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Archive for June, 2009

The wrong right turn took us to a round trip around Tehri dam. As we went on the wrong road, we realized that the boards to Gangotri have vanished. It meant that we were on the wrong path. Driving on the same path, we finally decided to ask somebody.

The locals suggested that we go ahead on the same route and cross over from a bridge to the other side of the Tehri. We could have chosen to just go back but thought it was a shortcut to Uttarkashi. We had to drive 80 Kms more and face a 2 hour delay. We should have asked the best possible way.

As we advanced on the road, we were searching for the bridge to cross on the other side. We could see a bridge far away over the valley but from far away it looked like a foot over bridge. But if that was the foot over bridge then where was the bridge we needed to cross over? We kept going on till we reached the bridge we had been seeing from the distance. We asked the police constable “where was the bridge to cross the valley?” and he pointed to the same bridge.

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We came from the road seen above

From above the bridge looked shaky and small. But the constable assured us “407 jaati hai ji” (Tata 407 is a small truck from Tata Motors).

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We had our doubts but going back the same way would waste another hour. We decided to cross over. When we crossed over and looked back, it was a deep fall down there and the bridge was supported on both the side of the valley with nothing to support the middle. It looks like a frame structure without any solid firm ground.

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Its a long way down there

We crossed on the other side to find a dusty, narrow road which was the start of our long treacherous journey to Uttarkashi.

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The road from then went just uphill. A narrow dusty road filled with potholes and a view of Tehri dam. We were looking at a deep valley from the car and the car almost touched the edge of the road. The locals who operated the tourist vehicles drove with almost no fear or regards to safety. We stopped many times to give way for a fast moving car. The distance was such that only two cars would pass almost touching each other but we had trucks on the road.

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Vijay and me were sitting at the passenger seat on the left and we had the maximum look at the valley below. The valley was a 90 degree drops below and one wrong move would leave us with no chance at all. 

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The narrow road and the almost 90 degrees mountain. Tehri lake in the background

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The Tehri lake view from the road

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The long winding road on the mountains. No matter how much we drove, “road khatam he nahi hounda”

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The locals could not resist overtaking in the narrow road. The Tata Sumo behind the truck is trying to overtake the truck on a road where the truck is taking all the space. Talk about optimism.

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A traffic jam in the mountains where little space created a road block on its own.

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The reason GPS is not so popular in India is because we have people and paanwalas. Wherever you go, you will find somebody who can be asked for direction. People who frequent the roads and tell you exactly where and how to go.

Before embarking on the Gangotri journey I had researched the way to Gangotri and found out the path including the highway details. As per the map, we had to drive from Chamba to Tehri and then to Uttarkashi.

Tehri dam is the 5th largest dam in the world. An engineering marvel, it was a cause of major concerns and protest because of the environmental and resettlement issues. Built on the river Bhagirathi, the dam is very close to the Himalayan ecosystem.

Till Tehri we manage to make no mistakes and then from Tehri a left turn was mistakenly taken as right. The wrong turn took us to a round trip of Tehri, an extra 80 Kilometers, the most dangerous road on earth and an extra time of 2 hours.

We saw the Tehri project of all possible angles that day.

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The Tehri project as seen from the start of Tehri Town. The reservoir is actually that green

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A tree survived in the reservoir and is still without a single leaf

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The first look at Tehri Dam.

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The Tehri Dam stands at a height of 261 meters and generates 2400 MW of electricity in addition to supplying water to Delhi, Uttranchal and Uttar Pradesh.

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A bus makes its way on the road around Tehri dam. Behind the bus is a single big rock. The road goes to Srinagar in Jammu or if you take a small bridge, it can take you to Uttarkashi/Kedarnath

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By the time we had left Delhi, It was already 2:00 PM 2:00 AM. The plains were not a problem because we knew that we can make good progress in the plains. Once the mountains started, the progress was to be slow. There was not much on the road except some famous towns which we crossed. But the cities slept was we passed them.

As we go north, the sun rises early. It was 4:00 PM 4:00 AM when the first light hit the sky. We made our first stop for tea somewhere near Roorkee

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The Sun rising in the east. Taking the photo when we stopped for tea at Roorkee. Photo courtesy: Mathew

Haridwar and Rishikesh were our last stop before the mountains started.

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Har Ki Baudi at Haridwar. One of the sacred town in Hindu Mythology.

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The very large statue of Lord Shiva at Haridwar. The statue tower over the whole of Haridwar

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The statue overlooks NH94 as we passed Haridwar towards our way to Rishikesh.

