CALL OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS
OUR LIFE IN HIMALAYAS
In the nineties, a forty year old lady accompanied by a few youngsters left Bangalore (India) and went to the White Mountains (Himalayas) and lived there alone in a cottage for about ten years or so. Her quest was superficially religious; yet she attained the summum bonum of knowledge there.
This is a personal recounting of why she went there and what hardships and unique experiences the mother and her children went through in the lap of the Himalayan terrain.
Mother's name is Lakshmi. (Her recluse name is Tejasvini.)
The teenagers who accompanied her were Meera, Naren, Vivek (her own children) and Vinay, Jyoti, and Bhanu (the youngsters belonging to other families.)
Meera at present is a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities in Manipal University (Karnataka).
Naren is now the Departmental head of Design technology in the Kasiga International School at Dehradun.
Vivek is a freelance software engineer staying at Bangalore.
Mother is busy now in translating all the ancient Sanskrit texts of the yore for the benefit of the public and stays at Bangalore.
This is her story of love, adventure and achievement.
(PLEASE CONTACT ONLY THROUGH EMAILS.
PERSONAL MEETING IS NOT ALLOWED.)
A TRUE LOVE STORY
My name is not Lakshmi (labeled by gene sources) or Tejasvini (recluse name).
I have no name; but I label this 'mind-projected shape' with a name, so that I can speak out the experiences I had in my life, as I relentlessly searched for the truth that hides beyond these shapes and sounds.
When did my journey start?
I scan the brain for some landmarks in the journey.
Unfortunately or fortunately no incident looks deeply ingrained except for the blissful love that filled the heart all throughout and continues still unchanged and undiminished like the state of the Self.
Yes love it was that became the guiding light in the whole of the 'Truth Quest' - love for that dark hued God.
Not just love of a devotee; but the love of a beloved.
When it it start? Long long back when the mind was still dancing with the garb of childhood ready to shift to the youthful spring of life.
What scenes appear before my mental eye at this stage where I lay cuddled in my lover's bosom?
It was when I heard about this great handsome God in some HariKatha discourse (narrations of God's stories in an entertaining way through songs and music), where a girl called MeeraBhai actually loved this 'Brindaavan boy' and wooed him; that she renounced everything for attaining him; moreover she saw him in person too; like the description in the beautiful Tamil novel- 'Kaatrinile Varum Geetam (the song that is carried towards you by the wind)'.
How will it be to see a God in person?
Ah the bliss of it all! The sweetest, kindest, bluish, God standing in front of you with all compassion and love extending his arms... you run towards him...and melt away in the bliss of his embrace; enter within him to be always with him as a part of his love!
How will it be to sit at his feet and listen to the music that flows from his magical flute?
But how to see him?
Will anyone be able to see him in this modern century of cars and Aeroplanes?
Why not? - argued the child's heart in the youthful body.
After all, God cannot change and vanish out, if the world progresses in its own way.
He must respond surely if the same love of a MeeraBhai could be cherished in the heart.
He will come.
Surely he will come if the love is true.
As these thoughts rose up with Meera's story, there was a chance to hear some 'BhaktiYoga' (chapter on Devotion) discourse of 'Geetaa'.
'Geetaa'! The Lord had spoken!
He had promised to guide the lover whoever it was.
And so the search began for the flute-player in the twentieth century world.
The old wooden cupboard of the religious father was searched thoroughly and in some corner was buried a Geetaa book.
The book was tiny and was of palm-size- a miniature book with just Sanskrit verses and minimal translation in English. There was another Sanskrit version which the orthodox father read daily to gain merit.
The tiny book was enough. I read through the whole thing at a stretch to find out the address of my blue lover. Who else could know it better than him!
The 'Bhakti Yoga chapter' was the best of all, I felt.
It was not just a chapter of a book; but a love letter from God.
My eyes were filled with tears reading about his promises.
For me he was not a person living far beyond the clouds; but a person who was my all in all.
I decided to know more about him.
All the 'Thus-spake' (tiny booklets on various saints and their sayings) were finished with.
All the available stories of God-devotees in the local dialect was gone through.
Anywhere any lecture on Geetaa or any God was attended with.
Maybe those stage-talkers who orated so much about God-stories may know his address.
Soon I found out that they knew only to talk; they did not know him in person.
The whole of college library was searched for books on God.
(The body was just going on from sixteen to seventeen and was in the first year of graduation and I had chosen philosophy as my subject (yes only to find out my lover's address).)
And I came across a great man who talked about seeing a God in person. (in a book)
It was RamaKrishna ParamaHamsa. It was his gospel. I madly read through it and wept in secret because he was not alive when I was searching for my God.
But he was my 'SoorDas'. MeeraBhai had consulted 'Saint Soordas' before she ventured in her search for her 'Giridhar'.
I felt that I had now the blessings of the Dakshineshvar saint. I continued to love my Lord more vehemently.
Even Cinemas helped. That decade was filled with God-films, God-songs and what not. I always was with him; sang those songs to him; not only God-songs; but all the love songs which could refer to him indirectly.
I could feel his presence all the time. I was filled with a unique bliss. I just wanted to enjoy his nearness and sought always solitary places; at home or in college.
And My Lord wanted me to learn more about him.
