September 1, 2014 Monday
The morning sky was clear for a while. Then it turned grey and a brief spell of drizzle followed. The moody meadow suddenly changed into the costume crafted from the mountain mist that limited the visibility. This transition from a sheer dress to an almost opaque dress checked the speed of the pilgrims but the enthusiasm was on peak. The rain also tried to play a spoil sport intermittently.
But I had a reason to cheer up: access to the permanent clean wash room equipped with necessary accessories at Vedni. A fat pipe supplied fresh cold mountain water next to the wash room.
For the observant, the morning walk in Vedni silently opened gates of the deep recesses where dreams and desires of the many participants were slumbering. A vendor, for example, was trying to sell toy cars to stir the dreams of the folks from far flung areas of the Himalayas. He probably thought the life size models might even run on the trails beyond the tree line in future. Like the saying, necessity is mother of all inventions. If it happens, the yatra, the thrill, and the fun will be dead. He also tried to sell sweaters that looked soiled. But he was claiming, Buy the sweater costing INR 1,200 in just INR 100/- and wear it till the next Nanda Raj Jat. He learned the marketing principles of discount and durability well. But I did not see him doing any business.
The trek started with parikramas and pujas at the Vedni Kund. The well-marked wide trail to Pathar Nachauniya was sticky, slippery, and stony at many places. Some of the man pilgrims tried to collect big red green leaves of an edible plant hedging the trail at a number of places.
About two hours’ slow and steady walk via Vedni Khal was easy on the heart and knees. But unfortunately beautiful bosoms of the mountain were wrapped up in translucent fog. Delicate colorful flowers adorning some sections of the trail edge broke the monotony. The translucency minimized photo opportunities and pushed up the walking speed.
At Pathar Nachauniya, the fog’s accomplice the downpour drenched both people and place, creating unwanted obstacles and discomfort. The accomplice did not give up easily although it lost the force after sometime. The drizzle continued till evening. Around 5 pm, the mountains threw away their foggy garb. The steep verdant slopes romanced with white shiny clouds in the pleasant blue sky, bringing back the cheer on the faces of the pilgrims. The pilgrims who were going to Bhaguwasa appeared like tiny toys from the Pathar campsite.
A shepherd with his large flock of sheep walked past and stayed near our tents until the sundown. Sheep are a symbol of life in the mountains, especially beyond the tree line. The small animal revived hope and exuded warmth, making the atmosphere merrier. But the shepherd tried to contaminate the warmth by demanding money for the picture of his flock. The cooking skills of a number of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel and a few Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members enhanced the warmth. The appetizing smells of free hot Nutrela rice and puris stirred food cravings in me and many other pilgrims. They stood in the queue to gorge on the free stuff. But my cravings could not be satiated because I was not interested in free fried food and my travel agent was late as usual.
But you need not wait for the sights from the 16th day of Nanda Raj Jat 2014.
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