I still remember, the day begun with excitement. Feeling victorious after the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund trek, Badrinath was my next destination. Not a religious person by definition but I was absolutely ecstatic to experience the one of the four most revered destination by the Hindus from world over. As if all their beliefs manifested and fuelled my curiosity towards this place.
The drive from Govind Ghat to Badrinath was a thrilling one. From the rough cut edges of the road, which were garnished by Gopal’s stories of driving through this stretch during the 2013 Uttarakhand Floods, to the delicate turns which swirled around to meet the skies, every thing en route was like a dream.
I wasn’t prepared to see the Neelkanth no sooner we reached Badrinath.
Gawking at the grey-blue snow-capped peak, I stood mesmerised. Neelkanth, another name for Lord Shiva, is at 6595m and juts out majestically through the green valleys of Garhwal. While most of my companions took photographs, I just stared. Gopal walked up to me and told me that it was the first glimpse he got of the peak, even though he was traversing the route regularly for three months then. I immediately knew the nature gods were with us.
After a quick lunch, we made our way to Mana village, which is presumably the last village on the Indo-Tibet/China border. As a ritual, people drink tea here in ‘India’s last tea shop’. Full from the lunch, I was just happy to walk around. And see the interestingly different waterfalls and understand the legend behind it. River Saraswati, which is believed to travel underground all through until Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, only makes a brief surface appearance here. And it is upon this river that Bhim placed a rock to help Draupadi (along with the remaining Pandavas) to walk through the river. This is what is now called the Bhim Pull. However, the humungous round rock in front of the waterfalls is often mistaken to be the Bhim Pull, whereas the stone bridge where most visitors stand is the one.
We spent some time here and made our way back to Badrinath (for the temple visit). The seamless entry and visit to the main temple premises surprised me. We were in and out of the place in 15 minutes or so. As I continued to chat with Gopal, he told me that in the months of May-June, visitors queue up even before sunrise to access the temple. And that the queue stretches over a few kilometres. That was exactly how I assumed my visit would be to Badrinath. Until I realised that the nature gods were indeed with us.
As we made our way back to Auli, through the same fragile highway of Uttarakhand, the sky darkened and the day looked worse. No one wanted to get stuck in bad weather in these high mountains. And once we were on a safe and easy road, I thanked our stars.
I wondered how most of the time we’re living someone else’s dream. That sometimes, we get a chance to experience things we didn’t desire or work hard for. And they just come to us in a platter. Sometimes, how we disregard these moments because it wasn’t on our wish list. And yet, most of the time, it is on such occasions when we realise how very fortunate we are to not only be rewarded for those dreams we toiled for, but also those we borrowed from another’s list.
Witnessing the cloud cover move away from Neelkanth was never my heart’s desire. But when I did see it, I knew I had never been so alive.
Have you visited the Garhwal Himalayas yet?