Even after thinking about doing something daily, one ends up doing it, achieving it, finishing it only in the head. In the head is good, as it creates enough compound interest in head but it is not good enough.
I have had ups and downs, and have been away from home for some time. I was in Kashmir when article 370 was taken off. I was one of the last person to have trekked the majestic Amarnath ji this year. Without any plan or any inclination to have wanted to do it but surrendering to flow of life is such it takes you along on the paths, and you would enjoy. I fell in love with the harmony of the few people who walked along, some saints barefoot, and two without a leg who finished approximately sixty kilometres in as many days as I did. Food, sweets, tea, love and the name of shiva.
But the feeling was erratic even then. Tents, people were leaving a month before. And many had already left. The way was completely empty of any pilgrim coming from the other side. Probably that also made it count. It was quiet and you walked with your own self, slowly, quietly.
Phone lines and internet was called off a day after I arrived back home in Srinagar. I couldn’t get time to make any arrangements of leaving as it had become intense to stay over. It was a very vulnerable time in the valley and who knows what is going on even now. It took me nine more days to come out of the valley. I found a punjabi driver from Jammu early in the morning almost ready to leave. It was a beautiful morning over Dal. You could see clouds gathering over the ancient waters and over the Mahadev hill. The way back was as tense. We were stopped numerous times even before Banihal came, because on the other side, you would not imagine how many trucks, cadres, were filling in the valley. Testing time for a government who had just arrived three weeks ago and even before anyone could have blinked on something as mammoth an article as 370, which had probably made Kashmiri’s, laddakhis, Pandits, Punjabis as special and as vulnerable of their identity for all these decades after independence.
I had worked myself as a researcher and teacher in the border villages, in the most gruesome winters and thus have an idea of how the minds of local authorities work in contention and sometimes not in harmony with the army. How people can never almost challenge the claims and information that these authorities gather.
Things are bound to change.
I am sitting in a mud room in the outskirts of Laddakh. Writing after so long on my blog even though I wrote it daily in my head. I hope I present myself daily. Because this blog is not for me. This is for you. And if you are reading this right now, you may let me know.
Two weeks have passed. Two weeks are to come. The nights have become colder. Laddakh has been very kind. It’s the land of awakening. I came here in 2007 on my bike when rivers still went through roads. And somebody then had told me the full form of Leh that I took seriously then but I have never forgotten it. Life Ends Here. Or it starts again.
I am working on my first photo book here. On the work that I did in Cambodia. I will share more news soon but before all that comes out, I will be hitting the road again. May be to Zanskar, or may be to meet my children again to the village I taught 8 years ago.
at the new comer
To zojila, to Leh, to Hanle, to tso moreri, to i don’t know what pass that came after hundred’s of horses ran to take left, we took towards sky- a concrete river bed on top of a conical mountain which went all afternoon. Many called it a road. Through a broken bridge, through the ditches connecting another ditch on the Yoga day. While laughing at others. While laughing atourselves. While stopping before every loop to the mountain up. The dancing carrier. The nostalgia of the petrol fumes over six days. As every bicycle left us behind. Our omni made it across the Rohtang. But always carry two people to push it through. We needed many only once.
After the longest day on the road, rewinding the moments from behind the steering wheel I for a moment realised how life is so much like driving! And driving a car is not so much different from driving a body, as a medium, tool to achieve our means. If we know where we have to go then even without using any GPS or stopping many a times to ask we reach our destination, straight and fast without taking any extra time. Like knowing what to do in life; how to do it, which road to take, when to put brakes, when to accelerate or overtake from a slow moving vehicle aka friends; a road will tell you. When to give body or car a rest, a refreshing wash are some similarities that feel like life and can even show a larger picture if one tries to see from above. To not ever get stuck, and even if one does- to ask for help because if you know where your home is it will then never matter how long a red light will take to go green or how many speed breakers come, nothing will really matter because you know this is the way.
Trust, the road will tell you.
Yes, one thing is that every car comes with a manual unlike a body and hence unless we cross over, expand what we think our strengths are, we will never be able to know what our real limitations can be. For as body is not really a car, it can be worked hard with, it can be moulded, it can be updated to its best version inside out, it can be pushed to the edge, but not Omni. And after all it can be tuned to learn and understand the intricate ways of nature. Yet after a certain time, not all bodies like all cars can run on bad roads, or even cross puddles or through engine drowning water. May be Omni still can because it is not just a car but a saint amongst cars. It is lean like a yogi’s body, it can carry as much weight as you can load, and give how much ever speed you want to give it, and it still will go at its own pace.
As the sun that day sat quietly leaving behind his magic light like amber over a mountain, we started driving towards Srinagar, Kashmir.
It was not so late in the evening when we had started but it had gotten strangely dark. And Darker it felt due to the density of trees, as the wind seemed to carry all forest within it. The more we saw, even more we heard, that dusk had fallen out of the mouths of night insects. There was no light on the road, and even no body. We drove slowly without any windows, enjoying the breeze, the sound of the crickets that was coming like shamans far and buzzing just outside our eardrums like thousand temple bells at once. As we moved consciously drinking this magic, looking locking this forever, a man walked right upto the front of the car; started beating the bonnet, the front window, forcing us to stop, his eyes red with blood looking straight in mine and Yagya’s and kept yelling out this one three word line, “who am i.. Who am I .. who am I .. who am I .. who am I .. main kaun hun.. main kaun hun.. who am i… and he kept screaming like a tape recorder gone wrong, repeating it ceaselessly, not to actually know or hear anyone say it for him or get any answer back but he just held the bonnet of the car, we tried moving past him but he was not letting the car go.
It was Yagya who was driving and it made him mad; Kiran his wife at the back was out of breath for a moment as it was unexplainable what was going on. It suddenly felt like a bad trip. On a mountain road in the middle of a forest with no soul or light to show us the way, this person was literally trying to come under the vehicle, Yagya tried to deceive him, stopping, tried speeding up from the sides but he was glued right up to the engine screaming the only line, who am i.. who am i.. who am i..
