Monday, March 11, 2019

The Beauty of Thar Desert

It’s a beautiful year when you end your January and begin your February in Kashmir to enter into March from the beautiful deserts of Rajasthan. Travel is beautiful, spiritual and addictive.

Upon returning from Kashmir in early January, I realized that March begins with a fabulous travel opportunity with a long weekend at its beginning. There was going to be a Holi weekend and thus a perfect time to paint a new travel canvas. It took me about 5 minutes to decide that after touching the extreme north of the country just a few days back, I will now go and touch the extreme west, Jaisalmer and Longewala.

I cannot really call it an impromptu thought, for Jaisalmer was in my bucket list for a long time. But once I realized of this long week end, in the five minutes I was prepping up for the trip. My initial thought was to drive down to Jaisalmer from Ahmedabad, which is an approximate distance of 500 Kms. The road as I understand is beautiful and one can easily drive down to Jaisalmer from Ahmedabad. I decided to put up a post on Facebook & Travello inviting interested bag packers to join in if they wish to, however didn’t find anyone willing to travel at that time. I thus dropped my plan to drive down and rather decided to take a bus.

Driving solo all night drains out a lot of energy and makes me tired the next day. I rather decided to preserve the energy by taking some rest on the bus and making the most of it while in Jaisalmer. This is when I realized that the road connectivity between Ahmedabad and Jaisalmer is also pretty limited. There were very limited options available in as well. Finally, I adopted the old fashion method of visiting a few travel agents and managed to book myself on a Rajasthan based (probably) travel companies bus. (Thar Travels) about 10 days in advance to my travel.

Unknown destinations and solo trips are definitely exciting, but the thought once materialized always makes me nervous, for you are alone soaring into the unknown. But it is always a good idea to experience the unknown rather than being afraid of it.

I boarded this bus – an AC sleeper (mind you, not a Volvo) from Ahmedabad on the Thursday night, a day before Holi after work. When one travels it amazing to see how diverse our country is. I was observing my fellow passengers as we were waiting to board the bus. The men in their loose white shirts and white Pajamas with a turban on their heads and big silver earrings and women in colorful sarees and huge ornaments made of white metal showcased the traditional Rajasthani style of attire.
The bus left Ahmedabad at 10:00 PM. Though not from a prominent travel agency the bus was    pretty much comfortable to get a fair sleep. I have long learned from my three years in Gujarat that one cannot always expect clean restaurants and good food on the highways here. Unlike some highways, these states don’t have Mac Donald’s and Pizza Huts. Rather once you leave Ahmedabad and travel further west there are no major cities that one comes across, thus luxurious restaurants are out of question. It’s best to pack dry snacks for these journeys. At about 1:00 AM the bus stopped at a filthy food joint for about 20 mins to reach Jaisalmer at 9:00 AM – about an hour and half past its scheduled arrival time.


I arrived into Jaisalmer on the Holi day. The bus stand was just near the fort and I was to go to the Swan Hostel as the place was referred to me by a friend. I decided to walk rather than take an auto to start exploring the city. I turned my GPS on and started walking. As I entered into the town I could easily see that the city was closed for the festival. On the streets I could see kids playing Holi, throwing colors and splashing water at each other. As I walked into the small lanes of the city kids started following me with colorful intentions. They were a little curious and scared as I walked with a big rucksack on my back. Some brave hearts were trying to ask me ’which country’, which country’. I decided to act alien and kept walking, in an attempt to escape the situation. 

An even braver kid then decided to splash water on me using his splash gun (pichkari), and as I tried to avoid him, someone scolded him asking him not to trouble the tourists. The kinds withdrew. As I walked out of the small alley and stepped onto the big road three men fully smeared in colors were passing by and stopped seeing me walking on the road absolutely uncolored. They decided to stop and then there was no escaping as they put colors on me head to toe. This continued to happen at every corner after that as locals as well as tourists were playing Holi. By the time I reached the hostel I was completely immersed in colors.

