A couple of years back I met a group of sadhus and got a chance to talk to them. I was thinking of writing that experience in a blog post but went busy with work and forgot over time, also I never had that expertise of writing in English words and sentences precisely what I have experienced.
While exploring old photos I found a photo of one of the sadhus, this refreshed my discussion with him and I thought of an attempt to write that experience.
It was the end of July of 2018 and I was returning from a hill station in Uttarakhand after a short family vacation. We took a stop in Rishikesh for a tea break, while talking to the restaurant owner noticed a bus which was also coming from Uttrakhand stopped near the restaurant and 4 sadhus alighted. The bus moved on while sadhus came to the restaurant and took place on a free bench.
Belonging from Prayag, I have seen Sadhus since childhood and was taught by parents to treat them well and give them something (money, rice, flour, or lentils). This group was not very different so I ordered my tea and started walking towards the car. One of the sadhus waved his hand towards me like he wanted to talk. I walked towards him and asked what I could do for him. He asked if I could pay for their tea and a few snacks. I said ok and looked towards the restaurant owner, he understood what I was going to say and assured me that he will serve them with tea and snacks, the owner mentioned that it is a common thing for him and happens often when travelers passing by pay for sadhus food. “If they don’t have a few hundred rupees to pay for tea and snacks then how are they traveling? Don’t know where they are coming from and where they will be going to? how will they be able to afford the travel?” These were a few questions that struck my mind. When I plan for a vacation, the first thing I look for is budget, while they are traveling with no money to pay for tea even. I felt we both belong to 2 different dimensions. This thought triggered me to start a conversation with them, talk about their way of travel.
While the restaurant owner was preparing our tea, I decided to sit with them and know more about them. “Where are you coming from?”I asked the first question, he replied that they are coming from Kedarnath and were heading to Ujjain. Before Kedarnath, they were in Amarnath. I did a quick googling and figured out they will be traveling more than 2,000 KMs. “How do you plan your trip and bare expanses of these trip?” he replied it’s almighty who takes care of everything, we just need to think where we want to go and start our journey, rest things get arranged on the way and problems get resolved by itself. I checked their belongings, they hardly had anything, on the contrary, my car boot was full of bags of clothing, water bottles, food items, and even a hot air blower. We had a long conversation after that, I asked everything from the beginning till that day.
They were 4 childhood friends belonging to a small city of Mirzapur near Varanasi. They got married early and had children early as well, once their children grew up and took the job, they decided to become sadhus and left home. It’s been 20 years since they were traveling in different holy places across India like that. They just board on a train or bus and no one asks for money or if anyone asks they take the next bus or train. They stay in temples, Dharamshalas, or under the sky, people feed them or give them money sometimes. They just carry a blanket, a Kamandall (a pot), a stick, and a bag with a few basic stuff for survival. They do not have any sense of ownership. They rely totally on the almighty and it has worked for the last 20 years without fail.
I belong to a world where budget, planning, and management skills are required for weekend trips and on the other hand, there are those people who don’t care about anything and just travel. We post pics, tag location, and go live while in travel they don’t have a phone even. They travel, learn, and teach, spread words of wisdom to people, talk about love, peace, humanity, and harmony in society, while I go back to the rat race and show-off business after the trip. Felt pity…
Learned something that day, the first trust in God, second people are kind, third and most important thing I learned is to start the journey, problems will be resolved and the path will be discovered on the way. Posting a pic of that wise godman here –
Winters have started, unlike most Europeans, Americans, or anyone from the northern hemisphere, Indians in general welcome winters. I also enjoyed winter more than summer or monsoon. In summer it’s a dry heat and in monsoon, it is hot and unbearably humid. Wearing a light jacket, going out in the sun, road trips, bonfires, or drinking hot coffee, life thrives in winters. You will find most people outdoors and mostly happy. I feel charged in winters, eager to go out with friends and family to some known or unknown places, meet people, and live a few moments of life.
