Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 1 - Kumaon and I - On the way to Dwarahat

Day 1 – 23rd June 2012 – On the way to Dwarahat, Uttarakhand
My Day 1 accounts may give you a déjà vu feeling always if you have already read my travelogue of Himachal Pradesh. The same story of going to bed late (this time it was 11.45 pm) and getting up early (oh yes, it was very early, we got up at 3.15 am to catch the flight at 5.50 am). The same story of slight anxiousness about the arrival of cab (this time it was duly taken care by the service provider by sending the sms well in advance). However, the unusual traffic at Priyadarshini Circle and also at the airport was making me bit nervous. We reached the airport well in time and whoa, there was no queue for the Spicejet flight for check-in. it was a 2 minute affair and we were through. J
Interestingly, we didn’t wait in the lounge for more than 10 minutes. The moment Anita went looking for her (as well as mine) early morning dose of caffeine, the boarding process started. The cute, little rabbit rushed hurriedly with two cups of coffee to join me for boarding in the plane. With an immaculate balance, we managed to save clothes of our co-passengers holding the paper cups in the bus which took us to the airplane. As  soon as we settled, we realized the coffee was worth the effort we took. Good one! No multi grain veg sandwiches this time though. We didn’t have time. Had to manage with slightly cold paneer sandwich on board with a complimentary hot tea. J
We had set an ambitious plan of covering 400 km and reaching our destination by 7 pm. Paulo Coelho was obvious this time, the universe was actually conspiring to make us achieve our target (did I forget to mention that the ambition was privy to a pure soul! J) We actually grounded 20 mins prior to our scheduled arrival to IGI Airport. There is no reason why I had to be happy wearing casuals and getting out of the IGI airport….i was sure, I was off to the hills, amigos!
Delhi was burning those days. I mean literally, it was burning! It was 8 in the morning and I just couldn’t bear my walk from the exit of the airport to the car parking where our loyal chauffer for years, Shib Kumar was waiting for us. Due to Saturday, we didn’t find much traffic on the road and zoomed past Kalkaji, Okhla, Noida and Ghaziabad in very less time.
With us hitting the NH 24 in Ghaziabad, I started getting the flavor of UP itself. The packed six seater rickshaws ferrying 10-12 people at a time, a passenger disembarking from these rickshaws or the UP state transport bus right in the middle of the road, the cars moving at a max speed of 50-60 km though the road in front of the car is open and clear, the road signs displaying the distance to the very very famous destinations I have read and heard about since my childhood e.g. Lucknow,  Bareilly, Nainital, Deharadun etc etc.
Our journey on NH-24 was very smooth and as per my calculation, we were sure to reach Dwarahat (a small hamlet in Kumaon, near Nainital) by 7 pm in the evening, before its dark! We took a short tea break after crossing Hapur and cruised our way to Gajraula to have a hearty meal at Bhajan Tadka. Oh yes, we crossed the holy Ganga river also in the process at Gadh Mukteshwar. Run by the Bedi brothers, Bhajan Tadka makes an ideal stop for lunch when you are heading towards the hills from Delhi. You tend to reach exactly at the time of lunch and are not disappointed with the offering!  For me, the food at Gulshan Vaishno Dhaba in Murthal, Haryana remains the gold standard for the food served in dhabas in North India and Bhajan Tadka couldn’t beat it. It also remains a place recommended by the food gods, Rocky and Mayur. So as per their suggestion, I pounced on garlic lachcha naan, panner kadhai but avoided chhole (chick peas). We concluded our meal with a hearty glass of….no, no, not lassi but a soda shikanji- a nice concoction of bottle soda, lime juice, sugar and shikanji masala! Works well with your belly.
In the meanwhile (or before confirming the order), I managed to strike a conversation with Mr. Prem Singh Bedi , the elder Bedi sibling running the Bhajan Tadka! I gave him the reference of the show HOMP and Rocky /Mayur and his face beamed with smile. I also told him that we came all the way from Mumbai and were looking forward to eat at his restaurant. He asked us what we’ve ordered for and made sure that garlic lachcha naans are prepared immediately. That was so nice of him.