I reached the hostel, dusted off the color and washed my face (No shower – no no no) and came down to the lobby to plan my day. It was clear that the town was close for the festival and there was no point staying back in Jaisalmer. One of my plans was to rent a Bullet and ride down to Longewala about 120 Kms. from Jaisalmer where the famous battle of Longewala was fought in 1971. As I came down to the lobby to explore the possibility of getting a Bike, I met Shivam – another solo traveler who was exploring the same possibility. He immediately offered me to tag along and said there was another couple who was travelling and if I wanted I can join them all and thus I met Ankit and Rachna. This is the beauty of Solo Trips – you may go solo, but you don’t come back solo’ and thus the four of us became great buddies from the moment we met.
We had breakfast at the beautiful rooftop restaurant at Swan hostel. Rachna in the meanwhile had planned to go to Sam Sand Dunes – a must visit when in Jaisalmer. Post breakfast we headed to the Sahara Dessert Safari office through whom we booked over dessert Safari. There are several other who organize such safaris but our experience with Sahara Dessert Safari was reasonably good. It is advised that one books these Safaris through trussed organizers who have established offices around the fort area. It is advisable to negotiate as well. Generally you would get a good deal in INR 2k per person, which involves transportation (Jaisalmer to Jaisalmer- generally in a Jeep or an open 4x4 vehicle), desert safari in an open gypsy, Camel Safari, Stay in a tent (individual tent if you are travelling alone) and meals.
While we were waiting for our transportation to go to the dunes near the fort area we tried our hands on the local delicacy (or the one that is rather more popular in the Sindh region in Pakistan) known as Dal Pakwan.

 The road from Jaisalmer to Sam Sand dunes is a desert road and run in between the between the barren ran and has got hundreds of windmills on both side. Jaisalmer is one of the biggest Windmill farm in the country and is surrounded by windmills on all sides. The road is truly beautiful as the vehicle cuts through the dry Thar winds. 

On our way to the dunes we stopped at the Kuldhara village. It’s an abandoned village basically in ruins believed to be abandoned in the 19th century. The exact reason though not known, there are several beliefs behind it being abandoned. Over the years it has also developed a reputation of being a haunted village and as we Indians love to tell and listen to stories, there are several stories told locally about the paranormal activities in this village.  Not sure about the paranormal activities, the village in the day time looks good and shows ruins of beautiful 13th century architecture. A beautiful place to take pictures and a location worth using for rustic theme photography folios.(please seek local permission from tourism department ) After spending about an hour at the village we moved further to reach the sand dunes.

 The landscape changes dramatically as we reach the Sam Sand Dunes. The barren rann changes to huge sand dunes giving one a real feel of the desert. We checked in into the resort and had a lazy afternoon by the tents having tea and long chats. As we planned to get ready for the evening, we realized there was no water in the camp site and that we had to wait as water needs to be brought from another water source 15 Kms away from the camp site and the tanker was on its way. After about 40/45 mins a tanker carrying water arrived at the camp site and water was supplied to all tents. We could see several other tractor pulled tankers running on the desert road. 

Water which is an (apparently) easily available resource for us in the cities is an extremely scarce resource in this part of the country and needs to be used very carefully.

After a quick shower, we were taken out in an open Mahindra Thar on a Sun down desert Safari. This is a mind blowing experience, as the vehicle takes a small road out to the dunes and then runs wild into the dunes.  Extremely well trained drivers drive you through the dunes at a high speed giving you an adventurous experience of the dunes. Watch a short video here –

The safari stopped in between the desert after about 20 mins at a strategic place from where we could enjoy the sun set. The place was pretty crowded and commercialized (though not exuberantly expensive like many other tourist places). We settled ourselves on one of the dunes to experience the desert sunset. While we were enjoying our time taking pictures, sipping on the tea the sun was almost touching the horizon on the verge of setting in. The evening was pretty cloudy and dusty and the sunset was kind of a quick one into the defused clouds. Though we enjoyed the experience it was not a contending one majorly due to the weather. After spending some more time in the desert we moved back to the camp site to enjoy the night.

As we arrived at the camp site we were invited for to join in for a folk evening. A stage was set in the center of the huge camp site and local singers presented Rajasthani folk music. Not the best of the artists, but they did the best they could.

