Mother Goddess called and I obeyed…it was as simple as that. One phone call and I was so excited. No, no, it wasn’t for a date with the man of my dreams, it was for a date with something far more vital to my existence – it was a date, no make that dates with the Mother Goddess.
Bags packed I arrived at the station well in time to catch the Malwa Express that was coming preloaded with most of the 65 member strong party from Bhopal.
They say that Devi ma has to want you to visit her and only then can you pay your obeisance. The train was announced an hour late, this when one has woken up at an unearthly 3.30 am in order to be there at the station at 5 a.m.…anyways, the chill was beginning to get to me so I tucked my hand into my shawl and tried to find a relatively clean bench on the dirty stinky platform. In order not to harbour impure thoughts I began chanting, as I am wont to do in order to avoid negativity…
An hour turned into six and by then I was familiar with the calls of the trolley boys and the chai wallahs and had seen many trains come and go. I also noticed an old man who seemed to be shuffling around as he was feeling cold…I took out a pair of my socks and gave them to him only to see him bury them amongst his belongings that he carried around in one laminated bag. Determined not to allow the delayed train get the better of me I walked around and did my good deeds for the day…fed a couple of poor urchins some biscuits and some hot tea in the hope that it would warm them up for a couple of hours at least. Then I walked some more and besides trying to figure out how far into the fog I could see be upset, I waited and waited and waited, there wasn’t much else I could do till about 10.30 am when I met with Aditi, who was also going with us.
Finally the train arrived and we hopped on and after much exchange and ranting about the fog, we settled in. Brunch followed – puris and subzi and yum mithai, My saviour was Surabhi, who I clung to shamelessly throughout the trip.
The train journey was a strange mix of events. On the one hand I was doling out advice to all those who sought it, on the other I myself was seeking advice on the direction of my life. The premise of going on this trip was to try and crystallize my thoughts inward to find a way outward and forward.
It was a strange experience, for amidst the very concentrated mind work there was another level of activity all around – the youngsters kept us entertained with something or the other, snacks and tea kept making rounds at regular intervals. Ludhiana was a long stop and we all hopped out and I managed to get a chance to speak what was on my mind to someone I consider my spiritual mentor and friend. I spoke about the sudden plethora of choices that I was faced with in the various spheres of my life, about the churn inside me. Of course, he gave his enigmatic smile and said all would be fine, echoing Aamir’s “aaal eej waell” line. Many more questions, not enough minutes forced us both to get back onto the train where he was lost in the milieu of the team that was ours.
We finally reached Jalandhar at 6.15 p.m. There another hitch awaited me, the car I had organized wasn’t present and after some hiccups and almost cancelling the car, we acquiesced and started our journey in Raju’s Innova. There were three innovas and a deluxe bus and the convoy started off for Chintpurni where we to spend the night before paying our obeisance to the Goddess in the morning. There were two venues for staying and we were supposedly given the better place to stay in that was also closer to the temple. Richie and Bhaiyya who had booked the places had certainly been duped by the smart screen shots they saw on the web coz what we arrived at was certainly nowhere close to the beautiful luxurious rooms shown inhttp://www.Dhauladhar View Hotel.com, but to rooms the less said about which the better. Once we got over the shock there was much mirth about the layers of virus in each sink and thank god for the dim lights that didn’t show up any more of the oil-stained bedcovers or the layers of dirt.
Up at the crack of dawn Surabhi and I were ready to embark on the first of the temples on the itinerary on this trip – the Chintpurni Devi temple. We bathed and left had a lovely darshan, got conned into parting with some money by a clever priest who saw “fools”written on our foreheads. He gave us some extra drops of the “holy water” and a little pouch called the Khazana to keep at home in the safe in order for my money to multiply. (Am so tempted to just sit back and watch how it would happen, if I were just to do nothing at all to grow it!)
On the way back we got accosted by a gang of little girls who were trained to act; sing; beg; appeal; imply threats till they got their hands on some money. And the alacrity with which they’d then turn and disappear was amazing. Stomach demanding the morning cuppa we settled into a small dhaba next to out hotel and had some really nice masala chai. By this time the others had stared sauntering back. Soon all the members of the group were back and we were all packed and ready to leave for the next destination – Jwalamukhi Devi. A beautiful temple complex, legend has it that the flame burning here is one that can never be extinguished. Wide-eyed and in awe of the legend I proceeded to notice some cleaning and repair work of the sanctum sanctorum wherein for a few minutes the flame did go off and the priest had jammed a pipe into the area where the flames emerged from and when he took out the pipe and held the lamp close to it, it miraculously lit up again. The skeptic in me wondered but dared not question.