Something like this can only happen when you have at last fallen, demoted from the life of reason, logic and seeking. When there is no ground to stand upon anymore, rather you are continuously falling, in a bottomless pit. Suddenly Yagya stopped the car, asked me to come to the driving seat. He went out and tried forcefully pushing him away, i tried going ahead but he resisted making it a point to not let the car go while yelling out loud. Yagya after pulling him to one side, tried pushing him away telling me to run, run, run, but the guy caught hold of Yagya’s ankle as he sat on the back seat and caught the door with other hand. The door could not be closed as I tried speeding up but he did not leave, his legs were almost half in the air for a few seconds. I had to stop again, Yagya got down, held his hand and started walking in front of the car this time like pulling a calf, I was driving, focused and ready to run away the moment we can but there was no way, the man really wanted either to get hit or wanted to come under the vehicle, he was really, helplessly gone mad. It went on for 7-10 minutes may be more when we saw few men standing around a dimly lit shop. I stopped the car there and got down to help Yagya get away from him when I asked those people to help us. “O, he is mad, he is just like this. He tries to stop each car and says the same thing over and over, its been many months now he roams here only. Who is he? I asked the guy as other men got hold of him, he told me that this guy used to be very angry, used to drink a lot and beat people up on this road only, few months ago during a procession of a local deity, he kicked the deity and the drummer that walked in front of it, and threw the drum from the mountain, since that day he is out, god knows what he eats, where he goes, please you can go from here.
We left hurriedly thanking the people, but this incident took me by surprise, and got itched in my memory, and more so the consequence of what can happen if you treat others with contempt and hatred, for him it must be his ego, his anger that took him away from life. It is uncalled for, taking pride by belittling others. We left that place immediately for our journey forward as the road was long, and i in no way wanted Rasool to wait for another day.
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To Srinagara, to zojila, to Leh, to Hanle, to the land that invoked my spirit, beyond the Indus, towards the Karakoram, to the parents of my children in Turtuk, to the man who flipped, to all the treks that lead to mahadeva and Gaura; to the top of that Himalayan mountain where the first tyre burst, to i don’t know what pass that came after where hundred’s of horses ran just to take left, and we took towards sky.
Stone laden river bed that kept us moving on a conical mountain all afternoon, many called it a road. Through a broken bridge, through the ditches connecting another ditch on the World Yoga day. To stopping in front of the snow, and drinking it. To dipping in the coldest river Tirthan, to filling stomach from the river Chandrabhaga. To standing all night under the milky way. To crying for my parted child, to buying eyes for Rasool bhai. While laughing at others, while laughing at ourselves. While stopping before every loop to the mountain up. Omni made it.
I need to save each penny
The river that didn’t remember me. The river that once belonged to me, never belonged to me, still leaves for Pakistan. The dancing carrier. The melancholiness of the petrol fumes over six days. The questions. Never answers, or may be for the special village. The acid that turned the land green. The music. The fatwas. The absconding Yakhs. The yelling Donkeys shouting out loud for love. As most bicycles left us behind, our omni made it across the Ma-ma Pass – Tanglang La(5,328 m/17,480 ft) and then the Papa pass- the Khardung La(5,602 m/18, 380 ft), the highest motorable road in the world. But always carry two people to push the omni through, we needed many only once.
For me this was a path-breaking and a heartbreaking journey. In one way i excelled beyond my expectations of holding onto. In making decisions, and in waiting. In changing tyres before time and making boats row straightest. In breathing with the wind and hearing over listening, and not just to humans. But at the same time fell short the moment i met the eyes of the people i once took care of or actually they took of me extremely, in an alien land which i always felt mine even before i had heard of Woodie Guthrie.
Rasool, my eyes of Kashmir was unwell beyond pain. The two nights that i stayed with him this time were mostly filled with tears and helplessness as he needed immediate care. He made me think of the possibilities or rather the directions that one man sometimes must take.
For me this journey was like going in the depths of my heart’s womb, like looking in the mirror of life, looking at oneself through so many eyes that have known me but inside them they are changing, like i am changing in me and none, no one can even say or do anything about it.
For now, I must leave with some images from the journey as sometimes diaries can be painful to read, stretching this soulful time to live a little longer, just like the flute of Krishna, which must be heard like it were the shores of Jamuna.
I am writing in my 17th hour of the day one. My eyes close and I open them but I must write. Else tomorrow, today will be gone.
I was ready to observe this. This journey, which was almost defunct before even it started, found a calling when Yagya landed at my home. A divine landing. In last 19 years of knowing each other he had never come to my home. But he was here. Begging almost, requesting. It had to happen.
A decade ago, this month, this time Yagya and I along with three other were the first ever civilians and teachers visiting the border village of Baltistan, Turtuk; to teach almost 250 higher secondary school students. And more would come if teachers were any good, and more came once the news found them, from all over state, so many that we had to take classes even after our school.
Three months ago the village head Rehmatuallah ji called each one of us inviting us to come for a week, like before live and stay with the village people but this time to not teach but observe, talk with the village children, elderly to see how things have shaped for the village in last ten years since we initiated. It was an exciting news then but in no time it faded like color, like an ageing cloth and like all old memories that are slowly being consumed by this killer Pandemic. In just one month the time felt like a different era, rather it still is an ongoing life.
For I called it off as I was in pain, but with me other three denied. Yagya and wife were left alone wanting, desiring to go at any cost. As he wanted to show her, his valuable past. But After a prolonged silence from my side with the certainty of the trip being called off, he from nowhere unannounced arrived at my home.
