Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why Traveling makes me feel Alive Is Awesome

This is my tenth post for the Alive Is Awesome Blogging Campaign.

I quit my job in 2009, just nine months after I had joined a well paying corporate job in one of the best cities of the country. I came back to my small yet happy state, Himachal Pradesh. Gradually, I started exploring all those places I had always wanted to see but could not see for no apparent reasons.

I bathed in filthy water, enjoyed sand bath in the middle of the silt ocean, and enjoyed walking over the snow covered mountain passes. Cinthol's Alive Is Awesome Blogging Campaign not only gave me a reason to express my untold stories but it also made me realize that traveling is an integral part of my life.

And why my life, travelling and getting to know new places is something everyone should know. Its during these journeys only, human beings get to know their real selves. Its only during these journeys, in the wilderness, on the top of a mountain, or in the middle of an ocean, human beings start respecting their lives even more and the spirit of Alive Is Awesome comes to the fore.

I have jumped in the furious waters of River Beas just to see how it feels.

I have jumped in water covered with algae not because it was too hot but because I wanted to make the best of that moment.

Traveling made me believe that although my weight is just 58 Kgs, I can handle a 200KG motorbike very well. The odometer reading on my bike says 40,000 kilometers, which is a proof of the same.

Traveling enables me to see the better side of life. I once bathed at a place where they used to burn the dead. There is not much difference between the dead and the living ones, except for the choice to live.

Traveling gives me the reason to love. While one travels, one gets to meet people for very short spans and the best one can do in that short span is to spread the love. On the larger scale, our lives are also very short, the best we can do is to spread the love.

Traveling gives me the reason to live in the moment. When you start living moments, life automatically becomes peaceful and beautiful.

Traveling teaches me to expect the unexpected, say thanks to the Universe for whatever is being given and move on. Once I was stuck in heavy snowfall and I almost fell down a 100 meter cliff. That day I realized, If I had died, I would have died an unhappy man.

In short, travelling is the best way to educate yourself. Alive Is Awesome is just not a phrase, it is something more than that and travelling, I am 100% sure, is the best way to experience this.

And In the end, as Mohammed once said, "Don' tell me how educated you are, tell me how much have you traveled."

To be Alive, and to feel Awesome,  jump in the streams, swim against them, and may be one day you will figure out what 'your' life is all about.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bathing in the Dhauladhar Lakes | Alive is Awesome

This is my Ninth blog Post for Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign.

The Himalayas are awe inspiring.

You stand in front of a Himalayan Peak and then think of an incident when you were angry at someone.

If you are not delusional or intoxicated, there are only two words that will come to your mind, "Thanks and Sorry."

Close to the sky in the Dhauladhar Ranges of Himachal Pradesh, there are ten lakes in the vicinity of each other.

I always wanted to bathe in those lakes.


Call for story time :)
As a school kid, I was a great fan of Punjab Kesari (North India's Leading Hindi Daily). On the last page, they would show foreigners jumping in frozen lakes for fun and adventure. I always asked my father If we have similar lakes in Himachal. He said yes, in the Dhauladhar Ranges. I decided to jump in one of those lakes one day. 
This happened in 1999, when I was 14 years old. 
Several years have passed since then. I even lived in Dharamsala for two years where from those lakes were just a matter of few hours, yet I couldn't go.  
Lakes of Dhauladhar
Alive is Awesome videos, pics, and my own stories from the past have now motivated me to embark on a journey of a lifetime, to accomplish a childhood dream. I still remember those foreigners jumping with joy on those last pages of that newspaper.

These lakes are all above 3000 meters from the sea level. The water freezes in the night time. There is no camping base either. One has to hide under the rocks and sheds, bivouacking remains the only option to stay alive.

Still I want to do it?
Yes, because the Himalayas never fail you. Whenever they call, you must go.