(We also enjoyed a beautiful moon rise over the camp site. Enjoy a few pics as the artists performed and moon rises right behind them)

We decided to take a walk into the desert after the event and walked deep into the dunes in the moon light. I think these are the experiences one should travel for. It was a blissful experience to sit in the middle of the desert with three new friends and share our experiences of travel. If there was anything that connected all four of us together there in that moon light was our passion for travel, apart from that we didn’t know anything else about anyone of us. We were truly at that moment travelers of life meeting each other momentarily in this eternal travel in a deserted Thar desert.
After a long chat session we moved back to the camp site for dinner. The chat session continued for a while after dinner and we moved back to our tents to call it a day.


Our day 2 began at 5:30 in the morning as we were to leave at 6 AM for our Camel safari back into the dunes and enjoy the desert Sunrise. Two camels namely ‘Chunnu’ and ‘Hritik Roshan’ (whom we rechristened as ‘Duggu’) lazily came to the camping site and quietly waited for us to board them. The both appeared to be juveniles (and they were, as we confirmed with their care takers). We boarded the camels and they began their guided walk into the desert. After about 15 minutes we arrived at a spot in the desert from where we would see the Sun Rise. ‘Chunnu’ and ‘Duggu’ sat down as we alighted down to see the sun rise. Though this place was again a bit crowded I must say it was a pleasant morning and a beautiful sunrise. We made a lot of images of the sunrise while ‘Chunnu’ and ‘Duggu’ were our models.

(Hritik Roshan aka our Duggu in his 'Suraj ko main nigal gaya' pose)

I am an animal lover and generally not in favor of riding over them for fun. I shared this thought with the others and turned out that they were not very comfortable with that either and we decided to ask the camels to be taken back while we will walk our way to the camp. We spent some more time in the dunes and came back to the camp for breakfast.

We were to check out post breakfast and I and Shivam had planned to rent bikes and ride to Longewala while Rachna and Ankit were to leave from Jaisalmer the same evening. However they were pretty excited to know our plan. They excused themselves and went into their tents to come back after ten minutes declaring that they had cancelled their tickets and will be coming with us to Longewala.

We reached Jaisalmer at about 11 AM, immediately explored our options to fond good bikes and hired two Royal Enfield’s 350 all set for Longewala. You can hire bikes from outside the fort. Generally the rent is INR 800 for a day, but the moment you declare you are going to Longewala they will charge you more. We were running short on time and hired two bikes for INR 1200.00 each. The bike guys generally advise you to tank up the bikes, however that is not required. We filled about 9 Ltrs. of petrol. You may also be told that there are no petrol pumps after Jaisalmer, which is not true. You will find a few petrol pumps in Ramgargh, about 55kms. before Tanot, which is basically our first stop.

We left from Jaisalmer at 12:00 noon and rode straight till Ramgarh which is about 70 Kms. This drive is pretty much through the dry runn. We took a tea break at Ramgarh and started our journey further to Tanot (the famous Tanot Mata Temple shown in the film border which stood its guard during both 1965 & 1971 Indo-Pak wars).

The road from Ramgarh to Tanot is a beautiful two lane road made and maintained by BRO and run through the Thar Desert. It’s a blissful ride as one rides through the extremely well maintained roads and the sight of the desert on all four sides is nothing less than divine. Watch a small video of our drive on this road here – 

We reached Tanot Mata Temple which is maintained since 1965 by the Border Security Force. It is believed that the deity worshiped here has protected our land from enemies in supernatural ways. In the 1965 war Pakistani army targeted the temple and dropped over 3000 bombs in the temple area, however not one exploded. The area was again targeted in 1971 and it is believed that the war tactics of the enemies failed as Tanot Mata stood guard with the Army and our land. It is a place of immense faith for the Army and BSF soldiers who also consider the sand in the temple area to be sacred. The temple is surrounded by huge sand dunes and sand hills on all four sides. Unexploded bomb shells are displayed in the temple which are said to be fired by the Pakistani army on the temple premises during the war.

We humbly offered our prayers at the temple praying to Tanot Mata to always stand by our soldiers and protect our country from our enemies.  

