I woke up only with the loud tapping of the door by the man shouting Madam, Aapka Chai ( Your tea). I had crashed, blanked whatever you call it with sheer exhaustion.
I sat up on the bed and looked around me blearily, yup it was not a dream at all, it actually happened and we were safe and sound.
I opened the door and saw the man in charge giving me Chai and asking with concern, you slept well Madam? No problems na? I nodded with a slight smile still trying to get used to the bright light.
That Chai was sheer heavenly as it slowly woke me up, made me feel much better. My body was not aching that much as before, the sleep and medication worked.
My shoulder lumps were still there but I knew it was temporary, just a matter of time. What a day it was.. What an adventure and narrow escape.
I knew, I felt it was nothing but divine intervention that kept us all safe and gave us the courage to make it. It was more than just human courage and strength you know.
I felt every bit of what we experienced and went through wouldn’t have happened without that divine energy, without Kedarnath.
After a long time, I could clearly define what I felt when it came to god. Yes he existed, yes in so many forms, in the mountains, in holy places, in other beings, in people and in me.
All those Agnostic and other fancy terms went off the window. Yes I believed in God and yes I was religious and spiritual with no additional disclaimers to it. AND Religious is not a cuss word. It was pure and simple.
He got me back to where I truly belong. I was content and at peace. What other proof there can be? I accepted my beliefs and faith wholeheartedly with no disclaimers nor being politically correct or using politically correct terms.
As I slowly refreshed myself and lazed around, there was a knock at the door. It was my travel companion. I remember his face when I opened the door. A big smile and a twinkle in his eyes and a feeling that we both went through so much.
Then he told me the news. There was such a downpour in Kedarnath, it was pretty bad up there and they cordoned off people wanting to come back for some hours.
There were landslides on that path and they were clearing it all the way till Lincholi and from Gaurikund to Sonprayag. There was going to be a major delay at least from Kedarnath till Gaurikund.
Can you imagine how I felt? It was truly divine intervention. The decision to walk back, that rain, that experience it was all meant to be. Life changing experience.
He said the Gaurikund to Sonprayag route will be cleared in an hour or so.. He would be down there with his family at the taxi point and I could join them once I got ready. It was 9.30 am.
He said Himmat, yaad rakhiye, Himmat( Courage, Remember, Courage) and left.
I lazed around and freshened up. I paid off the man in charge and got out at 11 am and went towards the taxi point and looked for the family. Almost 100 people were waiting for the route from Gaurikund to Sonprayag to open.
Here was the point I started my walk up at 5.30 am. I saw the Alaknanda river gushing now thanks to pouring rains. What a difference it felt from yesterday to today. Your entire perspective changes. Everything felt new and vibrant and different..
These experiences shift you, change you inside without you realizing it. I was smiling and getting overwhelmed as I looked up at the skies that were so clear, such a contrast to yesterday.. Himalayas.. You have no idea what you are doing to me little by little…
The friendly cops told us it will open in 30 minutes and we will know once we see the ponies coming from Sonprayag, it means that whole route has been cleared up.
The authorities had a full time job here man, a full time job and it’s so easy to blame the system, officials, it was not an easy life..
I heard a shout from behind and I saw the family waving and smiling, I went towards them. His wife held me tight and said he told me what all happened, He said woh ladki himmat dilayi muje warna pata nahin muje kya hota.(That girl gave me courage) And she said something that took me by surprise.
Agar usko kuch ho jaata to main aur mera beta yahi pe chalaang maar lete te (If anything happened to him I would have jumped into the river with my son) with tears in her eyes.
They were a simple family and she was a simple housewife whose whole life existed around her family like most Indian families. Where would they go if something happened to him? I mean think from her point of view..
And at this point I must tell you I didn’t know their names even then. The man knew my name because he asked me at the beginning but somehow it never occurred to me to know all their names I knew about their lives, their experiences during the entire journey.
We saw the first ponies reaching Gaurikund,it was an indication that it was open now. I could see the entire crowd rushing towards the few taxis that were already there. I just stood, this was chaotic, I would rather wait for more taxis and go later.
But then the family already negotiated with a taxi guy for them and me so I squeezed in with 17-18 people in a vehicle! This is another phenomenon I can never get. How do we manage to do that??
Instead of dropping us off at Sonprayag, the Jeeps dropped us off a kilometre from Sonprayag. It was the officials who made everybody get down. It was not an ascent anyways so it was ok.
We didn’t have to ask Why because the moment we got out we couldn’t believe what we we were seeing. There were at least and i mean this at least 300-400 people waiting in line to get to Gaurikund!