Yagya and I both had some beautiful memories in the village, and all these years we have had numerous occasions when we had even slept talking about the days and nights spent in the Balti villages, teaching kids, teaching them questioning the views, even learning their ways of life, learning their language like calling water tresha, i still say this name, or the time spent at the last Tibetian monastery of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, looking over the snakelike angry river Shyok.
Where did these ten years go, no one knows? And after three hours of yes and no, he convinced me to not just go by any flight but to drive 1300 kilometers starting tomorrow morning. And what a morning to leave, arrived! One that felt like becoming one with the smell of earth, like mother’s home even while at home. The first rain of the monsoons, heavy black clouds curling, ganging up without a sound, dawn that looked like night long after darkness had left, drizzle that asks for your hand, allures your heart, your face to feel wetness, drizzle that you know is going to become a downpour soon. But while all this was the background. I left, Leaving mother’s eyes wet.
Only I know how much effort it has taken for me to make this journey possible, right now in pain, the journey began. And for the first time with one tooth less.
The car moved.
I felt excited to hold the steering, to see myself on the road again and driving, realising that this time its not just for two hours or two states, it is a drive towards the northern Indian end; I was driving, and driving with an old friend during this modern day killer pandemic, driving when roads are bereft of everyday chirp or any extra seller, driving like Abbas Kirostami and his one camera crew did in 1990 while filming “And life goes on”, but above all it is enticing because the car is Omni.
Omni! How much ever you go faster Omni will go at her own pace, and well so will I.
Internet in the Himalayas is as unstable as this car i am driving is, yet i will try posting whatever little and whenever i can.
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It was a week later, since that night of inner churning, when I met Sangram Singh again, and for the first time at his one room flat in Delhi. And most interestingly, he was already drinking, since sunrise.
His whole house smelled of tobacco. Lights not brighter than the ones we sat under, in his auto. The green wall behind him wore a Hanuman calendar of the previous year. His eyes swollen, pointed, looking towards me, followed my gaze from the wall to the glass that was kept at the low table beside his bed, rum still left in it. “It’s not good for a wrestler, you know”. He picked up the glass and emptied it in one gulp. When I was young even the smell of this bothered me, but now it’s my nectar. It is this, which makes me feel alive. But Narayan, you look different today, Sangram suddenly getting aware of my presence.
You seem all ready? He said looking at my camera. You wanted to see the wrestling place, right? I smiled slowly. Lets go.
We took the metro to the north campus and there after walked till the place where his akhara* was. Kushti is a form of combat wrestling originated in India, Sangram breaking the silence between us spoke, and the wrestlers practice the sport on mud and by becoming a disciple of the Akhada under a Guru who runs it. Traditionally, Akhadas are places where the Pehelwans live and train along with their Guru to learn the art of wrestling. Even though all this time as I heard him speak i couldn’t let myself but kept judging his every word, as I was not used to walking along with early morning healthy looking drunkards. He kept me amused though, as we neared the wrestling place his excitement grew.
To be truthful If i talk about myself I had no idea about Kushti* before that day arrived and it was him, Sangram Singh who first introduced me to this ancient sport and its importance. Even though it will take a lot of time again for me to experience the sport’s essence, I kept hearing to all whatever passionately kept coming out of his heart.
Kushti is as old as Indian Scriptures are, as our land’s soil is. In ancient times it was known as Mall Yudh. Mall Yuddh has been mentioned in the Ramayana epic, where there is an account of combat wrestling between Bali and Ravana. This depicts that the Indian wrestling sport Kushti has existed in the continent since ancient times.In Mahabharat, the great warrior bheem, Duryodhana, Krishna’s brother Balrama and even his arch rival Jarasandh were known to be great wrestlers.
And ‘Our’ Hanumanji, is regarded as any wrestler’s divine Guru. And not just because of his raw strength or divine powers but for one reason that symbolically teaches us to stay in conduct within one’s soul, to abstain from any sexual activity for life, which in wrestling is regarded as the first duty towards sport and life.
As we entered there was a huge poster of the great gama, I hadn’t known it then but as I moved across the big wrestling arena my eyes kept going towards his photograph, when I asked Sangram, if he is the founder of this akhara. Sangram smiled, as he was on his way to bring something. He brought a glass of milk for me, completed his smile and said he is the guru for all of us. We all know him as the great gama, or rustam-e-hind, noone amongst us has seen him but he was the strongest pehelwan ever known to India in early 20th century, Gama ji was an undefeated champion, the first Indian and it is said that he never, not even once lost a fight in his life. He was known for his extremely disciplined life and eating habits. He lived by the ancient rules and was known to have remained unmarried throughout his life. The Great Gama epitomised this ancient art of Mall Yuddh in pre-independence rural India. He was a living inspiration to all us Pehelwans and thus he is here to keep blessing us with his grace.
From that day Sangram took me to the oldest wrestling places in the city, he introduced me to many a wrestlers, whom I interviewed, made photographs and tried to learn about their diets and discipline. It was a world of pure body conscience that I was not aware of it before that phase of my life. How to become strong, internally and outside i learnt meeting these wrestlers. Like learning about the essence of preparing food than merely eating. It would take the junior disciple wrestlers an hour to two, to prepare a glass of special milk and other organic fluids before they could drink it. And similarly practising with the mud. Even before wrestling, wrestlers used to tend to the mud, giving it the highest respect.
Kushti is not just a sport in India, rather a part of an ancient culture. And different techniques have been mentioned in many old texts, which are still learned and practiced today. Indian wrestlers who have brought laurels for our country credit all their success to their Akhada training that they did during their initial days. This culture takes us back to our roots and makes us imbibe the essential philosophies of life. A Pehelwan is seen as one of the most humble athletes, living a simple life away from all materialistic pleasure. They are taught to respect the women and protect the weak as their core principles of the Akhada. This cultural heritage that has been in the country since centuries needs to be preserved, supported, and promoted as a part of our rich heritage.
