Naresh Sehgal started on Ghumakkar in Januray 2013 as an Author and his first story was his pilgrimage to Amarnath. Amarnath Yatra, as it is more popularly known, is an annual pilgrimage to Shiva’s abode in upper Kashmir. The yatra is only open for a specific period, mostly for about 50 days, and it is a pretty demanding and tough trek. Vishal Rathod has written a very detailed and heartful log of his yatra along with pictures and it made us much more informed on what it takes to do this Yatra. Later K R Rastogi wrote his account and from both logs, it is pretty clear that attempting this yatra means a lot of courage and conviction. So far so good. Another person writing his experience, on Amarnath. Great. We sent him a welcome email and were getting ready to fix things in place when I looked hard and realized that it is his 12th Yatra! Over the last 12 years, he has been going on this pilgrimage, every single year. Wow. Now that takes the whole benchmark of conviction and courage, many notches up. Here are his first two logs, incase you haven’t read them. Later, upon requests from many readers and well wishers, he began writing the longer version of the trip detailing every single thing. If I am not mistaken, this probably is the most comprehensive material on everything around ‘Amarnath Yatra’, all from personal actual experience. Bravo. So when I got my 2 seconds of fame to talk to Naresh, I was elated. I wanted to ask everything on what he does and why he does it. And it was indeed a heart-warming conversation. Presenting Naresh Sehgal, in a tete-a-tete with Ghumakkar.
Ghumakkar: Congratulations Naresh for being our ‘Featured Author’ for Aug 2013.
Naresh: Thank you, Sir. I am very humbled.
Ghumakkar: Were you expecting it? I remember that in last month interview post when we spoke to Rakesh Bawa, you mentioned that your guesses are going right.
Naresh: It wont be right for me to say that I was not expecting. So I was expecting but it happened sooner than what I had expected.
Ghumakkar: Actually, we do have a running list which we discuss in our editorial meetings. There is no set formula but we do look at things around the overall contribution towards the greater good of travel. If a particular name sustains for more than few months, we go ahead with the announcement.
Naresh: Thanks again to you and entire Ghumakkar editorial team. I have mostly been interacting with Smita for my stories and it has been a lovely experience.
Ghumakkar: Yes, Smita, Archana and I are the three permanent Editors. We do bring in other people from time to time for specific things like “Ghumakkar of the Year Awards” , “Content Curation” etc.
Naresh: I am sure that there must be a lot going on in the back-end to ensure that we do get to read a new inspiring story every morning.
Ghumakkar: Yes, whatever we could do in our part-time contribution. So let me ask you my first question. How did you find Ghumakkar? Was it through some web search or via someone ?
Naresh: Yes, it was through Google Search. I found a story on Garhwal and then found more stories and started reading them. I strongly remember reading Vishal Rathod, Mukesh Bhalse in my initial days.
Ghumakkar: Your first story was published in Jan, 2013. Do you remember the time when you found Ghumakkar?
Naresh: Yes, it was November 2012 or so. I very well remember that for first two months or so I was only reading. It was like an addiction, it still is, to read every new story.
Ghumakkar: Did you interact with anyone prior to your first story?
Naresh: Yeah, I did leave a query on one of Mukesh’s post on Ujjain. I wanted to visit Ujjain and got a very helpful response. Later the trip didn’t materialize but I did comment before my first story.
Ghumakkar: And what prompted you to write ? Was it tough to come up with first post?
Naresh: After reading for about 2 months, I submitted my first log which was my trip to Amarnath. I was not even sure on whether this would get published. Since the quality of stories which are published here is so good, I thought that I wont be able to do a good job.
Ghumakkar: And then?
Naresh: The story got published and I got my first comment. It was hugely motivating and then I got many. The kind of response I received was overwhelming. This motivated me so much that I went ahead and wrote more.
Ghumakkar: I think you touched a very important point around encouraging authors to share more. Lets take a pause here and. Lets talk a bit about your personal side, your work life, your travels, your Ghumakkari moments and many more things. Lets start with your personal side. You are currently in Ambala. Have you been here since beginning ?
Naresh: No. I am here for last many years but this is not where I started my journey of life. Well, I was born in small town of Payal, Distt. Khanna, Punjab, where my parents had shifted from Ambala Cantt. It may not be very popular but it is the constituency of Former Chief Minister,Sr. Beant Singh. I didn’t spend a lot of time and our entire family moved to Ambala before my first birthday. We settled in village Nanhera on the outskirts of Ambala Cantt.
