Before The Waters Rise Again – Measure T Will Get San Jose Ready

Measure T, on the Nov. 6 ballot, would put $650 million into upgrading San Jose’s aging infrastructure that puts our communities at risk.  Many of our bridges and overpasses are old and deteriorating, and at risk of collapse in earthquake. Two of our City’s fire stations are falling apart and one of them is at risk of sliding into a nearby creek. Last year we saw how many of our neighborhoods were vulnerable to flooding. We can’t prevent natural disasters, but we can do more to protect ourselves by passing Measure T.

Measure T will make us all safer by:

*Replace deteriorating, earthquake-vulnerable bridges

*Upgrade 911 communications facilities to improve emergency response

*Upgrade emergency operations centers

*Reduce flooding by rebuilding parts of our 70-year-old stormwater system

*Preserve natural open space that protects against flooding during heavy rains

*Fix potholes and repave roads to prevent accidents

*Rebuild police training facilities and repair crumbling fire stations





A Teenager’s Reflections on a Family Tradition

Toward the end of September of each year, the South Indian community enters a frenzy of chaos and excitement in preparation for Golu, the exhibition of dolls in honor of Navratri. Golu has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Despite living in the United States, my family has followed the tradition religiously. To me, Golu means much more than just a religious holiday. It is a time of the year that I truly appreciate and value the time I spend with my family.

It has become a family tradition to set aside one day to arrange the Golu together. Everyone chips in: Dad sets up the nine steps, each representing one of the nine days of Navarathri while my sister and I argue over who should lug the heavier box of bommais, or dolls, from the garage to the living room to help Mom take off the newspaper wrapped around the dolls to preserve them for the rest of the year. Many of these dolls have been passed down for many generations in my mother’s family. It fascinates me to imagine, upon seeing their old and fragile condition, that these dolls could have survived this long. I think of the care that my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother have taken to ensure the safety of these dolls; to have taken the risk of sending them overseas in order to allow this tradition to continue here.

The dolls come in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Each has its own story. Each has its own form of beauty, grace, and elegance. There are numerous traditional dolls from my great grandmother’s collection that represent characters and scenes from the Ramayana, set in royal courts and battlefields. My mother has brought a modern taste to the golu, by adding dolls from different countries–African, Chinese, and Spanish dolls.

As a child, my favorite dolls were two identical folk dancers with bobbing heads and torsos- one dressed in yellow, and the other in green. I would never get tired of poking their heads and seeing them bob up and down, following them closely with my eyes until I began to feel dizzy. Another, more traditional favorite of mine is the Chettiar Bommai- a fat, bald, cheerful old man selling vegetables along with his wife Chettichi to give him company.

Setting up the dolls and the display is only the beginning. It is customary to invite friends and relatives to our house on one of the nine days, so that they will be able to see and appreciate our Golu. We spend the other eight days traveling to homes of friends and family nearby, or to cities as far away as Fremont or Evergreen, in order to celebrate Golu. While driving so far, socializing, and singing do undoubtedly drain my energy, I adore every minute of the chaos and exhaustion. Meeting friends, looking at each family’s beautiful dolls, eating sweets, and feeling proud and lucky to be part of such a strong culture are only a few of the benefits I receive during this celebration.

At our home, we appreciate the looks of awe from guests as they wonder how we could have put together such a beautiful and large display. This gives us extra pride and satisfaction—knowing that our efforts paid off, that we accomplished this task together. I am now a senior in high school, and this will be my last year living at home and truly experiencing a Golu celebration with my family. The idea of this saddens me, as it has become such a permanent part of my life. I hope to make this Golu the most memorable yet, to give me a final memory of my family and culture to cherish for the next few years when I am away at college.

First published in 2007.


Date/Time Event
Oct 4, 2018 - Oct 24, 2018
All Day
Satyajit Ray: Intimate Universes
Satyajit Ray: Intimate Universes
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA
Oct 17, 2018 - Oct 20, 2018
10:00 am - 11:00 pm
Bay Area Durga Utsav
Bay Area Durga Utsav
Elks Lodge, Santa Clara CA
Oct 18, 2018 - Jan 21, 2019
All Day
Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur
Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA
Oct 18, 2018 - Oct 28, 2018
6:15 pm
United Nation Association Film Festival
United Nation Association Film Festival
Aquaris Theater, Palo Alto CA

2018 Midterm Elections Voter Guide For Indian-Americans

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) released its 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide, the only resource designed to engage, educate, and mobilize the growing South Asian American electorate in Congressional districts nationwide.

