Kailash Yatra 2017

Kailash.

The first time I heard about Kailash was while I was still a toddler. My grandparents always mentioned about visiting Kailash and attaining mukti. As I was growing up, a number of times, people from various walks of life mentioned about their inner calling to make it to Kailash Yatra.

I have heard from many a people on how it’s intense and rigorous to visit Kailash early on, say even until 10 years ago. One aunty spoke about her Yatra for over 36 days – 18 days to make the ascent journey and another 18 to return home safely.

One day, in early 2015, I heard about Kailash once again. With my already mapped picture of Kailash, I jumped with joy to visit this sacred space, sometime in my lifetime and left at it.

Then, a new chapter “Marriage” happened around December 2016. Sriram (my husband) too had this intent to visit Kailash for a variety of reasons, but somehow got skipped a few times, he planned the yatra.

Around March end last year (in 2017), I had all the eagerness to visit Kailash and Sriram instantly gave a nod. We decided to do this yatra with Isha Foundation’s Sacred Walks.

Followed by some process:

  • Form submission in the link – https://www.sacredwalks.org/application-form/
  • Once Isha Foundation confirms your candidature to the Yatra (based on your application form), they will share a series of Medical Fitness tests that one needs to conduct and share the results with them. Only, if deemed fit, we would be permitted into the Yatra.
  • Sriram and I had a decent lifestyle – includes yoga, running, cross fitness, healthy food habits (mostly home cooked food), so we didn’t have much of a change here. One change we incorporated was to drink more water than we did generally for over a month – just before our Yatra scheduled in August.
  • I am going to intentionally skip talking about the cost or money involved to make this Yatra happen. 1. Because, I strongly believe that cost should not come in one’s way while making a Yatra of significance. 2. It’s not fixed, it will definitely vary from year to year and it definitely varies depending on who you want to do this Yatra with. So, its best left to the reader to figure this out. =)

Experience:

2 days before the trip, I had jitters. Either, it was Diamox (A tablet that helps you deal with altitude sickness. Believe me, you wouldn’t need it if you are regular with your deep breathing and yoga practices) or simply the reality that kicked in. I almost sank myself into work that week and was definitely not very confident about my own self doing the Yatra. I even told Sriram that he should proceed with the Yatra and definitely not stay back in Chennai, if I end up being terribly sick / unwell.

I was fine and we had our backpacks ready. All of our trip’s essentials were bought from Decathlon, Perungudi / Padur, Chennai.

August 10th – Chennai to Delhi (India)
I was already excited about the trip and there began my real Yatra story.

August 11th – Delhi (India) to Kathmandu (Nepal)
We arrived at Kathmandu and I almost instantly fell in love with this place. Since we reached a day earlier, we had booked our accommodation at Gaju Suite, Thamel Marg, Kathmandu. Both of us explored nearby shops, got our currency converted into Chinese Yuan for the Yatra, bought some rain jackets for Sriram, got some fruits and walked a bit around Thamel, enjoying the drizzle.

August 12th – Radisson Hotel, Lazimpat, Kathmandu, Nepal
We reached Radisson around 12 noon and were greeted with beautiful “Namaste-s” and warm smile. We met Kumaran anna and Ramya akka – who helped us with getting our room, Duffle bags and the entire Yatra kit. They also promptly mentioned about the schedule for the day. Repacking only essentials for Yatra in the Duffle bags, followed by Lunch, Sathsang with Sadguru (Jaggi Vasudev) and Dinner.

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August 13th – August 23rd 2017

The Journey:
Kathmandu (2 days) – Lhasa (Tibet / now China) (1 day) – Xhigatse (1 day) – Saga (1 day) – Manasarovar (2 days) – Kailash (2 days) – Kailash Basecamp (1 day) – Saga (1 day) – Xhigatse (1 day) – Lhasa (1 day) – Kathmandu

Exactly a year ago. We were at Kathmandu, with a final check list of necessary things we needed to take. And had a brilliant dinner with a huge spread. Wrapped the night with medicines and gone deep into sleep with excitement, jitters and all at once.

The following morning, I quickly ate some fruits and the entire team departed sharp at 6am.

We arrived at Kathmandu airport and departed to Lhasa (Tibet). On our arrival at Lhasa, I realised that the Chinese women at the immigration were super efficient and we didn’t get our passports stamped for obvious reasons.