Wrestling, kushti, has ruled the farmlands of India for centuries. And even Before it’s modern form, the ancient Indian fighting style malla-yuddha allowed punches, kicks, head butts, clawing and even biting. It was practiced in small parts of Indian subcontinent at least since the 5th millennium BC,described in the 13th century treatise Malla Purana.
It had the pride of place in the courts of Chalukya kings and Mughal emperors, has led to its own untroubled revolution against the caste system. The British loved it when they first came to India, then rejected it during the freedom struggle. No, wrestling has never been marginal – even if it is largely ignored in modern-day narratives of sport and culture. But even before Pandemic striked, Khushti has been on the decline and now may be even dead.
Two wrestlers fighting on mat, painting circa 1825.
Sangram had left wrestling few years ago even before we met. And even left driving an auto, he took to sitting, opened a shop of daily use items. I met him a few times again after almost a month of interviewing and photographing wrestlers then. But slowly as life took over, we quietly moved on with our lives.
The deadly second wave of Covid-19 took Sangram away last month in May 2021. He died alone. And his death triggered in me a chain of events that lead me to him and all the more towards myself. Towards the last post and this final one. A tribute to him. Because through him the experiences that are living in me, helped me become a man from the boy i was. He was there looking over me just when i had stood for myself, and i then was with him, and through him experiencing this wonderful world of now dying sport.
Pandemic has hit hard and Wrestlers are roaming unemployed, fighting none but wearing suits and becoming security guards, standing all day either night on many a apartment gates. Or trying their luck becoming foot soldiers of the government.
Before I share my days with Sangram visiting many akharas, I remember one incident when he was challenged by an old acquaintance, calling him on the mat. He didn’t waste much time to remove his clothes; entered the arena, bowed down touched the mud with his forehead. And as young wrestlers huddled together standing silently watching their old guru wrestling the new, a ready opponent. He not just defeated him but kept him entangled till he lost almost his breath, leaving him naked, of even his pride.
Later while drinking, sulking within the depths of his own darkness i remember him sharing a moment of his passion sitting on his roof on a full moon night, he had said, ‘When I’m on the mat, I am so filled with this awareness that the slightest touch feels like electricity to my body, and my body reacts to that the same way it would have reacted if I had touched a livewire.”
Wherever his soul is, i pray he rests in peace.
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In the silence of the night, the only sound that started coming was of the rain drops dropping, infrequently from the leaves above. Soaking in as soon as they fell on the road I was walking. The darkness had intruded beyond the trees standing like guards on either side. Their canopies meeting above making a roof, even making the drizzle feel like a poem sailing through the air. Till then I had my phone in my hand. My priced possession, I had bought after two months of work at my first job as a photojournalist. As i neared an approaching lamppost that once looked far, my shadow stretching behind me. Without any sound or intuition a hand caught me by my neck from behind. For a second I really thought it must be somebody known, a friend’s prank yet still unlikely. Within another second I got a strong hit on my back. Falling flat on my chest on the wet road. And realized that I was being hit nowhere but only on my face, a sole hitting the top of my head when someone started snatching the phone from my hand. I tightened my grip but when the shoe hit my forearm and then my fist it fell off from my grip on to the ground. And suddenly it all went quiet again.
I kind of opened my eyes then; still lying down, my head, abdomen, feet touching the earth seeing the world horizontally, watching few men jogging away, with my phone leaving me, leaving me beaten.
I slowly stood. The drizzle had become the rain of romance. I was drenched, swollen, and some blood was falling from my nose. There was still no body on either side or far to be seen. Even as I felt heavy, I tried to make sense of what just happened. But as I couldn’t make any I started running too. And I started running fast, after them. The beating had given me a sense of an unknown kind of fearlessness or freedom. I would not know. As I ran, I saw an auto coming from behind, the healthy driver saw me, I saw him. May be we connected. I in next three seconds told him that i am running behind the ones who snatched my phone a while ago. He said sit. I climbed and was about to sit when the healthy driver accelerated at a speed of comet. The world of night and rain had dramatically changed into a window of want and chase. Within a few minutes of looking I saw them walking towards a corner, hanging around, laughing a laugh of a happy world, like innocent men, together turning right to another lane a few hundred feet away, unaware of how things can even backfire for the fireless. My focus multiplied. I wasn’t even angry no more. It was like they keyed me to follow them. It was not actually them. It was my phone I was after. It had become a life game and the one where I already knew its ways or rather even the result.
I asked the healthy driver to drop me fifty meters ahead of these guys. He did so. I got down. Started walking towards the gang. All were skinny like wires, not even willowy. They could be even younger to me, may be of my age but I wasn’t the one to care. I took two round pebbles in my hand from the sidewalk and walked on towards them on the footpath. I realised that my healthy driver behind me, accompanying me from far; may be my blood rush or my intent made him leave his work and observe about to happen drama. I wanted to stop the gang at a well-lit place and we were approaching a cigarette vendor, two people smoking, one sitting on his bike. It just happened that I stopped right opposite to the guy who had my phone, in his pocket. I shouted at the top of my voice. Give me my phone back! I had pebbles in my hand and I was ready to hit. They froze, their faces shocked, as if terror of their past stood in front of them. Taken aback, even by their feet. Panic unsettled their spines, they wanted to run amok, but they were kind of choked around the Cigarette shop. They started moving away from me. My healthy driver who was watching me from behind had come to my side almost guarding me. My eyes were on the pocket of that boy where his hand was. I could see my phone there. That small rectangular frame. The one who had it ran backwards and I followed too. Everybody else left each other and ran in different directions. As he ran I threw that pebble on the ground near him as caution just as he took the phone out and threw it there, I slowed down. I saw him going away, I saw others far, looking behind while running away just in case.
