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. =)
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.
August 13th – August 23rd 2017
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”.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
Pictures credit: Michael Varun Anna
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.
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.
“Here she is, all mine, trying her best to give me all she can.
How could I ever hurt her? But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.”
― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
Here I am, LOLAL-ing. Yes, laughing out loud at life.
When devoid of something, mind seeks exactly that.
When bestowed with the best of things, it grows and feeds insecurities.
Wired with nerves connected to different parts of the body, it controls all sort of emotions.
It builds ego, it doesn’t let go off things.
The perspective of thee is far more superior than others.
From sadness to anger, tears to words, it completely surrenders to emotions.
The emotional balance goes for a jolly ride.
It brings out a face, which is ugly even for self to handle.
Forgiving is almost a far-fetched truth.
Almost juggling between modes like flight or fight.
Mind is a funny thing, controlling every action of the being.
Times like these, it can’t even recount moments of happiness, joyfulness, contentment, giving, selflessness, gratitude or simplicity.
Hereby, accepts that, I am no saint.
But, who says, I can’t learn to become one.
Oh my dear! It’s human to feel this way. It’s perfect to feel uprooted. Time to sow new seeds and grow within.
Lots of love, prayer and good wishes to everyone suffering. Stay strong, for this is the time for your growth.
Has it been amazing so far? Yes.
Do I look forward to another 25? Why not?
As I step onto 26th year of living, here’s taking some time to recall some folks who have made this life, worth living.
Firstly, my amazing parents. I have shared this time and again. But, its completely worth all the mention, because they mean everything to me. And, they are only getting awesomer everyday. Thank you amma, appa or appa, amma, you guys figure out this order. But, hey, thank you for making me the person I am today. For being my best of friends. For being my pillar of support, bricks, walls, everything else. For making me, for breaking me, for everything that I cannot express through just words.
My chithi (aunt), my paati (grandmother) and my thatha (grandfather) for making my childhood beautiful. And, grateful to be part of this family, who are always my source of happiness.
My gurus, Thirupoonthuruthy Sri Venkatesan (my grand father), Late Chingleput Sri Ranganathan, Kovai Sri Dakshinamoorthy, Sri M S Anantharaman, Akkarai Sri Swamynathan and currently Smt Sumitra Vasudev akka, for making music an integral part of my life and imparting life’s valuable lessons through music. I still aspire to become better with all the good that’s been passed on to me, by all these greats.
The lovely teachers and professors I had an opportunity to learn from. To all of you at Delhi Public School (Delhi), Adarsh Vidyalaya (Ajmer), MGR Adarsh Matriculation School (Chennai), Sir Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School (Chennai), M O P Vaishnav College for Women (Chennai), Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (Pune), Loyola Institute of Business & Administration (Chennai), University of Madras (Chennai). Thanks to all the ladies and gentleman I met through these touch points. Glad that, through these various touch points, I found the best of friends, siblings, mentors who will continue to be part of my life.
Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new ~ Og Mandino
This quote holds true in my case.
All my dear friends from Radio Mirchi (Chennai), Star Vijay (Chennai), Skycap Productions (Chennai), CNN IBN (Chennai), Hanmer MSL (Chennai), The Banyan (Chennai), Cognizant Technology Solutions (Chennai), Human Factors International (Mumbai, Pondicherry), Standard Bank (South Africa), Tenmiles Technologies (Chennai) and currently everyone at Indix Corporation (Chennai), thank you for making it possible for me to learn, fail, relearn and grow. To all of you, I met through these esteem organizations, thank you for being patient with me, letting me be myself, allowing me to be vocal with my views (if any), see my dreams as your own and encouraging me always.
I collect human relationships very much the way others collect fine art ~ Jerzy Kosinski
In no specific order, I would like to thank few folks who have helped me learn some very important lessons, on how beautiful it is to trust and be trusted, to love and be loved, to respect and be respected, to have misunderstandings, forgive and value relationships more than the events itself, to let go and move on at times and, this list is going to be very long. But, hey, this features folks who have influenced me for good, at different points, through the last 25 years.
Naithrav, Divya, Sunil, Madhu, Priyanka, Satish, Renita, Karthik, Dawood, Chandan sir, Ruchi ma’am, Shakti ma’am, Nivedita ma’am, Aruna ma’am, Sujata ma’am, Sumithra akka, Sidharth Iyer, Alokita, Pooja, Preetha, Deiva, Gautam, Ramya, Ramesh, Aditi, Vasanth, Sesha, Manoj, Bharath, Ashwanth, Karthik, Sriram, Praveen, Prasanna, Sridevi, Padmavathi, Avik, Halliq, Ranjani, Parvathy, Divya, Sruthi, Ashwini, Subadra, Balajee, Arvind, Krithika, Krithika, Sabin, Meena, Meera, Rajesh, Kaavya Krishna, Ramani uncle, Ramji uncle, Raj, Santy, Karthik, Harish, Chander, Pranav, Joseph, Srivathsan, PK, Sumeet Wilankar, Saranya, Radhika, Jefferson, Ram Kumar, Lakshmi, Vinoth, Sai, Meena, Ksheera, Nylah and a lot more people, I possibly missed out here. But, you all know who you are.
Thank you everyone.
The kind of love that you don’t realise exists until you experience it.
The kind of love which is honest. real. genuine. hard to find.
The kind of love that just happens without any expectation.
The kind of love where everything is unconditional.
The kind of love that makes you comfortable.
The kind of love which brings a smile.
The kind of love where you are yourself. and completely transparent.
The kind of love you can get used to every single day.
The kind of love you dream of seeing only in books, music, art, movies.
The kind of love that existed in yesteryears you think.
The kind of love which isn’t easy. But not difficult either.
The kind of love where two people never want to give up on each other.
The kind of love you wanted, deserved.
The kind of love is you.
Inspiration : 100 days of love movie
Image courtesy: https://unsplash.com
she had a soul.
that needed another soul.
that could see her flaws, yet found her beautiful.
that knew she had crumbled in the past, yet saw strength in her.
that knew all her weakness and didn’t judge her.
that wanted to make her smile no matter what and be her best in everything.
that was equally broken and beautiful.
that could see life only with her.
that one soul, she awaited for.
she could completely give herself and
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 L S Muthukumar.