Pages from a Pilgrim's Diary - Part 2
by Vimala Ramu
Back to Part I
30-5-84 Jammu Tawi
Back in Jammu Tawi after 3 days and 3 nights trip to the beautiful Kashmir. In Srinagar,we had been put up in a 3 storeyed hotel in Lal Chowk. Obviously this must be the regular camping site for our Agency, because we saw a board in Kannada on the studio next to the hotel. In the studio, Kashmiri dresses and jewellery were for hire to be photographed in, for the tourists. The rickshaw- wallah who took us to Shankara hill could count from 1-10 in Kannada!
Buckets of hot water were supplied for our baths on the 3rd floor. On the third day, the hotel treated us to a Kashmiri lunch including saffron rice.
Kashmir was all that had been written and sung about_ The tall deodar trees, the picturesque Chinar, the dal lake, the Shikaras, saffron fields, Nishat bagh, Shalimar garden, the shopping for wonderful woolens and silks.
The teeming millions of shops in the market place, the fly infested hotel, the hopeless bungling of our group mates which resulted in torpedoing our Gulmarg trip, the squabbles between the yatris and the management were the bitter part of the otherwise memorable visit.
I even managed to meet a friend in Srinagar. Pity I had to refuse their invitation for dinner at their mess, as I had not brought a suitable wardrobe for the occasion.
On the way back to Jammu, we played truant from our group and had a fabulous Tandoor lunch at ITDC, Batote. I introduced my companion to Kumaonis and cherries of Kashmir.31-5-84 Amritsar
We took a tonga from the station to reach the golden temple. Had a leisurely Parikrama, looking into the rooms where Sikh history is recorded in the form of pictures. No sign of any tension or panic. Everything cool and calm The Sardar who drove the tonga asked me, “Dekh liya behenji, Yahan kuch gadbad nahi hai. Akhbaarwale aise hi likh lete hain” (Did you see sister, there is nothing wrong here. Newspaper people just make a fuss out of nothing)
We visited Durgiana temple (a replica of golden temple) and Jalianwala bagh. The hold- all I purchased in Bangalore for Rs 195 costs only Rs 135 in Delhi, probably even less in Punjab!1-6-84 - Haridwar
Reached Haridwar safe. Had ‘Snan’ in the refreshing waters of Ganga. Visited all the temples and Mansa Devi temple by cable car.2-6-84 - Haridwar-Rishikesh
We had been promised that we would leave Hardwar at 5 am by bus today. Instead, after a long wait, we were asked to walk a distance of ¾ Km carrying our luggage (thankfully a lighter version packed for the hills) to catch a local shuttle train to Rishikesh. All the old people and the ‘Richie rich’es came cursing, huffing and puffing. Some were close to tears.Rishikesh
Visited all the temples. Feasted on Lichis.3-6-84
Bath in the crystal clear waters of Ganga. A day of glorious uncertainties. Waited for a bus to go to Gaurikund. Had to vacate the lodge for the next party. My companion was getting tense. Wanted to return home.
Left for Kedar after lunch.4-6-84 Rudraprayag
The bus was a deluxe one with cassette music. Journey from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag was thrilling. First half was done in daylight. The road was lined with luscious mangoes hanging down from trees. We were eyeing them greedily when Providence obliged us. The gale had brought down two trees blocking our route. So, while the trees were being hacked, we had our fill of mangoes.
Second part of the journey was done in darkness, with rain lashing and roads strewn with debris of landslides.
Rudraprayag is where we fork off for Kedarnath. After dinner in a dhaba, we were asked to stay in a dark, dilapidated building (power break down). We were told that Yudhishtira passed this way as he ascended to heaven with his dog. Probably this building had housed the dog for the night. All the ladies protested and refused to sleep in the dark building. Chose to spend the night in the bus.
The arrival of dawn improved our perception of the place with the flowing Ganga down in the gorge and cute improvised canvas toilets.
The journey onward was thrilling with breath taking scenario at every turn. While I was drying my companion’s petticoat by fluttering it outside the bus window, the wind tore it away from my hand. By the time the bus could be stopped we had come too far and the petticoat could not be traced. To be continued in Part 3...