There was a moment when I wanted to hit, I wanted to chase and swing at them a punch or two but my phone was there, at last and again in front of me. As I picked my phone, the healthy driver came closer, put his big hand on my shoulder like a pat on the back, more so it felt like an elder brother’s hand as if i was watching; authoritatively asked me to come with him. As I walked, still breathing heavy, I could feel the delight in what i did. Probably it was that joy of doing what i had never done, not that i get a beating daily but backing my intuition without letting mind pollute it and getting the reward from the divine mother.
It was such a happy surprise to see that the healthy driver had drove me to Mother Diary’s milk Parlour. He asked me to sit and in no time got us two cold milk bottles. Sitting in the dingy setting of his fluorescent-lighted auto i was seeing his face closely for the first time. He had cut marks all over his face, his ears almost invisible. He was looking at me, almost smiling but wasn’t saying something, that i thought he wanted to. I took a sip from the bottle, the coolness of the milk went like light through my chest. I smiled, and said “tell me about yourself?”, he taking his cold sip coolly answered, “main perelman hun/ I am a Wrestler.”
When flood comes, the fish eat ants. But when water dries, the ants eat fish.
– Theory of Life, Virus will be defeated !
Humans started moving away from the natural ways when we began to wear clothes, started eating for pleasure and embraced temporarily practised norms over instinctive urges. And over the years this is what blind development has done.
Among the “civilised”, right and wrong is determined by cultural conventions and rules, he continued, “There were times when polygamy was considered a solution when there was a shortage of men due to war”, instead it continued for centuries ever after. I was remembering my Guru Maharaj ji, who two years ago had initiated me towards divine love. For last few days as i was going through my diaries of the times when we both had found time to speak at length about life and laws, and how can discipline determine the direction and intensity of one’s journey. I found something that he had given me, a potion that i found useful in these times of isolation as if he knew, as if he was preparing me for something already; for if there will be health, he said, and so says Joanna- you can keep carrying the torch, that light which the world needs.
I will share some knowledge of what Guru Keshava taught me then, and some in these years of exploring life, while practising and experiencing some of what found me.
India is fighting back on a war footing today. She is going through a time whose consequences nobody had foreseen. The pandemic is becoming an epidemic. It is unimaginable to think that had India not produced and made her own vaccine, manufactured that of others, it would have been impossible to even hope for human civilisation to survive this. As the virus pierces the rural peace, the social order, I believe only vaccines of any country are hardly an answer. It might buy necessary time to fight the virus psychologically but It is no magic wand for a way out of this situation. Very Conscious and responsible steps are needed at individual level.
Travellers, Merchants, traders didn’t come to India only for her beauty or spending time at some beach looking at sunsets; some were after wealth, and some after spices that were known to have magical capabilities, some were unheard of, never tasted, and some were known to cure ailments of the body, jadibutis and above all they made the food delicious. This news went around the world like fire in those times and ships after ships were sent out by the rich merchants of Europe to find a land called India.
In Gurukul system of Education, Indian Kitchen used to be known as Aushdyalaya, a place to keep medicines, a pharmacy. Today when this Virus is said to be mutating, like raktbeej– a demon becoming a stronger variant of the other- any vaccine taken is not going to be fool proof. And thus when answers are limited, there is only one way any person can safeguard oneself, by boosting his/her immunity. And one that most likely is available in most Indian Kitchens.
For last many days, as I carefully walked the streets of Delhi, not daily but for reporting; writing and photographing this havoc, as it is nothing less than nightmare. Even though my work was merely to report but my heart, wishes, prayers went out to each soul i saw, met and spoke with in these times who in some way or the other are fighting the fight of their lives. I also made sure to speak to certain section of people who have been studying, learning and are active participants in understanding Ayurveda. I spoke to many a people at length about how can one boost their immunity to get ready for this long fight as it seems there is going to be no respite from this hell in near future.
This essay is a shout out to each one of you who in last one year became my family. All who in these times contacted me, asked me for my health and well being, i thank you. I owe you, your families prayers and care. I wish to tell everyone to stay strong, we need each other. Because as i see it, it is nature that is fighting back for her survival. We know what humankind has cruelly done for centuries now, she needs time.
But also as a word of caution, i want to share this thought with my ‘Road to Nara’ family, that History will repeat itself, there are signs. And this time it is not going to be over soon. World Wars happened a decade after recession previously, and this time Wars might not even take that long. Astrologically, as few friends and Guruji have communicated, later years of this decade are going to be one of the worst periods for humanity, for our planet, this union is showing a dark phase that comes once in a millennia, I cannot and must not predict how bad it looks but the only way for us and the coming generation, for children is to build their inner will and strength and immunity. This is the only way. Please do not take this lightly.
I am going to share 9 very important Yogic practices to boost one’s immunity. In these times of isolation If any reader of “Road to Nara”, is living outside India, and relates to these measures, has any questions, or is not able to find these Ayurvedic medicines in their country, please let me know and i will see how they can reach you, because now is most important time to rebuild one’s kitchen to the ancient times, for most authentic ways of cooking, all for a better health, and less diseased world. As lockdowns are not forever. For when we have to step out, real challenge, real test will begin. This, when how responsible, how sensible we are will matter, after the lockdown is over and the economic process begins, the only way to be outside and working without worrying will only matter how much our immune system has enhanced.
One thing is strict maintenance of social distancing, and this must become our religion, that is if you are religious. I am just saying otherwise, being with yourself, mask always up also that distance must become our meditation to start with, as for meditators it is nothing less than a boon.
1. Turmeric and Neem Leaves(Azadirachta indica)
For over one year now as I start my daily routine, I take half a spoon of turmeric with lukewarm water, and then before going outside for a walk i take 6-9 neem leaves, that i pick from a nearby neem tree previous day, after washing, i put them in my mouth, and i let them be there for half an hour-forty five minutes may be longer, as long as i walk and gulp everything down with water later. Of course it is bitter but this bitter after few days feels like i have not lived my life fully today.