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The uphill of the Mountains after Haridwar. This stretch of road was one of the best in the mountains. After this the condition of the road worsened to slow our progress

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The road to Chamba

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Children playing near the road in the mountains

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People walk miles to get somewhere in the mountains.

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The Tata Safari Dicore, our tough ride up to the mountains

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The mountains start and so do many villages which are built on these slopes

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Towns are based on the mountains

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One of the many temples at the side of the difficult road. This one was one of the more grand one. Most of the temples on the highway are small structures with a small trace of the idol inside. I guess the people here built them to seek blessing and pray for less accidents.

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New York (2009)

Kabir Khan’s first commercial movie was about Afghanistan. Aptly titled “Kabul Express” it tried to look at Taliban and Pakistan. Produced by Yash Raj, It was different from their romantic stuff. Even with the usual clichés, it was a good film.

Thats the reason I was more optimistic about “New York”. But the promos did not excite me much. As the promos flashed on all channels, I was expecting lesser and lesser from the movie. I was not that much enthusiastic to watch the movie this weekend.

New York (NY) is a story about three friends and the effect of 9/11 on their life. The movie starts with Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) getting arrested by FBI on the charges of carrying illegal arms. They apply the Patriot act which let them detain a person without any legal obligation.

Omar is forced to spy on his friend, Sameer who is suspected to run a terrorist sleeper cell inspite of FBI having evidence on him. Sameer has married Maya who is now a human rights activist. Omar has not met both of them for more than 7 years.

The rest of the movie is a flashback as what happened in the last 7 years and what is the actual truth behind FBI’s action.

9/11 changed many things in the world including many people’s perspective on religion. The world was polarized and the isolation of humans from each other was accelerated.

NY does not offer a solution neither does it takes sides. But the movie lacks soul. You don’t get involved with the movie probably because its too slow and tiresome. The movie has been stretched beyond a limit. The dialogs, the characters and the situation are clichés. I was expecting the scene to happen and it did.

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I guess the makers did not want the movie to be very heavy so spiced it up with songs in between.

Thankfully there are only 4 main characters in the movie. John Abraham plays Sameer Shaikh. He plays his part well showing a traumatized individual.

Neil Nitin Mukesh plays Omar the mole in Sameer’s life. He appears very much out-of-place in the movie. He acted like Fardeen Khan in “Darling” which is quite irritating.

Maya is played by Katrina Kaif who is ok with her heavily accented Hindi.

Irfan Khan plays a Indian born muslim FBI officer. Again an ok performance.

Having 3 out of 4 characters as Muslims really does not help a movie. They might have looked at giving perspective of different people at different side of the law but that makes it so predictable.

The music is so-so and the direction of Kabir Khan is nothing to write home about.

NY disappoints to a large extent because it commercializes too much the main cause of the movie.

Rating: 5.5/10

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When Vijay asked me if I would like to join him in Delhi for a short vacation, I agreed. I was searching for a break and also looking forward to meet Vijay’s mother after a long time.

The plan was simple. Relax and roam a little in Delhi and meet Vijay’s mother.

By the time I actually went there, Vijay’s mom had herself flown to Amsterdam and the plan of roaming a little had changed to a full-fledged trip to destination which was changed from Jaipur to Kedarnath to finally Gangotri.

The plan had changed from relaxing to adventure. We were particularly excited about Gaumukh, 18 Kilometers from Gangotri, the origin of Ganga/Bhagirathi river.

As the d-day started coming near the things were getting more and more exciting. There is little information available on Internet about Gangotri and depending upon what I read, it was a uphill climb.

As much as I like to be at the top of the world, I am least prepared for such tedious tasks. I always find myself breathless while climbing up and every time I am out of breath, I ask myself, “Why?”

But then I am back on another mountain, on another height.

I had asked Mathew if he would have liked to come and he kept dilly dallying. My plan too was changing fast. I changed and advance my flight one day before because the road from Delhi was way too far. Vijay wanted me to come one day earlier but no way I could adjust the office.

Two days before I was supposed to go, Mathew also agreed to come. It was booking his tickets again. Vijay meanwhile kept on insisting to come earlier but office was still a problem. 

Finally we were on a flight to Delhi. As if a  prelude of the things to come, the flight was on time but because of the heavy air traffic, we were delayed to land in Delhi. Who could have imagined that one day we would be delayed because of lots of planes in the sky? I could one day imagine a traffic jam in sky with planes honking up above the clouds.

