Featured

E for ELEPHANT EMU EGG

Once upon a time there was a very large animal who had a tail at both ends, one in the front and one at the back. Isn’t that funny ! How do we know which is the front and which is the back when the front is called a trunk ! Shouldn’t it be at the back ? Anyway, let’s go on. So this very large creature also had very large ears which were as big as fans and when they flapped, it did keep him cool.

One day the elephant decided to walk to the river and drink some water as it was a very hot day and it was feeling very thirsty. As this creature with the very large body, two flapping ears and two tails was walking to the river he met a very big bird who was sitting on the ground. It was funny looking bird with a big beak, large eyes and a big bunch of feathers just like a cushion.

The bird looked at the big creature walking by and started laughing. It said, “Hello ! What are you ? Are you a mountain or are you a building ? Oh ! But what are those two things hanging, one in the front and one at the back. How do you know which way you are coming or going ? And what are those two big flapping fans on either side of your head ? Can they make you fly ? But that’s not possible because your body is too big even for those fans. You must be an alien ! Ha ha ha !”

The elephant looked at the funny bird sitting on the ground and said with dignity, “I’m an elephant.I’m very strong but very gentle or I would have wound my “thing” which is actually a trunk around your neck and sent you flying into the air which is actually what you should be doing since you look like a bird. Why are you sitting on the ground, pray?

EMU, ISN’T IT A FUNNY LOOKING BIRD !

The bird said, “I’m an emu and I’m sitting on my eggs. They will hatch in eight weeks. Till then I’ll sit here, losing weight as I cannot leave them as other animals can get to them.”

The elephant said, “you must be a strange bird because you are sitting on the ground and not in a nest like other birds. You cannot fly like other birds and, if I’m not mistaken, you are a papa emu and not the mama and you are hatching eggs!”

The emu felt very embarrassed hearing what the elephant had to say about him and said, “Maybe, I should not have made fun of you without thinking.”

The elephant laughed good-naturedly and said, “ It’s all right. We can still be friends. I’m going to the river to drink water and I know you can’t leave your eggs so I’ll bring back some some water in this “thing” or trunk. So the elephant did just that. He brought a lot of water in his trunk and sprayed some on the emu too cool him down and some in a hole in the ground for him to drink.

The elephant then went on his way lumbering on his pillar like legs. The emu looked at him from behind and blinked his eyes and thought to himself, “But how does the elephant know which way to go? He has a tail on two ends ! Maybe, he just follows his instinct.”

Moral : People who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others .

Shipra Shukla

Featured

F for FISH FOX FIRE

A fish once swimming in the water realized that life is very dull. There is only water water everywhere and I do not even drink water. And all I can see are other creatures just swimming away. This is so boring. I want a more exciting life. Maybe, life outside the water may be more exciting.

But how can a fish get out of water ? She’ll die. So what was she going to do? The fish thought and thought for a long time and then came up with a brain wave. She thought, there is a turtle swimming there, why don’t I ask him if I can sit on his back and when he pops out of the water I can see the world and when I’m not comfortable he can sink into the water again.

So she did just that. She asked the turtle if he would help her to see the outside world by sitting on his back. The turtle was a kind soul so he agreed. Now the fish would sit on the turtle’s back and watched the outside world with wonder and when she felt she was getting out of breath, the turtle would sink into the water.

THE FISH WHO WANTED TO TRAVEL

As time went by the two became good friends and the turtle started taking the fish to new places. One day he even left the sea and paddled into the river which was emptying itself into the sea. It went upstream where the fish could see trees which lined the banks of the river and the little homes of fishermen who lived close by.

As the turtle swam and the fish popped it’s head out of the surface of the water she saw an animal on the bank of the river lapping the water as it was thirsty. The fish was curious so she asked the turtle to slow down. The turtle slowed down and the fish looked at the animal with red fur who looked at the fish and said, “Hello, I’m a fox. Who are you and what are you doing perched on the back of that old geezer ?”

The fish said, “I’m a fish and I was bored of life so I decided to see the world. And since I can’t live out of water this is the only way I can and the turtle is helping me.

The fox looked at the fish and thought to himself, “What a juicy morsel. But how do I get her, she is in very deep water. If I can persuade the turtle to come to the shallow water, maybe I can jump in and catch the fish. That will be a good meal for me

“WHAT A JUICY MORSEL !”