Somehow my city had the fortune at that time of seeing many modern age Sannyasins who took the trouble to teach many scriptures like Geetaa, Upanishads, Shankara's works and so on to the public.
I missed not a day.
Somehow, miraculously, the money-minded mother did not deny me permission to attend those lectures.
I got introduced to 'Ramana' (Saint of Tiruvannamalai) also by a family friend.
All the books (no end to books I read around this time- Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, English) - Philosophies, all literature books of all languages, Advaita, Shankara- all were mastered.
And I got introduced to 'LaghuYogavasishta' (Knowledge based Ramayana) by a Sannyasin from Kerala whom I mentally accepted as a Guru. He was kind and appeared approachable.
All these studies; still I did not know how to see my God.
I cried one day like a lost child; wept uncontrollably for my Lord.
Then I decided to ask help from my Guru.
Somehow I reached his house in a distressed state and sat there along with the few visitors who had come to hear his words. How could I ask him anything? I felt inferior and hesitant.
I came out; sat under the tree in his garden and was crying silently. The 'Guru' chanced to come there for some work and saw me crying. He took me inside and gave me a 'Mantra' (Advaitic) and asked me to contemplate on its meaning continuously.
I was overwhelmed by gratitude.
At last I got the key to my lover's palace.
My God-madness increased.
The House was in chaos.
Mother was the 'Ruler'.
Father was 'meek'.
The family overflowed with money and prestige; and resented a belief in a real God.
Father advised- ' God cannot be seen in this age. only great people like Rishis could see him.'
Mother scolded; taunted; called many 'platform speakers of God' to the house and got them to advise the greatness of a house-holder's life.
An old aunt of the house commented that such meditations would ruin the family.
The God- room (a tiny little room where the golden and silver statuettes of Gods were stored and left alone with lighted lamps) where the meditation went on, was locked up.
And the hunt started for some husband to carry me away before the madness of God became uncontrollable.
But I knew that my God, my real husband would take care of me.
(I did not know what a husband meant, what sex meant, what marriage meant, except as words seen in books.)
It was the Vaikunta Ekaadashi (sacred day of Vishnu) day.
There was a 'Harikathaa' going on in a nearby temple by a very popular maestro of that profession.
(My God was now still the Krishna;but formless and with form too -as RamaKrishna had said; because of the influence of Shankara.)
I went to attend the 'evening story-listening' in the temple.
The Harikathaa maestro was the one who had introduced me to the existence of Krishna and I was highly grateful to him.
(I was a very shy person and never directly contacted any saint or Guru as my sole Master. For me, my husband (Krishna) was the guide and I confided with no one.)
The 'evening story telling' was over.
The man was of a 'Daasa cult' (those who are trained in narrating God stories). He had a temple of Krishna at his local Ashram a few kilometers away.
The devotees who were sitting at the temple were all getting ready to go to his Ashram by road singing the name of Krishna.
My heart melted.
What a great thing it would be to go on the road singing my Lord's name along with these devotees!
My gene-mother's face loomed over me terrifying with the angry look.
Why ask her permission? After all I am following my husband's orders like a 'Pativrataa' (devoted wife).
I mingled with the other devotees and elderly ladies and went on the road singing my Lord's name along with them. It was about 9 PM and food-time. I did not care.
I had forgotten all. Only he was there all around me, in me and guiding me.
We all leisurely reached the Ashram which was decorated grandly for the occasion of Ekaadashi. There would be night-full discourses and Bhajans.
What should I do? I wondered and looked around.
A beautiful Krishna statue (Paanduranga Vittala) was kept in a corner and all devotees were crowding around it offering flowers and salutations.
I also went near 'my husband', my private property!
As I stood in front of my Lord, tears flowed in my eyes at his sight. I saw not the statue; but my Lord in person.
Some elderly lady handed me a flower garland to be offered to God.
I took it and garlanded him.
My marriage with Krishna was over.
Now I was officially his wife.
I was a married woman.
So I thought. I felt more strength in my mind now.
I went and sat with the crowd engaged in Bhajans.
As I looked around the hall, I had a shock.
At the corner of the door stood my mother with red rolling eyes, glaring at me.
I followed her meekly and was carried away in the expensive car back to the prison of home.
All through the night, the family advised me; scolded me; threatened me.
The family prestige was at stake by a cursed girl who like a beggar walked on the streets singing God's name.
I was repeating only one sentence. 'Krishna alone is my husband.'
And next to me, the beautiful wooden statue of Krishna with a flute (two feet tall) (brought as a decoration for the hall) was smiling with understanding.
(Later the statue was thrown off into the attic saying that he would blow away all the wealth along with the wind through his flute.)
A husband was hunted for.
Some fellow who was near his thirties appeared with his mother attracted by the wealth of the family.
He was ready to devour the sixteen year old deer.
The man and his mother pretended to be rich and cultured.
Marriage date was fixed.
There was no course left but to follow the path of MeeraBhai.
Some story in some magazine had mentioned that the heroine died by taking some bed-bug medicine.
In the evening I went to the nearby shop; got that poison bottle; hid it under my pillow.
Morning came. It was the Ganesha Chaturthi festival day.
I went to the bathroom to bathe; poured that poison inside the copper pot. It was horribly stinking.
'Meera did it; so I can do it. I am a Pativrataa. I will not marry a human wretch.'
