The Journey within

The Journey within

10-may-2011 Tuesday 5:00 PM
“Sorry, I am coming to office this weekend. We can go next weekend, I will surely be coming”…Amit said on the other side of the phone.
“Come-on, last week you said the same. Look, if you are not coming, I am not even going to ask others.”.. I said angrily. Amit was repeating the same bullshit he said last week about how his project is going through difficult phase and how everyone is busy and etc etc. I was completely frustrated, we were planning for this outing for almost 2 months and it was yet to happen.
“Parashuram…” I shouted, not on Amit but because I saw Parashuram was passing by my cubicle. “Sorry, sorry… I have some urgent work too, I will call you back” I said to Amit and hung up the phone.
“Hi Kedar”
“Yaar, what about shivthar ghal trip, when can we go?”
“We can go even now, I am always ready.” Parashuram gave his usual answer.
“Now?..are you serious?” I was not ready, but I thought let’s see if he is.
“Yeah, why not? I have to just tell my wife and then we can go, I will ask nana as well. We can go by his car.You too ask your brother, we 4 can go.”
“But on such short notice, who will come?” I was trying to find some excuse.
“See, trips those are planned on such short notices are always more enjoyable and memorable than the planned ones. Think about it, you will surely agree if you have done this earlier.”
“Yes, you are right. I will ask my brother, you just check with nana”
“Yes, we can leave now, stay at Shivthar Ghal in the night and return tomorrow morning to office.”
“Superb”. I said while picking up my mobile. Parashuram left to search for nana.
I called my brother Mandar, he said he is okay with the plan and can come.
But nana had some other priorities and couldn’t come. Parashuram was still ok to go. I have a bike and it was sufficient for two of us. Then he said, we need to leave early and also we will need towel and some extra clothes. I suggested we should leave tomorrow evening so that we can have nana’s car and we also can have towels and extra clothes tomorrow. Parashuram agreed to it, I informed the same to Mandar.
I was little upset that it couldn’t happen on the same day. That night I was thinking about this trip and how it is going to happen. I have heard so many things about Shivthar Ghal from Parashuram. It is a holy place of Maharashtrian Saint Shree Ramdas Swami. He wrote his very famous thesis “Dasbodh” at this location. Parashuram is a very big follower of his work and he often visited the place.

11-5-2011 Wednesday

 8:00 AM
dhan te nnnnnnaaaaannnnnn…..tana nnnnnnaannnnnnn…..
My mobile was shouting like anything, at least it sounded like that. I was asleep and Parashuram was calling me. I picked up the phone.
“Sleeping?” Parashuram asked.
“What do you expect from me?” I replied.
“Hahahaha…Just wanted to confirm that you are coming today to Shivthar Ghal.”
“Sure thing man, I packed the things last night only.” I lied.
“Really? That’s good. See you in the office.” He totally bought it.
I hung up the phone and went back to sleep. Woke up again at 9 AM.
Mandar was going to come to our office at 6 PM and we were to move from there.

3:00 PM
Parashuram came to my desk and said “Nana is not coming, we have to go on bike.”
I had no clue what is going on, will this trip happen or not. I suggested, I will ask Mandar also not to come and we will leave early at 5 PM sharp. Parashuram was okay with it. Next moment I called Mandar and informed him. He agreed, but I promised him that we will surely be going there soon with our family.
I completely made my mind and started finishing the work. Till then I hadn’t informed my manager that I want to leave early.

4:00 PM
My manager called me at his desk. I figured that something urgent must have come up. I alarmed myself again, ‘whatever important it may be you will say no or you will miss the trip’. As usual, manager asked to spare some time on the high priority work and I couldn’t say no to it. “Damn, what am I doing?” I sulked to myself and rushed to desk.
I immediately informed Parashuram that something urgent has come up and I can’t say anything about how I am going to make it. Parashuram said, “Relax, Swamiji is examining you if he doesn’t want you to come, you can’t go. If you are destined to be there, no one can stop you.”
“Which film did you saw last night?” I asked.
“Hahahahaha, believe me.”
“I will tell you once I am ready to leave. Hope you are not upset with me.”
“Not a problem. I am ready anytime, just tell me. I think you are going to make it.”
I smiled and came back to my desk. Parashuram’s last sentence was ringing in my head again and again…. “you are going to make it”…..”you are going to make it”
I prayed to god and started working. It was some issue that was reported by customer and I have to verify whether it is locally reproducible and any other information if I can provide for it. I concentrated totally on it. I finished the work around 5.30 PM, put a mail to my manager and then went to inform him. He was not at desk. I thanked god in mind and went to see Parashuram.
“Can we leave now, it’s not late right?” I asked very eagerly.
“I knew it.” he said while he was smiling. “We should go to my house first, its on the way, I need to collect few things before we leave.”
“What things? we will be late, in night it may be dangerous.” I wanted the journey to start sooner.
“Don’t worry yaar. Swamiji will take care of us, he always do.” Typical Parashuram.
“Okay, come to my desk in 5 minutes.” I said while I was leaving.
“Yes, I will just drop a mail about leaving early. You should too.”
“Yes”

