A Permanent Image

I was on vacation, last week.

It has been a while that I have been on a vacation. Those of you know me, will probably be rolling your eyes. Yes, I have been on a holiday recently, but it has been a while that I have been on a vacation. Somewhere, in my mind a break, a holiday, and a vacation are different. I mean obviously they are different, they are three different words. But how they differ, actually, is a mystery to me. It’s probably got to do with the length, of how long you are away. This one was a full week, so, vacation.

A vacation after five years, almost. And much has changed, since my last vacation.

I saw all that I thought I would see. The faraway trailing mountain lines, the thready waterfalls of summer, the centenarian eucalypti seeking the sky, wild flowers sidelining the roads, brightly coloured happy homes that are the stuff of dreams, and sunsets that Turner would want to capture on a canvas. I saw all of that. Yes, I did.

I also saw, however, that no one else was seeing all this. Almost everyone had their backs to these wondrous sights. Seeing the sight doesn’t matter much. Being seen with the sight is now important. At all places, yes, all places, all the tourists had their back to what they came to see. This is not to say that they weren’t seeing the mountains, the trees, the waterfalls, or the flowers. They were seeing it. They were seeing it on their phones, bounded in an unnatural 16:9 ratio on a five-inch screen, while they took a photo of themselves being there.

I do not deride these selfie-seekers. For, when you are on a vacation, you must seek that, that makes you happy. I am, however, unable to relate to it.

How I look to the mountains; how the mountains look at me, is an image. It will never be shared. But it is forever.

It’s etched on my soul.

Writing on Travel Writing

What do I tell you, my anxious reader, of my travels?

I know not what you seek. Perhaps tips and tricks of dealing with the shopkeepers? Of how to navigate the streets? Or of best places to stay? There’s an app for that. Or at least a website. Perhaps I could tell you my experience. Yes that would be nice. But other than being an interesting read, it wouldn’t amount to much. There is no way that you would ever have the same experience, when you go there. But, if my experience motivates you to travel there, or any other place, for that matter, it is worth writing about.

Food, monuments, and peculiarities have become the mainstay of travel writing, and I have developed a distaste, over time, for this kind of writing. All the writing is review-like — this is good, that isn’t; do this, but don’t do this. The experience is laid out for you. I’ve (very few times, thankfully) travelled with people who template-travel. Most of the times I have been on journeys with people who permit an unknown experience to occur and relish it. The other few, however, want to recreate someone else’s experience, because it is popular. Once, Mahendra, talked of how how people come and tell us how they did a place. An example, would be, “We did all the major European cities.” I think somewhere in their head there is a green check-mark being applied against place names. I’ve never had a bucket list, I think I never will; which doesn’t mean I don’t wish for things. A bucket list is a constraint, in a way, it forces you to see in the bucket. Which means that if a wonderful experience that’s not on your list, presents itself, there’s a good chance that you’ll miss it.

*

Apart from having heard of Kazakhstan in Geography textbooks, when we were learning about steppes, I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about the country. I got the opportunity to travel to Kazakhstan because of work, but I feel blessed to have been there and known that country and its people, even if slightly. You can perhaps, by now, realise that I have very little to tell you in terms of touristy spots and such (which any travel site will tell you). But in that very short, one week, that I spent there, my personal experiences have been plenty. They’ll surface in the days to come, in the various posts in the days to come.

17.49.36: A Cloud Flare

I’ll leave you with this: the clouds and the skies in Astana, Kazakhstan had me mesmerised for the entire week. I know I have said it in the previous post. But that one theme recurred, from when I landed in the country, right up to the moment I left the country.

Over Clouds; Over Mountains; Over Whelmed

My first memory of going Kazakhstan, will always be the clouds. Thick, wispy, temperamental, or duvet-like, clouds were everywhere. And they were beautiful. Teasingly, they allowed me a sneak peek of the Hindu-kush Mountains. Where exactly, I have no idea. Even when we were to land at Almaty, I could have sworn, our plane took almost thirty minutes descending a thick wad of white cottony cloud.

File May 25, 22 11 42

Landed safely in Almaty, amidst mountains and a never-ending thick carpet of green. This was Saturday, last, one emotionally charged, memorable travel events, since a long time.

Signing off from Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, where I am at work. Undoubtedly, more, later.

