The first step

It was back in 2001, my first ever l.o.n.g train journey. A group of familiar persons were going to Haridwar for ten day to participate in a religious programme. I joined the group, to be on the safer side. My idea was, while mom happily participate in the religious activities,  I shall move around on my own. By the way, it was my first ever traveling plan and I didn't know how to book a ticket in a train.We boarded 'Daheradun Express' from Godhara station.I was excited and happily curious.

Once the train entered Madhya Pradesh, now and then it would stop at anonymous places and local people with bunch of wood and other stuff would enter into our sleeper compartment. I asked my relative about it and he said it is a regular scenario with trains passing through a jungle.

At Haridwar,  we stayed in a dharmshala(a relatively pocket friendly boarding house with basic/primary facilities).There was no thought of staying in a hotel.We were told that the religious cult which has organized the big programme will provide food. On the very first day we walked nearly five km and took the lunch (rice, dal, vegetables, laddu) in a common kitchen which was not very organized and clean as per my standards.  I decided, we are fine with paying for our lunch and dinner.At that evening, we(I and Mom only)went to a nearby rerestaurant for the dinner. We found that the price is within our reach and we can afford paid lunch and dinner for next nine days. With this knowledge,  the idea of searching for a hotel room popped up. It occurred to me that staying in a hotel room might not be very costly and might not be a risky one, too. The word 'hotel'used to bring forth a suspicious filmy (Bollywood) image in my mind. Overcoming those impressions, I started searching for a  hotel room for two.Eventually, we stayed at that same dharmshala, in a separate room.

For the next two days,while mom go with our group for religious activities, I started moving around in the town.Whole town was under the pomp of religious functions as there was one more religious cult with its own religious processions. With my awe,wonder and respect for Haridwar and Ganga, I started strolling in the town, observing it and searching for nearby tourist places. On the fourth day, we hired a pedal rickshaw and visited femous religious places. The fifth day, which was a free day for the participants in the religious programme, the whole group booked mini buses to visit nearby places. On that trip, I saw a Buddhist gompa for the first time and come to know about a sport called river rafting. In same trip, at Masoori, I was thrilled with the feeling that I am in the town of Raskin Bond and where the brightest brains of India(UPSC toppers) were learning their first lessons of administration. And at one of those Masoori hilltops, I touched clouds, for the first time.

Third day onwards, I started visiting nearby ghat during late evening. I wanted to witness local life, how a Haridwari lives in Haridwar?I saw families coming on bikes and enjoying food at small stalls.Once, I went to a stall and served myself with Delhi chat, which I have tasted for the first time and at the middle of my eating I realised that I haven't any money with me. My right hand with a spoon hang in the middle of the air. The chatwala, even though busy with other customers, captured my confusion and turned to me: ' forgot money? Do not worry. I come here every evening. Pay me tomorrow.' That was such a relief!
Next day I promptly went to the ghat with money in my hand but the chatwala was not there. I asked other stall owners. They have no idea about him. I was dumbfounded. Next day and the next day, I went to the ghat in search of the chatwala, holding my purse and returning empty handed. After three days, I found him there and I rushed to him with a ten rupee note in my hand. He recognized my worried face and laughed. His face is still before my eyes.

At that same night, I was strolling around the ghat enjoying the cool wind of November. It was nearly nine o'clock. I felt like abiding goodbye to Ganga as I was planning for early return. When I was stepping down to put my feet into the water, I heard a local young boy calling me hurriedly and trying me to stop. The first thought that flashed in my mind was that of security. So, I stopped where I was. He reached near me and said, 'Hey, don't step in Ganga with your footwear on.' I showed him that I have already removed my footwear at the ghat. He smiled in reply. I liked this feeling of respect even though I knew how much Ganga is polluted and how.

I informed my relative that I plan to return early. He said we have return tickets and we can not get tickets as we wish, not with a margin of few hours. I said, let me try. I went to the railway station, stood in a queue finding a good number of people trying hard for tickets. When my turn came, I said: two tickets for Ahmedabad ,today evening,please. The man at the Window smiled at me and said,' That is not possible. Not in this way.' I said : 'OK.Tell me what I need to do so I can get tickets.' He smiled again, asked me if I can fill up a form or not. I proudly announced that I can fill up any form after reading it. He handed over me two form, one for ticket cancellation and the other for new tickets. I stepped out of the queue, filled up the forms and...got two tickets. Now, as I know how to book tickets and how is it to get a ticket with Indian Railways, that incident seems like a miracle.

On our return journey, to my surprise,the train (I forgot the name) took different route and lesser time. Then only I come to know that Daheradun Express offers the passengers longer travel time at lower rates.

This is how the adventure bug in me has taken the first step.



I have been to Somnath in 2002. That visit made it THE only temple I would like to revisit. But, not anymore.
This time (too), I missed thinking virtual.I followed tips of friends. Even they missed that we were going to mess up with festive-holidays.
I have never came across this many South Indian people in a Northern state. Today(2/10/14), there are nearly 80% SI here. And we had dosa n Idli as our breakfast.

What a visit it was in 2002. I had reached Somnath around 6p.m. After bath at one of the trust guest house, I went to the temple. Hardly 50 people were there. Then I had lite dinner at the trust restaurant and again I returned to the temple campus. I can not recall the exect time but I guess around 9p.m. a police constable found me seeting on the back side wall. At that time the compound wall was like otta. One can sit on it. Constable asked me to leave the campus. I requested him that I wish to sit here just like that and I am good at my psychological health. He sat along me and we had a nice chat. After that the cosntable allowed me to sit at the Southern end-the point from where one reaches at the south pole if travel in a straight line and that too without comming across any land. I stayed there; me, Somnath and the Arabian sea, upto 1a.m.Alas, that Somnath doesn't exsist anymore.  He isIin the hitlist of terrorist.
It is being said that deliberate distance generate attraction and reverence. This goes well with adventurous people, pilgrims and teenagers. At this point, I recall different kind of incidences, one of them is of Mirabahen(http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirabehn )-a British lady who followed Gandhi in his true spirit, but on 30th January 1948, she didn't rushed for Delhi. She stayed back at the place where she was working.This is how love acts. I am not Chaula anymore.