We then drove down to our next destination – Longewala. Longewala is about 40 Kms. from Tanot. Ramgarh – Tanot  & Longewala form a triangle. After a 40 kms. of desert drive we arrived at the Longewala war site. The war site is merely 15 Kms. from the international border and is developed as a tourist awareness site by the Border Security Force. A company of 120 soldiers of the Indian Army’s 23rd battalion, Punjab Regiment under the commandment of Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri fought a war against 2000 Pakistani soldiers who opened attack at the war site during the night hours of 04th Dec, 1971 and showed exceptional war skills and defeated the enemy along with the Indian Air Force who arrived in the morning. They were given a choice to withdraw if they wish to, however the brave soldiers stayed back and fought the war to victory forcing the enemy to withdraw (Rather run away)

The war site is developed to give visitors a feel of how the war was fought. Two Pakistani tanks out of those captured during the 1971 war are kept here on display. The site gives us a feel of how the war must have been fought and makes us realize what a heroic decision it was by Major Chandpuri and his team to stay put and not withdraw. A small film is shown at this site which is basically a mix of a documentary and some visuals from the movie ‘Border’. The documentary shows that had the Indian Army moved back allowing the enemy to enter in Pakistan had probably taken over important cities like Ramgarh and Jaisalmer in 1971 gaining an easy access into other parts of the country. It was this terrain from the international border to Longewala which was tough due to the sand dunes and sand hills where the enemy could be stopped. Once in Ramgargh we would have lost the natural protection available in the form of the desert making it difficult to control the war – not to mention the much higher magnitude of loss to life and property.

We came across many familiar names at the small war museum here. Names which we have mostly heard in the 1997 Bollywood film – Border (A film based on the 1971 war ) making us feel proud about these brave sons of the mother land.

We had plans to go closer to the border area (Border Pillar 609) which requires permission from the Border Security Force. We were denied of the permission by a BSF officer who told us that the area these days is extremely sensitive. The word uttered by BSF is the law there – all in a right way and we decided not to explore the possibility any further or insist on the permission (not that there was a choice of insisting).

It was close to 06:00 PM now and we had a good 108 Kms distance to go back on the lonely desert road. We started our ride back to Ramgarh. Just 12 Kms before Ramgarh we took an impromptu stop over to see the sunset on the desert road, which turned out to be the best sunset we had ever seen in our lives. Please enjoy the image here –

After enjoying the sunset we started our journey back to Jaisalmer with a pit stop in Ramgarh. It took us a little longer than 3 hours to reach Jaisalmer as we rode a little slower in the dark desert road. By far this has been one of my best experiences of the few road trips I have had. 

Upon reaching Jaisalmer we had a quick dinner at a beautiful joint facing the fort (which later became super famous as some parts of the film Parmanu were shot here) and bid farewell to Ankit and Rachna who were to leave for Delhi the same night. 

We checked in into a small hotel to spend a few hours at night as we had plans to see the fort the next day. Generally Jaisalmer fort will be the first place to visit once you reach Jaisalmer, however we were visiting it the last, just before leaving Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer fort is a stunning architecture and is perhaps one of the very few forts which have got people living in it. An entire colony is based inside the fort with houses, restaurants, shops etc. In fact the city of Jaisalmer was based in the fort only - in the olden days. As population started increasing people started dwelling outside of the fort which is now known to be the Jaisalmer city. The fort is made up of yellow sandstone and thus has a beautiful and distinctive yellow color, which in the morning and evening hours looks stunningly golden, rightfully being known as the golden fort. This yellow color is also used to paint most of the construction in the city to hold its reputation of the Golden city. The color strongly matches with the desert sand around the city. 

(Entrance to the Jaisalmer Fort)

One has to walk through the crowded and small by lanes inside the fort. We arrived pretty early in the morning to get good photographs during the golden hour. The small by lanes are pretty crowded as locals, tourists, shop keepers and two wheelers all try to make their way through them. We walked our way up to make it to one of the bastions. The fort is said to have about 100 bastions which were used to keep a watch on the surrounding area. Some bastions still have canons placed on them and offer a very panoramic view of the city and the vast desert around Jaisalmer. One can take a walk around the fort and visit such bastions located on all four sides of the fort and have different views of the city. After quite a walk we settled down on one of the bastions where a big canon crafted out of five metals was placed. Please enjoy a few images here.  

