Categories
Essay

A Salute to Ashutosh Bodhe

A tribute from Ravi Shankar to a fellow trekker & a recap of their adventures in the Himalayas

Ama Dulam and Lohtse peaks on the way to Everest. Photo courtesy: Ravi Shankar

A very fit and energetic person strode into my office. My good friend, Varun, accompanied and introduced him as a newly joined faculty member in the Physiology department at the Manipal College of Medical Sciences (MCOMS), Pokhara. My friend always called himself Ashutosh though he quickly became famous at MCOMS by his surname Bodhe.

Bodhe was always in perpetual motion. During our five years of close interactions, I rarely saw him sitting quietly in one place. He was a member of the college mess but rarely ate from there. I sometimes saw him around 2 or 3 pm having noodles and eggs from the private food stall located within the mess. He was fond of repairing things. He could put back together nearly everything — except maybe, broken hearts. His tool kit consisted of a soldering iron, screwdriver, screws, insulation tape, clamps, and a multimeter; rather strange appurtenances for a doctor.   

During my conversations with him, I came to know that he had always wanted to be an engineer and had secured admission into a premier engineering college in Mumbai, India. He also later qualified for admission to the medical course and his family insisted that he switch over to medicine. He would walk around the city of Pokhara, Nepal at strange times of the day and night. He would walk from the lakeside to the college campus after 10 pm. This seemed strange in a city that usually goes to sleep by nine.  

The hill overlooking the Fewa Lake. Photo Courtesy: Ravi Shankar

Bodhe, on occasions, also joined us on day hikes in the Pokhara valley. Pokhara is a trekker’s paradise. The walk up to the Shanti Stupa on the hill slopes overlooking the Fewa lake can be a good Saturday morning activity. Rowboats are available on the shore of Fewa Lake and are mainly used to visit the Tal Barahi temple located on an island in the middle of the lake. The stupa was built by a Japanese monk with the help of locals in the early 1970s. The stupa stands on Anadu hill in the onomatopoeic village of Pumdi Bhumdi and is a good hour’s climb. After the visit, you can climb down to Damside, continue to Lakeside, and return after a delicious lunch.

Boats on the shore of the Fewa Lake. Photo Courtesy: Ravi Shankar

Occasionally, Bodhe would join us on our Saturday walks to Lakeside. The walk would take about 90 minutes. We continued along the lake to a ‘Korean[1]’ restaurant. The restaurant constituted of small huts by the side of the lake with tables and chairs. It was a magnificent location for a feast! We used to have Nepali daal bhaat tarkari maasu (lentil curry, rice, vegetables and meat, usually chicken). In many Nepalese restaurants, food is usually prepared fresh after you order. The food takes around an hour to be prepared. This leaves plenty of time for conversation. The food by the lake was always fresh and piping hot. The country chicken was beautifully spiced, and the green leafy vegetables were perfect.

 Our other go-to place for lunch on Saturdays (the weekly off in Nepal) was the Pokhara Thakali Kitchen. Thakalis are originally from the Thak Khola (the upper Kali Gandaki River) around the Nigiri Himals to the north of Pokhara. They are successful businessmen and run some of the best hotels and restaurants in the country. I simply loved their rich, thick green daal and their potatoes fried in ghiu (clarified butter). The other specialty was dhido (a thick paste) made from either corn or buckwheat flour.

Bodhe, me, and a group of students hiked to the Everest Base Camp and Kala Pathar. We flew to Lukla (from Kathmandu) and the Tenzing Hillary airport at around 2800 m. This is one of the most dangerous airports in the world and accidents were not uncommon. The runway was only around 600 m and then it is a steep drop to the river below. We had lunch at a lodge in Lukla while we waited for our porters. Most hikers spent the first night on the trail at the settlement of Phakding. The first thing we noticed was that the Everest region was much colder than the Annapurna trekking region just north of Pokhara. A large portion of the hike is at heights of over 3000 m.

The peak autumn trekking season was underway and there were large groups of hikers on the trail. We were racing against each other to find a place for the night. Those were the days before online booking and land telephone and internet access were still not available in Khumbu.

