I started at 6, it was still dark ,was planning on earlier but,had breakfast at my own natural pace ( i remember being laughed at by my cousins for eating very slowly that made me change my habit and i started eating quickly), told Sumit sir that i was leaving already as he would have anyways covered the distance.
I started with the babies of our group Divas and Nabaraj ,both agile 19 yr old boys one a dancer another a rock climber and i knew i wouldn’t be able to match their pace,and that is what happened as soon as we reached the diversion i was panting ,as they looked back ,i gestured to continue.
Meanwhile Preeti,Mansij da and Bhavna crossed my path on their ponies.
I remember a boy and a girl who i had seen the before on our way to valley of flowers,i smiled at them and they smiled back,who knew they would be with me throughout the hemkund trek, the boys name was Anshul (the girl was faster and she would frequently shout at the poor fellow,Anshul!! Chalo!!).
I decided i would do this one slowly and steadily taking my own time , thinking and introspecting,this was the third day of our trek and i was scared ,more because i had a fall the previous day and had hurt my left leg badly (somehow it felt more bad when i came back to Ahmedabad and it was all blue and sore), i wanted to be alone in this one.
After walking for about 1 km I saw Sumit sir coming up,sir and i had bonded on our first of trek from Pulna to Ghangaria.So seeing him made me feel a little more confident and relaxed,he somehow gives me these guru like vibes ,he is straightforward and doesn’t encourage non sense will listen intently ,and will somehow make you believe in yourself. It was because of him that i could gather all the strength i had and get up after that terrible fall the previous day.
When i think of him i can clearly hear his laugh .So we trekked together for about 45 minutes and then i asked him to go ahead i wanted to just soak the fatigue in.
I was sitting on a bench besides a middle aged gentleman ,he must have been around my father’s age,he wore a long cloak like kurta and a worn out bandana ,he was struggling for air ,when i offered him some water and camphor ,he smiled and took the bottle ,he said he had done this in 2013 but it was way easier back then. I told him ,he will be able to do it this time as well and bade good-bye.Later i saw him on a pony and he wished me luck and strength to complete the trek.
After walking another 500-600 metres jayanta da caught up.
Jayanta da is the sweetest of them all the quintessential bengali with a jhola and a black umbrella loosing the cigarette though ,we bonded the day before on our way back from the valley to ghangaria ( after i had fallen twice i was feeling nervous in getting down,he would walk ahead and then wait for me).
He walked with me for a quiet a while,i remember him climbing and jumping over rocks to take pictures of the rare Himalayan Poppy. (I did not take my phone out during the whole trek except for once ,when i crossed the glacier and was playing ik onkar ,the whole way up).But,since i was moving on my own pace that day in no matter of time i could see him marching ahead with the black umbrella in one hand and a wooden stick in the other.
It was about 9 o’clock by now,i had stopped looking at how much i had to climb more and set and alarm for 10 am .All this while Anshul and the girl were walking almost at my pace , sometimes i would overtake them ,sometimes they would walk ahead,then there came a short cut and they took that,i decided to walk straight .
I saw Jazz and Prajakta walking along with a few men.Who were helping them, another short cut was there and the guy asked me to take that i started climbing it was steep and slippery ,by now the altitude was already high and i was a little short of breath,i was nervous because people were following me,i have always been like this, getting nervous when i lead people feeling scared i might let them down,or because of me they will slow down.i was about to breakdown and fall ,then i heard jazz say waheguru shakti de loudly ,and that was it,i gathered all the strength i had and climbed up, another gentle man held my hand and helped me get on the road. Later he told me he had come all the way from Pakistan for this pilgrimage.
Anyway Jazz and Prajakta were resting for a while ,i decided to not stop now ,they said only 1 hour was left , another hour felt both close and far at the same time.i walked for 15 mins and i could hear the gurubaani, apparently, I was closer than i expected and met Anshul and his girl again,we had a few peanuts and chocolates without speaking just smiling at each other and kushal on his pony crossed us ,it felt good to see a familiar face.
After that there was no stopping i can still feel that soft cold wind on my face ,which was similar to the one I had felt in Dainkund last year.
I knew i was close ,i reached finally and my alarm started ringing it was 10:15, i had reached on time. I was relieved and overwhelmed did not know how to react stood at the entrance for about 5 mins and then saw Mansij da.
Mansij da was the quirkiest, smartest most diplomatic of them all,he is funny and gave me proper elder brother feels especially on the last day when he put his hand on my head lovingly and said ,you are a talented kid Sarandha,bachi hai.
At Auli ,dada had yet again cracked some joke .
I still laugh at the instance when i was rushing down he said ,wah you have got so much energy and bang i made a fall
He was telling me something ,i couldn’t understand,i was feeling numb,like one feels when one is hypotensive,may be i was hypotensive or may be it was the hypoxia,or may be my psyche was playing its part and then i saw Preeti walking towards me and i broke down ,cried incessantly i could just hug her and cry ,she said u did it girl and i cried more.
I bonded with Preeti on our drive from Delhi airport to joshimath and while we shared our room and while she told about her spiritual journey and why she was there at vof and a lot many other things oh yes whenever i listen to this song oh mahi ,i can visualise her grooving and singing,and In a very short duration i connected with all these wonderful people.
I cried my heart out,she took me to the place where we had to keep our shoes,i removed my socks only then i realised how freaking cold it was there,it was all foggy and one could hardly see anything,she took me to the kund where i sat and started crying again, washed my face took a marble from the kund kept it in my pocket and went into the chamber downstairs and felt the strong vibrations and cried again,then went upstairs covered myself up with the mattress and cried alone for a long time,yes only later did i realise that i forgot to buy anything from there i was busy crying , crying and crying i feel extremely stupid to have cried so much without any reason.
I the upper chamber i saw Anshul and his girl again,we greated each other had our kada prasad and went downstairs,Preeti guided me to the langar ,i had my bowl full of khichdi and a glass of tea, though i never take tea or coffee but that day i did.We ate clicked a few pictures and then decided to meditate for a while in the lower chamber ,and we did ,all i could do now was think of all my worries,my parents getting old,my brother struggling for his job,my husbands health ,my loosing a few very special people from my life forever and many other things and i have them all up then and there and felt liberated,even though for a short while i felt free ,i felt like trusting the almighty and letting it all go,why do we hold on to so much,why is it so difficult to let go?am i the only one who thinks so much? Am i the only one who has difficulty forgetting things? Is this because of my obsessive features ? So many questions and just one answer .An answer that helps me till date.
And that i how my visit to Hemkund Sahib was half done. Down the hill was easy with Preeti and the two babies of our group by my side.