Monday, September 19, 2011

When he chose

When he chose to hear his heart's symphony,
he became a musician.

When he chose to wrap his thoughts in words,
he became a poet.

When he chose not to curse,
he became blessed.

When he chose not to resist,
he became a channel.

When he chose not to be a hero or a villain,
he became divine.

When he chose not to do but to be,
he became a spirit.

When he chose not to 'mind',
he became the soul.

When he chose silence,
he became enlightened.

When he chose love,
he became God. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Backpackers trip from Dubai to Salalah

Four backpackers decided in four minutes to go for a four day spontaneous trip on a four-wheel drive. The trip involved more than 3000 kms of road trip from dazzling Dubai to scenic Salalah in Oman. The unplanned excursion, coupled with our total lack of preparation, had all the ingredients of making a colourful journey with emotions ranging from exhilaration to despair and ecstasy to fear, terrain from swathes of extreme desert to wild green forests to tempestuous seas.

The pitfalls of a totally unplanned trip were many, but having come out safely, we've created memories to last a lifetime. The trip had so many wow moments that with each we felt we had reached a peak of amazement, only to realize later that we concluded too soon.  

Here I list the events in increasing order of 'wow'ness. 

1. Driving through flood waters : We were cruising nicely between Ibri and Natih with an uneventful but comfortable journey behind us when we hit a roadblock. A string of vehicles had stopped ahead of us in the middle of nowhere, the only sources of light being the headlights. A bunch of Omani locals were perched on a small hill by the road side. We came out of the car to a loud gurgle of water streaming through forcefully across the road. We saw water gushing forcefully in what was otherwise an absolutely dry desert, with cars waiting on either side of the stream, their headlights dancing on the wild waters. Going back was not an option. So we moved on slowly, praying hard, after watching some other cars cross it. While in the stream, we could feel the force of water pushing the Prado, thumping against its body. We crossed it amidst wild cheers of jubilation and sighs of relief from all four of us. Half an hour later, however, we faced the second similar challenge. The flow here was more forceful than the previous one. Worse, we were the only ones at the spot. With no precedent or familiarity of the road, we needed a leap of faith to go through this one. We crossed it much more slowly and with fervent prayers. The celebration though was muted this time for we didn't know how many more we would face. Luckily, that was the last one. 

2. Entering Salala: I was sleeping when excited cries of my friends woke me. It was 6:30 am and mild mist was all around us. The windows were rolled down. The breeze had a cool, wet spunk that made us shiver mildly. The sun roof was also rolled back as I moved up. A sloppy road was swamped on both sides by a sheet of lush green grass covering the valley. The leaves of the trees rustled in the breeze. The whole ambiance had a salubrious naturalness to it. Rambling across lazily on the road were camels that ironically were a misfit in this part of the gulf. This became a wow moment for us because for the first time in the middle east, we saw a place where the only colour around us was 'a natural green' in the lap of mystic ease.

3. Sea water springs: We travelled westward from Salalah towards ‘Al Mughsayl beach’ where we saw for the first time almost white beach sand and clouds covering the mountain tops.  The road ahead reached the foothill of the distant mountains and disappeared into the clouds. 

But the real wow moment was at the ‘Al Marnif Cave.’ How many times in your life, can you bathe from water jetting up from the ground? No more words, just the video. 

4. From dry desert to thick forest in less than 2 kms: the best of Salala is in the wadis (valleys), not in the town, in the narrow alleys, not on the main roads and in the cradle of nature, not in the tomb of concrete. The mantra for astounding yourself is to take the most unassuming diversions off the main road, avoiding the popular and choosing the road less travelled. We did that and were treated to some of the best views of our lives. The most unbelievable experience is the temperature that drops in a space of one to two kms even as the terrain changes from hot desert to lush green forest, from dry plains to pleasant hilly springs with streams gurgling down forming small waterfalls every now and then. These beautiful valleys were ‘Ayn Tabraq’ and ‘Wadi Darbat.’

5. The caves: When nature chisels some gravity defying sculptures in the caves of a dense valley, you get the beauty of ‘Ayn Athun’. A picturesque drive through zig zag and steep roads takes you to this cavernous destination. Mild drizzles welcome you as you amble across smelling the sweet earthy perfume under the shade of trees on either side of the pathway. The trail opens into a large bowl amidst gasps of disbelief as you find yourself at the bottom staring at 20 meter high fossilized rocks showcasing brilliantly eerie contours. The carvings resemble snouts of various legendary predators hanging upside down ready to pounce on you any moment but frozen by some invisible power. A rendezvous of this place at night can spook you to death. Better go there in the day time.

6. Heaven on earth: We travelled east from Salalah with an aim to go along the beach road on the way to Muscat. After Sadah we crossed most of the dry hilly terrain and we were about to reach Hadbin when we all screamed simultaneously, our mouths left agape for a while, for what we saw felt like heaven on earth. Everything about that view was perfect. The booming Arabian sea to the right, almost white sand sheathing the landscape, hillocks peppered around stretching the oceanic tidal effect to land and a big black mountain at the far end next to the beach. The sand blanketed the landscape till the base of the mountain with clouds kissing the top. The play of light, the angelic whiteness, the hum of the waves, and the cold breeze hissing through our ears and flapping our clothes was the most divine moment of the journey.

