Excellent Write up from Siddharth:
The Walk of a Lifetime
‘I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.’-said Thomas Paine.
Last weekend, we were with a group of such lovable people who have adopted kindness as a way of life and have been blessing all of us with their wonderful smiles. They were like God’s own sons. That sense of serenity which we experienced for those two days is something that words will always fail to explain-you gotto experience that. They have so much to complain about and lots more to think and worry about, but their faces didn't show any sign of it-their smiles were true and genuine, heavily infectious, and were very effective in spreading their message of love and affection. For someone like me , who understands nothing other than Tamil & English, their language of silence and smiles was like a blessing. Words failed to connect us but we never felt the necessity for words.
Well, enough of the suspense-the Emperor’s 50th trip was a real walk of a lifetime. Lots of homework and research, carefully maintained suspense, simply superb execution and of course-the destination and its inhabitants-what else could we ask for???
Around 30 super excited souls assembled at Koyambedu , sharp on time. Another culprit soul (PUSH) was late by around an hour and ended up treating all of us with chips and biscuits J Numerous mail threads, endless guessing and everything else failed to help us identify the spot. A minute fraction of them knew the destination but were tight lipped. As our motto says, the journey is as important as the destination. We had our own bus now- and as expected ,in a matter of minutes, no ass was on the seat :P Shouting, talking, roasting( read as kadalai :P) ,beating, kicking,,yelling, running, dancing, walking, jumping and off course, posing were happening in all nooks and corners of the bus. The kid Harish was also in full excitement, giving nick names of his own style to everyone. Though everything was happening, everyone was looking greedily at each and every mile stone that passed by.Ambur was the first target now J Thirumalai from Thirupatthur was waiting with Biriyanis for us at Ambur –and he was given a hero’s welcome into the bus. He probably owes this to the Biriyanis and his photographic skills :P
After Biriyani, we slowly started sleeping.Woke up with a tea next morning, and we slowly started getting an idea of where we were then. The bus was somewhere near Sathyamangalam. We started feeling the cold now. The bus and the driver somehow managed to cross the 27 hairpin bends-the views were amazing!!!
Later,it was time for some gaming- we utilized a small halt to warm up ourselves for the trip .Some people identified a Fig tree with fruits, idea of hunting it down for a pre-breakfast session. Some of us grew tired of eating and started throwing the fruits at each other(No guilt-all fruits were full of worms :P) .Sridhar was the main victim-was beaten all around and I succesfullly hit the BULL’S EYE ,where BULL is read as YAZAR :P
We then slowly proceeded on the scenic road,with hundreds of deers on both sides-we tried hard to sight elphants,but they were unlucky :P Btw,no one was allowed to sleep on the bus-A royal ,cool. Somewhere near Aasanur,we could hear our tummies crying for attention-stopped at a hotel and filled our tummies in typical CTC style. Ankit& Aditie,Mano joined us here .The bus then proceeded towards Kermalam,from where we would proceed on share autos. We were strictly instructed at the checkposts to avoid using our camera during this journey to Odeyarpalya. We were the first batch to reach there and hence had ample time to get ready. After a a superb pump set bath and then a sun bath ,the other team joined us.
And ya-we were still clueless about our itinerary :P From the slightly alien, highly serene atmosphere and the new faces all around, we could almost guess it, and that’s when Ravi atlast broke the suspense-We were on visit to a Tibetan settlement in India. Little did we know that such a place existed in South India -thanks machi Ravi JWith careful instructions-dos and donts, Ravi gave us a small briefing and then lead us into the settlement. The first instruction was to maintain silence and the best tip was to smile at every inhabitant there .Both were really useful-realized it once we entered the settlement-a calm, serene, scenic spot-with hills and farm lands on all sides. While Ravi & Masi proceeded to get permissions, we went into a solo shop there to get our energy drinks and other stuff-Ravi told us that we would be coming back here for our dinner.
Then, we proceeded with our walk. The plan was simple-we would walk across the monasteries and villages there, try to understand their way of life and way of worship, interact with them as much as possible and also enjoy the abundant scenery all around. Ravi gave us short, quick intros of all the spots-the community centre, the first temple which was built there and then the monasteries and the villages around them.
Though we were not able to understand the meanings behind the mantras inscribed there-on the walls and the prayer wheels, we now got a hint at what it is-Thanks to Jadesh J
The monastery which we entered first was abuzz with activity-kids and teenagers playing football, ladies and elder people involved in painting and renovation of the monastery .After speaking ( thanks to all Hindi translators & some kids knew English too ) with the kids there for a couple of minutes, not wanting to disturb their game, we left the place- after handing over some chocolates to them. Next some of us proceeded to a small place of worship there – where one of the monks took us inside and patiently performed the worship rituals for us.