Now foxes are very clever creatures and wily too. So he said, “Well, well ,well. You are a very smart fish to want to see the world but, really you can’t see much from the sea or even the river. The world is much bigger and there are very exciting things to see. Why don’t I show you the really exciting things to see!” The fish said, “How is that possible ? I can’t live outside the water. How will I see all these exciting things ? “

The fox licked his chops and said, “It’s very simple. I’ll get a bucket of water and you just jump in. I’ll carry the bucket by its handle in my mouth and carry you around the world and you can pop your head out and see all the wonderful creatures and other stuff. You will not believe your eyes when you see these exciting, interesting and wonderful things.”

Listening to the fox the fish was besides herself with excitement. She promptly agreed and although the turtle told her not to, she promptly jumped into the bucket that the fox ran and brought and filled up with water.

Now the fox trotted on the path leading out of the woods, holding the handle of the bucket in his mouth while the fish popped out its head to see the world. She was thrilled but was also getting very uncomfortable as there was not enough water in the bucket and as the fox trotted some of it would splash out. You see the fox was in a hurry and you can guess why.

THE FISH WAS NOT COMFORTABLE

The fish asked the fox to turn back but he said he wanted her to see the most wondrous thing in the world first and then he’ll take her back. Since the fish was in a bucket there was not much she could do about it.

The fox trotted on and soon the fish could see an orange glow. She asked the fox what was it, the orange glow. The fox said,” Oh ! That is a fire. Some humans are probably on a picnic and cooking on it.” The fish was very curious and asked the fox to go closer so she could look at it. The fox slowly crept close to the fire but he did not see the root of a tree sticking out of the ground and tripped on it. The bucket went flying and fell on the ground with a loud clanking sound. The water spilt out and the fish fell into the fire. The humans had an extra treat that day because of a certain foolish fish who was now a foolish fried fish.

FOOLISH FRIED FISH !

Moral: Don’t try new things when they are not part of your existence or you will become a fish out of water.

FISH OUT OF WATER !
Featured

New Story published in Writer’s Talk about a fish who wants adventure out of the water . But is that even possible ?

www.dropbox.com/s/89yjm7z70mx525x/August 2022 Final PDF Version of Newsletter (1).pdf

Featured

The Himalayan Odyssey, Palaces and forts and the common touch SHIPRA SHUKLA

This trip has been a yo-yo experience, one minute we are on a wayside dhaba or eatery called Dana Pani ( Dalhousie)eating fresh parathas loaded with butter and a spicy potato curry with a sudden monsoon burst pattering on the tin roof and in a few hours we are in a palace with polished silverware , fresh and crisp linen and deferential waiters serving aromatic butter chicken, fluffy nan and dark, spicy delicious mutton kadhai at the Heritage Taraghad Palace ( Palampur ) and the next day we are in this quite cheesy down market place in a bazaar ( Kulu ) with no view , no lift for four floors and a view of the gorgeous Beas river for which I had to crane my neck but to be fair they have a good cook ! Hopefully Manali will be better than Kullu

But what stood out was that palaces and forts , villas and viceroys, all crumble before time . Whether it be the the Kangra fort fighting off invaders for 3500 years or the Taragarh palace, so elegantly proportioned and speaking of splendid, glittering times when kings and queens lived and loved in obscene luxury, or Elgin house, a graceful, elegant home to Lord Elgin and his family full of Victorian bric-à-brac, cosy nooks and bespoke furniture ; they have all made their peace with time

KANGRA FORT

The Kangra fort is now home to monkeys which roam in packs and look angrily at intruders, the tourists for who it is not a page from history but just a destination to be ticked off in their itinerary. The crumbling fortress which has been at the receiving end of onslaughts by a slew of invaders stands tall and battered, relieved that, at least , now it can bask in the warm embrace of historians and admirers and be left alone to rest in peace .

TARAGARH HERITAGE PALACE

The Taragarh Heritage Palace nestled in the valley with the snow capped Pir Panjal ranges in the background adding to its beauty is a statement to its deference to time . Once a grand palace to Queen Tara, wife of the Raja of Kashmir and grandmother to the 91 year old Karan Singh, it is now a hotel with tourists tramping in its long galleries, trampling on its lush lawns , posing next to its tinkling fountains, waited on by probably the old ‘khidmatgars’ or retainers or their relatives who politely and deferentially serve their peremptory demands . After all the customer is now king !

