Day 5: Guptkashi to Uttarkashi – Part 1

25/09/2013 9am, Chamiyara village, uttarakhand

This post is a jump from the last one which was on our first day in Guptkashi. I still have to write about SNC, about our village visits and interactions with people, about the mixed emotions I had about relief work and the dilemma of balancing relief and sustainable livelihoods. Yesterday, we left from Guptkashi to Uttarkashi to see the damage there and interact with villagers there and see how we can serve there. There is also a Doon school student’s camp for which Devendra ji wanted us to come. This is about the first part of that journey :).

The buses from the villages are very infrequent. We knew of one that leaves from Khumera at 6:30am, so planned on leaving snc at 6am. Joseph ji made us a quick porridge of wheat flour, some ayurvedic mix, milk, sugar and water. (A new recipe I learnt! should put it up on my weekend kitchen soon!).
After a quick dunking down of hot porridge, we trekked up the school to the bus stand. By 3pm we had covered around 100kms and reached Silyaara where Dr. Sunderlal bahuguna ji had done his tapasya and from where he started the chipko movement and other movements of Uttarakhand like on abolishing untouchability and the one against tehri dam. Joseph ji decided we would take a break here and he also wanted us to meet his friends here :).



We went the following way:
Devi Dhar(khumera) to Tilwada – bus
Tilwada to Mayali – shared taxi
Mayali to Ghansali – shared taxi
Ghansali to Silyaara – shared taxi
Silyaara to Chamiyara – walk (~3kms)



At Silyaara when we got down there was a path going up and Joseph ji said the ashram is just here… and I did the mistake of taking the “just here” literally 🙂 the ashram was at the top of the hill and the 3pm sun was so strong that I was completely red after that nearly 1km straight up.

As soon as we reached, we threw our bags down and laid down in the shade. The ashram has a lot of guava trees and Joseph ji went and plucked fresh guavas for all of us. The guavas and the shade refreshed us soon. The rooms were open so I and Pratyush decided to rest for a while. The ashram school (1st to 5th std) got over at 4pm and then Trilochan ji treated Joseph ji and me with a cup of tea. Later we went down in the village to meet Devendra Bahuguna ji’s wife Sarita Didi.

Sarita Didi teaches sanskrit in the college nearby. At first we were talking of local politics, family and regular stuff. But later she talked about Upanishads and Geeta. She also told us about her PhD on Ganga -the different forms in which river Ganga is viewed – as a goddess, as holy river, as water, as a means of livelihood, etc. I wished I could see her PhD but she casually said that she had long back put it somewhere and forgotten. They have two children and both Devendra ji and Sarita ji decided that the children should travel as this way they will learn a lot during their schooling. So they have been moving from one school to another.. They have studied in Tamil Nadu, in Varanasi, in Coimbatore and are currently in pune.

At her home we feasted on apples and bananas 🙂 Pratyush was sleeping up in the ashram and missing the feast. But, both me and Joseph ji were thinking of him while eating the fruits :0.
Soon it started to get dark and Joseph ji, Trilochan ji and I started our trek up. This time it didn’t feel so bad to go up as it was cooler and there were no bags :).

Then we all sat in Trilochan ji’s home to prepare food. By this time, my cold had reappeared.


Trilochan ji swore by a local concoction that he makes and said it’s to be had after dinner. I rested on his bed while the three men made lauki khichdi and then later kadha (herb concoction) for me 🙂 The concoction was ginger pieces and guava leaves boiled in 1 glass of water. Boiled so much that only about 2 tbsps of it is left. Then this concoction is strained and must be drank immediately. The idea is to sleep soon after.

But it was only then that we got time to interact more with Trilochan ji. He is an one man army handling the entire ashram. There was a time when about 50 people used to live in the ashram but now it’s only him. He runs the accounts, he runs the school, manages the teachers, cleans the ashram and everything and anything that is required. Till 2 years ago his wife and children also lived in ashram but now they have shifted to Dehradun because of kids’ schooling. It had been 4 months since someone came to the ashram. Trilochan ji himself is an engineer. He was earlier teaching in Delhi, then in Nepal before he joined the ashram school as the principal and before he realized, all the responsibilty came on him but without any authority. The ashram is in a deteriorating state and he would love to keep it maintained and make it like any other thriving ashram but he has little say.

The kitchen we cooked in was made by him. He has made a lot of contraptions for bringing heavy stuff up the mountains and for his children to play with. I loved hearing his views on education and how teaching smaller children makes you evolve teaching methods and teaching older kids keeps one updated. He would love to be with his kids but he considers the ashram school children also his children and he says he can’t leave them and be with his family just like that.

Later we sat in the library and looked at Sunderlal ji’s pictures at various events.

SundarLalThe library has an amazing and extensive collection of books on environment, rural development, ayurveda, Gandhian principals and quite a few other topics. Trilochan ji said that in the last 14 years he has read almost all the books in the library. It was sad to see that so much wealth of information in the library is not being used by anyone.

We slept around 10 pm. We were told that there is only one taxi at 8am from a village half an hour from here for Lamgaon and if we miss that we would have to wait for one more day. So we decided to start from ashram at 6:30 am. This morning we woke up early.

Trilochal ji had already started making food for us. We helped him in the kitchen, and, packed with lunch and a quick wheat flour porridge breakfast we finally started at 7am. We reached Chamoli in time for the taxi but then the taxi didn’t move till 10:30 as it was not full!
And that’s when I found time to write this post 🙂 Now the taxi has finally started and I shall send this post to my dear husband to put it up online. For some reason, I am not able to post on wordpress from here and am very grateful to Sikander for helping me with keeping everyone updated!

More about our journey to Uttarkashi and the people we meet on the way soon 🙂

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