This is a long rant, not an expert analysis. Treat it as such.

The current controversy about surgical strikes by Indian Army against Bakistanis is getting even more interesting. After Uri attacks, I wondered if India would strike back or just keep quiet like after Pathankot attacks. I had hopes that India would retaliate but we’re used so much to inaction and “log kya kahenge” syndrome in our foreign policy that I had to watch press conference by Indian DGMO twice to believe it. Predictably Bakis started their whinefest and denied it like they did with Osama, Mumbai attacks, Kargil, 1971, 1948, 1965 and numerous other incidents. But the panicked statements by un-uniformed jihadi Hafiz confirmed that attacks did happen and inflicted serious damage contrary to what the uniformed jihadis of Baki army and civilian jihadis in Baki gobarment were claiming. Then their begging bowl song and dance in UN confirmed it further.

After these attacks, the Baki nuclear bluff has been called out for what it is. The ignorant masses who can’t differentiate a Mig-29 from F-16 will keep on whining but people in relevant places now have confirmation about so called resolve of Bakis about the nuclear threshold. If they escalate the situation by firing on border or more terrorist attacks elsewhere, they will always do so with the knowledge that India will counter-attack and probably disproportionately. On this occasion, certain launchpads and related terrorist infrastructure has been destroyed which according to an educated guess killed a number of terrorists waiting to infiltrate in to India, their handlers who probably hold mid-level ranks and a significant number of Baki armed forces personnel guarding the places. This explains the loud howls of Hafiz and his ilk.
If Bakis keep on claiming that attacks never happened, then good for them and us. They don’t have any reason to escalate and will probably try to deescalate leaving us free to concentrate on our internal matters. In either case, it is a victory of India on a tactical as well as strategic level. It is a long pending move by India and everyone is accepting it openly or grudgingly.

Now there are some usual moles belonging to Congress, AAP etc. who find the success of an Indian initiative led by Modi a bitter pill to swallow. These politicians and their minions (atleast the few I have the misfortune of knowing) were barely able to hide their glee when they thought that Modi regime will not do anything to punish Bakis. As soon as news of the attacks broke out, some of them went in to stunned silence or some congratulated Indian Army while carefully trying to deny any credit to Modi. One congressi claimed that Indian army had done such attacks 4-5 times during UPA regime. It’s good, but what did such attack achieve ? It’s common knowledge that cross-border raids happen regularly on both sides. Perhaps they were a good idea at a local tactical level, but they served little purpose in overall strategic battlefield. As I’m writing this, a former DGMO Vinod Bhatia has denied even this claim of CONgress.
The AAPtard-in-chief pretended to congratulate Modi while asking for proof in the same breath. All of these butthurt losers know very well that details of such operations are almost never made public. When US (Russia, NATO or any other entity) kills Osama, or claims to have killed senior Al-Qaeda or other enemies by air attacks, how many times do you see the live footage ? How many of these idiots have asked for proof or provided proof for the claimed cross-border raids during UPA regime ?

As I said before, I know many Congi, AAPiya supporters and their reactions have been just like the politicians they support. There are some comparatively saner ones, who claim to not support any political party in a public gathering, But their posts on social media prove otherwise. Most of such people are ashamed to be called an AAP , CONgress supporter now and try to hide their embarrassment under the fig leaf of fake neutrality. Then there are some politically aware types who support Congress-AAP-TMC-JDU type parties only because they are not BJP. They are what you call full liberal, leftists types who will actively cheer for disgraced thieves like Kanhaiya, Khalid, Sanjiv Bhatt etc. Third category is supposedly not anti-nationalist but are just blind fanboys who will latch on to whatever their yug-purush will say. There is no sign that they can use their atrophied brain cells and will latch on to whatever their messiah says. It never occurs to them that their favourite politician is acting only to help his own interests at the cost of damaging the nation.
Then there are a few others, who are not as brain dead, but highly impatient. These people were complaining loudly against Indian inaction leading up to the surgical strike and as soon as the news broke out, they started referring to Paki media and playing doubting Thomas.

On a related note, a lot of people don’t like the expulsion of Baki fartists from India. I’ve been supporting it since a long time. I’ll whole heartedly support Bakis performers if they’re like Adnan Sami, but screw the others. Even if art is without borders, the money they get in India should serve Indian interests, not of the enemy. If you can’t get this simple fact, you have one thick skull full of platitudes and little else. Even the Indian fartists supporting Bakis are known Islamists and Bakistan lovers. Son of one such traitor was a friend of Dawood Headley. How can any Indian take such jokers seriously ?

