My nostalgia is better than yours. It’s the latest.

My nostalgia is better than yours. It’s the latest.

Having left the city, we have time for long, relaxed family conversations in our Himalayan village home. Yesterday my two kids – my daughter is 8 & my son 10 –  asked “What are the things from your childhood that are not around anymore?”

“Well, we had transistor radios.” I replied

“What’s that?” came the question.

“Oh, you listen to music and stuff on them. They are typically battery powered and my grandfather used to listen to them all the time.”

“Isn’t that the same thing Mohan da listens to? You know, when he is gardening and doing stuff.” My son asked.

Mohan da (da is big brother in Kumaoni, our local language) is our landlord, neighbour, go to person and an amazingly nice guy. He loves gardening and doing other little house stuff around the place – lighting the open chulha (wood-fired hearth) to heat water, sweeping the fallen leaves and so on. As he potters around, his constant companion is a battery-powered transistor radio tuned to All India Radio Almora, playing hindi film songs from the Palaeolithic era.

“Yes, that is a transistor radio.” I replied, somewhat sheepish.

“What else did you have?” They asked.

“Well, we had electric heaters with coils that turned red and hot to cook on. And white stone bases” said the wife.

My 8 year old daughter looked at her with some disdain this time “Mama, there’s nothing old about that. I’ve seen it in Kuku’s house – her mother cooks on it.” She went on to describe what could only be an old-world electric heater.

“Well, we had cassette players and cassettes.” I continued.

“What’s that?”

I described a tape recorder, and this one passed muster.  Phew!

“And we had kerosene stoves to cook on. We had to pump the stove, and had a pointy little metal thingy with a pin to clear the fuel flow. They made a mess and one helluva racket.”

After the two imps were done imitating my “helluva” my son exclaimed “Isn’t that what he uses in the tea-shop in Sitla?”

“BT Costa.” A voice inside my head says. I have christened the three village tea-shops in the neighbourhood BT Costa, BT Starbucks and BT Barista. Each has a nicer view, ambience, and character than any of their namesakes. And much simpler menus. BT stands for “Better Than.”

“Yes, actually he does use a kerosene stove.” I remember.

The kids push for more. I am feeling less and less sure of myself. Next, I hesitantly mentioned Black and White TVs that were too big & fat to hang from any wall. Even that had been seen by my kids. We go on, talking about Kerosene lamps and rotary telephones and so on. Then the topic switches to all the things that exist now that did not exist 3 decades back.

It was a revelation that so many of the things I considered obsolete are very much in use in our little village. Was it poverty? In a few cases, maybe. But many people around could afford better. Was it habit? Conscious choice?

I remember a conversation I had with Mohan Da. He doesn’t own a television, and we had arrived from the city lugging truckloads of stuff including a 32 inch Sony TV, a satellite dish and two set-top boxes. Having forsaken television, we offered the whole thing to him free.

He declined. He didn’t need to think. It was a simple choice of what he thought was important to him. Pottering around and gardening probably won over television for Mohan da.

This whole conversation made me questions my assumptions about obsolescence. Why do we continuously buy new stuff? And does it really make us happier? “Happiness doesn’t come from what you have, it comes from who you are.” I had read somewhere. And Vicki Robin, the author of “Your Money or your life” says “If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”

The critical word is “enough”. Enough to Mohan Da is a defined set of things that make him happy and keep him happy. The same enough is constantly changed, pushed, altered and moved for most people exposed to media and its motor – advertising. John Kenneth Galbraith once famously said “A person buying ordinary products in a supermarket is in touch with his deepest emotions.” That doesn’t say much about how deep those emotions run.

Everytime I visit the city, the advertising barrage overwhelms: the new car model, that new phone, sales, clothes – just so much stuff. It is all about bigger better faster more. And I want all this stuff. And then I go back to my little Himalayan village, and suddenly that desire fades.

I think I need to travel less to the city. That way I always have so much more.

