CALL OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS
OUR LIFE IN HIMALAYAS
In the nineties, a forty year old lady accompanied by a few youngsters left Bangalore (India) and went to the White Mountains (Himalayas) and lived there alone in a cottage for about ten years or so. Her quest was superficially religious; yet she attained the summum bonum of knowledge there.
Mother's name is Lakshmi. (Her recluse name is Tejasvini.)
The teenagers who accompanied her were Meera, Naren, Vivek (her own children) and Vinay, Jyoti, and Bhanu (the youngsters belonging to other families.)
Meera at present is a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities in Manipal University (Karnataka).
Naren is now the Departmental head of Design technology in the Kasiga International School at Dehradun.
Vivek is a freelance software engineer staying at Bangalore.
Mother is busy now in translating all the ancient Sanskrit texts of the yore for the benefit of the public and stays at Bangalore.
LIFE IN THE LAP OF THE SNOW MOUNTAINS
Each day was an episode of some divine experience.
Each day was a day of Knowledge.
Many extraordinary events happened that can't be written in human language.
I avoid all that and will write only the 'mountain-life' experiences we went through there.
Huge Mountains on all sides.
A violent River as water source.
Wood as fuel.
No bathrooms; no toilets.
Walking as the transport.
Unpredictable weather conditions.
Bus-stop to be reached after an hour's walk up a hill, filled with forest trees.
Nearest town was Purola where some ration could be brought.
A day's journey in the bus would get us to Dehradun.
No vegetables. No fruits.
Rice could be brought in the dead-end village we had seen at the end of our journey.
No milk.(The natives had cows (Dangar) not for milk but for the dung to be used as fertilizers.
We stayed some nine years there in that mountain forest.
We had later built a concrete cottage.
Naren had managed to fix a generator on the rock next to the River and made the water come to the Ashram through pipes. (He was a genius)
We had acquired a Jersy cow for milk.
We had a German shepherd as our sixth member of the family.
Later a tiny kitten joined us. We named it Jhaansi to honor the courageous queen. It was fearless like her.
Dog and cat never fought but were close friends.
The cow was fat and huge and ate like a non-stop machine.
We called it Munchi-Poo (the voracious eater). It gave lots of milk and acted always like a spoilt brat.
MANY UNIQUE EXPERIENCES OF THE MOUNTAIN LIFE
So many events - a few for example.
One day when Meera had taken the cow for a walk, it ran madly pulling her along with it.
As I stood watching them both from the Ashram in the higher land, they both just disappeared suddenly.
One second they both were seen at the end of the land and next moment, they had vanished.
I knew that below that land, there was only a deep trench down to the river flowing violently below.
I ran to see whether they had been taken away by the flood waters.
Down below there was a fat single tree growing next to the River, in a horizontal way. The cow was resting on its trunk. Meera was resting on the cow. I shouted at her to climb up. She refused. Either both of them will come up or she will stay there guarding the cow from mountain leopards and wolves.
There was no path for the cow to move even.
The villagers arrived one by one.
They saw the cow stuck down below the valley.
They quietly got their digging materials.
After two to three hours of digging, they had made a path up to the cow.
The cow which fell at noon time was back at home by night eight O clock.
The villagers refused the money we offered.
Our eyes were moist.
One day Jyoti's sister Divya visited us. She was from Bangalore. She wanted to stay with us for a few days.
All the kids went to the river to take bath. The city-dweller also went. I stayed back.
The newcomer sat on a rock on the River. The rock was inside the River close to the bank; but the River below was very violent.
She bent down to pick up a mug and was floating in the middle of the river the next moment.
Meera who is always alert had only one thought- save her; and she just walked through the water (she does not know how she did it) and grabbed the hair of that girl who was going away along with the River. Holding on to a rock with the other hand, she kept pulling the unconscious girl towards her. Slowly with others helping, the girl was brought back.
The girl had taken a second birth!
Weather in Himalayas.
In Summer the Sun rises early at 5 AM ; is hot by nine; stays throughout hot and sets at 8.30 PM.
Days are long; very long. You can do lot of work.
In Winter Sun shines like a blotch on the sky and sets by 3 PM.
The days are short; very short. And the weather is cold; cold ; cold.
Moving itself will make you shiver; that much cold.
No bathing also. Even hot water will make you shiver.
Fire has to be burning always.
The whole landscape will be white and shine brightly at night.
No green thing can be seen.
Everything will be covered by snow - plants, trees, paths, roofs; everything.
For any urgent need of water you just pick a little snow from a clean place and heat it. That is all.
It will all begin peacefully like a continuous steady drizzle of never-ending rain and suddenly the snow will start pouring from the heavens; and in no time, the whole landscape will turn white and bright.
Buses will stop plying. The world would be dead as it were.
For survival you have to cut a lot of wood and keep in the autumn season itself to last for next six months.