Even we returned a dish of delectable melt in the mouth chicken dish because we thought it was slightly undercooked. Maybe it was because the chef was in a rush to serve us, hungry as we looked . However, it was whisked away with alacrity and other aromatic elegantly prepared dishes were presented deferentially with equal speed . We felt like royalty, even if it is for a meal and a few days more.

ELGIN HOUSE

Elgin house, home to Lord Elgin and his family sits in a little nook close to the bazaar and bus stand in the town of Dalhousie, named after Lord Dalhousie who gave a boost to the Indian educational system, one of the few good things the English were inadvertently responsible for, besides the post and telegraph, trains, civil services , eradication of thuggee.

Thugs were bands of cruel robbers who lived in society as respectable citizens but took off for days, weeks and months to waylay hapless travellers in order to loot and murder them . And they gave it a religious colour by pretending it was sanctioned by goddess Kali . Muslims too had no problem joining in as it was beneficial to them: no thought that it may be contrary to their religious belief . An interesting parallel to it is the modern day Talibans who use religion as an excuse to kill innocent people !

But back to the elegant Victorian building , Elgin house which is now a home stay and will give you a feel of the Raj days with its delicate china, porcelain bric-à-brac, crisp ginger cookies and again, deferential waiters serving you with ‘your wish is our command’ attitude . All for a price, of course .

And like everywhere in Himachal, the monkeys watch you with greedy eyes, waiting for a chance to grab your cookie , if you let down your guard for a second . One attacked our driver , Nanak Singh, who bent down to look at the tyres of his car. We heard a yell and a scuffle and looked up to see the monkey which had jumped on his back , running away ! I guess, Nanak Singh will forever remember the phrase , ‘monkey on his back’ for the rest of his mortal life !

MONKEYS ARRIVE TO SHARE YOUR TEA AND ( MOSTLY) COOKIES . Some discussion on their arrival but it’s mostly in Hindi ! 😯🤔Nanak Singh is the bloke in grey !😱😂

In conclusion it may be fitting to quote the poet, James Shirley ( 1596 -1666 ) from his poem ‘Death, the Leveller’

The glories of our blood and fate

Are shadows , not substantial things;

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hands on kings;

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Featured

THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE- WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE RACE .

This story is about the angst of the tortoise after he won the race because no one paid any attention to him. The media frenzy was for the fair and funny bunny who was glamorous and lived in a mansion. The boring, brown turtle was quite ignored. We are all about looks nowadays, aren’t we ?

Once upon a time there was a tortoise. His name was Me-Too-Slow because, you guessed it, he walked very slowly, so slowly that the other animals left him far behind. They always laughed behind his back which is, of course,not a very nice thing to do. In fact, it is quite rude.

Me-Too-Slow knew about this and he was very hurt. He went to Banana-Drama, his friend and told him his problem. Banana-Drama said, “Dude, what’s the problem? I’ll just get you roller skates, four of them and you are going to leave everyone far behind!”

So they both went to MallWart and tried on some roller skates for Me-Too-Slow who tied them to his tiny feet and walked daintily forward. But when he tried to go faster all his four legs flew out from under him and he fell flat on his stomach which really hurt. “Ow! Ow!Ow! “ he yelled and tried to get up but his roller skates would not let him so Banana-Drama went to his help.

He tried to lift him but Me-Too-Slow’s shell was really heavy so Banana-Drama took out the skates, put a plank under him and jumped on the other side, just like a see-saw and Me-Too-Slow shot up to the roof with great force. Luckily he fell down on some cushions which were on sale, $2 for 4 which saved his shell from breaking into little bits. Banana-Drama put his hands on his hips and heaved a sigh of relief, “Dude,” he said, “that was a lucky escape or you would have been in a soup, turtle soup !”

Me-Too-Slow shuddered in fear and said, “Banana-Drama you have a good heart but you are not very good at solving problems. You just tend to go too fast.”

“But that’s what you wanted to do, dude, go fast so I was just trying to help you !” Banana-Drama said, annoyed at being scolded by Me-Too-Slow who none of the animals took very seriously.

“At least I tried to help unlike the others who only make fun of him, especially that Hare, what was her name? Oh yes ! Happy Hare.” Banana-Drama thought to himself, “ Ever since Me-Too-Slow won the race from Happy Hare because she had gone to sleep Me-Too-Slow is obsessed with speed because in the next race she may not go to sleep and he”ll lose the race.