_______________________

About Chetan Mahajan:  Chetan is a full-time author who lives in a village in the Kumaon region of the Himalayas. He published his first book with Penguin, and is working on his next one – a novel. The amazing creative influence of the Himalayas inspired him to start the Himalayan Writing Retreats: writing getaways for both novice and advanced writers. You can learn more about these retreats at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com .  He also writes and edits this blog.

The meta scent of spring

The meta scent of spring

Contributor : Chicu Lokgariwar

Spring. It is here. Time for buds to unfurl themselves, for bees to emerge hungrily from their homes, and for the farmer to dust off the household can of  ‘Meta’. There’s something very wrong with this picture here.

All around the Chatola-Sitla area (and beyond), farmers are getting ready to spray their peach trees with what is called ‘Meta’. This is done to prevent leaf curl, which all the peach trees in the area are plagued by. Sadly, spraying is not only ineffective but also counterproductive. The spring spraying is also possibly the worst thing we can do for our orchards.

Here’s why.

Know thy enemy: The first thing to know about the infestation of leaf curl is that it’s not. An infestation, that is.  It is a fungal disease. We first see it when the leaves turn red and

infected-peach-leaf
A peach leaf with the fungal  curl

unsightly. That is when it is too late to do anything about it. Germination of the spores happens in autumn, which is when we need to act.  These spores are released when the cell walls of the infected leaves rupture and they then settle on the surfaces of the tree.

 

Here is more (a lot more) about peach curl: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7426.html

Managing curl: This is a two-step process. First, we need to stop the spores from spreading, and then we need to control any that have already spread.

To stop them from spreading, ideally we would pluck off diseased leaves and burn them. This is the best option because we destroy the spores while they are still contained within the leaves. Given the scale of the problem, though, it is near-impossible to do it at the orchard level. At the least we need to rake up and burn (not compost!) any fallen peach leaves. This is an important step for controlling the spread.

Secondly, we need to spray. A copper-based fungicide is the only effective measure against peach curl.  Spraying is done as soon as the leaves fall, before the new leaf buds set. Several copper-based fungicides are available on the market (for us, the closest I’ve found is Kaladhungi Chauraha, Haldwani). While not entirely safe for wildlife (especially earthworms), copper fungicides are less toxic than insecticides. Even better, since it’s toxicity levels are low enough for the treatment to qualify as ‘organic’, is Bordeaux mixture.

Here’s how to make it: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7481.html .

Incidentally, for those of you who are frustrated by black spot on your Old Roses, that too is a fungus, and these measures work well for that too.

Know thy other enemy: This comes disguised as our old friend ‘Meta’. Officially known as ‘Metasystox’, the preparation is an insecticide and a miticide. In other words, it is absolutely ineffective against peach curl. It is effective against aphids, but it inflicts so much collateral damage that I would not use it at all.

Because Metasystox is toxic.

It is toxic to humans and needs to be handled with extreme care, which almost no one practices here. Here is more about it: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/insect-mite/mevinphos-propargite/oxydemeton-methyl/insect-prof-oxydem-methyl.html

Further,  Metasystox is harmful to pollinators. The ‘quick knockdown effects’ that they have mentioned in the article? We see it every year in the form of dead bees. While this is terrible from a biodiversity point of view, it is also bad orchard management. Pollinators, as we all know, are indispensable allies to enable fruit-set. A mass-scale killing of bees and other pollinators, while poisoning ourselves, during flowering seasons, is so misguided that it is tragic.  Please don’t.

About Chicu Lokgariwar

Chicu has been working on sustainable resource management, especially water, since 2000. Uncity Chicu presently lives in Chatola with her husband, dog and ever-increasing flock of chickens. Chicu writes about water for the India Water Portal and blogs about the gardening life.

Time is precious. Waste it wisely.

Time is precious. Waste it wisely.

Heartstrings. The word is meaningless unless you have a pacemaker. I always thought of it as one of those unnecessary words writers make up – until I heard that voice yesterday.