 

Custodians of History

Tourist guides are contemporary balladeers. The balladeers of yore depended on stories that were transmitted orally, and over time they came to be embellished by their own likes and dislikes. Context and content fused and became indiscernible. While the written word and research exists, and is available to the contemporary balladeers, colourful stories always make for better telling than an arid recitation of the facts. Unfortunately, the choice of adjectives often colours the story with a bias, rather than become a harmless decoration.

Such was a guide, we recently hired. My friend and I already knew a lot about the history of Pratapgad, so I guess we easily tuned out the needless adjectives, and asked questions that we didn’t have answers for. We both wondered the impact this has on someone who listens to a history for the first time. History’s heroes and villains are created, not necessarily by their actions, but where we the readers of history stand.

Slightly disillusioned by the official guide, we descended from the fort, and stopped for tea at a local eatery. And we were in for a big surprise.

Ajit Jadhav is a 20-something young man, who is a 10th generation resident of the fort. We met him in the eatery, which is run by his father and brother. He is currently non-resident at Pratapgad, because he is earning his degree in mountaineering, in far away Himachal Pradesh. He is here for the break, helping his family run the eatery and conduct treks for groups. He is a walking-talking Wiki on the forts of Maharashtra. He is aware of the geography and the history of the land. He states facts with ease and has a mature restraint on adjectives. At first we have a casual conversation. It gets a bit serious after a while. What would have otherwise been a 10-minute tea break now turns into an hour-long conversation. We ask him some more questions. He has the answers. I ask, why he does not edit the Pratapgad page on Wikipedia, and correct all the mistakes there? Data-connectivity, is the villain.

IMG_20141206_133047 - Version 2

Ajit Jadhav, Pratapgad

It seems that our history is in good hands. Both of us have invited him over to Mumbai for a History-Jam session. There’ll be conversations, Q&A, and free Wi-fi.

A Wonderful Weekend

I am back.

That, I did not post over the weekend, means that my backlog of posting twice a day has gotten thicker. I’ll worry about it tomorrow. I had the most wonderful weekend ever, and right now, I can talk only about that.

It was a wonderful weekend (I know, I’ve already said that). In no particular order:

  • Invigorating conversations
  • Evaluating skepticism
  • Counterfactual arguments
  • Intelligent locals
  • Life lessons
  • Rustic food
  • Tourist-guide harassing
  • Overdosing Buttermilk
  • Heart-swelling experiences
  • Mobile-app ideas
  • Exploring Language
  • Exploring Geography
  • Exploring History
  • Exploring Science

In short, it was a wonderful weekend. (There I go, repeating myself)

For me, it was homecoming. More, soon.

View of the Sahyadri Mountain Range from Pratapgad

View of the Sahyadri Mountain Range from Pratapgad

 

Of Small Things

Small things can be great things. If only we knew.

We always want great things. We seek the big changes. The dramatic occurrences. And while we wait for these great, big, and dramatic things to happen, we miss the small things. With the end of November, the Ides of November came to a close; here’s December, and I am off for a wonderful weekend with one friend.

I have some special plans about what I will do this weekend, and I will miss all those who could not make it. It would have been more fun, with them.

C’est la vie.

*

lost my photography mojo a while ago. Too many people, said I was good. Most of them are smart people. I thought I had arrived; when in fact, I had just left. This weekend, is perhaps, my chance to check if I actually lost it, or if I wasn’t exercising it. You’ll know, soon.

*

It has been over a year of no long drives, since my best friend got busy. I have to teach myself what it means, being by myself. Togetherness is not over-rated; being by yourself is under-rated.

*

All that BS about old friends and new friends is over-rated. People are people. In spite of some of my friends I continue to trust. The day we cannot trust, a large part of us dies. Trusting because we want to make sense; not trusting because it might be broken someday, makes zero sense. If that were true, we can never live a full life.

*

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The place I am going tomorrow, is so spacious, it can accommodate all: my love, my trust, my fears, my shortcomings, my ambition, my dreams, my hopes, my trepidations. She is my other mother, she is.

*

She loves me; I love her.

And I Love You So

There’s something beautiful about mountains that is inexplicable. There are many words that exist that can describe them, but the beauty is what can only be experienced.

Just drove down my favourite range – the Sahyadris

image

Posted on-location. With lots of love.