At over 5 million strong, South Asian Americans are the second-most rapidly growing demographic group nationwide, across longstanding community strongholds and newer regions in the South. As a result, South Asian Americans occupy an increasingly significant position in the American electorate. In this critical election year, South Asian Americans have a stake in key policy questions that affect our communities, and are deeply impacted by issues spanning immigration, civil rights, hate crimes, and the 2020 Census.

This guide is a voter education tool that equips South Asian Americans and all voters with the crucial information they need to cast informed votes this November. SAALT’s non-partisan 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide does not endorse any candidate—rather; it analyzes House of Representatives candidates’ positions on four critical issues for South Asian Americans in twenty Congressional Districts with the highest South Asian American populations. The Guide also includes analysis on two additional races that feature a South Asian American candidate and a Congressional district whose member currently holds a leadership position in the House of Representatives.

Each race shows the Democratic and Republican candidates’ positions on the issues of immigration, civil rights, hate crimes, and the 2020 Census based upon their responses to a series of questions. SAALT reached out to all candidates with a questionnaire and analyzed publicly available information on their voting records on federal legislation, public statements, and policy platforms to develop our analysis. For all incumbent candidates, SAALT analyzed only their voting record on key legislation to determine their policy positions. All questions are included in the Guide to allow voters to assess a candidate’s positions themselves even if a particular Congressional district is not featured.

The Voter Guide will continue to serve as a critical community education tool that keeps the focus on the important issues impacting our nation on the road to the November 2018 elections and beyond.

Documentaries From Around the World

The United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) is almost here! In the eleven days, UNAFF will present documentaries from October 18-28, spotlighting current events from across the globe including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, North Korea, Norway, Palestine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Syria, UK, Uruguay and the US.

Additional topics include: the opioid epidemic in rural America; before Walt Disney, there was a woman at the vanguard of animation; can new technologies help us treat and prevent an alarming rise in untreatable bacterial diseases; female chefs in the male dominated food universe; who really pays the price for our clothing; how do our personal and collective histories of trauma affect who is perceived as a ‘perpetrator’ and a ‘victim’ of violence; students and prisoners meet to discuss classic works of Russian Literature; the story of one of the Holocaust’s most heroic figures – the last surviving Nuremberg Trials prosecutor; health risks from the rise of wireless technologies; racial stereotypes in US society through the lens of comics; child refugees; the transition of a transgender Vietnam veteran; gun laws; how innovation helps uncover crimes worldwide; the effects of runaway global warming; finding love while HIV positive; environmental injustices in Native Hawaii; the secret of the Silicon Valley success; a female Muslim immigrant running for elected office in the US; and the story of the whistleblower of the My Lai massacre.

This year’s theme TOMORROW? continues our over two decades long celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasizing the complexity of our current moment and exploring possible paths emanating from it into the future.

From October 18-28, the films will be screened in various Bay Area locations: Palo Alto, Stanford University, East Palo Alto and San Francisco.

8 documentaries will have their US premieres in the Festival including:

Life is a Beach (Bangladesh/Denmark)

Raghu Rai (India)

UNAFF is committed not only to presenting films, but also creating spaces where audience members can engage in ongoing dialogue about the subjects at hand. Six FREE panel discussions will take place during the course of the Festival covering: the future of borders and military spending; climate change, energy revolution and new technologies; how music and literature bringing us together; gender, race, religion and politics in popular culture; health challenges and technology; and therapies for our planet.

UNAFF’s mission has expanded to broad, year round programs that augment its reach. In addition to the annual film festival, UNAFF organizes panel discussions, initiates programs that engage children, students, seniors, veterans, hosts a traveling festival which keeps the films alive well beyond their initial festival showings and opens its doors to documentary film students and researchers.

For the full program visit

The award winning UNAFF (the United Nations Association Film Festival) held annually in October at Stanford, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and San Francisco, now in its 21st year has grown to be one of the oldest and most respected documentary film festivals in the United States. UNAFF was originally conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was founded by Stanford educator and film critic Jasmina Bojic.

