Ladakh with Motup

The view from my plane window was breathtaking! I was awestruck by the lunar landscape: brown rolling mountains. I had never seen anything quite like this in my life! We would soon be landing in Leh airport, Ladakh, the highest civilian airport in India.

Complementary to the landscape was the hotel manager, Tsering who had zen like quality: serene face with a gentle smile and did every task with great poise. He introduced us to Motup who played a key role in the next few days of our lives.

Motup drove us through Khardung La , a high mountain pass at 17,582 ft to Nubra valley. While returning back the next day we got stuck at North Pullu check point . They weren’t allowing any vehicle to pass through until they had cleared the snow along the pass. The first snowfall of that season!

While waiting I experienced my first and only altitude sickness; difficulty in breathing. As I was trying hard to breathe in more air I could sense  the sudden shift in the mood around : from everyone looking bored or chatting in groups to everyone rushing to get into their cars. Motup jumped into the car, revved up the engine while informing us that the snow has been cleared and that they are letting us through.

Everyone was in a great rush to be among the first ones to cross the check point and start climbing the mountain. People  went to great lengths to overtake one another. We saw an Innova  climbing up the hill bumping and jumping along the rough patch from the road below to the one above while the rest of us were sane enough to take the proper U-turn. After all this drama of rushing and risky overtaking soon we find cars stuck at various points due to snow! I was so happy to see the hop step jumping Innova stuck  on our way up. But soon we got stuck too.

The guy behind us helped Motup dress our tyres in snow chains to prevent skidding.That’s when we got enlightened by Motup about the mad rush that went on. It was simple, you can’t be the last one to get stuck because then there will be no one to help you with the snow chains. Now that the snow chains were on Motup wasted no time in cruising along the climb steadily.

We were all relaxed, taking the scenery in and enjoying the snow when all of a sudden I felt the car veer off towards the deep deep valley. For a minute there my heart plunged and my mind in a flash went through our ending: the car with all of us (my daughter, my husband and me) in it nosediving first and then rolling down violently and endlessly into the valley. Thankfully LIFE decided to stick around with us. Motup regained control over the car. Our ride from then till we reached our hotel was a very silent, perhaps very reflective one for each one of us.    

The next day (our last day in Ladakh) we were having second thoughts about going through Chang La to Pangong lake considering our little misadventure the previous day. But Motup convinced us otherwise and we found ourselves standing on the shore of the lake taking in the beautiful view.

I was surprised to see Motup early next morning ready to drive us to the Leh airport! I thought he did only long trips. He promptly dropped us off at the airport, helped us unload the luggage and acknowledged our thanks with a nod and a smile before disappearing into the car and driving away.

Guru Dutt

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam knocked me off my feet some twenty five years back and I am still under its spell. The character Chhoti Bahu was awe inspiring and I fell in love with Guru Dutt for making such a progressive movie!

Until a few days back I had thought that Guru Dutt had directed the movie but was surprised to read that Abrar Alvi won the Best Director award for this movie in the book GURU DUTT A Life in Cinema written by Nasreen Munni Kabir. I also hadn’t  known till then that it was based on Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel and that it had been already adapted to the screen in a successful Bengali version..

Another thing that struck me was how much Guru Dutt cared about what the audience felt.There were some scenes in this movie which the public did not like so he cut one, re-shot another and took an additional scene and inserted these new scenes into every print in town!

My daughter asked me as to how I felt about Guru Dutt now. I thought about it and realized that before I considered him a superhuman who was unreachable, a person who followed his passion with great ease and such confidence that he wouldn’t have cared about a commoner’s opinion. Now I admire him as a person who didn’t let his own insecurities and indecisiveness stop him from becoming a brilliant film maker! His vulnerability makes him very endearing!

My Body

I had taken my body for granted so much so that I wasn’t aware I abused it. I was rudely awakened from my ignorance when my body and mind started falling apart. I was first hit by an ailment that I least expected to get and that baffled me. I was in the midst of handling it when I was hit by an even bigger health issue. My response at first was to cry, throw a tantrum and then ruthlessly go on a  crash diet. In return my body and mind gave up on me. I collapsed. I alternated between hosting a pity party and being in denial. It took me a long time to go from mourning my health ailments to understanding few things about myself.     