So I thought and devoured the whole pot of water with the full poison mixed with it. It tasted terrible.
All for Krishna my husband!
I came out of the bathroom.
Within a few minutes I felt drowsy.
I went and lay down on the bed.
My mother noticed my unusual laziness and came to me worried about my health. When enquired, I told her the truth - "I have consumed poison." ( I can't speak untruth even to an enemy).
I did not die. (or I would not be writing this.)
Marriage took place on the arranged date.
I took the whole thing as my Lord's wish. He knew best. He hid in the heart.
The dungeon-life of married life started.
The daily turmoils went on.
Tears made a permanent home of the eyes.
The dirtiness of marriage life (I was a garland adorning the Lord and was now thrown on the streets for a human to meddle with) made the body asthmatic.
Three children rose as a contribution to the gene-world.
One girl and two boys.(Meera, Naren and Vivek - names of MeeraBhai and Narendranath Datta/Vivekananda, my adored saints).
Life went on.
Vivek was just crossing his eleventh year; Naren was in the sixteenth and Meera was in her twenty first.
And the unexpected happened.
The life had become a drudgery. It was as if all the doors of the world had closed. The disease was slowly snuffing out the life.
What would happen after death?
Will the spiritual journey continue after Death?
Anyhow the body was polluted by the human contact. Better be a ghost like Karaikkal Ammaiyaar (Shiva's devotee who chose to remain as a spirit) than keep this body.
Books explaining the weird things of the other world were analyzed.(Casey, Collins and so on.)
As these thoughts revolved in the mind, spirits entered my world.
A lady who was teaching in a college became a friend; and the amazing factor was that she suddenly revealed one day casually that she talked with her son who had died as a teenager few years back.
A new venue opened up.
As a demonstration, the lady drew up all the English alphabets in a circle using a chalk.
In the center she kept a small steel 'Katori' (small cup like bowl).
Then she closed her eyes; thought of her boy; kept her forefinger on the bowl.
She told us (me and my kids) to ask any question we liked.
We managed to ask some ordinary questions like 'What is your name? Where did you study? Do you have a body?' etc etc.
The 'Katori' with the finger moved like a rocket from letter to letter spelling the answers.
We were not convinced. Maybe another fake-case. We left it at that.
At night when resting after work, myself and my daughter saw the Katori lying unattended on the floor.
Just for amusement, we drew just a small circle without letters and placed the Katori inside that circle.
I placed my finger on it.
It moved by itself.
Then started a life with spirits.
(I too do not believe in ghosts. But what happened really did happen. Why and all I came to know of it later.)
After a play with Katoris, we had crossed that sort of juvenile communication with the invisible world.
We shifted to computers; then to paper; then to just minds.
It rained spirits.
Every philosopher, saint, king, scientist, author, even an actor- (name anybody; he or she was there) arrived in a queue as it were.
No! we did not have any visions or white apparitions moving about.
And no 'day to day life people' came.
Whoever came was very important in their fields.
A feeling of some presence would come.
"Who are you?' the question would rise in the mind.
Answer from the invisible person (?) would just appear as a thought.
As the mind was in a realized state, the thought produced by another invisible brain could be understood as not belonging to one's mind.
And the proof of their identities was, their giving us information about their life-experiences which we verified later with their original books.
They just discussed the Advaitic philosophy and poofed away into oblivion. (So said a boy spirit who helped the queuing of the spirits.)
I cannot say that it was mass hallucination or imagination. It was a genuine experience everyone felt (me and the three kids).
It was divine and blissful.
The tears I had collected as a permanent collirium for the eyes evaporated in the heat of the spirit companions.
These people whoever was there became our friends and part of our life.
It is odd of course; sounds irrational; but it was wonderful.
One spirit continued to stay permanently with us and played around making jokes and witty remarks.
She said her name was 'Alli' (night lotus)
We were happy. We did not care who she was. She was a good companion. She talked either through me or the daughter. The boys rushed back from school to meet her and play with her. Yes, she even played computer-games through our fingers.
The poor 'man of the house' remained away from home unable to understand the joyous mood of the house.
(Maybe he was frightened.)
Alli who told us that she was a devotee of Murugan (Subrahmanya) slowly practiced Advaitic meditation with my help and said that she was a realized person.
She said that her name was to be from then onward, something suggesting light; and we named her as 'Teju'.
Then she told us to call her Teju Mummy. We obeyed.
From then onward Teju Mummy became our guide in everything.
Because of her, I heard my Krishna's flute.
Because of her, I had the presence of my adored saint RamaKrishna.
Because of her, Vivekananda arrived with his great strong overwhelming personality.
As I struggled with the asthmatic body to complete daily chores, he did the jobs in a jiffy through my hands and helped.
He ordered that I and the kids all should sleep together in one room and the man in the house must be separated out into another room.
And he told us to burn off all photos that belonged to our earthly life.
We obeyed all his orders.
One day Teju Mummy asked me-
'What do you want most in life?'
I said-'Forest! I want to live in a forest as a sannyasin.'
She said-'OK' and went off.
I did not have any belief in her.
Me with three children, go to a forest? In this century?
I just did not bother.
