Yeah... it's been quite some time since I wrote. Not that there has been nothing to write. Only my mind has been too clouded with thoughts with some major decisions to be taken. Though the outcome is still awaited, the confusion is all over now and I can get back to what I love doing best :).

Remember, when I spoke about having the right type of Support System in place? My faith and belief in mine has only been made stronger in the last two weeks. It's like that rock solid support that never fringes however high the tide may be. At times, you just have to do something to be able to stand up to your principles, beliefs and conscience. It was one such time for me - full of turmoil, fear and commotion. Yet, I am happy that I have been able to overcome all of that, had it not been for the support provided by a very dear friend. I owe him tons for everything. If only I had also listened to him earlier in life... and I know he is smirking while reading this :).

While the storm around me was still settling, there was this much planned (by none other than my perfectionist Di!) Vaishno devi trip last weekend. I had been there once earlier with Mom and Dad and I remember walking uphill with Mom the entire night while Dad rode a horse along with Shivani, who was 8 then. And I was looking forward to this trip as well, which also meant getting to spend an entire weekend with Di and my two sweethearts. I was nostalgic and simultaneously sad due to the memories that nostalgia brings in, but nevertheless excited as well.

We chose to fly to the location and trust me, my fear of heights made me feel constipated when I was told to sit next to the pilot in the helicopter! The pilot initiated a conversation trying to help me relax...what with that look on my face when I saw the floor beneath my feet was transparent! Though my Jiju envied me for having got the 'best' seat! It took not more than 5 mins and there we were, with approximately another 2 kms of walking to be done. Neat!!!

Though we had arranged for a lot of jugaad to have darshan comfortably, we decided not to make good of them. While walking to the shrine and in queue, it was amazing how everyone followed when one made a religious chant. It was all in sync, in chorus and simply heartwarming. Kids, women, young boys and girls - all seemed to have that one common feeling within them at that time. No one was in any more hurry than the other; no one pushed or jumped the line. There were no biases. Rich, poor - all walked the same path. What did upset me, though, was the darshan part of it all. The priests would not even let you bow your head for a second and simply push you away! I was completely blank and for a moment, completely numb. Nothing registered while I looked on and then was pushed forward by the queue. Has everything become so commercialised that you cannot afford one moment of peace while you bow to pray? I understand all reasons of security and great rush; however, nothing justifies that kind of treatment meted out to devotees.

Nevertheless, we set out to Bhairon Temple. While the rest of the junta with us opted to ride on a horseback, Jiju and I set out on foot. To reach before the horse-riding warriors, we took the stairs and trust me, that was a bad choice! What it did to our knees is a different story. Wait, am I turning old??? I'd not want to believe that anyways. At the beginning of the stairs, they indicated that there were only 351 of them, but I am dead sure that there were over 500! Though my friend tells me that he counted them and they are indeed 351!! May be, I'll ask him to revise his Maths. They had to be more than 500!!!

It was also Maanya's 2nd birthday and we went all prepared with an egg less cake and all to celebrate it up there :). Intelligent, na? I know :D. Poor little thing was all tired and exhausted, but put up with our madness and did not create too many tantrums:). A sweetheart that she is. While we sang the Birthday song with the cake decorated on an empty pav-bhaaji plate, we were joined by others sitting, it became one big birthday celebration! Maanya attacked the gems on the cake before blowing out the candle! One little gundi that she is!

All done, we set out for our return journey. It had become pretty cold then and we had over 12 kms to walk. On our way, we crossed other devotees who were climbing and their faith amazed me. So many of them walked barefoot, even children as old as 7 or 8 years old! Then, there was this person who was rolling on the ground towards his destination, while another one was covering it by lying flat on the floor at every step! An old lady, who stooped, was covering the way on foot, while another one was carrying her grandson on her shoulders while chanting 'Jai Mata Di'! These were indeed examples of how faith can help you accomplish the most difficult things in life. It's that inner motivation that has to be strong enough and physical limitations hold no importance then. How else can you explain an old women who can barely stand straight walking the toilsome path uphill?

We, though, were a hopeless lot! We managed to complete our return journey in not less than five and a half hours! And if we had to walk our way up, I am sure we would not have reached the top before the next morning! Di will surely agree with me and like she said, our fitness levels are as hopeless as we are :D. I agree with you Di, as always :).

And so ended our much hyped and planned Vaishno devi trip, though nothing, except the railway reservations, happened as per our plans! The inner peace attained or not, I can't say, but it sure was another revelation that life put before me. And while returning to our earthen roots, no Barista, CCD or Nescafe can replace the charm of having piping hot tea on a road-side dhabha, of which there were plenty along the way! Looking at the old, the young, the rich, the poor, all walking with the same devotion and faith, a voice in me chanted along - Jai Mata Di!
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2 Responses
  1. ani_aset Says:

    nice one neha...good going :)

  2. Pooja Says:

    Jai Mata Di! :)

    Your post really made me nostalgic about all my visits to Vaishno Devi so far. It's amazing how that place calms me down. I do agree about the rather rapid darshans, but then again, just that glimpse of the bhawan is beyond special - gives us the persistent strength to walk it all the way up! :)

    All of this obsession or whatever anyone may call it reaffirms my faith in God...makes me believe that someone loves me unconditionally and is watching over me at all times!

    Thanks for sharing your experience.