Who’s dearest of them all?

“But, please! Don’t take her away!! I promise to keep her silent so she’ll disturb no one”, we all looked up from our ‘mountain pose’ when we heard this heart breaking plea. One would think this came from a mother who’s little child was being asked to sit away while she attended class; but surprise, it came from a lady whose mobile phone was taken away from her during our yoga class.

It brought to my mind the famous Bollywood dialogue ‘ Ek bacche ko apni maa se alag karna paap hai’ (It’s a sin to separate a child from his/her mother). I vouch for all, when I say the Yoga teacher went from most loved to most hated – one action marring all the good he’d done so far!

Just earlier that morning while reading the paper, I felt sympathetic towards the lady who boarded the flight and accidentally left her baby behind in the boarding area. She was possibly attending to her phone.

We cannot, just cannot stay away from our phones, even for a second. The very thought of physical separation brings on an anxiety attack and triggers withdrawal symptoms. We become nervous, unsettled and restless. Our eyes shift constantly to the screen from afar to check for flickers of notifications, one positive is that our hearing becomes honed to pick up even the slightest beep. And if it rings, it’s no short of an emergency that requires dropping everything you’re doing to attend to it. It’s dearer than the child, for sure. Hence, physical proximity is essential at all times. We’ll survive the night without the dear husband, but not the phone. If the children bawl, I’ll silence them; but I’m sorry can’t silence the phone.

And why should that be so difficult to understand?

My phone informs me of happenings around the world, how effectively chowkidar mama is guarding our society, what’s happening in school – and why the dance teacher took leave on Thursday, our extended families and even my own house. We’ve started exchanging Whatsapp messages now to inform one another (if we’re in separate rooms) of our requirements. ‘I’d like to have a cup of tea’, or ‘time to pick up the child from the stop’, is so much easier to type in, than holler in the corridor or get up and communicate.

I’m so much more informed about my rights now. I’m an activist & can influence so many of my friends AND others. I feel such power and so good about myself. I forward everything to do with saving rivers, complaining and petitioning against statues, helping others know more about our armed forces, climate change etc. I can now hold my own about most current topics for at least 5-10 mins, a far cry from Emanuel Macron’s 19 Mar 2019, record of 8 hours and 10 minutes on France’s future; but good enough still.

My phone is my training and gyming partner, tells me the time, reminds me of my beauty appointments, is my e-book, can sing to me, humour me with movies.  I get to know when exactly Priyanka Chopra changed her name officially to Jonas, what Alia Bhatt wore last night, how she looks in her pajamas, Kareena in workout clothes and so many others in no clothes at all.

Wait, there’s more – drama and emotion. A relative discovered he’d not been invited to another close relative’s son’s private wedding after seeing pictures on his phone, he was livid of course. One friend commented on another friend’s wife’s picture and we all got such a lovely and free dose of entertainment. Such time pass I tell you.

But here’s what seals the deal for me – I do big business on my phone AND my phone does what my husband couldn’t do in 2 decades of being together – taking great pictures and making me look fabulous even at 40!

And so, I un-apologetically swear by it. It’s my best and constant companion. With it near me, who needs a friend? I think the only other person who comes close to being so dear and irreplaceable is my dear maid Salma.

Yes (ad) minister!

IMG_2772 (2)

There’s nothing that’s taken India by storm in the last couple of years as much as Whatsapp. Everyone’s on it – right from the harried mom coordinating with the dabbawala, to the maid who sends chutti notices on WhatsApp, to the super mom who juggles her job, and instructs the tutor of the kiddo, and orders groceries from the corner dukan, to corporate biggies sending out emergency messages. The self employed being on it is a no brainer – most of the business happens on WhatsApp didn’t you know? 80% of my biz happens on WhatsApp, to resellers and buyers, from docs doling out medicine lists, to nurses, school principals to millennials, and centenarians, septanarians and even 7 year olds!! Every message has to be read instantly and reacted to. There’s a video to share, petitions to sign, recipes to circulate, products to be sold, lame husband wife jokes, those envy creating pics to be shared, FIFA matches to be discussed and lately child kidnapers to be warned about!!! Gosh – just about everything is happening on WhatsApp.