The bus, that would be our home for the next 2 weeks was awaiting us and it was sparkling clean like a new bus. Sriram and I looked at each other and smiled for actually doing this. The sherpa (caretaker/everything to us during the trip) gave us instructions on do-s and don’t-s for the journey ahead and asked all of us “to-be”.

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Getting to know others in our bus, managing high altitude sickness, chanting together, expression of kindness in all forms was our routine everyday. At every pit stop, we spent a day or two to get used to the shift in altitude and thus thinning of air to manage our breathing etc.

As we transcended into our journey and took higher steps in terms of the altitude, it was as well the best means to understand myself in every aspect. My physical health was constantly in check and how I coped it – with my mental strength and help of fellow friends in the yatra was truly a humbling experience. Every time, I felt this is it, I found hope and support from means that I least expected.

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When at Manasarovar, I felt like I could stay there forever. The early morning view of sunrise and swans taking its dip in the lake, the steady water stream and the ripples, the pebbles along the lake and of course the view of Kailash from Manasarovar made it all special. When asked to take a dip in the lake (around 06:30am or so), I was like, really? Is this even possible by me? And guess what – I stayed in the Lake longer than I had expected. It felt very surreal and magical.

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And finally, we were at our ultimate milestone – “Kailash”. It was a solitary journey filled with all sorts of conversation between me and the mighty mountains. The mountains shook me up, broke me down, made me ecstatic, helped me open up and made me experience life’s essence – that at the end, we all are a dust particle, we all are a dust particle and that too an insignificant one 🙂

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Memories flash by and my gratitude goes back to Rajalakshmi patti, Ramya Akka, Gayathri Akka, Subha Akka, Divya Akka, Pawan Anna, Michael Anna, Kumaran Anna, Sriram (my husband), Suresh Anna, JP anna, Kim Cho (our driver) and every single person whom I encountered during the trip.

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Pictures credit: Michael Varun Anna

Tataastu.

Random laws of life – a rambling by self

Silhouette of hiking man in mountain

One weekend, I began to pen down hazy thoughts about life. Sharing with you, what I have perceived through my life experience:

  • Love: It is important to love, because, it helps us appreciate life fully. Loving someone is deliberate, conscious and it means, you choose to appreciate all of them, for who they are.
  • Integrity: Actions speak louder than what you say. Practice what you preach. And, be who you are and share what you believe in.
  • Justice: Equality is what we all thrive for. Respect people genuinely. For, you don’t know what their story is all about.
  • Acceptance: Stems from being just and fair. But, accepting goes an extra mile. You now have an ability to understand this other person’s story, their perspectives, their ideas, their opinions, basically, all the things that make them and accept them for who they are.
  • Patience: They say, good things come to those who wait. But, I believe that your attitude and how you act matters the most, while waiting. The current situation might be extremely fragile. But, let it pass, stay calm.
  • Habits: One of the most important habits that’s helped me is to count my blessings. Every single day, I am grateful for the kind of family, friends, love of all the good people, the life I have been blessed with. I’d also say, waking up early, investing in yourself (exercise), the kind of food you eat are baby steps towards building some decent habits.
  • Courage: Follow your heart, its easier said than done. But, nothing can gratify self more than pursuing what we want. It feels like a huge step ahead, but it’s worth giving it a try!
  • Failures: Embrace them! Because, failures teach you lessons worth a lifetime.
  • Lead: Dislike something? Be the change maker. Influence. Take the lead.
  • Follow: Love someone else’s initiative? Relate to it? Shun your ego. Collaborate with them, join the team and make a difference.
  • Values: At the end, your values make the person you are. Your ideals, your believe system is important. Never ever undermine them. For, that defines you as an individual.
  • Truth: Being true is one thing, but being true to oneself is another thing. The latter helps you to evolve.
  • Learn: There is so much to learn everyday, from everyone around you. You absorb, what you seek.
  • Teach: Because, teaching is one metric that will make you realize how much you really know.
  • Forgive: Life’s too short to deal with conflicts. Weeks, months or years later, you are only going to laugh at things you were angry for. Like Thumper says: “If you can’t say something nice.. don’t say nothing at all.
  • Nothingness: At times, it’s an asset to do nothing at all. Take moments to pause and reflect. It helps you gain some clarity and reinvent yourself.
  • Selfless: It’s the most powerful thing to do. To be at the giving end always.

the city that gave me goosebumps. several times.

