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.

To sir, with love.

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Disclaimer: TL; DR.

Thatha – a major influence in my life is no more and I have a lot to say.
He was mostly my guru, shared all that he knew musically unconditionally – not just with me, but with all his students. He made all of us complete individuals and gave us exposure beyond what we could imagine at that tender age.
He was mostly stern with me, when it came to classes and practice sessions. Instances I recollect that I’d get a share of unpleasantaries for fellow students making mistakes while singing. It used to be a rigourous 6-8 hours session per day. To compensate for his rigor, my paati would pamper all of us with delicacies and gratifying words.

Between 1998 and 2005, I’d participate in singing competitions across various sabhas in Chennai. And, by chance if thatha appeared as a judge, I know I have no chance of winning – even if I gave my best. Fellow musicians in the judging panel would encourage my performance whilst Thatha would find a gazillion mistakes in my performance – starting from the posture, to shruti, to kala pramanam, to diction and raga bhavam.

Almost until my early 20s, I’d blindly follow whatever he’d say. Because I knew nothing other than that. To support his views, my parents would never come in the way. And those years helped me see a person beyond a guru in him – an orator, an organiser, a disciplinarian, a creator, an artist and above all a bhakta of Saint Narayana Tirtha.

Thatha never said words or preached to help us learn things. He’d simply do them in action and meticulously followed them until his last breath – I can assure. Today, in his absence, I connect dots backward and know that there’s so much he has taught me in an implied manner.

He liked being challenged and deeply appreciated acumen in a person and accepted creative (non conventional) ideas readily.

He was one of the early organisers to encourage budding young artistes and would go out of his way to support and help them build a career by putting them in touch with other leading Sabha secretaries.

For those who knew him deep, they’d absolutely adore him for his straight forwardness. Despite his natural traits, he was extremely good as an influencer and loved being around like minded individuals.

From concert recitals, dance performances, stage dramas, harikatha, namasankeertanam, villupaatu, jugalbandis to talk shows, debate sessions, short films, street play, he explored spectrum of ideas to reach out compositions of Sri Narayana Tirtha.

Seen a man of dreams? Yes.
Seen an entire family beholding this man’s dreams? It’s rare. For, its seldom we witness such things.
I consider myself blessed to grow up in such an atmosphere at household. Differing views, conflicting interests, personal opinions will fall short completely when it comes to one subject – “Narayana Tirtha” – where the entire family unites unanimously.

In the recent past, we bonded beyond a guru – shishya relationship and shared ideas across subjects – food, travel, politics, history, culture, psychology, medicine, fitness, architecture. And maybe, this was when, he was more of a thatha to me and expressed his purest of sides with joy to me.

His leaving is irreplaceable but he has given us a purpose beyond our imagination – to each one of us in the family to hold onto and reminisce him in many more years to come.

Tataastu.

P.S: His strength and love, V Rajalakshmi, my patti – is currently in loss of words to express what she’s going through. Hope and pray for her well being.

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Between birth and death, life happens.

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Little we realize the worth of our living. Every day counts. Every moment counts. Why? It’s our life. What happens between birth and death is what we make of our life.

I have known him for over 25 years now. He’d literally seen me grow up. He’s one man who would sit amidst the gathering and smile at me. In an encouraging way. Our only mode of interaction was music. I would sing and he listened to all of it patiently.

A year ago, I met him at his place. The building’s name being — Swathi Towers. Maybe, he was fond of me because of my name. Now, I can only assume. So, a year ago, it was a period, where I was experimenting with baking and had made some egg-less sugar-less brownies. I wanted him to taste some of them. He did. And, in that one meeting, several times he exclaimed — “I am perfectly alright.”

Its been over a year since we met. I haven’t seen him in my / any concerts. I also heard in between that he had limited his social activities drastically. Only because, he had found his interaction with ventilators and chemotheraphy machines more useful.

He was fighting a virus. A deadly virus. What did he do to contract this? No one knows. Probably destiny.

Today, all we know of him is that — He was a man of ideals, good habits, great virtues, known for his sincerity and dedication, one who remained positive throughout and followed every ritual fondly.

And for me, I would miss that genuine comforting smile while I sing.

Rest in peace Sri. L S Muthukumar.

When she dreamt!

She wishes to be someone she admires,
So as to move on from hiding herself,
Plenty of mistakes done, redone,
Her life was lost without any senses.

Time and again, she broke all links,
Not because she didn’t want them,
But lost hope, faith, trust, sanity,
In such weak bridges she had created.

Wished she could laugh when she felt like,
Instead of giving that fake smile,
She was holding bubble of tears within,
Which would burst into an ocean anytime.

She’s got the child’s heart people shouted,
No one knew what that heart wanted,
Everything was just dreams for her,
Until renascence was what she had chosen.

The past was never looked into again,
Not because it was recycled from her memories,
But, she faced more disappointments,
And hoped that life was something better.