- This post is started by BK Mahapatra, I pitch in later
by B.K. Mahapatra
“I AM JOSHI,WHO ARE YOU ??.”
… a Pahadi looking youngman with a boyeesh face, a broad grin and a lot of enthusiasm , was stretching his hand to me in greeting.
I am Joshi, who are you ?
‘Hello’ I said, feeling a bit ‘lost’ , not knowing how to react to the second part of the question: so humble an expression , with so much of closeness, confidence and affection all packed in that strange question ….’WHO are you … !!??’
(I am laaappphhhing , as I am writing this).
It was 4.20 pm on 21st Feb ’18. The luggage were just arriving in Belt no 2. Wife had gone to fetch a trolley , and I am trying to do a herculian task of tracking both , surely can’t afford to loose either.
HEY… BK ! a 5′ 8″ tall , American looking with Nepalese voice pounced on me…
Took a split second to recall….
Hi Ghimre….. H..O..W.. ARE …YOU..
“Here we go,”… he said with his American-Nepalese (half clear) voice…
Haaa… Has a… haaa..
Another round of laughter…
American looking, Nepali voiced, Ghimre
How…is… life… Upendra , you have to pay “penalty” for having come alone !!??, I said, after noting that Upendra Joshi has come alone. Mrs Joshi attending to their new borne Grand daughter’s … In USA, he appologettically replied.
We have been talking for this “Kerala Get to gather.”. for last 8 months, and here we are, after a Longgg.. Longgg, 45 years .. ever since we left our Almamater REC-ROURKELA , Batch of 1973.
There on the right side was the most surprising thing.. the bonhomee of the wives, who have never met all through the life and are meeting for the first time and are giggling to their fullness of heart, as if they were known to each other for the life. Indira, (my wife) introduced Sobhna (Mrs Ghimre) to me and I introduced Upendra Joshi to her.
45 prime years of our separation had just collapsed, to a fraction of a second, in reconnecting.
After All, it is the RENGCOLIAN bonding ( Araldite is not even a distant comparision) of “NITRAA 73” Batch of (the than) REC-R.
‘Here we go’… on the “Kerala Meet and Extension” tour.
*The Spirited Evenings ”
After two pegs down the thought
no body feels the need to tell a lie;
And in room no 106 of Hotel Royal Park the evening session of Mens’ club, is on, as usual.(venue changes …of course)
Our spiritual leader, Rakesh Bhaskar
Joshi unpacking a new bottle Bagpipper (name not sure, whats in a name), Rakesh pouring the third (small) , Ghimre hiding his glass after two big ones, Coln RP his second (he joined late) , I was holding my glass covered in both hands to hide the level from being noticed, lest I shall be pulled up for not keeping pace… haaa.. . haaa. We all were narrating the turning points of our long and , some times , arduous journey of life very personal very intimate and very precious moments of Luck and Lustre, Success and Stupidity, how we have Learned and Lamented.. …(and how we continued the training…thanks to the teachings of our Almamater); and we all thanked the Almighty to have brought us here (and) together here…
I was truly surprised..
While being high on Spirit, unlike many others, each one was talking &”Pure Spirituality.”… *
I think, “Pilgrimmage”, the purpose, is sinking deep in us.
*I silently prayed : “Are You Listening Oh My God !!!, these are my friends*
While munching the Masaalaa Papad, Subhash was holding his fort as a tea-totalar. Words were coming out from the heart, Laughter as loud as thunder, (my favourite), Truth rolled out (absolute or perceived ), in broken English, *adultered by words of Sanskrit*, (God’s own language) as an additional dose for sanctifying the half truths, perhaps () All this the culmination of 40 to 45 years of Tapasya, for each one of us. (*Haa… haa.*..). The evening session of Mens ‘Club, every day is a sort of *Purnahooti”* to the Day’s Yangya……. (forgive me God’s, if you are listening…) .. We are all true Karma-Yogies (!!!)
