She followed unabridged faith in the pilgrimage. She lived with the bare essentials, and walked barefoot, and left the head uncovered. A small colorful shoulder bag complacently set on her head through the entire pilgrimage barring a few occasions when I saw her without the bag. The bag sometimes also doubled as a shade. The salt and pepper hairs flowing from her head to her chest protected her from the elements.
Irrespective of privacy level in the washroom complexes and weather conditions, Sunita Devi* followed the ritual of physical cleaning before starting the journey of spiritual cleaning daily. First time, I saw her at the public tap in public conveniences complex in Nauti. She was trying to accommodate her tall slender frame under a low thin stream of water falling perpendicular to the ground although her sari was already dripping. The folds of the sari hid her curves but the blouse was no more opaque. And the bosoms were bare. But the transparency and translucency of the clothes did not impact her enthusiasm.
She continued to take bath and head bath at public water points in the mornings. She changed and washed her sari daily. The saris were not saffron, yellow, or white. The 5-yard dress was made of beautiful bright colors that even sometimes adorned jazzy designs of sequins and silver thread. She chanted mantras, took shelter in free tents, and ate at bhandaras during Nanda Raj Jat 2014. But she never mingled with fear and continued until Homkund where I saw her for the last time during the raj jat. She was collecting parts of the parasols, a religious souvenir she believed in and carried home as prasad.
Unlike her misaligned teeth, her lifestyle fully aligned with her spiritual goals at least during the pilgrimage period. Was she not an epitome of determination?
Note: *I tried to chat with her twice but she was busy chanting mantras and was not interested in talking. So I do not know her real name and home town.
The Woman Devotee: A Photo Story from Nanda Raj Jat 2014