For one, I was a glutton! I had wolfed down 19 chappathis at an all-you-can-eat lunch back in my college days! I literally gobbled up anything and everything in a jiffy. I over ate and over drank(water). Wasn’t aware of my over indulgence then because thanks to my metabolism I was thin. It is remotely possible that I was unconsciously trying hard to put on some weight because of  few alluding remarks of how thin I was.

Now I am of average weight (maybe just a bit more) but that’s not the issue. The challenges that I am up against are my health ailments. They were my wake- up call! I am reworking my diet carefully but amongst this all what I have noticed is my sheer irreverence in feeding my body. I just gulp my food down as fast as possible. I don’t pay attention to my eating.Either I am lost in my thoughts or am in a hurry.

I feel my irreverence is costing me. I am thinking that just slowing down, taking time to chew the food properly and paying attention to every morsel of food I eat might be a good starting point in my path to recovery.    

My Monkey Story

I had an unexpected experience in a resort in Munnar, India.

My daughter and I were sitting on the sofa in our rented unit on the third floor with the windows open. These were completely open slider windows with no iron bars or window grilles or a mesh screen blocking the view or in this case one can say the way.

I was immersed in my book  and was shocked out of it by a screech that I had never heard before in my life. It was my daughter screaming while madly bolting out of the room . What I saw next was a monkey jumping into the unit and grabbing a banana from the fruit platter on the corner table. There was another one right behind it, ready to jump in. I  rushed towards the monkeys shooing them away before slamming the window shut.

To my astonishment the second monkey stood tall right there on the other side of the window  looking alternatively at me and  rest of the fruits at the corner table. We both stood still on either side of the window sizing each other and our situation up. I was desperately thinking as to what to do next. My random thought was that if I took the fruit platter away from its sight while  it was  still watching it might come again and again thinking the fruit is still inside somewhere. So I just stood there looking straight into its eyes hoping to chase it away.

Suddenly I heard a rustling noise coming from my left. I turned to realize that it was another monkey peeking in through that window which I had presumed was closed but apparently it wasn’t. I leaped towards the monkey, shooing it away and slamming the window shut. I then quickly ran from one room to another checking if all the windows were closed. They were, but at one window I saw a much bigger monkey trying to open the window  as a human would do. I stood amazed at this sight.

At one level  I was marvelling at its intelligence and determination and at some basic  level  I was experiencing something primal. I was defending my young one and my territory from them. Somewhere there for few minutes it was two primates negotiating with each other.  I felt so charged and fearless as I had never felt before. As soon as everything looked under control I started trembling in the aftermath of my adrenaline rush.

Chalk and Cheese (contd)

One of my friends asked me the following questions after she read my blog  Chalk and Cheese :

Yes,a happy wavelength mismatch is definitely a positive thing.It just got me curious if it leads to “growing” on both sides and in the right sense what does “growing” actually mean.If one is trying to grow up to the other persons standards, then will one actually diminish the mismatch.  

And my blab to her above questions is :

The happy mismatch is an end or temporary relief from a very chaotic, dark, confusing and scary period of time. At first all I could see was the mismatch and it scared the hell out of me. The fear stopped me from understanding or accepting him. In hindsight I see that then I thought that looking at his world his way would ruin or erase mine. In short, I felt threatened and the only way I got out of this situation was by growing.

Growing for me means lateral growth.  I branch out and expand . The ability to peek into someone’s world and try to learn their logic , their language and letting them into my world to do the same . My experience till now is that you never get it right all the time. Somehow my partner takes me by surprise many a times. And I believe that happens because he is growing too, and at a much faster rate because he lets far more elements including me generously shape his world. I feel the moment the mismatch with my partner changed from unhappy to happy  was just the beginning of  an open minded adventurous life for me.

Chalk and Cheese

Sometime back I used to wish my life partner and I shared the same wavelength. Really wished to be as similar to each other as possible because I believed it would make living easy, life more comfortable. But lately I have come to appreciate our mighty differences because it has been the sole motivator for me to grow !! One of my friends told me that to bring change in one’s life or to learn something new one needs to be self motivated and that self motivation is hard to come by as you grow older. I agree. I have seen very very few self motivated people in my life! I for one definitely am not. So thanks to our differences which motivated and keep motivating me to grow. Amen to differences and growing!