After finishing our lunch at 12.30 pm, we still had plenty of time leverage on our side. However, it was sure a no non-sense journey. Well, the distance till Ramnagar (aka Jim Corbett National Park) is not exceptional. The same boring plain road! Shib Kumar had already taken an audacious decision to drive through Jim Corbett National Park instead of sticking to the normal Kathgodam – Haldwani-Nainital route.
In the quest to make it fast, Shib Kumar took an off beat road (the same blunder he had done when we went to Bikaner this February) and wasted almost an hour to cross only 20 km. But in no time, we were in the cool atmosphere of Jim Corbett National Park. The open top jeeps were overpowering other vehicles in numbers. And as we were in the mid of the park, rain started abruptly. And I was aghast to see that wipers of the car were not working. Shib Kumar was in the eye of the storm. I reprimanded him for being so careless in approach. We were already running behind the schedule.
Remember Paulo Coelho? The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started and we heaved a sigh of relief. Fortunately, the road from Ramnagar to Ranikhet was not having heavy traffic (and later we realized why!). It’s a 93 km stretch and is a pure mountainous road. It was 4 pm and I was sure that we’ll reach Ranikhet by 7 pm. Dwarahat is another 30 km away from Ranikhet means the time we would have reached is  8 pm. It was not advisable to travel ahead of Ranikhet after it gets dark. So my instruction was clear and loud to Shib Kumar that we’ve to reach Dwarhat at any cost by 8 pm.
And kudos to Shib Kumar, he drove with amazing skill on one of the trickiest roads I’ve ever seen in my life, may be I could relate it to the journey we had from McleodGanj to Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. It was very narrow road and we were driving at a very high altitude. But it is also one of the most picturesque road I’ve ever seen in my life. So admiring the beauty and Shib Kumar’s driving skill, we reached Ranikhet exactly at 7 pm. We had to pass through the main market of Ranikhet and it was bustling at that time. The air was cool and I wished I had few more days so that we could stay at Ranikhet too. But we pushed the accelerator and headed towards Dwarahat.
After driving for another hour, we reached the town of Dwarahat. It was 8 pm and people had already closed the doors, probably had their meals and were ready to go to bed. How lucky you people are! At the same time, we are either breaking our heads in our offices or facing gigantic traffic snarls or jostling for some space in local trains! Why, why….God is so unfair! J After asking for directions to our destination, we finally managed to reach Yogoda Ashram in Dwarahat.
Normally, Yogoda Society doesn’t allow non-members to stay in their Ashrams but since I’m the worse half of one of their sincere members, they accommodated me. So nice of them! I almost looked like a devil amongst good souls with my black lycra t-shirt, rugged jeans since everyone else was wearing simple cotton kurta-pajama. But actually, you don’t become spiritual by wearing simple clothes but you may say that it is one of the baby steps towards attaining spirituality.
We met a very interesting person in the ashram, Mr. Dogra. He has been associated with the Yogoda society since 1985 and was like a deputy head of the Dwarahat Ashram. Though he may look  very simple at first glance, his stature and oration commands respect. It didn’t take much time for us to strike a conversation with him which started with stock markets and moved toward spirituality.
A simple food was served in the dining room and the people in the dining room were supposed to maintain silence. Every person after finishing their dinner, was supposed to wash their utensils on their own. I admit here that Anita washed my utensils for all the time we stayed in the Ashram. I was slightly nervous and conscious of my own presence in the odd vicinity for me. Only Anita and Dogra Ji were the people whom I could approach in that premises.
We had an eventful planning for the next day and it was necessary to go to bed early. But Anita also had an appointment with the Head Swamiji (who is of Japanese origin) of the Ashram. He was kind enough to invite me to have a chat with him though I was non-member. Anita had got a lot of gifts for the children who are students at the Yogoda School and she needed to hand it over to Swamiji.  So finally, finishing the task and the conversation, we came up in our room and went to sleep…

1 comment:

  1. Please describe Dwarhat and if it would be possible to drive a small car with 4 people on board