28th Dec 2011
Morning woke me up at 5:20 am. Had a bath and went to the Samadhi for morning Aarati. After the Aarati, I didn’t feel like going elsewhere. So I stayed inside the Samadhi Mandir for 30-40 minutes doing Japa and chanting stotrams. I could feel a thousand-fold impact on whatever I was doing there. When I came out, I saw the sun’s rays hitting the mountains on their face and then onto their bodies. The sky was clear and there was a small cloud at the peak of the tallest mountain, as if it was covering the mountain’s head like a cap. I stood there engulfed in the nature’s beauty.
After breakfast, I bought some old books (those were out of print today) from the bookstall. I also got the privilege of meeting two Swamis – Swami Ramananda, an old Swami who was in Sidhabari since 1985; and Swami Gangeshananda, the Acharya of the present 3-year Brahmachari course that was going on in Sidhbari. I was so fortunate that when I visited the Ram Mandir, Ramcharita Manas chanting was going on. Few Brahmacharinis were chanting it so beautifully that one could see Ram & Sita standing in delight listening to their own story. I too gave them company and enjoyed the chants with them.
My mother had told me to go to the back side of Ram Mandir and see the view. So I did. The view of the valley was yet another beauty I saw in Sidhabari. Green farms in the ground below, alongside a stream flowing gurgling with water and the Himalayas in the background. Once again, the deep silence brought to my ears the sounds of the water bubbling in the stream.
I had to return to my room to have some rest for my back which was aching again due to the cramped muscles. Probably, the 8 hour bus journey and 1.5 kms trek with my luggage was a bit too much for my muscles in this cold weather. I took this opportunity once again to read Tapovan Prasad.
After lunch, I went to Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (C.O.R.D.), the NGO wing of Chinmaya Mission, where they have undertaken the project of upliftment of many villages. It was just 100 metres away from Tapovan. There I met my friend Sheetal who greeted me with great joy and a fractured leg. She was limping in bandage but still showed me around the place. There was a room where the people who were vocally impaired (from the local villages), were making Kangra paintings. They were really beautiful and with what concentration they did using a zero numbered paint brush with just one or two bristles. I told them that the paintings were beautiful. They gave a pleasant smile and said something that sounded like ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hari Om’. There was a dispensary where the doctors did free checkup for the villagers. CORD also had a training centre for weaving where many young girls worked and sold bags, purses, woolen clothing, outside in the market at a cheaper cost. CORD facilitates and helps these village folks in earning their livelihood. Another room was for the children who had ‘Special Needs’, who could not even sit or stand properly. These children and their mothers would be trained in this room. With years of training, the child would be able to stand and sit erect. The people working at CORD were so cheerful; their eyes showed the satisfaction in the work that they were doing. A nurse I met there cheerfully told me that she had 28 Panchayats under her and in them she was nursing 400 children. When she said this, I could see pride in her eyes for the work she was doing. A normal person from the city who lives a selfish materialistic life would feel ashamed of himself if he sees these people in their eyes.
Sheetal then took me to the top floor where that day a special programme was going on. It was called – Panchayati Raj; where CORD played a role in social work where Govt. cannot reach much. Inside the hall were around 150 people who comprised of – CORD volunteers of different villages, CORD’s Mahila Mandal (Self-Help groups), various Govt. officials…heads & district of Panchayats, etc. There they discussed the problems that the common man was facing. I was taken aback when I heard many of their issues. Some of them had problems because of stray dogs biting their cows that resulted in death and hence a loss of around Rs.16000. Stray cows that grazed into their farm land caused them heavy losses. Monkeys and pigs also destroyed their crops. While they were addressing these problems, I was really surprised how those people presented it to the Govt. officials. They didn’t complain or crib about them, but were discussing on how to overcome such problems. It was a good discussion and in the end, a Panchayat head added one line on the dog-menace issue. He said, “Hame in kutton ko ‘aawara kutte’ nahi kehna chahiye; balki inhe ‘besahara kutte’ kehna chahiye”. I was so moved when I heard his words. That was the first time I felt so much respect for some politician. Their culture was so good that they used such respectful even for animals. And look at us!!
Panchayati Raj was another wonderful experience for me. Outside the hall were a few local girls who were selling New Year greetings for Rs.5 & Rs.10, which were made by the local children. They had decorated the cards with sketch pens, drawings & colours. Some of the artists were so innocent that they wrote their own names on the New Year cards. I bought a few cards. Every card sold brought so much joy to the girls who were selling them. I stood there for a minute and took delight in seeing their happiness.
I left CORD by 5:20 and rushed to Tapovan for Aarati. Aarati had begun at Samadhi Mandir. I quickly went into the Gurudev’s Kutiya, spoke a few words to Him and came out. I then attended the aarati at Samadhi, followed by aarati at the temple and then Hanuman Chalisa chanting at Hanumanji’s statue. After that I spent some time chatting with Sheetal listening to her work which she was doing in CORD with contentment. Later I spent time reading in my room and trying to absorb the teachings of the Great Masters.
The night was very cold and I was almost shivering despite using the best, and the maximum, woolen wear possible. That made me wonder – How Gurudev, Tapovan Maharaj and other saints like them must have lived in those extreme climatic conditions and that too with the least of clothing? How powerful indeed must be the Knowledge of the Scriptures they had for which they came to Himalayas, and which they taught and discussed at the holiest of holiest places on earth – the Himalayas!
I don’t remember what time sleep took over my mind. But I do remember my last thoughts – When would be the next time that I’ll get to come to this heaven on earth?
29th Dec 2011
I woke up at 5:30am, had a quick shower and rushed to the Samadhi Mandir. Like the previous day, I savored the sunrise and spent some time in Samadhi Mandir bidding goodbye to my Master. I couldn’t wait for breakfast because if I would leave at 8am then I could catch a bus that would stop right outside the ashram and I wouldn’t have to trek down 1.5 kms to Sidhabari. Offering my prayers, I walked towards the gate. My legs were going forward but my heart was pulling me back. With a heavy heart, I left the ashram and got on to the bus for Kangra. From Kangra I got a bus to Hoshiarpur, and from there to Ludhiana, and from there to Patiala (where I had to reach finally). The 10 hours journey was spent in the best possible manner because I was carrying the biography of Tapovan Maharaj – ‘The Himalayan Hermit – the lofty life of Swami Tapovanam’.
This was my first to Sidhabari and one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever made. Going there in winter was a difficult, but a good choice, for; I got to understand how the saints live in that severe climate. I could enjoy each and every moment very well because I went alone. A journey taken, all alone, especially to the Himalayas, is a very unique experience. Atleast once in a lifetime, everyone should do such a trip where one can enjoy Solitude and also do introspection to a great extent.
Looking forward when He would call me to the next level of Heaven – Uttarkasi!