It was the sing-song of her typical Kumaoni way of speaking that made me smile. It was the sound of simplicity, of an unhurried, uncomplicated life. It was the sound of home. I did not ask her name, but I did will her to speak some more. She did, asking the price of the bhindi, and asking why the beans weren’t fresh. I then caught the shopkeeper staring at me and I realized I was staring at the cabbage with a big smile plastered on my face. He looked carefully at the cabbage and then back at me.

I was at a vegetable store in Bhimtal, headed back home after many more days than were

road-neo
The road home.

necessary. And hearing the lyrical Kumaoni lilt of her voice triggered a joyful jangle inside me that I could almost physically hear. It was like some latent thing inside me was suddenly awakened, resonating with the music of beautiful memories. And suddenly “heartstrings” made perfect sense.

 

Maybe 38 days in the land of pubs, imported custom kitchens and business conversations was too much. Maybe it was just the knowledge that many of the meals I had with friends in the city cost more than a month’s salary for my friends in the village. Maybe the fast-talking, deal seeking “fame, success, money” types were just way too much work for my rustic soul. I pined for the land where speedpost takes 5 days, and no other courier works. A place where it isn’t strange to sit and have tea and a conversation with the postman when he brings your mail.

I missed the land of rustic familiarity. And the woman’s beautiful Kumaoni song-voice started the journey of my return, triggering the feeling of being back home. Everyone along way was a friend.  After the vegetable store my next stop was the grocery store in Bhowali – the man there asked me about my prolonged absence. I then drove further on, and at one point crossed my contractor and architect headed in the opposite direction. We both stopped our cars, stepped out, shook hands, and talked briefly. They weren’t just helping me build my new home, but we shared a strange kinship. Like we were the few that knew the secret of the mountains.

I remember the look of envy on the faces of city people who see pictures of my home. And a few lines form in my head:

You chose the huge car, the massive house

Take pleasure in that hi-tech Bluetooth mouse

Why then, the Famous Grouse?

Village folks along the way ask for a lift. I give a ride to everybody who asks till my car is full. As I chat with them, I can feel the city with its 100 rupee teacups slowly peel off me and fall away like unwanted dead skin.

I feel new again. And I wonder, why did I ever leave?

Tha above video is the dawn I came back to.

Dark spots on the Himalayan sun

Dark spots on the Himalayan sun

Contributor : Vandita Dubey

The dark spots on our bright Himalayan sun began to appear rather suddenly, well over a year after we moved to Kumaon. One instant, everything was idyllic –  the clouds floating in and out of the valleys – and our house – during the monsoons, the snow covered Himalayan ghosts hover in the clear blue winter skies across the horizon. In the aftermath of city life, people of the villages also seemed kinder, gentler, more honest. Then like unwelcome guests, a series of unfortunate incidents in the neighbourhood left us all feeling uncomfortable. The picture is still the same but with the soft, diffused light gone, the sharp, jagged edges have become more obvious.

This year, between the end of summer and beginning of winter, our small community witnessed three unnatural deaths.  A young man from a neighbouring village was found dead with wounds on his body. An amorous couple’s extra marital sex videos made it to the cell phones of a bunch of village folk. And the following day, which happened to be the festival of Rakshabandhan, ended with the wife consuming poison. This resulted in the husband being sent to jail and three teenaged children left to fend for themselves. Diwali eve brought the most heartbreaking news of all – a young 7-year-old boy, an only child who studied in the same school as our kids, was killed instantaneously in an accident. The motorcycle he was riding on with his parents was thrown over the cliff by a pickup truck driven by three drunk youth from the same district who also did not survive this accident. What are the chances that the one vehicle you come across on these empty, winding roads should be the one that takes your life!

