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Yatra 2018 Experiences : A Deep Immersion

Himalayas…the land of mys­tics and yogis, the foun­tain­head of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, the emblem of love, peace, hope and all the good things that can be, the clos­est syn­onym for beau­ty, where poets would fall short of words, where silence would be the lan­guage of the wise, where one would lose false pride and where one could be close to their self. Himalayas — that one word which has always kin­dled my eager­ness. The very thought of snow-clad moun­tains and glac­i­er fed rivers makes me still in rev­er­ence. I felt that all my trea­sures lay safe inside the impen­e­tra­ble heights of those snow-clad peaks. A deep yearn­ing to touch and feel that mys­tic land had begun to throb with­in me two years ago. Yes, such a short wait­ing span for the sheer grandeur that it is! Take a bow! It was in the month of March that a face­book post grabbed my atten­tion. All I thought after that was about how to make it hap­pen in my life. The wait had been over two years and this time I decid­ed to hold my ground strong. I pro­ceed­ed bang on with my prepa­ra­tions. To the black and white monot­o­ny of rou­tine life came bright new mul­ti-col­ored shades. Train and flight tick­ets were pur­chased. Leave of absence got approved. Shop­ping was done. Met my com­pan­ion from Ban­ga­lore, Nand­hu. Informed a cou­ple of friends and con­cealed the jour­ney details from most of my kith and kin for the love to van­ish abrupt­ly. There were dis­tur­bances and dis­cour­age­ments but my sojourn towards the spring of life, was already begun and could not be stopped. All set and done. Back­packs ready. Board­ed Chen­nai express with Nand­hu at 8.30 am, on 18th May, 2018. The sojourn of a thou­sand miles had thus begun phys­i­cal­ly. At times, we real­ized how beau­ti­ful­ly things are aligned in the world for us to have a spe­cif­ic expe­ri­ence, to cross roads with cer­tain peo­ple, or to enjoy the benev­o­lence of a free hand or an intense smile that changes our per­spec­tive of life. The yatra gift­ed me count­less intense moments.

En route to Chen­nai, I was lucky to have had the com­pa­ny of an old cou­ple, whom I would name as ‘the glow­ing man’ and ‘the gor­geous mami’. Their major activ­i­ty in life is to vis­it tem­ples renowned for their cura­tive pow­ers and also per­son­al­ly inter­view peo­ple who have extra­or­di­nary pow­ers. They then share it with the world in writ­ing for the ben­e­fit of all. One tale after anoth­er, she shared her per­son­al quests and expe­ri­ences with the charm of an expe­ri­enced sto­ry-teller — the fire yogi in Tan­jore whom the flame nev­er burnt even when he sat in the sac­ri­fi­cial fire (Homa kun­dam), Osai Kodutha naya­ki tem­ple in Seergazhi that treats peo­ple with speech dif­fi­cul­ties and Ootrathur in Trichy known for heal­ing kid­ney prob­lems, to men­tion a few. What amazed me was not just the expe­ri­ence she pos­sessed but her indomitable spir­it to research these things and let peo­ple know her find­ings so that those inter­est­ed would be ben­e­fit­ed. He, a man of few words, remains in me but for one con­ver­sa­tion. He asked us why we were head­ing to the Himalayas. Before we could gath­er our thoughts to answer, he said, “You don’t know. You… don’t know. You’re being called”.

We reached Chen­nai by after­noon. To feel a city is to be on its roads. Hence, we went for a stroll, and had a hot crispy dosa along with chut­neys in orange, white and green col­or (which made our stom­ach tru­ly patri­ot­ic!) We got back to the rail­way sta­tion to board Grand Trunk express to Del­hi with Adi sir, Smrithi maám and oth­er yatris. Adi sir and Smrithi ma’am have always been my icons of admi­ra­tion since the time I came to know about them in col­lege even though I have not inter­act­ed too much in per­son. Repeat­ing one fan­tas­tic line that we used to often describe them in col­lege, “The Uni­verse has brought them togeth­er for a sin­gle pur­pose”. Dur­ing the yatra, I chose to feel their com­pa­ny rather than think and speak. Two nights and one day passed through the sum­mer heats of Andhra Pradesh and Mad­hya Pradesh. We made friends with oth­er yatris, had a heads up ses­sion by Adi sir and lis­tened to Suku­mar sir’s suc­cess sto­ry. Talk­ing to a fam­i­ly from Nag­pur and some boys trav­el­ling to Agra, I real­ized that I need not wor­ry about not know­ing a lan­guage — for the art of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the heart and not words.

