Friday 27 November 2015

Valley of Flowers -- Nanda Devi National Park

"Choosing to see beauty creates more beauty."
wrote Katrina Kenison in her recent blog.

September 2015  turned out to be a mixed month for me. It began with a mother- daughter trip to the valley of flowers and ended with this mother hugging her daughter under a tree in a car park behind her daughter's hall of residence at her university. It was time to turn the next page of my book of parenting- the one where I would not be living under the same roof as her-- no wake-up calls, no what's-for- dinner, no you-don't-understand-mom and no reluctantly given hugs.

I knew I'd miss her, but I didn't expect to feel this physical tug, this dull ache -- this tangible evidence of a mother's love. 

Ish, a blogger friend of mine, had shared her response to the question some people asked her when her son moved many miles away from home to start uni:
People: Do you miss him?
Ish :       I have two blogs, you know.

Secretly, I'd thought that would be my response, too, as the past few months had seen me blogging more than usual. I was quite sure that I'd slip into blogging more deeply and just carry on. It hasn't happened that way. 

It's taken me more than a week to just gather myself. 

I'm behaving like I did when I first fell in love. 

All love hurts the same way. It hurt like this when I first left home to go to university. It hurt like this when I first fell in love. It hurts exactly the same when your first born moves out. The same heart strings get pulled and tugged.

'They come back, you know!' joked the gentleman serving coffee on the aircraft on our flight back to Doha. Both his daughters, he told me, had split from their husbands recently, and were now living with him and his wife.

"It's driving her nuts!" he grinned and moved to the next passenger on board.

For me, for now, I miss my baby. One thing I'm thrilled about is the time we spent together before she started living on another continent.

Thanks to April's beautiful words, I've enjoyed putting this post together. She wrote, "Change is as inconvenient as it is inevitable. Taking a lesson from Autumn, I think the best thing to do is to make the rearranging of our lives colourful. Take care."

Here we are then, a photo essay of sorts of a journey that turned out to be a jewel.

A train ride (shorter than expected) and a 12 hour long stint in a mini bus (longer and harder than expected) brought us to our camp in Auli. Camp is a misnomer really, Glamp would be more appropriate: proper beds and furniture, a bathroom with running hot water, a dining hall with chai and chicken curry.

Early next day, we were well rested and ready to embark upon our first leg of the trek; from Gobind Ghat to Ghangharia.

Come with me on this trek: see the sights, smell the flowers, meet beautiful people, gaze at the wonders of mother nature. 
(by the way, I've decided to only mention the names of the flowers I remember- the rest you can google:) 
Balsam flowers ...
we came  across yellow and lilac balsams on higher altitudes.
Sun-dried tomatoes
Pilgrims with tips: this lady and her friends piled us with tips on how to tackle the Hemkund Sahib trek. Such warmth and such love-- I felt it then and I can feel it now...more than two months later.
The Himalayan Teasel 
local name: Phulee

Amaranth plant or chaulai.
We used to eat delicious chaulai ke laddoo when we were kids. Chaulai ka saag is also commonly eaten in Doon.

Georgia O'Keefe comes to mind...
A Bee Colony...or an entire Empire?
After almost nine hours of trekking, we reached our camp in Ghangharia. 
The dining room window...
It rained buckets after we reached, so the night was cold. 
Arshia and I slept with all our layers on--
scarves, woollen hats and gloves!
Early next morning, after a hot shower (bucket and mug kind) and a hot breakfast, we were off to explore the Valley of Flowers.
 I can see the map of India...can you?

You know you're in for a grand time when you are greeted by eager Asters at the park entrance.
and a tree trunk doubles up as a resting spot.
(we were told that bears bring their cubs here to hibernate)
Wallich's Geranium
local name: Ratanjot
Himalayan white birch: the epics were written on the bark of these trees. 
The tree itself is a marvel to behold.  
Touch the bark and feel the sap coursing through its trunk. 

I stood there for sometime, catching by breath (of course) and gaping at its beauty.

These dark flower heads are one of the three variety of Brahamakamal found in this region.

Balloon flowers.
These remind me of Chinese lanterns.
Locals eat the tender leaves and shoots of this plant.

A botany guide met us when we started the trek of the Valley.
She is not yet twenty.
  Me: Is this your job or your passion? (referring to the guide work)
Yogita (the guide): This is my work, my passion, my love and my everything. I come here because it makes me happy.
Yogita: My grandfather named me Yogita because he could see how capable I was with flora and fauna around here.