All these events have been shocking for us, but are barely news worthy for a big city. I have struggled to make sense of why these incidents have caused us so much distress. We have lived in various big cities in India and abroad and have heard of all kinds of crime, but why do these incidents seem more jarring? Maybe it is because incidents of violence in the city are treated as accepted, expected parts of life – perhaps because the victims are often unknown individuals or exposure to such incidents is so great that one becomes numb towards them. In addition, one is always on guard and watchful so that one does not become a victim oneself. In a small mountain village like our’s however, the same kind of events shake one up. Maybe because they involve individuals who are known or perhaps because one has lowered one’s defences, lulled by the seemingly idyllic, peaceful nature of life. I don’t think it is the end of our innocence: I still don’t feel threatened in any way. What has ended, though, is the apathy and indifference that one learns to wear in the city. There is also an acute awareness that each crime has many victims – multiple lives are affected, not just one.

Our gentle Kumaoni village is not free of crime or sorrow, but here each victim is mourned and each story is heard countless times.

About the contributor :

An urban migrant, Dr. Vandita Dubey is a resident of the Kumaoni village of Satkhol. A US licensed psychologist, she is the author of the book “Parenting in the age of Sexposure”. She also co-hosts the Himalayan Writing Retreats. You can learn more about her at www.vanditadubey.com and about the writing retreats at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com .

One Tribe

One Tribe

Contributor : Matthew Wheelock.

Shared values are surely one of the fastest and strongest makers of bonds between people. Identified and defined by what is not said. The disclosure of a different set of priorities that act like a secret handshake, after which a great deal is silently understood. You can be close to and know a person for your whole life, but still carry the slightest doubt about them. Or meet someone for the first time and know that they’ll never give you cause for distrust. It’s a strange thing, bigger than age or culture or faith or colour, it’s instinctive.

There is an eclectic range of people here in Sitla, city runaways, educated and adventurousonetribe 3.jpg that know what they want. Or who more specifically, know exactly what they don’t want and have given up more than most are willing to in realising it. The rewards of which are implicit, so understood that we seldom speak of them. Being here through choice, making it self-evident.

You see it in the villagers, sat silently in the ‘garami-garami’ warmth of the afternoon sun, their gaze lost to the distant peaks. I see it in Kishan, my local home help, as he takes selfies on a crystal clear morning, capturing the distant snows in stark relief behind him. And when I pass him my binoculars and watch him utterly absorbed in his first sight of the intricate details of our giant neighbours.

 

I was sitting at my favourite viewing spot on the road from Almora one afternoon when an Onetribe 1.jpgelderly villager stopped to talk to me. ‘Very beautiful’ I say in my terrible Hindi looking out to the faraway mountains and the valley disappearing below us. ‘If you want to see a really beautiful view of the mountains, you should climb that next peak’ he says pointing to the opposite mountain. ‘Amazing 180 degree view of the Himalayas from there, incredibly beautiful’ he tells me passionately.

 

The love and admiration for this mountainous beauty isn’t diminished by being born here, like the local villagers. It is a constant and lifelong source of delight, sustenance for the soul and that shared appreciation transcends all boundaries and limitations.

 

But to outsiders; the people of the plains, we must often explain it in detail. The forest, the clean air, touchable horizons, the pinks and oranges across the snows in the dying light. The pace of life and the grace of bells and children’s laughter.

 

I have lived here in the hills for nearly two years. In that time, I’ve learnt that the common ground the mountains provide, to us that live here, is as much cultural as physical. Drawn from such a range of origins and for such differing reasons, we all consider it a privilege to have arrived.

 

Our love of the hills, of nature and the peace and tranquility are not just passing interests, but fundamental parts of our being that reach to the core, as values that bind us.

We are many things here, but we are one Tribe.

 

About Matthew Wheelock :

Matthew left his job as a management consultant in the UK in March 2015 to move to the hills of Kumaon. He is currently writing a book about a recently completed 21,000km solo motorbike trip across Canada. He writes on a range of themes including, nature, travel, identity, belief and time.

More information can be found on his website  www.matthewwheelock.com

 

Your money – Black, White or Wheatish?

Your money – Black, White or Wheatish?

Contributor : Navin Pangti.  In this piece Navin – an amazingly independent thinker – walks us through his conversation with a bunch of village kids about demonetization. Their observations offer a simple, insightful reality check on demonetisation. Read the Hindi version (scroll down) to lose nothing in translation.