We then headed to a beautiful café called ‘The Fort Pearl Homestay’. It’s one of the most beautiful homestay and café in the fort (and perhaps the most expensive – but worth the experience). We took a table overlooking the by lanes of the city and had our breakfast. This café offers a lot of photo opportunities and thus one should visit.

We further walked a little more into the fort before Shivam left for Jodhpur, leaving me to spend some time by myself in the city. I decided to see the Patwon ki Haweli . It is more of a tourist attraction and yet again the architecture is marvelous. The net-work in the stone (traditionally known as ‘Jali’) is truly worth seeing as one wonders as to how talented the carvers must have been to create such creations. Enjoy a few pictures of the Haveli – 

I then took a walk in the city market. Though not a great fan of buying stuff from these highly commercialized tourists markets, I did buy some stoles and Afghani lowers from a local shop. By the time I reached the hotel, lunch time was over, thus had to move out again for lunch which turned out to be a good decision as I came across a place where I had traditional Rajasthani Thali.  It was a good lunch with Kersangri, Gutte ki Subji, Ghewar and other Rajasthani items. A perfect way to finish the trip.

I walked back to the hotel to leave for my bus to Ahmedabad.

That one thing that prominently one notices while travelling in India is its uncleanliness and Jaisalmer was no exception. The old city is extremely filthy and apparently lacks washrooms as people use streets and road side gutters to relieve themselves. Even inside the fort where most tourists visit is not well kept. One can smell filth everywhere which doesn’t give a great feeling. Local authorities, locals as well as tourists need to be more responsible in maintaining cleanliness in our cities.

Alas that is one bad thing amongst a hundred good, but Jaisalmer is truly a great place to visit and one must visit it at least once.

You are reading to – His Favorite Child.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Who can hurt R Balki - this post is all about Mr. Bachchan

I recently read this interview in TOI which made me think a little

I am a huge fan of Mr. Bachchan and he has always been a source of inspiration to me like he has been to a million others. He is a school in himself and we learn so much from him everyday, through the way he walks, the way he acts, the ways he hosts his talk shows and the way he presents himself every single moment - his every single move is a learning. What makes this learning practical, is that it is applicable in our everyday life, and one such lesson comes out of this interview

I read this interview while I was particularly low about a few things happening around me and was busy analyzing the right and the wrong.Then I realized the feeling of right and wrong exists at every level and  you can still feel you have gone wrong, while you are at the apex of your stature. It is not about not having these feelings,but its all about how well you conceal them from the world outside of you.

I felt touched by the lines where R Balki has mentioned this text from Mr. Bachchan he received on a particular occasion stating "Why is it that I am always wrong?" I think it is one of those weak moments where human beings express the negativity in them  or probably a close relation with R Balki that must have made Mr. Bachchan send this text to him, but what as a reader and Bachchan fan I learnt is even at a stature like that, one has to face the feeling of being lonely or of always being the one who is wrong.

We all are in hope of that day when we will be successful and that the entire world will be with us, and we shall not be alone. But I feel that it is exactly the opposite - the more you are successful the more you are for yourself. Who can imagine an Amitabh - who apparently is always surrounded by people singing in his praise, deep inside feels its he who is always wrong -

Its not the feeling that makes you an Amitabh, its how well you handle those feelings and express yourselves that makes you one

('Amitabh' in the last paragraph is used as a synonym for success) 

Monday, October 13, 2014

दो प्रकाश आमटे देना

तीन प्रकाश आमटे, मे आय गेट थ्री प्रकाश आमटे, भैया दो प्रकाश आमटे देना !!!