To be continued

Shipra Shukla

THE TURTLE WHO WANTED TO RACE THE BUNNY

EXCERPT TWO ( from a different book of the same series ) The turtle who wanted to race the bunny

Once upon a time Me-Too-Slow, the turtle and Boo-Tee-Ful Bun-Nee met in the woods. Boo-Tee-Ful BunNee looked at Me-Too-Slow Turtle walking slowly towards his friend, Peek-a-Boo’s house and started laughing. He yelled at Me-Too-Slow, “Hey slow coach, by the time you reach Peek-a-Boo’s place he’ll be dead and gone. Maybe you can tell some stories to his grand children. Ha ! Ha! Ha !”

Banana-Drama who was swinging on a nearby tree heard him and got annoyed because he liked Me-Too-Slow . He said, “Cool it Booty ! That’s not funny, bunny.

Me-Too-Slow said, “It’s not her fault, she’s always been too fast for her own good, talks too fast, mostly without thinking, walks too fast, mostly without looking, eats too fast, mostly without tasting and one day she’ll trip and I hope she’ll not eat her medicines too fast because then she’ll choke and then the doctors will have to thump her on her back and she’ll…”

The turtle would have gone forever but Banana-Drama who had fallen asleep listening to his talk fell on the ground on his head with a big thump. “Ow ! Ow ! Ow !” he said, “What happened ?”

Boo-Tee-Ful Bun-Nee started giggling, “ Oh ! you had gone to sleep listening to Me-Too-Slow talking. Not only does he walk slowly but he also talks slowly and by the time he’s finished we’ll all be dead and gone and, maybe, he can tell his boring stories to our grand children.”

Me-Too-Slow frowned and said, “ I don’t have to listen to this brash, boring bunny. I’m going on my way, Peek-a-Boo is waiting for me and we are going to discuss many matters over a cup of tea. Besides I don’t have time to listen to the silly talk of a silly bunny who thinks she is funny but actually she’s not, she’s just very empty and full of herself….”

“Whoa ! Whoa ! Whoa ! Stop, stop dude ! What are you saying ? Is she empty or is she full, make up your mind. This is getting very confusing.” said Banana-Drama

Boo-Tee-Ful Bun-Nee giggled, “Oo la la, as the French say, Mr. Me-Too-Slow is very confusing, he’s always going around in circles and on and on and on and that’s why he never gets anywhere.”

Me-Too-Slow closed his eyes and opened them slowly. Banana-Drama was aghast to see that he had tears in them. He jumped down from the tree and patted Me-Too-Slow on his shell, “Dude chill,” he said, “Don’t get hurt by the talks of a certain foolish, furry bunny. You know she’s no match to you.” Me-Too-Slow shook his head sadly, “I know, I know but it still hurts.”

Banana-Drama looked angrily at Boo-Tee-Ful Bun-Nee, “Look what you have gone and done, you furry fashionista ! You have hurt the old one’s feelings.” Boo-Tee-Ful Bun-Nee tossed her head and hopped away. As she hopped she turned around and said, “ I don’t care. He’s just a boring old fossil and his time is up. There is no place for him in our brave, new world.

To be continued

Shipra Shukla

Featured

THE SQUIRREL WHO WANTED TO EAT SWEETS

Once upon a time a squirrel decided that she no longer wanted to eat nuts . She felt it was too much of a chore to gather nuts , hoard them , crack them and then eat them . She also felt that nuts were just nuts , they were not as flavorful as other tasty things like ice cream , chocolates, pudding and pie . As you can see she had a very sweet tooth . She only wanted a lot of sugar . And who doesn’t , we all do . But mom won’t let us eat so much of it so there must be a very good reason for it , right ?

But anyway , this is story time , not lecture time so let’s get on with the story . So , all day long , the little squirrel hung around the branches of her tree cracking nuts with her strong teeth but secretly wishing she lived in an ice cream shop which was just across the road near her tree where she could see many children eating , slurping , licking and enjoying the colorful, cold , sweet ice creams . Some ice creams even had chocolate on them

and others had jelly beans and sprinkles. Oh how the little squirrel longed for them .

One day the squirrel was leaning so far to see a little boy eat his pink ice cream with white swirls on them that she lost her balance and fell straight into the ice cream ! Plop ! Now she was covered from head to toe in the pink ice cream . She smacked her lips and closed her eyes and thought ‘delicious’.

Now squirrels are supposed to run away from other creatures who are not squirrels but this squirrel was so enchanted with the taste of the pink ice cream that she just stayed rooted in the ice cream cone . So the little boy who was the ice cream owner’s son picked up the cone with the squirrel and took him to his father who was in the ice cream shop.