And what will be the winter-day like?
Get up; have tea; sit before the fire; cook one meal and it is already night-time; so cuddle inside the Razaai Kambal.
Imagine stars shining at 3 in the afternoon.
Well, that is the charm of Himalayas.
We were living like poor recluses, surviving on the charity of our well wishers. Of course we lived with Gods but lived like Rishis depending on only nature.
The elder son had to always go every month to Purola for ration. The day he had planned to go, it snowed heavily. Buses were cancelled.
The boy had no shoes to wear. Even clothes were old and torn.
Undaunted he took some sack cloth; tied his feet to them with ropes; walked with a native friend of his up to Purola and got the rice for us. (A gem of a boy!)
Our larder was empty.
No rice; no dal (grain).
Nothing but faith in the super powers.
We sat in front of the fire wondering what to do.
Then we saw lights on the mountain which joined the bus route.
After some time the lights came near us and we saw military soldiers with their leaders coming towards our Ashram.
The major and colonel stayed with us for a few minutes and inquired about us. They were surprised that we stayed alone there without even the certainty of the next day's food.
They went off to climb the other mountain.
It was their military exercise to climb up and down the mountains at night in utter darkness.
Next morning they came down.
Took the kids along with them to show their military camp.
In the afternoon, I saw soldiers carrying sacks and bags coming towards our Ashram.
Soon our house was filled with Rice, dal, tea, tinned goods, milk powder,sugar and what not.
They daily visited us and took care of us and became close friends.
Who said we suffered in the Himalayas?
Since there were no vegetables to eat except the mustard leaf, we decided to grow vegetables ourselves.
We brought a few seed packets and managed to dig the weedy soil and scattered the tiny seeds.
Little did we know of the power of Himalayan soil.
Very soon we had a profuse crop.
And even plucking vegetables became a daily chore. The crop was overflowing.
French beans yield was some two kilos a day (just a tiny patch of soil); small plants but would be covered with long fresh beans all over. No escape from work and you have to pluck it all daily.
Lady's finger plant grew some seven feet tall and the fruit would be tender and long. You have to raise your hand high, bend the plant and pluck the veg.
Tomato plants would be leafy and bushy giving out a beautiful fragrance; but they too would produce two to three kilos per day.
We tried potatoes. We learnt how we had to dig deep with our fingers inside the soil to catch the round balls hidden in the muddy treasure chest.
We tried ground nuts and learnt the lesson of how rats tunnel under the ground and make the nuts vanish.
All the hard work and the nuts would be gone!
Then we had corn plants and we learnt to chase the monkeys.
Then there were Chullu (apricot) trees, Aadu trees (jungle pears), acrot (walnut trees). We even planted a few apple trees.
Naren and Vivek would gather jungle fruits and bring them home when they went on the wood-cutting spree.
The Dalchini (cinnamon) leaves they brought would add a beautiful flavor for the tea.
Meeraa was a great enthusiast of gardening and decided to grow some flowers.
Dalhias would bloom like huge lotuses. Sunflowers would grow tall and erect always looking at the Sun wherever he went.
From the road above, our river-bank garden would look beautiful like the valley of flowers.
Ah I forgot - we grew red pumpkins also; but never relished its sweet taste; gave all those giant balls for our dear Munchipoo.
Then there were cucumbers, the cherished fruit of the natives. They always liked to eat the yield of the neighbours' field than their own.
The cucumbers would be fat and grow some one foot long. For the native it served the purpose of a full meal. The creeper would cover the roof beautifully and cucumbers would hang like yellow bulbs all over. Tiny humming birds would hover around delighting our eyes.
We even grew coriander plants. After all the trouble for months we got some two kilos of seed. (not worth the trouble if you get it in a shop for a few rupees).
And there were snakes!
Snakes inside the stone walls, under the stone of the compound walls, on the logs which supported the roof; in the racks, in the grass; almost everywhere.
Jhaansi would catch tiny snakes in her tiny mouth and play with them till we forcibly saved each from the other.
Meera would catch them fearlessly with some hooks and throw them into the River.
Vivek was eleven years old when he entered the forest and lived there happily till his eighteenth year enjoying the free life of adventure and learning.
The kids did not waste their time in any way.
They mastered Upanishads, literature, science, computer programming, all by themselves. There was no tutor except their own thirst for knowledge.
While Naren buried himself in reading all magazines of Popular Science, Vivek spent all his nights in meddling with the computer.
Vivek became an expert in milking the cow. He and the cow developed a unique relationship and he liked to loll on its fat belly and read books.
Naren was always ready for all hard tasks. He never understood the meaning of the words 'fear' and 'not possible'.
He would carry huge flat stones on his back and bring them from the opposite bank of the river. He made a beautiful courtyard for our stone house.
