My experiences of Tosh

Himachal Pradesh

Tosh is a village in Parvati Valley. It is famous for its natural beauty. I reached Parvati Valley from Kasol via Manikaran. In this trip the weather was mostly cloudy or drizzling. It had been raining since previous afternoon when I reached Kasol. In the morning I was a bit hesitatnt whether I should leave the hotel. I thought it would be better not to waste a day in Kasol but keep on proceeding. So after breakfast I boarded a bus for Manikaran from the front of the hotel. When I reached Manikaran there was only one jeep at jeep stand. I asked him whether he would go. He agreed to go up to Barsiani. But when we started we got few other people for Barsiani and two of them had some work at Tosh. So the jeep driver agreed to go up to Tosh on sharing basis.

When I reached Tosh it was raining with small particles of ice. I managed a room in a hotel very near to the taxi stand for the night halt. The room was good as per my expectation in such a remote place. I kept my luggage there. I could not stay in the room as there was nothing to do except lying on the bed and I did not want to sleep during daytime. There was no electricity too. I was offered by the hotel manager to sit beside the fireplace of the dining hall as I was partly drenched and was shivering with cold.

A man was sitting there, he did look neither elegant nor rich anyway, but I came to know that he owned the hotel and few other hotels also at very strategic points like this one. He and his manager were taking marijuana from a hash pipe ( chillum ) from time to time. Initially I could not realize what they were smoking, but later on I found whoever was coming, taking a puff or two from the pipe in turn. I thought that it was too cold and probably it was necessary to take something for stimulation to bear such cold. Few boys came back after trekking and asked for a browny which looked like a small chocolate pastry. I became quite surprised when I knew each costs 500 rupees.

As it was raining continuously and there was no electricity so I could neither go outside for a walk nor lie in my room for rest. The whole day I sat idle beside the fire watching people having hush or marijuana in different forms or ways. All the boys, came there, were mostly from 20 to 35 years old. They were from Delhi or Chadigarh or Kerala. All of them were sober and very well behaved. I talked with them the whole day. During lunch a group of people came trekking from Barsaini. But they did not stay at Tosh, they had their lunch, and went back again wearing rain coats. Everyone considered it unnatural to come in the rain taking so much risk and hassle and not enjoying the surreal beauty of Tosh staying one night there.

It started snowing heavily at around 6 o’clock. It was a magical experience. In the evening electricity was restored. I ordered my dinner. After dinner, while bidding good night to all, I told the boys in jest that whatever fresh air of Himalayas I had taken from the places before coming to Tosh all became futile after having so much passive smoking. They all laughed in amusement. Next morning was absolutely sunny and warm.

N.B. An appeal : A home stay owner of Parvati Valley expressed his deep regret about the spread and sell of illegal narcotics in this valley which is not only destroying the culture of the natives but also destroying the life of the youth of that area. They are becoming greedy as well as violent day by day and some of them are getting so much addicted to these poisons that they are losing their mental balance. So I humbly request all Himalaya lovers not to promote or encourage this . Go to Parvati valley to enjoy its natural beauty and get addicted to it.

My experiences of Kugti, KarthikSwami temple.

( Himachal Pradesh.)

Kugti is not a very famous or popular tourist destination. Kugti means Karthikeya in local language, the son of Shiv and Parvati. Karthikeya is not as popular deity as his brother Ganapati. There are very few temples of Kathikeya in India. One of them is in the Himachal Pradesh, near the famous pilgrimage Manimahesh. It is 12/14 km from Hadsar. Shared jeeps are available to reach Kugti, but one has to walk 2km to reach the village from the end of the motorable road.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kugti-5.jpg

I did not have any idea that the motorable road would end 2 km before Kugti village, so I was a bit disappointed. I was hungry and tired after coming down from Manimahesh. I had my lunch from the langar( where food was offered to devotees free of cost) at the entrance of the path which led to Kugti village. There was a small school. They allowed me to use their toilet. I reached the forest rest house which was at the entrance of the village Kugti, walking 2 kilometers with my rucksack on my back.

When I reached I was absolutely exhausted. I found 3 people sitting on the yard eating apples that grew in the garden of the rest house. They offered me apples, they were juicy and sweet. I told them that I desperately need a room there. One of the three persons was from HP police department who was there on duty for the occasion of Manimahesh Yatra and another was from the maintenance department of HP forest rest houses who came to repair the solar heater of that forest rest house. They had been staying in the two rooms of the rest house that were habitable. Rest of the rooms were in broken condition. The 3rd person was a local and an acquaintance of them.They called the caretaker of the forest rest house from the village, whose house was half kilometer away from the rest house, making a whistling sound that echoed in the mountain. That is the communication only system there. There was no mobile tower. Both of them were ready to share one room and spared the other room for me on condition that in the morning I would allow them to take hot water from my bathroom because there was no hot water facility in the toilet of the other room. After negotiating with the care taker, I ultimately got the room. I was very happy. The caretaker provided me dinner with roti and rajma curry. Rajma of Kugti is famous for its taste. Kugti is an Eco-village where only organic fertilizers are used for cultivation.

