We all are drifters. Some are travelers.
A thin line that differentiates the two is if we have lived an experience worth cherishing for times to come in any journey or have we just visited some place since we had the money to do so.
I believe myself to be a traveller. And have spent enough amount of time and money just to prove it. From local beaches to far flung mountains to the dense jungles to the technology deprived villages to the ghostly temples. Been there experienced that. And still the world will never cease to get explored. I know this. Not a single person can ever say that he/she has travelled everywhere. That would be the dumbest thing to say. A statement of ignorance.
So how much should we travel to have travelled enough? Don’t know, cant say, cant conclude. But somewhere the answers is about collecting memories. Our every travel is all about collecting memories. Memories which, when we look back give us glimpse of moments which can be cherished for ever. No wonder we see so many snaps being clicked in every holiday and outings. Capturing memories. These days even a simple dinner with friends will have so many snaps getting clicked. I guess people think may be the dinner might become memorable in some way and the snaps can be cherished forever. (But Incase of teenagers, they simply want to upload the pics on FB. Damn with memories crap. HAhahah)
But not all moments can be captured in those megapixels and get permanently dumped in the hard disk of our laptop/ hardrive. Such moments can only be felt. And this blog is all about one such moment which changed my perspective in a big way. And such experiences make me more of a traveler than a drifter.
The journey starts on a railway station in Mumbai. Waiting for a train to arrive. Those anxious moments at the start of any journey. Wish I can always be in that state of anxiousness. Jammu- Tavi Express arrives in style and I am off to Jammu. Long distance train travels always amuse me in the sense that so many people; all having so many different stories; are bought together for that brief moment of time where all their stories are running parallel to each other. And somehow all the stories get bonded together with every one having a common goal to reach from point A to point B. That’s the magic of long distance trains. But most of us fail to see this as we are so much used to being into ourselves. So much that train travel probably becomes just like an elevator travel. You get in, you get out without ever knowing anyone.
So my train travel ends as smoothly as an elevator travel. Jammu arrived. The land of beautiful people. The first thing one notices when they reach Jammu is that people are blessed with beauty. Natural beauty. Every girl or guy seems to be perfect for becoming the next big Bollywood star; cant comment on their acting skills though. So the cold weather and the beautiful faces, makes you more than happy about the trip. From Jammu station, a 4 hour “death scary” bus journey takes you to katra, base camp for my travel destination: Vaisho Devi.
Vaishno Devi Mandir, the second most visited pilgrimage place in India after Tirupati Balaji, is nothing but 3 rocks (pindies) located in a small cave. And that cave is located between 3 mountains some 14 km from Katra. And it’s only the belief of people which makes them climb this 14 km mountainous road, bracing the ever changing weather from cold to rain, and reach the top for just one glimpse of those “3 rocks”
So post half a day rest in Katra, my ascent to the 14 km unending mountainous track also begins. You start climbing thinking that probably these 14 km would be covered in no time and no tiredness. But those first 3 km are enough to make you realise that it wont be a rosy journey afterall. So you start counting the kilometers covered. And with every one km covered you rejoice with a sense of pride and simultaneously sulk about the remaining distance. It’s a mixed feeling climbing the mountain of Vaishno Devi. People going by Helicopter and horses would never know this. At one point of time the gigantic mountains start playing on your mind. We start realising the insignificance of a teeny tiny human being in front of these beautiful creation of nature. During the whole climb, one will keep hearing the favourite phrase of Vaishno Devi devotees, “Jai mata Di, Saare bolo, Jai mata di, zor se bolo, jai mata di, aree aage wale, jai mata di, aree peeche wale, jai mata di, baache bole, Jai mata Di…..” And this will continue till mentioning all the gender and age group is finished. But slowly slowly one start loving the chants. And it becomes a motivating factor of the climb. Those chants somehow sync with our will power and we see human spirits crushing the barriers of pain and tiredness. It may sound exaggerating at this point of time when you read it in this blog. But up above the Katra mountains, when one has reached more than half the distance from where its futile returning back, the power of chants and human will power can be actually seen. May be not in a youth. But definitely in an old person. And there are so many of them who cant afford a helicopter or a horse ride, but still manage to reach the top, all by walking, all because of will power.
So with many many many steps and 5 hours later, I reached the temple. To be precise a cave located in the middle of 3 beautiful giant mountains. One needs to enter the cave to take Darshan of Vaishno Devi. No Statue, No Photo. Just 3 rocks. So after reaching in front of the “divine” rocks, I follow the normal protocol of an average enthusiastic Hindu, for which we have been programmed from childhood. So I joint my hands in Namaste pose, mumble a prayer and did those typical gesture of touching the forehead first, then touching the lips and finally touching the chest. To this day I don’t know why we Hindus do that. Also whats the logic of mumbling a prayer. Plus we cant tell what we prayed for to anyone or else it wont come true. As I mentioned, we have been programmed to believe all this from childhood. So post my personal rituals my turn of seeing Vaishno Devi was over in seconds. All the hard climb of 5 hours for this glimpse of 5 sec. I was leaving.
AND JUST THEN the “The Moment” happened, for which I have written this 500 words plus blog. As soon as I was leaving the cave after taking the Darshan, a complete stranger middle aged lady with 2 kids who was all this while standing right behind me called me out and shared with me the Prasad she had just received from one of the priest. I must mention that the Prasad, which was directly from the bowl kept near the divine rocks, was not given to all the priest. Randomly to select few, may be because of limited nature of the Prasad in the bowl. And that Prasad was nothing but a single piece of Kish Mish (dried grape). But the even more surprising thing was that the noble lady was sharing that single piece of kish mish between me, another stranger guy behind her, her 2 little kids and herself. That Kish mish got torn into so many tiny pieces that further division was almost impossible. And still that one sixth piece of a kish mish felt so filling in my mouth.
It made me wonder that it would have been the easiest thing for the lady to just give the Prasad to her kids. Or just herself. But still she chose to share. SHARE whatever she had. Till the point she could share no more. And when you get a Prasad right from the feet of Mata Vaishno devi, that too after climbing a 14 km stretch of 5 hours, sharing could be the last thing on one’s mind. But still she shared. Without any obligation, she shared. That too with complete 2 strangers.
This was my moment of realisation which I never got to capture in photo. Nor did I ask the lady her name. She was so enthusiastic about the whole affair of visiting Vaishno devi, that I wonder if she would have stopped to even answer, had I asked her name. But that moment gave me a reason to cherish that trip forever. It gave me an experience which makes a traveler out of everyone of us. Because travelling without an experience is nothing less than just drifting like a piece of wood in a sea.