I have been brought up in the foothills of Himalayas, in a town called Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The holiest river in the world, ‘the Ganges’, twists and turns around it like a perennial bridge to serenity. Having been close to nature instills a sense of thoughtfulness. Witnessing people from across the world travel to find peace, made me ask questions I did not need answers to.
Wilderness and exploration are not the things conversations alone can register. The monologues, along with emotions, have to take a deeper road. I was in 5th grade when I first wrote a poem on ‘sky’. Recalling it as a 32 year old gives me a clarity about where it all began. Within that year I took a family trip to Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad is famous for confluence of 3 rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati. Varanasi needs no introduction. The fact that this oldest, spiritual capital of India attracts people to take their last breath gives it the detachment we secretly want to attach to. The congestion, crowd or dirt did not bother me at all. What in fact caught my attention is the comfort with death and the life after. Imagine a 10 year old holding her father’s finger and witnessing countless dead bodies burning on ‘Manikarnika Ghat’. You may think it was immature of my parents to show me the bitter truth of life, but no, not really! I remember leaving his hand and taking a few steps ahead to sink in the magnitude of what it meant, in my own not so grey matter. The obsession to die at a certain place, in a certain way, followed by certain rituals in my opinion is quite ‘attached’. But accepting that it has to happen, travelling and preparing for death is a detachment that coexists and compliments the juxtaposition.
Observing people from all walks of life, counting days to die and people helping them do so was material enough for me to absorb and comprehend. I slept on it with a cobweb of fires in my mind. In morning we went to see Sarnath, a popular buddhist shrine. Till then I didn’t know that Gautam Buddha had given his first sermon there after enlightenment to redeem humanity. ‘Redemption’ is the real take home, whether it be for humanity, from attachment, from life or the experiences you need to let go. More than the historical/mythological relevance, it was the tranquility of that place that drew me closer. It was so serene that I could cry. There was absolute silence and lush green gardens, expansive Buddha statues and vibrant flowers, no sound of traffic or sight of tall, modern buildings. Just a blue open sky and songs of birds. That must be the kind of peace people long for in heaven.
Those two consecutive days were my first rendezvous with spirituality.
I come from a religious family but I’m not religious myself. I do, however, wonder at the magical sustainability of nature. More than worshipping man made idols, I’d rather worship the five elements of nature. I love mountains and frequently travel to the hills. Standing in solitude, staring at the mighty hills that make me feel so small and irrelevant, is my moment of awakening. I sometimes go for a long drive amidst the jungles, with Shiva chants playing in the car. It’s the kind of healing that does not have the prerequisite of getting hurt.
Sound of waves and warmth of the Sun, chirping of birds and calmness of the moon, sight of greenery and wilderness of jungles; is not just poetic! We feel calm around water because 65% of human body is water. And mountains, the mysticism of mountains that shares your soul. Just like early men, we were all meant to be vagabonds. We just let city life trap us in its clutches. Take the trip you have been planning since years, wait not for a company. We are individuals meant to be on a solo journey. When we spend time alone, our soul talks to us, and when that happens, we are in the virtue of agreement.
“I was the last person to believe in the occult or mysticism. But when you have a personal encounter with something that enters your world and makes a prediction your soul has been yearning to create, then you become a believer.”- The Calling by Priya Kumar
P.C. http://www.ilovevaranasi.com ( Instagram: Banarasiya)
Shiva picture: Saurabh Thakur Photography