We still had some distance to get to the temple but we were already in it’s premises.
I flopped myself on the rocks nearby, we were here. Finally HERE.
Just sitting there itself and watching the scenery was something else. It was sunny, so beautifully sunny and as I looked around there were these mountains, endless mountains and some with snow on it’s peaks.. The mist, the fog so lush green.
Even with people moving about, being around everywhere, nothing can take away that magical feeling of being there, nothing.
And just ahead of where I was sitting, I saw the Helipad, the choppers were dropping off people and picking them up, it was surreal taking it all in. I looked at my watch and it was 12 noon. Unbelievable.
Walking since 5.30 am, it takes time to sink in, to realize you are not the same person you are now when you started the walk.
Finally I stood up and started walking towards the temple. The family wanted to go right ahead and do the Darshan. But I wanted to look for accommodation first so I told them to go ahead and will catch up with them later. I could see their wistful looks.. It was like leaving us so soon? I promised I will catch up with them.
The first thing that caught my eye were the Government Guest houses, well not really houses but way better than tents and it looked neat.
When I went to the reception, there was again the Bed system in a vast room. Either I could take the dormitory one with 20 bunker beds or a room with 4 bunker beds. I took the latter one.
The good news was that it was all spacious Bunker Beds with warm blankets and the man assured me he will put me up either with a family or with women.
It had common community bathrooms and I was fine with it. After Sonprayag, anything was a bonus.I paid up 500 Rs for the bed for the night and went towards the temple.
It was a low season for Kedarnath, the monsoon was almost here so there was not much of a crowd. I could actually sit inside the main altar and be in silence in that chaos.
There were Pujaris offering abhishekams, special Pujas to family, wanting to touch, wanting to get blessed and it was all chaotic but just squeezing myself into a corner and closing my eyes, I felt at peace, felt total silence within.
When the Pujari came and asked if I wanted a Puja, I said Yes and when he asked me about ‘family members’ name I rattled all the friends, acquaintances, family extended and distended names, the list became so long he started laughing and saying yeh kya kai?? (What’s this) In the end I had a Puja in the name of Everyone.
All those noises, voices sounds got zoned out, even the Pujari’s voice after I closed my eyes. I felt the most silent ever within myself at that time. Nothing mattered. I lost count of the time until I was taken out of my reverie by the priest.
I could smell the camphor, sandalwood, turmeric, hear the sounds of bells and it felt so good. The senses just takes in each and everything. There is a reason behind these rituals and if one reaches it with an open mind and focus on what is within it’s really beautiful, truly.
Thanking him I got out and sat outside behind the temple dome. Just sat there for an hour and more. I felt so safe, loved and silent.
Silence within is so beautiful, so breathtakingly beautiful. I wish we could get this more. It’s in our hands but we choose to run away from it.
An old sadhu who was sitting a little away gave me the most beatific smile, he came forward and gave me Ganga Jal. He had come from Gaumukh, Gangotri. He asked a question.. Just one word and a tilt of the head. Shanthi? I nodded yes.. Truly at Shanti (Peace).
I gave him my walking stick as he didn’t have one and I really felt I didn’t need this anymore. Saying Namaste I left. Now what?
I was not hungry and I was still thinking looking up at the clouds, do I stay here or do I go back? It was almost 2.30 pm. I could eat and maybe walk back? But Vishu suggested to stay one night here. To rest up…
As I went to the flower stall to take my shoes, there was a tap on my shoulder, it was that lovely family. They were beaming like me. They had a satisfying Darshan too and they decided to head back.
I told them I was still not sure about going back, so they can go ahead as they wanted to take ponies. I could see the disappointment in their faces. Just like that? Sudden Goodbye? I said a big Thank you for giving me company and I really didn’t know what else to say.
I know this journey was special and it became more special thanks to them. And the beauty is it started here and it should end here. I didn’t want it to be REAL, to get back to Real Life and thinking let’s be in touch, then exchanging phone numbers and then those get lost in time…Very few connections go beyond this.
But seeing them like that I suggested why don’t we eat together before we part? This lightened them up and we sat at a place.
I don’t know why but the food was just not entering into my mouth. I couldn’t even force feed myself. Maybe it was that complete satisfaction of being here, of getting filled up so much internally everything else faded away.
The caretakers of ponies already started their talks with potential customers. I noticed most of the pilgrims were going back the same day.
It was mostly the families with kids or aged people that were staying back. We met the Kanpur boys who seeing us stopped for Chai. They were going back on ponies as they were dead tired.
We saw the clouds slowly darkening and a pony ride would take a good 3+ hours on the way down and 5 hours by walking if it had GOOD weather.
The family now was persuading me to come back with them on ponies. I was smiling and saying nothing.
I only told them I will come with you till Kedarnath Base Camp because that’s where the ponies were and then decide. In my mind, it was like even if I have to go back, it’s walking, nothing else.
It was 3.30 pm and when I checked with the locals there, they said if you want to get out, get out before 4 pm otherwise it gets tricky.
Another older Maharashtrian couple joined us along with the caretaker who was taking all of them towards his ponies at the base camp and another story comes out of this.
From Nagpur, the much older couple got a vacation for the first time in their lives after 30 years! Yes for 30 years they never traveled anywhere. Its only after their children left home, got independent they decided to ‘treat’ themselves to this. Stories of India.
Finally when we reached the base camp, I watched a sudden argument erupting between the caretaker and the families. The usual negotiations and amount went off the window.
I looked back and somehow didn’t feel the need to go back. I was so content with what I experienced at the temple and at that moment not considering my aching pains of my knees or anything I decided to walk back, yup like right then. Just walk back to Gaurikund, let those so timings deadline go wherever..
Things just changed after that. The kid couldn’t walk anymore neither could the other ladies, so they were on ponies with some negotiation and the older man and much older Maharashtrian man would walk.
I was like are you sure? The much older man said he will find a pony somewhere in between and hop on but until then he would walk.
And so here we were all set to walk back. It was 4.30 pm by now and we started our way back.
And what would be a hell of an adventure later on!