Namche Bazaar, the ‘Sherpa Capital’[2] was packed with tourists, and we were lucky to find rooms at a small lodge. The next morning dawned clear and frosty and the views of the Himals were spectacular. Bodhe, while chewing tobacco, was busy clicking photos and we were dancing vigorously to various songs. He really liked the song Kaanta laga[3]. He would reminisce about the wild morning and mention the ruckus we had created, chewing his usual wad of tobacco for he seemed addicted to the stuff.

Bodhe was a man with tremendous energy and a useful person to have on a long trek. He was impulsive and a practical joker but a kind soul with the energy to get going when the going becomes tough. He sprinted uphill on hikes and then climbed a tree or went off sprinting into the bushes. He did not reach a lodge or a settlement early as he was easily diverted by wayside attractions. He was fascinated by the term boche which stands for a flat land seen from a hilltop. In a very rugged and mountainous landscape, flat land is a coveted commodity. There are many boches in the Everest region – Pangboche, Deboche, Dingboche, Pheriche Tengboche among others.

We eventually reached the settlement of Gorak Shep at 5300 m. The weather was cloudy and freezing. The temperature was well below zero. We were shivering under our quilts in the lodge. It was the eve of Kojagiri Purnima[4], and the moon was beginning to rise. Bodhe motivated a group of students to carry and pitch a tent on the slopes of Kala Pathar (Black Stone) in the freezing cold. They donned all the winter clothing they had and spent the night on the rock photographing the world’s highest mountains in moonlight. The cold chilled their marrows and sleep was out of the question. They arrived around eight the next morning with wild stories of their hair-raising night.

We eventually returned to Lukla and reconfirmed our flight tickets for the following morning. Our flight was scheduled for eleven am and the last night at the lodge was a wild one. Bodhe was in full form and we were all relieved that the trek was over, and we were flying back to Pokhara. It was raining heavily the next morning and our flight was repeatedly delayed. Flights to and from Lukla are notoriously fickle. We were the last flight to take off as rainy weather closed in.

It was a long drive in the rain from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Clouds and mist draped the hills. Soon after reaching the hostel, one of the students who had joined us on the trek mentioned that the next day was a holiday as the roof of the Manipal Teaching Hospital had collapsed. We chided him for his fertile imagination but slowly realised that he was telling the truth. The hospital roof had collapsed that afternoon killing a few patients in the waiting area and seriously injuring a few others.

We hiked with Bodhe, some other faculty, and a few postgraduate students to the village of Ghandruk. Ghandruk (also called Ghandrung) is the second largest Gurung[5] village in Nepal. The hike was along a rocky riverbank and then through stone staircases. The sun was up full force and our trek to the village was hot. Mule trains raised dust clouds as they move up and down the trail. The village is the headquarters of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). There are several excellent lodges in the village and the Annapurna South and Hiunchuli Himals can be viewed from there. One of the finest lodges in the village was the Himalaya lodge, a Kerr and Downey resort located at the top of the village. The lodge was an additional twenty-minute hike, but it is well worth the effort. The views are stupendous and the rooms beautiful. They provide down jackets and slippers for the comfort of their guests. There was a good porch and a magnificent lawn in front. Bodhe absolutely loved this place.  

Sadly, Bodhe never stayed in touch after he left Pokhara. There were rumours of him working in the Caribbean, in Mauritius, and in different places in India. In a circuitous fashion, I came to know about his death last year. We do not know the details yet. Looking back on his life, I am reminded of so many unfulfilled promises. The man had a first-rate intellect and boundless energy. He could have achieved much only if he had been able to focus and channel his God-given gifts. But, he lived his life in his own terms. Dear friend, I sincerely hope you are finally at peace. Ashutosh Bodhe – tujhe salaam[6]!       

      

Bodhe

[1] The restaurant mainly catered to Korean tourists and used to serve primarily Korean food but also cooked Nepalese dal bhaat

[2] Most Sherpas are from the Namche region

[3] A thorn has pricked me

[4] Fullmoon in October – supposed to be auspicious

[5] An ethnic group that lives in the foothills of the Annapurna range and one of the groups recruited as Gorkha soldiers

[6] A salute to Ashutosh Bodhe

Dr. P Ravi Shankar is a faculty member at the IMU Centre for Education (ICE), International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He enjoys traveling and is a creative writer and photographer.

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Categories
Poetry

Green Grin & Splash

By Vatsala Radhakeesoon

Green Grin 

At the foot of the hill,
where the sunflowers beamed,
there lived a tortoise called Green Grin.