From Our Sponsors

Saint Thyagaraja Meets John Coltrane

The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma has said, “There’s a moment where you can go into nature — always, at any moment, and figure out some parallel to what is happening in a sound-centric world.” Beyond Oceans was reminiscent of fall colors – it brought together the classicism of the Nadalaya School of Music, founded and directed by Shanthi Shriram and Shriram Brahmanandam, and the richness of Around the World, a global music ensemble founded by their son Arun Shriram. This fusion music concert benefited Inclusive World, an organization dedicated to developing the skills and abilities of differently abled individuals. Inclusive World is based in San Jose, California, and their vision is to help these individuals find avenues for continued professional development and social immersion. The event was organized on Saturday, September 8th, at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale.

The musicians included Wei Wang on Chinese percussion, Aditya Satyadeep on Indian violin, Alex Henshall on trumpet, Arun Shriram on mridangam, A.V. Krishnan on ghatam, Harini Krishnan on Indian keyboard, Morgan Swanson on guitar, Rob Goebel on cajon, Nandhan Natarajan on saxophone, Priyanka Chary on veena, Vijayakumar on keyboard, Kavya Iyer and Anivartin Anand on western violin, and vocal music was provided by the South Indian classical music students of Nadalaya School. The very sight of such variety on stage – of musical systems, of instruments, of musicians ranging from grade schoolers to accomplished artists, held together and swayed by music, was awe-inspiring.

The ensemble offered a twelve-course musical feast to a full house at Shannon theatre. They made an auspicious beginning with a mallari (traditional temple music) in the raga Gambhira Nattai, originally composed by the violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman.

Eastern and Western musical influences were tightly braided throughout the concert. For instance, when they performed an improvisation of Saint Thyagaraja’s Nagumomu in raga Abheri and John Coltrane’s Blue Train, the group seamlessly blended the two influences to create a whole new sound – a true hallmark of any good fusion music collaboration. At the same time, they played pieces where each style was preserved in all its glory, such as the Chinese drum (dagu) performance, Laya Vinyasam (improvised exposition of rhythmic patterns) on the mridangam, and a group rendition of chittaiswaram (improvisation in solfege) in the rare raga Pasupathipriya. This interplay made the performance pleasurable for the puritan in the audience and the casual listener alike. The music was interwoven with a slideshow which featured trivia about musical styles, instruments, artists, and composers.

In the end, they performed a medley, including One Day by Matisyahu from the famed “Kindness Boomerang“ video (a must watch clip that portrays the power of simple acts of kindness). Shanthi Shriram, who has been a Carnatic music teacher in the Bay Area for several years and who was one of the artistic directors for the show, recalls orchestrating the finale as an unforgettable experience – “A Tibetan song set to Indian Madhyamavathi raga flowed right after Brindavani thillana and then into an English song in major scale, then finally into a Spanish song which represented our Mohanam scale. The most interesting aspect of the whole concert was how the Chinese drum dagu flowed so well with Indian percussion instruments like mridangam and ghatam. This was something I had never imagined possible.

Arun Shriram, the talented mridangam player, cherishes rehearsing with the artists of Beyond Oceans for months on end. One can imagine the camaraderie that develops as a result when he says “Performing with these musicians on stage was also a different experience from most stage performances I’ve been in. Although we were determined and felt the pressure of providing an entertaining performance to the whole audience, it felt as though it was just another rehearsal- we smiled at each other, we used visual contact as cues to play some particular section of music, and we had fun!”

Shriram Brahmanandam, a mridangam artist and co-artistic director at the Nadalaya School, reflected on the unique musical scene here, which allowed this kind of experimentation to come to fruition.

“We are indeed very lucky to live in a multicultural society like the Bay area. This truly gives us the opportunity to expose our students to various enriching experiences of working with and learning from artists of diverse musical systems. This learning involves different dimensions – learning to appreciate the beauty of instruments and musical systems different from ours, working with artists of different nationalities, the process of focusing and bringing out the synergies between various musical systems, and of course experiencing the final outcome – beautiful fusion music that brings out the best from all systems.”

He is right about the most admirable aspect of the concert, “The icing on the cake was the fact that all these efforts raised significant funds to help a noble cause such as Inclusive world.” With a noble gesture, these good samaritan musicians have set in flight a kindness-boomerang.

Dinesh Rabindran is a rasika who lives and works in the Bay area.