In our 'spirit-Mela' one day a new spirit appeared. She said that she was my daughter Meera's friend who just at that moment died in an accident. We tried to find the truth of it but could not get any contact of any of her family members. She (dead invisible spirit) became another permanent resident and shared many secrets known only to her and my daughter proving her identity.We did not doubt her.
A few weeks passed.
Then, a phone call came from the friend who was alive and well.
She had not died.
(Ghosts are not there except in imagination.
There experiences were not of ghosts or spirits actually; but some unique events beyond human explanation.)
It was great shock.
Were we victims of some evil ghosts?
Was all this a lie?
Is Teju Mummy an evil spirit?
I was confused.
I felt cheated.
I felt lost.
I felt like crying aloud.
Suddenly I felt her presence.
I asked her-(angrily of course) -"Who are you? Why did you lie?"
I felt her laughing.
"Lie? What is not a lie? What is there but me?
I alone am every being, every object.
What is there but me?
Everything is a lie. I am the only truth."
I felt a shock running through my body.
I asked her -"Who are you?"
She asked Meera to open a book of Shankara's 'VivekaChudaamani' and read a particular page. She gave the number of the page.
There was a verse describing 'Maayaa' in that page.
We now knew who she was.
There were no spirits or ghosts. SHE only took the guise of all the spirit visitors and fooled us or rather, enlightened us. She left with us only one realized saint of the yore to guard and guide us all through.
Many spiritual aspirants young and old came on a regular basis to discuss philosophy and ask questions.
Whenever they asked any question, their particular deity or Guru would talk to them through me and answer them. They also had many spiritual experiences of their own.
One day Sage Vishvaamitra's presence was felt.
He taught me and my daughter the code-words used in Upanishads.
He told us the meaning of Gaayatri Mantra also and taught us how it was to be pronounced.
Gaayatri Mantra became our regular chant.
My spiritual students became addicted to it and reported to me that it was a magic Mantra. It could produce even a bus when needed, or a holiday for the college when they wished so.
They started studying Upanishads under my guidance.
They also became adorers of this TejuMummy (TM for short).
I was told by TM to write the meaning of 'LaghuYogaVasishta' Sanskrit text.
I said that I was not an expert in Sanskrit and that work was beyond my comprehension.
TM said that Sage Vaalmiki would help me.
Who can say 'No' to her?
An old typewriter was brought.
And as the translations flashed through the mind, the words were typed neatly page after page, painstakingly.
Krishna? what happened to my Lord?
TM said that She was all and she could produce countless Krishnas and Shivas at her will.
I did not know what to say.
My daughter Meera went to Delhi to attend some Aurobindo ashram meeting.
She came back and said-
"Mom! I know you are different. You have to finish so many jobs in the world. We have to leave this place and go off to the Himalayas."
I did not in the least have the idea of how to do it.
I sat around with the kids and asked them what to do.
Will they leave the school and go to a forest as TM had advised?
They had no objection.
In fact, Vivek says now, that he knew he was to live as a Rishi in the future.
Naren? He was ready for the adventure that lay ahead of him.
In fact he was the main support for us in our life in the mountain-forest. Without him, we would not have survived the hardships and dangers that lurked in every corner of the lonely terrain.
I was slightly hesitant.
Meera took the responsibility of taking care of all of us.
She said that we were not to be bound here.
She herself had many spiritual experiences and had sometimes had passed her hand through my body and wondered why I had no physical body.
I did not know myself. But I had not bothered about the body anytime.
Still I hesitated.
One day there was the presence of Shri Maadhva.
He asked me to blindly obey the Goddess.
I said that the body was stuck by Asthma and could not endure such journeys.
He quoted the Hymn of Vaasudeva and said that the Lord could make a dumb person an orator and a lame person climb the Mountain. He asked me trust in Lord Krishna and go ahead.
When my young students heard that I was leaving for the Snow Mountains, they said that they would come along too.
I did not know what to say.
I gave all the responsibility to my daughter.
I had no go in anything as everything was getting done by the higher world people.
Me and my kids, plus five girls and a young boy (all teenagers) got ready to go on this journey.
I kept away from all.
I only warned them about the hardships of the forest life and that they should not bring any money or jewels with them except bare necessities.
They did not mind.
Slowly they collected clothes and necessary items in my house. (Even I did not know what they were doing hush hush.) I had enough 'YogaVaasishta' to hold my attention.
They went for shopping (all my money only); bought mountain gear; ruck sacks; and hats etc etc. It was a picnic as far as they were concerned.
Tickets were brought.
Somehow people came there to visit me knowing that I was going away.
I had kept a box in the hall table.
They put money into the box and took away whatever object they wanted from the house.
Some just dropped some money just like that.
Some costly sarees and other personal things were given off in charity to the poor.
The whole house was empty of all objects.
Many thousands of Rupees were ready to serve as a reserve for our future life.
(The man of the house was nowhere in sight. He was kept buried alive in his office.)
The fixed day came.
I prepared countless eatables to eat on our long journey.
The kitchen was a mess.
Many friends gave food to eat on the way.
With just some ruck sacks, a roti-making Taawa; a few plates; a pressure cooker and some vessels; minimum clothes, we left the house.
The house was empty and messy.
We (myself and the kids born to me) just walked away.
Other travelers arrived at the station stealthily and joined us.
