With immense pleasure I want to share with you all that my debut book, a tiny travelogue, named ‘A Voyage Through The Echoes’ has released. The book brings together my emotional challenges and experiences of travelling around the Indian country. There are many more things that the book covers, from beauty of different places, food, institutes to feelings of an introvert and a bond of friendship that clears out hesitation and insecurities.
Here I’m sharing some excerpts of the first chapter of ‘A Voyage Through The Echoes’. Have a thoughtful read and do share your thoughts about it.
The book is available on –
Notionpress – https://notionpress.com/read/a-voyage-through-the-echoes
Links to other e-sites are given at the end of the post.
Chapter 1: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
On a fine winter day, my wish to travel to different regions of the country came true. I was not very hopeful about going on the tour—not because of my family, college or health, but because of a person. I had promised him that I would not go anywhere without him. The tour was a part of our academic curriculum, and it was compulsory for all students in my class. A part of me was super excited, as my parents had bought me a new camera and I was very excited I would get a chance to capture the beauty of unseen places and the people there. I was ready to learn about different places, their history and culture, apart from all that I would learn in college. Moreover, I was eager to leave behind the boring daily routine of college and hostel life, and wanted to live the life of a ‘wanderer’.
The tour was to start on January 2, 2012, from the college. A day before that, I was still at home, trying to muster my guts to tell my parents that, yes, I wanted to go on the tour. Although they were also keen that I go, the cowardly part of me was undermining my enthusiasm and telling me not to go. However, the cosmos wanted something else.
A night before the tour, my father called the Dean of the college to inform him that I did not want to go for the tour. In turn, the Dean told my father, “The tour is compulsory. It’s not just for excursion but a part of the professional degree. If she can’t go this time, she has to go next year with a junior class.”
My parents gave me a convincing look; I was confused. I asked myself, “What am I doing? I’ve got a chance to live my dream—something that not everyone gets—but I’m behaving so stupidly.” After the call, my enthusiasm was boosted and I told my parents that I would go. They were satisfied at last; my father asked me to pack my bags, as we had to leave early next morning to get to the college. I could not sleep the whole night. Earlier, I had packed my bags, eatables, sleeping bag and everything else. Then, after getting into bed, I started thinking about all the places I was to visit.
We reached university in the afternoon. The bus was to leave in the evening. I still had some packing left. Our seniors instructed us to take some summer clothes, as we were to visit the coastal and southern Indian states, which were much warmer than the north even in extreme winter. Accordingly, I packed some summer clothes and slippers from my hostel room. Considering the cold weather of north India, I packed some sweaters and jackets as well. My mom helped me pack those things; I think she was more excited about the tour than I was. I checked my camera, added extra batteries and kept them safely in my handbag. Everything was done in a hurry, and I did not get enough time to organise my things properly.
Later, we reached Kranti Chowk (a name given to a junction near the campus health centre and the statue of Dr. Y.S. Parmar—the first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and the founder of our university). The tour bus was waiting there. My parents helped me load my baggage, and then I went inside. As soon I entered, my classmates began to bombard me with questions: “Why didn’t you want to join the tour?”; “Why did you come late?”; “What happened to you?”.
I was surprised that everyone knew about my situation and wondered who would have told them about it. I didn’t know how to answer their questions. I was about to say that I had been sick when mom, who was standing behind me, answered in a loud voice, “Dear, she was having a bad stomach.” What! I stared at my mother and whispered, “Why did you say that?” The whole bus burst out laughing; it was very embarrassing for me. I immediately gathered my handbag and sat in a corner seat. Meanwhile, mom surveyed the whole bus and chose a seat in the front, just behind the driver. I had to sit there to avoid any unnecessary arguments that would attract everybody’s attention again.
When mom was leaving, one of our classmates, Girish, wished her “Namaste” in a loud and excited tone, and tried to start a conversation. Again, everyone in the bus started to laugh. My mother was surprised. She looked at me but I was unable to explain, so I forced her to leave the bus in order to avoid any further embarrassment.
Actually, that boy had been interested in me and I used to avoid him. We had been good friends in the first year of college. Then, he suddenly proposed to me, which shocked me. I started to ignore him but he did not lose any chances to attract my attention. Sometimes, he would even try and act funny—like he did on the bus.
We started our journey in the late evening and travelled the whole night to reach Dehradun. We reached the Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun the next afternoon. We were tired, and just wanted to go to our rooms and rest. The rooms of a hostel on the FRI campus were allotted to us; we had to share the rooms in groups of 4 or 5. When we finally got our room, I went inside, threw my bag aside and jumped onto the bed.
The last few days had been very exhausting and I wanted to sleep endlessly. The day flew by and someone woke me up for dinner. Though I wanted to sleep more, I gathered all my strength to get up so that I could quell the groans from my stomach. I walked outside; the eating area was organised just beside our rooms. It looked like a feast as different stalls had been set up for different food items, and students were present along with the helpers and cooks. The place looked crowded. I took a plate and a glass and moved through the stalls. I searched for my gang of girlfriends, who were not to be seen in the crowd; not much could be seen in the faint light anyway. Finally, I settled down wherever I got space. After dinner, our teachers instructed us to go to bed, and get ready early the next morning.
The next morning, we got ready quite early, as directed. To our surprise, we were far too early, as the teachers and FRI staff, who were to take us on the campus tour, were late. So, we had enough time to explore the campus by ourselves.
The institute was beautifully built, with art and architecture from colonial times. It was astonishing that it remained intact even after a century. Although the British may have introduced poverty, corruption and suffering to India, one can never dispute the fact that they had been perfect artisans; their farsightedness in terms of construction is laudable.
As we walked around the campus, someone told us that many Bollywood movies such as Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, Krishna Cottage and so on, had been shot here. This was enough to get us all excited and we started posing for photographs. After about 3 hours, our teachers finally arrived and instructed us to note down everything that would be taught by the host faculty. We were taken to a museum-cum-exhibition room in one of their buildings. Each display in there was a perfect work of art. Whatever we had studied in our forestry textbooks was present there in the form of a model or painting. There were different displays for different disciplines, such as pathology, displaying insects and pests and the harm they cause; non-timber forest products, displaying different seeds, animal products, forest products, and even the hides of wild animals such as deer, sambar, tiger, bears, wolves, and the tusks of elephants (which were most likely installed during the British period). The whole museum hall was a place full of prized resources and each one of us was spellbound by the level of perfection and creative arrangement.
The faculty then took us to their woodwork stations. This part of the campus was typically Indian, and the workshops there gave a glimpse of the traditional wood industry in India. We saw the wood-seasoning platform, which was a big steam baking cabin-cum-oven in which the wooden planks were stocked so that they could be dried out completely by using intense heat. The procedure may look weird to a common person but it helps in removing every bit of moisture from inside the wood without burning; at the end of it, the wood does not shrink and is not infested by insects or pests thereafter. We sincerely wrote down every bit of information in our notepads. Although it was winter, the sun was beating down on us and making us feel hot and uncomfortable; it was made worse by the fact that we were wearing sweaters and jackets.
In a while, the information that had seemed interesting started to sound boring. Except for 2 or 3 students, the rest of us began to move away in search of a comfortable place to sit. At last, the lecture ended and we all fled to our rooms, much like how cattle disperse into the grassland when left loose. We were hungry and tired, so we immediately set upon the food placed outside the rooms. After lunch, we were instructed to get into the bus, as we had to visit another institute.
At the Water Conservation Institute in Dehradun, we saw exhibits depicting the works and success stories of the institute in and around the state. We walked out of the establishment after reading some of the stories. We were sitting outside the main door of the building, waiting for our teachers to come out, when Yeshi (one of my classmates, who was from Bhutan) decided to indulge in a prank. He went up to a scooter parked alongside the door, sat on the backseat and acted as if he were a girl; he wrapped a stole over his head like a veil and put his hand on another girl’s shoulder. His actions were hilarious; we captured the scene in our cameras and laughed heartily.
After an hour, our teachers finally came out. We were then taken to the hills of Garhwal. I had visited the place twice before, but had never fully observed its beauty. Though much of the hill station and its adjoining areas were similar to our place, what I found to be particularly interesting were the evergreen Juniper trees. No pines and deodars existed in this part of the Himalayas—a fact that intrigued me. Later, I researched on it and found out that Juniper trees had been introduced by the British.
An engineer from the Water Conservation Institute accompanied us to the hills and took us to a secluded area, from where we could see only the forest all around and a metalled road cutting through the edges of the mountain and the lush green foliage. Later, our bus stopped alongside a village. From there, we had to walk for around 5 km towards a catchment area where the local people, in collaboration with the institute, had constructed water tanks, canals and rain water harvesting structures in their fields. Bunds were also constructed from stones, along the gullies, to slow down the flow of running water.
As the sun began to set, cool breeze started flowing through the narrow clefts of the mountains. I was tired; the cold breeze made me shiver. I wanted to get into bed with a thick blanket, but the instructor was not moving from the site. Everyone started behaving as if they were bored of his lecture; he finally got the hint and told us to get back to the bus. That was good but the bus was a long way off.
The instructor started walking in the front, and everyone else followed him. The air became colder, and I started shivering. I was getting impatient, so I decided to walk faster; a few others did the same. The path seemed to go on and on. I kept walking faster but it didn’t prove to be enough. At one point, I literally ran ahead, much to the surprise of the others. As soon as I reached the bus, I jumped onto my seat and wrapped a thin scarf around myself. That was all I had; it was not enough to end the shivering but it gave me some comfort. When I reached the room, I put on a few sweaters, wrapped some blankets around myself, and went to sleep without even having dinner.
To be continued…
The book is available on –
Notionpress – https://notionpress.com/read/a-voyage-through-the-echoes