A city that accepted me whole heartedly for what I was. Made me part of it. Allowed me to experience some great moments. This is the city where I fell in love all over again. With myself. With Mumbai.

On October 15th 2013, I got down from an early morning flight at around 7:12 am and entered Mumbai Airport. With thoughts and dreams that always overwhelmed me about the city I aspired to be part of.  All by myself, I moved to Mumbai leaving behind a city that churned the person I am today – Chennai. The most important people in my life – amma, appa, grandparents, friends, teachers, gurus, home, my comfort zone was all left behind. I got a cab and addressed the cab driver as sir. Straight ahead, he dropped me at ‘Raj Legacy’ in Vikhroli. I bucked up and got ready for my first day at work after settling into the guest house.

Work routine happened. The next 4 weeks, I got into preparing for a certificate exam. Amidst that, I found a house in Vikhroli, about 600 meters away from my work place. That’s a dream life for any Mumbaikar. No travel. Not much distance. Prime location on the main road. Decent locality. And a house was found. It was that time of the year that I started experiencing real life. In those 4-5 weeks (until November 6th 2013), I explored different parts of Mumbai and these experiences mean a lot to me.

Some of them include –

  1. Chembur Fine Arts, Chembur
  2. IIT, Powai
  3. Shanmukhananda Sabha, Sion
  4. Crawford Market, Victoria Terminus / CST
  5. Badshah’s Falooda, Victoria Terminus / CST
  6. Sidharth’s place, Powai
  7. Radhakrishnan uncle’s place, Wadala
  8. RCity Mall, Ghatkopar
  9. Phoneix Mall, Kurla
  10. Marine Drive
  11. Prithvi Theatre, Juhu
  12. Pop Tates, Vikhroli
  13. Bandra Worli Sea-Link
  14. Bandra Market
  15. Walk around Dadar
  16. Out of Blue, Powai
  17. Siddhi Vinayak Temple, Prabhadevi
  18. Powai Lake
  19. Andheri
  20. Santacruz
I was mostly accompanied to these places by friends, colleagues, family friends. I am really grateful to all of them who made time to take me out and show me places around. But, I have been to some of them on my own too. These were times, I wish I had a lot more time to explore Mumbai. The train journeys, the auto rides, the people I met, everyone had a story to share with me.

And, one day, the city I aspired to live in abruptly came to an end due to decisions of shifting to charming Pondicherry 🙂

On Dec 20th 2013, at around 7:12 pm I was back in Mumbai Airport. And this time, I wasn’t alone. I was filled with memories worth a lifetime.

Mumbai. Thanks for taking me into your arms. And, allowing me to leave away with fond memories. 

Unti
l we meet soon, be the awesome place you’re 🙂

overflowing thoughts. partly expressed.

Its been a while since I felt this way. Felt what my internal emotions are like. The last 25-30 days has redefined me as a human being and I am continuing to learn through this phase.

The last time, I felt such a transition in me was during my tenure at Pune. Probably because I was suddenly moving along with people from vast culture and each of them had their own valuable opinion. This is similar now because I am with an organization which itself has a unique culture and every employee/colleague here are way too special.

I am mostly through high tide of emotions while with them. I have had people tell me great things that I wasn’t confident about myself. I have had constructive feedback on how I can become better. I am learning to get better because of their motivation – also because human mind aspires to make progress.

Missing someone..

Its been quite a long time since I felt this way. I miss my friends, my campus usually.
But this time, its someone special. Someone whom I wish to spend a lot of time with.

Its quite a weird feeling when you miss your family.
You don’t feel sleepy.
You don’t want to eat.
You are distracted at your best.
You keep thinking of all the good memories.
You eagerly wait to receive an sms or call from your folks.
You wanna jump when you actually receive one.
You behave quite crazily.

Through all this, I wanna express that I miss my family.
Now.
Right now.
Very much.
Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated ~Lamartine
 

RELATIONSHIPS

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus. But, these living creatures meet up in Earth and end up having relationships. Since their childhood, they encounter various experiences in their life. But the unsolved mystery is that, they don’t really realize what is true love. True love is very subjective again.