Like every Sunday, last Sunday too we sat with a few village kids. When I mentioned demonetization, everyone opined that demonetization is a good first step but the needs of the poor were ignored.  Then I asked what is black money? Can it be made white with Fair and Lovely, or does it take more work? Is the money earned by the daily-wage labourer also black money? Is the earning from Charas (Hashish)  black money? They said that the labourer’s earning is not black money because that is earned from hard work even though he does not file a zero tax return, but the earning from Charas is black money. Then I asked – has the Charas earnings in the surrounding villages become waste? They said no. So that means the black money remains. Then I asked – does this mean next year there will be nobody making and selling Charas? They said it will be made and sold. Then my question was did changing the currency notes actually stop the black money?   Or will stopping the Charas trade actually stop the black money?

Was the issue the black money, or the businesses generating it? They seemed to agree that the problem was the businesses generating it. Then we talked about what is barter, what is money, what is business and trade, what is currency, where are notes printed and how, how is the value of the rupee determined etc. During our talk we also understood the English words for these terms. We did not talk any politics or discuss Modiji. For three hours we talked. The gathering of kids ranged from classes 8 – 12. They easily understood all the issues at hand, but it is shocking how our civilized and overeducated society seems to have lost the spectacles of its brain.  They seem unable to see that plastic money and bank access are privileges of the privileged class.

Why is a tiny subsection of India’s population controlling and foisting its ideas on all of society? The sadly funny thing is that those who deal in black money are the ones looking for so-called freedom from it, and they don’t even realize that the people bearing the brunt of their actions do not have any wealth – leave alone black money. Tell me, tomorrow when you do land and property deals in the city will you not make payments in black money? Will you not pay the extra 2% on the registry fees? If you will not, that is great. But if you will then please wake up to yourself … understand the real issue and think about it … the country changes with you.

 

indexAbout Navin Pangti :  Navin is a free-thinker who abandoned the city and now lives on a green hillside above almora. He wears numerous hats which include artisan, farmer, designer, poet, storyteller, entrepreneur and home-schooler. He has also published a collection of his hindi poetry under the title “Dhar kay us paar”.

 

 

हर इतवार की तरह आज भी गाँव के कुछ बच्चों के साथ बैठे. मैंने demonetisation का जिक्र किया तो सबका मानना था की demonetisation अच्छी पहल है पर गरीबों का पक्ष नहीं देखा गया. तब मैंने पूछा कि काला धन क्या होता है? क्या वो fair and lovely से सफेद हो सकता है या मसला कुछ और है? क्या जो देहाड़ी में मजदूर कमाते हैं वो काला धन है? क्या चरस से हुई कमाई काला धन है?  वो बोले मजदूर ही देहाड़ी काला धन नहीं है क्योंकि वो मेहनत की कमाई है यद्यपि मजदूर zero return नहीं भरता पर चरस की कमाई काला धन है. तो मैंने पूछा – क्या आस पास के गाँव के लोगों की चरस की कमाई बेकार हो गई? वो बोले नहीं. तो मतलब काला धन वहीं रहा. फिर मैंने पूछा – तो क्या अगले बरस चरस नहीं बनेगी और बिकेगी. वो बोले बनेगी. तो फिर काला धन केवल नोट बदलने के कहाँ रुका? वो तो चरस के बनने और बिकने से रुकेगा ना?

मुद्दा काले धन का नहीं काले धंधे का है. उनके बात समझ आ गई. फिर हमने बातें करी की वस्तु विनिमय क्या होता है, रूपया क्या होता है, व्यापार क्या होता है, मुद्रा क्या होती है, नोट क्यों और कैसे छपते हैं, रुपये का मूल्य कैसे तय होता है, इत्यादि… इसी बीच हमनें इन शब्दों की अंग्रेजी शब्दावली भी समझी. हमनें मोदीजी या राजनीति की कोई बात नहीं करी. तीन घंटे यूँहीं यही बातें करते रहे. ये बच्चे कक्षा ६ से १२ के थे. वो सहजता से अधिकाँश बातें समझ गए पर अचरज इस बात का है की हमारा सुशील व सुशिक्षित समाज अपनी बुद्धि का चश्मा कहीं खो चुका है. क्यों उन्हें दिखाई नहीं देता की plastic money और bank access एक privileged class का privilege है.