We were nine in total - a 42 year old woman, three boys, five girls in the threshold of youth and of course Teju Mummy was there as our support throughout..
When the train for Delhi left the platform, two young girls who were just below eighteen missed the journey. One was locked up in her house. Another was pulled away by her relatives as she climbed the train.
Now we were just seven. The other youth were all eighteen and above.
We had some 50 loose bags and one big suitcase filled with books.
We had our lunch at Aurobindo Ashram on the day we landed at Delhi.
Then we went to Rishikesh and stayed at an Ashram.
We left the suitcase of books there for safe-guarding and left the Ashram.
Where to go?
We had no idea.
I looked on both sides of the road. My hand moved by itself and showed a path. (TM of course)
We walked on that path.
After some distance we were guided towards the Mountains.
All the seven of us walked; walked ; walked and walked.
Sometimes my youngest son who was just reaching eleven was carried by the oldest boy of the group.
We walked; walked; up and down the Mountains; for some twenty days or so.
We drank water in the mountain streams.
We made tents in the forest paths and cooked our meals using wooden sticks as fuel.
We started our journey in the early morning and ended at the approach of the evening.
Wherever we were at the end of the day, we made a camp there.
My daughter was the leader for the whole journey and she indeed was a symbol of courage and strength to others.
I just walked along with my Bata chappals and attired in a saree, in the path where the hand pointed out.
It had evaporated in the Snow Mountains!
I walked; ran; jumped; crossed creeks; did all the things a mountain trekker did.
Sometimes I would feel the hand of our invisible guardian saint, holding my hand and pulling me fast through all the paths.
The kids had their own miracle stories to tell. They even talk of Siddhas who came in human garb to help them across difficult paths and vanished within minutes.
One day we camped on a mountain road.
All was well.
The wind was cool and the sky was clear. We all cuddled inside our sleeping bags inside the cozy tent and slept off happily.
Everything was wet and cold.
It was raining like hell.
We got up screaming.
It was pitch dark.
Nothing could be seen.
We just knew that we were getting drenched in waters.
We were dripping wet.
A boy had a torch in his pocket.
With the tiny light given by that torch, holding each one by the hand and counting all of us to be together, we came out of the tent.
At a distance, there was some light of the fire.
We just walked towards that light, slowly, step by step, piercing the darkness with our small torch-light.
We reached the fire through rugged mountain path, stumbling and falling; seeing nothing but pitch dark blackness and a far away hope of some light.
The fire turned out to be a huge 'Bhatti' (log-fire) lit by the shepherds to warm themselves. We begged them to help us. They grumbled yet moved a little, to make space.
Next to us was the stench of cows and sheep dung.
The floor was dirty and muddy.
We sat around the fire breathing in all the stenches and drying ourselves in the huge fire.
We slept in our sitting postures itself, hugging our knees.
Rain had stopped.
We went in search of our tent.
Tent was no more a tent. All the things kept inside had floated off in the rain waters.
We had made a mistake in choosing the camping place. It was on the way of Mountain waters.
All the youngsters went in search of the things and found the clothes, vessels etc etc, here and there strewn on the Mountain ground.
We collected all; dried them all; and next day again continued our journey.
And what all we went through...!
We met a Baba who took bath in butter milk.
We learnt to get rid of leeches with salt whenever they stuck to our legs.
We met a huge cloud on the top of a tall Mountain.It thundered in front of us.
Meera joked-'That is Indra greeting us.'
We saw a desert of Mountains.
Yes like sand dunes filling the desert, the mountains filled the terrain.
There was no north, south, east or west; only mountains after mountains wherever we looked.
We were lost indeed; till some shepherds guided us to their homes.
And at last we traveling by a bus and ended up at a dead-end at a place called Saankri, which TM called as Shankari Nagar.
Buses won't go any further.
We just got down.
Very few people around.
All looking at us like some weird tourists arrived from the 'Plains'.
We asked for a place to say and got a room.
They showed the path down the valley.
An Ayurvedic Doctor (Mallik Saab) visited us.
We boasted of our God-mission and said that we have come to stay there by God's order.
He called his assistant YudhVeer, the son of a Pradhaan (chieftain of the village) and asked him to give us some place to stay. He agreed.
Next day, a police jeep came with a press reporter; gave some sweets; took a photograph of all the kids and went away.
In one of the Hindi papers the photo got published mentioning our God-mission and adding a lot of spicy flavoring to make the news hot.
We did not mind.
Photo in a paper is great, whatever rubbish they said.
We all followed the Pradhaan's son. He was about 25 or so; married and very good at heart.
He took us all down a mountain path to the base of the mountain where a huge river flowed.
We crossed the River on a huge strong steel bridge which had been built just a year back.
The River was called a Khooni River - A murderous river.
Its name was 'Tons'.
TM said that it was the Taamasaa River (of Puraana times).
We never questioned her back.
We were shown a wooden house with two floors- ground floor where the sheep were kept and the top floor where humans lived.
These houses were called 'Chaans' which were used only when these farmers came to do their field (Dogri) work. Their homes were all on the top of a mountain in a village called Kalaap.
The house was made of planks and the stench of the sheep hit us at the nose.
We didn't mind.
The planks hid tiny non-poisonous scorpions in between.
We didn't mind.
The spiders were giant-sized and stuck to the walls.
