I excitedly met my friends near Old Delhi Railway station and we had a few hours to go before we could board the train.
Pankaj my friend and I made a small detour and walked around Lodhi Gardens to kill time. In midst of this big bustling city was this space of absolute greenery, birds chirping and plenty of shade under the hot summer sun.
It was time to take the train to Haridwar.
Railway stations do something to you, don’t they? For all the flights we take, the travel through that medium is so mechanical, it’s almost zombie like in airports.
But ah, Railway station… The heart of India is right there where smells, sights, sounds,people assail you..
I was a proper Railway kid with my father working for South Central Railways as a senior civil engineer. Huge old government houses and always traveling in trains until I started working.
So imagine my joy when we were walking fast towards the platform, almost missing collisions with people coming in the opposite direction, it got back all my childhood memories of travelling with my parents and certain things don’t change no matter how modern we think the country has become.
That call of ‘Chai, Chai! Nimbu Pani’, the announcements, people lying on the platform with their huge bags, there is something magical happening there.
Once we reached Haridwar station, we took a cab to Rishikesh and as my friend was showing me the Ganga Ghat and other places of interest while we were passing by, I felt total contentment.
It goes beyond religion and faith. I was in this land of spirituality where hope, prayers and rituals mix together seamlessly.
We finally reached Swami Dayanand Ashram where we would be staying for a couple of days before we start our trek. Thanks to my friends who have been associated with the ashram for years, we could get a room for us during a busy season there.
And the first thing that Pankaj did was to take me to see ‘Her’.. Yes Ganga..
I remember my first glimpse so vividly.. I could listen to her..
The gushing waters, the sounds and I was frozen in time as I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This is what it means being in front of her.To listen to her voice, to feel her.
It was pretty overwhelming as we sat in silence that night..I felt a wave of emotions.
Memories of my mother kept flooding in. The loss of parents no matter how many years it has been still cuts like knife. I truly felt I was in the presence of a mother.
The need to be loved and cared is always there no matter how old or independent you get. You want to be loved like a child, to be nurtured, to be pampered and I felt all that watching her.
The next day, we went to one of the ashrams near Ram Jhula to watch the Ganga Aarti.
We traversed through busy streets gushing with people from all walks of life and from different parts of the world all seeking somehow the same thing.. Peace within themselves.
The skeptic in me went beyond thinking which Guru was conducting the Ganga Aarti and just participated in it. To not judge, to not start analyzing but can I just dive into this ritual with an openness? I did just that and it was beautiful.
The atmosphere, the songs, the lamps and HER.. She was so beautiful at sunset as she flowed while people prayed to her and gently placed the lamps in the waters..It was a beautiful beginning for me.
The next day all I did was just watch her. The view from the ashram was fantastic with benches around.. To just sit and soak in it or just walk down below and be closer to her. Early morning, Evening whenever I could get some time, that’s what I would do.
The serenity of the ashram enhanced it. In spite of the place being packed, there was silence and solitude.
Everyone went about doing their own thing without disturbing the others. Right from meal times to Vedanta Teachings to a simple evening Aarti. I felt only silence within and that is a luxury.
When the noise within you ceases to exist, nothing matters, all that is left is truly you.
The next day would be a new beginning, a new journey and this was just one of the many stopovers of my journey..
We would embark on a ride, a trek and meet the rest of them who were a part of the trekking group.
How is it going to be? 🙂