When all is said and done, I certainly don’t say that trust the government blindly. But at least use your brain. Even if you dislike BJP or Modi, these whiners should realise that they live in India and Modi is Indian Prime Minister, whether you like it or not. Supporting Bakistani narrative hurts only the country you live in. If you still believe that Pakis are telling the truth, then I have 3-4 Taj Mahals that I’d like to sell.

Next time Bakis attack India by any means and to be honest, it’s only a matter of time, then Indian armed forces should not limit themselves to just killing the terrorists. They also need to attack the uniformed jihadis, Bakistani armed forces. Destroy the border posts which provide covering fire to terrorists. Attack the supply dumps, bases and Baki other military infrastructure near border. As of now, they don’t have any danger to their own lives. Once they have fear of a strong Indian retaliation and realise that their actions will probably cause their own deaths, they will be far less likely to play the role of an islamic ghazi. This will be seen as an escalation by India and rightly so. Till now, India has played nice and has only losses to show for it. Now Bakis are isolated on all fronts, apart from China and even they are unlikely to support Bakis in such a situation. Modi has played his cards right and we’ll have to wait and watch if the groundwork done in last years will lead to an Indian victory on this front.
Till then, have patience and keep faith.

I have started making a list of good work being done by current BJP government. Started quite late, so not everything is as perfect as it should be, but atleast is a start. The sheet below has the list of some work done by new BJP government starting from June 2014. I will keep on posting a new post after every 100 news items.

Early on, our plan was to visit the orchard early morning as the trees were supposed to be sprayed with insecticide. But due to nearly continuous drizzle, that was postponed and we decided to visit after 10 am. Needed the sleep anyway.

Road leading to orchard

Road leading to orchard

The orchard is about 25 minutes drive from their house, just beyond Kufri  in a very picturesque setting. There are a number of apple and pear trees in addition to some walnuts, plum and a few others. Most of the fruits including apple were very small and still about 3 months from getting ripe. Apple trees were covered with nets to protect them from hail. Additionally, they have a very interesting way of rearing bees. A small hole is made in to the wall of a spare room which is connected to a box. It also keeps the bees safe from weather and most predators. The owners need the bees for pollination and also benefit from harvesting honey.

Little Apples

Little Apples

As mentioned earlier, they were thinking of building a few log huts in the orchard. A small resort of log huts or tents when built here in between the trees will be a great attraction. The views of the valley are awesome, it’s sufficiently far away from the road so that there is no noise and the weather is cool. Their plan is to keep it as natural as possible with minimum construction, so it should be good. It should be a nice place to spend a few days in mountains or a rest stop whenever someone is visiting Shimla and places on the route.  We did a bit of brainstorming over this.

As we started to go back, it started raining heavily again. We drove for about 45-50 minutes through some very narrow streets with very high inclines to reach Shimla. The rain had stopped by the time we reached the city and the weather was cool enough to make us wear sweaters. We walked around the typical touristy places like the Mall Road and nearby market.

Inside the orchard

Inside the orchard

For the first time in my life, I visited a state tourism office (run by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) on Mall Road and asked for advice. The staff there was pretty helpful and advised us to visit Rajgarh, Haripur Dhar, Habban valley and a couple of other places on the way. It turned out later that some of the places like Habban valley are marked wrongly on the map and most people don’t even know about such a place. So please don’t trust the maps 100% and confirm with multiple sources. Wifey had first wanted to visit Kasaul, but as it is very near Kullu Manali area and we plan on visiting the place 2-3 months later, we agreed upon the plan suggested by tourism officials. We booked a room in a guest house run by HPTDC in Rajgarh for about Rs. 1000 from there.

Wild flower

Wild flower

Later, we walked around a bit in the market taking in the sights. As almost everyone has been to Shimla, there is not much to write about. I just don’t like the uncontrolled construction which has led to the hills being stripped of their green cover to be replaced by ugly buildings all over. Our walk was nice as it had rained only about a hour before and was still cloudy. Doing the same thing the day before in normal mid May weather would have been out of question.

While walking, I noticed a small shop selling old books and felt curious. The place was just covered in books of all genres, but with a majority from British times. Few of them were in good condition while the others had pages falling out or crumbling. I found one book written by an explorer in Tibet and asked it’s price. The shopkeeper answered with Rs 9000. Haha. Even with the antique value, he is charging just whatever comes to his mind as the books weren’t even restored at all. Just picked from trash and put on display on shelves and sometimes bins.

Rainbow on way to Shimla

Rainbow on way to Shimla

There was another similar shop but with lesser number of books a few meters ahead. Didn’t feel like buying stuff but still ended up buying an out of print edition on Indian Ordnance Corps for Rs 300. An excellent bargain considering the mint condition of book and contents.

