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Monday, March 23, 2015

Driver Swami

Dusk was slowly settling down as we returned from the middle of the River where the three rivers the Ganga ,the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati was supposed to have melded ,
To be able to go to this point in the middle of a maha kumbh mela was a feat by itself as the once in 12 years Maha kumbh which lasted for more than a month was the biggest congregation of humanity in one place .
Something which could be seen even from space!
On certain special days during the month long Kumbh millions would descend on its banks, though the day we went was not one of the big days .
The crowds still swelled on the banks of the flowing river gaily festooned with glimmering lights ,
we were lucky to get into one of the last boats and surreptiously glided out as the police were preventing any more people from going to the river centre as it was getting dark ,
After our ritual bath we felt clean and privileged to have had a rare opportunity
When we had told our friends before we left that we were off to the Kumbh mela they were aghast
The kumnbh mela, are you people crazy ?
The crowd is just abominable; one could get killed in those frequent stampedes
It was one of India’s enduring nightmares for anyone living in a an ensconced world
How could one  take such a risk ?
The very idea of even reaching the Mela grounds was unthinkable for many but we took the impulsive decision because one of our friends Pramodh Swamji of the Amritha group had invited us and till day we have felt it was one of our greatest blessing to have done so !
read this on my earlier post
The Kumbh mela was India in a microcosm and happened every four years at four different places in turns and the Maha kumbh was the 12 yearly once  mega bonanza ,
this year it was at Allahabad
 It had all the colour clamour and confusion which was India but it also had its serenity spirituality and surrealistic feel  .
In its teeming millions was the very soul of India .
In its air was the aura of history  .
The rich tapestries of spirituality of Bharath was melded into its sands .
In the wrinkles of its sanyasins lay the heart of India .
The dusts of the past gathered in its fogs.
The din of its footsteps was the music of India.
It is to savour all this that millions gathered here
It is to awaken their indianess from deep inside their souls that they came here in hordes.
We were one amongst the millions caught in the anonymity of its irrelevance.
We   floated as the jetsam in the lashing waves of time itself.
It was this unique experience which would be very difficult to explain here that we encountered this experience .
The exhilaration of dipping into the pure Ganga with its cold fingers embracing us and igniting our souls to bliss
This was something which was beyond all our past experiences
This was uniquely mystic and awe inspiring
For a long time after our boat reached the crowded banks and our feet touched the sandy shores and as we threaded our way through the milling crowds the trance of this awakening was on us
We were out of this world in a different dimension
Swamiji was more used to this and was more practical and realistic he was keeping an eye on us as we jostled through the crowd he knew there were many whose intentions were hardly spiritual and picking pockets were more common than saving souls in Indian Melas
So he shepherded us to safer environs and made us go into a spiritual supermarket of tents of several Akharas
These are pavilions of different orders of spiritual groups from all over India .
 Some were huge almost like tiny towns with massive cut outs of their main Swami
 In some sermons were being made
There were some where ash strewn Aghoras sat still some in grotesque postures while some deeply inhaled bhang and hemp and the smoke mingled with the fog of the early night
White tourists gaped and gawked and clicked their cameras furiously
Finally Swamiji took us inside a tent complex and introduced us to a surprisingly erudite young swamiji who spoke Cambridge English with a distinctly yankee accent
He asked us to sit down and graciously enquired swamiji  and us about our  welfare
Old friends they were swamiji quickly got to the point
The matter was we had to leave that night as we needed to be at luck now by mid-morning  the morrow to catch our flight back and getting our from the kumbh mela was another feat ,
swamiji had a car but no one to to drop us and return back and he could not leave the place too
It was very difficult to get a private car or taxi as they were all booked
The swamiji whispered something to his aide and shortly a very young almost boyish chubby  swami came and joined his palms in greeting to us
He will drive you to Lucknow tonight declared the swamiji and nodded at the boy
We were little apprehensive at the school boy selected by the swami
So it was agreed that we would go fast wasting no more time .
 we quickly got into car and went to collect our belongings
By then we found the car suddenly filled up as three more swamis had  joined for the trip to be dropped at luck now
So it was by now a bit crowded but the winter night was pretty cold hence it provided much needed warmth .
Our driver lad gaily drove us as we waved farewells to our swami Pramodh
It took more than an hour to leave the Mela ( fair ) grounds as it was around 10 pm when we reached the outskirts
The crowds were less but still one had to weave ones way out
The lad was full of smiles and jokes at the idiots who blocked his way and we were all thinking it was all good fun
We then reached the high way
 Uttar Pradesh may be the largest state of India and its rulers were all big politicians including many prime ministers who hailed from this state but it was pretty primitive in infrastructure .
Most of the highway were two laned and had no median barriers .
Most of  the roads were dark and the huge trucks that lumbered along blinded one with their headlights
Our boy was suspiciously straying to the middle of the road a little too much
a couple of times we almost brushed aside the opposite vehicles and we were a bit worried though our boy driver was nonchalant
But the moment he started becoming silent and nodding a bit and  probably dozing off we got real worried and made him stop
Enough was enough
We did not want the Kumbh mela to be our bodily exit from this world the spirit was another matter !
I asked the driver swami to get in the rear seat and the started driving
 He never protested and quiety made himself comfortable and promptly slept off snoring away to glory
I was stressed a bit at the unknown roads but slowly got the hang of things.
around late midnight we reached Rai Bareli the constituency of Ms Indira Gandhi herself who was our legendary prime minister who had passed away
Rae Bareli was just another dusty hick town and showed no signs of it being a pm constituency
 The plan was to get into some hotel and rest for some time and start at dawn but there were no such places
 A few we saw all had their gates locked and the government rest house had two retainers sleeping like the dead
We decided to just continue driving and we did that or rather I did that while the others slept
At around 5 Am we reached lucknow
Our swami boy had a resurrection as he woke up fresh and beamed at us
I gave him the wheel and got out into the luck now airport and luckily we could get a guest room for some hours of much needed sleep
And thus ended our kumbh mela  

But am still alive to tell this tale !

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