Sri Karthik Swami ji

The next day early morning I started for Karthik Swami temple after breakfast. The way was beautiful and scenic, it was a pristine land full of flowers, butterflies and other small creatures. It was 7 kilometer uphill trek. The last part was pretty difficult for me. People were hardly seen on the way, whenever I met anyone I asked how much distant the temple was, everyone said that it was just behind the next corner of the hill and after every corner there was another corner. Thus I ultimately saw the temple though it was a steep 2 kilometer walk from that place.

I reached there walking seven hours. I was too happy to witness Karthik Swamiji and felt myself blessed. There was a langar where I had my lunch, rice, daal and aloo ki sabji, they offered me two very tasty mung daal ka ladoo also, made of clarified butter, sugar and mung daal . After a sumptuous lunch I went down, coming down was not as difficult as going up. It took 3 hours to reach the village. I was dead tired but very satisfied. Next day after breakfast I reached the jeep stand and caught jeep for Hudsar, that same jeep took me to Bharmour taking few bucks more.

Karthik Swami Temple

My experiences of Lakshadwip trip.

We were on our Lakshadweep cruise package. One day, when we went for dinner on the ship, a Punjabi lady told us that we were going to get Bengali food that day, rice and fish curry. We were not excited because it was expected from previous experiences that it would never be a Bengali cuisine. We took our food items from the counter. My son and I could not find any fish item. There was one non veg preparation which we suspected as meat. It was very fibrous and hard. We had a hot discussion on this issue that what kind of meat it was. Then after finishing the dinner I asked the attendants present there what it was. He informed that it was Tuna fish.

When we were coming out from the dinning hall after dinner, that Punjabi Lady met us again and asked how much did we like the authentic Bengali dish of rice and fish curry. We explained that we mostly eat sweet water fishes and our way of cooking is absolutely different, we could not even recognize what it was. She was a bit disappointed, then she specified that they had come back to the ship from the island Kavaratti on the last boat in the afternoon, and that fish had been carried on the same boat. She was a tall woman, she stretched her hands full to show how big the fish was. I later came across tuna fish at the market of Periyar though they were not that much big.

My experiences at Hanuman Chatti.

Uttarakhand

Hanuman Chatti is on the way to Yamunotri, one of the pilgrimages of Chardham of Uttarakhand. It had been the last motor-able point, from where the trek would start for Yamunotri, until when the road did not extend up to Janki Chatti. It is also the starting point for Dodital and Darwa Top trek. It is situated at the confluence of Hanuman Ganga and Yamuna river.

I was late to book accommodation at Janki Chatti GMVN Tourist lodge. I preferred to stay in Government run tourist rest houses in my initial days of solo traveling. I had to book the TRH at Hanuman Chatti. Since road has been extended to Janki Chatti, it has lost its previous importance. I came down to Hanuman Chatti, from Janki Chatti, after visiting Yamunotri temple.

It was afternoon and the GMVN rest house was in the gorge of Yamuna which was quite a down hill walk from the main road. None was there. I entered and saw a person who requested me to wait as he was going to inform the caretaker. The caretaker came, he was a morose person, checked all my documents, and allotted a room. The flush of the toilet and the bathroom light were not working, he smiled ashamedly and repaired them with quick efficiency. He asked if I wanted dinner, I said that 2 roti and any vegetable would work for me. There was no mobile network. He informed that as the rest house was in the deep gorge, so to get network I have to go to the main road. I went up, messaged my son and called at home to inform about my night halt. Then I visited Hanuman Mandir and had a cup of tea and snacks from a roadside tea stall.

Confluence of Hanuman Ganga and Yamuna

At 8 o’clock in the evening the caretaker called me in the dining hall and served roti and Aloo-tomatar. It was tasty and healthy with less spices and oil, I was very hungry. After having dinner I told him that the vegetable was very tasty and at the same time healthy. His eyes flushed with satisfaction. It seemed that he had been working for long there. He saw the glorious past of that tourist rest house when it had been always filled up and on great demand. Presently he was the only employee there. I left the rest house in the next early morning.

My experiences of Amritsar in 1983.

My parents and I went to Amritsar in July 1983 on our way back from Kashmir trip. We reached in the evening and stayed in a hotel near the railway station. In the morning after breakfast we went to visit Golden Temple. We entered into the temple through the main gate crossing the stream of water which was made for the purpose of washing the feet of the pilgrims. After entering we waited few minutes to think from which way we should approach the temple as it was a huge area to cover. It was a sunny morning, we found an old man had been talking to few young college going boys. As soon as he saw us he came to us leaving those guys behind and introduced himself as an honorary guide who gives service to the temple on Sundays. He guided us all through the time we spent there.

