The more I travel,
the more I see
that I have
it is proud,
of its possession
You make me wait so.
To love You,
To worship You,
To breathe You,
You make me wait so.
When will You allow it?
Make me yearn.
The alarm rang softly and I stirred immediately. Three seconds. I swiped right and the phone fell back into blackness. I lay there for a few seconds, on my side, legs curled up and hands tucked into my chest as my body came into awareness. And the mind?
It had been on full-alert all night.
Staring straight ahead, I allowed my eyes to adjust to the darkness as his form slowly came into view. He was still asleep, his girth hidden under a swaddle of blankets, cap pulled down low over his head. It did little to hide his beard and open mouth, however, as he snored lightly.
I sat up slowly, not wanting to wake him up. We’d travelled a long way and he needed the rest.
I righted the monkey cap I had on and tucked my jackets snugly around me. My socks were so thick, there was no need to put on footwear – a fact that would come in very useful later that day when my blister made wearing shoes very painful.
The snow glistened outside, so white that 4:30 AM pitch-blackness did little to dent its light.
A mere 48 hours earlier, I’d stood outside a dingy, incense-laden shop in Rishikesh, watching the rickshaw pull away, taking with it perhaps the first man who’d shown me what love could be. (A story for another time. Or maybe not 🙂 )
And now, here I was. Wary, intrigued, watchful. 12000 feet above sea level, I softly pulled the curtains back in this little hotel room, looking out. I was so close.
My fear that I’d be raped had come down a little. Enough that I could peer up at the mountains now and marvel at their awe-inspiring size. Was this where the water had roared down from a few years ago, destroying this little town and everything around it? It was terrifying to imagine. Could it happen now? It wasn’t the monsoon. But the water hadn’t frozen yet either, still flowing and winding its way towards the plains. It could break free of its course instantly and nothing, nothing could stop it from pouring down on us, on the community which had worked so hard to rebuild itself.
In this land, anything seemed possible. Everything throbbed almost painfully magnificently. It was hard to even breathe without swallowing the energy that oozed from every particle everywhere I turned.
This had been my home once.
I knew. How? I didn’t know. But I knew.
I had lived and loved and worshipped myself into oblivion here. Cried fervently, pleadingly, blindingly until He came. And He had come. I knew.
How? I didn’t know.
But He had come. And He took me, smilingly, His touch so loving, I had melted like ice on fire.
I hadn’t emerged again.
Yet, here I was once more. In His home, the home we had once shared.
I didn’t understand. Then again, I had never seen a love story begin at the ending. This was the first time. I’d arrived at the final point in the story when I had yet to experience its prequel.
The man stirred and I moved abruptly, on alert at once, all other thoughts fleeing. I’d barely taken a few steps when he sat up and smiled. I relaxed.
“Good morning ji,” he said. “Why don’t I get ready first? I’ll leave after that and you can take your time.”
I smiled back. “Sure.”
I waited till he made his way to the bathroom before sinking back down into the bed. Tucking my hands under my legs, I stared out the window once more.
30 days ago:
“We’re leaving in two days. Do you want to come too?”
I sat on the floor, leaning against the wall as my mother rocked back and forth on the big swing in the center of the hall. A large part of why we’d rented this house was because we’d fallen in love with the swing set, iron chains and all, at first sight.
“I don’t know,” I said, my voice tight and tense. “I just don’t know how to decide.”
My skin was crawling, burning with a restlessness I couldn’t shake. I was itching to just move. Yet, everything felt frozen – my mind, my life, my desire to do anything.
25 days ago:
“Oh. My. God! Divya? Is that you?”
I grinned as I jumped the last few steps onto the street. “Not how you usually see me, is it?”
My aunt continued gaping. “I really thought you were one of the foreigners. You look so different!”
I burst out laughing. “Just because my shirt’s up in a knot? Thanks, atthai. (Aunt) That’s flattering, not so much.”
“Still. Aren’t you glad you came with us?”
“Yes.” Smiling, I hugged her before turning to go back up the stairs.
19 days ago:
“Okay, you ready? 3..2..1.. go!”
I walked my legs forward, closer and closer, until my stomach contracted. Without thinking twice, I lifted one leg and then the other until they stretched straight up in the air, mimicking the victory I felt.
I’d done it! A frikkin’ headstand!
“Yes! Good job!” She watched as I brought myself back down, leaping up to give me a big hug before breaking into an odd dance.
“Slow down,” I laughed as she swung me around. “I’m not caught up on your American ways yet.”
She snorted and like a springing pogo stick, leapt into a handstand.
My jaw dropped. So much for that headstand.