If someone remembers this artwork installed there, the young man in front posed as model

After getting back, it was time for dinner and packing for next 3 days. The car we arranged for was scheduled to arrive at 6 am. So we packed everything hurriedly and went to sleep soon after.

Memeorial to Lt Gen Daulat Singh on Mall Road

Memeorial to Lt Gen Daulat Singh on Mall Road

 

Taking Shelter

Taking Shelter

Same boy in different attire 15 years later

Same boy in different attire 15 years later

I woke up at around 4:30 pm and went out of tent to find Jamaica was back. He had brought back some supplies was with him and was busy putting them away. As we chatted over a cup of tea, a guide came up and said that a foreign tourist had fallen sick and needed medical care. Turned out that a large group of tourists were doing the Zanskar to Spiti trek and one of them was showing symptoms of high altitude sickness. We had no means of contacting anyone except for one satellite phone in Batal. Just about then, a few locals from some place near Kaza came back from the lake and started to leave in their Maruti 800. The stupid guide, instead of sending the sick tourist  back to Batal in their car, hopped in himself and went away before we had the chance to say anything.
As we had no information of their location or means to help, we could only hope that the guide would be able to call up an ambulance. As I had already explore much of the area and didn’t have enough time to do anything else, I just stayed in the camp.  Jamaica is an interesting guy and it was fun listening to his stories. Did a bit of cleaning up of the camp site by picking up the trash. I wish the rules related to littering and environment protection were more strictly implemented.
Batal
Anyhow, nothing really remarkable happened otherwise and I had dinner and packed up all of my stuff which was going back with me.  Waking up next morning, I was again tempted to go out to have a ‘little walk’ around the place but checked myself. No taxi, private car etc came up for a long time, so I just chatted with Jamaica and and some shepherds. After a while, 3 guys came up, one of them a guide from one of the camps down the road. Rest were staff from an ambulance service which the guide had called up. The driver was unable to negotiate the sharp curves and had left the ambulance back there to came up by foot. For record, you can dial 1608 to call for an ambulance there.
The guide came up riding pillion on a bike. Biker told us that one of the guys in his group had broken his leg near Batal and they were staying there waiting for a vehicle to Manali when the guide came  to call for ambulance. The guide went to his group to bring them, while the rest waited. They came up after a while and I was a bit surprised to see them. It was a group of 10-11 people and not one of them was looked below 35. The sick guy was easily 50. Although, they were using  porters and mules to carry their luggage,  their journey from Zanskar to Spiti was no mean feat. Many people consider it to be one of the most difficult treks.The sick guy was loaded on the bike and driven to the ambulance. As there was enough space, the driver graciously agreed to drop me in Batal. I gave away most of my medicines to Jamaica as I had little use for them and took my leave. I kept 2-3 pills of a few, just in case :D
Near Chota Darraa
We walked to the ambulance and the sick tourist was given some first aid. He  didn’t speak English and most of the conversation was in gestures and signs. Only if the guide had brains to take him down to Batal with him the previous night, so much trouble could have been averted. But he seemed fine and no serious damage was done. I said goodbye to the lake and climbed in the front seat with driver. The road was rocky and difficult to drive , same as most places beyond Manali. At a point, I thought we were going too fast and I glanced at the speedometer. It read an insanely fast speed of 25 km per hour. Heh
      The ambulance dropped us at Batal at 12 and left for Kaza. A bus was already waiting for the tourist group. It was full already, so I kept waiting for another one. As the road had just opened in Kaza, I was hopeful of getting a bus or taxi soon, but the vehicles going towards Manali were very few. I had lunch in Chandra dhaba and sat outside. There were quite a few vehicles coming from Manali going towards Kaza, so it was a busy place. Driver of the bus thought himself a bit of a smart alec and keept cracking tasteless jokes about age of sick tourist and how old people should stay at home, crows as big as chicken in mountains of Jammu etc . I got annoyed after a while and walked around the place clicking some photos.But there was hardly anything to see near the road.
After 2-3 hours, rest of the tourist group  reached Batal and they left on bus taking the injured biker with them. At around 4, I got sick of waiting and put away my rucksack to spend the night in dhaba. Even if any vehicle passed through, it couldn’t reach Manali before 11 in night. Last bus for Delhi left at around 9 – 10. Better to spend night in Batal than in another crappy hotel  in Manali. I picked up my camera and torch and left to explore the area beyond the hill adjacent to hill.
After walking around rather aimlessly for a while, I found the source of  ‘perennial tap’ in dhaba which provided water 24 hours non-stop. It was a small spring around a km from dhaba. They had laid down around 6-7 cm thick plastic pipes to transport the water back to the dwellings. Some holes, 1 meter deep were dug at regular intervals to keep an eye on pipe’s condition. Although, Chandra river  flows just beyond their dhaba, it’s water is not drinkable due to slit.
