The fourteenth night of the waning moon each month is special. But in the month of Falgun i.e. March, this 14th night is said to have an upsurge of Prana/energy in one’s system (also if one could sit still throughout night) that which even pulled Swami Vivekananda more than 130 years ago to this small little mountainous region called Almora. But more precisely to a place on the top of the Kashyapa hill known as Kasar Devi. A place or the temple structure dating back to 2nd century CE.
Also Read : A Short Walk in the Jungles of Almora
My Little school back home subtly practices the path of Advaita that Swami Vivekananda showed. His images and quotes can be seen all around our School walls. But awareness of his being arrived in me only when i started reading his travel diary. His ideas and his perception of the land, people and the curiosity to ask, to never abate your quest inspired me to patiently Walk for hours and observe as a young boy. I learnt about places, his passing thoughts while meeting many a sages in West Bengal influenced me to go and travel around Bengal. Or while sailing for days on the deck of a Ship speaking to labours and cleaners about their lives back home revealed a hell lot about the conditions of the 1890s India. Swamiji had also mentioned about his time in Almora and a cave where he had meditated for several days and months at length. It was since that day as a young boy my yearning began to visit that hidden grove, rather secretly to use that space in which he sat, I dreamt of sitting there too for as long or little as I can.
THE Grand Night Of Shiva
Shiva Ratri is a personal celebration for me, a day that chose me for the birth of my awareness, of that cosmic presence. As on this day six years ago, a dimension dawned within me of this nature, this energy that runs through all of us and how. That night something opened which continued to take shape till the arrival of the full moon. And this year like every since then, for no reason it felt that I could really make it to that cave. I announced it out to my family, got my backpack together and within an hour on 27th February, left for Almora. The Grand Night was on 1st.
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After what took a whole night of an exciting and dramatic bus ride across states, much because of the driver of the Bus. A four feet something powerhouse, who used to laugh out so loud that passengers had to pause for a moment to acknowledge his uninvited wild frequency. His laughter made people roll their eyes with a smirk, some were getting irritated but resumed soon to whatever they were doing, only after looking at each other. He drove all night singing old Mountain songs to himself. When the tyre had to be changed at the station, he sang even louder. He drove clean and fast throughout the night. And most strangely stopped at a sweet shop where buses weren’t supposed to stop, asked all the passengers to eat the Samosas with the best Chutney in Uttarakhand within ten minutes.
As we arrived in the flower tower of the blue morning hour; the valley felt cold and sleeping unaware and under a blanket of cloud above, enveloping Almora. I landed almost awake, breathing deep feeling high; getting down in front of the old Post office. It felt a lot colder, so much that I had underestimated March of the Himalayas.
Walking past the old market, which promised architecture, that these days speak while humans sleep. The streets were narrow but quaint. Time worn homes with carved wooden facades, lowly and together, tiny balconies coming out of the tinier walls of stone, wooden doors- some decrypt and rotting, many must have witnessed this jungle becoming a town in front of them.
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The fragrance of Devdars had started reaching out to me. But the change was as apparent as anywhere with hoardings of new café openings, Pizza plazas, Beer and Bars, coffee houses with glass openings. I kept walking as I had already decided to stay anywhere near the Temple.
I took a shared taxi from Almora Bazaar to go to Kasar Devi. And in it was my first introduction to the local sentiment that morning. Thirteen people sat including me and the driver. Ten were women. Most probably teachers. Carrying their tiffins and bags, constantly chirping. I sat behind amongst five women cramped together with mask on, hearing their tales of this small Himalayan town which started to feel like a story of Delhi, Mumbai or even the West. One mother complained of her child denying to sleep in the same room with them. The other talked about privacy and giving space. Someone commented on the choices of food and clothes of her daughter, when from behind a woman revealed a tragic news playing out in the neighbourhood, a 15 year old boy had hanged himself from the fan. They sounded helpless. But the talks slowly drifted towards the handmade cover over the water bottle, which was beautifully knit by the woman sitting with it, right in front of me. Taxi stopped, another woman entered. Everybody knew her. The talks started again and this time the topic of retirement was brought in. She exclaimed:
She laughed, and laughed everybody else.
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I had longed for the longest time to come to this place. Not really to wander or do anything but just to be on that hill where Swami Ji sat for a whole month and a little more. But unlike him I had only three nights.
It had been over half an hour sitting with the locals. And I had started feeling caged. I was already looking outside when my intuition collated with the moment where I had a glimpse of a board that said “Simtola Ecological Park”. I loved the sound of that word ‘Simtola’, almost Arabic, like the world of Aladdin.
I got down; and started searching for a roadside café for tea. While walking towards, I asked a man carrying kilos of milk pouches in his lap, where can I find a teashop?
Chai peene hai? Want to have tea? He Said.
Kahan piyoge? Where do you want to have it?
Jahan aap batayein. Wherever you will tell me to.
Toh chalo saath. Then come along.
To be Continued…
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;
As a co-traveller, will take you through the Ten Lessons I learnt from several years on the road, before you coarse on your own Road to Nara.
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