Paths and Poems

A poem was born,

When I saw this path:

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Years from now,
in the winter of our life,
when you come back,
we will walk here.
Hold hands, again.
Talk about the colour of our soul
or may be the texture of pain that kept us apart all these years.
We’ll talk about what happened to that little dream cafe of yours.
It wont be a “hey let’s get a beer” conversation!
We’ll talk about the shooting stars of our endless journey.
All this, without a word!
In the winter of our life.
When you come back.
© Daastan-e-Musafir
Place: Chitkul
October,2017

P.S: Romance sells!

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A Bimbo’s guide to Photography

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Pre-Script (If that’s a thing, anyway) : It’s strange how I get an idea in the middle of the night and start writing. How throughout the unending hours of daylight, volcanic thoughts entangle with the mundane colours of life and splash into nothingness. And suddenly, like meeting a stranger on a rainy Paris street, it strikes you, that you have known this person even before discovering their existence.

Similarly a quirky mélange of ideas at the devil’s hour meets me and I pull the pencil off my hair bun and just-start-writing. My thoughts aren’t  processed much, they are raw and honest!

Quick downpour: Read this only if you are a willing shutterbug. Going to a photography school and learning photography are two very different realms.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Remember, a camera never clicks a picture, a visionary does. If you are still there, you need to grow beyond the auto mode.

Here’s what it is:

That picture, up there, makes me feel that I am learning. You grow as a photographer, just like you grow as a person!

So here’s what I started with, the three pillars of photography:

1) Shutter-speed: That sound your camera makes, every time you click a picture is because of the camera shutter. The camera shutter opens and closes for a set interval of time (that you decide). The amount of time your camera shutter remains open is your shutter speed.

Example: I need to freeze the movement of fluttering prayer flags/birds. Since my subject is moving fast, I need my camera to capture the movement quickly, without blurring the picture. So I choose a higher shutter speed (let’s say 1/350). Now, 1/350 would mean 350th part of a second.

On the contrary, say, there’s dark room and I want more amount of light to enter my camera to click a well exposed picture. I will set a shutter speed of 1/30. Now, that means 30th part of a second.

Get that?

2) Aperture, the tricky F guy: It’s just a goddamn hole! No, don’t confuse! It’s a hole in the camera lens that allows light to enter the camera. The larger the aperture, the more light enters the camera. It is measured in “F stops”.

Example: It’s a bright sunny day in Paris, and you are out in one of those cafés. When you decide to click a picture keep the F around, say, 13, or so.

On the contrary, let’s say you are again in Paris, it’s raining and you are in one of those nostalgia shops with those hazy tungsten lights, keep the F around 4.5 or so

Also, if you are reading this carefully, by now you should have a question, how is F 4.5 bigger than F13. It’s like Phoebe, it works the other way around. You’ll get a hang of it!

Take a look at this, Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

Aperture-f-Number

3) ISO: Helps create artificial light. In those dingy times, when you don’t have enough light to expose a frame, increase the ISO. But, life ain’t that easy, my friend, ISO increases the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO makes the available light more abundant to the camera. However, the higher the ISO, the grainier the picture!

Pro Tip: Composition matters! Never cut the feet or hands, be it a human subject or a monument! That’s not even amateur!

So I am saying: You’ve wasted good 10 minutes reading and understanding this, go play with your camera, only then can you understand photography!

 

 

I, write this!

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I write, as the last bidi finds it’s way into the ashtray. I write this at 04.30 in the morning.

Writing, because the backpack resting at the corner of my room, stares at me, with a little dust settled on the un-promised adventures.

Next to it lies a pair of trekking boots, yearning to go out there.

Aching of restfulness, lies a rugged camouflage jacket on the chair.

Next to the chair is a table full of maps.

Maps of hamlets and towns, sleeping at the moment.

Thus, sweet sleeps the travel journal, dreaming of the blank pages to be bloomed by the awaited adventures.

So, wakes up the wandering soul!