A ridge extended sideways for quite some distance beyond the spring and I started climbing it. A water stream which merges in to Chandra near the bridge in Batal flowed beyond it. It’s source was a glacier 3-4 km straight up the path on ridge which first merged with a mountain and then seemed to extend right up to the glacier. It was 2nd time in 2 days that I found myself right in sight of some place where I could easily walk to but couldn’t because of lack of time and related crap. Only if I had left sooner, I could have a reasonable chance of trekking right up to the glacier. It was getting dark really fast as dark clouds covered the sky and wind got a bit colder as if it was raining somewhere.
I decided to walk as far as possible till it got too dark or started raining heavily. Till now, I hadn’t paid much attention to critters on ground.  But this place for some reason was swarming with spiders up to 5-6 cm across. There were so few insects in the place and even less vegetation to support any significant numbers. Presence of so many full grown spiders in such a place was very surprising.  It was a bit difficult to take a picture as they hid fast behind stones whenever some particularly fast gust of wind came by. My camera battery was almost fully discharged by this time anyway. So there are not many pictures.
I still don’t believe that nectar, pollen are part of a healthy diet for a spider
I kept on walking till a few minutes past six when it started to drizzle. There was still a lot of distance left to the glacier, so I turned back. It was almost dark by the time I reached back to dhaba. A few minutes later, two bikes from Bangalore coming from Kaza side stopped by to ask for directions and decided to spend the night. They had started their journey from Shimla route and it was nice to compare notes and exchange  ideas. I realised for sure that biking is a completely different form of travel than what I like.  While we were having dinner, Chacha started generator to recharge his inverter batteries (for his satellite phone). I managed to get my camera battery charged too. We went to bed soon after.
I woke up beforee 7 in morning to sound of trucks stopping and truckers going in to dhaba for a cup of tea. Those bikers had their breakfast, packed up and left soon after.  As I had my breakfast, I was tempted to go out walking again. But considering that the road had just been cleared, I decided to stay and wait for a vehicle. I got a lift in a Sumo taxi at around 11. The driver had stopped by the previous day too as he was transporting a group of foreigner tourists from Manali to somewhere near Kaza. As he was coming back empty, he had a 3 sullen looking Biharis who had missed the early morning bus. That bus had passed by about an hour earlier, completely jam packed. The driver upon noticing my camera asked me to stop wherever I feel liked to take pictures. He was fairly knowledgeable about the place and kept dropping tit-bits of information every now and then. One of the suspensions of the vehicle was damaged, so he claimed that  was not driving very fast. I doubted if it was possible to drive any faster on those roads.
For perspective, that blue-yellow thing at bottom is a tent
We did stop in a number of places, sometimes him pointing out something which I had missed. He offered to stop and wait for me near Rohtang Pass, so that I could catch a glimpse of Beas Kund. But it was raining heavily and the place was literally covered with clouds. The visibility was less than 20 meters. We moved on but got stuck in jam due to bad road soon after. The road was nothing except a mud track  and we spent more than an hour crawling down from the pass till road got any better. Rohtang Pass was a disappointment anyway, full of shanty like shops, shitty dhabas and dumb tourists (mostly Indian) acting like fools. I can understand people posing for photos in silly dresses, sunglasses etc but what  angered me was filthiness of the place. An average Indian tourist is a  plague of any beautiful place.
  Rest of the drive to Manali was without any incident and the beautiful sights outside helped calmed me down. Finally I had the chance to see the part of Beas where it flows through deep gorges as described in अरे यायावर रहेगा याद . Couldn’t get out to explore but may be will do it someday. We reached Manali at around 7:30. All the Volvo buses had left and only Himachal SRTC buses were available. Bought one ticket for a bus leaving at 9:30. As I had quite a bit of time to pass, I walked to Old Manali and had dinner in a faux-Tibetan restaurant. Almost all of the staff had left for Pushkar due to off-season in Manali and beginning of tourist season there.  Tested ‘choclate momo’ for dessert. It was nothing to talk about.
The bus, when it left was mostly empty, but I couldn’t fit my rucksack in overhead luggage rack. A kind local suggested that I take one of empty row of seats. These buses are driven with  lights on inside switched on.   As I wanted to get a little bit of sleep, I put on my sunglasses, covered my eyes with my hat (yes, at night) and made myself as comfortable as possible. Managed to get a few winks of sleep, but the journey was long and bus reached Delhi past noon.
Back to the soul crushing grind of life in a big city.
Sigh.
Not all those who wander are lost.  J.R.R.Tolkien