Zafirah And A Stranger!

Zafirah was waiting at Mumbai Airport to board a flight for home to Delhi. She had gone through the security check and was waiting for boarding signal for her flight. She never travel alone! She always have a loyal company of a book with her. Taking a seat in front of the notice board where flight schedule was displaying, she made herself comfortable and took out a book from her bag, “Forty Rules of Love”. The more she reads, more she gets drowned in Shams words and his rules. Not noticing a stranger by her side, she kept on turning the pages of a book.

_DSC0041“Hello”, said the stranger. Bringing book down from her eye level and looking with amusement at stranger! There was a tall, fair, slender man with unkempt hair. He belonged to a foreign land!  She said, “Hi”.  “Going to Kochi?”, asked Stranger. No! I’m traveling to Delhi, replied Zafirah. Later realizing her mother’s words of not giving any details to strangers. He is a foreigner (she thinks), Mom said to be careful from strangers from India. She laughs on her thought and starts reading again. “What are you reading?”, asked stranger. Ohh! It is Forty rules of Love by Elif Shafak, replied Zafirah. Hmm! Another love story!, stranger mumbled. “Oh no no! It’s not a love story. I mean, yes it is a love story, but it is about eternal love.”, said Zafirah. Aah! “Eternal Love”, said stranger laughing. “Where are you from”, asked Zafirah. “I’m John from Land of Midnight Sun, Finland”, replied Stranger. Wow!, exclaimed Zafirah. Her little eyes filled with excitement. She wanted to know more about Finland, but kept quite instead. She didn’t want to show her excitement to John.

“So what all places you have seen in India?”, asked Zafirah. Oh! I have seen Delhi, Agra, Hampi, Orchha, Gwalior, Amritsar, and many more. I’m in India from last 6 months on a spiritual rejuvenation, replied John. Zafirah was impressed with John. She wanted to ask him about his travels. While she was thinking of ways to continue her conversation with John, he asked her to join him for coffee. Today God is listening to me (she looks up and smiles). Two cappuccino, John ordered as service boy came to take the order. How do you know I like cappuccino?, asked Zafirah. Well! you like books. And readers have old connection with cappuccino!, said John. Ahan!  I see (quite impressed).

I forgot to ask your name, said John. Zafirah, she replied. Za-fee-raah! I liked the sound of it. So tell me what do you think of love?, asked John. Zafirah laughs and after pause of few seconds, she says – For me love is a feeling which fills a person with kindness and purity. Love and life exists in everything on this universe. The outer beauty may lose its charm with age, but love will only grow with age. Nice! Do you love someone? You can ignore my question if you think it is too personal, said John. I have a wild dream of seeing the world and I don’t have time to get into a relationship. When Zafirah was replying to John’s question of loving someone, she had only one name on her mind.

Announcement for boarding for Mumbai to Kochi was made. John paid the bill and got on his feet to board his Kochi flight. He leaned towards Zafirah and mumbled in her ears – You are a girl with a dream and you need a man with a vision. He then left, waving his hands, and saying Good Bye to Zafirah. Zafirah stood frozen there, thinking about John’s words.

Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!