Ghumakkar: So who else is there in the family? Tell us about your formative years. Was early education in Nanhera?
Naresh: We are three brothers and I am youngest of them. I got my primary education along with my brothers in village Govt. school. As the school in village was up to fifth only, I took admission for sixth class in Banarsi Das High School Ambala Cantt.
Ghumakkar: I have a feeling that you were very sincere in your studies and must have done well. Right?
Naresh: Yes, ha ha. I was good in studies and till fifth class I was topper of the class.
Ghumakkar: So all three brothers were going to same school? Any memories you would want to share?
Naresh: Yes, mostly. Actually after class V, we moved to a new school and it was not close-by. My eldest brother used to walk up to the school which was 4-5 kilometers away from our home. This went for two years. Then my father bought second cycle (other than my father’s) for my brother. When I took admission in that school in sixth then my elder brothers were in 7th and 9th. We had only one cycle to go school and out parents did not allow my eldest brother to carry both of us so one of us used to walk. I used to walk in the morning and my brother in the afternoon. This may sound very harsh but we were always up for any kind of hard work.
Ghumakkar: And was your father in government service, like you?
Naresh: No, my father was a shopkeeper and my mother was a house wife. Our family was middle class Punjabi family. Looking at that time, neither we had enough resources nor were short of it.
Ghumakkar: So after school, did you move out of Ambala for higher studies?
Naresh: After passing matriculation with distinction I took non-medical stream in S.D. College Ambala Cantt and after 10+2 took admission in Govt. Polytechnic Ambala in Electronics and Communication engineering. After passing diploma, my elder brother advised me to go for graduation as the prospects of Diploma holder were not bright in the market. I started correspondence course for graduation through Institute of engineers (A.M.I.E).
Ghumakkar: What I remember that doing degree via AMIE is quite difficult.
Naresh: Yes, you are right. The syllabus and exam pattern of A.M.I.E is much difficult compared to regular graduation courses and the ratio of passed students to enrolled students is not more than 20 %. Any how, I completed my graduation in Electronics and Communication engineering in Dec. 1996.
Ghumakkar: I know that currently you are with BSNL. When did you start working for BSNL?
Naresh: I was selected as J.T.O. (Executive cadre) in B.S.N.L. in 2001.In 2008, I cleared departmental competitive exam for Sub Divisional Engineer and was appointed S.D.E. Presently I am working as Sr. Sub Divisional Engineer since Jan. 2012.
Ghumakkar: That is really great to know Naresh. So now all Ghumakkars can get connected to their loved ones from anwhere around Ambala. Hehe.Going back to your family and siblings. Are they all in Ambala or have moved to different places?
Naresh: I have two elder brothers and both are happily married and settled. My one brother is living in the house adjacent to mine and second just 200 meters away from us. All of us reside in Ambala Cantt.
Ghumakkar: Thank you Naresh for sharing so many of your personal details. I think not it is time to travel. And one big question which everyone would have is on your annual Amarnath pilgrimage. You must be a big devotee of Lord Shiva? When and how did the first Yatra happened?
Naresh: My father was a great devotee of Shiva. He used to chant Shiva Rudrastakam daily loudly after bath. By listening only we have remembered some slokas of it. My father was sixth drop out due to family poor conditioned. He never learnt Sanskrit but he had memorized Shiva Tandava Stotram and Shiva Mahimna Stotram. These both Stotram are so difficult that it is difficult for a normal person to read it clearly in first instance but with his dedication he had memorized these stotra along with many other mantras and slokas. His pronunciation of these stotra was very good. He motivated me to go for Amarnath Yatra first time in 1998.
Ghumakkar: And I think after that you made as many as 12 more trips. Do you remember your first travel with your parents?
Naresh: As far as I remember, my first journey was with my parents to Maa Vaishno Devi when I was studying in seventh. In 2005, my mother went for a 35 days long trip with one Thirth Yatra company covering Char Dhams of India, Twelve Jyotirlings, all Puri’s, Thirupati Bala Ji, Shirdi, Shani Sighnapur, Allahabad, Ganga Sagar, Gaya Ji etc. in one go. She used to travel Haridwar/ Rishikaesh occasionally. I can say she was a great Ghumakkar.