क्यों हिंदुस्तान कि आबादी का एक छोटा सा हिस्सा पूरे समाज पर कुंडली मार कर अपना हक जमा रहा है. मजे की बात है की जो काले धन में खेलता है वो खुद उससे ‘तथाकथित’ मुक्ति चाहता है पर ये नहीं देख पाता की जो उसकी इस चाह में पिस रहा है वो काला धन तो क्या, धन क्या है ये भी नहीं जान पाया है. एक बात बताओ, कल जब जमीन में पूंजी लगाओगे, surplus income से नया फ्लैट खरीदोगे तो क्या ब्लैक में पेमेंट नहीं करोगे, रजिस्ट्री के दो परसेंट नहीं दोगे? अगर हाँ तो बहुत अच्छी बात है पर अगर नहीं तो कृपया जागो… मुद्दे पर आओ और सोचो… देश बदल रहा है

Demonetization in the Village

Demonetization in the Village

Sometimes we dislike an action because we dislike the person doing it. That is hate clouding judgement. The fact is sometimes people we dislike may do smart things. At that time it is gracious to accept.

I don’t write political posts in this blog, but demonetization is well beyond politics. What does it mean to the Kumaoni Villager? In the village the incomes are from agriculture or small trading or jobs. Most people are below the tax bracket anyway. All dealing is cash – little happens in banks. So demonetisation naturally creates big problems here which go well beyond inconvenience. Too many people are unable to get necessities despite owning banknotes. The community always helps here in emergencies. Most people grow at least some food, and that is shared around. Informal (not card based) credit is extended because people know each other.  But even that is a chain – the next link is how much credit the wholesaler will extend to the retailer and so on. Since mandi’s run on cash, so the vegetable and fruit retailer clearly is in pain. The assumption underlying short term informal credit is a quick return to normalcy but no new banknote has reached the SBI in Mukteshwar or the ATM in Sitla, and the banks project another week of a 2K exchange limit. This pain is real, current and impacting livelihoods. The community cushion – in the village people help each other in ways city people cannot imagine – helps, but that too has its limits, especially when everyone is feeling the same pain. To top it, many do not understand why it has been done, or why it is important.

But that is the Micro level. At the Macro level, the benefits of demonetization are game-changing. People with the wrong principles will finally be hurt in the right places. (First imagine having 10 crores in cash. Then imagine all of it catching fire in front of your eyes).  The hard-working people who regularly pay their taxes won’t feel like losers. Paying taxes does have cynicism attached to it in India, but the fact is it should be done equitably. With demonetization, the government revenues will jump in the near term, and hopefully many citizens will start thinking paying taxes is better than dealing with such uncertainty. The world has taken notice – it realizes that India is serious about the cleanup, which gives confidence to the FIIs. With black money turning white, it will seek legit investment destinations. Both these will pump up the stock market.

Back to the villager, though – the only windfalls happen from land sale. The land prices might slide a little but will correct to real levels. The next land deal may have more cheque payment or people will simply convert the cash proceed to gold immediately. But normal life in, say, December will continue largely as before.

So what should the government do, and what should we?

The government should ensure the return to normalcy and liquidity is as quick as possible, in every village. The implementation has been shoddy, and the government needs to catch-up. We were four people who stood in a line for 2 hours today to convert a total of 12k. I think there is a lot of pressure on that front, and that should stay.

And what should we do? Should we oppose this policy or support it? Our sectarian, criticism-sensitive leader has demonstrated leadership in a critical area, and that part of his work at least, we should support. Don’t let hate cloud judgement. I think the move needs our support, because this is a critical battle in the war against corruption. We’re almost there. Backtracking now would be like asking for an abortion after hours of labourc9830ae650b153d2813a88599b44c6b2 pains.