I have done many treks in my life but this Lake Trek is something I have always dreamed of. 13 years is a very long period, childhood dreams often get evaporated with time. But this one stayed with me and now because I have experienced the Alive is Awesome joy, its high time that I embark on this journey.

One has to climb three different mountain passes to reach these lakes. Even the names of these lakes are mysterious. Naag Dal (King Cobra Lake), Laam Dal, Chanderkup Lake (Moon Shaped Well Lake) and so on.

Here are some pictures of those lakes.

Lama Dal, Dhaualdhar Ranges

Nag Dal

My Friend Rijul. The Lucky Chap!

P.S. Thank you Cinthol for this amazing opportunity and Rijul for all these photographs.

Cool New Cinthol | Alive is Awesome

This is my Eighth blog post for Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign

Yesterday, I received my Godrej Cinthol gift hamper for Alive is Awesome campaign and after looking at the red package after a long time, all old memories came to the fore at once.

The new packaging and fragrance of the soap as well as the deodorant are awesome. Because currently I live in Shimla, bathing is a huge task, and moreover I am not a great fan of bathing everyday in winters, yet it was the wonderful fragrance of the soaps, that made me jump in the bathroom, twice.

I opened both the blue and red packages. One for the morning and one for the evening. And unlike other 'celebrity soaps' of India, this soap is actually Grade 1, TFM>76%. which speaks about the quality of Cinthol. 

More about TFM in this post later.

And as far as the rejuvenated old look is concerned, the red package reminds me of my old age Superhero, Vinod Khanna. A job well done by Cinthol, I must say.

Old Cinthol Ad: Image Source

Let me tell you something more about Godrej and Cinthol in this post.

Godrej Cinthol is our brand. It is true-blue Indian. Indian not just because it is manufactured in India by an Indian Company but the connection is far more interesting.

There lies a story behind the Godrej Conglomerate, which shows true Indian colors, the bright and radiant color of our culture and tradition.

Godrej takes me ten years back, when I was still studying in the school. My father used to tell us story of one Ardeshir Godrej, who died ten years before my father was born. Ours too is a family of businessmen and my father used to tell this story to me and my twin brother on numerous occasions.

"Ardeshir wanted to establish a company and he did not approach his father for the loan. He approached a family friend and asked him to give him the loan. His reason for not asking his father for a loan was simple. He wanted loan, not a gift. 23 years later, when the decisive moment came, he refused to accept inheritance. His father died in 1918 and as expected, Ardeshir did not accept the inheritance at all. His father was one of the richest men of India."

Pretty unconventional stuff that guy did. Later he took Godrej to new heights and made it on of the best brands of not only India but the world.

Probably, he was the guy who invented the word Alive is Awesome, even if he didn't say it, I am sure he meant the same.

My father concluded by saying, " Saying no to 'unearned money' is a very difficult job. Its probably one of the toughest jobs you might have to undertake.  Make sure you remember Ardeshir when that moment comes."

That was good ten years ago when I was 16 years old. The story is still afresh, and the lesson clearly understood. Again in my college, you know those revolutionary years, I was too fond of Godrej brand, because it was our brand, the Indian Identity!

Then I got to know another major factor about soaps and their quality, the TFM factor.
"Total Fatty Matter (TFM) is one of the most important characteristics describing the quality of soap and it is always specified in commercial transactions. Soap with TFM 75% minimum is referred to as Grade 1, anything below that is Grade 2 and not suitable for bathing. "
I conducted a short research and figured out that every other soap that was endorsed by Bollywood Bigwigs was Second Grade Toilet Soap.

Godrej Cinthol's TFM was 76% and above, which meant it was the only Grade 1 soap available in the market at an affordable price.

Nothing has changed since then. Even today Godrej soap's fall in the Grade 1 category whereas other soaps, which you see your Bollywood legends using on screen are Grade 2. 

There is one soap that claims to protect you from harmful bacteria, its TFM is 65%, go figure!