Well, what you just read is BK Mahapatra’s impression of the Kerala trip. Mahapatra, was our topper in electrical engineering. He always gave me a complex, in fact he did not give me, I gave me, like any body who did well in their studies and had a good handwriting. I used to avoid such guys, I don’t like inequality. When we asked him how he topped or what he did, he was apologetic. He said “I had no interest in anything during those days, in movies, smoking, drinking, girls, kuch bi nahin, what else to do, only study.” He is telling us now, the complex was unnecessary.
Last year, 16 of us, the 1973 pass out batch, with their family, and 5 on their own, had met on a blind date in Rajasthan and “lived in” for 8 days. I haven’t stopped talking about the trip after my return,due to its profound effect it has had on me. Some of them, have started diverting their path, when they see me coming, lest they have to hear for the umpteenth time.. In case you want to read about it here it is (It is optional), https://rajmenonweb.com/2017/03/05/on-a-blind-date-in-rajasthan/.
In the Rajasthan trip, we were meeting for the first time after passing out, that is 44 years. That’s a long long period, to be out of touch, and get inspired to reunite. The spirits overcame the physical slowness, all senior citizens. Everybody parted, to make it again, next year in Kerala, same time of the year, Feb 21. Three pairs, could not make it due to some personal reasons, however, 5 new pair joined, increasing our count to 40. The excitement of meeting new faces, this time after 45 years, continued, while the others were renewal of our love affair.
After assembling on 21 Feb, at hotel Riviera suites, we were all on a bus to Munnar.
A naughty man asked me, can you build in a schedule to meet priya warrier, the winking sensation. A video of hers had gone viral, where she winks at a guy in a song sequence. I told him, well at this age be happy with mine and I gave him a wink. That was a hilarious start to our journey, the whole bus laughed.
The gang in the bus has come from different parts of the world, US, Holland, all zones of the country and for the first time, two of them from Nepal.
Kulu and Kumkum (happy whistler) from Holland
Ghimre with his wife, and the other man Joshi (came alone), said we never thought we will ever meet, after not being in touch for so many years. It was like back from dead to meet experience.
The speciality of this relationship, is love, at this age we do not need anything from each other.
All those who landed in lush greenery of Kerala, got knocked off their feet, when we reached Munnar, the cool weather, made them mutter, now I understand why it is called God’s own country. I felt good with the response, since their enjoyment was on my head. The only man from Kerala in the team, they were all looking up to me, the know all, to make this trip a joyous one. And here I was, a first timer to all the locations scheduled in the program!!!!. Have you heard, nearer to church, farther to GOD.
Two days in Munnar with its tea gardens, Thekkady with its spice garden and elephant rides, in comfortable hotels, we scored 10 out of 10 for that period of the trip.
In a group of forty, it is difficult to hold the attention of every one in everything. In Thekkady at the spice centre, somebody wanted to know what pesticides they use. The guide took a lot of pain to explain how they avoid pesticides and grow quality products. At the end of the talk another guy pitches in with a brilliant question, what pesticides do you use ? The guide looked around with a look ” #$* ” ? Somebody handled the situation with an answer, no pesticides used, chalo, let’s move.
Another conversation between Lambu, the electrical devise man, asking the guy sitting next to him, do you know what is IoT ? No, came the reply.
What ? You should know about these things. You are so back dated.
Tell me what is it?
On my way home I can switch on the AC inside my house. Home automation is possible, I can switch on the geaser before I reach home. It is a network of data, electronics, devices, software, sensors and so on.
Have you heard of AI, artificial intelligence, do you know who is Sofia robot ? No.
No ? What do you know ? She is a Robot, who can converse with you and has been given citizenship in Saudi Arabia. The future is all about AI, Big data, crypto coins, IoT, etc, etc… the other man did not ask what is etc.
This is the tone of discussion, meeting after 45 years. Just picked up the threads from the college days. The listener felt, if it wasn’t for this trip, he would have been left behind.