A Weekend with a Modern Guru

Sadhguru…does the word conjure up the image of a bearded gentleman sitting in the woods, cross-legged and observing silence? If it does, then you will be right but only partially. This South Indian guru does indeed sport a long, flowing beard but he is also a terrific speaker, a certified helicopter pilot, and an avid motorcycle rider. Add to it the occasional golfing trip as time permits and you now have a better picture. Here is a guru who leads life to the fullest and shows by example that one does not need to be a recluse to achieve spirituality.

Sadhguru’s homespun truths have aided millions around the world in their quest for peace and spirituality. His witty retorts and deep throated laughter mask a seriousness, a seriousness that I first encountered in 2011 when I attended his Inner Engineering program in Concord, California. Not knowing what to expect, I entered the program with few preconceived notions. Occasionally, skepticism crossed my mind in the days leading up to the program. What could a forty-something learn that is new about spirituality? And what does “engineering” have to do with all of this anyway? However, I was willing to spend a weekend. In the grand scheme of things, I figured a weekend spent with a “guru’” may not all be wasteful, and even if it was, it was just a weekend.

Suffice to say that that one weekend upended many of my assumptions and fallacies. In an atmosphere crackling with vibrant energy, Sadhguru’s talks tore down walls, uprooted beliefs and cut through to the essential truth – that the source of all wisdom lies within oneself. Over the course of two days, I saw my fellow seekers laugh, cry, and occasionally get hysterical as the master guided the audience through a 21-minute yogic practice. Distilled from ancient sources and adapted to modern needs, the Shambhavi Maha Mudra is an intense yoga sequence that has the ability to prepare oneself to achieve greater levels of consciousness and bliss. Yoga, as Sadhguru points out, is not about contorting one’s limbs or standing on one’s head. In its ultimate form it is ‘union’ with a higher power, a longing that every human being feels. Our individual abilities may vary, and consequently our material success, Sadhguru said, but the ability to attain bliss is universal and achievable.  

Sadhguru’s teachings are not rooted in any one religion or philosophy. The yogic science that he transmits transcends narrow identifications. Bay Area residents are lucky that this globetrotting guru will once again be in their midst to share his wisdom and techniques, an ability to “engineer” oneself to bliss and happiness. No prior knowledge is required.  Just an open mind and a small investment in time – if nothing else we owe it to ourselves for a chance to be blissful. It was an investment that has reaped rich dividends for me and continues to do so.

Find more information at:


Three Ethnic Soups for Autumn

The changing of the seasons is often difficult to notice in the Bay Area, compared to other regions of the United States, but the arrival of autumn is definitely marked by shorter days and cooler temperatures.

Appetites increase with the colder weather, and working people, who may have discovered easy short-cuts for light, summer menus now find it difficult to prepare warm, satisfying, and nourishing food after a busy fall day.

Soups are among the simplest of food preparations, yet they can also be creative, attractive, tasty, and nutritious. And soups can act as entrees or even whole meals. On a chilly evening there is nothing as welcoming to come home to as the smell of hot soup simmering on the stove! After working in a stuffy office, or a long commute, soups can satisfy and hydrate our bodies.

Soups can be made using almost anything you find in the kitchen. Soup recipes are flexible and versatile, enabling adjustments to meet all kinds of individual preferences or dietary requirements. Vegetarians and vegans can easily omit meat from a soup recipe without compromise. Tofu, soymilk, or soy yogurt can be substituted for meat, cream, sour cream, or yogurt to lower cholesterol. Bean or lentil-based soups contribute significantly to a healthy vegetarian diet. Served with rice or bread, soups can provide a complete protein-rich meal.

Here are three soup recipes from three countries. Each of these soups can be prepared quickly, especially if you have their common denominator, the chopped and sautéed vegetables made ahead of time. So prepare the vegetables in your spare time and refrigerate them. When ready, use them to make a hearty soup in minutes. Enjoy!

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of  Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health-food store. Serena Sacharoff is a chef, illustrator, and art student.

Make Ahead Vegetable Preparation

A few days or even a week in advance, prepare the vegetables for the soups as follows. Other vegetables can be added or substituted, depending on availability and preference.