The boy’s father looked at the squirrel smacking her lips and had a good laugh . Then he picked up the squirrel , put her under a tap and washed her in the sink. Then he wrapped a piece of cloth around her to dry her and then put her in one of the ice cream cases which had holes on top of it so she could breathe .

Now all day long the ice cream shop owner would place different flavors of ice cream in the little squirrels 🐿 case . Sometimes it was mango ,sometimes peach , sometimes strawberry and sometimes he gave her a mix of many flavours, kiwi, banana, vanilla , raspberry . The little squirrel was very happy .

In the night the ice cream owner took out the squirrel and put her in a cage . In the morning he put her back in the case because a lot of children started to come to the shop to see the little squirrel enjoying the ice cream . She looked very sweet with ice cream dripping from her whiskers.

This went on for many days . Then weeks . Then months . The squirrel was getting tired of the sweet ice cream . She was also getting very fat because she was no longer running up and down the tree . Moreover, she started to feel sick . If you eat too much sugar you do get a sickness which is not nice at all . She started feeling homesick and longed for her tree and nuts . She wanted to run up and down the tree and crack the nuts . But how was she to do that ? She was no longer free but locked up in an ice cream shop.

One day the squirrel decided that she was going to escape . But how was she going to do that ? Can you guess ?

I will give you one day to go home and write in your own words what you think the squirrel would do to get back to her tree . And the best answer will get a special prize.

I will give you one day to go home and write in your own words what you think the squirrel would do to get back to her tree . And the best answer will get a special prize.

Now let me tell you what the squirrel did .

When the owner of the ice cream shop came in the morning to take out the squirrel from the cage and put her in the ice cream case he saw the squirrel lying very still with her eyes closed. She looked as if she had fainted. The ice cream owner put his finger near the squirrel’s nose to see if she was breathing and the squirrel held her breath .

The owner was very worried that the squirrel was dead. He quickly picked up the squirrel and laid her on the case while he went to call the vet who , we all know , is an animal doctor.

The squirrel knew this was her big chance to escape her prison of sweet things . She quickly jumped up and raced towards her tree. She ran as fast as her little legs could carry her and even though she had put on a lot of weight due to the ice cream she was eating every day for breakfast , lunch and dinner , she was still very swift. She quickly ran up the trunk of the tree and heaved a big sigh of relief when she reached her little nest tucked in the hollow of the tree .

The squirrel was very happy to be back on her tree . She wanted to crack her nuts and eat them as she knew that , not only were they healthy, but also made her teeth strong . No more ice cream for her which had not only made her put on weight but all that sugar had given her a nasty condition that made her feel very sick. And her teeth were not feeling so good and strong .

But never mind . She was lucky she was on that diet for a short while and did not suffer any permanent damage . She was grateful that she had a lucky escape and now , if she ever felt a craving for sugary stuff , she was going to remember the ice cream shop and the craving would go away in a trice .

Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence .

LAND OF GODS published in WRITERS TALK . ARE WE GOING AWAY FROM OUR SECULAR MINDSET ? AND WHOSE TO BLAME ?

www.dropbox.com/s/en6121mih116mr2/August 2022 Final PDF Version of Newsletter.pdf

THE MOUNTAINS CALL … monuments monks monkeys moksha

Travel with us on an exciting road trip through the Himalayan ranges .

The Mountains Call

Monuments, monks, monkeys and Moksha

If one were to make a mural of our recent trip to Punjab and Himachal what would stand out will be the beautiful and graceful monuments, some extant, some crumbling and some which have made a pact with time to allow them to survive the ravages of time and destiny.

A collage of memories

While the golden temple at Amritsar shines bright , it’s glow and the clean marble exteriors and pathways beckoning the faithful and it’s hospitality to all envelopes them in a warm embrace . Food is served 24 X 7 to anyone who is hungry, simple but nutritious food, and if you want a roof over your head, yes , you can stay at the temple, no questions asked. And there is free transport available from the airport. So one was surprised at some healthy, good looking beggars who harassed us till I heard what she was saying , “ Ek suit dilwa do behen ji!” ( Please buy us an ensemble, sister !) WHAT THE BEESWAX !

The Golden Temple, Amritsar

However, this brings me to the second attraction of Amritsar , besides the robust Punjabi food and polite demeanor of the people , you can get an outfit bought, stitched and dropped to your hotel in under two hours.