Anil Singh and his Priyam, what a nice name to have, in anger or love, he will call her priyam. She braved her way through this trip, in spite of health issues. Mind over matter.
The fourth day we are in kalathil resort, in chemmanagiri, another version of the famous Kumarakam,( Google kumarakam), with a large lake as water front. Just sitting there and dong nothing can be exhilarating. We stayed here also, kalathil The reflection waiting to meet it’s Sun
After a two hour boat ride in the lake, in between large and small islands, interrupted by a toddy making and TASTING romance, and a Kerala lunch on a banana leaf, we were back in Cochin, at Riviera suites, our hub for the next three days outing.
During the boating, when the guide said you see that island, it is the largest, in Kerala ?
You mean all others are smaller than this island ? ( Brilliant question number 2)
Eh, err.. yes.
Next day, we go to Cochin to see the famous synagogue, Dutch palace and the chinese fishing net. A walk in the Jew street, in the sultry hot Kerala weather started robbing us of all the fun part and the grandeur of the place. By the evening, we were in fort kochi for a cultural show, Kathakali and Martial Art, in an airconditioned room, what a get away. When, I thought the day was saved by the air conditioner, I was in for another shock. There was an artist sitting on the stage, applying his colourful elaborate make up in red, green, blue and white colours. After 10 minutes, I had a feeling I am in the artists green room, the wrong room. When people started looking at me over their patience, for explanation , I left the room to meet the organiser.I asked the lady in charge, what’s going on, in that room, the silent room, are we in the wrong room. She said, watching make up, is part of the cultural show. I told her, this way you cannot promote Kathakali. There are 40 people in that room looking like dumbo, not knowing what’s happening, and I, dumber not being able to explain. These people will go back home and warn people not to go to Kerala because there is a horror art called Kathakali. Please send someone to explain. There is nobody here today to do that. I asked them if they had any printouts or pamplets to share the goings on. Shall I give you a print out ? Yes, please. How many copies ? Ten. She took ten printouts and I distributed it in the hall when someone suggested, Rajendra why don’t you read it out, aloud to all of us (punishment!). I went near the stage and read from the print out, while the artist on the stage was silently going through his elaborate make up.
From the write-up, we came to know of the significance of the colours on the face of the artists, certain combinations representing evil, others the good and Divine, in the episodes from the Indian epic Mahabharatha.
Finally, after a long wait, an artist was up on the stage to show the nava rasas, the nine emotions on the face, to the beat of chenda, drum, with an explanation in the background. There was another breath taking episode played by a few kathakali artists and the evening concluded with a heart stopping performance in martial arts (kalari payattu) by a group of youngsters.
Rakesh and Vandana, the coolest
At the end of each show, every team member went on the stage to take pictures with the artists, thanked them for a lifetime experience. The misery by the weather during the day was completely wiped out and replaced by magnificence of the evening provided by the great artists. I am ashamed of the way I started talking about the evening.
The last day of the trip had a surprise element introduced, to the delight of many. A visit to the Adi Shankaracharya ashram at kalady.
At Kalady. Kumkum, Aruna, Sudha and prema bracketed by Joshi and Dhir
The trip concluded with a dinner, in the presence of two lady social entrepreneur, Indu Menon, Lakshmi Menon accompanied by Suma Nair and Dr Gopalakrishnan, my innermost circle of relatives. Kannan bought items from Indu Menon, handloom towel and paper pens with seeds and wicks made by aged women from senior citizen homes from Lakshmi Menon, and gifted it to all of us.
Pen with a seed
Gift from Kannan
The recent noble act of Lakshmi menon :
There is an extension to this tour, a pilgrimage tour of 4 days that covered, Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum, kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Dhanushkodi and Madurai Meenakshi temple from which I had to withdraw at the last moment, attended by 20 of them among the 40.
