Thursday, March 28, 2013

Deoria Tal – When Idleness Is Priceless And Work Has No Value

He was a very old, thin, short man with dark skin and fuzzy eyes of misty gentleness. His dreadlocks were under his turban and he had naked feet. He was not physically impressive but his mental strength certainly floored me. Traveling on feet without a sandal or shoe over the Himalayan regions was no joke. A compulsive cannabis smoker and faithful companion, I spent my night with him at a small village near Chopta.

Sab Bholenaath kee kripa”(all Lord Shiva’s blessings). He said between two horrific coughs.

I was not in a very good physical condition, continuously coughing and paining all over my body. I compulsively spoke at length with this sadhu for a long time. He was an engineer in his “previous life” and a Brahmachari (celibate) all his life. He was not like those simple minded fellows who called themselves sadhus or appears like that. He never ignored my inquiries by saying characteristic catchphrase ‘sadhu has no past.’ Instead, he told me about his life and siddhi yogis. 

My Night companion
 It was a cold night. My tent was pitched on the courtyard of a small school and I had my dinner at a villager’s house. I was starving, so the plain daal, sabji and rotis felt unusually nice in my stomach. I had no idea of Tungnath or Deoria Tal or Chopta before. Morning when I left from Rishikesh, I had one thing in mind – ROAD. I Changed buses twice and reached Ukimath around 5pm. The night was already started cuddling with the day and twilight casted over the mountains like some mystic cosmic rays. I again hiked a bus and reached a small village (name forgotten) at the time when the roads were deserted and night took the day in her spell.

The sadhu asked me some routine questions and offered me his chillum. After one smoke, the violent seizure of cough signaled me it’s enough. He was also coughing but certainly not enough for him. For the record, I like cannabis. It gives a state of awareness, sharpens the images, and thoughts become concentrated and agile. A state of letting go naturally comes in blissfulness.

The deepest woods I had ever seen
I enjoyed the night and next morning I took a shared cab and reached Chopta. I put my bag in the cab and started my climb to Tungnath. Although Tungnath is just 3 km from Chopta but the entire graveled path is extraordinary steep that covers more than 1000 m. some people (mostly older ones) hired pony from Chopta. It was tough climb but undoubtedly scenic. I once thought to pitch my tent in the large and verdant bughyals, but left the idea. I had heard some place called Deoria Tal nearby, which was the main attraction of the region.

After 3 hours of strenuous trek, I reached the temple. I was more interested in Chandrashilla, one and half kilometer more from the temple. At one time I was totally exhausted but a boy from nowhere came to me and asked me climb. He acted like a guide and I just followed him to reach Chadrashilla, perched on 4000 m high. It was deadly silent and wind blew with a shrilling sound. Many peaks of Himalayas like Nandadevi, Choukhambha, Banderpunch, Trishul and others were clearly visible, and it seemed I could touch those peaks.

Way back from Chopta I spotted my night companion was slowly walking towards Chopta. My taxi dropped me at Sari village; from here to Deoria Tal was 3-4 km trek.

If you are coming to Deoria Tal for some time spends in solitude, I think the best time is winter or just before it. The Tal is no more a solitude place, people come to this place for picnic, spending night with whiskey, rum, etc. The whole place is like any other poppy camping place.
After couple of rough treks
Deoria Tal had a mention in Indian epic Mahabharata. The Tal was the place where Yaksha (A God in Hindu pantheon) asked some extraordinarily tricky questions to Yudhistra, the elder brother and the most wise man amongst Pandavas. A question like “what travels faster than light?” was answered by Yudhishtra as “Mind”. So, all philosophical questions were rightly answered and his brothers came alive once again. 

Chandrashilla at 4000 m
 My experience in Deoria Tal was extraordinary peaceful except the noisy party who came for some “adventure.” I didn’t understand what type of adventure they were seeking with drink, ponies, comfortable dinner and porter. An Indian always amazes to see another Indian to travel solo. So, as usual they were surprised and asked me many questions, in fact to my surprise one of them asked me was I doing some Sadhna (penance) etc.

Deoria Tal & in backdrop Himalayas are clearly visible
 I spent some good time in Deoria Tal. I wanted to spend more time but my fantasy of idleness wasn’t suited well with my urban world. I fantasied of living a life of wanderer, not like digital nomad, but a real one, spending life in sitting, observing, in a dauntless idleness, some blissful laziness. But I belong to those millions of ordinary people for whom idleness is worthless, and work a value. I re-negotiate with myself every time when I return back from my trip.

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