Attige with her typical accent was telling to Sudhira at Rahi motel, Hardwar, while sipping the last cup of black tea from Garhwal, "Uttaranchal means Rocks"! There was a pause for few seconds!! Seven of us looked at each other, probably we all had similar feel within us and endorsed her view. For last six days the word "rock" has not only had its impact on our mind, giving a philosophical bent, but also on my hand, giving me a greater physical dent. And like a quick black and white flashback in a color movie, my mind too travelled back and forth, and I too said, showing my injured finger and nodding my head, "Uttaranchal Rocks".
Previous day was probably one the greatest learning day of my life and teacher was non other than "rocks". The first lesson we had was "Destination is driven by rocks and not by any transport mode". I had the glimpse of this lesson in 2007, while coming back from Rohtang pass, but teacher was not in a mood to teach me properly at that time. We left Karnaprayag and were heading towards Hardwar, we were in the truest spirit of returning himalayan trekkers, with crystal clear pride on face, of trekking upto valley of flowers, bowing to Badrivishal and roped away to Auli, to me it was equivalent to climbing mount Everest (importantly, I was with my wife and she was first timer to Himalayas). Amidst, such zeal and josh! our vehicle made a steady and slow halt. Our ustadji (driversaheb) stopped the vehicle hardly after an hour of journey. He suspected a traffic jam and simply parked the vehicle behind another tourist vehicle. Initial few minutes inside the vehicle was very restless, every one was anxious, excited, unsettled in the hope that road will be soon cleared and we will reach Hardwar by noon and/or in a hurry to convey this fantastic tour reports to our friends, to gain that extra pat on the back.
People did rotis on the roadside, some slept and some sang, a few even danced. Most common kind, threw stones into the river. Time passed by. First to go out of the vehicle was Sudhira, after an hour or so, me, my brother and Aravind came out of the vehicle to have First Hand Information. Ustadji was right, true to his guess, two huge rocks of a swaraz mazda size stood in the middle of the road since 8:30 in the morning and were in no mood to give way for over 300 of us on either way. They were clearly hitting at the pschye of any human being around at that place and we all looked too feable and useless infront of them. The only thing I could do was to take few snaps and movies of the "Rocky event".
After five hours of relentless effort by Border Road Organization (aptly called BRO), rocks slid onto the riverbed and we moved towards Srinagar. This five hours of wait, as I said earlier taught me (hopefully for others too) the first lesson.
After such an everlasting class, one needs a break and we hurriedly had it at Srinagar, thinking that there will not be any more classes like this from Uttaranchal. Ustadji drove to his maximum, pressing the peddle even in the turnings, squeezing and pushing through rolling stones of Shivaliks. I was nearly petrified on seeing that there were few stones coming down and Ustadji simply drove through them. As a seasoned driver, he must have made up his mind that smaller stones can be dodged and at most can cause a dent but larger ones, as that of the morning, one cannot do anything but stranded for hours together.
I had this rare opportunity to be the navigator of the vehicle on last day of our tour and with Global Positioning System in hand, was making countdown of distance to reach Hardwar, like 30 to Hardwar, 27 to Hardwar. I just said 7 km to Rishikesh, Ustadji stopped his vehicle again. I was very anxious, I was telling Ustadji that vehicles are moving! in a way that he too can squeez his Sumo and go ahead. Ustadji enquired a few onward travellers and found that the smaller vehicles can go but not bus and truck. A strange smile was on my face, but it did not last long.
Finally our vehicle came to complete halt at around 7:30pm. For the first time, an absolute negative vibration came to all the minds inside our vehicle. Are we going to make it (From Hardwar our train to Delhi was at 11:30pm, on this same night)? An hour passed by, as exhausted and learned travellers of today morning, we did not bother to go out and see. We all were thinking that, at least by 9pm, we will move from this place. No way!!! By 9pm, Sudhira, me and Aravind, with my minibrightlight torch, got out of the vehicle. I was just telling to my mind, "please not again", fortunately, it was again rocks on the road, but of smaller size. In addition, there were over 20 Sardar youths, putting their energy to move these stones. As we entered the scene, few stones came rolling down, one brushed Sudhira's feet, but none got hurt. Earlier in the evening, two from the road clearing team of Uttaranchal Government slid into the valley with minor injuries. So there were no support from machine or Government for us this time. Few of us made our mind, at least to push one of the stones into the valley. Eight to nine of us gathered around the stone, one put a small crowbar under the stone, in one voice we all uttered "Jo bole so ni hal, sat sri akal". Rock did move a centimeter or two, but in the next second, ayyyyyyyyyyooooo......! I was in utter pain, I was holding my right hand in lefthand, pressing the middle three fingers. "I must have lost three fingers, oh please, let it be only one, oh, its my right hand, oh please, nothing should happen to bones" I was talking to myself. After a few minutes, Aravind saw me holding my hand. He was shell shocked, so was Sudhira, but he did not show on his face. I made up my mind to loosen the hand and to see how many are gone? Fortunately, only my middle finger was injured and with the help of Aravind's first aid kit, I got it dressed. So was the second lesson for the day, "Do not muddle up with rocks". We marked our place for sleeping, Sudhira and Aravind on the bonnet, my brother and his son in the last seat, Priti in driver's seat, Attige in navigator's, Amma in the middle and me on the "Rocks". No need to say that we missed our trains!. Till 0:30hrs, I was sleeping on the rocks, keeping my right hand up and my mind was full of teachings, lessons and learings from the rocks, indeed "Uttaranchal Rocks".