Friday Letters – 3
#letterstothestar in you
Your story in the mountains never seizes to amaze me for a simple fact that you found your happiness in the mountains, much like the mythical figure in your second name preferred it, while your first name means happiness itself. I am sure it would have sounded better if I had said the same in Kannada.
Anand Sankar, your life story in the mountains crisscrossed mine here in the valley, thousands of kilometers away, in ways inexplicable to be described in words, which will always fall short. It just had to happen for my sake, just like you happened for Kalap‘s sake.
Before I begin to tell you how glad I am about what you’re doing up in the mountains against all odds, I want to tell you how little I knew about you when I first met you and how little time we needed to bond over the wisdom of an old monk. I remember reaching Dehradun in the middle of the night. It was like two strangers who greeted each other in the dark, around the small fire that kept us warm through the night, who woke up the following morning, like friends who were separated by time and space.
It was a point in time, in my life, when I was standing on the edge of a cliff to take a leap of faith and all I needed was a little push. I would take the plunge. Dheeraj nudged me a bit and put me in touch with you, who was looking for a volunteer to document Kalap, that tiny village in the lap of Himalayas. It was one of the best decisions I have ever taken in my life. I remember writing in my diary, not to forget to carry an open mind on this trip.
I did not know what it was that you wanted to do or change in Kalap, which is so far away from the civilization. It wasn’t until a year after I was there, that I got a clear picture of how, what you were going to do in the village was going to change the village for the greater good of everyone and not ‘anyone’ in particular in the village and the village itself in general.
When I first visited the village, it was my first introduction to an Utopian world, where content and happiness was abundant. I, for one, did not see the need for any change in that world. The last I heard about Barter system was in history text books. That world was long gone. It was a fascinating picture for me.
The reality lay somewhere in the details which you saw, that never crossed my mind where fantasy parade blurred my view of reality. It made a perfect picture for me, when I shot the children playing through the broken door and window frames of an abandoned school. But the reality was that there was an almost defunct education system. While I relished the taste of the local cuisine, little did I know that it lacked iron and vitamins, which was the reason behind many of the villagers being prone to anaemia and tuberculosis. I didn’t bother to care about the lack of sewer system or the lack of sanitation. It was you who noticed these problems. It wasn’t until you pointed out, how the villagers go under debt for their children’s education or healthcare when they come down to the city, that I realized the problem was for real. It is one thing to notice but to act, in order to set things right, without disrupting the very basis on which the village is built, is worth an applause. Imagine me, standing!
I remember the conversations with the youngsters in the village who were awestruck, that I have traveled in metros, and elevated flyovers, and super fast motorcycles. What a transformation it is, that you have brought in the village, 2 years after that, now I am sure the little children know about Harry Potter and Star Wars. What an amazing teacher you found in Anshu, when you started the free school, through Kalap Trust.
I remember the first time I met Guddu and Bhabhi was when they had come to Dehradun for Bhabhi’s health check up. You have no idea how happy I was when I saw the free clinic was up and running. Nandana, right? The doctor who worked there and made the health reports of everyone from Kalap and the surrounding villages. It is such a shame, that you had to shut the clinic after functioning for one whole year due to lack of funds. It is disappointing to know that the school is also running low on sponsorship for the children.
Sometimes I wonder, if it is all worth it, when I go out with friends for a birthday party to splurge on overpriced alcohol and pay the cover charges to spend a few hours among random strangers you may never see again nor remember, which is almost the same money that you need to sponsor a child’s education for an entire year. INR 16000, isn’t it?! Wait, let me ask my friends if we can sacrifice a weekend?
Or maybe, one of these days when I sit at Blossoms Bookstore to write letters to you, I print the pictures of the paradise, that is Kalap and send you that money, that I raise.
I don’t know exactly what is your educational qualification but I do know that you quit your journalism profession to travel around on your motorcycle, which you sold to me on my way back. I know, as a traveler, you couldn’t have come up with a better plan to improve the village economy, than encouraging ‘responsible tourism’. Giving away people memories to last a lifetime, while helping the villagers sustain a healthy economic independence, to survive the money monster we have created for ourselves in the civilization. So many of my friends are aware of Kalap and you. Some of them who have been there, have their minds blown, not entirely because of the beauty that is the Himalayas but it is the people of Kalap!
I have so much more to say to you, but I will leave with these favorite few lines I wrote, which I really like, after my stay in Kalap, which continue to mean the same.
After 20 Sunrises and Sunsets. . .
It’s been so many days now since I came back from Kalap but
everyday I wake up, it’s like the memory of that loved one which fondly returns with all the moments you’d shared together. Each day away from Kalap, is a day closer to the next time I will be in there. It is definitely just a matter of time. And time, as I know it, spreads its wings and flies faster, when you’re living your life to the fullest.
I am sure, the next time I come to Kalap, a lot would have changed, the kind of change that you wished all along. It will be one big reunion. A homecoming! Keep doing the good work, see there. Soon! Give my best regards to Guddu, Bhabhi and the kids.