Sunday, April 26, 2009

Picnic Prepping: Ghat Road, Doda

One rare sunny day this past winter, the folks and I decided to take off and search for a good picnic spot for use and pleasure in the not-too-distant future, meaning the coming spring/summer season.We Hajis like our outdoor fun quite a bit. Growing up in Dubai I had a great childhood because my parents were always the outdoor, sporty, active kind (thank God!) who knew how to have and give us kids a good time. Abba had bought a brilliant book by Dariush Zandi (Irani architect, writer, photographer), Off-Road in the Emirates, which gave precise, accurate and very useful information on picnic spots in the Emirates, and many any of our weekends would be planned around the pages of this book. Since most of the 'Off-Road' spots involved long-drives through difficult desert and mountain terrain, Abba would grab a couple of lads and recce the route and area first. Based on their scientific findings, a picnic would soon follow. Whee, the memories!
Anyway, this is the historical background to the current story. Which is as follows.

One winter's morning in Doda we suddenly noticed the world was looking brighter than usual. The sun was, inexplicably, shining. Still in our PJs and with light hearts, we decided to exploit this freaky behaviour of Nature and go picnic-spot hunting. Just like that. Nothing like a little solar boost to remove winter's lethargy.

I grabbed my camera, Abba revved the 4X4, and off we went. The entire entourage consisted of:
1. Abba - Driving and telling fun stories.
2. Mama - Multitasking as navigator, passenger-seat driver, interrupter and full-time entertainer. (She kept on telling Abba, as she has been for the past thirty years or so, "Saleem! Aaaaahhhh. Be careful. Are we there yet? Where are we? Who is that? Aaaah! Did I turn off the lights when we left? Where's my mobile phone? Wait, let's go ba..!! Oh, never mind, here it is," and other such helpful comments that a driver loves hearing. It's more fun when you hear Ma in person, a fluent mix of Kashmiri, Urdu and English, but alas, you cannot...)
3. Self: Sitting quietly in the backseat, in very well-behaved fashion.
4. Shabir: A young lad from our village who studies here in Doda and lives with us. Also quiet and well-behaved.
5. Bagh Singh: Our very fantastic driver who didn't actually drive that day but came along for the ride. Ditto for 'quiet, well-behaved'.
(Here they be - Bagh Singh with a big head of hair and Shabir, without.)

Important points to be kept in mind for deciding picnic spot:
1. Grandpa: My father's dashing, handsome and very cool father, in his mid-90s mashaAllah, would be the life of the picnic, and so we had to find a spot where there wouldn't be too much walking involved away from the vehicle. He can walk just a teensy bit so we had to find a wheelchair friendly route if needed. (Check him out. *ceetees*)
2. Plain ground for setting up the picnic: checked cloth, baskets and all. More importantly, plain ground because Grandpa, Abba and a couple other gentlemen would start playing bridge the moment they arrived.

3. Water, water everywhere: What is a picnic if there is no fresh water body to sploosh into? Factor 3 on deciding of picnic spot was 'easy access to lots of water.'
4. Privacy: For we like our purdah, do we not? Also, availability of big rocks for changing of costumes. Wet clothes to dry etc.
With those rough guidelines, we started off toward an are known as Ghat (rhymes with 'hut'), just a little way away from Doda.
And boy did we find a nice place. Very close to the road, nice access route for wheelchair, green grass, a foaming rivulet leading right to the River Chenab, and as a bonus, lots of fresh, wild, green cannabis. Ha ha.
That's right. Charas. Grows all over the damn place here.

See all pics here.

Here it is. Just by the Chenab as promised.

Here's Abba checking out the water flow, air pressure, topographic conditions etc.

Plain ground specification, privacy, easy access: check, check, check.

Mama assessing situation and seeming pleased with it.

(She can't swim but she loves water and is always the first to jump in. Fortunately, no dramatic incidents to report thus far.)

Complete set of pics from this recce available here.

It now remains to be seen which lucky weekend we head out to this spot and make merry.

Summer has finally arrived, sneakily ousting Spring, and today, April 26th marks the first day I've switched the fan in my room since September 2008.
So.... Anytime now.


Manoj Govindan said...

I think mothers are universally required to fret about closing the doors, turning the lights off and closing the gas/water after setting off on any journey. I have witnessed my mum do that too many times to count.

On a related note your write up and photos have prompted me to dust off my oft-postponed plans to return to J&K for a trek (fingers crossed). Do you guys trek as well?

Fahad said...

Whatte brilliant write-up. I couldn't stop laughing most times. Prepping for picnic? hahahaha

It really sounds like fun though. So it's settled. I will look to retire in Kashmir :)

Your Mum's hilarious. 'Saleem!' hahaha!!!

PS: Please send me this 'Off-Road in the Emirates' book. :p

longblackveil said...

@Manoj: Not in the touristy, canvas shorts, big backpack, camera sort of way, but we walk the mountains a lot, yes. I mean, we kind of have to. Our village is up there:)

@Fahad: You cow, run to any old bookstore in Dubai and you'll see this series falling off the racks. You won't get 'Off-Road in the Emirates' here in India, and certainly not in my neck of the woods.

Raman said...

Reminds me of my own at the Saraswati, Beas... Unfortunately, it was before summer and the passes weren't open for inexperienced trekkers like me. Me only knows to jump into and off moving Mumbai local trains and bound up and down stairs and treks to the grocer. Of course, in crowded Mumbai, even that is a challenge :)

Manoj Govindan said...

I trekked in your neighborhood (Leh, actually) back in '01. Sure I was a tourist but I did not wield or wear any of the accessories you mentioned. It was fun nonetheless :)

How do you get Internet access in your part of the world?