Sunday, September 26, 2010

Donate Blood – Save a Life

There is no other Noble cause as Blood Donation in this world. Human Body just takes 24 hours to generate the equivalent amount of blood which one donates. Average human body has around 10 units of blood out of which one unit is taken during donation.

Most of the time Blood requirement exceeds the supply, why so? The demand and supply of Human blood is incomparable, as per the available facts annual requirement of blood in India is 40 million Units and the sad part is only 4 million units are available. The pride and feeling of donating blood and giving someone a life back is unexplainable, then why are we running out of it.

Science has not yet found a technique to manufacture human blood hence can only be made available from generous donors. A blood unit donated by you can save lives of three human beings. You never know when you can save a life of small kid who has just learnt to walk or a young life that has zeal to fulfil his/her dreams like you and me or a father whom his children look up.

As per the standards a normal/healthy human being can donate blood every three months, which means 4 units in a year and you can go up to the age of 60 years, so count how many units you can donate till you reach 60, and multiply those units with 3, that is the number of lives you can save.

Most commonly answer from people who do not donate blood is that “They never thought about it”. Till Jun 2010, I was also in this category of never thought about it. In June 2010 I came across a situation wherein someone needed blood urgently and I never gave a thought before agreeing to it. I felt really proud after helping the needy.

The feeling was so noble that I took a pledge to donate blood every three months and added reminder in my phone calendar for next due date for donation.

On 25th Sep 2010 I went to AIIMS Delhi for Voluntary Blood Donation. Since Doctors and other hospital staff understands the importance of blood donation, everyone there was looking at me with great respect when they heard that I have come for Voluntary Blood Donation. They treated me really well unlike their normal style. Donation process takes hardly 25 minutes from filling form till the completion of donation and refreshment.

This time I felt happier than when I donated first time. The difference which I could make is that in my first donation it was not me who took the initiative, someone really needed it so I offered my services there, whereas in second donation it was me who took the initiative for this noble cause.

Looking at our economy and average age of our country (somewhere between 24 to 29 Years) the significant difference in demand and supply makes me really wondering where is our youth hiding? Let’s stand for this noble cause together and carry a feeling of pride of being human.

Based on my experience I can tell you that it has no side effects at all and No weakness. Some words of precaution like avoid driving or travelling till half an hour of donation, No weightlifting or workout at least for a day and avoid any kind of physical stress for 24 hours at least.

Do it once and you will really realise that this is the noblest thing you ever have done and share it with your network with proud, because believe me nothing is greater than saving lives without any expectations, that’s called the HUMANITY.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amritsar – Where Spirituality and Patriotism comes together

Long awaited plan to Golden Temple materialised in Sep 2010, when I decided to go there alone as most of my friends showed their inability to join me. And I started off on Friday 17th Sep 2010 from Gurgaon. The mode was our great Indian Railway, Train Muri Express from Old Delhi Railway Station at 9:15 PM. I left Gurgaon at 6:00 PM, a Big thanks to Delhi Metro that it took me exactly 50 minutes from Gurgaon to Old Delhi Railway Station. I reached much earlier than what I had expected so nothing much to do other than waiting at the Platform watching people moving here and there, hearing the repetitive announcements “The Train No.......... coming via..........will reach on its time and will arrive at Platform No.........” the same gets repeated in Hindi as well, After sometime it starts bugging like anything, moreover voice of the lady is also not so melodious that one would wish to hear it again and again.

It was 8:30 PM when announcement lady announced “Muri Express Train No 8101 is running late by 2 Hours from it standard time, Inconvenience is deeply regretted.” Bloody it would be now 10:35 PM and I would start from Delhi at 11:00 PM only, that too subject to further delays. Finished off Paying Guest packed dinner, finished off watching people here and there, exhausted with boring announcements, what next? Of course FM Radio! Retros and Gazals on FM ate my extra time, but why can’t these reality estate advertisements can be banned at least in the evening. You are listening to late nineties song sitting in open with really pleasant weather and suddenly a boring advertisement spoils the entire mood. Yes we do have a choice of flipping FM channels from one to another.

Finally Train arrived at its so called committed time of 10:35 PM. Got into Sleeper Class, Non AC as I did not get booking for 3 tier or 2 tier. Keeping in mind the weather I had no problem travelling in Non AC. I slept immediately and got up in the morning at 6:00 AM when the train had reached Ludhiana Station. Still there were long 3 hours which I spent by starring at greenery everywhere in Punjab.

