Saturday, 15 July 2017

My Wanderings - 54 Short Story - 35. Enchanted Pilgrimage and a possessed Pilgrim

                       I have been often  misunderstood  for being an atheist because of my rational outlook on matters of religion and for  my  habit  of  pleading against superstitions.  As  per my convictions there is possibly no relation between rationality and atheism. I would hereby like to narrate an incident of my life ,which happened a very long ago, when I was a young man and had  recently joined my first job in Meteorological Deptt. I along with my brother and his  family  decided to go on Amar nath  yatra . The seats  were booked in a chartered Bus which was going directly to Baltal en-route  Sona Marg.  Actually Bus was arranged by a group of Punjabi business men for their families and we could manage few seats in it. The main purpose of booking our seats in this Bus was that it could  wait for us at Baltal and bring  us back next day to  Srinagar   immediately,  once all of us  assembled in the  bus.
We boarded the bus at Srinagar around 2 P.M. and reached Baltal at 7 P.M.  As  we arranged   for a small  hut for night halt and slept in there after taking some light dinner ,which we had brought from Srinagar
Next day before  dawn we arose from our beds and  quietly started our journey towards Amarnath shrine. It was really wonderful experience to ascend high mountain  peaks and cross the slippery glaciers of ice, where we had to walk on man made paths enough to hold single foot of a person at a time and beyond which were slippery deep ravines and slopes of glaciers. A wrong step of a person could cost  his life and it would have been impossible to locate for the dead bodies  even because the slopes of mountains were thousands of  feet deep and fully laden with ice of glaciers​.
There were  really  thrilling and heart wrenching experiences which  prompted us to go ahead  carrying our  fatigued  bodies and numb nerves. I can not still forget the taste of lemon shake which we made with ice water. It was really like a life elixir  which refreshed our bodies to the hilt. It was only after crossing mountain peaks, glaciers, ravines , slopes and canyons for hours together, we could locate the great Amarnath cave welcoming us with its Majestic  grandeur . While reaching near the holy cave , I could not control my nerves  on witnessing  the enchanting atmosphere around. It was really a new experience. The place appeared untrodden by human species , animals or birds. The ice cold water of river Amravati flowing fast and making a white foam like substance over it. The White snow  mountain peaks, white clouds hovering over the sky  and white stones all around added to the grandeur of the  place. The scene was mesmerising , bewitching   and beyond any description by  human words . The spectacle of nature was  at its peak mingling slowly with the divinity in  conspicous mode. No body could afford to be an atheist in such a serene atmosphere and among the chanting of Shiva shankara echoing around . A dip in  ice cold water of Amravati was enough to refresh the body and soul of any pilgrim . 
After paying our   obeisance  at the captivating  piligrimage  and taking some food , we started our return journey. Our return  journey was not so tiresome but  it was risky as we had  mostly to descend slopes . But heavy rains made our return journey more risky as it made our paths very  slippery . Anyhow we reached our base camp Baltal drenched and shivering with cold rain water despite of our rain coats and umbrellas.
After reaching Baltal we boarded the bus waiting for us. When  all the passengers assembled ,driver drove the Bus with out any hassle. But only after driving  few kms., Driver abruptly stopped the bus  near a slope and left it  along with conductor with a promise to return  soon.  We were waiting in the bus for Driver to  return for an hour, but he did not turn up. Some pilgrims  guessed  that he might have gone for dinner in a near by village. All the yatris were drenched with cold rain water and were  weary  to the hilt. Most of us were dozing and waiting anxiously for driver to return.
In the mean time a boy sitting somewhere in back seat stood up abruptly and started chanting 'Jai Mata di' and all the yatris responded him loudly in the same manner. The yatris thought that he was possessed by 'Mata' and no body dared to stop him when he hurled abuses on Driver and seated himself on Drivers  seat and tried to start vehicle. He declared something  unrighteous has happened during the pilgrimage and Mata wanted to punish all.  Few yatris alighted  out of the bus to save themselves but most of yatris remained in the bus with closed eyes chanting Jai Mata di. I was also  one among the yatris who came out of bus . We looked at each other in much bewilderment  and mustered  enough courage to take hold of the boy sitting on drivers seat and pulled him out of the bus after thrashing him a little. He rolled his body on the road and started weeping .  He admitted that he was hungry and tired  so much that he lost his balance of mind. Then some food was provided to him and he was again bundled in to the bus. In the meantime Driver appeared  with much apologetic disposition and drove away the bus. We reached Srinagar at mid of night.
Later on it transpired that the small Boy in question was a domestic help of  some family  travelling in  the  Bus , who was neglected and not given any food  to eat through out the journey .
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