And so there are millions of groups around – a yoga class group, a tuitions group, a resellers group, an old trekkers group (that’s still active), and finally the most important one – the parent teacher association group, that brings together all the parents of each grade of my child’s school. It’s this group that is the subject of dissection today. I’m sure if you’ve been on such an important group, you’ve all had your share of MIQs (most imp questions) that you ignore at your peril – where parents discuss the portion of an exam to be held the next morning at 11pm, to the bus conductor having a cold, to a teacher’s incorrect correction, to a happy bday message, a good morning and good day message, an exhibition message, and of course to the most important ‘ who’s so and so’s mom’ questions 😉

The discussions are stimulating to say the least, everyone has something to say, even if it is ‘I agree’, or ‘yes’, or “I not agree”.  Fights and disputes are common, and we’ve all learned to accept these messages/queries/arguments with a pinch of salt. So I was a tad surprised when a mom in a group of the school WhatsApp got upset when another parent requested that bday messages to her child be sent personally and that the group need not be the medium for the same. She went ballistic and unbared her fangs/ unleased her writing prowess – she reminded everyone especially that particular parent that she was the one who had created the group as admin; indirectly reminding us all of her power. She then accused the parent of being jealous of her child, that her child was more popular than his.  She then proposed an election where the other members had to vote whether she was right or the other parent was. The irony was that the voting actually took place and she LOST! Can you believe that? She then quietly went into exile, meaning exited the group – I say credit to her. To be able to do that quietly, after all the fanfare?! On the whole I found the situation hilarious, but it reminded me of the power the group admins wield or think they wield!

More recently, a new PTEM (parent teacher executive member), who is the one point contact between the school and the parents, was appointed for the new academic session. The Whatsapp group members enthusiastically welcomed her (about 400 of them) and I’m certain she would have read each congratulatory message, and to be honest a little worried that I didn’t do the same (I’m certain there had been an emergency that day) and possibly she may have made note of which parent still hadn’t wished her – ouch! That would certainly hurt my prospects of making it to her good books. Well, I’m just as certain that she’s a wonderful lady, forgiving and mature. But wait, she’s not the heroine of this piece – the old PTEM seems to be having difficulty in adjusting to new scenario and I feel for her. Everything that the new PTEM puts down, the old PTEM has taken upon herself to rephrase and provide an explanation for. After all, weren’t the parents used to her style of communication for the past year? With every such message she sends out a disclaimer that she’s the erstwhile PTA and her name should not be used anywhere. The new PTEM thankfully seems relaxed & cool and takes this quietly without getting into power struggles. I really could feel the pain of the erstwhile PTEM until, one day the old PTEM suggested that we have sub PTEMs for each division, who would then convey parental concerns to the head PTEM – parents could write to the sub PTEM who would take matters further; and no surprises she self appointed herself as the sub PTEM of her child’s division. With much reluctance, I put an end to the suggestion the minute I read it stating clearly that I would communicate directly without any further layers. What was this? The making an organization of PTEMs? I guess its not surprising that people find it difficult to let go of power or to not misuse it. Controlling information is a huge responsibility and gets you in a power position for sure. And its heady – it will go to your head, if you allow it to. 

She backed off, a little hurt obviously, with her standard disclaimer that it was a suggestion and she was doing it to help the current PTEM since messages could go up to 400 a day. I said , thank you but no thank you. Thankfully, I got more ‘I agrees’ to hers.


P.S: WhatsApp has now however decided to empower its administrators some more – there’s a new feature that’s being rolled out to enable only the admin to post messages one way. God save us lesser mortals or should I say – God save the admin!

Would love to hear your WhatsApp stories as well.



Musings & learnings with my little ones

This is a series that I plan to keep adding to, so will write it in the dairy format.

Date: 15 Dec 2017

My daughter today told me ‘Mama, I’ll tell you what’s the most precious thing in the whole world?’ and as I waited for her to give me the answer to a question we had discussed many times before, I thought of the answer I always gave – TIME.

But I was astounded to hear her say ” LIFE’. My heart filled with pride and I smoothened her hair on her forehead and asked her where she had heard that from. There was no doubt that LIFE was indeed more precious than TIME. She smiled back at me and said,” I thought about this question and wondered if indeed time was most precious and it came to me that life is more precious”. I learn so much from them.

