Kedarnath Calling: Part VI

Kedarnath Calling: Part VI

As a young child as I watched a million different shows on TV, I was always fascinated by the scenes where characters experienced snowfall. The landing of that first snowflake always looked and felt so magical. So, I presumed that when I experienced snow for the first time, I would feel like I was in a Disney movie. Boy, was I wrong!

Fast-forward to twenty years later, as I stepped out of the temple in Kedarnath, the first snowflake landed on my eyelash and as I looked up, there were many more falling. I watched with childlike awe and glee as the snow melted on my hands and got caught on my hair and clothes. For the first five minutes this was very exciting but soon I realised the snowflakes were soft but cold, and soon the cold became wet as the snowflakes melted on me.

It was 2 degrees Celsius in Kedar, and as the snow fell, it only got colder. It was magical but by god, I wished I had a giant blanket to wrap myself in. I was already wearing four layers of clothing but it didn’t seem enough.

I ran for shelter and found a small tarp under which my sister and I stood. We looked as we saw many other devotees around us playing, laughing and also running for cover. I looked to the mountains and I could see a huge cloud dark and ominous and I knew that this snowfall was going to last for a while.

I turned to my sister and said, ‘We have to leave now or we will never make it down in time to catch our flight. The walk up took us six hours and if we don’t leave now, we will be in a lot of trouble’.  She agreed and as we stepped out, I almost slipped on the wet tarmac.

The snow melted to water and with it being two degrees or lesser, that snow became frost. Frost, as we both realised, was very slippery. Walking fast was just out of the question. We had to walk extremely carefully and mindfully.

Lord Kedar was not letting us leave easily. I sighed and wondered how we would make it to the flight in time. I cursed my over ambitious mind. How did I even think it was possible to climb down a mountain and then drive to Rishikesh in 10 hours when the drive back took 6 hours on its own.

With nothing left to do, I surrendered to the Lord and His will and accepted that whatever had to happen would happen. Just as I had that thought, a man approached me and said, ‘Madam, ghoda?’, which translates to ‘Madam, horse?’ He was going down because of the snowfall and asked me if I wanted a ride down. I took one look and agreed. My sister and I jumped on the horse just as the guy promised to bring us down in 3 hours.

I held on to the reins of the horse and sat thinking this would be easy. But god, was I so wrong, yet again! The horse slipped on the wet tarmac a million times and every time it did, my body was slipping off the saddle looking at the endless fall with fear in my eyes. I closed my eyes and started singing, ‘Om namah shivaya, om namah shivaya’, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t die thanks to a horse on top of Mt. Kedar.

And we descended down, wobbly and shaking, I felt something hard fall on my head. I picked it up to see it was hail!!! Mother Nature was testing us in every possible way… It fell hard and fast and there was no shade. The horses skid on the ice and my chanting of, ‘Om namah shivaya’, only got louder. I squeezed the horse with my wet and muddied pants, hoping I wouldn't fall.

And just like that, in what seemed both an eternity and five minutes, I reached the base of Kedarnath. A sigh escaped my lips, and I had only gratitude in my mind and reverence in my heart. This was not for the ordinary – this was for those who were ready to surrender.

Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence

Hermann Buhl

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Chinmaya Udghosh