7. sandwitched between roaring sea and imposing mountains: Soon after we crossed Hadbin, we screamed, yelled, laughed and cried our hearts out for a good 15 minutes because the mesmerizing beauty of the scene just wouldn’t end. We stopped hooting only when our divine spirits were bound by the physical limitations of our throats and bodies. This was by far the best moment of our journey. The sky displayed its bounty with a generous spread of clouds. The unencumbered breeze blew much more powerfully now. It carried with it the high tide of the seas that roared tumultuously, hitting the rocks next to our road splaying water all around. On the left were imposing mountains, at times perilously tilting over the roads, as if ready to attack if the sea dared to trespass. We felt sandwiched between two warring factions - the tenacity of water pitted against the dogged determination of rocks. This experience continued for almost 30 kms, by which time it became dark. At the end of that stretch we reached a dead end, facing a huge mountain in front and left of us, the sea to the right. Small rocks, big enough to smash a car, littered the ground all around us – it didn’t take us long to realize that we had reached a mountain blasting site. The only way forward was backward.

We enquired in the neighbouring villages and found that the road ahead was being constructed. Worse was the fact that the only way to go to Muscat was to go back to Salalah (200 kms) and then take another route. We were crestfallen and too shocked to whine, our shoulders were down as we started our long journey back. Nobody spoke for a while as all of us stared blankly outside the window into the darkness until one of us dared to see positivity in this. And then we all agreed that we would not have driven 200 kms to see some of the best visions of our life had we known that the road ahead was blocked. This suddenly brought the realization that whatever happened, happened for the best and couldn’t have happened in any other way. The thought cheered us and we started our singing and humming between the uproarious sea and the belligerent mountains. They had switched sides now, but were still at loggerheads.

8. The Mist: Upon reaching Salalah again we found that the hotels were full. So we had to drive back towards Dubai hoping to find some place to rest along the way. Just as we reached the outskirts of Salalah where the green valleys began, we hit clouds of thick mist that reduced the visibility to barely a meter. I was shaken out of my slumber once again by sighs of disbelief. The journey had many surprises but this one was the most dangerous, thanks to our unfamiliarity to the terrain. What could we do afterall, if we can’t even see? We reduced the speed to below 20 and allowed a local taxi to overtake us. We then followed it very closely until the visibility was slightly better. By then we were tired of these dangerous surprises. Our silent prayers were heard in that moment so we didn’t have any further surprises. The next day’s drive was largely uneventful.

I read somewhere that the quality of your life is defined by the answer to the question ‘when was the last time, you did something for the first time?’ Our proud answer is ‘last week.’

For all those who want to go on such excursions, here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Go with a map provided by Oman Visa authority when you enter Oman: We used different routes while going and coming The shorter route from Dubai to Salalah is : Dubai - Al Ain - Ibri - Adam - Al Ghabah - Hayma - Muqshin - Qitbit - Thumrayt - Salala. Note that Hatta route is much longer compared to Al Ain route if you want to go to Salalah. 
  2. Qitbit has a decent rest house where you can stay for the night. Hayma too has one.
  3. Don’t let your fuel tank go below half way point anytime. You can never be sure when the next petrol pump will come. However, the maps do indicate the petrol pumps with fair amount of accuracy.
  4. Take a good chunk of music cd, dvd, mp3s with you.
  5. The spellings of the names mentioned here and on the map are different from the actual signs. Actually, the spellings will differ between signboards too. So go by the phonetic version more than the actual spelling. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011


सोच रहा हूँ की ये क्या सोच रहा हूँ मैं,
सोच सोच कर ये क्या खोज रहा हूँ मैं? 
सोच में इतना कैसे डूब गया?
की मैं सोच नहीं ये भी भूल गया. 

भीड़ में अकेला करती है सोच, 
और तन्हाई में भीड़ को चाहती भी. 
जो है पास उससे दूर करती है सोच,
और दूरी को नजदीकियां बनाती भी. 

मुझको मुझसे छुपाती है सोच,
और मुझे तुमसे मिलाती भी. 
मेरे अधूरेपन का एहसास है सोच, 
और वही तुमसे प्यार जताती भी. 

मेरे हर डर का जज़्बात है सोच,
और हिम्मत की हर आस भी. 
कभी पल से ज़िन्दगी छिनती है सोच,
और कभी ज़िन्दगी में पल भरती भी.  

साँसों में साँसें उलझाती है सोच, 
और कभी मुश्किलें सुलझाती भी. 
जीने की वो हर आरज़ू है सोच,
और मरने की हर तमन्ना भी. 

मेरे बचपन की वो यादें है सोच,
और बुढ़ापे की लाठी भी.  
मेरा कल, आज और कल है सोच,
पर मुझे बनाती और मिटाती भी. 

सोच नहीं तो क्या हूँ मैं? 
इस बात से अंजान हूँ मैं.
सोच नहीं तो मेरा अस्तित्व क्या है? 
सोच नहीं तो मेरी परिभाषा क्या है? 

मेरे जीवन की कहानी है ये सोच, 
घटना नहीं पर मेरा अनुवाद है सोच, 
मुझे मुझमें उलझाए रखना है इसको 
कुछ और ना सही, एक नशा है सोच.