Praveen Wadhwa is less than 3 months young at Ghumakkar and has won a lot of admirers in this short span. Armed with an excess of 20 stories, and many more in the queue, his prolific writing has kept a lot of us busy. Starting with Kotagiri, where he introduced this small hamlet of Tamilnadu to us, Praveen went on far and wide. After a few stories, Praveen made a niche for himself in the ‘Walks’ arena and made us a fitter by taking us to lovely walking trails, from Puri in East to Kedarnath in the North and to Rameshwaram in the South. His recent series on ‘the Shilajit’, stole the show with the complete build-up of drama, suspense, grit, humor and a Bollywood happy ending. These power-packed 3 months, called for a celebration and it only seemed most appropriate to have Praveen as the ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author for November 2012’. As a part of the tradition (of monthly interviews) that we have followed for the last many months, I prepared myself for an interview with Praveen. The prep-up happened more realistically with an 8 KM long walk in the lower Kumaon region, topped with a mini hike in the last mile. After jostling up my list of questions we went ahead and what happened next was a cool and relaxed round of active conversation that went like this:
Ghumakkar – Congratulations Praveen for being the ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author for November 2012’!
PW – Thank you Nandan. It is a privilege and I am thoroughly enjoying the attention and love from the community.
Ghumakkar – How did you find Ghumakkar? Was it some ‘Google Search’ ?
PW – Yes it is. Last year I planned to visit Rameshwaram and wanted to know more about it and while googleing I landed upon the Ghumakkar article about Dhanushkodi written by Upanshu Singhal. It gave most of the information about the lost link of India with Sri Lanka, so I myself planned to visit to Dhanushkodi. I am an Internet Savvy person and the information which Upanshu wrote is really so difficult to find. May be it is not there anywhere.
Ghumakkar – Great! I must pass this to Upanshu. He is an old friend and in fact was in the U.S. for many years. Now he is in Bangalore and writes much less frequently though.
PW– Sure. And then I browsed more of this site and got hooked up to Ghumakkar. I thought that I must write something. I am not new to writing and that is were Kotagiri happened. I have traveled a lot in my life and many friends always asked me to write my travel experience so they all could read. So one day I begin writing my first post at Ghumakkar about my walking in Niligiri Mountains and then there was no end. I wrote Shilajit post and submitted it but was told that it was very large so was asked by you to split it. When I split it into 3 posts… Then I said to myself why not write the whole story and it became a five long posts series.
Ghumakkar – And the ‘Kilajit’ post is indeed a movie-script stuff. After I read about it, I contacted my friends in the mountains to know more. Interestingly, I have been invited for a tasting session and have been warned particularly about the smell. My friend got it from a Sadhu in Rishikesh. Apparently there are some cliff around the Beasi area ahead of Shivpuri (where they run a rafting camp) and my friend is a wireless wikipedia when it comes to Nature and Mountains.
PW – Good luck. :-)
Ghumakkar – You are currently based in the United States. Tell us about your place, what you do and any local favorites ?
PW – Yes, most certainly. There is so much to tell. We have some very scenic and recreational rivers near us. Raritan River is at walking distance to us. Then there is Delaware and Raritan Canal. This canal originates from extremely scenic Delaware river and then it travels along Delaware river down stream and then it travels along another scenic Millstone River. Millstone river meets into Raritan River hence canal travels along Raritan River till the town of New Brunswick. The end of the canal is barely 3 miles from my home and there is a path along in between the canal and the river all the way from Raritan River to Delaware River.
Ghumakkar – Wow! So there is a lot of natural local inspiration for walks then. :-).
PW – He He. Actually more than walks, I do canoeing and kayaking at both the rivers.
Ghumakkar – Tell us more. I do not think you ever mentioned about it in any of your logs.
PW – Yeah, I haven’t. May be I should write about one of the camping experiences. Actually, Delaware river is a slow moving shallow recreational river. In the summer time people bring their kayaks and canoes on the river.
Ghumakkar – Anything for the lesser mortals ?
PW– Oh, yes, Shopping. We have a little India in New Jersey, it is just 10 miles from our home. A colorfull and fast growing Indian market. That is now gaining a touristy attraction now. And right now, as we are talking, I am right in this market. I often visit here. He He.
Ghumakkar – Lets dig the past. If you could share more about your childhood and family.
PW – My father worked in Indian Railways and I was born in Delhi but spent most of my childhood in Bathinda Punjab till I went to college and then came to USA. So I call myself Punjabi and I love Bathinda from my heart. We are three brothers and no sister. My mother was a school principal and she was a very controlling person hence made us a rebel. My father was an officer in railways and mother a principal but those were simple uncorrupted days of gone era. TV and refrigerator came to our home when we two brothers were in USA. My parents spent all our savings in our education and austerity was way of life for us.
Ghumakkar – And is there a walking connection ?
PW – Yes, there is. Actually we are a crazy ‘Walker’ family.