I love her for her untainted confidence in herself.

Suddenly, she starts scrambling up this hill and comes down with a treat for us to taste...
these berries taste like Iodex ( muscle relaxant) and smell like it too when you pop them open with your teeth. 
Yogita rattles off Latin names of all the flowers we come across like she's reading items off a menu in her favourite restaurant- without taking any time to process. The flowers and berries and plants she points out to us seem like her old friends. She knows everything about them. And she's not yet twenty!

Her foray into guide work came by as an accident. A seasoned guide overheard her talking about some flowers and suggested that she take it up. The devastation of 2013 floods wiped out Yogita's parents' newly built house. They ran up the hills with only the clothes they were wearing to save their lives. She wants to go to college but she needs to gather enough funds to do so. So here she is, saving up money with her guide work.

Yogita: I want to publish a guide book so that people can find out about these flowers on their own when they visit.

She becomes my hero. 
These  berries grow very close to the ground, 
hugging the mountains.
Have you ever seen a blue this blue?

And here's a tasty treat spotted and offered by our guide, Yashpal. He called it the local strawberry. It looks more like a raspberry to me, but it burst with sugary sweetness when I popped it into my mouth...yum.

When leaves pretend to be petals...

Cobra Lily --gone to seed.

Forget- me - nots
Vajardanti-- it's used to cure dental and gum diseases.
Do you remember the Vicco Vajardanti ad?

Himalayan Fleece
Impatients aka dog flowers aka balsams.
Notice the little fairy light like flowers in the background?
Happy Diwali:)

This stunning beauty caught my eye just as we were coming to the end of our wanderings.
I forget the name now but I do remember the long list of medicinal benefits our guide rattled off when we spotted it-- it's used for its anti-inflammatory properties in 
Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicines.
Just this once, I googled the name. It's called Aconitum Balfourii or by its common name, the Indian Aconite.
I could stand there for hours and watch this mesmerizing blue dancing in the breeze...but we had to keep moving...
And just like that, we had reached the end of the valley. The cold glacial water was just what I needed to dip my tired feet in. The water stung like a thousand needles but I stood in it long enough to feel my feet go numb.
 All the aches and pains of the trek seemed to have osmosized. 
I felt refreshed and ready to head back.
I'm not sure what I'd hoped to get out of this mother-daughter trek. I was happy that my daughter chose to come along with me, to be part of what I like to do, to see India the way I see it, to feel the pristine beauty which is lost in the metros. Maybe, I had secretly hoped for her to witness the India of my childhood--unpolluted by the grime, greed and garishness of some of its metros.

I feel that I got a lot more than I'd hoped for or even imagined. I could see it in the way she spoke about her trip when we got back, first in Delhi, then in Doha.

All this talk of religious intolerance in India, the Paris bombings, the never-ending violence on Palestinian soil and the pain that hogs world news these days makes me want to head to the mountains forever. I want to escape from this vulgarity of humans- cloaked in the guise of religion. 

Are the asters that dance and the sunflowers that bloom and the balsams that sway Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Sikhs?

I'm happy my baby who will be nineteen next month saw how beautiful God's intentions for his Earth were and magnanimous the Universe is and how unbelievably lucky we are to be able to enjoy all this. What are the odds of us being born on the only planet we know which supports life as we know it? Why do we insist on letting it all go to waste? Why?

The whys trouble me. And the what haunts me...What sort of world are we leaving behind for our children? As usual, words penned down by wise people calm me down. I read. I breathe. I go for a walk. I look around me and feel grateful for a healthy body, a happy and loving family and Whatsapp (for keeping the connection strong with family-- for FREE:)

I'll end this post with these wise and wonderful words from The Parent's Tao Te Ching by William Martin.
Go for a slow and mindful walk.
Show them every little thing that catches your eye.
Notice every little thing that catches theirs.
Don't look for lessons or seek to teach great things.
Just notice.
The lesson will teach itself.

and my favourite line from this book...

Don't mistake your desire to talk for their
readiness to listen.

It's been a long gap between the last post and this. 'Back to work' has robbed me of my blogging time. The weather in Doha is gorgeous right now. Long walks outdoors are helping me to fill my cup of creativity, so I do hope I'll be able to write and share more frequently in the future.

Thank you dear reader for being here:) Enjoy the flowers...xx

For more information about the flowers in the valley, check out: