Close To My Heart - An Uttarakhand diary


May 10th, the time was 10.15am and when I disembarked from the 7.15am Indigo flight from Cochin to Delhi our company’s representative - Driver Narendran was waiting for me in the arrival area. We drove straight to the Hotel. Our German team had reached before me and we were expecting Andrea too to join the team in the evening. It was my acquaintance with 2 lovely German ladies Angela & Patricia which brought me into this trip. They had spoken to the Company’s director Faisal Khan in India and asked him to ensure that I’m well cared for during the trip.

By God’s grace I was able to travel to many places in India in the last few months. Our Mahatmaji once famously said “The soul of India lives in its villages" and with what I saw from my extensive travels I would concur with him. My trips took me far & wide. I travelled through the Mountains, Forests, Rivers, Villages, Towns, Cities, and Deserts. On this trip we travelled along the banks of the Holy Rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati (Hidden), Bhageerathi & Alakananda,

From the innocent Villagers flocking in near our vehicle to answer our route queries to the average City resident who is always in a hurry and does not have any time to assist a lost traveller the sights I saw were varied & contrasting. Womenfolk working in the field leaving their just few days old new-borns under the shade of a tree was a frame which is still stuck in my mind. There were many other sights too which could not be photographed nor written and it was quietly saved somewhere in my memory.
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The company’s every trip had an apt name. And it was the Coast to Coast trip starting from Goa which was my 1st trip with them. And whenever the team lands in Cochin it was quite common for them to join my family for a Lunch/Dinner at our house. A few handshakes & hugs later they would bid goodbye to us with some fond memories with a hope of meeting again some other day.

It is interesting to travel in a group with people belonging to different Caste/Religion and speaking different languages. Once at the dinner table our topic of discussion was the second coming of Jesus. Our company director & team captain Faisal had a different view on the subject and later the casual conversation turned in to a debate. I was quick in taking the assistance of Pastor Nurudeen Mulla from Belgaum who converted from Islam and currently lives for Jesus. And to buttress his views Faisal took help from his Mulla from Kashmir who gave an expert view on the matter. The anxious Germans thought that our vehement debate would soon snowball in to a major fight. But they were in for a pleasant surprise when we shook hands to end it. They were honest in telling us that they expected that the religious debate would end up in a fight. And we were proud to tell them that we are indeed lucky to be part of such a wonderful country where there is religious tolerance and the spirit of Unity in Diversity as embodied by our great nation building visionaries. The Germans normally discussed & debated about Politics in their country.

This trip of ours is 1600kms long. Our team would be riding on Royal Enfield Bullets. The journey starts from New Delhi and the route is as follows – Rishikesh, Mussourie, Uttarkashi, Srinagar, Rampur (Kedarnath), Joshimath, Badrinath, Auli, Srinagar and finally ends at Haridwar. From Haridwar the Bikes are transported to New Delhi by a Truck and then we return to New Delhi via Shimla adding another 850+ Kms by Car. By God’s grace a memorable moment was waiting for me on this trip.


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Beautifully initiated T-Log. Last para of the last post tells everything. My dear...photographs please...!! Waiting.


When I landed in Delhi from Cochin the feeling was akin to being thrown in to a frying pan with hot oil from a normal stove. The heat was unbearable and it reminded me of the heat that I endured in Dubai last year. Many members of the team were not keen on riding the bikes in this hot & sultry weather. Our team captain had a plan, he arranged for the bikes to be transported to Rishikesh by a truck. Our team of eight then proceeded to the town Rishikesh which got its name from lord Maha Vishnu who was also known as Hrishikesha. The 230 km journey was done in two Cars.


It is known as the Yoga capital of the world. This holy city of the Hindus has been declared a vegetarian city by law. Rishikesh is also the starting point of the Chhotta Char Dham Yatra (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath). When we reached our hotel Neelakant in Rishikesh by 3 PM the bikes, driver Bhim Singh (He is from Uttarkhand) and mechanic Akash where already there. There will be a support vehicle for the trip. It will help us to carry luggage and our tired team members could rest in it too.

