Two things we came to know as we were getting ready to go back. The sudden surge in crowd during this time in Badrinath was because of ‘Pitru Paksha’ that started on that day.
Pitru Paksha runs for 16 days where people pay homage to their ancestors. Bhim told me, see how we chose these days to come here without knowing it? I didn’t need to do any special puja for my father. In my prayers I had included my father and my partner’s father who passed away last year.
The head at Anantha Matha told Bhim that we would have a long wait at the bus stand for a shared jeep ride back. It would be very crowded.The Darshan time was almost closed now and would open at 3 pm only. This meant that the morning devotees would be heading back. It would be chaos. It didn’t bother us though, after the experience we had how did it matter? We could wait as long as it took.
We started walking from the Matha onto the main road when something amazing happened. A jeep stopped right next to us, the door opened and the passengers said we have two seats space, you can get in.We couldn’t believe this!
We got in thanking them profusely. A bunch of older couples all the way from Bhuj (Kutch) Gujarat. They finished their Char Dham( Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Badrinath) and now were heading back. Very friendly people they shared their experiences with us. Bhim sat behind with the men and I sat with the ladies. One of the ladies told me to visit Mata ka Madh in Bhuj. The conviction with which she told me, I decided to do it one day.
The ride went well. We thanked them and they were happy they could split the ride with us. We started walking down and came towards Alaknanda river, we paused for pictures, took in the scenery, then we heard it..
The sound of loud whistles from the police on the other side and people suddenly running and shouting. And we saw it. Rocks started falling from above! Which side do we run? The police shouting at us to run fast didn’t help either! Bhim was like chill chill no need to run and then we saw a big rock coming hard and fast.
We ran, the only way to do was to run forward and there was no guarantee the rock would come straight. It would hit a boulder and roll any side. Not looking up, we ran for our lives with people running behind us. Those were the fastest and longest seconds…
One small rock was enough to kill you instantly. A man running with his luggage shouted at me, ‘Kuch nahin hoga, Badrinath hai na’(Nothing will happen to us, the lord is with us).
To run from a second landslide of rocks? I had a similar worse experience though in Kedarnath in pitch dark evening and this was the second one.
Bhim was right behind me and after crossing that zone he sighed saying, ‘ Shit, I saw the big rock fall just behind me. I was walking but the moment I saw those rocks I started running too.’ We were never short on adventures.
We got to the other side and decided to walk back to Pandukeshwar. It was just 2.3 kms and we were invigorated after the experience. Watching the Himalayas, breathing in fresh air, we kept talking and in no time we were back in the town we were beginning to love.
The staff member at the guest house told us he found someone who could get us to Rishikesh tomorrow at a reasonable price. He took us to the agency guy and we got a good price. We had Chai with our man.
At that moment Bhim clicked a candid pic of me. I feel that picture depicts our emotions post our experience in Badrinath. The Shakti, the energy that exists in all of us. As Bhim put it, it reminded him of Amma, of a Devi with the sandalwood smeared forehead and the bliss of meeting the lord.
By the time we got out of the market area and were walking back to the guest house, the sun was setting and we saw a beautiful vista of the mountains. We paused and watched. It was a beautiful ending to a magical day. What more could one want?
We went back to the dhaba where we had dinner last night. We told the lady what we wanted in advance. So after resting in the room for some time, we got out for dinner.
When we got out, there was chaos outside. There was a blockage, landslide near Badrinath again. All buses and vehicles stopped and today evening it was double the crowd than yesterday and a whole bunch of people at the guest house wanting rooms and it was a choc a block full. All lodgings were full in Pandukeshwar. If not for the staff member telling us to keep the luggage in the room, we wouldn’t have had an accommodation for the night.
After having another wholesome delicious dinner, Bhim gave some money to the young son as a tip. But when he tipped the other guys, one guy directly put that tip in the cash box while the other refused with a namaste saying it was his pleasure, it was a Seva( service). Need I say more..
It was only a day but it felt like days that day in Badrinath.. Timeless.
It was time to head back..