Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New Year Trek to Siddhgarh

A very Happy New Year.

Well, 31 Dec of every year is that time of the year for which the people start planning much in advance. For a person like me who lives in Mumbai money is also a big criteria because special occasions like New Year's Eve is pretty costly affair. If it would have been value for money it would have been ok, but they charge you as if you are going to get a home pick in limousine and you would be given a royal treatment but you end up in a place which is so crowded that one doesn't get enough space to shake a leg, one has to fight for drinks n food and when you get in the mood to enjoy its time to close.

Thanks to Kartik who took the initiative to organize something very different this New Year's eve. We went for 2 days trek to a place called Siddhgarh near Kalyan in Mumbai. The planning for it started much in advance. Kartik and Puneet organized everything, right from pick-up points to music and drinks. We were completely spoiled, as we didn't have to bother about anything.

This was my first experience of a trek on a New Year’s eve. Quite aware that my mobile won't be working and I would miles away from civilization I climbed up the mountain to seek something different. I was not in best of shape, I must agree and hence it made the climb up little difficult. I slipped a couple of times and yes it was painful but it didn’t matter that time. I was so busy having a blast of time. Though it was difficult, it was worth every drop of sweat and every layer of dust on my face. Going back to nature made me realize the importance of silence, of observing the beauty around me and of friends around me. For every hand that was raised to help me, I knew I had someone who cared for me. As we climbed up, we saw a snake's skin in one piece. There were beautiful little flowers blooming along the path. Dried leaves covered the path. The branches of the trees along the path touched me to wish me a safe journey. Slowly, it started growing dark. I saw the most beautiful sunset of my life. It was like God speaking through his eternal light from behind the mountains. Between the mountains sun slowly said good-bye with a promise to meet us in a New Year with new hopes and dreams. It was a moonless night, which made the surrounding even more beautiful for me. Climbing up in dark was quite a challenge, as I didn’t know where I was stepping. When I looked up at the sky and it was an amazing experience. I had never seen so many stars in my whole life. The sky seemed like a black velvet cloth where the jeweler has rolled out all its diamonds for everyone to see.

Slowly and steadily we made it to our campsite. Someone switched on the torch and we could see the tents all at a comfortable distance, laid down on a clean area. The tea was ready and we all crashed on the ground with the bags still on our shoulders. Hot tea with snacks arrived and our warm clothes came out. It was then that I realized that it was cold. Tired and shivering, I felt happy. We sang songs and danced too. Food was ready and while we were eating we started our count-down for welcoming a New Year. Everyone shouted "Happy New Year!!!” I looked down in the valley and I could see the fire works happening in Mumbai and I knew I was away from that crowd who would be so drunk that they won't even realize that a New Year has slipped in. I was away from the city of glitter, false smiles, girls drunk and falling on their drunk boy-friends and a city of pretence. I felt happy to be where I was and I hugged my friends and wished everyone who was there a Happy New Year. Though I did miss my parents and sister and all those whom I love so much.

After wishing everyone we all gathered around the fire and talked about various topics. It was getting windy and I was tired. I proceeded towards my tent. Well, if climbing up was difficult, climbing into the sleeping bag was hilarious. We were 4 in one tent. After adjusting ourselves one by one we realized something was not right. In that small tent we tried to adjust in our sleeping bags by turning around in that little space. It took time but once we all got comfortable I realized it was my first night out in open in a jungle! I was damn scared. First of snakes, then of wild cats and then out of the blue moon I remembered "Blair Witch Project" and I couldn't sleep the whole night!

The morning was beautiful. In the night, if the valley seemed a large stretch of darkness, in the morning I realized it was so full of life. Birds were cherping, people around me were waking up and coming out of their tents with a sleepy face. Slowly, the sun peeped out from behind a mountain. Even in winters, everything around us was so green. Standing right at the end of the mountain, watching the steep slope all covered with trees and rocks, with cold wind gushing through my hair and breathing the fresh air, I realized that simple things in life are the most beautiful things to experience and at times doesn’t cost like a rocket too. I had never felt so fresh.