All the hotel rooms had very spacious balconies. It was a welcome relief for me to get some awesome weather after the searing heat of Delhi. I stood there enjoying the cool breeze from the Shivalik Mountains and was lost in nature. I felt that the breeze wanted to whisper something in my ears. I sat there enwrapped in the weather for a while. Andrea and I had planned to go out by 4:30 PM so I got fresh and went down to the reception. Andrea too was there on time and we just walked down to the town. I bought a SIM card from a nearby shop and loitered there for a while. Wherever we looked around we could only see a lot of Temples, Yoga and Massage centers. There were also numerous boards advertising Yoga classes, massaging services and adventure trips. The Yoga boards reminded me of my Danish friend Charlotte’s call from here couple of years back. She'd been to Rishikesh after visiting Cochin where we had met. We returned to the hotel soon since dinner was scheduled by 7:30 PM. After finishing dinner at the hotel restaurant we chatted for a while before going to bed.

Next morning the team assembled at the reception all set for sightseeing by 8:30 AM. We visited the Ram Jhula & Lakshman Jhula suspension bridges across the river Ganges. Legend says that Lord Ram did penance here after killing Ravana and his brother Lakshmana is said to have crossed the River Ganga at this spot. While we were crossing those bridges we could spot scores of people were bathing and river rafting in Ganga. It is from Rishikesh that the holy river Ganga flows to the plains of North India.
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The next day we travelled to Mussoorie the “Queen of hill stations”. The route was via Dehradun and we had to travel 110 km to reach there. Mussoorie was the preferred hill station of the Nehru family. Before independence they used to take frequent vacations there. The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration which trains Indian civil servants is also located in Mussoorie.

Our Tea breaks during the journey were mostly taken at small roadside shops. Before entering Dehradun we visited the Buddhist monastery too. The monastery was very colorful with Golden, Red and Blue colors displaying their magnificence everywhere. We met couple of Lamas who were patient enough to explain about the monastery to us. In the neighborhood there was a Shirdi temple too. It was boisterous with loud Bhajans and noisy devotees. It was lunchtime and the trustees of the temple invited us for lunch but we politely declined their offer and continued our journey. When we entered the Dehradun city again I thanked the Almighty God for giving me an opportunity to step foot in this place about which I had heard and read about since my childhood. I have been yearning all these years to see this city. I asked the people at the Tea stall for their surnames and then fired a question – Koi Asthana family ko pehchaana ho?

Our captain had noticed me going around asking for someone and he sent driver Bhim Singh to follow me. He quickly caught up in threw a question – Madamji - Kisko doond rahaa hea aap? My answer was just a faint smile. After the break we proceeded to Mussoorie which was 33 km away.

At an average height of 6150 feet Mussoorie looked really alluring. By 2 PM we were at the Krishna Palace hotel. The huge windows in the room gave a magnificent view of the snowcapped peaks. The cold weather reminded me of my visits to Ooty & Shimla but Mussoorie was more beautiful and I just had a fleeting thought of staying here for some more days.

The next item on our itinerary was to take the Cable Car to the hilltop. So by 4pm we took the Rs.75/- per head ticket and rode the Cable Car to the hilltop. There was a festive atmosphere over there with a lot of Tourists, Photographers, Handicrafts, small eateries & Tibetan shops selling Leather & Woolen articles. I just peeked down, on one side I could see the Doon valley and on the Southern side it was the Shivalik Mountains. It was a lovely sight and at long sight I could spot the city of Dehradun where there is a house & a family that I’ve been longing to see all these years. I was really hopeful that I could meet someone from the Asthana family and with that thought in mind I slowly drifted away from the team.

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Horses waiting for Tourists.

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Cable Car


A bird's eye view of the beautiful town.
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