Food and Shopping , what more does one want ?

As we entered the cooler climes of Himachal, glad to leave the sweltering heat of the plains , we came upon, quite by a lucky chance since our friend who ran a bed and breakfast was booked and away traveling, the TARAGARH PALACE at Palampur which also owes it fame now to the fallen soldier and martyr Vicky Batra whose life story in a recent Bollywood movie, SherShah, had captured the imagination of the whole of India.

TARAGARH PALACE
A CUP OF TEA WITH ROYALTY
THE GRACEFUL GARDENS AND TINKLING FOUNTAINS AT TARAGARH PALACE

But back to Taragarh palace, bought for the spouse of the Rajah of Kashmir , Hari Singh, by their grandson, Rajah and member of parliament and now member of the Rajya Sabhha for decades , Rajah Karan Singh ( now 91 ). Taragarh Palace was so named after Maharani Tara. The abolition of the privy purse in the seventy’s was a death knell to the luxurious lifestyle of the rajahs and rajkumars. If they were to survive, it was necessary to make peace with democracy and the democratic ways of the new age . So this graceful palace was turned into a hotel and ordinary people like us get to live the life of kings and queens for a day or two at very reasonable rates. There is an old world laid back charm of this heritage hotel/palace with the fragrance of raat ki rani , (night jasmine) wafting in the air , locks and fittings which reminded one of havelis and old clubs and army messes , paintings and photographs , sepia toned and Eastman, old time deferential waiters who had an old world and polite charm about them and delectable, aromatic food , elegantly served with crisp napkins and polished silverware. Taragarh was an unforgettable experience, laid out so gracefully in emerald green lawns, with mango trees laden with fruits and cuckoos calling to each other , fountains and pillars silently watching the new guests and wondering where the glittering royalty with their diamonds and chiffons have faded away , only to be replaced by a mixed bag of regular folks , some noisy, some quiet but all awestruck by the historical ambience of this graceful old world heritage palace , TARAGARH !

Having dinner under the watchful eyes of the erstwhile denizens of the palace – Taragarh Palace

On our way to Taragarh the driver stopped at a gorgeous secluded monastery painted in happy bright yellow with bougainvillea and flowery creepers and a bunch of hairy mountain dogs who considered themselves the keepers of the place and set up a frenzy of raucous barking when they saw visitors , one going so far as to attack one of them and was beaten back with a bag . Who or what gave them this sense of entitlement, only Buddha knows !

But further up on a higher elevation of Dharamshala, Mcleodgunj and Dharamkot where the Dalai Lama descended with ten thousand of his followers and found his haven, after being driven out by the Chinese, the monasteries are more people friendly , situated in the very crowded marketplace bustling with tourists, monks , yoga enthusiasts with many fancy eateries run by ‘firangis” as the foreign white skinned immigrants are called ; shops selling Tibetan tankha paintings and, of course, the ubiquitous jewellery and bric a brac shops , all huddling cheek to jowl in small spaces and calling out hopefully to many who have only travelled so far to attain peace and nirvana, away from the material attractions of the mortal world ! What a conundrum!

A bustling bazaar in McLeodganj

Here, like every place we went to in the Himachal , monkeys were roaming everywhere with a strut of ownership . They roamed around in packs, snatching food from the unwary , even attacking when they could do so safely to snatch away a food packet . In the monastery , we chanced upon langurs which are special to India . Their grey fur and black faces stand out from the others but in habits they were no different from their cousins , their only demand and interest was food , wherever and however they could lay their hands on it .

Mother and child . Our driver informed us that the mother and child bond is so strong that even if the child will die the mother will not let go till the carcass crumbles to dust but isn’t that true of all mothers !
Hordes of monkeys can be a traffic hazard but can we blame them as we have taken away an unfair amount of their space !
A langur at the monastery, it was overrun with them !

The maroon chogas and shaven heads of the monks was a recurrent motif of these hilly townships and so was the monkey groups, many with babies perched on their mothers backs or suckling on the elongated, loosely hanging teats of their mothers. The tense and angry faces of the monkeys contrasted strangely with the serene faces with beatific faces of the monks , it was as if the monkeys did not appreciate this intrusion into their space, notwithstanding their fondness for human food , biscuits and pizzas ! Popcorns too !

Mother and child . Our driver informed us that the mother and child bond is so strong that even if the child will die the mother will not let go till the carcass crumbles to dust but isn’t that true of all mothers !