आयनॉक्स - पणजी च्या बॉक्स ऑफिस वरच्या या तिकीटविक्रीचा मला फार आनंद होत होता. हा आनंद द्विगुणित झाला, जेव्हा मी खिडकी वर पोचलो आणि बुकिंगचा चार्ट पहिला. फक्त पहिल्या दोन रांगांमध्ये काही निवडक सिट्स  उपलब्ध होत्या . बाकी थेटऱ हाउसफुल. साधारणतः अशी परिस्थिती आली कि आपल्याला वाईट वाटेल, विशेषतः जर आपण अडव्हानस बुकिंग करत असू. पण मला मात्र फार आनंद होत होता, दोन कारणांसाठी - एक म्हणजे मराठी चित्रपटाला हाउसफुलचा बोर्ड लागत होता आणि दुसरं आणि महत्वाचे कारण म्हणजे बाबांचे कार्य जाणून घेण्यासाठी लोक येत होते. एनटरटेन्टमेंटच्या पलीकडे सिनेमा पोचत होता आणि लोक तो तसा मान्य करत होते.

डॉ. प्रकाश बाबा आमटे - रियल हिरो हे मराठी आत्मचित्र समृद्धी पोरे यांनी सादर करुन खरं  तर प्रेक्षकांवर एकाप्रकारे उपकारच केलेत. कारण ज्या कार्याचा करावा तितका गौरव कमी आहे, असं  मानव सेवेच कार्य बाबा गेले किती वर्ष आनंदवनातून करत आले आहेत, आणि ते कार्य डॉ. प्रकाश आणि विकास आमटे तितक्याच निस्वार्थ पणाने पुढे चालवत आहेत आणि वाढवत आहेत. आमटे कुटुंबाला ओळखणारे, त्यांच्या कार्याची जाण असणारे अनेक लोक जगभरात आहेत, पण त्याहीपेखा जास्त लोक अशे आहेत कि ज्यांना बाबा कोण होते हे सुद्धा माहित नाहि. या अत्मचीत्रात एक तसा प्रसंग दाखवला पण आहे, आणि प्रत्यक्षात माहित नाही, पण रूपकदृष्ट्या तो खरा आहे. बाबांच्या कार्याची माहिती लोकांना व्हावी म्हणून मी गेले किती वर्ष माझ्या कार्यक्रमातून बाबां बद्दल बोलत आलो आहे. मित्र मंडळीनंना कधी विचारलं की बाबा आमटे महित आहेत का ? तर ते विचार करतात, निखिल विचारतोय  म्हणजे लेखक असतील, किंव्हा  नाटकात बिटकात काम करणारे कोणी असतील हाच विचार मित्र करायचे. एकाने तर पूर्ण आत्मविश्वासाने म्हंटले होते, हो हो मोठे लेखक आहेत ते. मग बाबांबद्दल त्यांच्या कार्याबद्दल मी बोलणार आणि मंडळी खुश होणार अस चालायचं. या आत्मचित्रा  मुळे बाबांचं कार्य आता अधिक लोकांपर्यंत  पोचेल हे निश्चित.

वास्तवीक डॉ. प्रकाश आमटे यांनी हे आत्मचित्र बनवण्यसाठी परवानगी दिली, ह्या साठी त्यांचे आभार. कारण पब्लीसीटी  आणि स्वतःचं  कौतुक हे जस बाबांना  मान्य नव्हतं तसंच निशितच त्यांनाहि  मान्य नाहि. पण हा विचार थोडासा बाजूला ठेवून हा घाट घातला हे विशेष. नानांच्या अभिनयाला माणुसकीची आणि  डॉक्टरां बरोबरच्या चाळीस वर्षांच्या सहवासाची साथ आहेत्यांच्या इतके, प्रकाश आमटे इतर कोणीच साकारू शकलं  नसतं हे निश्चित. अर्थातच डॉ. मोहन अगाशे, सोनाली कुलकर्णी आणि सगळ्यांनीच उत्तम अभिनय केलाय. बाबा,साधना ताई, प्रकाश आमटे, मंदाकिनी आमटे ही पात्र  साकारून  अभिनेते म्हणून ही सगळीच  मंडळी धन्य पावली असतील.