We didn't mind.
When we walked on the fields, the old women who hated city people threw curses at us.
We didn't mind.
We had to go to the River bank a few meters away to wash the vessels; bring water for cooking; bathing etc.
We didn't mind.
A huge green snake cuddled around the wooden stairs of the house.
We didn't mind.
One day some farmer ( a relative of the good Pradhaan's son) came and woke us up in the morning and ordered all of us out saying that he needed place to dry his crops.
We didn't mind.
Another day some more relatives came and said that they needed half the room for them to stay as they had some field work.
We didn't mind.
At night some laughing weird sounds came from the forests curdling the blood (jackals).
We did not mind.
My younger son reported that he saw a huge bear staring at him when we went out for some work.
He did not mind.
No one went back to the city.
Soon we built an Ashram there.
Our private Ashram.
We named it as Kalki Ashram as suggested by TM.
Later we came to know that far above the village of Kalaap, there was a cave where the two last kings of Solar and Lunar dynasties did penance invisibly and waited for Kalki to incarnate. (so the natives said).
Co-incidence or planned by Higher beings? We did not know.
We called our tiny cottage (a huge room built out of stones and mud, with aluminum sheets and tarpaulin making a roof) as Kalki Ashram.
I had to wear (saffron) Pyjaamas and Kurtas to suit the Mountain life.
Each day was an episode of some divine experience.
Each day was a day of Knowledge.
Many extraordinary events happened that can't be written in human language.
I avoid all that and will write only the 'mountain-life' experiences we went through there.
One fine day I saw my Lord. (not like the filmy scenes!)
One day I sat under a chullu (apricot) tree and was thinking about my Lord.
And I saw him; yes my husband; the blue Lord.
I was standing on the shore of the milk ocean.
The ocean waters splashed high and mighty.
He was in the middle of the white ocean.
A huge body of the serpent fell plop in my front making a pathway to my Lord's presence.
I rushed madly over the serpent-bridge and fell into his arms.
And I vanished inside him.
'I' was no more.
Then who is writing all this?
The 'I' without the 'I'.
Only the mind is left over carrying out some commands of TM.
And the mind keeps the body image alive to get the work done.
(Time is just an imagination of the mind.
The life on the earth was over the moment I entered my Lord.
The mind is fulfilling its signals in its own time and space which is not in any 'Time' or 'space'.
I am just in 'Him' without past, present or future.)
The outside kids were taken away by the relatives forcefully.
One girl was tied hand and foot and dragged through the mountain path and taken away by her father.
One boy ran and hid in the tall Mountain grasses when his uncle came. But later he also was forced to go.
Only one girl (Jyoti) stayed behind adamantly and lived as one among us. (Later she also went away).
We five stayed together.
Huge Mountains on all sides.
A violent River as water source.
Wood as fuel.
No bathrooms; no toilets.
Walking as the transport.
Unpredictable weather conditions.
Bus-stop to be reached after an hour's walk up a hill, filled with forest trees.
Nearest town was Purola where some ration could be brought.
A day's journey in the bus would get us to Dehradun.
No vegetables. No fruits.
Rice could be brought in the dead-end village we had seen at the end of our journey.
No milk.(The natives had cows (Dangar) not for milk but for the dung to be used as fertilizers.
We stayed some nine years there in that mountain forest.
We had later built a concrete cottage.
Naren had managed to fix a generator on the rock next to the River and made the water come to the Ashram through pipes. (He was a genius)
We had acquired a Jersy cow for milk.
We had a German shepherd as our sixth member of the family.
Later a tiny kitten joined us. We named it Jhaansi to honor the courageous queen. It was fearless like her.
Dog and cat never fought but were close friends.
The cow was fat and huge and ate like a non-stop machine.
We called it Munchi-Poo (the voracious eater). It gave lots of milk and acted always like a spoilt brat.
MANY UNIQUE EXPERIENCES OF THE MOUNTAIN LIFE
So many events - a few for example.
One day when Meera had taken the cow for a walk, it ran madly pulling her along with it.
As I stood watching them both from the Ashram in the higher land, they both just disappeared suddenly.
One second they both were seen at the end of the land and next moment, they had vanished.
I knew that below that land, there was only a deep trench down to the river flowing violently below.
I ran to see whether they had been taken away by the flood waters.
Down below there was a fat single tree growing next to the River, in a horizontal way. The cow was resting on its trunk. Meera was resting on the cow. I shouted at her to climb up. She refused. Either both of them will come up or she will stay there guarding the cow from mountain leopards and wolves.
There was no path for the cow to move even.
The villagers arrived one by one.
They saw the cow stuck down below the valley.
They quietly got their digging materials.
After two to three hours of digging, they had made a path up to the cow.
The cow which fell at noon time was back at home by night eight O clock.
The villagers refused the money we offered.
Our eyes were moist.
One day Jyoti's sister Divya visited us. She was from Bangalore. She wanted to stay with us for a few days.
All the kids went to the river to take bath. The city-dweller also went. I stayed back.
The newcomer sat on a rock on the River. The rock was inside the River close to the bank; but the River below was very violent.
She bent down to pick up a mug and was floating in the middle of the river the next moment.
