle went under the truck between the rear wheels. My cycle’s front wheel was damaged. After our mechanic repaired the cycle I resumed my ride. Quite a scary experience.
We stayed at one of the dhabas in Zing Zing Bar as there was no facility to pitch our tents in that location. Many started developing Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and the doctor put them on medication. From this point on, everyday, we started seeing a few participants withdrawing from the expedition for some reason or the other.
Resting on the way
At Deepak Tal lake on the way to Zing Zing Bar
The spot where we needed to cross the water on the way to Zing Zing Bar
We started at 8 am and reached Sarchu plain at 4.30 pm covering a distance of 40k. We had to cross Baralacha pass (4892 M). On the way is Suraj Tal lake which is the origin of Bhaga river. Once I crossed the pass, the weather turned bad and started raining. As there was no place to take shelter, I had to continue cycling. After a while, I could see some dhabas and took shelter till it stopped raining. It was the only time I was caught in the rain as I usually did not stop at any place for long breaks fearing rain which generally starts after 1 pm. It is for this reason, I did not click many pictures. Many of the pictures that I have posted in the blog are from my fellow participants. Many of the others not only got caught in the rain but also hail-storms. They were enjoying this expedition in all its glory!
Suraj Tal on the way to Baralachala
Second pass from Manali, Baralachala
On the way to Sarchu plain
On the way to Sarchu plain
Started at 7 am to reach Whisky Nala, a distance of 50k. It was one of the toughest rides and hence we had a special briefing on what to expect and how to handle this stretch. It is the only day when YHAI had arranged refreshments at 2 places to ensure that we are well supported for this toughest ride. After some 30k of riding, we would reach the start of Gata loops (4201 M) to negotiate 21 loops over a distance of 8k to reach its end (4667 M). As you start climbing, you will see trucks above you in the higher loops and below you in the lower loops. Even before I could savour my achievement of negotiating the Gata loops, the next climb of 10k to Nakeela pass started. What made this stretch even tougher was the long convoy of army trucks using the narrow road. I was so tired that I almost gave up. I however cobbled up my last bits of energy and finally made it to the campsite at Whisky Nala at 6.30 pm. My tent mates had been worried as I never reached any campsite so late and were relieved to see me.
Somewhere on the Gata loops
At Nakeela pass at 15547 ft
Campsite at Whisky Nala
At our tent — The 8 Strong! : L-R: Monti, Shantanu, Swapnil, Nilesh, Swadhin,Ramanujam,Pinaki, Amrith
Today, we had the easiest ride of 29k to reach Pang after crossing Lachung pass (5019 M)
On the way to Pang
It was a 43k ride mostly on the plain road to Debring via Morey plains. On the way you could see shepherds taking their herd for grazing. Debring was very windy and we had a tough time to ensure that our tent was properly closed to protect us from the wind.
At Moray plains
L-R: Monti, Saurabh, Ramanujam, Pinaki, Swadhin
L-R: Swapnil, Ramanujam, Nilesh at Morey plains
On the way to Debring on a flat road
Another tough ride of 53k awaited us today as we were to cross the second highest motorable road at Tanglangla pass (5329 M). Somehow I did not find this stretch tough compared to the ride crossing Gata loops and Nakeela pass. Once we crossed Tanglangla pass, it was a smooth ride till we reached Rumtse. While Rumtse had mobile connectivity, there was none at our campsite which was located on the outskirts. We had to go to the village to speak to our family after several days.
Camp site at Rumtse
We had rain in the morning and hence we could leave for Leh only at 8.30 am. It was a long ride of 78k mostly on a downward slope except the last 8k when we had to climb in the hot sun to reach Leh. On the way, first time in Ladakh we could see a number of villages where local people were engaged in agriculture. We crossed multiple landmarks: Upshi — a large town before Leh, Thicksey monastery — a majestic 12 storeyed structure built in 1430 AD and Shey monastery and Palace. The ride became very tough once I reached Choglamsar around 3 pm. It was very hot and the road had no trees. There was also a lot of traffic on the road as His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in town. It took me almost 3 hours to complete the last 8k .
It was a huge relief once we reached Leh as we had good toilet and bathroom facilities. Back to civilization at last!
Today’s ride was so tough that I decided (in hindsight very wisely) to skip the next day’s ride to Khardungala and back (82k)
Breakfast at Campsite, Rumtse
Farm lands on the way to Upshi
A village on the way to Upshi
With Nilesh on the bridge across Indus river near Upshi
Thicksey monastery on the way to Leh
Those who opted to ride to Khardungla were to start at 4.30 am and the cut-off time to reach Khardungla was 3 pm. However, owing to rains that day they started only at 6.30. By now, 7 participants had withdrawn from the expedition. Of the 80 left, some 50 odd started for Khardungla but only 4 participants could reach it. The remaining had to return midway due to rain and snowfall.
I was to leave on 29th July but due to bad weather all flights were cancelled for the day and I could reschedule the flight only for 1st Aug. So, I rested and chilled out in Leh.
