January 2021 and time for the annual, “Where in the world did the last year go by?”
2020 was to be my ‘Year of Travel’. I was in Aurangabad in Maharashtra, exactly at this time last year. I had explored the Ajanta caves but it was Cave 16 , also know as Kailash Temple at Ellora Caves that stopped me in my tracks. I had read of it in school but seeing in person, it took my breath away.
I remember looking up at the pale blue sky and imagining giant hands making a square shaped hollow in a mountain. Then carefully placing the temple, its soaring pagoda and carved columns inside the square, for this was not a cave at all.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this was a temple carved out of a single piece of rock.
Another astonishing fact was that it was chiseled by hand, starting from the top to the bottom. (I know I sound like a History nerd but some lessons are never forgotten especially when learnt for an exam decades ago). This was sheer poetry in stone.
Then of course there was the hill station of Lansdowne; the featured image is from there. That was the last place I visited before it became the ‘Year of the Lockdown and Travel Restrictions’.
2020 was also to be the ‘Year of Removing Social Distances’ before Social Distancing became the word of the year. Early in the year, I broke bread with the Van Gujjars, a nomadic tribe living in the jungles of Uttarakhand. We, an excited bunch of city slickers descended on their dera (homestead) in the jungle to have a memorable outing.
It certainly was in every respect.
I discovered Van Gujjars devotion to their cattle. They reminded me of the Masai tribe in Africa in this respect, both counted their cows and buffaloes as their wealth.
Imagine, good old barter system still worked in their community, although lately they had begun to realise the importance of cash through sale of milk and ghee.
Their homesteads were simple mud houses that lasted a season. No permanent construction was allowed within the jungles. I didn’t see any signs of a TV or a cell phone either.
Perhaps that’s all we need to live – four walls and a roof.
Caught in the act?
Peeping into one such mud house, I found this little goat transfixed by me. Right away, I was transported into Heidi’s world in the Alps. This was no Switzerland but the goat could have walked straight out of the pages of Johanna Spyri’s book.
Looking from my vantage point, the yellow stacks lit up like gold in the afternoon sun. I could see how they inspired Van Gough to paint something similar.
Check out the young lad in white. Within minutes, he had expertly tossed a huge bundle across his shoulders and fed his numerous buffaloes.
As city dwellers, we were an object of curiosity for the Van Gujjars. The kids watched us with fascination; they wouldn’t converse except among themselves. This little baby was left by his mother while she joined the other ladies to organise a meal for us.
The Gujjar ladies were extremely shy. They good naturedly allowed us to follow them around and help but wouldn’t say much. Perhaps we were oddities for them too. The little girl hidden in the shadows gave me the biggest grin when she saw I was about to click. Beauties, right? No wonder they happen to be part of my favourite photos of 2020.
Then the March Madness happened. Days slipped into weeks and months turned into a blur. It finally became the ‘Year of Quarantine’.
I never thought I’d say but in spite of all its downs and ups, it was a memorable year. I binge read, binge ate, binge watched and chilled. Soon after, battled the world’s greatest kicker of a pain in the head. Made me realise the importance of living ‘here and now’ and what retirement would look for me in a few years.
I know I’d still be blogging furiously then, with a little help from the Lens – Artists ladies. Their themes, quotes and words of wisdom are my weekly treat.
So was this quote…
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. – Edward Abbey
To a year filled with health, happiness and harmony… cheers!
Lens- Artists Challenge: Favourite images of 2020
RDP Saturday: Goodbye/ hello