Golden Temple

I reached Amritsar at 9:00 AM on Saturday 18th Sep 2010. My enthusiasm to reach Golden Temple at the earliest made me overcome my tiredness. Soon I was outside Golden Temple; last I went there was year 2005 and no major changes till now other than the fact that in 2005 you could take your vehicle much closer to Golden Temple but now Traffic Police would not allow to do so and you will have to walk half a mile approximately.
Yet another thing which has not changed is the Shining Golden Temple. I really admire the administration of the Temple for that. Unlike TajMahal, Its beauty is well valued by people and has been given the right treatment which this piece of architect deserves. From entrance itself the view of Golden Temple standing firm in the middle of water touches your heart. I was wondering whether I had seen Golden Temple carefully in my last two visits couple of years back. It was all together a great feeling of comfort as if I have comeback home and I am completely safe here. As I reached relatively early in the morning I did not have to wait long in the queue. It took me hardly 15 minutes for my turn for Darshan inside Golden Temple. The faith in God can be seen on the faces of people, so many devotees spends hours and hours reading religious books on 1st Floor of Golden Temple and I saw a very old & adorable Sikh who had book in his hands and had slept comfortably. It reminded me of Examination days.

I came across a touching story of immense faith people have in God and in its divine powers. I saw a Lady in her late forties with her son (should not be more than 16 years old). Unfortunately the young boy did not seem to me a normal child. This mother was guiding and holding his hand so affectionately as if she wants to give him all the happiness of this world. I remember how she was telling him all the rituals and importance of the place. It touched my heart when mother held his both hands to receive prashaad and how she moved his hands full of prashaad to touch his eyes. I had tears in my eyes and I just went away from them.

An honest confession, perhaps I never thanked God from bottom of my heart for whatever I have been blessed with. But this day I would remember lifetime that this Mother-Son couple made me realised that I am so blessed and rich and I must thank god for the same. I could not do much other than praying for the little boy who has just started his life.

Unlike Manimahesh Lake, the water here was of normal temperature so dip in holy water was not at all a difficult thing to do. I spent around 2:30 hours in the temple.

Durgiana Temple

After Golden Temple, my plan was to go to Durgiana Temple which is also situated in the middle of the city and not too far from Golden Temple. Durgiana Temple has been made as per the format of Golden Temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. Although it has been made as per the format of Golden Temple but smaller area as compare to Golden temple makes it completely different. Moreover nothing much and exciting here but still lot of people visit this place.

Met a group of five ladies whom I provided my photography services. All were very decent and wanted me to click more and more pictures for them. They chased me in the temple for getting pictures again and again, that too in two different cameras. They asked me to join their group but their next destination Jallianwala Baag Memorial was not in my agenda.

Jallianwala Baag

Board Showing Bullet Marks
As I had enough time, I decided to go to Jallianwala Baag Memorial. There is no specific reason why I did not want to go there. The entrance of Baag is really small and I think that is what made the difference in 1919. In normal course not more than two people can walk together in the entrance so think of the situation when innocent people were fired. You can see bullet marks, Martyr’s well some paintings, a small museum and those who have read books about this memorial can correlate few more places probably. This place seems overcrowded because of its compact size.

A painting kept in Baag
A funny thing I spotted in the museum is that they have kept a note written by some media wherein it is mentioned that one of the British group came in 1996 to this place to express their apologies for what their ancestors have done in Jallianwala Baag in 1919. I felt that it was an insult of martyrs and bad joke cracked by those jokers who came to say sorry.

While coming out I did see those five ladies but I was hungry so I thought I will prefer food than joining this group of ladies. Though Amritsar is known for great Cuisine I had good food but not great food near Jallianwala Baag.

Bagha Border

Time was flying away. It was 3:00 PM and I got a deal in Rs 70 (to Bagha Border and back) in sharing Auto Rickshaw. The driver overloaded Auto and took many breaks for different reasons before we reached Bagha Border. There was a long queue and I had no option than to stand there in queue and wait. It was so crowded as if entire Amritsar has come here. Thankfully weather had turned cool by this time and queue started moving slowly. We crossed three Gates when we reached the great Bagha Border. It looked so calm and beautiful around. Full greenery everywhere, and Pakistan side no more were different.
Soon the entire stadium was full of people, surprisingly no one on the other side. Once I reached in the Stadium where I could see the Gate of Pakistan and flags of both countries at one place, I said standing in long queue was really worth. BSF plays all patriotic songs to keep audience busy. There is nothing but two simple Iron Gate divides two countries and those gates can be opened easily. Slowly the crowd on Pakistan side also had started gathering. They exactly looked like our Punjabi people, there is nothing different that there is a need of sitting on different sides but we human beings are the only culprits to create such differences. When people were sitting on different sides there were few who had privilege to fly everywhere. Yes birds, for them this event was nothing more than a Crowd and noise of people, I wish I could also do so.