P.S : This is dedicated to all you travellers out there, aching of wanderlust! To all the mountain beasts caught in the concrete jungle. I love you all, I really do! And soon, we shall all embark on a new adventure! Until then, I know my pep talk doesn’t help much!

 

Auli, his childhood dream!

Quick downpour:

This story starts at an altitude of 10,000 ft.

498 km away from cabbage-head, Delhi

This is about the euphoria  of exploring a realm surrounded by the revered peaks of Nanda Devi, Chaukhamba, Panch Chuli, Mana and Kamet.

This story is about, the dreamland called Auli bugyal!

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Here’s what happened:

Windows rolled down. involuntary, I craned my neck out like a happy dog. We were about to reach Rishikesh. When about Uttarakhand, Rishikesh always announces the beginning of an adventure.

Auli was sleeping when we reached, late at night. Heavy breathed, we climbed 56 stairs to get to our room in the GMVN guesthouse. Such a labyrinth!

If you are there:

– Ignore the caretaker, wearing a strange monkey cap

Auli  rained its way through the morning, slowly and calmly. It wasn’t a rebellious one, it was one of those rains that sweeps all the sorrows away. Stepping an octave down this philosophical tone, it was raining cats and dogs, plain and simple!

It washed away all my time-lapse dreams, at once.

But as a photographer you are a, stubborn soul! You lurk in the ambush like Satan, waiting for Eve to step in the garden. It did and how…

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This is how I got Leh’d! Literally!

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P.C: Debleena Sen

Quick downpour: 

The other day, Khardungla Pass looked like a college fest, with a certain sense of adventure. A bash where everyone was happy to meet everyone, for the sheer joy of what binds us more than blood-and-brotherhood,

Travel!

The faces, I remember the faces,

they were happy! Their smiles, honest, without any knives.

If you’ve been there, close your eyes to imagine how centuries ago a caravan of hundreds and thousands of horses and camels, crossed this pass to reach kashgar in central Asia. I pictured all that in monochrome, for some weird reason, it has an old world charm.

We lived through the clichéd selfie next to the Khardungla board (which I am too conceited to confess or show, but we are mortals!), pouted exactly like Pummi aunty would have!

Next up, was Khardung gaon, our lunch stop, before we head to Nubra Valley (3 to 4 hours drive).

If you are there, don’t miss:

-Aunty’s “maa ki daal”

-Aunty’s honey lemon ginger tea.

Thank me later!

But you really don’t care about all that, you wish to know how I got Leh’d, and my radar is stuck on  “Maa ki Dal”! 

Okay, here’s what happened: 

Across the dhaba, was Khardung gaon. Lush green valley surrounded by barren mountains with timeless expressions on their curves. Scroll to the end for the image, but read first! Utterly fascinating!

A picture perfect, quaint hamlet! I jumped off the dhaba stairs, crossed the busy road to face a wall between the village and my camera.

Damn the wall! You really don’t want a wall to spoil the frame. So, you climb!

Now apparently, all the Godforsaken walls in the world are not for Sunny Deol to break! Even I could break one or two. So I did! (If you took that literally, sarcasm is not your suit!)

What followed, now seems like a quick scene stolen from a Tollywood drama. Let’s go back to the scene.

The sky blazed blue with heroism when I stepped on the first stone of the wall. Hopes were high, and so were the stakes!

Next two steps were encouraging. Just like the girl-at-work, you thought never noticed you, but today morning, she smiled at you! Yes, that encouraging!

The fourth step was me running to kiss the ground and all the stones of the (then) wall, running to kiss me. I kid you not!

Hence,

Capture

However, two endless days and night, lived between, when I got Leh’d and when I got plastered. But that’s a story for some other day, other time… my tea is cold now. Just for the sake of a trailer, I’ll let you know, the plaster story features:

An electrician turned doctor who was simultaneously attending an old Tibetan man with a paralysed hand, Leh Govt. Hospital, a noble Pathan who is a chemist, partial doctor, and also runs a camp in Zanskar valley, an uncertain nurse who asked me to visit again because she was unsure of the OPD doctor, last but not the least, me getting a dislocated bone fixed without being high on anesthesia or alcohol, not even love. Fun, eh?