My tent mates — L to R — Monti, Pinaki, Amrith, Ramanujam, Nilesh and Shantanu on the Mall road, Leh
When I look back I feel amazed that I could complete this expedition without any health or physical issues particularly when many youngsters who were regular cyclists gave up. The many hours of training that I put in was clearly worth it. For cyclists, this expedition is the ultimate one as it tests one’s mental strength as much as it does one’s physical endurance.
There has been rather a long gap in posting blogs on Vrikshamandir. The monotony was broken as Nagar sent this blog. While forwarding this Nagar wrote, “Shailu, I guess this is, as of now the last write up that I have. I seem to have lost the rhythm to write more. It seems you too have lost on uploading more stuff on Vrikshamandir. Perhaps that is the way to take a break . Best, Nagar
I am yet to reply to Nagar. But this is what I propose to write to my friend. “ It is true, of late, I have not posted on Vrikshamandir. Not because I don’t have material from friends or written by me. I am also not taking a break. But something inside me is making me lazy. I am working on it. I have loads of material to upload. The latest is a blog from Ramanujam, sharing details of the cycle journey from Manali to Leh, at the age of 64, that he just completed and wrote his first ever blog on Medium with lots of pictures. I have his permission to post it here too. Please take a break, rejuvenate and return with some more memoirs and anecdotes. Love Shailendra “
This is the latest contributor from Nagar.
Soon after leaving NDDB in January 1999, I joined Dr. Tushaar Shah for an action research project on water. I was doing fieldwork in a village called ‘Haldimohan’ in the district of Cooch Behar. I used to travel to the village with my team of investigators early in the morning from Cooch Behar town and leave the survey village soon after sunset since, the road network in the district was very poor and the driving conditions tough even for experienced drivers. Imagine driving on a narrow single lane road after dark and with some adventurous speeding driver coming straight into your vehicle from front.
Haldimohan was just the stop. The actual sample households were distributed over helmets 3-5 kms from the center of Haldimohan. The link roads between Haldimohan and these helmets were even narrower, barely 6-7 feet wide, raised by another 7-8 feet from either side. That meant that if your vehicle slipped, you would be straight in a ditch ending up with broken bones.
Since I invariably left Haldimohan just at the sunset, I had no idea that this remote place would give me a surreal experience- just because a tragedy will strike in form of the breakdown of the vehicle.
It happened. I was that day with a lady investigator in one of the helmets.
As we prepared to leave, the vehicle broke down. And the nearest garage was about 3 kms. My driver who spoke little broken Hindi, told me that he will arrange a cycle rickshaw for me and the investigator who will drop us at the nearest bus stand about 2 kms in opposite direction. We would be there in good time to take the last bus going towards Cooch Behar. In the meantime, he will walk down to the garage, get the mechanic and after the vehicle is repaired come to Haldimohan to pick the rest of the team.
That proposal looked good only in one sense- I could put the lady on the bus for her to reach home safely. But I had to travel back to Haldimohan to pick the rest of my team as I couldn’t think of leaving them alone to fend for themselves. What if the vehicle can not be repaired during the night? How will I and my team travel back to Cooch Behar? How about worrying families of these investigators? There are no PCOs anywhere here. A thousand questions crossed my mind.
I decided to put the lady on the bus and then take the same rickshaw to Haldimohan. It worked, the lady was safely in the bus, even though it was overcrowded. Next day she informed me that she had safely reached home in good time.
I then headed to Haldimohan with the autorickshaw puller, who didn’t understand a word of Hindi, let alone English, on a raised 7 feet wide road in pitch darkness where even the rickshaw puller could hardly see the road. On the way, we came across couple of rickshaws coming from opposite direction but could see them only when they came too close- almost hitting us. Every time they had to get down and carefully cross each other to thwart any chance of the rickshaw rolling down the slopes.
It was a ride to remember, not because it was scary pitch dark night, but because it provided me with a view that one can only dream of. On either side of the raised road, the empty fields were filled with millions of fireflies brilliantly glowing and twinkling like stars in the no moon night sky. The sight was breathtaking, and it continued till I reached the outskirts of Haldimohan. Wow, what a view. I felt as though the sky had turned upside down all the way.
I suddenly remembered this experience and thought of sharing it with you all. I would not mind having a repeat of this experience again.
We came to Canada in July 2020. Since then we have made many trips outside our city. There is a distinct possibility of our return to Bharat Bhumi in November this year.
When I look back at more than two years spent outside Bharat Bhumi, I also remember the trips outside the city that we made during July 2020 to August 2022. I had taken a number of snap shots during this trip.
More details about Parc Omega can be found at their website a link for which is at Parc Omega.
This blog is about one of our trips when we spent a day at Parc Omega in Quebec and stayed at a Wolf Lodge, which has glass walls and large windows through which we could watch the wolves. It is about 5-hour drive from the city in Ontario where we live. All the pictures are clicked by me on iPhone 11.
The park is a drive-through experience, meaning visitors stay in their cars and drive through the park on a winding trail. They also offer three walking trails, playgrounds and picnic areas.~ Wikipedia
The park runs two low-power FM radios stations that provide guidance and direction, in English and French. The complete experience takes about two to three hours.~ Wikipedia
Bags of carrots can be purchased at the visitors center at the start of the tour; these are fed to “safe” animals (elk, etc.) throughout the tour, which come up to a visitor’s car for treats. ~ Wikipedia