And, in the end I would like to say, Godrej is Awesome :)

New Cinthol, Good Old Feel

Alive is Awesome | Thank you Cinthol

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Submerged Temple Bath | Alive is Awesome

This is my seventh blog post for Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign

Himachal Pradesh and for that matter India is a land of 'lost' temples. We are busy erecting scarecrows (Statues in Noida, anybody?) but our state has no time to preserve the lost, architectural masterpieces of our country.

Read More at other submerged temples of Himachal Pradesh Loop-Whole

One such site is in Himachal Pradesh, district Bilaspur. It is believed that Pandavas' during the Mahabharat stayed in the Himalayas during the Vanvaas/Agyatvaas. And during their stay in the forests, they spent most of their time in 'Our Side' of the Himalayas.

On the famous Manali-Leh Highway, near Bilaspur, in the middle of the Great Gobind Sagar Lake, there are few temples submerged in the water. During the rainy season, you will not get to see those temples because they are fully immersed in the water during that period. However, if you happen to cross that region in winters, you might see the roof of the temples popping out of the water. The lake is covered with silt and it appears that those temples are trying to break free but the silt is not allowing them to do so.

Me and my friend happened to visit that site long ago. Our main intention was to see the inside of those temples but because the ground was swampy, we could only see it from a distance.

Now with nothing left to do, we decided to roam around. The silt-ground was wide open and we were the kings of that region. We ran here and there and as we reached near the banks, we could spot water deep enough for swimming.

Now, silt is just useless. You can't use it for any industrial process or whatever, however, when you throw silt on your body, it feels nice.

It feels soft, and it doesn't feel unclean at all. Sand hurts, silt doesn't.

Jumping here and there, we removed our clothes and soon it was nothing less than a crazy show.

Two naked guys jumping around like seagulls, throwing sand over each other, making weird noises.

We were easily spotted by people from the road and I can't  even imagine what did they think about us.

Alive is Awesome Jump
As we jumped around like monkeys, an old well-dressed man appeared from nowhere. He was coming towards us and we were wondering about his mode of appearance. He greeted us and because we were already in an awkward situation (half naked), we decided to make it even more awkward  We asked him to record a video for us.

Hesitantly, he took our camera and started recording the video.

The Weird yet Alive Video: Discretion Advised ;)

The video lasts only for few seconds and I bet it could be one of the weirdest videos you would have seen in your entire life. Even today, when I look at this video I can't stop laughing.

And now when I look at this video, it reminds me of only one saying, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I am glad that we danced in the sand like mad animals. I am glad that we enjoyed that 'moment' because life is all about moments we live fully.

I am glad that we did that because being 'Alive is Awesome'

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sand Bath at the Banks of Beas | Alive is Awesome

This is my sixth blog post for Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign

River Beas is one of the largest rivers of the country and fortunately it originates in Himachal Pradesh. It originates from the Beas Kund near Manali (Rohtang Pass).

It traverses hundred of kilometer before reaching a small village in some remote corner of the state. The remoteness can be guessed from the fact that even till date people use boats to travel from one bank to another. The river bed is hardly 50 meters yet there is no bridge. 

The Beas runs very deep and silent at that place, as deep as fifty feet at some points. On a summer afternoon, we decided to break the silence of the Beas and take a bath.

The Beas View @ Amtar

The Beas View at Amtar

As soon as we reached there, we were hypnotized by the scenery. The water was bluish green and it actually looked like a painting. A boat was moving across and it appeared that God had deliberately left that boat on that lonely stretch. 

After looking at that scenery for few moments, we took off our clothes and jumped into the water. The water was damn cold and we decided to relax on the sandy banks of the Beas. Soon one of us started splashing sand all over and within a matter of seconds all hell broke loose. 

Everyone was jumping in the sand, throwing sand over one's body and it literally turned to a mud slinging event. Our undies were filled to the brim with sand and the next best thing to do was to jump in the water and clean ourselves up. The moment was surely alive and awesome.