If you are starting it now, it will at least take 4-8 weeks before showing any considerable changes in your immune system, more clearly on your skin, cleaning your colon and enhancing your energy. It is simply put Indra’s Vajra for inner cleaning and immunity.
Trust me, if you believe in some magic, this is it!
2. Have Tulsi(Holy Basil) Rasa and drink it with lukewarm water.
There are some Tulsi Rasa that I have used from certain brands but because stores, shops are not opening or because demand is too high one might not find it easily. Better is to have a Tulsi plant at your home. You can pick 10 tulsi leaves, and most Indian homes will have this plant, put them in water and boil it until its volume boils down to a cup. Filter it and drink it sip by sip. Its pretty tasty too and even children will like it, as the vaccines for children will be available half a year later from now, tulsi in the system will again work as magic, or even outside it, at home it is one of those plants that purifies air, gives oxygen some purity. Our ancients knew it thousands of years ago. And it is not that it must be taken because of the virus, my mother and I am certain many mother’s across Indian subcontinent have been putting Tulsi leaves daily in their morning teas barring Sunday.
Another thing is Indian gooseberry or amla, small in size. You just have to smash it, put some salt over it, chew it, and keep it in the mouth for as long 30 minutes to an hour, as its most effective there, like that. This simple thing will greatly enhance your immune system. Amla has many other qualities and is also the only citric fruit that can even be taken with milk.
4. Hot drinks/Kashayam/Green Teas
There are many traditional things that we can do to boost our immunity. Hot drinks, milk tea with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves was already highly popular even before this virus arrived and more so these days it has been advised to have them thrice or more times a day.
Cinnamon here, many of us might not know was the primary jadi buti, medicinal spice that was highly sought after by all the European merchants/traders as it was known even then to give immense strength, especially for men if they were struggling with sexual problems or with respiratory diseases. Only found in India and Sri lanka, Cinnamon if using in a powder form must not be taken more than a pinch a day.
5. Using Giloy/Dry gourd/Camphor/lemon on daily basis
Giloye in ancient India was kept at the same pedestal as Tulsi or neem. It is such a plant that will remove fever and such ailments from its root while stabilizing body temperature, cleaning the blood and enhancing immune system for long. One can even think of keeping Giloy plant at home, its leaves and even branches are of utmost use. We can boil its leaves with water till it becomes a half a cup and sipping it down slowly will do wonders on daily basis.
It reminds me of requesting anyone who is still reading to please not drink and let any one drink cold refrigerated water in these times. We can keep water in earthen pots and have it at the room temperature, else it is most advisable to boil your water and keep sipping some every hour.
Finding original Camphor is not easy, but if one has access to good Camphor tablets, it would advisable to keep them in your masks. It will greatly enhance your ability to deep breathe and allow your neuro-system to calm down even in the most stressed out times.
To tell you, these are all my maternal grandmother stuff, not totally mine, I might have only added meagerly to it, but it greatly helped her all her life. It helped my mother and it is helping me.
The only way now is to behave socially in a responsible manner, and yogic way is the way forward. This is a new world, for at least next one to two years, And it will be a different world than what we were used to live in.
Once you get deeper in Yoga, there are immense possibilities and many things can be done, but I would only like to share somethings that my people here and their families and children can practice.
It must be known that Yoga doesn’t come through blood, you got to do it. Its probably the only problem with the damn thing! It works miraculously but one has to do it.
This most important mantra, and you must first understand that what we call as a mantra is a certain geometry of sound. If properly, and most importantly, collectively uttered this mantra will generate what we call in samskrut as samhit prana.
Gayatri Mantra: the mantra of light is the most popular, ancient beyond our knowledge of time, is the most effective sound for human mind. It generates heat as we call Sun, surya to bless us with the knowledge of light. In these times this mantra is a nectar for humankind and i would suggest anyone living in any part of the world to please take out 20 minutes for themselves, better with family and quietly recite gayatrifor between 8 to 24 times.
Om Bhur Bhuwah Svah Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat॥
General meaning: We meditate on that most adored Supreme Lord, the creator, whose effulgence (divine light) illumines all realms (physical, mental and spiritual). May this divine light illumine our intellect.
Word meaning: Om: The primeval sound; Bhur: the physical body/physical realm; Bhuvah: the life force/the mental realm Suvah: the soul/spiritual realm; Tat: That (God); Savitur: the Sun, Creator (source of all life); Vareñyam: adore; Bhargo: effulgence (divine light); Devasya: supreme Lord; Dhīmahi: meditate; Dhiyo: the intellect; Yo: May this light; Nah: our; Prachodayāt: illumine/inspire.
There are 5 dimensions of prana vavyu in our system, samit prana, greatly enhanced by Gayatri is one that is the incharge of the respiratory process and thought process and it helps in generating heat/उष्ण in the body through tapa, the most important component, a foundation on which Yogis develop their inner light before finding themselves reaching to higher dimensions. And for Gayatri, i speak from my personal experience from years of practice, not just theory.
If anyone is interested in learning the history, the story of the origin of Gayatri mantra, please hear brilliant Murli here
7. Simhasana/Simha Kriya
In the Yogic sciences, there are various ways to enhance immune system, in terms of practices, a very simple but powerful Yogic Kriya is Simhasana/सिंहासन or the Lion Pose, that I had even taught to my parents long ago, and used to make children do this first thing at school, it was fun and children loved it. This is a kind of process that even before it helps boosting the immune system- it starts making one feel strong and confident. Another thing is that it deepens your breath in a certain way, that suppose if you start doing it from today and in a week’s time you find some difficulty in continuing it, in pushing your self through it, you will clearly know that you will have some respiration related stuff going on a lot before any symptoms show up medically.