My father loved walking, he had a hard job. Railways employees seldom get any holidays as other government people in India. He was the in-charge of train’s maintenance crew who undertook the mechanical and physical repairs of all trains, goods or passenger carriers. Bhatinda is one of the biggest railways establishments in whole world and he walked a lot on his job because each goods train is about a kilometer long and as a part of his job he had to walk around each train at least once; sun or rain, hot or cold, day or night.
We all three brothers love walking. We all brothers went to public schools. Our school was far away and we walked to our school and then college was even farther and we either walked there or took our cycle. One by one we all three brothers immigrated to USA but love of walking stayed in our blood. Even my uncles and cousins love to walk. When we all get together then we take a long walk in the wilderness.
Ghumakkar – And I wish you keep walking, always. Let us stay at Bhatinda for some more time. How did Homeopathy, your one big interest, happen ?
PW – When I was an engineering student I used to laugh at homeopathy because it is used in infinitesimally small doses. 30 C potency means that one part diluted to 100 parts and then that part diluted into further 100 parts and so on. So one part of the material is diluted into 10 and multiplied by 10 00000000 —– (60 zeroes). Or 30 potency means 1/1 —- (60 zeroes). How could this cure, that’s what I used to laugh about it. I adopted a small child his name is Rishi and he is now 10 years old. When I adopted him, he was 9 months old and he had serious eczema on his head. He used to cry and scratch his head at nighs. His head was full of self inflected wounds and we were worried that he may scratch off that soft portion on his head that the babies have. No medicine worked on him then I took him to all kind of doctors. As per USA law I must stay with child for at least 2 years and after that I could apply for his visa. To get him to USA I spent more than 3 years with him in Bhatinda. In my those early days with him, once I was visiting someone’s home and they had a Materia Medica book. It was a dog-eared, many pages missing Boericke’s material medica. I begun reading it and I just got hooked to it. Since many pages were missing so I went to market and bought a new one and read it whole as it was a single fiction story. After I read it whole in 2 days, anytime I saw a sickness, a medicine name came to my mind so I began giving away medicines to people. Most of people cured like magic. Then I bought Robin Murphy’s material medical. This book is full of stories and it was fun and joy to read it whole. More and more people were coming to me and since I was spending my own money to buy medicines and a stage came when I felt the crush. To many people I just wrote the medicine and they bought it but many and many were very poor people. I began making my own medicines. I mostly used those medicines those I could myself make. I was become very famous and even doctors and even homeopathy doctors were coming to me for their own treatment and were discussing with me their lost cases. Some local papers wrote stories on my practice and it happed 8 years ago. I had no medical degree and my practice was illegal and some government officials visited me but instead of serving me any notice they brought some of their own family member who required treatment. With homeopathy, I got very interested in herbs also. Botany was always my passion and I learned a lot about herbs and can identify most of them.
Well, I was treating hundreds or thousand of patients in those days but my own son was not curing. I was trying one after another medicine on him but no effect. However I learned homeopathy to cure him only but all others were getting cured. Once I bought a medicine for him and then next morning I left Bhatinda for Bangalore. I called my home after several days and to the amazement I was told that Rishi’s head is almost cured with the single dose of that medicine. They all were extremely worried because after that single dose that small bottle fell down and broke. They wanted that medicine badly to cure Rishi who was beloved to all. I told them the name of the medicine and they bought it. It cured Rishi completely at that time. Next year his problems reappeared but it was substantially less, we gave him another dose and in third year problem again reappeared but again it was very slight and another and last dose was given. Anyway that medicine name was Phytolacca. It grows all over near my home in New Jersey. Any medicine I used and it worked remarkably, I studied more about it. I went to its root. I found that plant or material and experimented with it further. Most of the homeopathy medicines are deadly poisons and homeopathy principal is Similim. Similar cures similar but in infinitesimally small doses.
Ghumakkar – Whoof and wow! That is some reading Praveen. I wish you loads of luck.
PW – My utopia will be to retire in India and start my astro-homeopathy practice, each individual has some extreme in his character. Extreme in one’s character could be the root cause of one’s ailments. A person’s chart is consulted and discovering the extremities in his/her character. Then those extremes are confirmed after talking with his/her friends and then a remedy is chosen. In Homeopathy it is called constitutional remedy.
Ghumakkar – Insha Allah! And what about the tea times ?
PW – I love tea, love lemon tea and love just any tea. When I walk in the wilderness or on the mountains, it is blessing to get some hot tea in the wilderness. In India, you may find tea on the remote trails but in western world, you have to make it yourself. On my long walks in the wilderness in USA or Canada, I carry a tiny wood burning stove (that I made myself from an empty can, it is a bit larger than a coke can, and a small pot to boil water. Both things fit in my pocket. Then I either carry tea sachets in my pockets or I make herbal tea using local herbs, without any sugar and milk. Many of my friends love this tea concept and now they also make their tea on their long walks. My idea of having tea in the wilderness is to stop. I stop for tea. I drink tea and tea drinks me. You stop and your mind too stops. There is only tea.