Meera who is always alert had only one thought- save her; and she just walked through the water (she does not know how she did it) and grabbed the hair of that girl who was going away along with the River. Holding on to a rock with the other hand, she kept pulling the unconscious girl towards her. Slowly with others helping, the girl was brought back.
The girl had taken a second birth!
Weather in Himalayas.
In Summer the Sun rises early at 5 AM ; is hot by nine; stays throughout hot and sets at 8.30 PM.
Days are long; very long. You can do lot of work.
In Winter Sun shines like a blotch on the sky and sets by 3 PM.
The days are short; very short. And the weather is cold; cold ; cold.
Moving itself will make you shiver; that much cold.
No bathing also. Even hot water will make you shiver.
Fire has to be burning always.
The whole landscape will be white and shine brightly at night.
No green thing can be seen.
Everything will be covered by snow - plants, trees, paths, roofs; everything.
For any urgent need of water you just pick a little snow from a clean place and heat it. That is all.
It will all begin peacefully like a continuous steady drizzle of never-ending rain and suddenly the snow will start pouring from the heavens; and in no time, the whole landscape will turn white and bright.
Buses will stop plying. The world would be dead as it were.
For survival you have to cut a lot of wood and keep in the autumn season itself to last for next six months.
And what will be the winter-day like?
Get up; have tea; sit before the fire; cook one meal and it is already night-time; so cuddle inside the Razaai Kambal.
Imagine stars shining at 3 in the afternoon.
Well, that is the charm of Himalayas.
We were living like poor recluses, surviving on the charity of our well wishers. Of course we lived with Gods but lived like Rishis depending on only nature.
The elder son had to always go every month to Purola for ration. The day he had planned to go, it snowed heavily. Buses were cancelled.
The boy had no shoes to wear. Even clothes were old and torn.
Undaunted he took some sack cloth; tied his feet to them with ropes; walked with a native friend of his up to Purola and got the rice for us. (A gem of a boy!)
Our larder was empty.
No rice; no dal (grain).
Nothing but faith in the super powers.
We sat in front of the fire wondering what to do.
Then we saw lights on the mountain which joined the bus route.
After some time the lights came near us and we saw military soldiers with their leaders coming towards our Ashram.
The major and colonel stayed with us for a few minutes and inquired about us. They were surprised that we stayed alone there without even the certainty of the next day's food.
They went off to climb the other mountain.
It was their military exercise to climb up and down the mountains at night in utter darkness.
Next morning they came down.
Took the kids along with them to show their military camp.
In the afternoon, I saw soldiers carrying sacks and bags coming towards our Ashram.
Soon our house was filled with Rice, dal, tea, tinned goods, milk powder,sugar and what not.
They daily visited us and took care of us and became close friends.
Who said we suffered in the Himalayas?
Since there were no vegetables to eat except the mustard leaf, we decided to grow vegetables ourselves.
We brought a few seed packets and managed to dig the weedy soil and scattered the tiny seeds.
Little did we know of the power of Himalayan soil.
Very soon we had a profuse crop.
And even plucking vegetables became a daily chore. The crop was overflowing.
French beans yield was some two kilos a day (just a tiny patch of soil); small plants but would be covered with long fresh beans all over. No escape from work and you have to pluck it all daily.
Lady's finger plant grew some seven feet tall and the fruit would be tender and long. You have to raise your hand high, bend the plant and pluck the veg.
Tomato plants would be leafy and bushy giving out a beautiful fragrance; but they too would produce two to three kilos per day.
We tried potatoes. We learnt how we had to dig deep with our fingers inside the soil to catch the round balls hidden in the muddy treasure chest.
We tried ground nuts and learnt the lesson of how rats tunnel under the ground and make the nuts vanish.
All the hard work and the nuts would be gone!
Then we had corn plants and we learnt to chase the monkeys.
Then there were Chullu (apricot) trees, Aadu trees (jungle pears), acrot (walnut trees). We even planted a few apple trees.
Naren and Vivek would gather jungle fruits and bring them home when they went on the wood-cutting spree.
The Dalchini (cinnamon) leaves they brought would add a beautiful flavor for the tea.
Meeraa was a great enthusiast of gardening and decided to grow some flowers.
Dalhias would bloom like huge lotuses. Sunflowers would grow tall and erect always looking at the Sun wherever he went.
From the road above, our river-bank garden would look beautiful like the valley of flowers.
Ah I forgot - we grew red pumpkins also; but never relished its sweet taste; gave all those giant balls for our dear Munchipoo.
Then there were cucumbers, the cherished fruit of the natives. They always liked to eat the yield of the neighbours' field than their own.
The cucumbers would be fat and grow some one foot long. For the native it served the purpose of a full meal. The creeper would cover the roof beautifully and cucumbers would hang like yellow bulbs all over. Tiny humming birds would hover around delighting our eyes.
We even grew coriander plants. After all the trouble for months we got some two kilos of seed. (not worth the trouble if you get it in a shop for a few rupees).
And there were snakes!
Snakes inside the stone walls, under the stone of the compound walls, on the logs which supported the roof; in the racks, in the grass; almost everywhere.
Jhaansi would catch tiny snakes in her tiny mouth and play with them till we forcibly saved each from the other.
Meera would catch them fearlessly with some hooks and throw them into the River.
Vivek was eleven years old when he entered the forest and lived there happily till his eighteenth year enjoying the free life of adventure and learning.