Every Sunday, it wore its grey ‘Sprint’ shoes
and yellow ‘Alien’ hat;
It ran around the steady elegant playground
and when the summer breeze caressed the young tree leaves,
it would somersault as if touching a lower pink cloud.

The  grey grumpy mice sighed,
The red crested birds  flapped their wings;
Then, everyone unanimously exclaimed,
“Indeed it’s peculiar, that creature!
Green Grin , the only tortoise who can run!
Green Grin the finest sportstortoise who spreads  cheer
in the whole tropical land!” 

Splash

By the river reflecting golden shimmery dots
and fine green lines,
I often meet Splash, the grey mouse.
Its eyes are deep, philosophical;
Its ears unusually pink and big.

It often tells me of some Mathematical tales – 
Some narration of how the Plus and Multiplication signs
are results of simple rotation;
Some legends of how the Minus and Division signs
hold the same horizontal stem.

Amidst the hectic routine,
when some dark clouds hover over my island,
it’s indeed refreshing to chat with Splash,
the grey mouse who constantly cherishes numbers.

Vatsala Radhakeesoon is an author/poet and artist from Mauritius. She has had numerous poetry books published and she is currently working on her flash fiction/short stories book. She considers poetry as her first love and visual art as a healer in all circumstances. Vatsala Radhakeesoon currently lives at Rose-Hill, Mauritius and is a freelance literary translator and an interview editor of Asian Signature journal.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 


Categories
Poetry

Ri-Ri’s Brushes

By Vatsala Radhakeesoon

On a faraway island,
all blue and green,
loosely tied to the colossal continents,
there lived an artist.

Her name was Ri-Ri
and in her pink pearls’ cave,
she hid a pair of brushes;
She often called them “peculiar”
but to the inhabitants they were just 
twin fan brushes glued together.

One night, three brown bats
lazing on the litchi trees
started to make fun of the painting tools;
They called them “ugly”, “grotesque”, “useless”
and threw  half-eaten fruits on  Ri-Ri’s windowsill.

The moon frowned,
The stars were startled,
Thunder tore the clouds,
The bats fidgeted on fragile branches.

Swirls of silvery, golden and  turquoise light
sparkled  around,
The fan brushes gracefully performed the circular dance,
They transformed into soft plumage of all white,
and  a confident beak all  yellow;
A pair of feet sang History to the night.

Amidst Ri-Ri’s garden,
stood a Dodo relishing the summer
of its native land,
Ri-Ri hugged it and in her local language
whispered to the bats,
“Samem mo ti sekre.”*

* Samem mo ti sekre (from Mauritian Kreol ) – That’s  my little secret.

Vatsala Radhakeesoon is an author/poet and artist from Mauritius. She has had numerous poetry books published and she is currently working on her flash fiction/short stories book. She considers poetry as her first love and visual art as a healer in all circumstances. Vatsala Radhakeesoon currently lives at Rose-Hill, Mauritius and is a freelance literary translator and an interview editor of Asian Signature journal.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Poetry

Swirling Blues

Painting and poetry by Vatsala Radhakeesoon

Painting by Vatsala Radhakeesoon
Endless Expanse

An endless expanse swirls
over the tropical island.
At the foot of the Meditative Mountain,
birds, bees and butterflies wonder --
who is this mystic blue?

Sometimes it sings
the songs of poised mermaids.
Sometimes it churns
a divine warning
to humankind tempted to swim
in the baseless pit of darkness.

As the rain, wind and sun
harmonize with it,
seeds of security open
the Earth’s eyes
and the light of blessings shelters
the wise eternal soul
of solitary inspiration.