The Bagini glacier Trek

If you’re looking for a trek that’s challenging but with great views and beautiful campsites with personality, then the Bagini trek is for you. What’s more you can claim to have trekked up to a glacier & at a fair altitude too.

  • Facts: Altitude gained – 4400 mts approx
  • Difficulty level: Moderate Total kms to trek – 44 kms
  • Pre Monsoon Season:- April last week to June end and in post monsoon Season:- September 2nd week to Nov first week.
    April to June day time 15C to 20C and night 7C to -2C Sept – Oct, day time 15C to 10C and night 5C to -5C

We undertook the Bagini trek, the year after our trek to EBC i.e in May 2015. For all of us in the group, Bagini would be a new route and destination altogether.

We didn’t expect the trek to be a tough one, but let me let the cat out of the bag right away that we were in for a surprise. Bagini is a moderate to tough trek with daily 7-8 hours of walking required and not on easy terrain.

So here’s what makes bagini a great trek to undertake –

  • great views of the Nanda Devi, Dunagiri and the Hathi Ghoda peaks, the Rishi Parbat, Hardeol, Dunagiri .
  • beautiful campsites – a meadow, one right next to the river, one inside an abandoned village and another right off the glacier
  • challenging your fitness levels – moderate to tough – walking through boulders and the river bed
  • snow possibilities – on the glacier and during our crossing to Dunagiri
  • spotting a glacier
  • pine forests
  • landslide region for some adventure along with snow crossing (which is scary initially till one gets used to it)
  • staying & exploring the deserted Dunagiri village (without a soul around)
  • A side trip to Auli with the most awesome views from the top – possibly the 2nd best I’ve seen this far.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to read further and complete this lengthy but informative blog now 🙂

We were a group of 7, equally divided between first time trekkers and experienced ones. Vikas, myself and Rahul had trekked earlier; while Poonam, Sushant, Basav and Girija were first timers. Vikas had undertaken numerous treks before this one – Gangotri, Pangarchulla, Dodti Tal etc to name a few.

So as goes for most treks in Uttarakhand, we drove the whole day from Rishikesh to reach Joshimath around evening. We checked into a basic but comfy hotel and relaxed. It was slightly chilly and we needed light jackets to keep out the cold. After we freshened up, we went to the nearby dhaba for chai and snacks and called it a day.

Day 1

We woke up at 6 am and departed by our mini van around 7 am. About 20 mins into the drive, we saw the beautiful Nanda Devi loom up and stopped for pictures. We knew it would be a long day with numerous stops given the sights around. However, suddenly about an hour into the drive, we had to necessarily stop as there had been a landslide a little further down and the road was being paved. No one knew how long it would take and so we disembarked. Luckily for us, an Army unit was on its way to the last village near the China border called Mana, and they had to stop as well. The next couple of hours were spent chatting away with the commander of the group, a Capt Rana as young as 27 (younger than all of us). The road was cleared and another hour later, we reached the road head – called Jhumma, from where we had a light trek (of about an hour to Ruing village). We reached Ruing around 3 pm. We’d had packed lunch on the way, so everyone including the staff was free. Luckily for us, we had fun setting up tents and helping the staff. My first hand at tent setting. 🙂

Ruing village was 200 mts further and we camped on the open ground just before the village. It was just across the river and on the other side was the road leading to the last village near the China border – to where the Army unit was headed. The clearing was peaceful and picturesque with mountains around, a river flowing down and pine trees everywhere. In fact, to me Ruing was one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve stayed in. There were no villagers in the village here & it was a different feeling all together.