During late 60’s in India, love was a very serious thing. Not everybody got the chance to love a person and get married. In reality, love then was merely knowing the person superficially before marriage. Then, culture evolved. Technology evolved. People evolved too. Therefore in early 80’s period, love marriage was much accepted in India [Especially after our Rajiv Gandhi-ji getting married to our very own Sonia Gandhi-ji. ;)]

Then, came the era of Digital media aka Internet technology (2000s). This took the world by a mighty storm. Love was all over the place and didn’t limit itself to the quote – “Love is in the air”. Love was in chat messengers, in emails, in all possible social networking sites like Orkut to our over-used word today, “Facebook”. People started to know each other through these mediums. They connected over Internet, then used Mobile technology to have a personal connect and then met in person when they trusted that they would not be stalked by the other.

Amidst all the revolution, evolution and the refining process for getting married to your loved one, we have lost the true essence of love. I personally agree that love is there in the form of liking, belonging, attraction for another person through these mediums. But very rarely in the form of love per say. In this fast moving digital world, research indicates that majority of today’s generation meet their life partners over the cyber medium. But always remember that falling in love with a person over this medium can turn a lot more disastrous.

Love is eternal. Completely agreed. But, with the right person, it makes more sense and feels like an experience of a life-time. Never regret about your past. They happened because they were meant to happen. Live life King size. It’s your life and you are the soul proprietor to decide what you would like to do with your life.

Here’s wishing one and all, that, they find their soul mates and live the most meaningful life with them. Peace.

VIJAYADASAMI DAY – A TRIBUTE TO MY TEACHERS

Well, let me begin with a funny cartoon that I came across relating a Music teacher and a student. 






October 17th 2010
Sunday

It was Vijayadasami day which is referred to as a day where students pay tribute to gurus. By doing so, they are letting one’s guru know how much they mean to their students.

To give an insight, Vijayadasami, is a day that follows the nine-day Navaratri festivities. This day celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It’s the day of Vidyarambham, when students are introduced to the world of learning. And in Chennai, this learning is either in the form of music/dance classes. For few, its also art classes these days.

My Vijayadasami day is always special. Its usually been the same. But this time, I thought of my past and wanted to mention few of my teachers who made an impact in my life. My first guru had always been my mom “Amma” who started teaching me shlokas and kutti (small) songs when I was around 2 or 3 years. She would make me repeat whatever she sang and slowly I began to learn. Then, my thatha (my maternal grandfather) took over. Since then, thatha had struggled a lot to make me what I am today as a vocalist. He bestowed all he could so that he could see me as one of the finest Carnatic Musician. This has always been his dreams. Thatha and the guru form in him never really complimented well. As a guru, he is definitely very strict and I respect him for whatever he is. As thatha, he is the best. Also, he has associated himself with promoting compositions of Saint Sri Narayana Theerthar. I wish to fulfill his dreams in the near future as a Carnatic Vocalist (of good standard) and help him with organizing music festivals and letting the world know more about Sri Narayana Theerthar.

Later, my music learning expanded to violin. I began with violin when I was almost 7 years but with all possible breaks, I would have changed atleast 7-8 gurus until I fixed with Akkarai Sri Swamynathan. Akkarai Sir, as he is fondly called by me, is truly inspiring. He is gem of a teacher and a person too. Never have I seen a person who had been selfless in helping others. He is a genuine human being I have come across in my life. I have had my share of experiences with him as a student, a family friend, a well wisher, a daughter at times and so on. It just didn’t stop with Sir, but, continued with both his daughters namely Akkarai S Subbulakshmi and Akkarai S  Swarnalatha (Akkarai Sisters) aka Sudha akka & Latha akka. I have shared a special bonding with both akkas. I have been like their little sister(at times an irritating one too). Words are not enough to appreciate their playing and dedication to music. To me, both akkas are role models. Its so true to adopt people of your age as role models than any older person because, you can relate well with the younger people quite often. I have never told to Sudha akka that she inspires me in all little things I do even in my daily life. But yeah, she does. These days when I stay alone in hostel, I would think of how as a toddler Sudha akka would go alone for concerts abroad and in India and still hold her never give up attitude. She is extremely hard working and a perfectionist. To all of her incredible talent, sir polished her talent and made her what she is today. Well, a special mention definitely goes to Latha akka who according to me is the best teacher in the making. She understands my weaknesses and filters all complexities when it comes to music and literally spoon feeds me at times. She allows me to experiment after she feels I have understood the musical concepts. I once upon a time used to spend days together in their house. I do miss those days. Wish, I can start learning the same way with Sir and akkas and become a decent violinist as well a good musician in the years to come.