By the time we reached Vijay’s house, it was already 1:00 PM. We had planned to leave the same night and cover as much distance in the night to avoid any morning traffic.

We had our dinner and by 2:00 PM we were out of the house. Little did we know that for the next 19 hours we would be driving to Gangotri almost non-stop. We were just four of us, Me, Mathew, Vijay and Raju. Raju drove us for 19 hours and I could only imagine how tired he must have felt driving through rough terrain. The Tata Safari was tested for the rough and tough image it projected.

For the next 3 days we just saw mountains, mountains and more mountains.

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SEEPZ is a SEZ  and lies midway between Jogeshwari and Andheri and not even remotely close to any railway station. Although a major commercial hub housing many IT and Jewelry export companies, getting to SEEPZ is a mammoth task and getting out of SEEPZ is a much bigger task.

At the stroke of 6:00 PM when most of the companies wind up their day and the employees walk out of SEEPZ, its difficult finding a ride to the nearest station. The buses are full. The nearest bus stop is a long walk from the gate and the rickshaws won’t stop.

Its a case of demand and supply. Before 6:00 PM, most of the rickshaw drivers are ready to take where you want. Its the right time to go home but when the clock strikes 6:00 PM, the rickshaw drivers turn into an alien breed.

They don’t want to go anywhere. The probability of getting a rickshaw after 6:00 is rare. Its better to hang in an over crowded bus than try getting a rickshaw to Jogeshwari.

Rickshaw drivers are on the customer choosing spree. They decide who they want to ferry home. I guess they do the “Eeni-meeni-maayna-mo” kind of stuff and pick their passengers. After 6:00 PM, 9 and half of the 10 rickshaw would say “No” to you.

When you try asking them, the rickshaw drivers;

  • Look at you like you just said the worst PJ. They smile at your innocence. Imagine asking a rickshaw driver to take you to a destination? Who does that? Stupid!
  • Or just say a plain “No” and go in the opposite direction
  • Or Stop and then look at you as if you have committed the biggest crime stopping and asking him to ferry you
  • Or slow down and when your hopes are high, just speed past you teasing you
  • Or pointing that they are going in some other direction when you realize that you really want to go in that direction
  • Or Stop, think and then decide “You are not worth ferrying around”
  • Or Speed around without even glancing at you

Some of these drivers just roam around in the rickshaw going particularly nowhere. They just can’t decide which way to go. They don’t pick any passengers and neither they have a destination. They just sit in the rickshaw and decide to go on a long drive. They have earned enough to last for a life time.

I have asked a rickshaw driver and then asked him again when he came back roaming around only to realize later that I have already asked him.

Where do these drivers go? Where do they roam when they should be busy earning money? I would like to understand? It has been a mystery and I have asked many rickshaw drivers the very same questions and believe me they are as clueless as I am.

Really? Wahan kaun hai tera? Rickshaw wale jayega kahan?

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As we clicked photos by the dozen, we realized that the sun was setting rapidly. However MJ reminded us that there was still the best part of the fort that is to be seen. If we had known the place earlier we would have certainly been there first.

Vinchu kata or the Scorpion String is a fortified extension on the west side of Lohagad. A natural rock formation, it drops steeps from a small narrow path.

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The shivling on our way to Vinchukata

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The lone inhabitant of Vinchu Kata. We hardly  saw any one else there

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The sun was setting fast and we were still far away from Vinchu Kata

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Finally the first magnificent view of Vinchu Kata

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Another view of Vinchu kata against the evening sky

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SA making down to the end. The end is very far and with the darkness fast approaching, many of us decided to stay back. Me and MJ did go to the half way point.

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We spent a lot of time finding a route down there. SA looking at a distant edge

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We were running down the cliff to reach the edge but it was a losing battle as the sun was almost down the horizon

At the half way mark, I was huffing and puffing and no way I could reach the edge. Morever at this light, there was no picture possible and so decided to come back. We still had to climb down the fort

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We walked back after the half way mark. We needed more time here. Watch MJ walk near the steep cliffs.

We rushed back to the top and walked back to the fort doors. By the time we were at the doors, it was already dark. It was no problem climbing down and was less hectic and very low light of the crescent moon helped a lot.

Finally we were down at the foot arriving to a very dark village below. Tired and thirsty, we were offered lemon juice by a villager below. The water was the sweetest and most tasty water I had drank or was it the exhaustion of the trek? Maybe the water was really sweet!

 

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