And this virus being a respiratory related thing it will be very useful if you can do Simhasna twice a day. For children, it will also be a fun exercise. It will boost the immune system like volume on woofers, and at the same time its like a gage that suppose you can’t do it one day like other days, it will tell you to be alert even before any medical, technical machine will find out.
8. Prithvi Prema Kriya/Working with the Soil
Most people develop the relationship with the soil only once they die. But its very important to develop a relationship with all the elements especially with the soil while you are alive. I would say especially now when the virus is around, believe me those of you who are in some way have contact with the soil in a very loving manner; well your ability to live and to resist these kind of invasions in your life will be greatly, greatly enhanced.
Its not just enough if you live, its important that you live strong. Living strong does not mean growing big muscles and dominating others, living strong means life grows with a possibility of arriving big, within, deep inside those valves, your cells. And for this you need a body which treats the entire planet as its extension, which it is. So its very important to have your hands and feet find earth, soil, tending to a garden like dearest Joanna here, who if not writing and inspiring people from the world over, can always be found spending all her remaining time in her beautiful garden. You can read and rever for her selfless work, for each week she with military precision, comes to motivate us here, with her brilliant writing skills. We can see her hands in the photograph above holding mother nature.
9. Hug Trees
According to ancient Yogic texts every zodiac sign is assigned with a tree, it also goes by the nakshatras. Like the tree according to texts that is assigned to my nature is the king tree Peepal. I pray to it, i speak with it. But it happened well before i even knew about it. The point is let the tree find you because that is important for your life, for each life on earth as they are our truest, closest relatives. You will believe me when i will say they will provide you everything like elders do to their children. Hug trees, speak with them they are family.
Thanks for reading.
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Please write if in case anyone would like to know more about anything, or would like to have above mentioned medicinal plant seeds, herbs to be delivered to their place.
If you like to share your views on the story or feel like saying a hello, please do and write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The journalist had been following my journey here on the Road to Nara and later found herself ecstatic on seeing some images that i had made few years ago following the sea along the expansive South-Western coast of India. I was then documenting it for a long term project on the journey of five elements and various shapes and forms they take.
HYPNIC PICNIC was this month’s theme, magic as she asked me for images that carried in them a life in between and the journey.
Along with me came a few other artists, as many as the fingers are in both hands, two from India and few from far away countries. Working, carrying their experience of the world in their fields of expression; illustration, sketches, graphics, Paintings and images.
In them i found few very interesting people doing the things they have been doing in their lives like Stilleke, he is a curator and was invited here to talk about the future of festivals and even more so in the years leading to this epidemic, because he is a Curator, or he supposes. While putting his thoughts across in this magazine he stated something that in his own words could put an immediate end to his future, as a curator in the field of the independent performing arts. Even worse, he said what he will say now, can and may be used against him sooner or later.
“Anyway, i will say it nowsimply because it is the – or at least my – truth and this truth for me also means the future of festivals and curators in today’s world:
I CURATE FOR AND ONLY ALL MY FRIENDS!
The projects I invite are the work of my friends. All artists i invite are my friends. All my curatorial decisions are based on friendship. All and exclusively. Always without exception.
I repeat: I CURATE ONLY AND ALONE MY FRIENDS! Not because i appreciate them or the work is the state of the art. Not because i often hear their names or they are on every guest list. Not because i adore them and want to make a selfie with them. No, i invite them because they are my friends. I work with them because they are my friends.”
As i read his theory i could do nothing but contemplate. There could be a few other ways to look at it and may be i will let my readers choose if this is what they would also do?
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And then as i walked further deep into the pages of this magazine i found a Japanese artist, a book collector too, who loves to collect books on metaphysics, collecting the image of the gods dancing as a vision.
He later talks about comparing his vision with the ancient vision that the Yogis give him, that he looks upto what they have done, that he respects their vision and he puts them in his life. He says that books are a big part of his life and he wants to complete this vision quest through communication between the book and himself and everyone involved.
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Snap! went my neck before the rough sand ripped the skin off my back as i was dragged back onto the beach. I forced myself up, exhausted but bent on not to be undone by the throbbing pain that had now started to hammer at my spine.
I had already gifted the last toe on my right foot that i had saved especially for this occasion. Others had gifted an eye, an ear or even a limb. Another man, a tongue. In return the celestial beings had embodied us for that day and had made us invincible and electric for the night of conquests. We had been preparing for this moment since we were young boys. The other men in the water beside me had now started to scream in anticipation. I started to feel the shifting sand beneath my feet and egged on by the voices behind us. We started to wade further into the deep, shoulder first, to break that impending wall of water. Startled by an excited howl i had looked over my shoulder and found the remains of a skeleton, that by now had the flesh entirely washed off its bones, bracing itself for its last clash with the waves. I felt the pull of currents swirl and grab on to my ankles as i listened to the rising growl of what was lurking ahead. The men beside me had disappeared and as i stood alone looking up at the shadow swallowing me. i could swear i felt sweat run down my leg beneath the waters. Darkness.
The water curls lovingly over my toes and kisses the back of my sole before quietly retreating back into the open body of the sea. I can smell the salt in the air and listen to the foamy whiteness of sea spray in the distance. I open my eyes and look down at my feet, cushioned into the soft, wet sand. Two women had broken away from the crowd and have moved onto the wet land beside me. I can recognise those wafts of jasmine that they had tied delicately on to the back of their hair in strings.
Ealier in the day while we were making our way through the crows to visit the temple. i had felt a hand rest on my shoulder. It was a frail but empathetic hand and it belonged to the oldest person i had ever seen. The sun bounced blindly off her brilliant white hair and her eyes were liquid yellow compared to the rest of her beautiful, dark leathery skin. Her bright red Saree almost camouflaged the vermilion that had rubbed off her smeared forehead. When i tried to push on ahead, she put her hand on my chest beckoning me to wait for a moment. With her other hand she offered me a beautiful string of other flowers that slipped into the front pocket of my office shirt and rested her palm back on my chest.
we have been waiting long for you to arrive. Take off that mask, now will you?
