Saturday morning in India…in Himachal Pradesh…in Kasauli…no cartoons…no Sportscenter…no Great American Diner with my love. No…just me and the sun again. However, the day had a different tint to it. There was no work to be done. No emails to write to supervisors or VPs. No lab training to do. No. Today was a day for sightseeing and hitting the open road to see some of India’s back country.
Our driver, Pradeep, picked us up promptly at 9:30 am and we set out to see Manki Point. Now unfortunately I do not have pictures to post of this event because it is located on an air force base. We were not allowed cell phones, camera’s, or anything that could compromise the security of the base. Since I cannot post pictures please wikipedia Manki Point on your own time and you will be able to see some more information. On to the experience.
So the drive to Manki point is only about 3 kilometers. We were there in a snap. As you arrive there are a few gate checkpoints. Once at the gate the guards frisk your entire body…and I mean your entire body for any illegal devices and/or weapons. Once that is complete they confiscate your passport and only return it upon you leaving the area. Once I was done with my full body search…Liza, Pradeep and I headed out to the point. The first stretch is actually down a driveway that overlooks the valley. Beautiful scenery in its own right. Littered with large conifers and patrolled by large hawks. As you reach the bottom of the hill to climb you soon realize that this wont be as a relaxing visit as you thought. Ahead of you is a sheer mountain face scarred with the a zig zag stairway…nothing but air and 600ft worth of stairs to climb. Given those of you who know me and how much I hate taking the stairs…you can imagine my thought process. None-the-less…I began my journey up. As I was huffing and puffing away, three young Indian boys passed me going up the steps. My manhood would have still been in tact had they all not been carrying 70lb sacks of potatoes on their backs. This was their job to supply the temple atop the point with food and supplies. I then realized that I’m fat…I’m American…and I should be ashamed of myself 🙂 Once you reach the top you soon realize that you are at the highest point in all of Himachal Pradesh (northern state of India….means Himalayan State). At the top there is a large flat concrete slab. Looks to be a helicopter landing site but it isn’t. On its left is a temple to the Hindu god Hanuman. Please wikipedia him as well. It is legend that this point is where he rested his left foot after a glorious battle for the “good guys” in Hindu folklore. As you stand atop this point you wish you were the kind of creature that has 360 degree vision. Unfortunately you can only capture a direction at a time with your brains digital camera and store if for your own use. When you look to the north you see the Himalayas…and at that height there is nothing in between you and their snowy peaks. When you look to the south you see almost no mountains and the small city of Chandigarh, which is where we are to visit the children’s hospital. It is truly a sight to behold. I wish I could have taken pictures but then again… maybe you all will have to just come to see it. The temple atop the mount was inhabited by a large Hanuman sculpture and shrine. There was a lone worshiper circling it and praying quietly under his breath. When our driver, Pradeep, entered the temple he was greeted by this man. They shared a prayer and then he took his pinky and added a small red-painted tear-drop shaped sign to his forehead between his eyes. He then knelt and prayed. As this was happening I was on the other side of the temple looking at the pictures and artwork. Only a robot couldn’t feel some sort of spiritual exuberance while being in this place. I have no direction for my spirituality but when inside this temple I could feel something tugging at my lesser known existence. Truly a must see, must experience, for any of you who come to India. However, the most interesting part of my trip to Manki point was the trip down the mountain face. What I hadn’t noticed on my way up were the small paintings and quotes on the rocks as you are descending. One said “God loves you” and other had Hindu scriptures. However, one in particular caught my eyes and my heart. About half way down…buried in the shade, was a smooth rock painted with blue that said, “A man becomes what he loves.” To this point I had never heard that before. I thought about everything and everyone that I miss on a daily basis. I thought of my profession, why I was in India and what my goals were. I thought of my future in life, my love Marji, and hopefully what our family will be like some day. All of this fell on me like an avalanche. My heart was full. My life was meaningful and I knew that I was becoming what I love. I think for me it means that I fully recognize the combined effect of all those who sacrificed and love me through the years. It is on the shoulders of those giants that I have built my happiness in life. As you can see I was a bit overcome with sincere appreciation and admiration for everyone I love. Ok enough with the mushy stuff…on to Shimla
Shimla is the capital of the northern state Himachal Pradesh. It was originally the place of summer retreat for British dignitaries during the time of the British hold on India. Once India gained it’s independence it became a favorite vacation spot for the Indian culture. Although I must admit, I saw very many English people there during my visit. The drive to Shimla from Kasauli is ~2hrs. And I might add that it is all above 5000 ft. So we were winding around on mountainside roads a few feet from going over the edge. There are no major rules with driving. You may pass on a blind curve, you may pass directly on the other side of oncoming traffic…but…I must say…haven’t seen many accidents.
The arrival at Shimla is a beautiful one. As you are winding through the mountain sides you soon lose track of what direction you are going and how far away from your destination you are. Then it happens. You wind through some shade soaked roads and then you emerge on the Eastern face of the mountain. Across the 7000 ft ravine you see Shimla. A bustling city nestled literally in the hillside. It seems as if they are defying physics by building so many homes and businesses along the steep face. However, you soon realize that this was not going to be a cozy, comfy, mountain town…instead it was a bustling metropolis. Imagine Old city Pasadena as it exists now… boutiques, stores, apartments, and lots and lots of people and tourists….except 7000 ft above sea level. When we arrived we took two elevators to get up to “mall road” where all the shops and sights were. Each elevator ride was 7 rubees…~20 cents or so. We ate first and I made the mistake of thinking I could get the vegetarian burrito on the menu…lots of vegetables…lots of spicy…but the tortilla was virtually non-existent. Well…a man can dream. Once we ate we set out to shop for our loved ones and see the historical place. My pictures on photobucket tell the tale. We saw municipal buildings, hindu temples, christian churches, and a beautiful monument to Gandhi. On the top of Shimla is the spot where Hanuman supposedly rested his right foot. So as you can see his left foot was two hours away atop of Manki Point. To commemorate this right foot rest there was a 128ft orange statue of the Monkey god. It is the highest statue on the planet in terms of elevation according to our driver and later confirmed by wikipedia :). We wanted to go up but we were told the hike was going to take too long and we needed to leave before dark. None-the-less you can see him in my pictures. We then did some damage shopping for our people. There was a small section where everything was hand-made. Peddlers of every type trying to sell you what they made on their own. It was amazing to see so many people doing it old school. Made and manufactured at the place of purchase. There was something beautiful about it. Made me feel like I was buying something real…something unique. Well I shopped and took my chances using the public restroom…which is a story I must tell in person because it’s a bit too disturbing for the blog.
We arrived back home around 6:15pm. I went and ate and then passed out. You would be amazed how a simple day of shopping at 7000ft pulls all of the energy out of the body. There are virtually no chubby people up here. Everyone is skinny because that’s how their bodies have adapted. They all walk to work, and they only drive if they are going somewhere significant. As much as I admire that…I miss my American gluttony. Until next time folks.