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 L S Muthukumar.

21 YEARS

DECEMBER 2010: Last month of this year. A month of conflict, confusion, contradiction, complications and not so good a month (personally). In 4 more days, on December 22nd 2010, I am completing 21 years. Nothing to rejoice about it. Friends usually advice me not to look at my past life. But today, I decided to take a look at my 21 years of life. What have I done in life? Well. Answer is Nothing! I had been the typical girl in many senses. Been a kid, a teen, and now, trying to be a matured woman.

From being an extremely innocent girl, I became this talkative one when I was in teens. Everything has changed for me since I was 17 or 18 years old. Ever since, I have met many people in my life. Both good and bad. Good ones are still my friends, well wishers and the bad ones were gotten rid of. I have dealt with many experiences in life and learnt greater lessons the hardest way!

Now, I wanna change. “Change for good”. And wish to do better things.

Few things I would like to start doing in the coming few months –

  1. Initiate myself to write a book
  2. Sign up for a foreign language – Say, Spanish/German
  3. Make 2 or 3 short films – Serious films
  4. Create a new design portfolio consisting – Logos, Posters, Brochures, Office Stationary, Greeting cards, Bookmarks, Magazine covers, Cartoons, Webpage templates, etc.
  5. Learn atleast 30 new kritis/songs 🙂
  6. Start gym-ing
  7. Read 40 new books – novels, short stories, management books, biographies, etc.
  8. Click for photography portfolio – Portrait, Nature/Landscape, Night, B/W, Street, Fashion, Food, Product, Feature stories, etc.
  9. Volunteer working for many NGOs
  10. Design PR/Marketing campaign for famous brands
  11. Watch one movie everyday or every-night

And the list is definitely an endless one. I hope to kick-start with few things right away so that I am done by most of them by the end of March/April 2011.

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.

PAIN

Have you ever been in Love? It can make the strongest person go weak. It can pull down a person emotionally. It causes a lot of pain when you feel no love from the counter part. It hurts even more when the person you love can’t understand you for what you are. You built those strong walls around your heart so that you don’t give into any of those people who are trying to invade your personal space. But there is this slip. You allowed. And you give yourself to them thinking they are gonna take care of you and accept you and your emotions. But what happens? Either they don’t understand what you really go through and keep you waiting. Trust me. Its pain. It drains out your emotions. Just wish I had been loved enough. Wish I was accepted the way I was. 
~
Random Ramblings. 

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. 

When she got lost..

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.

MUMBAI alias BOMBAY..

(Above picture was clicked during Ganesh Chaturti festival in Mumbai – September 11th 2010, Saturday)

Bombay means fun. Means people. Means crowd. Means the endless names of places. Means beautiful lanes. Means markets. Means shopping. Means fashion. Means bollywood. Means tall buildings. Means money. Means business. Means culture. Means religion. Means clubs and parties. Means loud music. Means gateway of india. Means pigeons. Means love. But it means many more to many people.

The above picture was clicked during my recent visit to Mumbai. This moment of capture did impact me a lot. If you haven’t noticed it yet, well, in the picture one can see that its a hindu festive celebration where a muslim is an active participant too. This moment moved me a lot. We speak Mumbai is full of terrorism, religion conflicts, so on and so forth. Well, not really. Not anymore at-least. I can see India shining in this picture. Yes. In true spirit, we need such unity with people, more closeness for fellow beings and  equal treatment among varied classes of human beings for us to grow, prosper as a nation.

Also, I had a friend of mine in Mumbai narrating me as to, how an Auto-Rickshaw wala, while traveling asked my friend about few reputed colleges because he wanted to get his 8th standard studying daughter into it. Look at the Auto wala’s meticulous planning. I was moved by this when I heard about it. We are improving as a nation. If we can accept the spirit of the auto wala and encourage him despite our socio-economic status, oh yes, we are on the right path. This is unity in diversity.

Bombay meant a lot to me. A real lot. I wish to see such things in India as a whole. More of Humane, Happy and Humorous people.

P.S: And yeah, to share my experience, Mumbai is totally awesome. Loved it a lot. Should definitely thank Preetha and her family (Latha didi, her dad and mom) for making my stay the best.