17 days ago:
“I’ll miss you,” my mother sighed. She was leaving the next day. “Be careful, okay? Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes. Everyone’s really nice.”
“But?” She knew me well.
“There’s this guy.” I wrinkled my nose in distaste. “He’s just… repelling.”
She listened, saying nothing. Nobody had ever accepted me like my mother did.
“Anyway, I don’t want to be judgmental. I’m just keeping my distance.”
“Hmm.” She didn’t say anything else.
10 days ago:
“You’re soaking wet. Are you sure you don’t want to go back and change?”
I shivered. “I’m sure. Obviously, this was going to happen.”
He laughed. “Who on earth goes river rafting and forgets to bring a change of clothes?”
Grinning, even as my teeth chattered, I rubbed my arms up and down to bring some warmth into them. “All part of the experience, my friend.”
“Here.” He slid his jacket off and put it gently around me. “If you’re going to insist on sitting through dinner like a straggly cat, this may help.”
“Hey!” My attempt at indignation was half-hearted as I gratefully wrapped it around me.
He was right. It helped.
9 days ago:
The phone rang. “Yes, thank you, thank you,” I said, picking up.
My friend laughed. “At least give me a chance to wish you.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Yes, thank you, thank you. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
Something in my tone caught her attention.
“Aaaaaah, I see. Carry on.” Her voice was teasing.
Rolling my eyes, I hung up.
“It’s your birthday?” His eyes were round and surprise coloured his face.
“Only reason to call at 12:00,” I smiled.
“Happy birthday then,” he said softly, his Peruvian accent more pronounced than I’d ever heard it.
7 days ago:
The ridiculously loud Royal Enfield bike he had insisted on renting as part of his ‘Indian’ experience, motored through town, the sound making me cringe. Sitting behind him, I crouched lower, praying to be inconspicuous. Talk about drawing attention.
“So,” he said, as he finally drew to a stop and I clambered down awkwardly. “Dinner tonight?”
“Sure. I’ll meet you after 7:00.”
Eyes lighting up at that, he waved and started up the engine again.
Why did a bike need that kind of a noise to prove it was a bike? What inferiority complex did it have?
Shaking my head, I turned and walked into the nondescript little building. Making my way up to the roof, I spotted a long hall at the far end. This was where I’d be for the next three days.
I walked in and made my way to the front, plopping down on one of the cushions that had been artfully arranged. Soft music, enticing and melodious, played over the speakers. The scent of incense wafted over to me as I arranged myself comfortably. I reached for the water bottle in my bag when suddenly, something shifted.
It began with a gentle awareness, a little prickling all over my skin. As I slowly straightened and turned, a lanky body folded itself into the cushion next to mine. Turning, I found myself looking straight into a pair of green eyes. Light, aquamarine maybe.
“Hi.” The soft voice undid everything inside of me and I instantly knew.
My life had changed forever.
The sound of a bell beginning to toll brought me back to the present. It was 5:00 AM.
I’d booked myself a one-way ticket 30 days ago. This was never meant to be my journey. But the Divine had made it mine.
Where the Divine beckoned, you went. When you were summoned, you didn’t look back. There were no two ways about it.
The man emerged from the bathroom, wiping his face with a towel. He then sat down and pulled on his boots. “I’ll wait outside. Please get ready and come find me.”
“You don’t seem excited?” He stopped at the door, looking concerned.
My stomach knotted a bit. “I am,” I assured him. “I’m just a little tired still.”
He laughed. “Oh, don’t worry! In a couple of hours, when you see the sun rising, you’ll forget everything else. I’ve come here so many times and still, even now, when I watch the rays hit the snow peaks, it’s…” He stopped.
His eyes softened in a manner that was visible even across the room. “Let’s just say you know this is where God lives.”
“Oh, you wait, Divya ji! You’ve seen nothing yet. You’ve no idea what a blessing this is.”
As he turned to leave, he tossed a look over his shoulder.
“Welcome to Kedarnath.”
This is the introduction to a series of posts covering a time in my life filled with journey, adventure and discovery – what it was before this, before today 🙂 The twists and turns the Divine led me through were exhilarating, crushing and ultimately utterly baring. I hope that you find some inspiration, some motivation from this and the posts that follow.
You see, my current strength in writing lies in storytelling. As a partner of mine once said, “We live our lives through stories. And ours is the only story we have the permission to tell.” The only story I know best is mine. Merely sharing it though is not enough. I pray that it makes a difference because the only stories worth telling are the ones which change something, anything.
P.S. A massive, massive thank you to the ones who’ve clicked on the “Support the Author” button. It means more than I can put into words.