Vatsala Radhakeesoon is an author/poet and artist from Mauritius. She has had numerous poetry books published and she is currently working on her flash fiction/short stories book. She considers poetry as her first love and visual art as a healer in all circumstances. Vatsala Radhakeesoon currently lives at Rose-Hill, Mauritius and is a freelance literary translator and an interview editor of Asian Signature journal.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Humour Poetry

Songs of a Sloth & Dragon King

By Vatsala Radhakeesoon

 
 
 Queenie the Sloth
 
 Queenie the sloth
 lives in the labyrinth 
 of the Olive Green Pen
 and toils daily to trace
 straight lines on pink A4 sheets
 
 Her behaviour often confuses me
 and when I ask her,
 “Do sloths work so hard?”
 She laughs then sings,
 “Banished was I ten years back
 from Yellow Land of Lazy Hands
 for building a bridge  from Ant-land
 to River of  Silvery Friends
 O sloths!
 O sloths!
 Laze around, laze around 
 and let the Earth rock
 on its own beats!
 That’s what most sloths do, don’t they?
 But I’m Queenie
 and I’ve chosen my way
 Yes I’ve dared, I did, I did it
 and I’m happier with my purposeful life”
 
 “But don’t you miss your family?
 Don’t you ever feel sad  on New Year?”
 I asked
 
 “Oh no, no my friend!
 In life, Never regret!
 Have a cookie 
 Enjoy a chocolate drink
 Laugh, pray
 and let your mission shine
 all day!" 
 
 
 King Snaky-Dragon
 When King Snaky-Dragon
 loses a battle
 he often wears  
 his huge fan-brush hat
 and orders the largest canvas
 
 As he paints
 a leafy green Pringles can
 and writes with the finest brush,
 “Drum it’’.
 Mischievous Raccoon whispers, 
 “ Flip the fan, flip the fan!”
 
 The king frowns 
 and shouts,
 “Don’t you ever dare to challenge my wise fan!” 

Vatsala Radhakeesoon is an author/poet and artist from Mauritius. She has had numerous poetry books published and she is currently working on her flash fiction/short stories book. She considers poetry as her first love and visual art as a healer in all circumstances. Vatsala Radhakeesoon currently lives at Rose-Hill, Mauritius, and is a freelance literary translator and an interview editor of Asian Signature journal.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL


Categories
Poetry

Unconditional Thread & more…

By Vatsala RadhaKeesoon

Unconditional Thread

Born from 
the Divine’s golden thread
Molded with 
perfection, purity and grace
I’m the invisible heart – 
the unconditional thread
ruling the universe

I’m soft
I’m generous
I’m not from 
the Mundane
the materialistic world
the uncanny competitive rules 

I’m omnipresent
but recognized, seen
only by the unadulterated

I, Unconditional Thread
survive in immortal realms
and go on whispering
in every ear
“ Love, love and love
discarding mental blocks
and embracing spontaneity.”



Reflections upon Covid-19

In the 21st century
When Humankind has been boasting to be invincible,
When wise poets have been considered to be insane ,
When genuine spirituality has been eclipsed by fake sweet talkers,
When books have been replaced
by shallow petty talks ,
Who had ever predicted
A deadening virus would put the life
of each and everyone at stake- rich, middle class and poor on the same plane?

In the 21 century
When Humankind has been at the apex of busy-ness,
When only money has been the King,
When even doctors have been taken for granted for their poise in voice ,
Who had ever predicted
that no human being would be sure
to see a new dawn?

In the century of robot- like human beings,
When 24 hours a day doesn't even seem enough time,
when basic manners have become dumb,
Who had ever predicted lockdowns
in states, countries and across borders?

Suddenly a global" Halt" screams,
Unfortunately some are compelled to die,
 Luckily some fight for their own breath,
Some save others' lives

Wake up Human Race!
The global picture is dim, 
But the wheel of Karma keeps turning,
Don't curse God as he is dropping harsh hints ,
The saviors of the world are at work ,
Safety measures, Medicine, and Meditation in align -
all on one plane
are the key factors ,
Grab the signs!
Be self- disciplined!
Together we will all win this scary battle.

Excerpted from Unconditonal Thread , Alien Buddha Press, USA (2019)

First published in Le Defi, Mauritius, April 2020

Vatsala Radhakeesoon was born in Mauritius in 1977. She is the author of 8 poetry books  including When Solitude Speaks (Ministry of Arts and Culture Mauritius, 2013), Unconditional Thread ( Alien Buddha Press, USA,2019), and Tropical Temporariness (Transcendent Zero Press, USA, 2019). She is one of the representatives of Immagine and Poesia, an Italy based literary movement uniting artists and poets’ works. She has been selected as one of the poets for Guido Gozzano Poetry contest from 2016 to 2019.  Vatsala currently lives at Rose-Hill and is a    literary translator, interviewer and artist.