Humans have encroached and overrun their space so they are angry with a reason .

From Dalhousie, with its steep mountains and dangerous roads snakily meandering around its curves and cars teetering on the edges , holding on for dear life , we made a little trip to the Kangra fort . And it was a real eye opener.

The treacherous steep slopes and winding roads of Dalhousie
Elgin house , a whiff and a sip of the British Raj

“You must pass through the gate leg-first, never lead with your head because if there’s an enemy on the other side, you might lose your head.”

Kangra fort has a chequered and violent past but is at peace at last

This advice sums up the history of the Kangra fort as generation after generation, groups of invaders have passed through the doors of these hopefully impregnable fortress and have lost, not only their heads but their arms and legs as well in the process !

The Katoch dynasty built the fort in 1500 B.C.but this dynasty traces its lineage back to 4300 BC. about the time the Egyptians were building their pyramids. Battles and wars was the lot of this hapless fort; they have battled Lord Rama in 3000 BC. , about the time the Mohenjo Dara and Harappa civilization was flourishing and bronze and hieroglyphs were invented. In 1500 B.C. Raja Raja Susarma Chandra fought against the Pandavas in the Great War of the Mahabharata and built the fort of Kangra, just about the time of the Shang dynasty of China and the earth quake of Konossas.

In 900 B.C. the Katoch kings fought the Persians and Assyrian attacks, just about when the alphabets were introduced and Rome was founded (753 B.C.)

In 500 B.C. onwards Rajanaka Parmananda Chandra fought Alexander the Great and then Ashoka, the great, just about the time the Mayan civilisations, Socrates and the Great Wall of China ruled the physical and mental world. Raja Parmanand was better known in folklore as Porus who when captured by Alexander and asked how should he be treated, famously replied, “As one king should treat another one !” and was subsequently released for his bravery and became a legend.

During the reign of Kanishka, just when Augustus became the emperor of Rome in 100 A..D. the kings of Kangra fought many wars. In 470 A.D. they are fighting the rajah of Kashmir; this was during the golden age of the Guptas and the time Christianity was spreading across the world.

In 643 A.D. , during the time of the Tang Dynasty of China, the great traveler Huien Tsang visited the kingdom of Kangra. Many battles were fought among the hill chieftains, there are accounts of attacks by Gurkhas.

The fabled treasures stocked in the 21 wells attracted the attention of marauders and the rise of Islam and incursion by Moslem invaders subjected this fort to multiple attacks and from 1009 A.D. following the attack by Mahmud Ghazni the fort was attacked ceaselessly ; in 1170 A.D. Mahmud Ghori invited by Raja Jai Chandra who became a byword for treachery and traitor-ship when he invited Ghori to invade Kannauj and attack the valiant ruler Prithviraj Chauhan who, in turn, is famous for romantically abducting the beautiful Samyukta from her forced swayamvara , a method of marriage where a princess could choose a groom from a group of suitors by garlanding him ; in 1341 A.D. Taimuralang and the Tughlakhs were attacking this fortress . This was about the time of Genghis Khan’s reign and the Aztec empire.

In 1556 , the Kangra fort was attacked 52 times by Akbar the great and occupied but the the Kangra ruler were reinstated and given the title of Maharajah .

In 1700 A.D. the Maharajah allies with the Sikh guru Gobind Singh to fight the despotic and religious zealot Aurangzeb and is bestowed the title of defender of the faith ( dharam rakshak ) by the guru ! But in 1750 , the Durranis bestow on the king the title of Rajput Nizam . But the Mughal rule is crumbling and the English are already in control and a new set of attacks are awaiting the fate of this hapless fort .

Notwithstanding the Golden age of the Kangras and the development of the miniature Kangra paintings , the British, Maratha , and Sikh powers were rising just as Napoleon was straddling Europe.

In 1820 the Kangra fort was occupied by the Sikhs , in 1846 the British attach Kangra from the Sikhs ; in 1905 the Kangra fort is ravaged , this time by nature , an earthquake, so in 1924 the British reinstated the Maharajah to his kingdom and even allowed a 11 gun salute !

In 1947, after the independence of India the last ruler of Kangra throws in his lot with the Indian union but this good fortune lasted till 1972 when the privy purse is abolished and titles taken away in the newly democratic country and so the fort once again languishes and falls into disarray !

