If I scream
Your name,
will You hear me?
If I wail loudly enough
for the stars to shatter
and rain down
millions of years later,
will You appear?

If I take my last breath
five seconds from now,
will You come
to sweep me
into Your Heart?

Of course You won’t 🙂

And how would You?
Why
would You
when I have yet to understand
that the Divine heart
cannot be broken open?

It slides open,
for me
to slip through –
the perfect fit.

Just like
man merges
into his woman.

Just like
the sun meets
the end of the rainbow.

Just like
the dew drop
kisses the flower.

Just like
my mother
rocked me to silence
when I cried.

Five years ago:

“No, please. Please. I’m begging you.”

My voice was shaky, trembling. The words came, breathy, choked on sobs tearing through my chest.

I sat on the bed, cross-legged. Clutching a pillow to my bright-blue t-shirt that elegantly decreed, “You are a beautiful mess,” I watched the tears plop rapidly onto my thighs. One. Two. Three. Four.

Five.

And still, silence on the other end.

“I can’t do it.” My whisper reverberated through my chest. Inside this moment, everything felt heightened. I felt every shift in my body, every emotion swirling through me like a tornado veering off its path.

“If you leave, I won’t survive.”

Only it felt like the tornado had careened right into me.

Finally, there was an impatient sigh. “This is the problem, baby. I can’t do it either. It’s too much pressure on me. You’re never happy. All you do is complain and cry. I can’t be there for you.”

The words hit like a wallop to the chest, one after the other.

Unable to refute the truth, I listened to his breath wafting across to me, knowing it was the last time we would ever breathe the same air together.

“Just leave me alone, please.”

The line went dead.

My life, as I knew it, had just ended.

*****

Today:

I stepped out into the morning, looking up at the mountains once more. What kind of a size were they?! So unbelievably massive, it seemed like all I had to do was walk ten steps, reach out and I’d be able to touch them. That they were tens of kilometres away scarcely seemed to matter. Out here, space had ceased to exist.

We’d arrived at the base the previous morning. Circling around Gauri Kund, we found the huge parking space that had been set aside for people making the 16-kilometre trek up to Kedarnath. As we parked, I saw that ours was one of only a handful of two-wheelers.

What had caused me to set out from Rishikesh on a two-wheeler, a Honda Activa, no less, with a near-stranger? There was no clear destination or end in sight. I knew only that I had wanted to come here.

“It’s a long trek,” he said as we strapped on our backpacks. “Shall we hire a mule for our packs?”

I smiled, bending down to tie a shoelace. “Nothing for me, thanks.”

“You’ll get tired, Divya ji,” he grunted as he put the Activa into neutral and locked it. “It’s only 8:00 AM now, so, it doesn’t seem that hot. But the way is steep. It may take us all day and we need to get there before nightfall. It falls early also during the winter, by 5:30 PM.”

“Don’t worry.” I straightened. “We’ll be there before that.”

He acquiesced albeit reluctantly and we walked to the nearest dhaba.

“Careful not to eat too much,” he said as we pulled out chairs. “A light breakfast will help us move faster.”

An aloo paratha each and some tea later, we were ready. It was 8:30 AM.

“Ready to go?”

I pulled out the sticks we’d purchased to help us during the trek and tossed him one. “Let’s go.”

*****

Five years ago:

The TV flickered colourfully. I gazed at it dully. My hair hung limply in a ponytail.

Had it been three days since I’d showered? Four? I’d lost count.

Was it day or night? Dawn or twilight?

I snorted. Romanticizing pain seemed great in books but did I really not know whether it was day or twilight? The sun was blindingly bright, for Christ’s sake.

As quickly as this spark of fieriness had appeared, it died. Listlessness was the only state of mind I seemed to be able to sustain these days. Nothing else was worth holding onto.

Why was I even alive? What was the point?

I had no family. No job. No relationship. The four people who’d once made up my family were now scattered across four different cities. We’d never be together again. I’d lost the security of home and the comfort of coming back to my parents. The relationship I’d quit my job for no longer existed. I hadn’t the first clue what I wanted my career to be.

There was not one solid foundation left in my life.

And so, I clung to the TV.

When it got too much, when the tears fell so badly that I threw up, I’d begin to write. The love of my life might no longer be there but the words he’d gifted me had never left.

I’d click on Gmail, Compose Mail and pour my heart out.

“I am so mad at you. You promised we would do this together, that we’d fumble our way through life together and come what may, we’d hold each other up. And then, you left. Because you couldn’t commit, because you didn’t want anybody else to hold your dreams along with you, because you couldn’t let anybody else into the space you’d held to yourself for so long.

And in the process, you dragged my heart along and left it dust-torn and barely beating.

I miss you. But I don’t miss you as a lover. I miss you as a friend. You were the friend I had the most fun with and I didn’t realize it when you were there because you slipped into my life so insidiously, I didn’t know you were in it till you were and there came a day when I knew I would never be the same again because you painted over the spiel of my life with your words and hugs and kisses on the shoulder I didn’t even know I needed.

You bore into my soul and where it should be whole is now a hole shaped like you. I don’t know how to close up that hole again. And I don’t know whom to turn to, to ask, because when I don’t have answers, I would turn to you. How do I ask you to help me close up the hole you tore open?

Putting pain into words is the hardest thing in the world. It would be easier to open my mouth, and scream and sob and have drool and phlegm drip down my face because then, the world would see the mess you left behind.

