Last weekend, I had a terrific trip to Vaishno Devi..This had been in pipeline for at least 4.5 years for me. Last time, it was in October 2004, when we had decided to go in a group of friends. I had booked my tickets too, but had to back out due to a number of reasons. But as I look back, I see that there was only one reason: it wasn’t meant to be at that time. As they say, you only get to visit this place, when you get a bulawa from Maata.And when the bulawa is there, there would be nothing to stop you.
This time, the call was there for me. Even on last Monday, it wasn’t decided who all would be going. But this time, I had decided that I’d be going ahead even if there are just 1-2 guys accompanying me. Four days later, we were on our way in a group of nine.Here are some quick highlights of the trip:
- The bulawa theory was true this time too. Anu was there in the trip right from the planning stage. And at the last moment, he was struck with Typhoid and had to miss the trip. Instead, Deepak, who was never in the picture, called me up at the last moment and he got in! Maybe some other time for Anu; when the bulawa comes.
- We had booked our tickets with Volvo India (Feedback: Not recommended. The return journey costed us Rs 150/- less per head and the seats were much more comfortable.) Normally, I do get a decent sleep during a long journey, but this time, I could not sleep for more than 5-10 minutes. 🙁
- The era of big-brands has reached Katra and Vaishno Devi too. I remember locating Barista, Cafe Coffee Day, Sagar Ratna and a number of Nescafe outlets there. Of course, Am not complaining here. We did take breaks at some of them. 🙂
- This time, the general energy-level around was a bit low. 🙁 Throughout the way, it wasn’t very often that I saw energetic groups chanting “Jai mata di”. But every time, we located any such group, we were quick to join in. And I can tell you, when you’re dead tired, this chanting makes a whole world of difference. It gives you the motivation to keep going no matter what. So many times, it was just I and Akash, who were shouting the jaikara on the road and that kept us going.
- I was appalled by the condition of the toilets on the way. Almost, all of them on the way were filthy and stinky. I tried to use one, when I felt that I had no option, but the stink there almost made me vomit. Namrata had similar experience with the ladies’ toilets too. It’s really pathetic to see it this way and I am surely going to write to the Shrine-board office for this. (Though I don’t have much expectations from the sarkari-system. 😐 )
- Finally, at around 9, we were there at the top. Aman had already taken the token for us. But then, there was a long queue for lockers in the cloak room. After a long, long wait, finally our turn was there. The system is a bit problematic here too.. It’s one locker per yatra-parchi (the slip that you get before setting for the trip from Katra) irrespective of number of people on the slip. (which can vary from one to five) Since we were nine in the group, we got two lockers and had to do some jugaad to get the third one.
(Quick tip: If you are in a group of four or more, make sure that you do not get more than three people registered on a single slip)
- Sometimes, some small things happen, which make you believe in the almighty even more strongly. A similar thing happenned in the queue for us too.
We were dead-tired and it had been more than an hour in the queue and the queue had hardly moved a bit. At this stage, I was almost giving up. (though that wasn’t an option!!) I silently made a prayer to the Goddess that now that we have made this much effort in reaching at the final frontier, we needed her blessings to finally complete the darshan. This was more of a helpless plea than a prayer with some real hope. I requested for some jugaad (yes!! this is the precise word that I had used in my prayer) for us to get in quickly. And lo!! my prayers were answered almost instantly.
Here’s how it happened. Akash went ahead to ask the man-at-duty at the gate about how long will it take for the darshan (Thanks to the cloak room chaos, our number had already passed. Ours was 84; it was 105 running at that time) and Neha, the youngest of our group, decided to accompany him. She was about to ask him, when the policeman there shouted at her and asked her to be in line. By mistake, he thought that she is right at the head of the queue and is getting out of the line. 😮 And thus, she was thrust almost at the head of the queue. Then, she politely asked him that some of her friends are left behind in the queue. The policeman initially insisted that she wait for us, but then relented and suddenly, all of us were at the head of the queue, saving at least 3-4 hours. 😮
There was more to come. Almost, as soon as we were there at the head of the queue, at the first entrance level, the police-wallah ordered to make a 2nd queue starting with us right at the entry gate for the main premises. And within 5-10 minutes, we were inside!! 🙂
The happiness that I felt at that time can not really be described in words. Just 20 minutes back, I was there in the queue with at least 300-400 people ahead of me. And now, we were all inside the main bhawan heading for the darbar. It really feels so reassuring to see that someone is there listening to you.
While going for the trip and during the ascent, I had several thoughts running into my mind, some random wishes, some random worries and what not. But at that particular moment, the feeling that I had was that of plain happiness. Perhaps, that was the only time that I visited a holy place and didn’t make any specific wish. All i said was “Thanks for everything. Everything that you have given me over the years.” Was very indecisive over certain things some time back, but now I am assured that for the future too, The Goddess will show me the right path.