The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Visit to Kasauli--the Pen Picture

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Happy Holi n happy reading!
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I knew of Kasauli, the birth place of my favourite author Ruskin Bond. And that was all I knew about the place thanks to my bookish information.

And the other day, as I visited the place, the feeling turned out to be a kind of déjà vu for me. The quietude of the place was so poignant, so hauntingly attractive! It was like the wealth of wisdom hidden behind the silence of a quiet person. Nay, it was like the warmth of a sunny December morning that disseminates without ado ease and delight. I could not have remained untouched by the vibes of the environs that were only too profound.  I could not have helped getting soaked in the ambience.  

Then I was to go to Monkey Point. ‘That is a must visit at Kasauli,’ any guide worth his salt would recommend that. But then there was a rider: I was told that taking photographs there was not allowed. It was the seat of a certain defence establishment and that was the reason behind such restriction. So, it was to shape as an unadorned visit and there was nothing more than that to expect out of it.

Visiting a place without a camera means one should put one’s power of observation into overdrive. One should observe more and that too more keenly…so much so that the hidden spirits of the ambience lay bare themselves to the pair of perceiving eyes. Sound, colour, smell—they are not to be perceived only; they are the entities to materialize before one’s very mental eyes. One should be prepared to remember…and it was to be a lot of memory-work at that! And now, while actually trying hard to recapitulate what I saw, I feel how a snap or two would have made the difference. Don’t they say ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?  

An excursion to the hilltop could not just be fun. It was a daunting task, to say the least. Even before I started climbing, as I looked up from the foothill I could clearly read that people going up were just plodding their steps, some of them even drawing their stamina from the side rails. They were looking so small, as if the miniature version of their original selves, for the cramped canvas had that much place allotted for them in the composition of panorama. Nay, they were like the dolls out of the alcoves and mantelpiece, ordered by an invisible magician to crawl up to the hilltop. They were moving upwards in unison and against gravitation, and they were, as if, going against their will. I wondered who could be the magician that wanted this feat to be performed by those dolls animated!

And then I reached the foothill to start the task. It was my brief to myself to prove that I was fit enough—I should continue doing everything enjoyable even though it entailed perspiring a bit. If the real beauty of the landscape lies at the hilltop viewing point, I should have a glance of it—an eyeful of it. How lofty was the point? Well, I could not keep count of the steps I had to climb nor was there any indication of it in the various snippets and signage available around. Nevertheless, my breath spoke it all—it was nothing if not a rigorous uphill climbing.

For a change, let me be precise what I say. I had noted down the altitude of the place. Monkey Point is only 6430 ft above mean sea level, even less than the height of Shimla that is situated at 7100 feet!

Hold it for a second—I’ve a point to make here. The Wikipedia says that Shimla is located at the height of 300 to 6000 meters! Encyclopedia of Britannica says it is at 7100 feet (2200 meters). Somebody should volunteer and correct Wikipedia. There has to be a limit to bragging I say! Height-wise Shimla is less than Ooty in South India. (Ooty-7500 feet or 2300 meters)

Anyway, coming back to my topic, the difficulty level of climbing a hillock is not dependent on its height alone. The main point to see here is how steep is the climb, say what is its gradient. As for me, the rough and ready guide was, as I said it earlier, my breath: if I was panting for breath, then it must be steep. And without entering into the issue of trigonometric proof I can assert that: that I was climbing a steep hill. Agreed, as I went climbing I came across elderly fellows and kids returning from the top spot but that was not to make the climb any less tiring. Among them there was an elderly gentleman, too, who could make it up to the top and as per his own declaration, he had three blockages in his heart. Then what was he doing there instead of going for an angioplasty? I wondered. A couple of stents would make his life easier. Anyway, his dear blockages notwithstanding, he could do that…and that was the highlight. I gasped my appreciation, “Tusi great paaji,” and the fellow attributed his success to the blessings of lord Hanuman ji whom he came to see at Monkey Point.

It is believed, as I came to know reading the signage literature at the hilltop, that Hanuman while going to fetch Sanjeevni for the treatment of Lakshman had kept a foot on this hill and another at Jakhu, Shimla. So far I knew that Hanuman had negotiated the entire distance from Sri Lanka to the Gandhamardan by his celebrated aerial manoeuvre. This was just another version, mutatis mutandis—I concluded.

There were quite a few educative marble plaques installed along the track to divert the climber’s attention from the rigours of the climb. One such couplet was राम नाम का गिद्दा/ की पुट्ठा की सिद्दा. I tried to get some meaning out of that. Ignorance of Punjabi was no excuse and what I interpreted was something like this: Within you lies the book (गिद्दा) of Ram, waiting for its pages (पुट्ठा) to be straightened (सिद्दा). The explanation was laughably inaccurate and there were people near to correct me. But they did no such thing. I remained content with my provisional (wrong) understanding of the spiritual couplet until I was on my way back. The pundit of the hilltop temple who also returned with us imparted me the actual meaning of the couplet: While dancing to the tune of Ram’s name, it hardly matters if the steps are correct or not. In other words, one can be a devotee without going through various formalities that have grown around the name of Ram. Aha! How true!