It was the delay. All the pilgrims were stopped at Sonprayag so it built up to this! The line just to show the ID and to be scanned was like freaking long!! 300-400 people! Can you imagine when all these people get into Gaurikund and then to Kedarnath today??
We were again lucky! I thanked God I didn’t decide to stay back one more night there nor delay my trip to Kedarnath. It was all destiny. It was so meant to be.
We had to get our ID’s scanned so it was recorded in the system that we left Gaurikund, our pilgrimage was over. The same ID could be used if one wanted to go to the other three places – Gangotri – Gaumukh, Yamunotri and Badrinath
Once we reached Sonprayag, I went to the guest house and picked up my backpack. I wanted to immediately check into that nice resort at Sitapur, relax, have a proper shower and unpack. I felt I deserved it.
I saw Alam standing up seeing me and rushing towards me asking Are you Ok Madam? We heard there were landslides and you were walking up alone out there. I was worried. I smiled and said Kedarnathji te mere saath ( Kedarnath was with me)- Yup a sentimental dialogue and I loved saying that 🙂 I thanked him and went towards the family.
They were going to Haridwar and then relax for a day at Panipat where the man’s sister lived and go back to Rohtak.
There were no buses post 9 am at Sonprayag as all of them started as early as 5 am, one had to take shared taxis only. They were informed that they would get a bus from Guptkashi and they could take a shared vehicle till there – 70 kms away.
Since Sitapur was on the way back and 2 kms away, I hitched a ride in the vehicle. The family was happy knowing I would be with them for another 5 minutes.
Now here is the thing I did. As I sat in the vehicle, I looked back and saw the family looking back at me with wistful eyes especially the man. We shared so much through the journey last night, what could one say?
So just before getting down,I asked for his number and finally his name – it was Rakesh. I noted it. His wife was saying please come to Rohtak and stay with us!
I got down at Sitapur waved them goodbye and checked into the resort. I looked at that phone number. I debated over it for some time honestly and I deleted it eventually..
Some connections need to remain as a wonderful memory, a wonderful experience. I didn’t want it to get back to the humdrum of daily life, a reality that was a mundane human existence full of petty emotions and things.
I thanked God for introducing me to them and we helped each other during this very divine journey. They would always be in my prayers till the end.
I wanted to remember them, each one of them like that and I hoped they would remember me that way too. One can hope.
After that experience, the room was pure luxury. Hot shower felt like heaven and my first bath btw since I started this journey. I could feel the aches and my skin stinging but it was so worth it all. I just ate and slept through till evening.
My entire schedule changed with the journey. I was supposed to be in Rishikesh the day after but now I felt I should leave for Rishikesh tomorrow morning itself. I had a room booking for day after tomorrow at the Garhwal Nigam Vikas Mandal guest house but no harm in checking if they could get me in earlier.
The bus booking offices at Sonprayag opened only after 4 pm so I had a lovely walk back there. It was so leisurely and peaceful I tell you, my body was getting back to normal as I paused and took in the surroundings and looked up at the mountains there. I felt so joyful.
I went to the booking office and booked my bus ticket, it would start at 5.15 am from here but the bus would stop outside the resort, it was on the way. As I was booking the guy asked me, Madam wont’t you go to Badrinathji? It’s just 9-10 hours from here and they say it’s good luck to visit Badrinathji too.
For a moment, just for a moment that thought crossed my mind BUT I felt No, not on this trip. For sure I will visit Badrinath but not now. My heart was filled with this and I didn’t want to fill it up with some other experience immediately. I thought of Badrinath and said in my heart Please don’t take offence, I will visit you soon some day.
As I got out, I saw the two cops. Yes the Senior and Junior Cop as usual on duty at the checkpoint. I rushed towards them smiling.
Seeing me they gave a big smile and asked Sab teek hua? Darshan Hua? Kuch problem to nahin? Kab waapas aa gaye aap? Landslides hua na upar. (All ok? you had a good Darshan? When did you come back. there were landslides up there)
When I told them I found an amazing family for company and we came back the same day, they said I was lucky, very lucky but I should take care and not take such risks like that again 🙂
The senior cop asked me if I am leaving now, I took this opportunity and asked him if we can have some Chai and this time can I pay please?
He smiled big and said Yes we will have Chai but NO he will not allow me to pay at all so again I ended up not paying, so much for my idea to do this. I bade them goodbye and walked back to the resort.
The skies were clear or so I thought until it started raining again in the night. My beautiful unpredictable Himalayas..
Rishikesh here I come..