How I Got Into An Ashram
After coming down from a failed Satopanth Taal trek, I came down to Mana, and was resting in a temple, when a Sadhu came to me asking about me. I told him about myself in brief when by my talking itself he realized, I am a Bengali - Though I don't have a Bengali accent. He told me that another 'Bangali Mahatma' was accompanying him and would reach in some time. He told me that I would be happy to see him, so we waited for him.
Soon a friendly-looking Sadhu Baba was walking toward me and sat next to me. We immediately started to speak in Bangla. He was friendly, to say even better - Brotherly. He inquired about my stay and suggested that I join him in the Ashram. Since the flood disaster, Badrinath was vacant and only a few sadhus were staying there. So, there was enough space and I could stay for as many days as I wanted to !!
What else could I ask more for? I straight away decided to be there and replied to him that I will be there in the evening.
A walk of another 3 kilometres and few enquiries took me to the gate of the Ashram.
Everyone Is A Baba Here, So Did I Become
It was a little different experience and I was apprehensive a little, more about my freedom and rules, etc. I enquired if the Bengali Mahatma stayed there and with a positive reply, I said that he had asked me to come and if there was any vacant space to stay for me. I was welcomed and given a roll immediately, to my surprise. The roll had, a blanket, for the floor, a blanket to cover, and a pillow. Great !!
I could get into any room, and I chose a room, based on NO reasons. I entered a dark room, set my bed, and changed into comparatively dry clothes, all in darkness..
Suddenly, an old Baba started his evening prayers and lighted a candle and incense sticks. The small room was filled with fragrance now. Lighted with a candle, now I could see that my room had 2 other Babas, old and often coughing. After finishing his prayer, he asked me -
Baba, aap kaha se ho?? ( Baba, where are you from ?)
Slowly, I understood. Everyone was Baba here.
Smoke Smoke Smoke - Morning Through Night
In the evening of the first night itself, I had just changed to dry clothes and was wondering about a solution to my other wet clothes, when a group of Babas entered my room.
Gujrati Baba aaya hai.. Gujarati Baba kaha hai !!
The old man, who just finished praying answered - Boom Shankar !!! Jai Maharaj !!
The small room was overcrowded now, filled with lots of energy.. It was the voice of the Bangali Mahatma, and he was happy to see me there !!
Baba, Kuch Alag Pilao !! ( Baba, make me smoke something different !! ) said the Bangali Mahatma.
To that, he replied - Are mahatma, bilkul bilkul ... ( sure sure ) He took out a dry bundle of brownish looking weed from his jhola ( hanging bag )
It was made quite fast too and lighted it as well.. Soon, the pure and divine rounds of Chillam started and overtook the smell of the flowery incense stick !!
When it came to me, the Bangali Mahatma asked me in a brotherly tone - Do you smoke ??
I had smoked during my engineering days but had left after passing out, with a few occasional tries with old friends at times. Here, when I was asked, somehow I could not resist. I said YES !!
There was I.. smoking a chillam, with the sadhus, from different parts of our Country, in an ashram, in Badrinath. Something I had never imagined, planned of, dreamed about, ever in my life !!
I gave up wondering and soon let myself go with the air.
The air hardly changed its smell for the next 3 days. Just the place and variety changed..We may have smoked weed from all over India in those 3 days.
Mahatma's Kuthiya And The Himalayan Herbal Tea
After a heavy session of smoke, topped up with a good discussion on their travels and experiences, the Mahatma decided to call it a time to visit his Kuthiya. He asked me to join him.
It was a short distance, but very narrow trail on extremely slippery mud. The extreme gush of Alakananda could be heard strong. There was his room, a single room, which could fit only a single bed and a space to walk for just a single person. That space too was occupied by his stove and cooking items. I was asked to come in.
Everything is mud, Everything will become mud What's dirty then??
I was wearing no shoes and after walking on the muddy trail to Mahatma's room, my legs were dirty, but only for me !!
When I was asked to come in and get on the bed, I started looking for water to clean my feet, when the Mahatma said - Why are you looking for water. Nothing is dirty. Everything is mud and will become mud. I went mum on that and got on his bed.
The Godly Tea
I was wearing wet clothes and was shivering. Mahatma realized it and started making tea. His room was filled with all dry leaves, hanging on the walls. He used a few different types of dry leaves, but no tea leaves, to make the tea. It was smelling great, and after it got ready, he put a-fourth of butter in a big glass and filled it with the flavouring tea !! One sip, and it started warming me from inside. I was feeling good now. The tea was very tasty.. something I never had before or had it again till date.
The Untold Rules Of The Ashram
A single day and too much happened. I was just flowing with the flow and slowly I understood the rules of the Ashram, the next day. You cannot stay here free of cost. You need to do some work, either directed by Older Babas, or you take it up on your own. Though not too serious. The ashram ran lungers ( free food for outsiders ) 3 times a day - Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. You may choose to serve at the lungers. There is a Hanuman Temple and the ashram offers morning and evening prayers. You may help there, like making garlands, collecting water, cleaning the temple, etc. Everyone called each other Baba, and you are no different there. You won't be called for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You are expected to know the timings and have it on time. You are to smoke for the entire day in the ashram but take regular baths, which I had problems with.
Tapta Kund, Badrinath Darshan And A Trek To Fellow Baba's Gufas
On the second morning, Mahatma asked me if I had taken bath. I said NO to which he smiled and took me to Tapta Kund, hot springs with him. It was not having a bath there. It was a celebration !!
A separate pool for men and women ensured that we could bathe freely. Being early morning and post-flood disaster, it ensured that we were almost on our own in the pool with hot water. Aah !! a joyful smile filled my face as I dived in, yes, dived into the pool.
Feeling fresh after the bath, we went to the Badrinath temple for darshan ( sighting the god) and morning prayers. I am not a religious person, but a Hindu by birth, and have been following the rules since my childhood. I had heard that Badrinath is usually too crowded and a proper darshan is not possible during peak season. It was peak season too but devastated due to the flood. I had darshan from very near. We were only some 10/ 12 odd people who had come for Darshan, mostly sadhu babas and localities, except for me. My mom would be very proud of it.
A Trek To Fellow Baba's Gufas
After an eventful morning, we had a day full of smoking sessions with heavy discussions. I got a lot of insight into their ways of travel. Though aimed with religious goals, it does give them a chance to travel throughout our country. Their travel plans are spanned more than 12 years !! Can you ever imagine?
A Baba had come down from his gufa to score some different weeds and also meet our Bangali Mahatma. We were seated with him throughout the day and evening he invited us to his gufa. His gufa feel on the trail to the Neelkanth Base. While they trekked with bare feet, I put on my shoes and started to match my speed with them.. Oh, it was difficult!
The trail swirled up slowly and took about an hour to reach his gufa. It was a very small hut, in a peaceful location, far from the crowd. He had a small hawan space. He served us tea, normal having which, we trekked further up towards Neelkanth. The grand mountain stood there with elegance !!
Too Many Things Happening !!
Two days had gone past, unrealized, quick. I woke up to another morning, an eventful one with lots of smoke, plucking flowers to make the garland for Hanumanji, cleaning the farming land, and full of new interesting stories from the Babas.
The Traveling Heart Walks Out
After spending 3 full days in the ashram, I had decided to move on.. It was definitely worth staying more, but other things were waiting for me and were pulling me towards them.
I had a good time here, and expect to meet the same Babas, when I would be there again, to complete the incomplete story of Satopanth Taal Trek, and of course for other treks.
I had nothing in mind but had decided to go down to Ukhimath...
That's How I Got Leh'd