There were not a lot of travel and also due to time constraint and sometimes due to money constraint my parents traveled very less.
Ghumakkar: And when was your first independent (not with family, may be with friends) outing?
Naresh: My independent journey was also to Vaishno Devi with my friends when I was in college. Then I traveled a lot with my friends covering Kullu, Manali, Manikaran, Mandi, Riwalsar, Naina Devi, Amritsar, Wagha border etc.
Ghumakkar: And now does your partner in life, travel with you?
Naresh: My wife is also very fond of travelling. She has already travelled with me to Shimla, Kullu,Manali, Riwalsar, Mandi, Rohtang, Mussoorie, Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Patnitop, Srinagar (J&K) and Amarnath Ji. She has also visited Maa Vaishno Devi, three times with me and many times with her parents before marriage.
Ghumakkar: If I remember correctly from your logs, you have two daughters.
Naresh: Yes, that is right. You definitely read my stories well. :) I have two daughters. Elder, Jiya, 9 years old and studying in class fifth and Younger, Shagun was born in year 2007 and studying in first class. And if you want to ask about their preference, I think they are too young to decide their love to travel.
Ghumakkar: Does office gives you enough time to spend with family and travel?
Naresh: Yes, mostly. As you know, I work in BSNL and my office is not too far from my home. I have been in Ambala for a long time now. My first posting in BSNL was at Yamuna Nagar which is 50KM away from Ambala. I stayed there for one year and during that period I enjoyed life of a daily passenger, rest of it has been here.
Ghumakkar: I have passed through Ambala, every time we went to Chandigarh, Shimla, HP and beyond. Infact I visited Hamirpur, Himachal for Vibha’s wedding last weekend. And that kept me busy during the weekend, else we could have been talking sooner. Vibha was managing all the editorial for many years. Tell us more about your city.
Naresh: Twin city of Ambala is gateway of Haryana, located on the border to the state of Punjab. It has two cities named Ambala Cantt and Ambala City. They are surrounded by two rivers – Ghaggar and Tangri – to the West and to the East.
Ambala city is the district head-quarter and have all the District Head offices. “Cloth Market” is the charm of the Ambala City, which draws shoppers from surrounding areas. The cloth market has a dense an incredible cluster of 900-1000 wholesale shops.
Ghumakkar: Yeah, I have heard about the ‘Cloth Market’. One of my friend’s sasural (inlaw’s place) is here. I believe a large part of Cantt would be for Air force and army. We do sometimes catch a sortie. Correct?
Naresh: Yes. Ambala Cantt has a large Indian Army and Indian Air Force presence within the confines of its cantonment area. Ambala Cantt is a divisional headquarters of the Northern Railway Zone and is an important railway junction. It is one of the busiest railway stations in India. Ambala Cantt is also known as city of scientific instruments. It is a major scientific products market and is a hub for products like glass apparatus, microscopes, laboratory equipment etc. Ambala constitutes nearly 35% of the total production of scientific instruments produced in India.
Ghumakkar: I hope our inside expert, Mahesh Semwal, on scientific instruments gets to read this. Hehe. So apart from close family, who are your friends in Ghumakkari, out here?
Naresh: Apart from my family, my friend Shushil Malhotra is my best companion in Ghumakkri. We have together visited 6 times Vaishno Devi and 9 times to Holy Amarnath Cave.
Swarn or Seety as we lovingly call him, is another friend of mine with whom I have traveled many times. He accompanied us 8 times in Amarnath Yatra and two times to Vaishno Devi.
Shushil Malhotra and Swarn are my childhood friends and we, three, have travelled a lot together. Swarn does not travel without Shushil. This year, for the first time he went with me without Shushil on Amarnath Yatra.
Next, Naresh Saroha, my colleague and my friend have accompanied me 2 times in Amarnath Yatra and in tour of Maharastra and M.P covering five Jtotirlings, Shirdi, Signapur and Ellora Caves
Ghumakkar: I think you have mentioned about them in your Kedarnath trip.
Naresh: Yes. All of us, mentioned above, have performed Kedarnath,Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib Yatra together along with some other friends.