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped bell pepper
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cauliflower or broccoli florets, cut  small
2 cups each carrot, celery, and zucchini, cut into ¼” cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons of canola, corn, safflower or olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons, freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan and saute the chopped onion briefly until limp. Add the bell pepper and garlic. Stir fry for a few minutes. Then add rest of the vegetables.
Saute the vegetables for several minutes until they begin to soften and are coated with oil. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, and sprinkle them with the lemon or lime juice.
The above list of ingredients makes approximately 9 cups of vegetables.
Refrigerate the vegetables in a covered container until you are ready to make the soup.

Greek Lentil Soup with Red Wine or  Vinegar

6 cups water
¾ cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
3 to 4 cups of the prepared vegetables
¼ cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes or tomato sauce
½ teaspoon minced fresh or dried oregano
a few tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
cup red wine or vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water and add the lentils. Cook the lentils over moderate heat until just soft, about 20 minutes. Add the prepared vegetables and cook for 15 minutes more until all of the ingredients are well blended. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, and wine or vinegar.

Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Check seasoning and serve with rice or bread.


Sambar is a type of South Indian dal (an Indian lentil-based soup) that can use many vegetables to create a substantial one-pot meal.
8 cups of water
1 cup toor dal (yellow lentils)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 fresh hot chili such as jalapeno,minced after removing core and seeds
½ teaspoon each coriander and turmeric powders
2 whole dried tamarind pods (with their shells intact)
or 1 tablespoon unsweetened tamarind concentrate
or juice of 1 lemon mixed with a tea spoon of sugar (a sweet and sour substi tute)
3 cups or more of the prepared vegetables
1 tablespoon dry, shredded coconut
1 cup fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon peanut, corn, or safflower oil

For tempering:
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 or 3 whole dried hot chilis
a pinch of asafetida

Rinse the lentils in very hot water a few times to remove dust and any oil they may have been coated with. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot and add the lentils. Simmer briskly for 15 minutes. Add the salt, powdered spices, ginger, and minced chili. Cover and cook the lentils for about 30 minutes on a moderate flame while preparing the other ingredients.

If using whole tamarind pods, remove the outer shell. Then take out the pits from the pulp and discard. Soak the pulp in ½ cup of warm water for 15 minutes to obtain a sweet and sour sauce.

Add the previously prepared vegetables, shredded coconut, tomatoes and the soaked tamarind sauce, tamarind concentrate, or the sweet and sour substitute to the soup. Simmer the soup while preparing for the last, important step, tempering—which sets the dal apart from other soups.

For tempering, heat the oil in a small saucepan. (A stainless steel measuring cup works fine for this step.) Add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the cumin seeds and dry chilies. Add the asafetida, and then quickly pour all of this smoky oil mixture into the pot of soup. Dip the small pan right into the dal to get it all off quickly, then immediately cover the pot. Turn off heat and keep the pot covered for five minutes. Uncover, retrieve the small saucepan and stir to mix.

Garnish the sambar with chopped fresh cilantro. Check seasoning and serve. Instruct your diners to remove the whole chilies from sambar before they eat.

Minestrone Con Pesto

½ cup kidney or pinto beans soaked in 3 cups of water overnight or for 6 hours, then drained
Or l 12 oz. can of beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups of water
2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto, a basil paste (recipe below)
3 cups of the prepared vegetables
1/3 cup uncooked pasta noodles (any type) or rice
½ cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

For pesto:

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, thick stems removed
3 tablespoons parsley, thick stems removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
a few pinches of salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water and add the drained beans. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
To prepare the pesto, place the pesto ingredients listed above in the jar of a blender or food processor and puree thoroughly. (As you will need only a small portion of the pesto, store the rest in a jar and freeze for the future use.)

Add the prepared vegetables, pasta noodles or rice, tomatoes and a few tablespoons of pesto to the cooking beans. Cook for 20 minutes more until all the flavors are well blended. Taste for spiciness, adding salt, pepper and/or more pesto to taste. Pass around parmesan cheese for garnish.

First published in October 2010.

“Getting Lost” Everest Jeep-Style!


Our epic journey began as an empty book. It only had the title – “To the Top of the World.” The rest of the pages would be filled over the next few days. All that was known was that it would be a story of 25 Mahindra jeeps which would carry us to Everest base camp from the Tibetan side. The briefing which took place at Kathmandu introduced some individuals into the narrative. As the days went by, words filled the pages – names, titles, and addresses of those who drove these jeeps started to dot the blank pages. Slowly, these mere labels became identified with faces and smiles. But very soon, they jumbled one into the other to become one – the convoy; one entity following the common passion of beholding the greatest peak on the top of the world – Everest! The convoy became the main plot of the story and the journey – the Goal.