Volunteers go onto the road and run with Tricolour till the India Pakistan Gates and come back. People dance, people shout, people clap and what else you want to do there you are free bird as long as you don’t fly. BSF and Pakistani Rangers perform parade for half an hour before Flag are taken off by both sides for the day before sunset. During this time only one can hear is “Hindustan Zindabad”, Bande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jay”, When Indians are making so much of noise how can Pakistan be quite.

The noise reaches the peak when flags are taken off. It is done in such a manner that at one point both Flags get merged and looks like one. That is the time when people make really huge noise and noise for being one and not separate countries. Claps from both sides support this fully. For me also this was the defining moment, after that everything looked so artificial and small that I decided to leave the Stadium. I was going back with a question, how big India was before partition? If this partition would not have taken place we definitely would have become number one by now.

Entire road outside Stadium was flooded with vehicles, so I could not find out the Auto in which I had come. Luckily I got another one who told me to drop me at Railway Station.

For Amritsar Delhi, the travelling did not bring any surprises unlike Delhi to Amritsar. Golden Temple Mail train started on time and reached Delhi on time at 7:00 AM on 19th Sep 2010.

However Delhi Metro gave a surprise when all passengers were asked to get down of the train for 10 minutes for Mock Drill, just one station before my destination. Soon we were told that there is some problem so it will take 2 hours. I started walking rather than looking for some other mode to reach home and guess what ? My favourite ! it started drizzling. What else I could have asked for? Another trip ended with sweet memories and beautiful experiences.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pilgrimage to Manimahesh Lake

My inclination towards God and trekking this time took me to Manimahesh Lake in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh.

Manimahesh Lake is located at an altitude of 4080 Meters (13,390 Feet) situated close to the Manimahesh Kailash Peak in the Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas. People believe that Lord Shiva stays at Manimahesh Kailash. Devotees from various places in the country travel to Manimahesh during Janam Ashthami every year. Normally people start travelling from Aug beginning till Sep end.

Chamba district is not connected with train hence people travel via Road from Pathankot (which is the nearest Train connected city, 120 KM away from Chamba). Even if Chamba was connected with train I would have advised anyone to travel via Road, because the journey from Pathankot to Chamba crosses through the most beautiful terrains, mountains and natural beauty of Chamba district.

The true pilgrimage to Manimahesh Kailash starts from Chamba. Few people opt to go on feet and most prefers to travel via Road till Bharmour (which is 70 KM away from Chamba). Bharmour is very old town and is known for famous temples such as Temple of Sidhs, Chaurasi Temple Complex and only temple in the world of Dharamraj- Yama. Road travel from Chamba to Bharmour is not a cakewalk at all. High Altitude roads, dangerous terrains and risk of land sliding would never let you sleep for a while. If you are not experienced driver on hills, do not try it here, it might cost you a lot. However natural beauty is no less than anywhere else. Apple orchards on roadside and mountains with green colour welcome every visitor. (My hometown is situated 35 KM away from Chamba on Chamba Bharmour Road, called Gehra). Last motor able destination of Pilgrimage is Hadsar which is 14 KM from Bharmour Town.

It takes almost a day for Pathankot – Chamba – Bharmour – Hadsar stretch via Road. Now a days Helicopter services from Chamba to Bharmour and further to Manimahesh Kailash are also available.

Lodging and Boarding is not at all a challenge, because everywhere you will get fairly cheaper accommodation and free meal (Langars).

My journey started on 1st of Sep 2010 along with my Brother in Law. We reached Bharmour by 2:30 PM and were able to start the trek from Hadsar at 3:00 PM. As we started, soon, we were surrounded by colourful crowd moving both ways (up and down). No thorough security check, not a surprise to me because our Himachal Government is too lazy in such things.