Even the mules grazing by were looking at us with a bemused look at their faces. 

However, sand was sticky and even after rubbing our backs and legs with stones, we actually did that. we ended up picking sand from each other's back. 

That feeling could truly be called Alive and Awesome.

The boat ride that followed was one of the best rides I have taken in my life. River Beas was silent, deep, as if it wanted us to understand something.

May be the essence of life, "Run Silent, Run Deep."

Alive is Awesome :)

Swim 'Filthy' Green | Alive is Awesome

This is my fifth blog post for Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign

Summers in Himachal could be fatal. This statement might look false to some of you but believe me whenever they talk about Global Warming, I somehow feel that all the 'warmth' of the world is coming to Himchal Pradesh.

Don't believe me?
Well, most of the people from outside Himachal know Himachal as Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Dalhousie, Kasauli, and Rohtang. However, even in these areas temperature has shot up substantially in the last couple of years.

Rohatng's snow doesn't last more than a month after it is officially opened. It takes just 20-30 days to melt snow walls as high as 30 feet.

Shimla never was meant to use fans. People while constructing their houses never left any scope of installing a fan. And today, every household either has a table fan or planning to have one.

The times have changed. The planes of Himachal see temperature going as high as 45 degrees.

We, the unfortunate ones, living in one of those planes could not bear the heat one day. The mercury was touching 45 degrees and it was that time of the year when even the rivers, rivulets run out of water. And ours was a place deprived of swimming pools.

However, for every man made problem, there is a man made solution. Now because Global Warming is a man made problem, so is heat generated by it. So, we decided to find a solution for it. Roaming here and there, we found out that there is a water pool nearby. However, how safe it was to swim in it was not known.

We reached at the spot and water was deep green in color. Now because we have known only two colors of water, one clean blue that belongs to oceans and rivers, and other green water, which is a common feature in our side of the country.

Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, all have green tinge to their water, when they are not full of silt.

Wild Swimming Pool - In the Jungle!
Now because the color was green, we assumed that it was deep and clean. And without giving a second thought, we jumped into the water. Soon we realized that it was cool and filthy at the same time.

The heat was gone and so was the excitement. It was damn filthy and it kept entering our mouths. Just then, me and my friend decided to take a plunge in the filthiness and started jumping around. The algae and other 'essential ingredients' started flying around and soon it was all a filth show.

Everyone was happy to the core and never before I felt happy after being splattered with algae and other 'green elements'.

Alive and Awesome

Sadho Re!

Alive is Awesome - Friendship Personified

Green Jump

 It was indeed an Alive is Awesome Bathing moment for all of us.

After being playful in that green filthy water, we cleaned ourselves up with hot summer tap water.

The feeling remains alive in our hearts, till date.

Green Filthy 'Awesome' Jump
I would give anything to be drenched in the same filth again because being Alive is Awesome.

P.S. A very special thanks to JP and Akash Deep

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Haunted Rivulet Bathing Experience | Alive is Awesome

This is my fourth blog post for the Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign by Godrej.

Himachal is aptly called 'Dev Bhumi' which literally translates into Land of Gods. But the concept of duality lies everywhere and if there are Gods, there sure are devils too. One might believe it or not but when it comes to experience these, heart sometimes fails your brain.

Same happened with us when we bathed in a water rivulet that was supposedly the 'meeting place' of devils.

We were on our way to Pong Dam, to enjoy a nice and long summer bath.

Pong Dam Fields - The ScareCrow!
A Little Information about Pong Dam Lake

Maharana Pratap Sagar is probably the largest man made lake I have seen in my life. There is one in Andhra Pradesh, constructed behind the Prakasham Barrage and the other is Gobind Sagar Lake in Himachal.

However, the Pratap Sagar Lake, popularly known as Pong Dam Lake or Ranjit Sagar Lake is a wonder in itself. It takes water from three of the largest rivers of the North India, Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi. The dam looks like a mini ocean and those who haven't seen an ocean in their lives, can easily be fooled here.

