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The call of the mountains

What is it that beckons Pavel to the mountains? Whatever may be the reason, he has some stunning pictures of the snow-capped locale



"You will be surprised to see that even at those high altitudes, young girls manage to get hold of make-up kits, fashionable clothes, and accessories to look even more alluring."

HE IS a young man of curious contrasts. The only child born to Bengali parents, he prefers to be called by his nom de guerre, Pavel, rather than Avijit Chakraborty. With a ponytail and a boyish bearing, he looks much younger than his 35 summers. He completed his Master's degree in linguistics from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a bachelor's degree in Russian, but did not find either of them worth being pursued. Giving up a comfortable job as a technical editor with Tata Consultancy services in Delhi to travel around the world, he covered Britain, Europe, U.S.A., Australia, and the South Pacific Islands. His interest in different cultures led him to take up jobs — as varied as researching the effect of Christian missions on the native culture in Fiji, to helping people with brain injury in London.

Now settled in the city, which to him is `a nice hiding place', Pavel writes and contributes travel-related articles to magazines in both print and electronic media. In between all these, Pavel has retained one enduring interest — trekking in the mountain and beholding its majestic moods and not to forget those fascinating people of the mountains. "The Himalaya has put me under its spell for more than a decade," says Pavel. "While the landscape awes and exhilarates, its people bring that vital touch of compassion and continuity. The patterns of life in the hills are still dictated by a simple elegance that has become primary to my sense of being alive."

His `affair' with the Himalayas began with a trek to Gaumukh in 1993. Since then, he has been visiting — or rather revisiting — its magnificent ranges: "Sometimes as many as four times in a single calendar year!" He has seen its altering colours and changing seasons, and has approached the mountain from different bases — from Bhutan in the east to Bharmour in the west. During his wide travels in the region, he has studied the socio-cultural patterns of life of various mountain and tribal communities. For, a research project on a Gandhian tribal activist's work had him undertake a four-month tour in Jaunsar-Bawar and Uttarkashi-Rawain areas of Uttaranchal.

About four years ago, Pavel added some more punch to his passion, by stuffing a Canon-EOS into his rucksack. "The camera has helped me to find a new perspective," says Pavel, showing an exciting portfolio of photographs featuring the places and faces from the Himalayan region.

A peek at the assorted pictures, unfolds the breathtaking views of multi-hued mountain range, its icy peaks piercing the sky, often cloaked with dramatically hovering monsoon clouds. Frosted stones on the banks of Gurudongmar Lake at 17,000 ft. and colourful Buddhist flags fluttering in high velocity winds are captured in meticulously composed frames.


Alongside, hinting at traces of life from a long distance are lush green meadows, multi-layered fields dotted with miniature farmhouses, antiquated bridges, rugged watchtowers, elegant mountain lodges, and ancient monasteries.

Moving closer up, one finds Pavel "arresting" local people in his 35 mm film. A bearded sadhu with his curved cane, temple drummer awaiting the puja call, local Newari leaning against an intricately carved window-frame, flute seller ferrying his ware on his head, tourist basking in early morning sunshine are all clicked away for posterity. Not to forget the shy Nepali girls in all their finery, playful children near a water pool, enthusiastic performers at a local festival, and young monks in front of a dzong (monastery), who are sighted with warmth and tenderness.

Pavel also reveals his in-depth knowledge of places and people in the Himalayas. Showing the image of a young lama passing through the colourful doorway of a monastery he says: "This is the Simtokka Dzong, meaning Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras. It is the oldest surviving Dzong in Bhutan and was built in 1629." He reels out names of places, villages, rivers, temples, and terrains with ease and aplomb.

Pavel makes it a point to heap generous praises on the mountain people for their charming personality, friendly temperament, and hospitable nature. With a mischievous twinkle in the eyes, he reveals how beautiful young girls in the mountains are. "You will be surprised to see that even at those high altitudes, they manage to get hold of make-up kits, fashionable clothes, and accessories to look even more alluring!"

It is probably such crucial attractions that play a role in beckoning Pavel on his repeated sojourns. Yes, he is getting ready for his next trip to the Himalayas in a couple of months, and let's wish that he comes back with more images of not only his beloved mountains, but also some gorgeous photographs of charming belles, with red lips and sensuous profiles, coyly serving tea at the wayside stalls.

ATHREYA

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