Encounter with the Runner – Travelogue by Asis Mukherjee

From Joshimath to Chenup Valley to Rampur, here’s the travelogue on the mesmerizing experience of Asis Mukherjee. His travel diary uncovers his unique experience at Uttarakhand.

travelogue by asis mukherjee

When I first read the poem of Sukanta Bhattacharya “Runner” and later listened to the famous song of the great Hemanta Mukhopadhyay the same lyrics composed by the great musician Salil Chowdhury sometime in the early seventies decade, I was a young boy. The image and the struggle of the postman who used to collect and deliver the letters and other postal documents from the district post office to the remote post offices of the far-off villages where motorable roads were not available at that time, were perfectly depicted in the poem as well as sympathetically expressed in the song. The listeners can visualise the runner on duty through the song especially. But with the development of science and technology, the communication system has undergone a sea change. Today we can not imagine that era. Not only that, even around twenty-five years ago we could not think of either that time or that professional man. Despite that, I had an occasion which brought me back through time-machine to that hoary past.

joshimath chenup valley rampur travel experience

In the middle of October 1998, when I put up in the tourist lodge at Joshimath, there was no crowd or tourists thronged over there. So I could spend a day leisurely. There I saw a trek route map of the local area displayed on a board where I noticed a place named “Chenup Valley” which was not known to me. But I came here with an eye to visit the famous “Kagbhusandi Tal”, a notable place in Hindu mythology. So next day morning as usual I left for Govindghat by a Badrinath-bound bus, which was also the starting point for the “Valley of Flowers” and the “Hemkund Sahib” trek. I got down from the bus and put up in the Dharamshala of Govindghat which was also as desolate as Joshimath tourist lodge because the trekking season was almost over due to the onslaught of the winter. I tried my best to contact a porter who could accompany me on my trek to Kagbhusandi Tal, but in vain.

joshimath rampur travel experience

So the next day I had to change my mind and decided to head for “Chenup Valley” which was vividly present in the niche of my mind since I noticed the name at Joshimath. Being a solitary trekker, this time I had the opportunity to alter my trekking schedule according to my choice and convenience. So after spending one day at Govindghat, the Hrishikesh bound bus from Badrinath lifted me from Govindghat and dropped me at the new bridge over the river Alakananda before Joshimath where from my new trek route started as per the direction of the map that I noticed at Joshimath. As soon as the bus left me, I found myself in a deserted land. I noticed a foot track leading on the slope of the opposite hill. I took that trail without any hesitation and began to push up the slope. As I gained some height on the slope of the hill gradually the river Alakananda and the town of Joshimath on the opposite bank of the river became visible. I had no idea of the place nor much information except the name of Bagicha Singh, the village chief of the first village, Chang, en route to Chenup Valley. After two hours of continuous trekking, I came across the first house of the village which incidentally belonged to Bagicha Singh. As I approached for the night’s shelter, I was welcomed by the young wife and daughter of the landlord who was incidentally not at home by that time.

After having my lunch I had enough time to take a rest sitting in the courtyard and watching the Alakananda flowing below and glittering in the sunshine. Thoughts thronged in my mind and I was trying to dismantle them gently. But what moved me most was the hospitality and simplicity of the local people. How could a young lady receive a stranger like this? I could not get any logical explanation because perhaps I tried to explain the situation with the mind of a city dweller which was obviously filled with doubts and distrust. So it was beyond my perception and ability to read the normal behaviour of the landlady. In the late evening Bagicha Singh, a stout hillman of fifty-plus came home and again surprising me he took me off from my bed and greeted me so cordially as if I was one of his old friends who came to meet him after a long time. All my hesitation was thawed in that warmth.

joshimath rampur travelogue

The next day morning when again I set out on my way for the next and the last village in this route popularly known as Thang alias Rampur, I was well enriched with a lot of information about the route as well as my next halt. So I walked gaily and ceaselessly for my destination. I didn’t come across any passersby on my way. The lonely foottrack was filled with the only sound of the chirping of birds as a sign of life. All of a sudden I could hear the jingling sound of bells in that desolate land amidst the jungle which made me scared because I couldn’t find its source. I stood perplexed aside and began to watch back the trail from where the sound was coming. Suddenly a man appeared from the bend of the foot track with a spear in his hand and a sack on his back. A bunch of bells were tagged to his spear which produced the sound with his every step. He was running even at this altitude and uphill. When he came to me he paused for some time and with a smile on his face he told me that the village ‘’Rampur” was nearby. He further told me that he was carrying the postal documents from Joshimath to deliver those at the Rampur post office and again he would go back to Joshimath to collect the postal documents from Rampur. I was so confused by the unexpected situation that I couldn’t react to him instantly. He perhaps realised me in that situation and told me that within one hour I also could reach Rampur. Wishing me to see again he started his run with a jingling sound and soon disappeared at the turn of the track. I stood overwhelmed with astonishment for some time to realise the entire scenario which brought me back to some hoary past.