Here’s a pic


Day 2

Ruing to Dunagiri (3610 mts)

A beautiful stretch that has it all. As one starts from Ruing, the pine forests make for a comfortable and enjoyable trek. There are waterfalls that one crosses, one can also trace the path to Dharanasi (Kanari Khal) pass on the hill across and there are pretty rhododendrons in bloom to make it a colourful and sweet walk. Another interesting part on this stretch is the snow crossing. At a number of places the snow has not melted out and one is required to cross about 10-15 meters of snow under which the trail is completely hidden. On these stretches the snow lies like a blanket over the hillside so basically its steep and a missed or slipped step can cause serious injury as well as a majjor slide or tumble downhill. I must confess that I was terrified when I came across the first such crossing (there were about 3-4 of them) fearing a missed step. Our guide Rawat though was pretty experienced and moreso a ski instructor and helped us safely across. He also showed us how to glissade down these with trekking poles. The remaining ones I crossed over with a lot more confidence actually enjoying the last one 🙂


However about a couple of hours into the trek as we come to the end of one hill and cross over the the other mountain, it’s clear that this hill has started disintegrating and the soil is loose. Here we enter the hill leading onto Dunagiri , the last village before Bagini. Dunagiri is situated at a height of 3800 mts and is pretty high. It’s also a village where the inhabitants do not worship Lord Hanuman as they believe that he had pulled out half the Dronagiri peak to carry the sanjeevani to Laxman.

Coming back to the trek, this is a slightly risky stretch with the trail at a number of places becoming narrow as well as the gravel loose. Plus there are tricky stretches where one has to manouver to get around or under rocks to stay on course. This stretch of loose gravel and the landslide region takes about 45 mins to cover and it is advised that breaks here be few or nil and the region is crossed over as quickly as possible.

Our trials didn’t end here, just as we finished this stretch exhausted due to our quickened pace, we saw the Dunagiri village ahead of us. The challenge was the 3 km concrete stretch leading to the village. Tired and exhausted that we were it really was quite an effort to reach our camp at the other end of the village near the village water tank and school. This was marked out as the camp site due to access to constructed toilets as well as the availablibty of pipe water flowing from the river. The village site to me was mesmerising. Staying in cities as we do, there are seldom occasions where one can witness dwellings totally un0inhabited and abandonded. It was like a ghost village – some 50-60 huts and houses including the village temple at the top; all empty as if for ages. Waiting silently or maybe not waiting at all. Some doors locked, a lot of others unlocked. Scarce belongings. Apart from our group there was not a soul in the village.


That evening after reaching around 4 pm, the group had chai, freshened up and rested in the tents for a while. It was windy and chilly and we were all totally fatigued. After an hour of rest, we decided to explore the village. We made our way to the temple on top – paid our respects to the Goddess there who’s had been covered. Looked around and were aghast to discover the carcass of a yak in one of the houses. It didn’t look like it had been there too long, maybe a few days at best. The body totally intact. It seemed like it had missed a step and fallen through the wooden floor onto the level below. A lot of houses in the hills are made on 2 levels.

Our tents had been pitched in an open patch near the school biolding and the organising team decided to sleep in one school room which was open. I learnt that day that tents are warmer than concrete houses with window iin the hills; as tents are wind proof and its possible to trap the heat (body heat inside). That night I found it a little difficult to sleep given the the feeling of sleeping in an abandonded village seemed eerie to me. After a while, exhaustion took over and thankfully I slept well.

Day 3 – Dunagiri to Bagini camp (4484 mts)

We departed around 8.30 am from Dunagiri and after about an hour and half and a small stretch of river crossing and some difficult boulder ascending arrived at Laungatuli. Its a beautiful spot right next to the river with a flat patch to pitch tents. We relaxed here for a while. Refilled our water bottles and took a short break as we’d been told that our camp for the night would be just off the glacier and it was a long walk up the river along the boulder strewn path. I’m sure those of you who’ve walked on river beds know exactly how painful it is to walk along river beds where you have to be careful of your footing at every step and where walking and stretching up boulders and rocks takes considerable effort. Its almost twice the work compared to walking on flat ground. At Dunagiri we were at a height of 3610 mtrs or so and as we started ascending, the altitude as well as the long walk started taking its toll on us. Thus, with numerous breaks we reached the bagini campsite at 4 pm in the afternoon. One of our friends was suffering from slight AMS and was terribly nausiactic. The rest of us had had 2 full days of challenging trekking at a fairly high altitude. The initial plan had been to start for the chang-bang base camp the same night at 2 am. Reach the base camp by morning, spend a few hours and return back. Given the exhaustion each of us felt, we decided to drop the idea of proceeding to the chang-bang base camp and spend the night resting. We were to decide whether we would spend the next night going up to the base camp. However, considering that we had carried limited provisions and an extra night would crunch the return journey, we decided to return back the next day.