And at the top it was just anther scene of top view. Should I say it the bird’s eye view? Nay, big-picture is the right term to narrate it. The hills around that took us hours to negotiate were looking so tamable! Despite the sylvan exuberance, it all looked like the plains from the hilltop, as though landscaped and manicured to wear the beauty of highland wilderness! The roads encircled the hills, bypassed them, jumped from peak to peak and, in any case, respected the norm of being serpentine. There is no way one could have imparted the difference of being straight, the straight-line course. Er, it was my moment to revisit the long-forgotten geometry lesson: Is a curve really the combination of innumerable straight lines? Or is it that the straight line plus another dimension make it a curve? Aha! I got the right word: Curves are the 3-D realities of terrestrial existence and straight lines are the artificial representations of it only.

What had the height to say there? Now that it had been conquered, did it actually insist on its primacy? Nope, it was not to brag and frighten again. Even, otherwise, the highest of the peaks concedes its defeat at that defining moment, saying ‘Alas! The hillock yonder is taller than me.’ Even standing on the Everest if one asked the summit the same question, its answer would follow likewise, ‘Nope, I’m not the tallest. The peak yonder is taller than me.’ The other end of the ridge facing Monkey Point has a peak and that was to appear taller than Monkey Point. I had once experienced the phenomenon in 1996 as I scaled Saddle Peak in North Andamans. And I wrote a poem too. Let me quote
A rest after the haste and haste after a rest
Thus the mocking peak was finally scaled
Lo! It was no momentous deed of ours
The neighbouring peaks were even loftier.
(Scaling the Saddle Peak, In Harness)    

And come five o’clock, it was time to return. It was the rule and rules are always to be respected. We returned and the last one to do that was a dog. He was robust and officious, and from the beginning I had suspected that the canine was there to perform a specific duty. Who was his master and whose orders was he carrying out? Anyway, my haunch was correct: even if it was not admitted, the animal was there to ensure that nobody was left at that point after it was 5 PM. As we were returning, I asked the pundit as to what was the name of his dog. He said the animal had no name. ‘How strange! The animal has a duty to perform and is condemned to namelessness!’ I muttered. Then I insisted that the animal on duty deserved a name, a good name. The pundit complied with my request and christened his pet then and there. He became Sewak, the servant of Lord Ram. I only wish the pundit were sincere about the name and the next day onwards started calling him as such—Sewak the servant of Lord Ram. 

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By
A N Nanda
Shimla
26-03-2013
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11 Comments:

Anonymous Amiya Ranjan Maharana, OA, O/o the SSPOs, Jeypore(K), Koraput, Odisha said...

Splendid tour Sir.... encouraging n thoughtful writing... Nice one Sir.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Welcome, Amiya, to my blog. Your comments encourages me a lot, to say the least.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Kanimozhi, IP, Rasipuram said...

True... A picture is worth a thousand words... But each sentence of your pen picture is worth thousand real pictures...Thanks for taking us on a mind tour to Kasauli.

With regards,
Kanimozhi, IP, Rasipuram.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Thank you Kanimozhi for the nice word you expressed about the post.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Respected Sir,
No doubt nature is beautiful but your pen which describes the natural beauties in a very nice manner makes the natural beauties more and more beautiful.
With profound regards
B. K. Singha
IP Jaleswar West
Balasore Divn.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Welcome Singha Babu to this blog and thank you for sharing your thought.

4:40 AM  
Blogger vikas gouda said...

Sir, your writing inspired me to climb those stairs read the marble inscription and yes take a pack of biscuits for "sewak" , planning for a visit on 18th April , will update about mr trip on return.

thanks
vikas

6:03 AM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Hello Vikas. Kasauli is also the place where Khushwant Singh used to visit for whetting and honing his creativity. "Train to Pakistan" was created there by him. Nice place. And I'm sure you'll like your trip. Thanks.

12:26 PM  
Blogger anjali gupta said...

Hello sir,

Thanks for writing the descriptive blog post about Kasauli tourism. Keep writing.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Anant Nanda said...

Thanks Anjali. I welcome you to read my blog.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Hotel near Kasauli said...

I love kasauli hills. I have spent most of my time over there. I would like to walk in mountains, specially near railway track. I love toy train. I love to ride my bike in kasauli, it prevents me from traffic also. Now a days there is so much family's visiting over there and because of this, there are so many cars and it causing so much traffic, which is so annoying. But whenever i visit in kasauli, i feel fresh every time. It gives so much peace inside my body.

5:30 AM  

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