नागपूरला असताना आम्ही आनंदवनात नेहमी जात असू. बाबांच्या आणि ताईंच्या समाधीला नमस्कार करून प्राणीसंग्रहालयात जायचं, मग गावातून एक चक्कर मारून परत नागपूरला, हा आमचा नेहमीचा क्रम असयचा. नित्याच्या लागणाऱ्या काही वस्तू, टॉवेल, चप्पल तिथूनच घ्यायचो. बाबांच्या कार्याबद्दल अभूतपूर्व आकर्षण आणि पु. लं चा आनंदवननाशी असलेला संबंध, या मुळे आनंदवनात जायला मला फार आवडायचं, तिथे पु लं च्या नावाचं एक उद्यान ही आहे.

मात्र फार पूर्वी पासून माझ्या मनात एक इच्छा आहे, आणि मला वाटतं अनेक भारतीय आणि खास करुन खूप  मराठी माणसांच्या मनात देखील ही इच्छा असवी आणि ती म्हणजे बाबांना भारतरत्न प्रदान व्हावा ही. पुढे जाउन डॉ. प्रकाश आमटे यांना भारतरत्न प्राप्त होईल, तशी शक्यता नाकारता येत नाहि. कधी तरी सरकारला हे कार्य भारतरत्न प्रदान करून गौरवण्या योग्य वाटेल, पण त्याही आधी बाबांच्या स्मृतींना हा गौरव प्रदान झाला पहिजे. अतिशय दुर्गम भागात राहून, कुष्टरोग्यांची सेवा बाबा आणि ताईंनी निस्वार्थीपणाने केली. त्याची पब्लिसिटी केली नाही, तर फक्त आणि फक्त मानवतेच्या भावनेतून त्यांनी रुग्णांची सेवा केली. त्यांना माणसाचं आयुष्य जगण्याचा हक्क दिला, आणि तो हक्क देण्यापूर्वी माणसाचं आयुष्य जगण्याचा त्यांना अधिकार आहे, ही जाणीव त्यांना करून दिली, आणि हे सगळं स्वतःच्या ऐशोआरामात जगण्याच्या अधिकारावर पाणी सोडून त्यांनी केलं. कलाकारांना, खेळाडूंना भारतरत्न प्रदान झाले आहेत, ते उचितच आहे, पण कलेच्या सेवेपेक्षा देखील, मानवसेवा मोठी नाही का ? आणि तीही मोबदल्याची अपेक्षा ठेवता.

मी अनेक कार्यक्रमातून बाबांना भारतरत्न मिळावा हा विचार बोलून दाखवला आहे, आणि त्या विचारला रसिकांनी टाळ्या वाजवून दाद दिली आहे . बाबा गेले  त्यानंतर देखील मी , ताई आहेत तोवर हा खिताब बाबांना  प्रदान व्हावा, आणि ताईंनी तो स्वीकारावा असा विचार सादर केला. बाबा आमटे या धगधगत्या अग्नीकुंडाला हा पुरस्कार प्रदान व्हावा आणि त्या अग्नीकुंडातील त्या समिधेने तो स्वीकारावा हा भारत्रात्नाचाही सन्मानच होता. आता बाबा आणि ताई दोघे ही देहरुपाने नाहीत, पण कार्य अखंडीतपणाने सुरूच आहे. डॉ. प्रकाश बाबा आमटे- रीयल हीरो , हे आत्मचित्र सादर करून समृद्धी पोरे यांनी बाबा आणि ताईंच्या कार्याला  एक सुंदर अशी श्रद्धांजली वाहिली आहे, आणि प्रेक्षकांना या श्रद्धांजलीत सामावून घेतलं आहे. या निम्मिताने अधिकाधिक लोकांपर्यंत हे कार्य पोचावं आणि लवकरच  बाबांचा सन्मान भारतरत्न प्रदान करून व्हावा अशी आशा आपण करुयात.

बाबांचं कार्य थोर आहे. डॉ. प्रकाश आणि डॉ. विकास आमटे संपूर्ण परिवाराच्या साथीने हे कार्य अविरतपणे पुढे नेत आहेत. कधी नागपूरला गेलात तर आनंदवनात नक्की जा. सर्व सेवांमध्ये महान अश्या मानव सेवेचा अग्निकुंड तिथे धगधगतोय. त्याचे तेज हेमलकश्या पर्यंत पोहोचलय, आणि ऊब अख्या जगभरात पसरलीये.