Ghumakkar: Your travels, that we read on Ghumakkar so far, have mostly been religious. Yet you seem to create a lot of fun during the journeys. Please share more on what you look for in a holiday?
Naresh: I am God-Loving so I love to travel religious places and historical places and whenever we travel to a Holy Place, we divide it in two parts. One is Journey period and second is that place where we are going. For us journey period is for fun and masti and the holy place is for Bhakti. I cannot travel seriously or doing Kirtan.
For me, a religious place is just like a destination of a journey and without destination I do not travel.
Ghumakkar: So which all religious places you have been to?
Naresh: I think I have already written about Amarnath, Badri, Kedar and other place. Let me share with you the Gurudwaras I have been lucky to visit. I have the privilege of Darshan Darbar sahib Amritsar, Kirtarpur sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Rara Sahib near Ludhiana, Fatehgarh sahib, Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib Patiala, Manji Sahib Ambala, Damdama sahib Gurdwaras in Mandi and Rewalsar Gurdwara, Gurudwara Shri Panjokra Sahib in Panjokra. Paonta Sahib and Hemkund Sahib etc.
Ghumakkar: That is a long list Naresh.
Naresh: Yeah, but a lot is left. To travel and to write and share with Ghumakkars.
Ghumakkar: Ok, so it is a great time to go back to something which you mentioning in the beginning. How do we celebrate the act of sharing our stories and thoughts by recognizing each other more thourgh a simple tool like ‘Comment’?
Naresh: I think ‘Commenting’ is much more important than writing. Infact one must read and acknowledge since that gives a lot of meaning and relevance to the purpose of writing. I would like to thank folks like Ashok Sharma and Tridev jee, who always find time to motivate us through their valuable comments.
Ghumakkar: Yes, correct Naresh. Do you think we are doing enough of it or is there a need to do more ?
Naresh: Everyone gets busy, at one time or the other, so my suggestion is that when you get a chance to read a story, please do make a comment. It could be a simple , thank you, note. It goes a long way in motivating a Author. I put a lot of effort when I write a story and these comments are like energy capsules.
Ghumakkar: Correct. I think over last 8 months or so, you have been writing pretty consistently.
Naresh: Sir, you wont believe but during Feb/March I really sustained those winter nights, sitting on my computer in night and finishing my stories. My wife would often complain on what I am trying to do and I would calmly explain her that this is very important. I wish to do more.
Ghumakkar: Bravo. I so agree with you. Each post is a result of so much of hard work. It is probably, at times, more than the research we do while planning a trip. How much research do you do before the journey?
Naresh: I do a lot of search on internet before moving to a new place. Actually whenever we plan travel, may be it a new place or familiar place, it is always my duty to plan the day of travel, mode of travel, bookings, staying option etc. etc. So I read the travelogues and do lot of research on the internet for best options. I think Google and rest of the search engines are made mainly for Ghumakkars and Bhulakkars.
Ghumakkar: And what all do you pack in your bag? The stuff you never forget to carry?
Naresh: I never forget camera, mobile phone and their chargers, information of the place to be visited and surroundings, small torch and few cloths. I always prefer to travel light. My bag remains the lightest among my friends.
Ghumakkar: Traveling light is the key. Especially, if one longs to travel a lot. Please tell us the places that you long to go to.
Naresh: Till now I have visited six Jyotirlings and one Dham. My first target is to cover remaining six Jyotirling, three Dhams, their surroundings places and Gangotri & Yamunotri till 2015. After that a long tour to Leh ladhakh which will be like going via Manali and returning via Srinagar. I will plan this tour so that while returning we can go for Amarnath Yatra.
Ghumakkar: God willing. We would be around to see this happen and pray for you. Thank you Naresh for sharing your life with us, your aspirations, the hard work and the struggles and your future travel list. I thank you on behalf of entire editorial team. Before we close, what is your dream destination ?
Naresh: First of all, I can not thank you enough for giving me so much freedom, space and learning. I get better with every new travel log which I read. My dream destination is to travel Kailash Mansarovar. May be by 2016-17.
Ghumakkar: Amen, Naresh. May Almighty keep you and your loved ones happy and safe. May you travel to Kailash, sooner, and we at Ghumakkar would look forward to read about it. Take care and best wishes.
On this auspicious occasion of Independence Day, let me close this by saying, ‘Jai Hind’.