There is a temple dedicated to, ironically, the Goddess of Power , Ambika Devi , who gave this temple to the Katoch dynasty as a reward in helping her fight the demon . Some brave souls who trek to this fort do come to pay obeisance to the Goddess .

Nature has now taken over and wild creatures , mostly monkeys, stalk the land which has faced the onslaughts of enemies from within and without and still stands tall as a testimony to the spirit of the words of a poet who said ,

The glories of our blood and fate

Are shadows , not substantial things;

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hands on kings;

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

James Shirley ( 1596 – 1666 )

‘ Death the leveller ‘

The river fed by the glacier runs through this blessed land also known as abode of the gods or devabhumi ( Himachal actually means abode of the snow )

If the first leg of your journey begins with a visit to the temple and obeisance to God at the Golden Temple , it is only fitting that in the last one would attain Moksha ! ( The Hindi word for salvation ) And so Moksha riverside resort in the Kasol valley, next to the River Parvati gushing and tumbling through rocks and boulders , brought us the peace and calm and joy that comes to a human life engaged in hectic activity and struggle battling the vagaries of nature and life ; in our case it was overcrowding, traffic jams and once being cheated of our peace of mind by an errant still under construction hotel which falsely advertised it’s attractions ( Hotel Orchard Greens ) and then sold us short with an under construction lobby, laundry strewn in the passages and towels hanging on the exercise equipment and an old Nepali gentleman trying to lure us into the rickety spa room for a massage .

So Moksha riverside came up like a breath of fresh air ; gorgeous view, clean rooms with a thoughtful management taking care of all the nitty gritty stuff, delicious food , great entertainment. No wonder the Israelis have made these parts their home , what with weed being freely available , the usual foreign owned eateries which have upscale , interesting menus, and many trails for trekking for the health and fitness nuts . Kasol valley also has the famous Manikaran gurdwara and on the opposite bank the Shiva temple with its hot springs which is frequented by the ailing and the sick. One could see the smoke curling up to the sky from the springs but did not venture to this tourist destination because tourists nowadays only desecrate every spot they visit by their total lack of civic responsibility! As a result these towns are slowly turning into garbage dumps and Mother Nature is turning in her grave.

Moksha riverside resort
Evening entertainment at Moksha riverside .

So Moksha was a haven and a little slice of heaven and a fortunate end to our little family trip. We could leave with good memories of our Himalayan odyssey.

The beauty of Moksha riverside resort in Kasol , Himachal Pradesh
This view is a constant in the entire trip

Some more images from this very memorable trip .

Well that’s one way to make a living ! On the way to Khajihar from Dalhousie. Khajihar is a typical tourist stop, a stop which made us realize the truth of the phrase , from the sublime to the ridiculous, just like this way of employment in the photograph.
Zorbing safely , in these difficult post Covid times the economy will need a collective push to start rolling just like this ball
Paragliding of sorts !

Dalhousie Public school is massive and just one of the many schools that have made Dalhousie famous ; Lord Dalhousie is credited with setting up a great education system for India . On the way to a typical tourist spot called Khajjihar one comes across these fellows with rabbits in their basket and a “maskali “ on their heads so named after the song from Delhi 6 , one hell of a way to make a living . Khajjihar had zorbing and paragliding of some sort , unheard of in any part in the world , the paragliding consisting of attaching a child to a harness and running with it and then waiting to catch the child before he can fall to the ground .In many countries this may be illegal !
The horse riding too was quite uncomfortable and expensive , 500 rs for a small chukker but so desperate are the tourists for any entertainment after Covid that they were thronging these spots and spending money as if they grew on trees of this verdant spot !!! BTW the slopes here are almost vertical , so steep are they !

Wagah border ( close to Amritsar)
Sabre – rattling at the Indo Pak border at WAGAH
Yaks at the HIDIMBA temple Manali
Dressed up in a Himachali dress and posing with one of those supersize rabbits . Their fur is used to knit fine shawls ( don’t be aghast, they are just shaved , not killed ).Hindus are by and large a very non violent lot,no wonder a majority of them are vegetarian.
KULLU is famous for its apples and fruit trees
The SPITI RIVER VALLEY ( on the way to LEH , LADAKH )
Atal tunnel , 9 kms long and at an elevation of 10,171 feet constructed by the Border Roads Organization( BRO ) which, I can say proudly , was started by my father, Col. B.C Shukla’s corp when he was posted in Simla as an electrical mechanical engineer . Jai Hind
%d bloggers like this: