Monday, April 12, 2010


It's been a while.

It had been a while too. Recharging batteries was much needed, and hence I ventured on a solo trip on a bike to the countryside. The road took me all the way to Haridwar, one of the four locations where Kumbha Mela happens. And incidentally, it was on.

Predominantly, a sacred Hindu pilgrimage, Kumbha Mela is the largest spiritual gathering in the world. 'Kumbha' means 'pot' (with no handles) and 'Mela' means 'gathering' or 'fair'. Legend has it that at the beginning of creation, all the Gods were under a curse making them weak. Brahma (The Creator) advised them to retrieve the pot of immortality. The Gods sought the help of the Demons. During the battle to retrieve and possess the nectar, four drops spilled in four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain.

This auspicious coming together, takes place four times every twelve years at one of the four sacred places along the Ganga River, dependent upon the position of planet Brahaspati (Jupiter), the Moon and Sun.

This is what Mark Twain had to say after his Kumbh Mela experience in 1895: 'It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.'

Nevertheless, I went to Haridwar, took a holy dip, spent a peaceful night, noticed millions of devotees, understood why kids always separated during Kumbha Mela and continued on my journey.

On my way back, got into one of the most interesting discussions with strangers.

The sun was at its peak, and the clock showed noon. Tired of driving the bike continuously for a couple of hours, I chose to tread the bike on the fields instead of the metallic road. Saw a tree that reminded of my school days when we used to run in the cross country races across the fields. I parked the bike, and to my amusement, noticed that a group of farmers and villagers were also taking a break alongside from their routine ploughing of the fields.

I put my backpack and sat down beside them, striking a conversation around tilling the land, and the heat at this time of the year, and the rains, and the IPL, and future prospects of village kids. And when the topic of future prospects came, the grim faces of the elderly were evident. They were adamant that with the recent times, it is imperative that the kids of the village should go out and venture into the outside world. That they should stop staying in their cocoon and be bold enough to embrace uncertainty. According to them, success is not a matter of staying close to family and having a good time anymore, it is more a matter of how vastly one has traveled, how much money one makes, how many mobiles one has and the likes. I was just a silent spectator to all these discussions, and could hardly understand what they saw in the world outside. On the other side of the fields, I could see kids playing an IPL match of their own, unconcerned how concerned their elderly were, of their own wherewithall.

One of the elderly asked me if I was traveling for work; I nodded, which they took as yes. I chose not to correct them. They took me to be some kind of deliveryman who was traveling from one place to another, delivering some stuff. While they kept continuing with the discussions of how in city life, I have made a mark for myself and how earning a 20,000 per month salary will be the best thing to happen to their kids, I could hardly make out if I was really doing what I am meant to, and if I had ever made even an iota of mark for myself. Seeing a blackberry was like looking at the next big invention after wheel for them. And what amazed them was how the maps on blackberry can pinpoint one’s location to a few metres – one specific comment being, “kya humein bhi koi upar aakaash se dekh raha hai!” (Translation – Is someone watching us from heavens above?)

Two hours well spent, I picked up my bike and exchanged pleasantries. All the way back, all I could think of was, did I get what I hoped for, when I started this trip? Did I know what I wanted to find, when I started this trip?

A break well taken, time well spent.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.