I entered the cap­i­tal city for the first time in my life (20th May). I had the dar­shan of Bir­la mandir the first thing in the morn­ing. I drank a sweet las­si and was super-pre­pared to save myself from the sun in Del­hi : armed to the teeth with sun screen lotion, sun glass­es, a stole and an umbrel­la! Nev­er­the­less, I had to throw my umbrel­la and walk under the hot sun for hours togeth­er in Akshardam. For the first time, I felt light and lib­er­at­ed for being able to do it. We trav­elled that night to Rishikesh with a larg­er group. What wel­comed me there was the peren­ni­al and mighty Ganges, like a moth­er at the door-step extend­ing her arms towards her child. I fell into her embrace effort­less­ly. Our stay was at Para­marth Nike­tan, a serene ashram on the banks of Ma Gan­ga. My desire to do yoga on the banks of a riv­er got ful­filled when we had the ses­sion at the ashram. Then, we pro­ceed­ed to Vasish­ta gufa, the cave where the great Rishi Vasish­ta and his con­sort Arund­hati did tapasya mil­len­nia ago. It was dark but for a lamp lit up near the Shi­va lin­ga. A light chill­ness per­me­at­ed the cave which was impreg­nat­ed with a pro­found vibra­tion. I felt a sense of peace and deep calm. After that, I walked a few meters down­wards to take a dip in the Ganges, to lay myself, in the pure, aqua col­ored cold waters, look­ing at the end­less sky and to won­der about how vast the vast­ness is. That evening was event­ful with Gan­ga Aarthi and sat­sang at the ashram. The sun bore wit­ness to the trance-like atmos­phere brought about by the singing of spir­i­tu­al bha­jans, and slow­ly dis­ap­peared behind the idol of Shi­va.

We start­ed our day long jour­ney towards Ukhi­math on the 22nd. The slow tran­si­tion from the Shiv­a­lik to the Himalayas was breath­tak­ing. By grace, we could make it to Omkaresh­war tem­ple, which hosts the idol from Kedar­nath dur­ing the win­ters. His­to­ry says (of course, not the his­to­ry text­books that we have stud­ied) that the wed­ding of Lord Krishna’s grand­son, Anirud­dha, with Usha, Banasura’s daugh­ter, took place there and hence it was once called Ushamath. King Mandhatha’s penance has added much to the sacred­ness of the spot.

I had a cozy sleep to wake up for the most test­ing and event-filled day of my life. I woke up before sun­rise, took a quick bath in the bone chill­ing water and pro­ceed­ed to Chop­ta, oth­er­wise called ‘Mini Switzer­land’, a famous des­ti­na­tion for trekkers. That day, I end­ed up sur­pris­ing myself by doing things that I hadn’t done before. A trek up to Tun­ganath and then to Chan­drashila was tough yet beyond awe­some. Like what Soc said in the movie Peace­ful War­rior, “Hap­pi­ness is not in the des­ti­na­tion but in the jour­ney”. Every step that I took was event­ful. Every sight that I saw was mag­nif­i­cent. Every­thing around me was teem­ing with life, so much life that I explod­ed in joy. I fell in love with the silent grandeur of Lord Tunganath’s abode, and end­ed that trek feel­ing capa­ble of more love. All along, Rajesh­wari paat­ti, our cham­pi­on woman, was my com­pan­ion. The ‘bear hugs’ tech­nique that we used helped me gath­er strength from her to com­plete the trek suc­cess­ful­ly.

The next day, the 24th, was planned to be a qui­et day. We went to Kali­math, a shak­thipeeth, which is asso­ci­at­ed with asura Rakthabeeja’s episode. Here we had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to chant the Lali­ta Sahas­rana­mam. And then, we head­ed to Gup­takashi where Lord Shi­va was dur­ing the time he denied bestow­ing a dar­shan to the Pan­davas. Both the places had mes­mer­iz­ing pic­ture-per­fect sights. A good rest was nec­es­sary to gath­er sta­mi­na for the upcom­ing day. Anoth­er ear­ly rise, we trav­elled to Son­prayag, fin­ished our bio­met­rics reg­is­tra­tion and moved to Gau­rikund. I start­ed my trek with a small back­pack and a sup­port stick. Hav­ing nev­er walked long dis­tances in life, the mile­stone 16 kms seemed too far an achieve­ment. The first few kilo­me­ters drained me emo­tion­al­ly. I knew there was no turn­ing back with­out the dar­shan of Kedar Baba. Silent­ly and deeply, I wished for help for I knew I was inca­pable of doing that but for his grace. I was not walk­ing in groups but could make acquain­tances all along. I was encour­aged by strangers from dif­fer­ent walks of life. It got dif­fi­cult after five in the evening. I had to take mul­ti­ple short breaks. Yet, I dragged myself to the base camp by 8 pm for a tight sleep. There was no scope for thoughts, words or action in the chill­ing dark­ness but patience. Day broke in Kedar. I came off the tent to have dar­shan. Oof! All the ticks that the clock so far ticked was to stop tick­ing at that point in time and space. My life came to a stand­still. The impen­e­tra­ble heights! The snow-clad peaks! The beau­ti­ful Man­daki­ni! And Shi­va! I felt love. I felt at home. I felt joy. I felt clos­er to myself. It was very dif­fi­cult to walk back leav­ing all that was there. It was the feel­ing of walk­ing out of home to a remote place while your moth­er stands at the doorstep to see your shad­ow dis­ap­pear­ing in the streets. To write any­thing after this doesn’t make any sense to me.

I trav­elled back to Shiv­a­lik, saw Devprayag (the con­flu­ence of rivers Alakanan­da and Bha­gi­rathi), vis­it­ed Harid­war, tast­ed a glass of yum­my Pun­jabi las­si for free, com­mut­ed to Del­hi, gave part­ing hugs to sahay­a­tris, met my aunt, flew to Nam­ma Ben­galu­ru and was received by my par­ents, who were impa­tient­ly await­ing me. I was at home feel­ing home­sick!

Sign­ing off Aish

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