5:45 PM
Parashuram and I left the office on my bike. We took express highway to reach Parashuram’s house which is at Ambegaon. At Parashuram’s house there was a bunch of books, many of them were religious. Also he showed me the idol of lord Maruti which he was preparing. No doubt he is an artist first and techie much later. We met his aunty as well who lives next door and she is a follower of swamiji too. Parashuram took his things and we hit the road again at 6:45. It was summer and hence much sunlight was there for us.
We decided that in the beginning I will drive and later during late evening Parashuram will drive since he knew the hill roads very well. We stopped at one of the petrol pumps on highway, filled the petrol. Also we ate McDonald’s ‘Aloo tikki’ which we liked very much. We had to fill our stomach since we were not going to get anything once we leave the highway. After few minutes before we have to take the road towards Mahad ghaat, we took vadapavs as parcel. In case if we didn’t get anything to eat at shivthar ghal, we can eat vadapavs. Then we started our real journey.
On the highway there is a right turn which leads to Konkan through Mahad ghaat, we hit that road and evening started becoming night. Road was narrow and full of potholes. Parashuram was telling me the stories of his previous visits to shivthar ghal. He had traveled on that road at all times of days and nights so he was very confident about directions.
After I drove for one hour or so, Parashuram decided to ride the bike. He told me one of the incidents he faced during his visits to shivthar ghal.
FEW MONTHS BACK
That time Parashuram bought so many books at shivthar ghal. When he checked  before leaving, he was left with just 35 rupees. Some of his relatives were supposed to come and pick him up, but it couldn’t happen since they had change of plans. Then Parashuram decided to sell back some of the bought books and get money to go home. Suddenly he had a change of mind, he felt that Swamiji is examining him. He decided not to sell the books and to take a walk till home, assuming that someone will give him the lift in between. He started walking, after walking for 3-4 kms one of the cars gave him the lift till highway. He took a bus from there, ticket till swargate was 40 rs. and till katraj it was 35 rs. So he took the bus till katraj and walked to his home which is just 2-3 kms from katraj.