The journey from Kathmandu (1400 m) to Saga (4640 m) was tough on some in the group, with the rapid rise in elevation. But witnessing the resilience of the local people put everyone’s difficulties in perspective. Staying hydrated was very important at this point of our trip. Inhaling camphor vapor helped overcome the discomfort to some extent. Colors started filling in and the characters of the plot no longer identified with the people or the jeeps. The vast expanse of the mountains ranges traversed on sometimes impassable roads were now the true “stars” in the tale. Mountain passes and the colorful prayer flags were very pleasing to the eye and soothed the mind.

The small train of vehicles moved forward and gained altitude in their majesty, crisp and rare, step by step getting closer to the goal. The convoy attracted respect from the locals, much in the same way that people in uniform do. We all felt an unexpected sense of pride to be part of this unique entourage.

The route from Saga to Shigatse to Lhasa was fantastic! It was not just the mountains that posed for the convoy, the lakes did their share of showing off too. Yamdrok lake was one of them. The bluer than blue waters of the huge lake seemed to swallow up the mountains it reflected. The clouds in the sky bowed down to join the feast.  An added bonus in the form of mastiffs and yaks begged to be captured on camera.

The plot thickened as the pages of the story began filling with picturesque shots of Mother Nature at her best. Every turn, every switch back, was a better scene than the previous one, overloading both the mind and the various digital devices that sought to capture the abundance of majestic vistas!  The rest of us seemed so minuscule, adding little or no value at this point. The view of Everest playing peek-a-boo as we got close to Rongbuk Monastery gave the much-needed boost as we were reaching an elevation of close to 5200 m. The last kilometer was a tough walk up to the monument, with windchill contributing to freezing temperatures.  

Then came the Triumph! The ‘Epitome’ of all – overwhelming in magnitude, with beauty beyond comparison. Our goal reached at last!  Pure unbounded joy, a feast for the senses, filling mind, heart and soul. The scale of Mount Everest humbled and took our breath away..quite literally. I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was in the presence of such majesty!

The urge to “be”, forced me to sit and watch the peak for a while. Then as I closed my eyes, I felt “nothingness.” What was me, meant nothing anymore. I was just a weave of yarn, each thread a mere memory that mattered no more. The vastness and expanse of the mountains simply took over all feeling. There was a sudden feel of a certain lightness in my being from that point. The serene beauty I beheld was at once formless and also had enormous physical form. What a humbling experience! I hope to etch it in my memory forever. Everyone had had their own piece of grace, secretly experienced as their own personal treasure, and quietly stashed it away in their minds. With heavy hearts and feeling blessed, we started the descent back to our abodes.

Ten days ago, at the start of the journey, 56 strangers banded together with a common goal. The subsequent journey to ‘The Roof of the World’, traversing 2400 kms and crossing 20 mountain passes (10 of which were over 5000 m), left us feeling like we had known each other forever. “Sharing is caring” was the motto of the journey. It was interesting how we all dropped our walls to find common ground, that enabled us to make lasting connections. 

For me personally, this journey heralds a new beginning, a yearning to be one with Nature. It has opened the door to new ventures. It has given me beautiful insights, by drawing me out of the comfort zone of established rigid sojourns,right into an unparalleled universe of limitless expanse. A morning cup of coffee, which held such significance in my “normal” routine was easily replaced by a cup of hot water or black tea. I found a certain freedom from the routines I allowed myself to be habituated by in the real world. Both my body and mind acclimatized to the dizzying elevations and varying temperatures in a way I could not have believed possible. Neither could I have imagined being on the road, journeying for an average of ten hours a day!

I was thrilled I had the chance to be at the wheel a few times, enjoying the mountain ranges and switchbacks from a driver’s perspective! I find within me now, an unusual excitement – a hankering to tread similar paths.  A new desire to truly “get lost” again seems to linger on! I wish and hope everybody gets to experience the wondrous Himalayas!  It was a journey of a lifetime for all of us.

jayanthi Tirumale lives in Bengaluru, India.


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