Mountain biking: Aut - Phagupul (22 kms up)
7 in the morning and we were all geared up at the gates of the base camp. We were flagged off with the sole lady in the group leading the rally to our next camp - Phagupul. To begin with, the ride was quite comfortable and enjoyable. Passing through tunnels, crossing old and jittery bridges, riding alongside the river was all so beautiful. There were inclines on the way but the gradient was not too high so we managed just fine. Soon the previous batch of cyclist who were returning from their trip crossed us. We waved and they gave us the "if-you-love-your-butt-then-turn-around-and-head-for-the-base camp-right-now" look. On the way to Phagupul, I met two interesting people. (I will save the story of sore butts for later days)
First was a sadhu (a Hindu ascetic). He claimed that his wife died in 1968, only to be reborn as a baby girl in a neighbouring village. As soon as the she was a few years old, she started narrating stories of her previous birth (when she was this Sadhu's wife). She could tell things about her husband, family and house from the previous birth. The Sadhu claimed that he visited her and now she has acquired salvation. This would be her last birth and after this, she will be freed from the vicious circle of life and death for ever. Such are the kind of stories that you can probably find in every city of India. The more remote you go, more interesting and mystical life gets.
The second was a lady shop owner. As I was passing by, I saw some kids playing with little chicks and I decided to stop for a few shots. The camera easily attracted the kids and they started getting friendly with me in no time. Slowly I got talking to one of the kids' mother who was also the owner of the shop. She is a wife to a soldier who is posted somewhere in the brutal snowy mountains of Kashmir, protecting the frontiers. She runs a small general store in the village and takes care of her kids. I saw her knitting (hand-knitting) a sweater for her kid. That's something which was very common in the society I grew up in. It was routine activity for all the housewives in the neighbourhood to sit in the wintery afternoon sun and knit sweaters. The ease and pace at which those ladies (my mom included) churned out beautiful and amazingly colourful designs on the sweaters always amazed me. I don't get to see it anymore, not at least in the kind of society and place I am living in currently. It was really nostalgic for me to see such a thing again after so many years. The hills always bring back my childhood memories - and that's exactly what was happening here, my childhood was coming back to me, piece by piece.
I ended up chatting with the lady for about and hour when it stuck me that I have to reach the next camp. I took her leave, with a promise to stop by on my way back.
- Nikon D80