After hearing this incident I started feeling more confident and fearless. Definitely it was Parashuram’s faith in Samarth Ramdas swami which helped him to take that brave decision.
There were two ways for us to reach shivthar ghal, one is through the varandha ghaat where the road is bit good and the other one is through small villages through baare-pasure ghaat where road is not so good. Also it is very silent and we would hardly meet anyone if we go by that road.
In order to avoid traffic we decided that we would go by baare-pasure ghaat. When we chose the road it was almost 9:00 PM. We were around small villages and night was becoming darker, but Parashuram was very relaxed and chilled out. While moving we came across one of the small villages, there was a pre-marriage ceremony going on at one place. Parashuram stopped the bike and went out to ask about Mahadev whom he had met during his last visit. He also chit chatted with few villagers for some time, and described few incidents about Mahadev to them. We all were laughing in chorus. At that point of time I realized that Parashuram can easily connect with anyone, especially with villagers. Villagers are genuine human beings at heart, these people are always straight forward. We waited for some time but since Mahadev was busy at some other place we couldn’t meet him.
After moving on for some more time, we saw one temple. Though lights in the temple were on, there was no one inside. There was one typical village home but no one appeared around it. We parked the bike in front of temple. Door of the temple was closed but not locked, we opened it and entered inside. It was a Lord Maruti’s temple. The idol of Maruti was in one of the forms suggested by Shree Ramdas Swami . Parashuram was also building a idol at his house in the same form. We decided to rest for some time and eat the parcel vadapavs which we bought before leaving the highway. Though it was just 10:00 PM, there was horrifying silence in the village. We couldn’t see any live movements and it was appearing like midnight already.
We were about to finish our vadapavs then we saw one old man was coming towards temple, with big stick in his hand. He was trying to see who entered the temple. I thought we made a mistake by opening the temple and entering into it without permission.
The old man asked : Who is there?
Parashuram: No one uncle, we are only.
Old man: where are you from?
We wrapped up our dinner and went outside the temple to chat with old man.
Parashuram: Came from Pune, going towards Shivthar ghal.
Old man: Ok ok, you had your dinner? or come with me to have some.
Parashuram: No thanks uncle, we just finished. It would be a big help if we can get some water.
Old man: Sure thing. Please be seated.
He sat on the stairs of temple and shouted for his granddaughter.
“Shaku…………….shaku………..”
One little girl came running towards temple.
He shouted again, “bring the jar … full of water….come immediately”
Girl went inside the house and one little boy came with jar of water. I asked his name.
“Vikas Tukaram Korade” he said with a smile. He was wearing a dirty white shirt and brownish half pant, which is the typical school dress in most of the Indian schools.
“Which school do you go to?”
Before he said anything, old man said “There is only one school here, till 4th standard.”
Parashuram: After that they have to go to taluka place right? to study till 10th.
Old man: Yes yes. What are your names?
We told our names. Then we chat with him for some time about how is the road ahead and about shivthar ghal. Then we touched his feet for blessings and decided to move ahead.
After driving again for half an hour we came to another small village. We saw few lights and crowd of 20-25 people sitting on the ground. Parashuram said, “Let’s see if Shankar dada is available.”, and he took the bike off the road, towards the village. When we reached near the crowd, everyone was looking at us with questions on their faces. I started feeling little awkward and unwanted in that place.
Parashuram crossed the crowd, stopped the bike at middle of the road, turned off the engine and started walking towards one of the houses. I had no clue what he is going to do, who is this shankar ‘dada’, how Parashuram knows him and why everyone is still staring at us?
“Where is shankar dada?” Parashuram asked to a lady standing outside the house.
“Might be over there.” She said, pointing towards the crowd.
Parashuram and I both looked towards the crowd.
“Ram Ram…, how come this side?” A thin person, same of our height, our age asked while coming towards us. 
“Ram Ram…, we were going towards shivthar ghal, so thought of dropping by and say hello to you.” Parashuram said smiling.
“Good, come inside. How about dinner, we had some time back but you please have some.”
“No no,  we just had it. Thanks anyways.”
“Really? Have some tea at least. Be seated please.” Shankar dada said, as we entered his house.
It was a typical village house whose floor is covered with cow dung so that dust will be absorbed by it and house will remain warm. We sat on the floor in hall. There was ample place in the aangan for visitors to sit and discuss on daily basis. Also roof was covered with thin red bricks like typical house in village. I was seeing such house after so many days, so I started looking around.
“No no, that’s not necessary. And it’s very late for tea” We both said to shankar dada.
“Come on, it’s never late for tea. I insist.”
“Listen, two cups. Guests are from Pune.” He said to his wife.
We both did Namaste to her. Then Parashuram told me that he knew Shankar dada from one of his previous visits to Shivthar ghal. Then Shankar dada told us few things about farming, where is his land, which crops he is planning for this year. There were few farming instruments around the hall area of house, hence the topic. Then we asked him about crowd. He said that there is wedding in their village few days later and hence discussions about arrangements and other things are going on now.
