Thursday, June 27, 2013
My Monsoon this year is tinged with Sadness---I'm missing Sudhir far more than I realised I would---it is like a huge vacuum in my heart,my soul and my life!!Added to this is the devastating calamity that has torn my beloved Mountains asunder and caused such enormous damage to people and property!!The loss of property can be recouped and recovered but the loss of Life is beyond belief---I know that Death is the biggest Truth of Life but to die this way??The gruesome and horrifying Pictures in the Papers and the T.V. are chilling and terrifying.For the last 2 days I've not opened a Newspaper and not switched on the T.V.---too painful to watch or see!!
Looking at this Disaster takes me back to 7th. May 1987--for that was the day we started our Pilgrimage from the holy town of Haridwar. Those days Uttarakhand was still a part of of it's parent State Uttar Pradesh.Our journey would begin at the crack of Dawn everyday and we'd bathe shivering in the Mountain chill before seating ourselves in the 27 seater Bus.Sudhir had chosen the last seats for us in the back of the Bus--as my mother too was with us---and bought 5 blankets in the market at Haridwar to keep us warm.As I loved looking out dreamily at my beloved Mountains I chose the seat facing the Gorge while Sudhir sat between our daughters.What the bumpy road did to our poor butts bouncing away merrily on the spongy seat I will not elaborate on but each night the biggest comfort was of snuggling down under the thick quilts in our rooms completely tuckered out and exhausted!!
The roads back then were extremely narrow---barely wide enough for all the 4 wheels to stay just inside the outer edges of these--but the sights were spectacular---steep Gorges and stark Slopes--the Sunrises and Sunsets gilding these with liquid Gold at the beginning and end of each day.All of us were friends and family and therefore well known to each other. The time spent in travelling in the Bus would used by all of us to tell Stories and Jokes--some of the most lame poor Jokes too elicited a response--we were caught in a bind with no option but to listen to these as there was no way we could avoid them!!The most amusing part however was the chanting of certain "Mantras" mainly those connected to Lord Vishnu--actually a Recital of His 1000 names called the "Vishnu Sahasra Naama".The cadences of these would rise and fall according to the position of the Bus on the edge of the Roads--if there a few inches of the road to spare the recital would be melliflously melodious--if there were no inches to spare on the edge the Recital would rise to a shrill crescendo in controlled panic of the fear of pitching over into the Gorge.We were lucky--such mishaps were common during these Pilgrimages but we completed ours--and lived to tell the Tale!!
The first stop was the origin of the River Yamuna at Yamunotri. We all hired "Tattoos" or the hardy Mountain Ponies to carry us up the steep slope to the Temple and set off.As we ascended up the Path we realised that it was barely about 18" wide at it's widest area and while proceeding ahead in a single file was not too difficult it was however scary whenever we encountered Folks returning from the Temple after paying their respects to the River Goddess.Each person wanted to cling to the safety of the Mountainside rather than take the risk of passing each other on the deep drop of the Gorge.This would lead to a very delicate and slow manoeuvre from all concerned--it would have definitely been hilarious if we'd all not been scared out our wits!! One sight I will never,ever forget is the serpentine flow of the Yamuna--turning into a thin Black thread as we climbed higher.It was truly mind blowing to see the White Marble Pebbles at the bottom of the Riverbed glistening with Mica each time the truant Sun Rays played hide and seek with these but the very clear and transparent Water flowing over these was as Black as the Night!! As it we ascended we were sent light Showers of Rain---making the seats on the Ponies slippery--and all of us women wearing Saries certainly didn't help!!Trying to keep both our Modesty and Dignity intact is ver difficult if the Saries are getting hitched over the saddles and an immodest length of leg is showing!!Luckily we'd bought Thermals at Haridwar which both Mummy and I wore under our Saries--so it wasn't that embarassing for us!!
Finally after trotting on for about 6-7 hours we reached the Temple only to get caught in a heavy downpour---which gave us a very short while there as our Guide insisted on climbing down to the Rest House about an hour's journey down the slope for the night.The Path by now had turned into a slushy,slippery mess and we were drenched to the skin by the time we reached the Rest House--but after reviving hot water baths and hot Tea spiced with Ginger and a few Herbs we recovered sufficiently to sit in the Verandah,watching the Rain, nursing our Glasses of Tea before wolfing down thick,crisp "Aaloo Parathas" supplied by the Cook for our Teatime Snacks.No one counted how many each of us ate--till we were regretfully informed by the Staff that the Kitchen had to be shut down till the next consignment arrived in the late evening!!However by Dinnertime we were all satiated and stuffed thanks to our greediness earlier and decided to Breakfast heartily next morning instead.
The night at Janaki Chatti was magical---the Rain having stopped a while earlier,the Moon rose high in the clear night Sky--picking out the Evergreens and gilding their edges with a glimmery,shimmery Silver.Up on the Mountain facing us tiny lights softly twinkled winked like Golden Stars---reflecting the windows of the small "Dharamshala" near the Temple. A soft whispering Breeze blew through the Trees ruffling the branches and creating a hushing sound as it passed. The crystal clear Air was scented by the intoxicating mix of the tiny Wildflowers that had bloomed during the day and the Evergreens mixed with the smoky accents of Incense and Wood smoke. Both the Girls and Mummy had gone to bed but Sudhir and I lingered on in the Verandah--inhaling deep breaths of this incredible Atmosphere--trying to absorb as much of it as we could--trying to satiate our very souls and our entire conciousness with it for we knew it was a once in a Lifetime experience for us!!
The narrow Path at Yamunotri
The Hot Springs near the Temple.These cook Dal,Rice and Potatoes in a jiffy!!
The Temple dedicated to The Yamuna--daughter of The Sun