But the world never will, will it? Because it’s just as easy to wipe the dribble away, put on my glasses and open the door with a watery smile and there it is.

Nobody ever knows what goes on behind closed doors.

I miss you.

I want to call you. I want to call you every single day and probably, every single hour. I do a good job of distracting myself on most days. I mindlessly watch television shows, I try to read, I try to write, I try to figure out my life. I go for a few movies with friends and it isn’t the same anymore because nobody makes me laugh like you did. I try. And most days, it’s okay.

That’s a lie.

Because there are days when I cry so much, I throw up. And it feels like I’m trying to purge you out of my system but I can’t because you are now me. I’m not me without you. Somebody once said, “I will leave an imprint on your soul so deep that anybody you entertain after that will have to know me to know you.”

I’m writing letters to you. I’m writing letters to you I know I will never send because you don’t want to hear any of this right now. And that has to be the saddest thing in the world – holding a love for someone who doesn’t want it.

You broke me. And I have to spend so much time putting myself back together that I don’t know when I’ll get to focus on me.

You broke me. And I love you. You betrayed my trust. And I love you.

I love you.”

*****

Today:

“All okay, Divya ji?” I turned and saw a mule slowly pull up beside me. “Are you sure you don’t want to give me your backpack?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” I grinned at him. “I thought you wanted a mule just for your backpack.”

He looked sheepish as he adjusted himself into a more comfortable position. The mule let out a low complaining grunt. “Haan, I got tired. We’ve been trekking for a while, hai na.”

“It’s 9:30 AM, bhaisaab.” I couldn’t help a chuckle. “It’s barely been an hour.”

“No problem, I will walk a little later, Divya ji. Chalo, I’ll go. You take care and come carefully, okay? Take rest in between.” And the mule began its slow haul up the mountain.

I kept walking, moving steadily and evenly. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can describe the vistas I saw all around me – the snow-capped mountains rising majestically into the blue, blue sky; the still-invisible Mandakini keeping me company all through, singing a sonorous chorus that echoed up into the hundreds of trees that surrounded me with their gentle and fierce protection.

3 kilometres, 4 kilometres, 5 kilometres, 6 kilometres.

7 kilometres.

I came across the mule again, parked outside a tea stall, waiting patiently for its passenger.

“Arre, Divya ji!” He exclaimed in surprise. “You’re here so soon? Please sit, have some tea.”

“Thank you but I’m going to keep walking.” I barely slowed down.

“You’ll get very tired, Divya ji. After this, the way becomes very steep for 5-6 kilometres. You cannot walk without rest.”

“I’ll rest when I feel I need it, bhaisaab. Please don’t worry,” I called back, already past the stall.

A kilometre or so later, I came to a halt, stunned. I was facing a wooden bridge. I had to cross to the other side to continue the trek. And just below, the Mandakini gushed through in the most powerful current I had ever seen. If I put even a hand in, I’d be swept away in Her force.

Highway - 2 1 Highway - 2 2 Highway - 2 3

She was magnificent. She was breathtakingly beautiful. And She was right there.

Crossing the bridge, I slowly made my way over the rocks to Her and sat down near the edge.

I was still there 45 minutes later when the mule arrived.

He smiled down at me as they crossed over. “Careful.”

But he didn’t know I’d already lost my heart. It was much too late to be careful.

I sighed. It was time to keep moving, I knew. Before leaving though, I crawled a little closer. I had to touch Her just once. I leaned over but it wasn’t close enough. I inched just a little closer.

And fell right into the river.

No, I’m kidding 🙂

I inched just a little closer and clinging to the rock I was sitting on, gently placed my hand on Her. She swallowed it up at once, taking Her offering with glee. I watched as She pulled, tugged and played hide-and-seek with my hand, buffeting it about, tossing it here and there, dragging it under. Her ice-cold nature was a shock to my system.

Mandakini. Swaying and flowing and dancing to Her name.

She was the first woman I ever fell in love with.

I slowly pulled away, feeling the same tearing loss I’d felt five years ago. But this time, I was the one leaving.

As I clambered back over the rocks, blinking back tears that I had refused to let fall into Her graceful curves, I turned back one last time. I had to see Her again.

She caught me looking and winked. I burst out laughing and turned away, feeling unaccountably shy and breathless. Nobody had ever quite looked at me the way She did.

With Her by my side, I knew. She’d take me into His arms with nary an obstacle, breaking not a bead of sweat. She’d deposit me at His doorstep where He’d be waiting.

I just had to keep moving.

And so, that’s exactly what I did. I kept walking, putting one foot in front of the other, only looking up to gape at His home, situated in a land I couldn’t believe existed on Earth. I only ever paused for Him. I met many travellers on the way from all over the country, all over the world. I smiled politely, made some chit-chat with the curious ones who wanted to know why a 26-year-old girl/woman was making this trek all alone, helped the ones who needed direction or water or a porter, and kept moving. They were only the side-show.

He was the main show.

And at 2:30 PM, exactly six hours to the minute I had started the trek, I set foot into His home.

Exhausted, heavy-footed and out of breath.

It was worth every glorious minute.

Because it had all led to Him.

Highway - 2 4

Thank you for reading Part 2 🙂

Thanks to an up-and-down few weeks, this post has been a while coming. I am infinitely grateful to those who reached out to make sure I was okay 🙂

That this platform exists is a gift like no other.

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Divya Manoharan

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