We had our tea, it was very tasty and refreshing for both of us. There were few kittens who started wandering around us in curiosity. I started playing with them for time pass. Parashuram was then having conversation with Shankar dada’s wife. He somehow knew her father and few other villagers. I was completely stunned by Parashuram’s network. All people were treating us like we were one of them. I hardly met such true people in my life.
Parashuram is an active member of “Aksharbharati”, an initiative of Seva sahayog NGO to educate villages and small towns in India, by distributing books. He informed shankar dada about it and asked if he can meet someone in village who can take care of such books if distributed there. Shankar dada nodded in agreement saying he can take care but Parashuram should meet some senior villagers first. Then he took Parashuram with him to meet some seniors. I was still playing with kittens inside the house.
After some time they called me too over there and asked me, where am I from, what do I do for living etc. There were 2 senior villagers who looked like decision makers for village. They informed us that how they are willing to do many things for village and seek progress for all kids in the village. We promised them that we will surely work on setting up library in the village. Both the seniors couldn’t spend much time with us since they also have to attend wedding arrangements meeting. We thanked both of them for sharing the information with us. We also thanked Shankar dada for his guidance and support. Clock was showing 11:15 PM, so we decided to rush.
We were yet to finish baare-pasure ghaat, and night was becoming darker. We could hardly see anyone on that road. In the bikes headlight we could see some wild rabbits running alongside at the 40-50 kmph.
I said “what an experience we are having man? This is amazing.”
Parashuram said, “Didn’t I tell you. But you should write these experiences. And write them early or you will forget about details.”
I said laughing “I will definitely try and give it to you for scrutiny.”
Parashuram was telling me few incidents from Samarth Ramdas Swami’s life and I was becoming restless to see Shivthar Ghal. After 15-20 minutes, baare-pasure ghaat was over, but we still have to travel Mahad ghaat 3-4 kms and a different road of 5-6 kms to reach shivthar ghal. I was exhausted. I couldn’t feel my bums and already broken back started aching more.
Before starting Mahad ghaat some vehicles we saw and I feel relieved. Because I was constantly worried that some gang of people might stop us and try to steal from us. Though we weren’t carrying any costly things but there was always fear of getting beaten.
In Mahad ghaat there is a way on right side which takes us to Shivthar ghal. It is easy to miss if not seen carefully while driving. There is no proper road formed yet for first 2 kms then there is a good road which leads to Shivthar ghal.
I was so excited to see Shivthar ghal and still we haven’t reached there almost 6 hours after leaving office. During the last 30 minutes of traveling I was feeling very much tired and my eyes were getting closed. Parashuram was very much awake though and telling me about the small villages around Shivthar ghal. There is a small bridge which we have to cross to reach Shivthar Ghal. In the end when we reached Shivthar Ghal, I saw a big gate with board carrying letters “Sundarmath” written in devnagari lipi. I took a big sigh and thanked Swamiji for letting me reach here.
The door was closed but not locked. We looked around for gatekeeper, but no luck.  The gate gets closed around 10-10:30 PM and We reached there at 12:00. Since Parashuram knew the doorkeeper and so many other people from there, he was very chilled out. We decided to enter, since we didn’t travel so long to see the closed gate and return. We parked the bike outside near main gate.
In Sundarmath use of all amenities is free of cost, so we had one less thing to worry about. There is a big hall where anyone is allowed to sleep. There are few rooms with all the facilities but advance booking needs to be made for them, we didn’t go for it since we wanted to stay there for night only and leave early in the morning. Parashuram awakened the gatekeeper and borrowed some blankets and bed sheets for us to sleep on.
Before going for a sleep, Parashuram suggested that we should visit the ghal now, for some time though. He was excited like a kid. Sundarmath and Shivthar ghal are connected to each other.
When we entered the ghal, I was stunned by the beauty of that location. There are idols of Shree Ramdas swami (dictating Dasbodh) and Shree Kalyan swami (writing Dasbodh). There is a huge water flow on the right side of the ghal. Environment there is always filled with continuous horrifying sounds made by birds and some wild animals. But it feels very soothing and relaxing there. All the fatigue I had, completely ran away. I thanked Parashuram for bringing me here. When I closed my eyes I felt the peace and satisfaction within. I was totally speechless for few minutes……
In the morning we woke up early at 5:00 AM, finished morning activities, took a bath. We saw the Kalyan math which is full of descriptions about Shree Ramdas Swami’s life. There are also some books about Shree Ramdas Swami available on sell. Again we went to see Shivthar ghal. That place is really magical. We spent again almost an hour sitting there, reading Dasbodh, discussing about Swamiji, his life, his humongous work.
I wanted to spend the rest of the day over there but Parashuram needed to be in the office due to some work. I had no doubt that I will be coming often here in future, so I agreed to leave. On the way back, Parashuram drove for most of the time and we reached office in time with our old bodies filled with new energies.
Yet again, the journey which was not thoroughly planned, ended teaching me a lot of things, not all of them can be put in words. I keep thinking that what moved me the most, was it Parashuram’s devotion towards Swamiji, was it the simple behavior of villagers, was it the unforgettable bike travel in dark or was it the magical dawn I experienced in Shivthar ghal? I really don’t know! But I definitely remember the whole experience like an Oasis in my day-to-day IT life. It helped me find true peace and hence I remember it as “The journey within”.

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