They had come from far and wide; from all parts of the country. There were families with young boys and girls, old couples and young men and women. All of them assembled at Gate 15 of the Departure lounge of the Delhi International Airport. The gate enclosure itself was a small area with not even sufficient chairs to seat the older people. They stood for over an hour at the boarding gate for the announcement of a flight that had a special number - 555. Almost all of them were on a vacation and were visibly excited. That the lounge was small did not dampen their spirits; it probably enhanced their excitement.
The flight was expected to take one and half hours. It took off on schedule and the first one hour was uneventful. Suddenly some kids got up and started to take pictures from the aircraft’s windows. Those on the window side seats were probably doing that already. Taking pictures from the aircraft is prohibited, but nobody seemed to bother about it. Even the air hostesses smiled away. For a few minutes most of the passengers were out of their seats and clicking. Mobile phones have made photo-taking very easy now. Of course, the thrill of carrying a camera, purchasing film, loading them, clicking photos, sending it for developing and printing and thereafter waiting eagerly for the printed snaps is long dead and gone. I strongly suspect that the value of photos itself is now compromised. Whatever it is, this was a time to click away. And all of them did it in plenty. Most of them would not have read or heard about Kumarasambhavam. But to understand Himalayas that was not required. His very presence was enough and more.
Mahakavi Kalidasa has described Himalayas as the majestic yardstick, standing to the north of our country and the King of Mountains. Kalidasa starts his celebrated Mahakaavya “Kumara Sambhavam” with this praise of the Mountains. The Himalayas is not just another mountain range for the Mahakavi; he is the symbol of the ethos of our lofty values. His size is just too great and hence he is called a yard stick. Was he justified in calling Himalayas as a yardstick? He is a yardstick for measuring the Earth. When we consider the size of the Himalayan Range we realize how right Mahakavi Kalidasa was! To measure the size of the Earth, we require a yardstick of the size of Himalayas as nothing else will suffice. Earth’s diameter is said to be about 12,720 Kilometers or 7900 miles. The Himalayan Range extends from west to east for a length of 2400 Kilometers or 1500 miles. Therefore, it is easy to measure the size of the earth using the Himalayas as the yard stick. Earth’s diameter is 5.3 yards if Himalayas is one yard! This is not a yard of three feet. That yard is only for measuring very small things.
Those on the flight could get a clear view of the Himalayas as the flight was approaching Srinagar. It was a clear and sunny day and enabled viewing the snow clad mountain peaks, flowing rivers and the evergreen forests. It did not matter that they were flying at 34,000 feet. They were not looking at a small hill; it was the Himalayas who stretched as far as the eyes could see and comprehend.
The Himalayan range has nine out of ten highest peaks in the world. Geologists say that this is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. The range gives birth to innumerable rivers and the big three siblings are The Sindhu (Indus), Ganga and Brahmaputra. Brahmaputra is considered a brother. 600 million people depend and live in the cradles of these mighty rivers.
There is a Hindi film by name “Yaatrik”, produced in the year 1952 and directed by Kartick Chatterjee. It is the story of a group of people on a trek in the Himalayas during their pilgrimage. The film brought considerable boost to the career of the well-known actor of yesteryear, Abhi Bhattacharya who has played the role of a young Bramhachari. There is a song in this film, sung by Pankaj Mullick who was at his peak as a play back singer then. The recording is available and can be heard on YouTube. The stanzas of the song are taken from the verses of Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhavam.
When we hear that song and recall the words of the Mahakavi Kalidasa, there is no doubt that he is a Yardstick. But he is not just a yardstick; he is a big yardstick indeed!