1. The last day had two other significant acts, one by Raju Pati, who had withdrawn from our trip, to be with his convalescing niece in Vellore, took a day off to be with us, and Vineet joined us in the evening.
Dhir’s yoga class, Pranayam in progress
3. Thankful to Vidya ji and Lal Bahadur for making the trip inspite of her limitations of physical freedom. She would join our programs wherever possible, and stayed in the bus when she could not participate.
Vidya ji and Rangeen (Lal) Bahdur ji
4. There is BK Mahapatra who postponed his eye operation to make the trip.
Mahapatra ji, with Subhash, ready to drown
5. Suresh Mehta and Shalika, gave priority to be together with us, above their other schedules.
Suresh and Shalika (the only not yet senior citizen in the group and a grandmother of a 15 year), singer couple
6. Piyush Alok and Sudha , joined us in Munnar, two days after our schedule
Alok Piyush and Sudha
Others,I do not know what odds they put aside to make the trip.
7. Our thanks to Ramesh of Indoworld for the excellent trip.
8. Thankful to Ganesh, the man who drove the 49 seater bus through difficult terrains and the traffic and reached us back safely.
9. The guide, Radhakrishnan, was a wonderful help with Vishnu, who shared his knowledge of munnar and thekkady.
10. The guide in fort Cochin Antony thommen, had the history of fort Cochin on his finger tip or better, tongue tip. He has authored a book “Fort Cochin”, a classic guide cum novel, some of us bought it from him.
You can give any name to the spirits of these guys which summarised their actions. One thing we know, this is for real and permanent, the love.
Suresh mehta enjoying the Sun movement, while Col Tripati and Mahaptra, decides to parcel it home.
And then they said this man was stressed, does he look like ? He is the one who enjoyed the most.
Sabhani (who lead the first meeting in rajasthan) and Geetha
Colonel Tripati with his star wife Gargi, yes she is a TV actress.
Kannan, sitting in Boston, was a great support , right from the planning stage of this trip separated from his wife (in this picture only), with the single participants, Pradeep Srivastava, Jitender Dhir and Suresh Durgan
There is Aruna Kannan with sanjuktha, celebrating Prema’s birthday. Aruna, sent kannan for the Rajasthan trip alone last year, when she realised she is not going to miss the fun this time. Why should boys have all the fun ?
Sanjuktha patnaik the lady leader of our team, kept the team entertained with her yoga support, group games and singing. Thank you.
Finally, we have Aruna and Kannan together
Bhagat ji with Durga, see the shadow directing them to get closer, already a close couple
Prakash Ghimre and Sadhana, all the way from Nepal, meeting us after 45 years.
Subhash and Manju Mathurvarvaisya, no onions, no garlic, made our lunch sessions spicy. She stitches her dresses,she wears
Ramesh Chandra and Daksha Kothari. Ramesh an industrialist in Raipur, going great guns
Naresh chandra Taneja and Sarita from Hari ka dwar se, we realised that we were also in school together.
Sit there Mahapatra, you can take over the pilgrimage trip after the photo session. Indira, holding him down. Prema and me behind
Dear friend , Mahaptra lead the team of 20, in continuation tour we called Piligrimage tour, ably supported by the Guju couple, Suresh Mehta and Shalika, with their tamil, in Tamil Nadu piligrimage trip
Appreciate the stamina of the stalwarts
Over to B.K Mahapatra, once again
*KERALA TRIP* (My story)
“If you have Nothing to do, Don’t Do it Here” is what I professed and practised during the best part of my carrier. No chit-chat … no time pass…. all Serious and work with a focus. Reflecting on that , today I recollect …”All work and no play, makes Johney Dull a boy”….. that was life., any way.
Now, just a nine years after retirement, I am here, doing just the opposite. “All Fun and No work”. And a good 40 of us including our better halves. There is a Focus though: Meeting the Bubbling Batch Mates and their Brilliant wives …The Nitraa/Rengcol 73., Annual re-union meet, this time at Kochi….The Kerala Trip.