The long trek up the river bed

Bagini Base Camp & Views


Day 4 – Return to Laugatuli (retrace your steps)

The trek back to Laungatuli took only an hour and half,  and we’d barely reached the camp when the weather turned and to our delight it began to snow. It snowed for an hour and half and it brought down the temperature suddenly. The snow got us moving out to click pictures and experience it falling softly. Hot chai and pakoris followed and so did loads of gupshup. That night however was the chilliest of all nights – temperatures falling to sub zero considering that we were right next to the river as well, and we discovered a layer of frozen snow over our tents in the morning.  Despite most of us having slept poorly the night before, spirits were high in the morning as the sun shone. The heavy trekking had been done and descending we all knew would be easy.


Day 5 – Laungatuli to Dunagiri – Today’s walk would be an easy 45 min to an hour’s walk and so we spent another 2 hours walking up the other side of the hill leading to the Kanari Khal pass route. We returned after a couple of hours, having sighted enough Monals (birds common in the hills) to have had our fill. We camped at the same spot next to the school building in Dunagiri village. The place seemed familiar suddenly. Funny how even the most inhospitable places, seem comfortable once you’re familiar with them 🙂

Day 6- Dunagiri to Ruing & then Auli

We camped another night at Ruing, though it was possible to trek straight back to Joshimath the next day. I’m certain it was the beauty of the Ruing campsite that made us stay over. That night was the night for celebration. The Jack Daniel was opened, a cake baked, cut and devoured over music and chatter.


All in all, it was a well rewarding trek (also considering that I lost a couple of inches in the process) 😉 , with wonderful views and good enough to challenge the body.


My first encounter with Everest

img_1789-3I remember my first sighting of Everest so vividly, even though I’m writing this after a few months. That morning we started from Namche towards Tengbouche and after the short climb out of Namche and onto the main hill about 1 hour into the trek, we spotted Everest. There she was – in reality and not dreams, with her pyramidal top smoking!

It was an overwhelming moment for me. Never in my dreams or my growing years had I ever imagined, I’d see this Goddess of a mountain in reality. Yes, she inspired awe even when I had read about her in my geography text books, but I had never thought I’d witness her grandeur in person. Even when I had signed up for the trek (more to give company to my husband who was keen on undertaking the trek), I’d never once thought of the summit and maybe that’s why this sudden vision was so important, this moment so big!

It was an amazing sight. There at a distance, across a few hills, stood the world’s tallest mountain. She had inspired so many climbers in such different ways. Far, yet so near (as never before). It took me a moment to realise the enormity of this moment. And she looked beautiful, there behind the Lhotse peak, with her unmistakable pyramid peak. Adding to her beauty was the stream of clouds that gave her the look of having a smoking top – almost like a mountain alive, beckoning us into her folds. Just like a house with a smoking chimney beckons to weary travellers in the cold.

As I stood there looking upon her reverentially, I felt grateful to fate for having brought me here to experience this moment. I think this moment was as big for me as the moment I reached EBC (about which I have talked in a previous blog, that you can read here). She was something to be astounded by. At a height of 29,029 ft where airplanes fly, she stood tall overlooking the world. Solitary yet strong with jet winds for company for years and years to come.

Here’s an impromptu poem that’s just gushing out on its own –

I stand here now, as I have been for years, centuries.
Towering above the world, with only a few friends for company – Lhotse, Nuptse, Choy-yu & Makalu.
Solitary and strong with jet winds for company, while sometimes silent in pure contemplation.
The blue skies, sun and moon shining their light on me,
By the day I’m a brilliant ring leader with swirling clouds that dance around; or storms that rage and astound.
By night, I transform into a magical, glittering phantasmal beauty, with a veil of stars on my head.
I look down upon those who come into my folds, for them the future is untold.
But it is I who know and decide, who’ll perish and who shall stand on the roof of the world.


If any of you can take 15 days off from your busy schedules, the EBC trek is worth undertaking. For me, it was the start of my love affair with mountains and hills; a different way of life for sure. My holidays are mostly treks as against the touristy ones I only did earlier. I’m fitter, more in touch with nature and spirituality I think.  Life beckoned and I heard it 🙂