After little rappeling and breakfast we started our climb down. It had started getting hot and all we wanted to do was reach the base camp. I was tired with all the climbing, celebrations and of course all that thinking too! People got lost in the way, we had to wait for some and some had to wait for us but in the end when we all reached the base camp, it was a great feeling of achievment.

It was not only related to doing something different, it was more of knowing my physical strength, going to a place as beautiful as Siddhgarh and seeing nature so closely. I know I am city girl. All this is only good for a few days, but whatever little time I had spent there, it made me feel fresh like never before. On the first day of the year I wasn't cribbing about no-value for money parties or getting stuck in traffic or breathing pollution or cursing everyone in govt! I was happy and fresh and ready to start another year with more strength and willingness. It was an amazing experience and I would always look forward for another chance.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mr. Amitabh Bachchan - The Emotional Factor

I have never been a die-hard fan of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan but these days due to constant bombarding of his image everywhere I couldn't help but stop and think about him as person who seems to be everywhere. From posters on the back of BEST bus generating controversies over smoking of cigars to every advertisement on TV to KBC to every movie that comes in theater these days. India as a nation is breathing and living on Mr. Amitabh Bachchan these days!

The Bachchan family has become the First Family of Indian Cinema. The Kapoors are no longer visible with only Kareen Kapoor coming in newspapers for all the reasons except for her work! Whether it's a new movie or a new advertisement or it's the small screen. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan seems to be everywhere. So, at times I wonder what does this person has to attract all the attention and respect he gets.

Those who are die-hard fans of him and those who are not would know his life's story very well. All the magazines and news paper have made sure that we all know it, its another question whether we really are interested in it or not. He, started as a wanna be actor. The articles in magazines and newspapers have told that people didn't recognize him as an actor then. Everything was wrong about him, his height, and his voice. He even failed in an audition at the All India Radio! He had to struggle a lot. His first film 'Saat Hindustani' (1969) failed miserably, with Mr. Bachchan going almost unnoticed. It was his 13th film 'Zanzeer' which shot him to fame and we talk about 13 being unlucky!

Well, today everyone who wants to direct a HIT film wants Mr. Bachchan in it. He alone, its believed, can make or break a film. Films like Black proved that he is one of the finest actors in Indian cinema today but there are films where his presence was done to just pull the crowds like in "Kyun Hogaya Na". Then there is "Kaun Banega Crorepati" series. So many game shows came but none could surpass the popularity of KBC whether they promised more money or whether they had other celebrities like Anupam Kher and Manisha Koirala! There is a whole range of products for which Mr. Bachchan does the advertising. From soap bars to best clothing line to cold cream, he is everywhere. If you sit and watch TV for half an hour you would be able to count his presence more than the actors for which you are watching TV!

Can you imagine any other actor taking the place of Mr. Bachchan in Black or Anand or Agnipath? Why can't any other game show become as popular as KBC? Why can't we have a "Pappu Pass Hogaya" without Mr. Bachchan? When he was hospitalized recently, Mr. Bachchan occupied the front page of every leading newspaper for almost a week; they even gave his pulse and diet! Wasn't there any other news important enough to occupy the first page? Everyone was praying for his long life. The hospital was flooded with newsmen, well wishers and also by those who have their money running on Mr. Bachchan. I got a feeling that if (god forbid!) he had expired PM would have been forced to declare a National Holiday!!

What is it, which makes this person so popular for us Indians? Is it the feeling that a common person can also find a place among starts, which attracts everyone to him? Is it because he gives strength to the belief that "Its 50% hard work and 50% LUCK"? Is it because everyone lives his or her dreams through him? I am sure of one thing...the popularity of him has nothing to do with his acting skills. Why we have so many good actors like Nasruddin Shah, Om puri, Nana Patekar...etc. For him it's the Emotional Factor that no other actor could generate. It's only the Emotional Factor that makes him so big that he can pull off any movie or TV serial or any number of advertisement or a whole nation on his shoulder alone. I am sure it has to be this because I, myself couldn't address him without a 'Mr." prefix through out and come to think of it...he is just doing his job!