The phone rang at 3:30 am. The voice of the driver was impatient. “It’s getting late! No no… I don’t know who told you 4 am. We need to leave now. We’ll get stuck in a traffic jam!”
A traffic jam at 4 am? Oh well, we were already up. We scrambled and managed to leave just a few minutes before 4.
The blinding curves on the mountain were dark and quiet. But just after two turns, another car joined our route. In another 15 minutes we had more company.
By the time we reached the base of Tiger Hill, we were at the tail end of a massive car line. The driver took shortcuts off the road to jump ahead. But as we reached higher ground, there was only one road.
“How far is it from here? Can we walk it?” The driver nodded confidently. We hopped out. It was a race against the sunrise. We joined at least fifty other people who were already trekking uphill at a fast pace.
After close to two kilometres of jogging and walking, we managed to reach the top of the hill, where a huge crowd was staring into the distance, camera in hand, waiting expectantly.
“Don’t worry, the sunrise will be only at 6:30! Plenty of time! Yesterday the view was very good. Today let’s hope the fog lifts with the sun! Here, you must be tired. Have some coffee!” The coffee sellers were busy catering to the captive, sleep deprived and hungry clientele.
The day was in full bloom. And yet the coffee seller coolly said it would take another half an hour for the ‘sunrise’.
“Whooooaaaah!” A section of the crowd began cheering, as if having spotted a celebrity. The fans began climbing on every possible vantage point. The paparazzi were clicking away.
We looked in the direction of the cameras. In the distance, an uninterested orange sphere looked into the mist.
Funnily, the crowd seemed to have forgotten for a while, why they were actually atop Tiger Hill. For it was not the sun we were waiting for. It was the promised breathtaking view of the Himalayas drenched in golden sunshine in the opposite direction.
That promised view was sleeping snuggly under a thick white blanket.
Hundreds of travelers from across the globe waited and stared into the white abyss. The mist didn’t budge.
We were severely disappointed. For the fifth straight day Mt. Kanchenjunga eluded us. As the crowd began dispersing, we caught sight of a few foreign tourists. We pitied them. At least we were still in our country. These folks had come from much farther away. But they were still cheerful. Two of them even held up a large photograph of the mountain range and posed for pictures!
We took their cue and brushed our disappointment aside. It was only while we were walking downhill that we took notice of the picturesque route leading to the viewpoint. In the darkness during our ascent and in our hurry to reach the top of the hill, we had missed the flowering trees and the web of prayer flags above the road.
We missed the golden Kanchenjunga, but we walked away with a handful of other memories. Hopefully, one day we can get back up there. For now though, we have a string prayer flags hanging at our doorstep, to remind us of the things we didn’t miss.
One of the jokes we’ve been cracking about Gurgaon for many years, is that just pouring a glass of water on the road is enough to cause a traffic snarl. So when the clouds above rained down, it came as no surprise that the city of Gurgaon virtually came to a standstill. With vehicles stuck in jams for well over 12 hours, walking seemed to be the only way to go anywhere.
Or rather, with half-covered drains overflowing well on to the main road, we had to…
Jump over puddles
Climb over fences
Swing around car mirrors
Limbo under branches
Crawl sideways on narrow high ground
And when someone came splashing water
Quickly turn around!
…no, in the middle of the main road, we were not walking, we weren’t wading, and we weren’t weaving… we were dancing!
“Do you want to make a boat?” There was a hint of concern in the man’s voice – he seemed to have mistaken our behaviour as a threat to his livelihood.
Up until then, the nawik was quite cheerful. He encouraged us to feed the birds. Another man on another boat sailed by, selling goodies to be fed to the birds. “Don’t worry about polluting the river – the birds will swoop down before it soils the water”, he said, gently steering the boat across the remarkably clean Ganges. The Magh Mela had ended only a fortnight ago, and the temporary docks were still up – being taken down one nail, one plank at a time.
Seeing our keenness to photograph everything around us, and the special attention his boat was getting, he was at first amused, and then a little worried.
We couldn’t help laugh a little and reassured him that we were just fascinated and enjoyed getting up close to the many textures in front of us. We had no intention of making a boat.
Somewhat reassured, he returned to his usual cheery self and continued to row gently. “The other nawiks were interested in showing their muscle and speed at rowing. What’s the point? Why rush? I enjoy myself. Don’t you? You’ve clearly come from far just to see the Sangam*. You would want to spend more time, won’t you?”
We nodded our approval of his thoughts. He offered if we’d like to try our hand at rowing. Of course! He taught us to row and the technique for steering. We both took one oar each and rowed for a while. “I’ll take a picture of you two! You would want to keep this memory.”
We taught him how to use the phone camera and continued to row. He was a good teacher. And rowing was actually fun! After a while he took back the oars. It was, of course, his job!
We soaked in the glow of the golden sun as it began diving into the river and once docked at the ghat, we paid our nauka a tip for the memorable trip.
Here’s one of the many close-up pictures of our nawik’s prized possession – his nauka
To see what details other bloggers around the world are clicking, zoom in to this week’s Photo Challenge
Nauka: boat Nawik: boatman
*Sangam: the confluence of three rivers at Allahabad: the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati
I have a fascination for gears and enjoy watching them at work. The way the individual pieces interlock; their movement harmonious and in-sync; and that rugged metallic look! These simple machines have stood the test of time (pun unintended!) and can work reliably even after years of use, unlike modern digital goods. And so, for this week’s Photo Challenge, I decided to photograph the inner mechanisms of a mechanical clock. Until next time…
PS. I haven’t been able to catch up with posts from you for a while – I’m a bit caught up in the offline world. I’ll be away for some more time, although I’ll attempt a blog post now and then. Hope to catch up with everyone once I return to regular routine.