I was up and about and waiting for my bus by 5 am at the Resort Reception. I could see the road behind and I could walk out once I saw the bus. The receptionist cum Manager told me that would be the first bus anyways.
The resort guys were kind enough to hold my backpack as I stood outside after some time and the bus was on time. As I got inside I wondered which seat was No 2 and an old man in orange robes pointed out it to me, I would be sitting next to him.
It was already getting brighter but drizzling and it was going to rain throughout on and off till I reached my destination.
It was a beautiful journey as I saw the Alaknanda showing different shades of herself along with the sun peeping out. I blissfully slept too on and off, felt very content and I was looking forward to Rishikesh.
It was around 8 am and we were breezing through albeit the usual traffic jams with private buses and vehicles on narrow roads. The old man next to me had such kind eyes I tell you and I went ahead and started talking to him.
He spoke Hindi in a heavy Haryanvi accent .He was from a small place called Babiyal from Haryana. He asked me if I knew where it was, I nodded a no and said I have no idea of Haryana except that there is Chandigarh.
His first yatra was to Badrinath, then he came to Kedarnath. He was also getting down at Rishikesh and then taking another bus to Gangotri which would be another 9-10 hour bus ride from there.
I felt so nice that he would be with me till Rishikesh. It felt comfortable and he had this peaceful nice energy. Very few people I have seen with such kind eyes.
He was a farmer and now his family took care of all the responsibilities. He was traveling with his two 16 -18 year old grandsons and he pointed them to me, they were sitting right behind us.
He told in simple and plain words, he has experienced everything he had for this life, it was enough and he was doing the Char Dam Yatra as he felt this would be his last journey.
When he came to know I was traveling alone, he raised a hand as a form of blessing and smiled saying Good Good.
We stopped around 9.30 am for breakfast and the whole narrow road was congested with all buses stopping right there. It was a major breakfast point.
I went along with the old man and his grandsons and sat with them. The boys were too shy, a woman- a stranger sitting with them was something they were not used to I guess. They quickly took their Chai and went out and stood while I sat with my bus companion.
I saw somebody familiar across the benches and it was the Indore guy! The same guy who dipped his feet in the water as we were walking on those short cut routes. He was alone so I waved him to come and join us and he did.
He had completed his architecture course and decided to visit Kedarnath before he started on his new job. He would be leaving that same night via Dehradun to Indore.
We got on to the bus and started our journey and we were half way. The Old Kind man spoke about God, what it meant to him. He carried very little belongings with him, a small orange bag which he kept with him.
It was truly his way of giving up all that materially mattered. He wanted to go alone but his sons insisted to take along someone. So Simple.
I noticed all three of them didn’t order any breakfast unlike everyone else in the bus. I didn’t either but mine was a matter of choice, I didn’t know how to decipher that choice of theirs. They still had Yamunotri and Gangotri to finish and am sure they were saving up.
Throughout I was debating this in me. It was never about giving money because it hurts someone’s independence and dignity and he had loads of it.
How could I offer something in my own way? I had loads of Dry nuts and Dates like a whole pack of it. Maybe I could give them this, they had a long journey ahead. But how do I offer without hurting him?
As we got nearer, he asked me if I would like to join them to Gangotri? It will be nice if I can. I truly felt honored for being asked. It felt good to know he was willing to add on a stranger as a traveling companion.
I took that chance and showed him the Kajur (Dates) and Dry nuts. I told him I didn’t need this anymore as I would be staying in Rishikesh and going back home. They had a long way to go, would he take it? The smile that he gave me was the most vibrant one. He took it and placed his hand on my shoulder with an acknowledgement.
He took some dates out, giving it to his grandsons and offering it to me. And like that we ate together.
We finally reached Rishikesh . I stood some time with the man. I wished him well and he bade me goodbye, they were already rushing to another bus stand nearby, they had a long journey ahead.
I checked into the guest house and got a room. The place was like home truly. The last time I was here was thanks to Jogen who introduced us to this after the Deorital – Chandrashila trek. It was home. Very quiet and away from the buzz and just a few minutes to get to any major points.
It was raining hard now and I was missing the mountains lying down on my bed . That same old feeling, that gutting your heart feeling. One cannot express how it feels. I was feeling a vortex of emotions.
And just like that it stopped after 5 pm and I set out to Ram Jhula, to watch the Ganga Arati. Last time I saw it for the first time with Pankaj and Jogen before the April trek.
This time the noise, the hustle bustle didn’t bother me, I felt alive, I felt lucky, so lucky to be in Rishikesh again so soon. To be in this atmosphere. The place was spiritual, one could not deny it. There was peace in that bustle. There was energy.
This time instead of sitting among the crowd and getting assaulted by Selfie sticks, I went way down and sat at the bottom steps where one could touch Ganga. Facing Ganga, the mother felt home, felt good. She was truly the mother showing love affection tranquility anger destruction, everything.
I sat and gazed at her with love and heard the beautiful Bhajans behind me amidst the voices and chaos, it was homecoming. Truly homecoming.