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.
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.
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 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 for Golden Temple. We entered the temple through the main gate crossing the stream of water which was made for the purpose to wash the feet of the pilgrims. After entering we waited few minutes to think from which way to reach the temple . It was a sunny morning , 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.
We had “Halwa” prasad in the temple, reached the top floor of the temple, then he made my mother and me 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 were the rooms for and my father inquired of why were people with weapons present within the Temple premises. The man replied that those are store rooms of the temple and the Sikhs believe in Vakti and Shakti (devotion and power)together. 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 mementos. From there we went to the famous 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.