Ghumakkar – You are surprising me. And now I wonder if this interview should be published in two parts. He he. Do you love reading ?
PW – I love to read a lot but that habit is gradually breaking up because due to age, my eye sight is weakening and stubbornly I am still not wearing eye glasses yet, I tried several glasses but gave it up.
Ghumakkar – How about writing ?
PW – I do. Sorry, you are asking only those things which I love to do. I do not have many interests frankly but I do write. I wrote 2 books but didn’t pursue it with any publisher, these are yet to be published.
Ghumakkar – Well, if all the above doesn’t count as ‘many’ then let me ask you one more time for any other hobby?
PW – Just one more. I am deep into astrology but on the contrary I do not believe in Vedic astrology (Vedic astrology has some serious technical issues) so I don’t use any ayanamasa. A person’s character can be predicted by astrology, characters becomes habits and habits become fate.
Ghumakkar – You are a story teller Praveen, a very natural and prolific story teller. Ghumakkar is very lucky to have you and I am hoping that a lot of us would read this long interview and get more inspirations. Who seeded the travel bug in you?
PW – I think, I was born with it. I used to have long walk. My father was in railways and we were getting free railway passes but in that day we rarely went to anywhere. Money was also a biggest problem. But as I gained freedom then I traveled.
When I was in 10th class; I lied to my parents that I am going with a school tour but went to Shimla on cycle with my friend. It was the month of June; extreme hot. It took us 4 days to get to Shimla via Chail. Then we went to Tatta Pani on the Satluj and then returned. It took us 10 days. Then once with the same friend of mine I went to Ooty from Bangalore on cycles.
I did some serious hiking alone. When I was young, I used to travel to different place each time and mostly I had some company. With some friend, or some cousin etc. Many travels I did alone. Now I travel to my fixed places year after year. My beloved places are Haridwar, Puri, Bangalore, Uttarkashi, Ooty, Vancouver, Denver and Rio De Janeiro etc. Year after year I keep going to these same places, stay at same hotels and drink my tea in same tea stalls. When you travel, you leave behind your life pattern. You leave behin your stress and worries. You get away from routine, from your business and stresses. People who travel a lot are stress free and happy. When you return you are new. Batteries are charged.
Ghumakkar – What is your style of ghumakkari? Is it any different from ‘travel’?
PW – My style of Ghumakkari is full of austerity. I have a budget for each day. I must have a budget for each day because I travel a lot and my travels are long; sometimes months long so I ration my resources. In my long travels my friends visit me and stay with me for some time. My style is very comfortable and I travel very light, with just few basic utterly necessary things. I do not believe that one requires lots of money to enjoy the life.
I love a Kabir’s doha:
Ghumakkar – For someone as inspirational himself like you, how does Ghumakkar.com inspire you?
PW – Yes, of course ghumakkar.com inspires me. It made me visit Rameshwaram when I was vaguely searching about Rameshwaram with no serious intention to visit there. Moreover when I returned from Rameshwaram, I myself wrote 2 post about that my visit there. My next destination is Dwarka, because of the posts by Vishal Rathod. Also now I want to visit Pushkar because of the posts by Mukesh Bhalse.
Ghumakkar – You have mentioned that now you stick to a set of places and you visit them often, year after year but any dream destination(s) from that list ?
PW – Haridwar and Puri are my dream destinations. I can go again and again at both places. In Haridwar, just being with Ganges is joy and fun. And in Puri, walking in the bazaars and then spending evening on the beach is joy of life. In America and Canada, my dream destinations are all camp sites. My idea of having some cool time is doing camping with my friends and cousins. Someday I will make some posts about my camping vacations here. I prefer camping near the long and scenic mountain trails where I we can walk for miles and miles.
Ghumakkar – Sure, we would all look forward to these new stories from you. Any message which you would want to tell your fellow Authors, especially on the ‘Story Telling’ gift of yours ?
PW – Any story that tells the character of a place is my favorite. When someone writes a heap of word here advertising to the world the he/they went somewhere without providing the splendor and character of that place, then it is much less fun. All good stories here are a guide to visit that place, these stories provoke the impulse in you to get there. Those stories become your guide. These tell a lot, these stories assure you that you’d be okey there and enjoy your visit. Good stories tell you about how to get there, where to stay there and what to do there. This site is lucky that there are many good perfect travel story tellers.
My personal message to all story tellers here is: Please do write your story, please explain the character and also about uniqueness of that place you went. Please explain about how an ordinary mortal like me can get there. About hotels and restaurants there.
Thank you Praveen. I have scribbled hard today. I must thank you for cooperating with us via the multimedia world of emails, chats and this phone call and sharing so much about you. And with this, I promise to walk more from today and do brace yourself for responses from our readers and authors. Wishing you luck, fun and lots and lots of tea.