Looking to finding my answers inwards I sauntered around in the courtyard doing my jaap…I also got a chance to bathe the Shivling there, the junior priest who was doing the chore was intelligent enough to read the desire in my eyes and asked me if I wanted to. I jumped at the opportunity which I saw as a good sign from God as well.
Temple darshan done we left for the next temple, the Brajeshwari Devi temple, en route to Dharamsala. The Brajeshwari Devi temple was beautiful, what really struck me was the huge, ancient banyan tree there with thousands of red and gold small chunnis that were tied on it and were gently blowing about in the breeze. It made a really pretty picture. Having arrived early we waited in the courtyard for the rest to arrive.
On the way out we had a quick bite of chat and some momos as well…and managed to pick up a few colourful caps as well.
Thereafter we left for Dharamsala. The journey was uneventful and the view of the snow-capped Dhauladhar ranges scenic till we reached Dharamsala. But once we entered we realized the route to out resort was a very narrow one…the driver of our bus was the hero of the day for having maneuvered the bus on 2 wheels – 2 were hanging in the air and on faith – and gotten everyone to the resort safely. Not having eaten a proper meal since the morning we were all famished but the beauty of the resort and the fresh mountain air made us forget our hunger for a bit. Room allocations done – it was heartening to note clean bathroom and hot water — we were all outside having fun awaiting dinner…snacks packets were pulled out to give sustenance till dinner and when dinner happened people attacked, the food I mean. It was one of the tastiest meals I have eaten in a long time, and people who were waiting for others to finish were forced to fast a while longer as the food got over and more had to prepared. Someone got the numbers wrong so less food was prepared.
Post dinner on both days we had a session wherein everyone present was urged to think and learn and answer. These were not the typical teacher-student sessions but interspersed with a lot of merriment and fun as well where in people recounted fun events from their lives and shared it with everyone.
Early next morning we left for the last Devi temple – Chamunda Devi temple, but not without our share of adventure, . It was a beautiful temple and I had a special darshan there as the priest actually made the effort to get up and give me one of the chunnis that adorned the main deity there. Then we went into a Shiva temple within the same complex and it was very very special as there was a strange aura there. Monkeys kept us company and those who weren’t careful had their hands freed of whatever they were carrying.
Darshan over we all settled in to tuck in some breakfast comprising kachoris; samosas and pakoras and some hot tea. It was a great breakfast and we all tucked in till we couldn’t budge. From there we headed the Macleodganj. A Tibetan hub, it was full of the typical Tibetan art and religious ware. The monastery and temple there were rich and beautiful. I spent some time shopping here – a yak-wool shawl; a pair of fur-lined bedroom slip-ons; some mugs with beautiful Tibetan inscriptions and that was that…for lunch ate some really yum momos and a chocolate truffle pastry. The momos were 20 buck for 8 pieces and it seemed like such a steal.
On the way back we stopped at the Dharamsala market to do a bit more shopping and then rushed to get back in time for the evening fun. Dumb charades was on and I was roped in to be the judge. It was fun to see the kids enjoying themselves so much.
Dinner happened and no one was in the mood to sleep as it was the last night out and people wanted to assimilate as much as they could in the short break.
Sleep soon demanded that I get to bed and I complied. The morning came too soon and we were all piling up into our respective vehicles before we knew it. En route to Jalandhar we were the advance party, so were given charge of organizing food on the way. Lunch happened at a dhaba and we reached Jalandhar at about 3.30 pm and not wanting to waste an opportunity to see another beautiful temple. Housed in the middle of a gently rippling water body with a path leading upto the main sanctum sanctorum, the Devi Talab temple was serene and peaceful. All around the water body were many smaller temples that housed various deities.
The temple rounds over we headed back to the station where I had to bid adieu to the rest of the team as I was taking the Shatabdi back to Delhi. I’d met lots of people, some who were serious in their quest for answers and some who were there because they wanted others to think they were spiritual, but they were definitely all there because it was Bhaiyya who the central binding factor. I, of course, got my 15 minutes with him before I boarded the train. That certainly was the icing on the cake.
I thought a lot on the way. I was filled with even more questions but at the same time I was also filled with a determination the set forth in my quest for the answers instead of waiting for them to drop into my lap…
And life has been moving since, in a more positive and happy direction where I am charged up and active (and waiting for the next call from the heavens though hopefully with a smaller group of more like-minded people – a thought that shared with Bhaiyya very honestly with some trepidation). Spiritual energies charged I feel I have moved a notch higher in my quest to the ideal spiritual level.
DO U REMEMBER U WROTE THIS……..IN 2010…….