A body fell over to the side of a betel shop at the edge of the crowded lane leading to a commotion. When i turned my head back again, the old lady and her empathetic hand had disappeared. The women beside me seem middle aged like me, except every time the water reaches their feet, they break out into a peal of laughter like a gaggle of girls sharing a secret at the back of the school bus. They echo the faint but rapturous squeals that each wave carries back to us with it. In a distance beautiful bodies burst out of the darkness in the water. Women, children, the elderly. Each time we moved forward into the last of the dark, their fingertips touch each other’s in nervous excitement as a wave flows past them. It is the sea that tickles in its playfulness. You see, we have all lifted our saris so that we can feel the currents all the way upto our thighs. Lost in my curiosity, before i realise its happening, the water swells before me and rolls me over in its embrace. I gasp upwards for a breath and cough out the water that had filled up my lungs. I reach at the back of my head and notice that the jasmine has been stolen by the currents and the wig has come undone. My girl has carefully fixed the flowers to my hair after helping me to tie my sari and fix my blouse. She had folded away my shirt and trousers neatly into an old plastic bag, protecting them from the sand. I turn around and catch her looking at me. she is sitting on the beach with the old plastic bag on her lap, her smile now illuminated by the first silver of daybreak. Nearby, i hear the splashing of footsteps in the shallows. I look up and find her again, staring at me. She, the oldest women i had ever seen, her head thrown back in a chuckle. Her red saree drips a trail of vermillion behind her as she walks towards land. I watch the translucent sky with dimming stars as i lay back afloat and wait for the next wave to carry me further away in its embrace
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Five Elements : Wind and Water
Different landscapes are inhabited by different tribes of crows speaking their own tree language, flying, watching like the curious most.
Like divine chroniclers, carrying many a rumours.
The morning had already turned to light when i saw a crow cruelly puncturing the stomach of a two day old kitten as he was unsteadily trying to cross the road, like any newborn tries, suddenly falling to one side, breathing heavily. Another crow joined poking at the now open stomach. From somewhere an old lady came running, with water in her hands and started dropping drops of water from her palm through her thick fingers into the kitten’s small, beautiful mouth.
Though he had no experience of the ocean but of rivers, he loved speaking of anything going further into oblivion to do with heaven. He said of an error on land may always be but right. Yet the river alone after sometime denies us that security, which may lead to miscalculation. In that time, think. And be aware of that thought.
People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul from earth to the land of the dead. but sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness arrives along and the soul cannot rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow brings back that soul to put the wrong things right. And lets hope they keep doing it.
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The summer sea roared, what was it that changed the course of the winds coming from the east?
That day the sea took all the ground it never claimed, some blue crabs died, strangely purple dominated everywhere. Some frogs little far who enjoyed the rain from their well started crying out of happiness. The big brown bird who was hiding and seeking some fun found and took the chameleon up in the sky, above the tall coconut trees and left him somewhere between nowhere, the chameleon then for the first time experiencing winglessness, far up landed on the tree leaves first; rolling over, sliding down from there like a child on a swing kept falling from one leaf to the other, when he found the bird again, this time his head was in her beak, the time came near or the end, chameleon’s tail wagging, slowly, gracefully like accepting love or rather death moments before the sound of the end filling the air or was it his new birth.
Looking all of it from under the tree, the bald saint who knew nothing apart from his breath undressed himself, and started walking towards the ancient spring. The tides that became wilder, than they were in the moonless night, like blue dome. Summer, then was over.
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What is it that changes the day from that moment onwards? What happens in that moment? How often does that moment come? In the times of fear, silence becomes a tool, different for different people, acting differently in different times of the day, or is it any similar with the animals too?
Early in the morning when sun had yet not arrived, i had already made two rounds of a square park. On the third round, i saw a squirrel coming down a tree, abnormally slow but consistent, through a lane filled with fallen, dried leaves she had come closer as if she wasn’t conscious of any person standing in her way. For a moment it pressed me to stop and only look at her because for that long a while I could not see where her head was, as there was no skin on it. It was nothing less than exorcism for my eyes in brahma mahurat, of how was she even moving like that i was wondering when at a point closest to me she stopped. Turned slowly with her one eye intact, towards me like mimicking a door opening in that morning twilight. Not asking for or directing towards, staring right back for just that moment, that one moment which arrives with a change from there onwards, the direction of the day and soon moved on to finding something amongst leaves, on her way to reach somewhere.
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These days silence is the new noise or should we say normal. It might be modern for humans but in the animal world, they have been made to perfect this art.
Imagine that situation of utter helplessness, a situation of no hope and no light at the end of the tunnel.
Imagine a situation of no freedom, born in captivity and dying in captivity.
Imagine a situation where someone else is deciding your life, your future, your death.
Imagine living with a clear awareness that your end will be an assassination, a cruel murder, totally unnatural and having no idea what did you do wrong ever to have this end.
Imagine a life where you have no rights.
Imagine a world where you experience no kindness and no warmth from the company of your relatives.
Imagine a world of utter loneliness.
This is exactly the life that most animals experience. Cows, Pigs, Goats, Sheep and Fowls experience this life. All animals in captivity live this life. Saturated fear and helplessness are their daily norm. There is bloodshed and murder happening in different corners of the world each second. Millions are bred to be killed for their body. This is a human world, an insensitive human world. Only Humans can change it. If we are Humans, we will change something about it, around us. If we do not, nature will change it by reducing our numbers. Be clear. Be aware.
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And of course trees. Trees were social distancing long-long before us silly humans even knew these words. Crown shyness, or canopy shyness, is a phenomenon in which the crowns of trees do not touch to avoid disease (in the form of insects) or injury from twigs bashing into one another. We have so much to learn from trees.