Finally, about Chingleput Sri Ranganthan Sir. He is one of the best music teacher a student can get. I was lucky that I am his student. Along with thatha, I started learning from Ranganthan sir too. One thing I like about him is that he understands the pressure a student goes through and encourages them to do well in their academics too. I have heard a lot of my friends stating that their music teachers are extremely strict and all of that. But CR sir is like a cool dude types (atleast to me). He expects you to sing well in his classes and if you do so, you have made his day. There are days when I would sing the Kalpana Swarams perfect and he would just bless me saying, “Avalavu thaane! Idhukku poi bayandhudu irukulaama?” meaning “That’s it! Don’t be scared for these simple things”. CR sir holds huge respect among all his students and he can be extreme fun in cracking  jokes to us about how some great Carnatic Musicians would converse in his days as a student.

I wish that all my gurus stay hale and healthy and live for a long time. I also wish that they forgive me for not continuing classes until 2012. And guess, I shall practice to my best of ability.

DISAPPOINTMENT

Too many people. Too many things. Complication is the keyword here. Its been a while now handling all this patiently. Today I wanna speak my heart out. 
Person 1: 
Well, imagine this. You develop closeness with someone a lot. Care about this someone so much. Be the best person you can be with that person. Hmm. To describe her, lets call her ‘A’ as of now. She is one of my best friends. More than my best friend. A sister. A soulmate. I felt everything between us seems perfect. I see myself when I am with her. I have never had a sibling in my life and thought she was one.  I have tried my best to keep her comfortable around me. Its almost love for this woman. I admire a lot of things in her. I dislike a lot of things too in her which I tell her now and then. But things take a twist. Now. For sometime now. I admit that I get upset when someone doesn’t reciprocate my emotions the same way as I do. I feel little insecure because of past events in my life. 
Writing this post, I wonder how exactly I need to be with my friends? I really don’t understand how to react when they say, they can’t change but expect me to change. Maybe yes. Maybe no. What is right / wrong to you, need not be right and wrong to others. Its indeed a complex emotional state. You feel, you should just let go off the person. Then they claim, you take things seriously. It did hurt me today when ‘A’ started mentioning certain things. I never thought friends actually mention about the good deeds they do for others. Anyways, I have always acknowledged her for her good deeds. 
Lastly, friendship has always stayed good in my opinion, when your friends accept you completely for what you are and not expect you to be the way they want. And yeah, I am sorry if you thought I don’t understand you. But certain things, I can’t understand until and otherwise you mention what’s going on. Guess, I shall say sorry to ‘A’ now and be the normal way we were. 
Person 2:
Now, here is this person called ‘A’ again. Little intelligent, non stop blabber, and very friendly. We started speaking. Became good friends. And miscommunication happened and stopped speaking to this person. Then, started speaking to ‘A’ again. It seemed normal and suddenly, one fine day, ‘A’ doesn’t acknowledge my calls or my presence without any reason. I don’t understand what people really think? Do they think that I, as a person handle emotions like a mountain without any effect on me? Or they decided that I have no emotions at all? Hah! Sometimes, I pretend that way. I have emotions leaps and bounds. You don’t understand and you never will. 
In this case, I decided to leave things the way it is. “May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion”.
Disclaimers:
IN MY PAST 
  • I used to be this girl who would speak with a lot of people and be friends with a lot many more. I would bug them to death with all my love and affection. 
  • I would apologize to people like a kid even though mistakes were not on my side. 
  • I would trust anybody and everybody. 
IN MY PRESENT 
  • I speak to people. But I don’t let them invade my personal space. Started believing that my best friends no matter what stick to me for what I am. 
  • I don’t take shit from people.  
  • I stay detached from the negative causal. 
P.S: I am approachable and you can speak with me always. People who know me, really will understand this. 

To wrap it up, I dedicate this poem written by ‘Karl Fuchs’ to all my friends. 
Whether the day is good or bad, 
Whether I’m feeling happy or sad,
If I have a need, you’ll comprehend;
You’ll be there to share and be a friend. 
Other people may fill my day,
But never in such an important way;
We support each other ’round all life’s bends,
It feels so good when we are friends.