We had “Halwa” prasad in the temple, reached the top floor of the temple, then he made my mother and me to do “Kar Seva”, then we went to the huge Langar where we had daal and roti. One roti and one ladle of daal was more than enough for our Bengali stomach of three. When we were giving a round within the temple we saw many half underground closed rooms and many men with brain gun and stain gun moving around. My mother asked what was there in the rooms and my father inquired of why were people with weapons present within the Temple premises. The man replied that those were store rooms of the temple and the Sikhs believe in Vakti and Shakti (devotion and power) together, that was why they were carrying weapons. Then the old man saw us off till we boarded on a Tonga, after taking us to the temple book shop where my parents bought some books and memoirs. From there we went to the infamous Jalianwala Baag .

After several months, on June 1984 there was operation BLUE STAR. It revealed that, there were lots of visitors along with few foreigners, they were kept imprisoned naked in the half underground rooms of the temple, who were rescued by the army after confrontation. We then realized and felt grateful to that old man. My mother called him an angel who saved us from being captured. We all know that as an aftermath of this decision Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October 1984.

My experiences on The way to Gaumukh.

Gaumukh does not need any introduction. It is the source point of our sacred river Ganges. there are lots of mythological stories about its source and initiating form Himalayas. It wasin my bucket list

I reached Gangotri at 1-30 PM after waiting from 6-30 to 10 AM with few young stars in Uttarkashi until the shared jeep filled up. As I was walking towards GMVN guest house, a man came to me. He introduced himself as a guide. Initially I hesitated and refused saying that I had to hire a pony because I was unable to walk 15 km and the syce would guide me, but he persisted on following me saying that he would carry my luggage as well as arrange my pony and permit, and one has to walk on feet after Bhojobasa, so syce would never go to accompany me till the snout point. After a long bargain I agreed at the cost of Rs 1000, I said to him to leave me at Bhojobasa after visiting Gaumukh. He made my permit in the evening and booked a pony. He said he would come next morning at 6 o’clock.

Mt Shivling

I started in the morning at 6 AM, I rode the pony. After going for a while the pony denied to go ahead and turned backward. It seemed that she was unwilling to carry me. Somehow the syce and the guide made her going on the way. Then I came to know that the pony was a very young one and the syce was a new one. This is his first trip on the way to Bhojobasa. The guide said that there was nothing to worry because he was quite acquainted with the region. But I had not been comfortable on the back of the pony and had a feeling that my seat was moving. The syce said to me not to get afraid and stick on to the seat. Then suddenly the saddle tilted completely and I fell from the pony where the path was hardly 3 feet wide and river gorge was straight 200 metres deep beside the path. Suddenly the guide came, as I was slipping down under the horse, he caught my legs and saved me from falling. I was terribly scared, he asked to rest, then I walked about one and half kilometer, after that I somehow reached Bhojobasa on the back of the pony.

Bharal or Himalayan goat

I talked to the guide while walking on the way to Gaumukh. He informed that he has 2 children, wife and parents in a village of Nepal which was completely devastated due to the earthquake of 2015. Previous day he had no money that is why he was so persistent. I agreed to pay him for another day and also to provide his food. I asked him to accompany till I return to Gangotri. It was a beautiful experience to see the snout point and coming back. I stayed that night at GMVN rest house at Bhojobasa and came back next day by another pony which was well trained as well as it’s syce.

Gangotri glacier

N.B. To reach Gangotri one can catch bus directly from Hariwar or reach Uttarkashi by shared jeep or bus from Haridwar to break a long road journey. Till Bhojobasa, which is 10 kilometer from Gangotri, pony is available for those who can not walk so long, but after Bhojobasa it is now 5/6 kilometer trek. At Bhojobasa there are very few accommodations for stay.

My experience in Rameshswaram (a childhood memory).

It was 1976. I had been traveling through South India for weeks with my parents. We visited Rameshwaram during that trip and there were several other places in our itinerary. We reached early at the railway station for the next destination. We had circular tickets which is probably not available now a days. The train was on the platform, we boarded and settled with our luggage. There was about 2/3 hours left for the scheduled departure. In those days there was neither so much rush of people nor trains. There were many steam engines still working. I was roaming on the platform. I found a food shop owner on the platform who was loudly reviling a foreigner in his native language. The foreigner wore soggy torn out clothes. During that period there were lots of hippies found in India. So I thought there might be some misunderstandings between the shopkeeper and the foreigner. I asked him what happened. He informed that the foreigner often begs for bread. It is not possible for him to help him gratis regularly. I inquired to the foreigner and come to know that he had been swindled by a local guy and lost everything except his passport. He somehow managed to contact one of his acquaintances in Srilanka to inform to his house and expecting to be rescued within few days. I gave him 10 rupees from my meager savings and bought a large bread and gave him. He glanced at me thankfully.

I came back to the compartment and narrated the incident to my mother. She did not scold me, rather appreciated me. I still remembered that guy, if he had been able to reach his own country. By the way, he was an Australian.