It’s been a while since I contributed to the Conversations tab of my blog. I firmly believe that Indians are the greatest gumakkads in the world. Today we meet one such gumakkad who has travelled across the length and breadth of this country. In literal sense!
All I knew about Shankar R before writing this post was that he successfully completed the treacherous Manimahesh Kailash Parikrama trek. This fact alone was enough for me to seek more information about him and when I got to know about him I couldn’t help writing a blog post.
And before even I start, let me tell you one interesting fact about Shankar Ji. He has successfully managed to walk across the treacherous yet equally rewarding Kalindi Khal Trek in the Uttarakhand Himalaya. Kalindi Khal is a trek where even the best in the business think twice before venturing out.
Having gone through his photographs, I can say at least one thing about him with absolute certainty, he loves walking and he has some cosmic connection with the majestic mountains of Himalayas. How else would you explain a Tamilian guy visiting these Himalayan wonderlands every year unfailingly?
All the way from Chennai to the highlands of the Himachal Himalayas!
What all major treks you have done so far?
To name a few, I have been fortunate enough to tread on the Manimahesh Parikrama Trek, Lamkhanga Trek, Srikhand Kailash Trek, Chadar Trek, and before I forget, the Kailash Manasarovar Parikrama.
How and when did you get into the world of trekking? Tell us how did it all start?
I started as a solo traveler right from the age of 27. I started out with an idea of covering all the major temples of India, which I did, fortunately. During one such journey, a fellow traveller told me that I can be a good trekker. And that got me going!
At the age of 50, I was selected by GOI for the holiest Kailash Manasarovar Parikrama Yatra. What more one can ask for in life? I have been fortunate enough, that’s all I can say.
Back then I was little fleshy and I managed to walk all the way through the KMY trek. It turned out to be a turning point of my life. Prior to KMY, I was just a [religious] pilgrim, but now I see these rivers and mountains as a part of my own being. The KMY became a new beginning of my trekking life. Words can’t explain how I started to feel after KMY.
What about your family? How did they react when you took to the world of trekking?
Family support is always important and my case is no exception. My family was always supportive but these days they worry because of my age.
I think its in
myour genes, my father did his Bharat Yatra way back in 1938. Even my Polio affected brother has visited the Badrinath Dham. So I am sure it does run in the genes.
Trekking is a damn expensive hobby, how do you manage your finances?
If you take out travelling from my life, I don’t have any other hobby or recreational expenses. Therefore, my travelling is my pilgrimage, hobby, and recreational activity. All my retirement money, whatever I could manage, is resting in my bank account and I travel off the interest coming from it.
To be honest, I never purchased clothes after my retirement and that’s why I have got little expenses to worry about.
Edited on 6/8/17: Fortunately, I got a chance to meet Shankar Ji today at Chandigarh. Casually he mentioned to me that he gets a meager pension of 1200/- per month. His gratuity and provident fund is what keeps him going, obviously in addition to his undying spirit.
List down your five major treks. And why are they special to you?
As I have mentioned already, KMY changed my world-view perspective entirely. It was not just a test of my physical strength but also my mental ability. I was 58 when I did the KMY Yatra. The secret lies not in the Kailash or in the Manas, but in the journey. It is the journey that takes you close to the Shiva.
My efforts were appreciated by not just my companions but even the Army people lauded my efforts. I think they were just being generous.
Meanwhile, I was also told that I did not have a suitable pair of shoes and warm clothes that one must carry on the KMY expedition. I think I was just lucky!
The second one I must talk about is the Kalindi Khal Trek. I met two trekkers from Poland enroute Dothital in UK. They encouraged me to take up the Kalindi Khal challenge and surprisingly I too agreed. This idea was further cemented by the unending support extended by Tilak Soni (Where Eagles Dare). A lot of messages were exchanged along with copies of Insurance Premium and Doctor’s certificate and finally I was on my to chase another of my wildest of dreams. I was 63 at that time.
I think I was just lucky enough.
Recently in June 2014, I also managed to successfully complete the Lamkhanga Trek.
Porters or On Your Own?
I prefer to carry my stuff on my own. Rarely I have used services of a porter. I carried my backpack during the Lamkhaga and Srikhand Trek.
Edited on 6/8/17: Shankar Ji clarified today that he does use services of a porter and guide. But he prefers to carry his own bag.
Any Wise Words?
The younger generation should have a positive attitude and strong mind. One must befriend the Mother Nature and not try to conquer it because that’s just not possible. Friendliness towards the nature is most important than anything else.
Coming all the way from down south to the Himalayas, have you ever thought of settling in here?
I would love to but its not feasible. I have to be with my family and physical presence is more important than financial backing. Life is meaningless without spiritual experience and my travels are my way of reaching out to the higher spiritual spheres. Although i am single, I live with the memories of my travel.
My travel journey is still going strong and the passion to visit new places is increasing. I just hope that journey never ends.
I just wish to be luckier. The way I have always been.
I have not had the pleasure of meeting Shankar Ji yet but eventually we shall meet someday because Himalayas are the greatest common factor between us.
I befriended him on Facebook some time ago, and since then all I would hear from him is just these two words; ‘very nice Tarun’ and ‘Great Tarun’ on every photograph or blog post I would share on my timeline. Recently we had the longest conversation of our Facebook lives and that too didn’t last more than 25 sentences.