Chasing the waves with Kayak man Shalabh Gahlaut
Having no love to pursue his studies, though got brickbats from parents and kith and kin, held the raft with passion. Today he is an ace paddler of India and one of the renowned kayakers in the community.
In my 2 decades of travel in Uttarakhand, popularly known as the Devbhoomi - The abode of gods. I have a special adoration for all the rivers & prayags steeped in mythology and solitude they offer and divinity. Rudraprayag is one of my favorites because of three things, as it is a meeting point of Mandakini river coming from Kedarnath Dham and Alaknanda river from Badrinath Dham, secondly the fantastic adventurous stories by Jim Corbett during his days in Rudraprayag and because it serves as a middle point during my journey.
During one such travel, I decided to stay at a place called Shivanandi located on the banks of the Alakananda River, literally, a paradise in disguise It was love at first sight, the peaceful place embraced my soul and was moved by the place, I was so enamored by the location that I decided to stay here. Being an adventure enthusiast I had done quite a few rafting expeditions in the Alakananda river further down in Shivpuri and Rishikesh.
During one such visit, I was fortunate to meet Shabalh, the owner of the property. He dressed in a short, is a simple human being, a bit outspoken personality, and speaking chaste English.
We were staying in an idealistic location surrounded by forest on the banks of the river and could hear the murmuring sound of the river flowing gently in tune with nature.
During a casual discussion, we came to know about Shalabhs struggle in pursuing his studies, brickbats from the family, even from his Kith & Kin, and his love towards nature, eagerness in doing water activties.
His love and dedication to the outdoors have given him self-respect and work to eke out a living. He has skillfully manoeuvered and has traversed all rivers across India.In length and breadth.Be it Mighty Brahmaputra, Kameng, Siang, Ganges, Indus, Kri Bah, Zanskar, Narmada ,Alakananda all Himalayan rivers.Rivers such as Cauvery, Bhadra Kali, Neyyar, Iruvanjippuzha, and many more in south India.
The kayak man is a good storyteller too, who kept us all awake till midnight He told us about his kayaking stories, the leopard encounters, that visits every day to his property at midnight. The scary encounters reminded me of the narration of Jim Corbett in the book - The Man-eater of Rudraprayag
He trains those interested in Kayaking, Yoga in the river Alakananda flowing. One can make the base his stay and indulge in various activities He says that one can achieve anything if done with utmost love and dedication !