And let me add one more thing here, the lake is actually better than an(y) ocean, I mean in terms of sunrise view. You do not get to see the sun rising from the top of the mountain ranges at oceans, do you?

The Dhauladhar Ranges watch the lake 24X7 and when the sun rises from the behind of these mountains, even an atheist will start believing in God or some supernatural power because its actually not possible to not have a divine hand behind such a beautiful scenery.

The Pong Dam View
We, a group of friends decided to make the best of an overheated summer day. Can you imagine 43 degree Celsius in Himachal Pradesh, well it happens. Not many people think of Himachal that way, but this year the maximum recorded temperature in Himachal Pradesh was 45 degree Celsius.

Where? Go figure!!

Now, when we are talking about adventure trips, bathing in a reservoir as huge as Pong Dam, that's where the feeling of being alive and being awesome originates. What could be better than bathing in the glory of mighty Dhauladhar's. Then the joy of 'Alive is Awesome' surely comes true.

However, as we were passing by the forts built by Himachali Kings, and admiring the architectural beauty of a 1,000 year old Shiva Temple, we spotted a clean and deep water rivulet. The dashboard of our car was showing 40 degrees and mutually it was decided upon to jump into the water and cool over heated brains.

The Haunted Fort

Soon we were jumping in the water, trying to swim against the currents, in which we failed miserably. The water that looked silent from the road all of a sudden appeared murderous to us. We spotted broken bangles, muslin clothes (Red Chunnis'), and unburnt wooden logs at that place. We used those logs to make our 'fun boats'.

Alive is Awesome
Upside Down

Splash of Life!

After half an hour, we started feeling dizzy in our head. Those wooden logs started appearing even bigger. We saw an old man shouting at us. He was pointing his hands towards us and wildly asking us to come out. We decided to come out and that guy asked us to leave that place ASAP.

Wondering what went wrong we asked him. He pointed towards the fort and told us that the king's kids were drowned here long time ago. And those bangles and wooden logs appear from nowhere. We didn't believe him but the same story was told to us by the petrol pump guy and the temple caretaker.

The Haunted Bridge!! 
Another guy told us that homeless guys, infants, and orphans are burnt at our bathing spot.

That sent a chill down our spine.

Ever heard of collective fear? We encountered it that day.

Finally, we realized that we had bathed at a place where in the past kids had died, and currently orphans and homeless are burnt.

We literally ran from that place. We couldn't muster courage to take a plunge in the cold waters of Pong Lake. We simply enjoyed the sunset and came back.

However, in retrospect, it was that haunted bath that made our trip memorable. Problems always trouble us for that moment, however, in retrospect, its only our problems that make our past worth remembering.

That haunted bath reminds us of joy unlimited and fear unknown.

It literally made us believe that being Alive is Awesome.

The Water Jump Bath at Barot | Alive is Awesome

This is my third blog post for Cinthol's Alive is Awesome Blogging Campaign

Barot is a quite, serene, and unknown 'travel destination' in Himachal Pradesh. Barot serves as the reservoir location for the Shanan Power House in Jogindernagar, Mandi (H.P.). River Uhl flows by the small town and  it indeed looks like a dream land.

Barot stands at a height of 2200+ meters, which makes it quite a cold place throughout the year. Noisy waters flowing give a dreamy effect to the surroundings.

Geographically , the location of Barot is quite interesting. The region is divided by the River Uhl into two Districts whereas the River Uhl itself lies in the Punjab. Simply speaking, the river waters belong to the Punjab State because they constructed a power house on the river long ago.

Now, coming to the main point, other than the natural beauty, serenity, and 'weird' status of water rights, Barot is popular for its Water Jump. At Barot, there lies a vertical pipe, aiming towards the sky, somewhat like Iron Pillar (लौह स्तम्भ) in Delhi.