Again, we caught up with the rest of the team at the L village road-people were waiting at the huge open space here, with Arun’s endless photo-sessions with Thiru still happening :P There was a superb picturestic mud road there and we made full use of it J People said that road would lead to a stream-and the organizers decided to have it for the next day and proceed with the village visits for now. After having some water from a nearby home, we proceeded towards the next village, while a few them dispersed for lunch.
The next monastery was a real treat for our souls -worshipping was happening there and prayers were being offered-I was not able to understand their prayers, but the sight of small kids reciting them and helping with the music with so much of sincerity and involvement was really moving-If u believe in God and if you happen to pray, please pray for their prayers to be heard and their wishes to be fulfilled. And Anu-slightly worried us by experiencing some momentary out of form-ness as a consequence of her deep involvement with the prayer- just imagine the strength and purity of the prayer and its vibrations.
Then, it was lunch time and fortunately we had a shop with noodles, MoMo’s and lassi –everything was wonderful!!!We tried our hands on the chopsticks-the soupy and chowmin noodles gave us a really tough time – and soon, fingers, hands and mouths went directly into the bowls :P Btw,myself and Push stacked our bags with snacks-chips and biscuits for the entire trip-this was Push’s penalty for coming late J After lunch,some people settled for cricket and basket-ball with the kids there and some of us continued to walk-We went in search of a pond there but returned half way, as there were fences across the way.And Ravi- now patiently explained us the history behind the settlement and shared many really interesting facts about the settlement- our respect for the people there kept on growing!!!!
Meanwhile, Harish gave an extremely tough time to PUSH and me :P All his excitement and the energy drinks were used on us-Push was literally getting chased around the village by a 10 year old kid :O The next monastery was the largest of all, but was closed L we dint go in- but the next team of lucky buggers(Ravi style :P ) was lucky enough to have the monastery opened for them.
It was drizzling now. After regrouping, we started walking back-it was now raining, officially J We soon reached the restaurant ,our dinner spot. Bharani, Kathir and Senthil joined us here. And we had an excellent round of games here- not sure what the name is, but the first game was simply superb-Arun and his tactics were rocking Jnext was dodgeball and then restuu. Fortunately there was no Anthakshari :P Butter tea was served-piping hot, straight from the fire. Not sure why it is called by that name, when it has nothing to do with tea.It was wonderful- and the climate still aggravated my craving for that J had some 3-4 glasses of butter tea and settled down for chit chatting-random topics, remotely relevant questions and totally irrelevant answers :PArvindh’s much delayed birthday bums happened here-happy happy happy :D Thanks mano J Siva ,Krish,Bharani & Sridhar continued with their failed attempts at the top and Yamini was the only succesfull person.
Thanks to the powercut-we had candle lit dinners(Power cuts there too :P )!!! Again Momos for the non veggies and noodles for the veggies.Some more chit chatting and then we were all set for sleep .Some people proceeded towards the huge verandah of an adjacent building,which could easily accommodate 20 -25 of us .Masi , Siva ,Jadesh ,Praveen and Myself decided to move on to a building in another end of the village-fortunately, on the way, we found a small verandah, just enough for the five of us-With a tarp above and below us and multi-layered clothing, we were able to sleep peacefully.