We need to back our side to the hilt. I am reminded of the many posters used in America in the second world war.  Words like perseverance and fortitude were flaunted.  To fight this effort would be to fight change and vote for the status quo – which is what we cry about at all other times. The swastika in this WW2 poster is the status quo. Time to give it some heat.

The Kumaoni Luggage Cart

The Kumaoni Luggage Cart

Kumaon doesn’t have an airport, ergo the Kumaoni Luggage cart doesn’t exist. So how come this topic? Well, Harry Potter doesn’t exist either, so humor me for 380 more words.

In another era as a busy corporate type, I traveled the world a bit. From my travel’s I realized that there is a lot you can learn about a place from its luggage carts. Yes, those boring metal things that float around at airports.

Take Paris – it has the nicest looking luggage carts, except they don’t really work very well. Go to Frankfurt airport – Germany – and you will come across wart-hog ugly carts that look like they were created by battletank designers. But then you see them on an escalator

baggage-cart-chicago
Typical US Luggage cart

– yes, on an escalator – and you realize why they are a marvel of design. Load up a German cart with luggage and walk right onto an escalator – up or down doesn’t matter – and the cart easily gets onto the escalator without a single piece of luggage falling off. And then rolls off effortlessly at the other end (This video is from Geneva, but you get the idea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIVvYekG2nQ  .)  Go to the USA and you will find rather basic luggage carts that carry cheerful messages welcoming you – along with advertising panels selling stuff. And you have to pay to use the cart, of course. Credit cards welcome. Amsterdam has probably the most classy looking snub nosed little carts. Back home in India, our carts don’t move when you push them. Then you realize that you have to press down on the bar. Once the pressure is on we – and the carts – work just fine. Although the occasional squeak is par for the course.

This whole thing got me thinking about what a Kumaoni luggage cart would be like. In my mind’s eye I imagine something rather old world – probably made out of dark wood. The Kumaoni cart isn’t fast, but people would hand you the cart with a smile, and chat with you for a bit in a sing-song pahadi lilt. The cart will have a small flower vase built in with some fragrant flowers. Maybe a little bird-house as well. No cupholder, though. In Kumaon we sit and drink our tea. What’s the rush? The Kumaoni Luggage cart moves at a comfortable, relaxed pace. It would still get you there, but would make you wonder about the point of travelling anywhere else from here.

Yup, that is about how I imagine a Kumaoni luggage cart.

P.s. The guy who wrote this post also hosts and organizes the Himalayan Writing Retreats – mostly in Kumaon. You can learn more at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com.

Elon Musk, Success, and bad poetry

Elon Musk, Success, and bad poetry

I think Elon Musk is very cool. Not just because his name sounds like an expensive cologne, or because he has only taken 2 weeks of vacation in the past 10 years. And certainly not because he is rich. That even the Ambanis and Trump are.

He is cool because he pursues his passion with everything, and puts his money where his mouth is. It is not everyone who at 31 earns 180 million dollars – mainly from selling his business (Paypal), and then starts two hugely dreamy, hugely dicey businesses : one to make battery powered, self-driven cars, and the other to make reusable rockets. And he then invests so much in his dreams that he has to mortgage his house after the 180 million were consumed.

Fundamentally he is trying to change the world for the better – make it safer and eco-friendlier and expand human horizons.

I can see many great examples of similar, driven individuals around me – whether it be Ramya with Centa-TPO or Jo & Ramakant with Touchkin or Kavita with Adhyayan. Each of them, in their own way, is trying to change the status quo and make a difference.

When I look at such people it invariably makes me wonder – what am I doing? How am I changing my world?

And my answers are much smaller. Sure, I am helping a few individuals become better writers and published authors. And a few of my consulting clients succeed in their start-up ventures / businesses. And one day I will write my Magnum Opus. But something else has changed that makes me feel “successful”.