Devotion of people towards Lord Shiva many a time made me feel so small, an old lady of around 70 years climbing up with a heavy bag, physically disabled Monk climbing on One Leg, chanting “Bam Bam Bhole” and a young man carrying essential items bulky stuff on back and hardly six month old baby in hands (I don’t know where the mother was?) are some of examples for it.

The total distance from Hadsar to Manimahesh Kailash is 14 KM.
Helicopter services are also available for it.

As we kept climbing the scenic beauty of mountains, landscapes and waterfalls increased. In two hours we reached the first stop over called Dhanchho which is 5 KM from Hadsar (starting point of trek). A small break with Tea and Masala Dosa fuelled enough energy in us to keep climbing. As we were heading towards evening, Monsoon Fog made our trek quite and hectic due to low Oxygen levels. By the time we reached the next Stop-over “Sundrasi” it was complete dark and almost zero visibility due to Fog.  It was 7:30 PM and we decided to keep going after small break with Tea. By this time we started feeling the weight of lighter bags. The only plus point we had that Pedestrians were really in good condition and no rains till now.

The relief at Sundrasi stop-over was that we had covered almost 70% of the stretch and we still had enough of energy to climb further despite bad weather and night. The distance from Sundrassi to Next stop over Gauri Kund is 3.5 KMs. The pedestrian crosses a valley called Bhainro Ghaati. Within 15 minutes we realised that this is going to be the most difficult stretch for us. Low Oxygen, Fog, Night and 75 Degree climb sucked all energy out of us. We took the longest time to cover 3.5 KM and took maximum breaks around 10 times. The only motivation was those little lights blinking on the top of the mountain like Stars. We were dying for food now. Somehow we manage to reach our destination Gauri Kund by 8:30 PM. Simple Rice and Dal tasted so delicious that we enjoyed every bit of it. Yaah, how can we skip Tea in cold weather of 10 Degree.

Now the Sacred Manimahesh Lake was 1.5 KM away and we could see the lights on the top. My Brother in Law was apprehensive about tent availability on Lake so he proposed to stay at Gauri Kund and cover balance 1.5 KM next day early morning. But I did not wish to loose the opportunity to spend a day at Sacred Manimahesh Lake. Hence we climbed. Yes it was difficult but knowing the fact that this is small and last stretch of trek we did not give up and finally we won the battle at 9:30 PM.

It was late night and foggy so we could not see Lake as well as Manimahesh Kailash. We decided to look for a Tent. While we were scouting for Tent, suddenly everyone started chanting “Om Namah Shivay” while looking towards Manimahesh Kailash. When I looked up, there was a light blinking on the top of Manimahesh Kailash. It is believed that this Mani is Jewel on the crown of Lord Shiva. I was blessed one among few hundreds who witnessed this for 7 to 8 minutes of duration. The interesting thing is that the entire Manimahesh Kailash was covered with thick fog and the only thing visible was the Mani. According to a local legend, the moon-rays reflected from the jewel can be seen from Manimahesh Lake on clear full moon night (which is a rare occasion) but in our case the sky was not at all clear, then from where it came? Moreover it is impossible to climb up to the peak of Manimahesh Kailash.

After witnessing such an unprecedented scene I was completely fresh but Mercury of less than 10 Degree forced us to continue scout for a tent to spend the night.

Next day morning we got up at 6:00 AM and when I looked outside the first thing I saw was Manimahesh Kailash with zero Fog, which is again a rare occasion. 90% of people go back without seeing Kailash because weather always remains unpredictable here. The next activity was to take a holy dip in Manimahesh Lake. Believe me this is the challenge. Freezing water and cold winds makes it really a tough task. Very few dare to take a dip into Lake Water. I managed to take dip for two minutes and after that I was unconscious for a while.

Last activity for me was to enjoy the Sunrise on Kailash. As usual I captured lots of pictures and then was the time to head back to our homes.

If you are a passionate trekker then you would know that coming down is far tougher than climbing up. The steepness of the stretch was realised while coming down. One is more prone to accidents and injuries while going north to south than south to north. By the time we ended the trekking portion my feet were completely paining. Thank fully no injuries.

The highlights of the Pilgrimage to Manimahesh Kailash for me are picturesque landscapes, Noisy & breathtaking Waterfalls, Devotion of people towards Lord Shiva, Stay at Sacred Lake in Tent and Mani Darshan.

Wikipedia as always has portrayed the history of Manimahesh Lake very beautifully, see the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manimahesh_Lake

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