We had planned to wake up and leave by around 5 in the morning, and executed the plan perfectly. After triggering off a few dogs, we left the village to an adjacent stream for our early morning chores-then a pumpset bath again and then a heavy breakfast-Masala Dosas,Plain Dosas, and huge idlys were gobbled up and then we slowly returned to the village.The people had proceeded to the stream or probably in search of the stream now-We decided to move in the opposite direction-where Masi had identified a clay road leading to a few houses .There were fenced fields on the way, but the people were generous enough or even happy to open up the fences and let the five of us pass through. One granny happily held up the barbed-wire fence for us to crawl beneath –she guided us the way to get out of the fence on the other side and we followed suit-simply amazed at the trust which someone can show on a group of complete strangers-such gestures really made our day and will make lifelong memories J
We then caught up with the clay road-went to the house there, had some chilled water, chatted a bit and left the place-walked through some village streets and then caught up with a few of them at the restaurant there-it was time to disperse now. We had to leave early, to ensure that the bus safely crosses the hair pin bends before it gets dark .Me,Masi and Jadesh went on a bike in search of the team which had ventured in search of the stream-couldn’t find them and returned back to the spot-Soon, everyone arrived. Some of them had their lunch here and some of us decided to leave early and have a south Indian style lunch at the small town outside. We halted at the same small hotel there for lunch. The other gang arrived soon and two ‘small elephants’ were arranged to transport us to kermal.with lots and lots of photo sessions on the way,we crossed the checkposts and reached kermal,for a session of cricket there with the small kids there-Push & Kalai had a tough time bowling to one of the kids there-An Epdi pottalum adikkaraan da moment :O
It now started raining again and we decided to end our trip with a puuuure Emperor’s moment :P
Dancing gangnam style in the middle of the road in full heavy rain J It was freezing cold there and awesome fun with our guys-returned to the bus with a heavy heart-it was almost the end of the trip LSome of us started sleeping ,eating biscuits…….On the way, we decided to stop at the Bannari temple-had a darshan and spent a couple of minutes there.Our next destination was the Kodiveri dam-falls. A parisal ride, climb down to the falls, a super heavy bath and few fish fries were the take-aways J Unfortunately ,I lost my one of my slippers here-Imagine losing a brand new sandals to a dog :@ And imagine how badly I should have scolded our guys who had seen the dog taking the slipper and were happily clapping hands :O Fortunately ,I got a replacement immediately –it was now a dark parisal ride back to the other shore where we had parked our bus-walked in the dark-reached the bus and settled in-our next stop was for dinner hopefully!!!!On the way was the massage session-chief massager Ravi and his assistants-the rest of the gang :O Played Tabla on a few heads ,until we reached Mettur for dinner .I quickly grabbed one of the available Biriyanis…and this was followed by Parottas,omletes,kalakkis ,half boils and so on. Special thanks to kalai, who efficiently grabbed and hid away all omlets from the predators and helped us J
It was rain again, outside-A very heavy rain. An adjacent compound had fallen down and the roads were getting washed away- We were almost stranded there for an hour, and that’s when Masi and Ravi decided to brave the rain –they quickly rushed up to the bus, brought a tarp for us, so that we could reach the bus without getting wet again :O Imagine such kind of pampering on a trip. Hats off to you da guys-for taking everyone(the kid mainly) and everything into consideration and going the extra mile J
We were now enroute to Chennai- carefully planned halts and breaks had ensured that we won’t reach Chennai too early-We would be reaching koyambedu by around now.
After an intro/feedback session and several discussions –treks, travelling, tree planting, social events sweets were distributed :D We then fell asleep-woke up next day, bid goodbyes and are now continuing our mokkais on the post trek mail thread :P
It was a Brilliantly planned, superbly executed 50th trip da guys-loved each and every part of it, especially the destination JWas waiting for it, right from the moment Arun started building up the suspense during the Yercaud cycling trip J For me personally ,it was like a different version of the Senji trip-met lots of people, learnt a lot of things, interests growing rapidly!! Never even knew there was such a place so close to me and now in complete admiration of the place-true, your horizons keep expanding as long as you travel J
My observations from there, which I feel, added to the charm of the people, and the place :
1)Use of Solar Energy-Every small house had a solar panel J
Even huts, small hotels and monasteries had solar panels ,water heaters and solar lamps!!! These people are silently making a revolution of sorts-we gotto learn this for sure .
2)Work & Fitness –Every single person whom we met there had some sort of work/ physical work to do. Children play football/basketball/cricket. Ravi told us that most of them join the Indian Army by virtue of their fitness. After retiring , they join with their families and involve in farming. Some of them are expert weavers. Further, even their method of worship involves physical activity-spinning the holy wheel J Also, most of the minor repair/painting works in the monasteries and homes were carried on by the people themselves.
3)Clean surroundings – Though I’m not sure how they manage garbage disposal and waste handling, there wasn’t much of a garbage on the streets. Even the litter from the hotels/shops were confined to within their premises.
4)Hospitality, Humility &Trust- We strangers were treated like guests .They dint see us as a disturbance. Everyone happily smiled at us, trusted us like their own people. There wasn’t an eye of suspicion on us anywhere at any point of time. Though these are quite common in most of the villages, they are becoming fast disappearing qualities -blame the misuse of trust and the lack of appreciationL
They have been very graceful guests for us here, experienced heaven for two days-let that God allow them to host us once in their own homeland J Lets pray for a peaceful, politically free Tibet ,for that’s were their real happiness lies J