To explain my success, I have to rewind to 2014. Back then I was never home. I used to work long hours, travel a lot, and even when home I used to spend a lot of time on the phone or on the computer. But I wasn’t changing the world. I was just earning an income and paying EMIs. My kids missed me a bit when I was gone, but not much. They were largely indifferent to my presence or absence as I was hardly ever there anyway.

Then last week I left home for a 4 day work trip to Chennai from here (Satkhol Village).

My wife called and said my son A was feeling really sad. But he said he felt better by remembering some lines of a poem he recently learnt.

“Prithvi Kehti Dhairya na chodo, jitna bhi ho sar par bhar.”

(The earth says don’t lose hope, whatever be the pressures on your head.)

Evidently that made him feel better. Sniffle. She also said that when I travel my daughter R counts down the number of days to my return.

So while I am not changing the whole wide world, I have changed something in theirs – and mine – and that sure is satisfying.

When I get very emotional and soggy eyed I write poetry. I think I am a terrible poet, and my poetry should be banned, but since this is my blog I will burden you with some of it. Although it might be in your interest to sign off here.

(Title here)

The first card – Gold. Then Platinum. Titanium.

From what precious metal will the next rung come?

The carrot. The bait? the next level will entice

We dutifully pursue it. That is our choice.

 

Wharton. Kellogg. Stanford. Yale.

Same version of the exact same tale.

Economy Class. Business. First. Private jet.

No, that isn’t the end of it yet.

Full price from Nordstrom? Or cheap end of season sale?

Will tell your worth – that one small tale.

 

We bow to the scale, the glitter measure.

A few pursue a different treasure.

How many smiles from the little child?

How many sunsets in the wild?

How many deep green miles did we walk?

How much more silence? How much less talk?

Give up the abject slavery of time.

Enjoy writing poems that barely rhyme.

Go from Titanium to home-baked bread.

Fight the glitter tongues in our heads.

 

Then he turns up and looks down his nose

At all my choices – school, car, clothes

Retiree. Slacker. Runaway. The label.

How about Real? Conscious? Able?

 

My friend, if your choices I don’t grudge

Don’t wield your gavel. Don’t be my judge.

You won’t get it, I can’t explain

birdsong can’t enter the pressurized plane.

The attempt to explain my belief is futile

Can you hear your footsteps in the carpeted aisle?

(Dont tell me I didnt warn you)

 

*The guy who wrote this post, along with his friend Roy Abraham are hosting the Himalayan Writing Retreat next month at a gorgeous Himalayan locale. He thinks he can help people write books (Can you believe that? Thank god for Roy!). You can learn more at https://uncityblog.wordpress.com/retreat/ .

My Himalayan Son writes

My Himalayan Son writes

In my 9  year old sons words.

At the age of seven months I moved from the US to India. At the age of eight, 2015 March 25th was when we moved and my birthday was March 3rd. Honestly I was scared because Iimg_20160917_121033_hdr thought Leopards and Tigers were the same and they could eat me. I also was teased at school because I did not know good Hindi but English.

I found very very easy (what) they were teaching me. He, she, it. No offence but the teachers were worse than me. And my favourite subject math in the first 3 months it was revision of plus the next three months was minus revision. How much img_20160917_121045_hdrrevision can I get when in Shikshantar I was learning Multiplication. (Shikshantar was my school in Gurgaon.)

In Gurgaon I had wheezing and difficulty in breathing  and no clean air and I am living next to one of the most polluted city in the world. No offence again but it is Delhi. I like both places equal.

I like the shops, restaurants and friends of Gurgaon but I don’t and never will miss the pollution of Gurgaon and Delhi. I like the Greenery in Kumaon and Satkhol. The kid upstairs is our landlords son. He is in boarding school. img_20160917_121103_hdrNow I have friends here. I have also written a 40 page comic book.

 

(This content is exactly what he wrote – only spellings have been fixed. He actually has written a 40 page comic book titled “The Nature Heroes” with superheroes et al. If anyone could help illustrate it, that would be awesome! He is keen to have it published. Please do get in touch if you would like to chat about this.)