The Barot Pillar is not an architectural masterpiece but just a iron pipe emerging of the ground. It must be 10 meters long. At frequent intervals of time, water shoots out of the mouth of the pipe and goes as high as 25-30 meters.

Being a Civil Engineer, I was wondering about the science behind the water jet but I could not figure out any reasonable logic. The only thing that came to my mind was a nice cold bath under that jet.

And as I have already stated, Barot remains cold throughout the year, and it was underground water, we all were ready for a 'bone chilling' bath. As soon as the first drop fell on my body, I knew it was going to last for quite some time.

It turned out to be an Alive is Awesome moment for us. Some of my friends had come from Mumbai and they were super-happy to dance in the Himalayan waters. Soon it went out of control and the lads starting jumping in the running, bone-freezing waters of River Uhl.

What started from a casual bath turned out to be an Alive is Awesome Bathing Experience.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Snow Bath at the Rohtang Pass | Alive is Awesome

Rohtang Pass is the entry point into the Lahaul and Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. The Rohtang Pass is 52 kilometers from Manali, the honeymooners paradise. Every year thousand of travelers, tourists, and nomads cross this mighty pass by air, on vehicles, and on foot.

I had crossed this Pass on many occasions, on a motorcycle, on a truck, and in a car. However, this time I decided to walk across on foot.

Sound easy? eh!

Before we continue this story, let me tell you an interesting fact. The Rohtang Pass remains closed for four months because of excess snow. Those who have crossed this pass must know how difficult it is to cross this pass because of heavy winds and sharp gradient, which increases abruptly. In winters, when the pass is closed for any vehicular activity, people from the other side of the world (the Lahaul Valley) cross this pass on foot, in deep snow.

So, I crossed this pass during those times, when the wind was fast enough to blow me away, and the snow was deep enough for a burial.

And why did I do that?

Because I wanted to experience their life. And as Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight said, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It was surely a thrilling experience and it reminds me of Alive is Awesome lines. These lines perfectly describe my journey across the Rohtang Pass in deep snow.

To make it more interesting, it turned out to be an Alive is Awesome bathing experience when I fell down twice and snow slowly slipped inside my jacket. The snow was soft and it was impossible to place foot firmly. Once I realized it wasn't going to help me, I decided to let it happen.

Soon I started rolling down and I was all covered in snow. It was the weirdest bath of my life, and most amazing one too. After rolling down for close to 20-25 meters, I decided to apply brakes.

Playing with snow at 4000 meters, that too on the top of Rohtang Top, which literally translates too "piles of corpses" is never a good idea.

But, what the heck!

I did it because being Alive is Awesome :)

P.S. Because I was alone, I couldn't record any video but just photograpgs

Monday, October 15, 2012

Alive is Awesome - The Cinthol Way!

Its been quite some time that I have ventured into the Himalayas. Last Friday, TGIF I mean, I was killing my time watching Gangman videos on the YouTube. Clicking haphazardly here and there, I came across a video namely Alive is Awesome. I clicked on the video and 'tried' watching it. However, the BSNL broadband I have added to my frustration and I closed down the browser tab. A lazy night saddened by BSNL.

However, the line was so catchy that I could not help avoiding it. I decided to sacrifice '1:25' minutes of my life. I let the video stream, waited patiently for more than five minutes and eventually it turned out to be an amazing experience.

The video was about young guys singing a song and splashing water over others and themselves. Now you might ask, what's so great about splashing water on yourself or your friends. There lies the point. It was an amazing video that showed young guys full of life enjoying their escapades by dancing in the ocean, jumping from cliffs, bathing under waterfalls and what not!

Enroute Lake Parashar in Himachal
The video reminded me of my travels, the last of which happened ages ago. It motivated me to be alive again, and do all those awesome things I had done in the past.

Its never too late for anything. And there is always a next time.

Thanks to Alive is Awesome Bathing campaign, my time has come. Next time when we meet, I might be taking bath in a waterfall that falls on a road in the remote valleys of the Himalayas.