I spent most of my childhood in Allahabad (now known as Prayagraj) and have fond memories of winters. Our house is not far from the river Ganga. Ganga has a nature of changing path and in monsoon, its width increases to kilometers. Our house is at the edge of this expansion. In winter when the water is not that much, farmers sow mustard and peas in this sandy expansion. I used to go there often with friends for the entire day, eating peas and laying on the banks of Ganga was our favorite pastime. This distance from our house to the bank of Ganga was approximately 5 kilometers and there is nothing but mustard and peas fields. Just before the actual stream of Ganga, there are many narrow and shallow streams of Ganga. Depth is not more than our knees, water so clean that you can see small fishes swimming. It used to look like heaven. A place with complete silence, cold breeze, warm sunlight, clear water stream, white sandy river banks, and fields of mustard and pea till the horizon, I can not imagine a better place than this to relax. Tried locating the same place again in recent years, but was unable to find it. Sometimes it’s better to let something in memory rather than trying to relive it.
Another fond memory of my days in Allahabad is the bonfire. My father built a very big house, very much like a mansion, it has an open space in the center. We call it Angan (Courtyard, a quadrangle open space in the center of the house). I personally loved having a bonfire in that area, and then everyone who is shivering from winter used to come around and we used to chat for a very long time. We often use to cook (roast or BBQ) Bhauri (wheat flour dish, like chapati but thick, roasted directly on fire) in that fire and roast Eggplant and potato in that to prepare Bharta (a mash of roasted potatoes, eggplant with tomato, mustard oil, green chili, garlic, ginger, green coriander, and salt). It tastes awesome when it’s warm. Sitting around the fire and chatting with family members is something I have always cherished. I still fancy that. My 2 uncles house is adjacent as well, so we always had a lot of nephews and nieces, talking to them, pulling each other’s legs, and cracking jokes are what I always missed.
Winter is the time of the world-famous Maagh Mela as well, it’s happening every year at the riverbank of Ganga and Yamuna for ages. Every 6 years it’s called Ardh Kumbh and every 12 years it’s called Maha Kumbh Mela. Maagh Mela starts from Makar Sankranti (14th of January, the day when the Sun enters into the zodiac sign of Capricorn) and remains there for 1 lunar month. My father’s uncle used to go there with his wife and stay there for a month in camp. This is called Kalpvaas, It is mostly done by elderly people to get rid of their sins. One has to follow some rules to complete it, like staying in makeshift camps, taking a holy dip in river Ganga every morning before dawn, eat only once a day, sleep on paddy straw and spend the day listening to the preaching of Godmen (Sadhus) or praying to the Gods. It’s very cold in the month of January, some too elderly people die there as well, it is said that those who died there during this time will get Moksha. We used to visit grandfather and take a holy dip in the Sangam (merger of holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna). Sometimes we used to stay with them for a night. Eating homemade snacks and mostly boiled food and roaming around the area, It was like a camping and picnic trip to us. Luckily the vibe of this Mela is still very much the same, and I visit Ganga in every visit to my hometown. Maybe once I retire I will follow my forefathers and go there to spend a month praying to the Gods and get rid of all my sins (there aren’t many though).
It was a Christian village Muirabad where I was grown up, this was founded by Sir William Muir of Scotland in 1880-90. It was obvious that we had good exposure to this religion of India. Enjoyed Christmas with Christian friends and had great food with them.
Even after moving to Singapore in 2006, we used to plan a trip to India in winters until our final return in 2013. My European friends in Singapore used to ask me why in winters? They all used to curse winters and look for warmer places like Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia. It was difficult to explain to them so I used to tell them air-tickets are cheaper in winters.
One eye-opening dialog between father and me happened once. During a conversation I told him how much I like winters, wrap yourself in warm clothing, eat warm food and roam around, there is nothing better than that, he replied, “Yes indeed, if you have enough warm clothing and warm food to eat”. Growing up in a middle-class family and in the time when buying clothes is no big deal, I never realized that there was a time when people get scared of winters due to lack of proper food, clothing, and shelter, he has seen all those hardships which we take for granted. There were many incidences of my father’s life which I came across later, each added a lot of love and respect to him. He is still very healthy and strong because of the life he has lived earlier. Hardship in life makes one stronger.
This gallery contains 11 photos.
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