After my close encounter with snow and the past, I returned to Larot. There the owner of the hotel, Biharilal Ji told me about an undeciphered ancient script that is etched on the walls of a nearby temple. He accompanied me to the temple. The photo below is the script. He said that many folks have tried to decipher it yet nothing conclusive has come of their efforts. But, if you look at it closely it does seem like Devnagri. See the second, fourth and fifth letters in the first line look like न म and ग. If any of you know anything about this script please leave a comment.
Biharilal Ji recommended that I visit the newly built wooden temple in Khasdhar. Now at this moment, my entire body was aching due to the last three days of riding on ass-breaking roads. After much thought, I headed to Khasdhar. The 8 km winding road to Khasdhar was a back-breaker. I regretted my decision all the way to the top. And, what’s worst is that the temple didn’t deserve the pain that I felt in my neck, shoulders, back, and ass. After visiting the temple, I decided to chat with the village folks who were sitting in the square. One old lady saw my backpack and thought I was a salesman. She asked, “Kya laye ho bechne ke liye?” (What have you brought to sell?)
Just as I was about to leave, Guddu – one of the villagers, asked, “Why don’t you stay here?”
I said, “No no I will head down.”
Just as I sat on the bike, I felt the pain in my butts. I asked Guddu, “Is the offer still open?”
He gave me a tour of the Khasdhar village. Could you believe it that 80% of the houses in the village have no toilets? I also learned that farms and orchards are tended by Nepali migrants. Himachali owners, rich or poor, do very little farm work in these parts because the Nepali migrants work for meager wages. The Nepali migrants either live on the lower reaches or on the fringes of the villages since they are considered second-class citizens in these neck of woods.
During our stroll in the village, we ran into Master-ji, the principal of the local school. Villagers respect him for his education and benevolent nature. He invited us over for drinks and snacks. He was definitely a cut above the rest. Well educated and well traveled, he knew a thing or two about politics, economics, agriculture, and education. But, there was one thing he said that struck me, “We must kick them out of the country if we want India to progress.”
I always thought the politics of the plains doesn’t reach these pristine mountains. I was wrong. The very next day, a tall and seemingly educated man walked into the Patanjali shop in Rohru.
He said, “Give me a shampoo.” The store-owner put a shampoo bottle on the counter.
He said, “No, not this shampoo. The label has their color. Give me one which has our color.”
I couldn’t control my anger and asked the gentleman, “Do you have apple trees in your farm?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “What is the color of their leaves? Have you considered coloring them saffron as well?”
I had him and he knew it. He smashed the door on his way out. Both the green and saffron Patanjali shampoo bottles sat harmoniously on the counter.
Together we are tearing down what was once a proud and multicultural nation. Have we not learned anything from our history? Will we repeat the same mistakes? Do we want to stand divided and conquered? The next great war will require no guns, tanks or even an army. The puppeteers have sown ample seeds of division that the populace will fight with knives, forks and whatever else it can lay its hands on.
Ab ki baar . . . . Make The World Great Again!
The Road out of a Postcard
The road from Mori to Naugaon is postcard perfect both in condition and scenery. I will let the pictures do the talking.
The Revolutionary on the Road
Halfway through the road, I stopped at a roadside shop. The shop owner was a revolutionary who fought for the separation of Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh.
“We demanded a separate state because the politics of the plains can’t be applied to the mountains. Life and challenges are different here. But, they gave us Rishikesh and Haridwar even though we never asked for them. Now it is the same all over again. The state budget money is being flooded into Rishikesh and Haridwar and hardly anything reaches the mountain villages. Politicians who contest from these villages run to the plains the moment they are elected. And the mountain folks are simple. During the elections, these politicians give them sharab, shabab aur kebab (alcohol, parties, and mutton) to earn their votes.”
He took a sip from the ordered tea. There were non-existing teardrops in his old eyes. He said, “You should see the sorry state of government schools here. The appointed teachers elect some village boys to maintain order in the school and they leave for the plains. They will teach when an education inspector is about to come. There are entire villages have been abandoned due to lack of basic amenities. And, the youth of today is busy on his cell phone. These things don’t bother him. We didn’t fight for this and there is no one left to fight.”
There was a look of defeat and disgust on his face. The revolution had failed him.
The Unread Letter
In Mori, I sat with my feet in the crystal clear waters of Tons River. I felt her presence next to me. I have never seen her or met her. Yet I have always felt her. I will never find her but I hope this letter finds her.
From undeciphered scripts to unread letters, the journey is complete.