After a winding 8 days of whirlwind bus journey, in a cool and comfortable Volvo bus, in the lush green hill roads of Kerala, the beautiful-9 manicured (looking) Tea gardens of Munnar , hours of Boat ride in and around the stretched Blue waters of Periyar lack , (around ) the lonely Islands (more than a hundred Islands,we were told, mostly uninhabited or sparsely habited, with thick and beautiful Coconut groves, ….. and more…. and more…, Rajen was feeling a little relieved , and I was getting ( that much ) worried , as I have to stear the second part of the trip, the PILGRIM Trip for next 4 days.
INDO, our tour operator, had made excellent arrangement for travel and stay, but that is not enough. The purpose is different Here. It is the “Darshan” that counts. After All it is the “Pilgrimage ” aspect of the reunion tour. Other arrangement apart, you should know how to beat the Long Long ques at the temple entrance itself, push the crowd (without yelling and being pushed back), catch hold of the right Priest and get as close as possible to the Sanctum Sanctorum; and get the smallest drop of ‘Padukamrutam’, or a tiny touch of Chandan (sandalwood paste) tikka on fore-head(applied by the Priest) and get a full view of the “Aarati” of the Deities (Wow, real icing on the cake), if you are lucky to be there in time. GARGI Ji, you scored over us, being at right place at right time, at the Shri Padmanabha Swamy temple (Richest temple of the country perhaps)… Lord Vishnu in *Anant shayanam* Pose….
And all that, while keeping together the flock of Liberated Birds ( 20 of us the, balance lot have retired from the tour ) , while quick stepping the Long corridors ( feels like half a km each ); negotiating Serpentine bends around them , we were told it is 1212 Identical Pillars with amazing Accuracy and Architecture, at Rameswaram temple alone. Similar are the case with many other South Indian Temples , that we visited during the four day Pilgrim trip, (the Padmanabha Swamy temple at Trivandrum, the Meenakshi Amman temple at Madurai , Devi temple at Kanyakumari, in addition to Rameswaram of Course, ….. )
The visit to Vivekananda Rock memorial was unique. Standing on a huge elephantine black monolith rock , the Memorial is maintained spotlessly clean and constantly washed from all around by waves of the Confluence of Triple water-masses (the bay of Bengal, the Arabian see and the Indian ocean), refreshing in us the memory of the resurrection , revitalization and spreading world over, of the Indian Religion , culture and Philosophy by , Swami Vivekananda, the Rock solid personality , with courage and conviction, of the oldest of the living Religions of the world, the Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). This is the tallest of the modern harbingers of the Cultural Messiahs.
The statue stands on the top of the Rock . We bowed down in reverence and respect at His feet . Statues of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansh and Sharada -maa, are equally reverable, (all in the same hall.)
The chanting of AUM in the otherwise ‘pin-drop’ silence of the meditation hall, was worth an experience.
Filling the hearts with Love, Respect and Joy ( of visiting the southern most point of India), We moved on for Darshan of Devi Kanyakumari and our onward journey.. continued on day two of Pilgrim trip.
Joshi standing out, in the crowd
The end point – Dhanushkodi
|Rajendra & Prema Menon|
|Bijay K & Indira Mahapatro|
|Subash & Manju Mathurvaisya|
|Anil & Priyam Singh|
|Chandra Bhusan & Mamta Misra|
|Ravinder P & Gargi Tripathy|
|Uma & Sanjukta Patnaik|
|Naresh Chandra & Sarita Taneja|
|Kannan Vembu & Aruna Kannan|
|Piush & Sudha Alok|
|Rakesh & Vandana Bhaskar|
|KP & Durga Bhagat|
|Arvind & Kumkum Kulsheshtra|
|Lalbhadhur & Vidya Rai|
|Ramesh Chandra & Daksha Kothari|
|Ramesh and Geeta Sabani|
|Suresh and Shalika|
|Prakash and sadhana Ghimre|