Monthly Archives: December 2009

3 Cups of tea

I was following the route of the Indus river on the Google earth backwards from its delta in the Arabian sea towards it source. As I was going along through the Karakorum range of mountains, I began reading about Karakorum. It has the most number of high peaks in the world but K2 takes the place of pride among all of them.

Karakoram highway

Mountaineering is the most taxing of all the sports. It takes the toughness not only of physique but mind also to excel and survive in this sport. As one goes up, amount of available oxygen goes down causing difficult in breathing. As the blood is not able to carry oxygen to cells, cells become inactive or dead. It is most dangerous in the case of brain cells. Person can suffer from Edema which is the swelling of cells due to excessive fluid. You may hallucinate and see the visions of the people who had died during expeditions and their souls are wandering up there.


K2 peak

K2 with a height of 8,611 meters is the second highest peak after Everest smaller by only about 250-300 meters. But it is said along with Annapurna range of mountains  to be the most difficult mountain to summit. Sometimes, due to the difficult nature, which have taken the life of many climbers, it is called “Killer Mountain” from the initials of K alphabet. It is also called Austin Godwin who first surveyed the peak for the first time. K2 may also be thought to have been derived from Karakorum.

Many women have also climbed this peak. Amongst them are ace mountaineers Alison Hargreaves of Britain, Edurne Pasaban of Spain and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner of Germany. It so happened that many of women climbers died during the expedition or trying to summit other peaks like Annapurna another difficult peak to climb. It was said to be unlucky for women. But Pasaban has proved this only a myth.

Edurne Pasaban

Edurne Pasaban

During the reading about mountaineers, I came across the extraordinary story of Greg Mortenson. He was a mountaineer in a party to scale K2 but due to a life saving mission for another member, lost his way. He became emaciated and sick but somehow ended up in a place called Korpe, a very distant village. The village elder Haji Ali nourished him and after becoming fit, he returned from US with funds to open schools and educate the poor especially girls in Pakistan. He weathered many threats from Taliban, separated from his family and kidnap attempts.

He is the founder of  Central Asia Institute and has opened 55 schools. He believes that it is more important to educate girls because they stay back and can light the lamp of education of other children whereas boys go away from the region after getting education.

Greg Mortenson with children

He has described all this in the book titled “Three cups of tea“. The name is taken from the customs of the people of Balti region which says that by drinking and sharing cups of tea three times one becomes like a family member of the family.

3 cups of tea

Sometimes, how an event in your life can change the course of your life is the best learned from the story of Mortenson. From adventure to becoming a humanitarian person, that too in a region where the education of females is considered to be a taboo, the journey of his life is like a beacon to guide the others. Even doing noble work is difficult to do in some regions of the world.


A Solemn Journey into Punjab

What to say? This was not a journey for sight seeing, pleasure or visiting the important places. It was a journey for a solemn purpose. We went from Chandigarh to a sacred place called Patal Puri located in Kiratpur in the Ropar district, about 70 kilometers away. This city was established by Guru Hargobind of Sikhs.

We went by car. We had expected to cover the distance in about one hour but it took about 2 hours. The reason I could discern is the expansion of roads, construction of flyovers all along. It is winter season. There was dust all around. The trees on the roadside seemed to be suffocating with the dust coated on their leaves. They looked very dull and somber as if begging to be bathed in the rains and breath easily. I was thinking that these silent trees which give us oxygen by consuming the carbon dioxide generated by the industrialized world, if they are clogged then how will we survive. Really the lopsided progress will result in more harm than good.

Moving just beyond Chandigarh, on both sides of the roads, loads of the fruit called Kinoos were lying on the both sides of road. The fruit resembles orange and road seemed to become orange on both sides. There was a glut of this fruit and sellers seemed sitting idle on the fruits. Occasionally, some cars stopped and people came out to buy the fruit. It is mostly used for making juice.

We crossed the famous Bhakra canals through which bluish water flowed. It seemed very calm and beautiful. At one or two places, truck drivers were taking bath in the biting cold water.

Whence we come & where we go!

“Whence we come and where we go” is the eternal question humanity is asking and trying to unrave, to seek the answer to the greatest mystery besetting the humanity. Religion as well as science is pursuing relentlessly to solve this riddle. Religion which does not have to give solid proofs for unsolved phenomena ascribes the genesis to the God.