He never was tired of collecting wood for our fuel. He never gave up fighting with the petromax lamps which always refused to burn with some excuse or other.
(He later made all the doors of our concrete cottage; cemented the tiles of the bathroom; fixed taps and showers in the bathroom.) He never was a person who hesitated to soil his hands.
The two brothers were admired as great heroes in that village.
Imitating them, the village kids also started wearing city type of caps.
The river lost its murderous name and all the kids of the village played in the river to their heart's content following their two leaders.
And the natives?
We were not shooting a documentary of the village people with a melodious background music describing their innocent lives. But we were there for real.
And it took a long time for us to understand that they were still not evolved enough to understand the ethics of city people.
When they first saw me and the grown up girls and boys following me, they thought that I had these kids out of many husbands (as they do). One eighty year old native lady even approached me in a friendly manner to ask me how much would I ask for Meera ( to marry off of course). I had to lift her with the end of her coat bodily and throw her out.
And these people stole.
Stealing is a wrong word.
Any object seen was theirs.
On the first day, when we were bathing in the river, they took away the spectacles of Naren even, not knowing that it was a powered lens. (poor boy!)
I still wonder how the two boys managed their toilets and other problems.
I never heard them complaining; nor did they ever wished to go back to the city and join the gene-relatives.
I have seen the kids only enjoying every moment of their forest life.
Of course there were incidents where Vivek would come back with a bleeding hand (the result of some incorrect axe handling), where Naren chased a huge bull (which we had purchased to mate with our cow)
all round the field and so on.
And we had to cut heaps and heaps of grass for our eating machine. Even I learnt to handle the grass cutter.
And the natives except a few were very hostile to us.
They thought that we would cheat them and swallow up all their lands.
They put false cases on us in the court.
There was no police. There only a Phatwaari ( local police); and a court at Purola. Anybody could sue anybody with any complaint. The court was a good pastime of the natives; and we were no exception.
Anyhow slowly the hostility disappeared and they learnt to bear with us.
One wandering monk came to our Ashram. He casually asked me to go with him and sit in a cave in some Mountain to make an earning. The kids with all respect due, escorted him to the mountain-top bus stop and bid good bye to him.
The Villagers did not like a woman staying there with kids, even if it was for a religious cause. They used to taunt Naren for deserting his father and living with the mother.
When Naren went to Purola to buy ration, he had to draw money from the local bank. That clerk used to simply delay the process and Naren had to miss the bus many times.
We fought against this. We wrote a long letter to the Main bank of Dehradun and explained our problem.
Within a week our Ashram was visited by the clerk and the Purola bank manager. They begged us to withdraw the complaint or that fellow would lose the job. We obliged.
Naren did not have any trouble any more.
We had made friends with a foreign recluse lady in a nearby town. She was known as German Maataaji and lived alone with a servant. She bred German shepherds and made an income by selling them.
She was a disciple of renowned modern saint of north India. After his demise she underwent a lot of harassment from the next heir of the Ashram; ran from there to live alone in a village of Himalayas.
Yes. there were some tragic events too.
Jhaansi (cat) left us when we rebuilt the Ashram with cement.
The dear dog (Poppy) was devoured by a 'Bhageera' (mountain leopard.)
When we first entered the white mountains, all the places where we had trekked were stuck by a huge earthquake and many villages we had come through were destroyed.
( I remember the day of the earth quake.)
All the seven of us were sitting in a dilapidated 'Chaan' (hut-structure on wooden pillars) on the first floor.
Suddenly the hut started shaking violently.
We thought that maybe a mountain bear was attacking us.
One boy lit some grass and threw it out to scare the bear away.
The shaking stopped.
Later the villagers told us that an earthquake had hit.
After we left our place and came off to city, the very next monsoon the whole of that mountain area was flooded ; the bridge was destroyed and the entire landscape of the Ashram has changed.
The River flows now where the Ashram was.
The kids had no certificates or educational qualifications when they returned to the city.
The super powers kept their promise.
They all have now very good jobs to their satisfaction.
They never regret their lives back in those forests.
The experiences and knowledge have made all three of them the best of humans.
Roofs flew; house was covered in flooding mountain waters; a calf went off in the river; we lived a life of poverty and hardship.
Even now we are not accepted fully by the relatives after coming back.
Yet there is the sweet memory of our first day in the Himalayas.
Mimmer Singh, an eight year old boy in tattered pants, torn shirt and a dirty cap came to see us.
Seeing that we had no land (Zameen) or cow (Dangar), he put his hands inside his torn pant pocket; drew out a handful of red rice and offered us to munch, feeling sorry for us.
That is our Himalayas.
That is our Bhaarat.
(PLEASE CONTACT ONLY THROUGH EMAILS.
PERSONAL MEETING IS NOT ALLOWED.)
All books are available in PDF forms in this site.
All books are available in PDF forms in this site.