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My Beautiful Journey - Kashmir to Kanyakumari
- Prabal Gupta

November 5, 2016

Dr. C.K. Gariyali’s My Beautiful Journey -  Kashmir to Kanyakumari published by Authors Upfront with foreword by N. Ram – the chairman and the publisher of The Hindu Group of Newspapers, is a lovely story of a young woman turned to a bureaucrat. The book delineates the author’s journey as Chander Kanta – a young girl from downtown Srinagar where she was born to Old Delhi. The story then takes us to her career front at the National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie where she was trained, met her fiancée Dr. Raj Kumar  and then to Tamil Nadu where she spent her entire working life and then later settled down in Chennai.
The author has used vivid imageries and adjectives to describe the lively and enchanting Kashmir - “These mansions were admirable specimens of mud and brick architecture” - bringing to life the buildings so lively and fresh in the minds of the reader that one experiences watching a movie as they read the novel. Dr. Gariyali’s ancestral background in Kashmir is marvelously interspersed with historical events, notably the acquisition of the territory of Kashmir by the Dogra Maharajas, Kabaili Hamla, the developments leading to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India and so on. Srinagar is described as “the abode of Lakshmi” and Gariyali brings to the readers the multifaceted qualities of the city to substantiate the same. Using descriptive imageries like “beautiful and majestic Vitasta (Jhelum) river,” “fine-decorative woodwork” to augment the beauty of the architecture of the houses, describing the city as “woke, breathed and lived by the river” has embellished  the quality of the book to a significant extent.

The writer uses attractive imageries to illustrate the sights and the sounds of the Sitaram Bazaar of Old Delhi. Her profound zest of an inquisitive mind has brought forth how from the time of the Mughals, Sitaram Bazaar was home to a significant number of Kashmiri Pundit families such as the Saprus and the Haksars.  The author recalls her connection with a dancing girl and a lonely eunuch and their painful migration to Pakistan. The book then soothingly takes its turn towards her career as she joined the Academy in 1972 being tremendously helped by her fiancée to clear her IAS examination. The Academy was headed by the last ICS officer of the country D.D Sathae then who still encouraged ball room dancing and cocktail parties. When she finished in 1974, Sathae had retired and Rajeshwar Prasad, an IAS officer deeply rooted in the soil of the Gangetic Plains where life was in full sync with Ramayana and other epics, became the director.  Being a staunch supporter of Hindi and not fond of English, he promulgated the national language through performing arts (drama) and under his supervision Ramleela was staged by the trainee officers in the National Academy of Administration.
The author recalls her batch mates who further proceeded to accomplish major goals in their lives like D. Subbarao who became the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Gopal Pillai who retired as home secretary, Subhas Pani well known in the present day amongst the dancer community for organizing a major dance festival on Geeta Govinda in the country’s capital. As Joint Election Commissioner, Subhas Pani ably assisted T.N Seshan and J.M Lyndogh in leading electoral re-organization. She also recalls how under the proficient guidance of Pani, Hindi plays like Badal Sarkar’s ‘Baki Itihaas’ was staged by amateur artists (the trainees of the Academy) which not only impressed the general public in Mussourie, but also received rave reviews from art critics.
The book demarcates the author’s quick decision making and leadership skills in meeting Indira Gandhi thereby eradicating the problems faced by Kiran Bedi in becoming the first Police Officer of the country and opening up future prospects of aspiring women who want to take up IPS service seriously. The author’s remarkable contribution in upholding the dance scenario started when she was posted in Tamil Nadu.  Apart from her major contribution in the field of population limitation and poverty reduction in the state of Tamil Nadu, she uplifted the down trodden condition of the Chidambaram temple by organizing the Natyanjali Festival thereby making this temple the most famous ‘kovil’ in the international scenario.  The book has some valuable pictures of Father Barboza, the first Catholic priest who learnt Bharatanatyam and performed in the acclaimed Chidambaram Natyanjali Festival. The book gives us various interesting episodes of how she adopted Tamil Nadu as her home and came to admire and love its people. So much so that the once “Harijan Basti” in Karur has been renamed as “Gariyali Nagar” for her humanitarian exertion.

In the course of her narration, she also recalls her association with religious leaders like Paramacharya of Kanchi, Sri Narayani Amma of the Golden Temple, Swami Lakshman Joo Raina who was the Grand Master of Kashmir Shaivism, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, how she met her adopted parents from Karur, Late V.N Chokalingam and Vairam Chockalingam and how much with love and affection they would look after her daughter Priya Rajkumar when Gariyali would be away for her work.  She also writes about her association with dancers like Rukmini Devi Arundale, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and so on.  She recalls her tours in a first class compartment of a train which she fondly addresses as “Bharat Darshan” and in the course of the journey misses the train while shopping for sarees in Calcutta. Then with the help of Naveen Bajpai and Satinder Singh, she gets back to the train only to be scolded by Joshi.
The book in short is a lively read with mellifluous words and scrupulously used similes and metaphors and vivid imageries that makes the reading captivating and engrossing. The book is a must buy for all sections of the society, dance fraternity as it makes us understand her contributions in the field of dance and also society at large. It can be an eye opener for many, knowing about the various archeological structures and places to visit like Amarnath, Vaishnodevi, Kedarnath, Badrinath and so on in detail.

The ISBN no of the book is 978-9-38443-978-1 and is available online at It is also available at Odyssey Book Shop at Chennai and Coimbatore and Amethyst Café in Chennai.

Prabal Gupta is a Kathakali dancer based in Bangalore.

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