For example, according to the Bible we come from dust and end up into the dust from which we are born. The God with magical wands and sleight of His hand created everything present on the earth. He created everything in a span of six days taking seventh day as the day of rest and scrutinize his work like an artist who watches his work from a distance detached from his creation. When the Adam and Eve were expelled to Earth for breaking the promise not to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge in the heavens, they were cursed to toil and do the labor to earn the food and bear great pain while delivering the child. This is the curse which we are carrying on us from generation to generation. Why did the God created the curiosity and dangled the apples before the first couple? He seems to be fond of testing His progeny.

According to the Christian burial service we are born out of dust and are returned to dust. The text for is as follows:

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

It is from Genesis 3:19 of King James version of the Bible. The same thing which we alluded to in the last paragraph. 

In the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, the manner and text of the burial service is described as follows:

When the body will be cast upon in the earth and earth shall be cast upon it, the Priest shall say,

“For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.”

The almost similar feelings are displayed by Sikh Gurus when a person is cremated. The meaning of the Gurubani (Sikh hymn) can be translated crudely as follows:

“That God is like the Sun sending forth us in the form of its rays. It is called Atman. This means that our body which is made of the earthy elements is a chalice containing the infinitesimal element of the God, it is like a dead harmonium into which the life in the form of wind is pumped. So when a body is unable to hold the ray of life or Atman, the ray goes back to its source and merges with it. The person is said to be complete or whole as its Atman which is eternal meets the Maker.”

Kabir, the great Indian saint also echos similar feelings when he describes the Atman as Hamsa or Swan. When a person dies, his Atman or Hamsa flies away towards the God alone. No one, neither his relatives nor his friends accompany him. He is to go alone, leaving behind everything. All the earthy possessions which he had spent his life collecting remain here.

As for me, I don’t know whether we are born from the earth or not directly sprouting from it. It is indirect method. Someone, called mother has to hold the lump of mass which is born alive after gestation. It is true that composition of compounds forming the body is derived from the elements present on the earth. But even Earth has been given these in the dower by the Sun, which continues to play the life sustaining role on the Earth. We owe him everything that is present on this Earth. Yes, but I have seen, the body become ash when it handed over to Fire which licks it with wild flames. Only few obdurate bones remain. The ashes are scattered all onto a river like Ganga, and they flow to the ultimate that is the sea which is the biggest receptor on the Earth.

Manimajra:Bursting at Seams

Walking in the streets of Manimajra Chandigarh has become a dangerous task. You have to be extra vigilant while passing through the streets. One after the other, incessantly, the motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, autos and cars comes chasing you. The vehicles are parked on the paths and streets which can hardly accommodate one vehicle breadth. It is to the credit of the vehicle drivers who can still maneuver their vehicles through invisible empty space.

The reason for this chaos seems to me is the inordinate increase in the population of tenants. This is due to the expansion of information technology parks, industries and offices of Haryana and union territory of Chandigarh. With Chandigarh being very costly for living and thus unaffordable, many employees have taken houses on rent here. There are tenants in almost every house. This being an oriental old unplanned town, the civic amenities are lesser; hence the rents are also lower. The low income employees find the living here affordable. There is bazaar where all kinds of vendors sell their wares at cheaper rates than Chandigarh.

Being an old oriental type of the town, it is much unplanned in architecture. There are streets which are so narrow that even a two wheeler vehicle is not easy to pass through it. There is no concept of parking place at home. As the people economic condition is improving, everyone is buying scoters and cars which have no place except the open street in front of houses to park. There are squabbles and fights for the public space for parking the vehicle. So, most of its population is temporary of floating in nature. Such populace does not have any emotional attachment with the town. They are the transient birds who come here to stay for some time and then push off to another places.

Due to this alarming rise in number of people, the cleanliness: which even otherwise was not there, has become deplorable. Lots of non-degradable materials like polythene bags are thrown into the open running drains and clog them at different points and the whole drainage water spills into the streets. It is an open invitation to diseases. I am sure that at many places, the drainage effluent may be leaking into the drinking water lines contaminating it.