The kids did not waste their time in any way.
They mastered Upanishads, literature, science, computer programming, all by themselves. There was no tutor except their own thirst for knowledge.
While Naren buried himself in reading all magazines of Popular Science, Vivek spent all his nights in meddling with the computer.
Vivek became an expert in milking the cow. He and the cow developed a unique relationship and he liked to loll on its fat belly and read books.
Naren was always ready for all hard tasks. He never understood the meaning of the words 'fear' and 'not possible'.
He would carry huge flat stones on his back and bring them from the opposite bank of the river. He made a beautiful courtyard for our stone house.
He never was tired of collecting wood for our fuel. He never gave up fighting with the petromax lamps which always refused to burn with some excuse or other.
(He later made all the doors of our concrete cottage; cemented the tiles of the bathroom; fixed taps and showers in the bathroom.) He never was a person who hesitated to soil his hands.
The two brothers were admired as great heroes in that village.
Imitating them, the village kids also started wearing city type of caps.
The river lost its murderous name and all the kids of the village played in the river to their heart's content following their two leaders.
And the natives?
We were not shooting a documentary of the village people with a melodious background music describing their innocent lives. But we were there for real.
And it took a long time for us to understand that they were still not evolved enough to understand the ethics of city people.
When they first saw me and the grown up girls and boys following me, they thought that I had these kids out of many husbands (as they do). One eighty year old native lady even approached me in a friendly manner to ask me how much would I ask for Meera ( to marry off of course). I had to lift her with the end of her coat bodily and throw her out.
And these people stole.
Stealing is a wrong word.
Any object seen was theirs.
On the first day, when we were bathing in the river, they took away the spectacles of Naren even, not knowing that it was a powered lens. (poor boy!)
I still wonder how the two boys managed their toilets and other problems.
I never heard them complaining; nor did they ever wished to go back to the city and join the gene-relatives.
I have seen the kids only enjoying every moment of their forest life.
Of course there were incidents where Vivek would come back with a bleeding hand (the result of some incorrect axe handling), where Naren chased a huge bull (which we had purchased to mate with our cow)
all round the field and so on.
And we had to cut heaps and heaps of grass for our eating machine. Even I learnt to handle the grass cutter.
And the natives except a few were very hostile to us.
They thought that we would cheat them and swallow up all their lands.
They put false cases on us in the court.
There was no police. There only a Phatwaari ( local police); and a court at Purola. Anybody could sue anybody with any complaint. The court was a good pastime of the natives; and we were no exception.
Anyhow slowly the hostility disappeared and they learnt to bear with us.
One wandering monk came to our Ashram. He casually asked me to go with him and sit in a cave in some Mountain to make an earning. The kids with all respect due, escorted him to the mountain-top bus stop and bid good bye to him.
The Villagers did not like a woman staying there with kids, even if it was for a religious cause. They used to taunt Naren for deserting his father and living with the mother.
When Naren went to Purola to buy ration, he had to draw money from the local bank. That clerk used to simply delay the process and Naren had to miss the bus many times.
We fought against this. We wrote a long letter to the Main bank of Dehradun and explained our problem.
Within a week our Ashram was visited by the clerk and the Purola bank manager. They begged us to withdraw the complaint or that fellow would lose the job. We obliged.
Naren did not have any trouble any more.
We had made friends with a foreign recluse lady in a nearby town. She was known as German Maataaji and lived alone with a servant. She bred German shepherds and made an income by selling them.
She was a disciple of renowned modern saint of north India. After his demise she underwent a lot of harassment from the next heir of the Ashram; ran from there to live alone in a village of Himalayas.
Yes. there were some tragic events too.
Jhaansi (cat) left us when we rebuilt the Ashram with cement.
The dear dog (Poppy) was devoured by a 'Bhageera' (mountain leopard.)
When we first entered the white mountains, all the places where we had trekked were stuck by a huge earthquake and many villages we had come through were destroyed.
( I remember the day of the earth quake.)
All the seven of us were sitting in a dilapidated 'Chaan' (hut-structure on wooden pillars) on the first floor.
Suddenly the hut started shaking violently.
We thought that maybe a mountain bear was attacking us.
One boy lit some grass and threw it out to scare the bear away.
The shaking stopped.
Later the villagers told us that an earthquake had hit.
After we left our place and came off to city, the very next monsoon the whole of that mountain area was flooded ; the bridge was destroyed and the entire landscape of the Ashram has changed.
The River flows now where the Ashram was.
The kids had no certificates or educational qualifications when they returned to the city.
The super powers kept their promise.
They all have now very good jobs to their satisfaction.
They never regret their lives back in those forests.
The experiences and knowledge have made all three of them the best of humans.
Roofs flew; house was covered in flooding mountain waters; a calf went off in the river; we lived a life of poverty and hardship.
Even now we are not accepted fully by the relatives after coming back.
Yet there is the sweet memory of our first day in the Himalayas.
Mimmer Singh, an eight year old boy in tattered pants, torn shirt and a dirty cap came to see us.
Seeing that we had no land (Zameen) or cow (Dangar), he put his hands inside his torn pant pocket; drew out a handful of red rice and offered us to munch, feeling sorry for us.
That is our Himalayas.
That is our Bhaarat.