Onwards to Tungnath and it was tough I tell you. Every step seemed longer, bigger and as one is ascending you think how much can this body take?
Tungnath is a part of ‘Paanch Kedar’, the others were Kedarnath, Rudranath, Kalpeshwar and Madhyamaheshwar all dedicated to Lord Shiva. At that moment I was thinking, we spout and advocate ‘indigenous cultures’ and wasn’t this also a part of it? Preserving cultural histories?
There would be thousands of pilgrims to the temple once it opened up in Summer on an auspicious date until then it was closed and the holy idol was taken to the foothills to another temple.
Anyways, this was dragging on, truly dragging on, even though people were ahead, some were in the middle and us at the back, one could feel the struggle, and let me tell you it was more the mind and heart than the body. I am beginning to understand pilgrimages to holy places. It is not just a cleansing, purification process but a whole upheaval of the mind, heart and soul inside. There is so much we keep pushing it down, whether it’s our pain, our trauma, our inner demons, whatever that might be and these yatras get them out, to confront what you have been avoiding.
It was such a struggle, that Pankajji said let’s all do this, walk 10 minutes and then take a break, every time. But for that 10 minutes just walk. Trekking is something else, every little step counts, every little foot forward you value because even with an inch you are moving ahead leaving the past behind you. There was Showmik, Navadeep, Bhim, myself and Tirth with Satish and we would bump into Tarang, Dharmik, Anuj taking a breath and moving on.
I could see a light ahead, that was Rahul’s I assumed moving ahead and a little distance behind were the people in the beginning, and when you are doing what you are doing, it no longer matters, who is in front, who is last nothing. It’s only you, just you in this journey, a lone journey with the self. And we are so scared of being with the self you know? After all the noise, commotion, people, be it family or friends or any one it’s only you that has to be with yourself, confront everything about you.
I remember apologising so much to Bhim as he was walking with me and he was like why are you saying this dude? It’s me! At that time I was thinking I was slowing him down, he needn’t walk with me, he can go ahead. He shouldn’t take care of me, all these thoughts.
The apologies I was making I realised later, was for him taking care of me. I was brought up very independent and having responsibilities to take care of from a very young age and with that comes an ego, ‘ I am enough, I can take care of myself’, but here he was, being there with me. I remember one of my dearest friends, Pankaj said once, ‘ Giving is easier, but taking it becomes tough because your ego has to mellow down’. And boy I was realising this, that’s it’s ok for Bhim to take care, to be there with me because he wanted to. I cannot be ‘the caretaker’ all my life, a fact I have been fighting all these years.
Being an only child to much older parents whose deaths I saw in my arms one by one in my early 30s, I became responsible for everything. I refused every care given by the men and people in my life, past and present. I can do this, I can do that. There was no room for tenderness. Over the years meditation workshops and the Himalayas softened my stance slowly melting away, but the ego exists always fighting with the heart.
I was struggling deep inside, moments of life flashing in front of me, loss of my parents, loss of innocence, loss of not embracing my femininity, of being ‘the man’ in everything I did for society told me the only way you can function is being tough out there. The softer side inside me was bursting out and it was hitting me on my face, breaking my heart and rebuilding it little by little, I was not prepared for this.
Bhim had gone through a big loss himself, he lost his father just 5+ months ago and all that was flashing to me. The circumstances in which his father passed away was exactly like my father. How do I express this? How? How do I comfort him? How do I tell him it is ok to feel anything inside you, the good, the bad, the worst. How do I say even though you say what you say, the void remains forever? A tumult of emotions inside me.
As I write this, I am tearing up as only a child that has lost a parent knows what it feels like being uprooted, there is no base, no foundation anymore to hold on to. All you know after they are gone is they did what they thought was best for their children. In their broken, fragile distorted way, because that’s the only way they knew. 💔
It was still very dark.. we could see Chopta still silent, still sleeping while a bunch of trekkers were struggling inside out and making their way ahead. Tirth was chatting away with Bhim and me and there was this calm energy about him. I remember a moment when we stopped and we three looked up at the stars. It was just for a few minutes but for me it felt like this is it. That’s all I need to feel and experience.
Tirth told me and Bhim to switch off our head lamps and walk, I said I can’t even see the next step! And he said, ‘Exactly because you don’t need to, because it’s dark you will be able to walk one step at a time, nothing else, you have no idea what’s happening in the next step, and that’s how it is’.
These words changed me that moment, precisely that moment. Because we only speak ‘words’ you know? We spew everything philosophical, staying in the present and all that but we don’t practice an inch of it. But from that moment there was a clarity, every step was precious, this was truly being in the present with each step, each moment.
With every step we didn’t know if we would move ahead or fall, pitch darkness with just the stars and the few of us at the back, Bhim, Tirth, Navadeep and me trekked step by step without headlamps. The sky was lightly lit with a sprinkle of stars, the darkness was consuming and so nurturing at the same time. We associate darkness with something bad and sinister but it isn’t, it brings all the latent emotions out in the front.
I was getting nostalgic, emotional and was telling Bhim, mate you know we are here, right here? At this moment? He said yes mate we know what we are to each other. It got us closer than ever before.
One step at a time, light on the feet but just one step at a time we kept moving on, all of us in this together, ahead, middle, at the back, and slowly it came into view, all the way at the top.. Tungnath temple.. Everything dark except a few lights adorning the temple.
Pankaj ji delightfully came towards us and said, Woh Dekho! Tungnath! Bas aise hi pace karta rehna( That’s Tungnath!, just keep going in the same pace) and he said Aakhir Kachua hi lambe daur tak chalega!( In the end it’s always the tortoise that keeps going in the long run) Isn’t that absolutely true of life?
Until Tomorrow, Har Har Mahadev 🙏🏽