Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.


There were these monkeys I saw in Nepal the other day, very red-chested and red-assed. They were monkeys on war with humans. They disliked us, snatched our bananas (sic), cameras, oranges, cell phones and disappeared into entangled branches up above the world so high.  

Yes, I was in Nepal.

This wasn’t my first trip outside the country. But it was definitely my first trip to another third world country. I do not mean this in a snide or awful way. It’s just how it is. I was accompanying the celebrated Wilson group of students for this trip that included 51 of us Third Year students, three faculty members, a rather disturbing (yet smart and diligent) man called Mr. Baghdadi and Rehaan with his Bon Voyage group of cooks. We were a handful for these people in literal sense. 

I was actually dreading this round about trip for the longest for many reasons. I didn’t know many people in class, I didn’t enjoy all of them very much, I had never been to a ‘Sudhakar IV or trek’ etcetera

And then, I was told by my other half that this was a trip, an opportunity to see, experience things et al and I knew that that was right. I let go of my inhibitions, and I jumped to shop for warm clothes with absolute dispassion. 

We boarded the train from LTT at around lunch time and reached Varanasi the next day in the evening. It was a brilliant ride. I made new friends, found out about train games, excelled unceremoniously at Dumb Charade and understood the simplicity of it all. 

After we reached Benaras (Varanasi), we were called for a session. This is when I realized, I didn’t know what the hell that meant.  I had faintly dreamt about it once, Sudhakar Sir teaching us athletics and I was the last to complete things. (Don’t analyze my dream; I can surely do it myself).

So we went down and Sir gave us handouts, we talked and had a couple of guests talk to us and basically we had a different kind of lecture where questions didn’t have to be very specific. We ‘visited’ Benaras then. I honestly don’t know much about mythology, Hinduism, Buddhism or any such –ism. It has been my lack of interest in the field, BUT this trip changed a lot of those blocks in my head. I saw sculptures, rivers, temples and narrow roads, thousands of people waiting to see one deity in utter darkness, holy unholy waters and bodies being burnt.  It was too much for me to take when I didn’t know the significance and value of it all. My question of ‘Why’ shall be answered only if I know of it (truly advised by Tina Ma’am).
   When we went on the boat ride adjacent to the ghats, I couldn’t bring myself to let go of a very serene feeling. The water was pleasantly cool, the breeze was breathtaking, and the view was spectacular. The Ganga Aarti is as mesmerizing as the cremation ground next to it. The smell of charred body reminds you of darker days and then suddenly gets wiped out by the holiness of it all. It’s a different world. 

When we asked Sir, that why is Benaras called the most beautiful city in the world looking at all the underdevelopment, it was enchanting to know how in love people of Benaras were with their city. Even though they have two medical shops in a wide radius, they have a disc in the expensive hotel. They are confused but honest. 

The following night we entered Nepal. We crossed the border with silent enthusiasm as it was late in the night and everybody was half sleeping. Sonauli was a funny night. We had clean smoke coming out of our mouths, hotels with balcony’s but no bathrooms, random men performing Karate in the dead of the night. Our first Nepal experience.
Kathmandu was a brilliant experience.  Four nights of an IV feeling. People walking into our rooms at four in the night, laughing, playing games, partying our last trip together, Arnesh's session, etcetra etcetra. (I wasn’t a whole part of all of this. I am new, I have my limitations)

In Kathmandu, the Kathmandu University was brilliant. An amazing campus, extremely efficient courses and infrastructure. The feeling of meeting a student from there was different. I felt like a foreigner while talking to Sumati. It was funny, really. The other places we visited had much historic importance that I am not yet clear of.
Like Bhaktapur, a place filled with wooden buildings, art, and temples. Patan, a place of beautiful stone and wood carvings, many more temples, handcrafts etcetera. The SAARC office, although many of them slept in the meeting, it was quite productive. We took our class pictures then. And then the FNJ, it was fun to watch the Chairman dodge all of Dharam and Abhishek’s questions. He was a good man though. Nepal is quite a funny place though, they are still developing. There are many individual buildings of departmental and administrative chores. Monarchy has left them quite shaken; they are still picking up a few broken pieces of freedom. But Nepal is still a beautiful country with lovely people of at least what I saw.

On our way once, we stepped down for a halt near the stretch of Kosi river. I thank Sudhakar Sir for pushing me to climb down. It was breathtaking. Freezing water, clean sand, and Surbhi in the water.  Lumbini was again interesting, historically, being the birthplace of Buddha. On our return, a couple of people fell sick, there was reminiscing, crying, birthdays, SSR talks, Career talks. There was no room for boredom. Always there was something or the other fascinating going on. Class politics, Brian’s dare, Indore food, the list is countless.

 This trip is close to my heart for several reasons. It was amazing to be a part of Sudhakar Sir’s trip firstly. Secondly, I did make a couple of new friends who I wish to stay in touch with, warm fuzzies :) too. Also, I understood why I needed to go, the deeper meaning to traveling, staying away from my reality. It was enlightening with the things I saw, experienced. The friendships that have grown stronger, wider, weaker.  I wouldn’t change a single day.
I normally don’t do this. But I thank everyone who made this trip what it was for me.