By Andrew Updyke

As I fell asleep last night in my tent to the screams of Cooper and Cameron (that little one inch wide spider must have been pretty proud of itself), I already knew that this place was going to be beautiful. We had arrived that night, after an 11 hour car ride that can’t be described as grueling, even though I really want to. Even without the staggering views the conversation, laughter, and music made for one of the most entertaining drives of my life. So when we disembarked in Pancheshwar under a yellow crescent moon that was illuminating just the edges of the Saryu river, I had hopes that were as high as those prospective mountains I expected to see. My hopes had every right to be that high. I was in awe. I stepped out of my tent this morning into paradise. This is easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the privilege of being to in my life, besides of course 7-11 on a day full of Sage chicken. You could look to your right and see both Nepal, so tantalizingly close, and a beautiful sunrise bathing the valley in it’s golden wash of light. Even the haze, something that is usually attributed to ugliness, shrouded the mountains in a layer of mystery, only adding to the beauty.

As we set upon our day I was excited to get to explore our surrounding area. If just our little section of the river was this majestic, I knew it could only go up from here. So, while I watched Alter giddily skip away with his fishing gear and the rest of us started our hike upstream, I was determined to capture the beauty of the land. Not just capture it with my camera either, but to really stamp it into my mind and start to understand where I was. The second we got around the first bend in the river on our hike, I was in disbelief. It just kept on going. It was just all so picturesque. We walked along the river for about a mile, but trust me in the heat it felt like three. We stopped at a bank in river, where a mandir that had been erected around 400 years ago. Suman, our faithful Indian leader/guide, told us about how it was dedicated to Shiva.

Shiva is the most widely worshipped god in the Hindu religion. The people of the surrounding community come to the mandir to give their sacrifices, not just animal, and respects to Shiva. This was a stark contrast to our western approach towards religion. It wasn’t some high rising beautiful Catholic Church in Rome, but to me it felt more real. You could see that people actually use it, there wasn’t an effort to make it seem unused, something I feel the extensive cleaning of our religious areas does. As we were sitting at the mandir a group of local boys that was frolicking in the Saryu slowly grew more and more. After we had finished talking about the religious sanctity, we made our way down to the shore. Slowly the addiction to competition seeped in and challenges of swimming races were tossed at the boys. Cooper got smoked. It was amazing how quickly a connection was formed. They brought us across the river to a rock that jutted out over the water. Jumping off that rock was a better rush than any rollercoaster at Kings Dominion can give you.

In under two years this will all be gone. The mandir, the river, the boys’ backyard playground, even one of the most holy Hindu temples that sits at the confluence of the Saryu and Kali rivers. The Indian government has decided to build a dam just beyond the confluence. This dam will put everything I’ve talked about hundreds of feet underwater. Thousands of people will be displaced, whole communities uprooted and forced to change their entire ways of life. All for some hydroelectric power that will most likely be sent far away from the people that need it most, aka the people that entire lives that are being flipped upside down by the dam. It’s not just people that are being affected either. The mahseer, in english – King of the River, a fish native to the Saryu will have it’s only route to it’s breeding grounds cut off. Not to mention the hundred of thousands of trees that will be submerged.

While we’ve been here we’ve spoken a lot about change. Especially the way a country, especially India, makes decisions to move their country forward. So when I see India prioritizing their infrastructure over the people that are the roots of their culture I get very sad. People might think “Oh they do nothing all day, getting pushed into more into a more modern society will be good for them”, but when people look like their doing nothing that is when culture is being cultivated. The relaxing in between harvests, leads to stories being created, religions being formed, and new types of food coming fruition. These are the things that keep India, India. Not the corrupt mess of a dam that’s full power will never be used.

P.S. Warriors in 5

7 responses to “Blogger’s Remorse”

  1. Gidget B. Valadez Avatar
    Gidget B. Valadez

    Andrew…..Wow! Your words and thoughts demonstrate you are ready for the world and all it has to offer…ready to receive with open eyes, open arms, and an open heart! You have a gift for creating a visual with your words that helps us over hear try to better imagine all that you are experiencing…Thank you for that! And I very much appreciated the part about capturing the beauty of the place and “really stamp it into my mind”. This is something I actively practice…”stamping” or taking an intentional picture in my mind that not only includes the visual, but all the other senses, so that I can pull out that moment in time out at any future point, and with it all the physical memories, as well. Doing this has allowed me to “re-live” those special moments. Keep doing that good work and you will be grateful you did when you get older.

  2. Mollie Avatar

    Andrew, thanks for helping us see and feel the impending impacts of this hydro-electric dam on what exists and has already changed many, many times. It made me think about growing up a few miles from the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River- I heard the stories of the falls that were run by brave Native Americans, about the communities that were flooded before the dam, and the worker buried alive during the construction of the dam, but to me it was just part of the landscape, a terrifyingly powerful part of it. It was scary to drive across for the first time, as a 16 year old, and amazing to watch the force of all of the gates opened in the Spring when the snow melted up in New York and PA. The eagles sore above the dam, searching for shad and rockfish whose migrations are interrupted. It was easy to forget the farms, the rapids, the kids riding on the back of hay wagons through the rolling hills.

    Being in the US during this trip, offers a new perspective for me and an opportunity to apply what you are experiencing for the first time to my neighborhood and to the issues in everyone’s backyards. Thanks for offering what you always do- teary eyes and a good laugh too!

  3. Mary-Margaret Avatar

    Andrew awesome post. Continue to think deeply on the many important things your eyes and heart are feeling. One of the best ways to grow is perspective and application every where you go after experiences. Thank you for sharing!

  4. jbyersccs Avatar

    One of the most compelling and beautifully descriptive posts from India, ever. Well done, Andrew! The blogging quantity and quality from this year’s group is over the top. How nice to see many thoughtful reflections. This one makes me want to be right there in that swimming hole with the group. You are obviously focused on taking away the big lessons that this trip has to offer as well as making the personal connections that will never fade.

    If Warriors win it in 5; Mr. Alter will become despondent and you may not be able to get him out of his funk for several days. But the old man (age 34), Steph Curry’s still got it.

  5. Laura Updyke Avatar
    Laura Updyke

    This makes me so happy you have your camera. I know pictures can’t capture the true beauty of a place, but im glad we’ll be able to share a small part of what you’re seeing. Oh, and glad you were able to follow the game.

  6. Drew's Dad Avatar
    Drew’s Dad

    Drew, well done. Series is 1-1.

  7. Dave's Mom Avatar
    Dave’s Mom

    Andrew – All I can say is Amen to what everyone else commented. Exempliary and very special post – one I’ll remember. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Blog at