In the good old times the elderly Indians traveled to religious abode of the gods nestled in the mountains or sea shores for atonement and salvation. They would take up arduous treks to Badrinath and Kedarnath in Himalayas, go on a long trip to Benaras or Allahabad to take a holy dip in the River Ganges and bathe in ‘Triveni’( The confluence of River Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati). The hugely successful recent ‘Maha Kumbh ‘ , a once in twelve year congregation of more than ten million Hindus at Allahabad is a testimony of the faith of taking holy dip in the river. Regardless of the hardships involved, people travel for days together by investing their hard earned savings to undergo such trips for once in a lifetime experience.
I remember that in my early years of service, I would frequently pack up my bags to undertake treks to Matheran, Lonavala and Khandala to experience to pristine lush green mountains and see the sparkling lakes en route. Taste of the local food would leave a tingling flavor. I would coax my friends to join me to destinations like Varanasi, Allahabad, Haridwar and Rishikesh to visit the shrines and take boat rides and experience the ‘Aarti’ performed on the ghats(banks) of the river at the sunset. The journey in crowded trains or rickety buses made those trips unforgettable.
After getting married, I had a permanent companion , in my wife and young daughter to accompany me on treks to explore the treasures scattered all over the country! The chimes of holy temples of Badrinath, Mathura, Rameshwaram, Puri and Dwarka still resonate in the ears. The long trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath, and steep climb on high altitudes of Gangotri and Yamunotri still remind of the hazards of nature , veering through difficult rocks and encountering strange lizards! All the assorted experiences such as getting caught in the unexpected downpours at Bhairon on return from Vaishnodevi, getting lost on uncharted route at Lansdowne were hair raising. The stay at mysterious rest houses at Chamoli , Kedarnath and Gaurikund which had lamps on till 10 pm at night and pitch dark thereafter due shutdown of the diesel generators were eerie . Also, there would be times when there was no regular food available and we had to make do with dal and chapatti or just the biscuits and some fruit.
The sights of clear skies, waterfalls, wild flowers and star studded skies at night were worth these pursuits. The assorted experiences were also test of endurance of walking up to sixteen km in a day! I look back, with a feeling of content.
The times are changing ,and youngsters and the yuppie Indians are now undertaking trips not necessarily out of religious faith but to fulfill inherent drive to push the body to limit by experiencing river rafting, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning and even sky diving for thrill of ‘free falls’ from air!
Most of us do not have enough money when we are young but fitter bodies so that is the time to take on backpacking trips to difficult terrains and see other exotic locations as we grow older and can foot bigger travel bills and give more rest to the aching joints and muscles.
The famous Chinese writer Lin Yutang once wrote’ No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and feels his head on his old familiar pillow’
PS_ Image kind courtesy Google