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Himalayan Memoirs: Jai Bhole!


Prelude:
After Maamaji and I started walking, I could not write everyday. I started maintaining the journal only after reaching Gomukh.

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One of the things that I consciously established with old man was the feeling of peerage. Maamaji was very poor and I think his yearly trek would account for the bulk of his annual expenses. I tried to avoid any way by which he would look at me as a city slicker. The people in the ashram were very excited about our trek. Many came to bless me and offered prayers and well-wishes. Old man nudged me to touch the feet of many of the senior sadhus. I was excited as well. Even though I came to know about the trek only 3 weeks back, I had been doing a lot of hata yoga. Usually 25 surya namaskars and asana practices. And it served me well. My communication with Maamaji was through my questionable Hindi but Maamaji does not really speak Hindi. He speaks Garhwali. As we were leaving the ashram, I decided to ask Maamaji the Garhwali translation on what i foresaw as the most indispensable phrase for the trek: 'My legs are aching. Shall we rest?'

Gangothri-Bhairongati-Dharali-Jhala

Everybody at Gangothri seems to know the old man. The pandits were doing brisk business. Their enthusiasm to barter Shiva's blessings made me queasy but I did not show it to anyone let alone maamaji as he himself is a pundit. But Maamaji was not the mercenary kind. Just one who had a lot of reverence for the rituals. The trek starts at Gangothri with a special pooja after which we collect the water from the Ganges. As a part of the pooja, I had to take a dip in the raging Bhagirathi at 6 in the morning. It was freezing and after the dip I had to keep running to keep myself warm. I assumed that this early morning dip was needed only for the first day because we were doing the pooja, but it was only later that I realized it was a daily requirement before one sports the kavad. After the pooja, just like that we started walking. The next 2 days we will be walking along the road all the way to a place called Lata Saera (which is a about 20 kms from Uttarkashi). Occasionally we took shortcuts especially when the road meandered as the slope becomes steep. Our first stop for today is a place called Bhairongati. On the way, there was a Bandara organized by some Delhi/Ghaziabad merchants. The volunteers were literally begging us to come and have food. The moment I took on the Kavad, my identity became one of the ‘Bhole’. The reverence shown by these people was touching. The way was mostly downhill and it was an easy walk. After stopping at Bhairongati to have a small snack, we stopped at a place called Dharali and finally we reached Jhala where we will be staying the night. It was not an accident that we had only a ‘snack’ during the day. It was only at the end of Day 1 did I realize one more decree of the trek: While carrying the kavad one is supposed to have an empty stomach and only one meal a day. This means that we eat a proper meal only during the night and during the day we eat a very light snack. I usually snacked on two pieces of dry bread. I found that the dietary dicta were most conducive to the trekking efforts. In Jhala, we stayed at a small hotel and since all the garhwali pilgrims knew maamaji, we ended up with 5 people sharing a room. I had to do my sadhana in Jhala in the open and I had the whole village squatted by the wayside gawking me when I opened my eyes after coming out of shavasana. I had long since realized that the only way I could get myself to do all my practices in such villages is not to open the eyes at all in the middle and shut myself out of the world during the practices.
I had walked close to 30 mountain kilometers today and I am not feeling any difference..Am I denying the pain or have i acquired super-natural powers? ;)

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Afterword:
Thanks to the following folks who responded to my appeal and who contributed generously to Isha Vidhya:
postscriptum:
I am publishing these memoirs also as an effort to create awareness and raise money for the awesome work done by Isha Vidhya. You would be providing me positive incentive to continue to blog if you can join me in supporting this effort.Anything will help. Even 100 INR.

 

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