Concluding, I don’t know if there’s a translation for the Hindi word “chull”, but for those who know it, will understand exactly why I got Leh’d!

It’s absolutely fine if after reading this, you feel that one of the stones also hit my head!

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You little rebel, I like you!

P.S: I took this picture on our way back! 🙂 #onehandphotography

The Fated Shot!

I am an honest “John Snow” when it comes to monasteries, Bhuddhism, rather any “ism”! But I intimately cherish the calm they resonate. I usually never plan, but happen to cross paths with “God”, sometimes.

This time around when Chaddha ji and gang, were retreating from Nubra Valley to Leh, there was another chance meeting, fated, in two and a half hours.

Lopsang, our full swag driver,  who meditates almost all winter and works in summer, suggested that we stop at the Diskit monastery. Hey wait, isn’t that interesting, meditating your entire-way-through-winters? Cozy!

That’s when I happen to get this shot:

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Diskit Monastery

P.S: I still wont bother about the details of this “ism”. But I am sure Google can help!

The Sarchu Syndrome!

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If a place could be marked as “the edge of a realisation”, of how “achingly” beautiful Ladakh is, it would be Sarchu. This is where it started sinking in, the feeling called: This is Ladakh!

Technically, located in Himachal Pradesh, Sarchu is a gateway to Ladakh. It is at an altitude of 14,300 ft, making it a tab higher than Leh. And if you are guessing it right, this place is notorious for acute High Altitude Sickness. Hence, it is important that we acclimatize well.

Tip: It is advisable to halt at Jispa for a night and then head towards Sarchu, purely for acclimatisation.

Manali (6726 ft) —>> Jispa (10,500 ft) {distance: 138 km/drive: 4-5 hours}

Jispa—>> Sarchu (14,070 ft) {Distance: 113 km, drive: 3-4 hours}

Here’s what happened: 

In spite of knowing the pro tip, we couldn’t stop at Jispa. With a dizzy head and a possessed nape, I reached Sarchu. The winds were wild, wild enough to rip mountains apart (I know I am prone to, but this time, I am not exaggerating!)

Drinking gallons of water and garlic soup, helped. But the mild scatterbrained, Sarchu Syndrome, stayed!

Being from the mountains, I’d never experienced anything of this sort. I was in my cozy tent, trying to calm the fuck down, when the distant voice of Indranil da exclaimed, “You should get your camera outside”!

In no mood for movement, yet curious, I went outside.

That moment, everything else faded, but the fiery sky of Sarchu! I’ve bookmarked this split second, in the collage of my memories and flashbacks!

 

 

 

 

When the mountain, smiled!

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Quick Downpour:

Thousands of feet above the tree line. Less of oxygen and more of  enthusiasm. Difficult to gauge if it’s a travellers paradise or pilgrimage.They call it the land of high passes!

Where winds are wild,

and wilder is the desert.

The land of fluttering prayer flags, arid secrets, where sunsets and sunrises write on the mountains with a blue ink of clouds (care less, about my bizarre poetic expressions)!

It is beautiful. It is treacherous. Treacherous.

Ladakh, is what we are talking!

Here’s What Happened: 

As an instinct, it was going to be about “rampant photography”, on account of my first ever pilgrimage.

So,

whenever we stopped,

wherever we stopped,

however we stopped,

I would pounce with my camera and break into a thousand pictures.

A rubbernecker, who is an amazing, like

fucking-really-amazing cinematographer, was travelling with us. Eavesdrop on our conversation:

Him: Hey, would you take a picture of me?

Me : Sure.

Him: ***Grim face on***

Setting the camera aside, I look at him. Grim face on, still!

Me: Why that face? Wouldn’t you smile?

Him: Ask that to the mountains too. Even they should smile before a picture. Even they should be “ready” before the picture. The light, the clouds, the reflections, should make the mountain smile.

Why do you think, eccentrics, wait for hours, sitting in front of a mountain? The wait for the mountain to say, “NOW”!

Me: ***Smiled***