Rehguzar – The Path to Travel
A Journey which leads to no specific destination.
The never ending path with innumerable twists and turns that keeps you on your toes
It Keeps you engrossed in trying to decipher what is going to happen next
The Unpredictability of this path is what makes us come alive.
We all have our own manifestations of the truth. We all live the journey based on what we have concluded either from hear-say or from our own experiences
This story is about three friends that took the road trip to a destination and how their perceptions about the biggest truth changed drastically
An Atheist is someone who has understood that there is no superhuman power that is magically governing the world from the sky. The Actions of every atheist may differ But they view the world from a logical perspective
I, Gautam Sidhwani was the same. I never believed in anything superhuman. As a TV Reporter i had covered lots of live action. I had reached the scene of crime even before the Policeman got there.And every bleeding man and every crime story confirmed to me that this human race was not being controlled by any super power
But as the days passed i grew tired of reporting crime scenes and i decided to do something unique
My Best friend Inamul Haq was a cameran. He stood behind the camera while i stood in front of it and reported the news .He was a stern believer and a fabolous singer. We had reported many depressing bomb blasts and incidents of shootouts by some youths from across the border . His emotional vent out was singing and it gave me tremendous peace to hear his soothing voice. He Usually sang complaining to his god that what is happening to humanity and why are people killing in his name .
This time we were on a trip to a village in North India. The Saptarishis were going to be in prominence on a certain night and the Sadhus and the Religious heads of the hindu community had organized a Maha-Yagna to held on the banks of the ganges. The Turnout was going to be gigantic . Over 30 Million devotees were going to take a dip in the ganges and be blessed by the Sadhus .
We had the Opportunity to cover this event live and get the experience of a lifetime
Our Media House must have certainly understood our boring lives and hence we were accompanied by a young Photographer named Shraddha. We boarded the same train and i could hardly keep my eyes off her. It is ridiculously rude to stare at a female colleague but somehow i felt she was enjoying the attention. I tried to strike a conversation but she responded very rudely
From what i have understood of women is that they never portray the right emotion. If they like someone they try their best to get him rid of his interest or attraction for them. The first attempt they make is by being rude to them. And if you are put off by the rudeness, they usually reply in a sweet tone as usually women are very soft-hearted
They break hearts but they want to be least offensive towards the one giving them attention. They usually get attracted to those men who give them no attention and look away from them. The Ones that are usually ill mannered, rude and Abnormal.
The Favorite pastime of Inamul Haq and me was to discuss God. We always argued about his existence.They say that when an Atheist has a conversation with a believer and it turns into a healthy argument where both sides keep their perspective.It Usually gives both lots of matter to ponder about.
As the heated discussion was on. Shraddha slowly got captivated by the quality of this debate and she was tempted to give her two cents.
But she stopped as i continued my perspective
“I Don’t like the manifestation of your god
I Don’t like the fact that my creator loves me only on this condition that i sing his praises
If i do not sing his praises he will make me burn in hell and if i sing his praises i will be rewarded”
Shraddha Quipped “ So what kind of god do you expect ?
I Replied “As an atheist for me my god is my mother
My Mother loves me unconditionally. She does not demand anything from me. Her love is pure and divine.Her love is not based on the mandate of me singing her praises and even if i criticize her ,she can never imagine to burn me in hell.
For me my god should be loving kind and forgiving.
Not someone who is so arrogant that he orders me to kill someone if they say anything against him”
Her facial expression suggested she was impressed with her lips pouting in disbelief that a pervert could be intelligent and could strike such an engaging conversation.
Inamul Haq could not stay behind , He interrupted “But if he does not set certain rules. How will we differentiate from Just and Unjust ?”
How will we decide what is Right and what is Wrong ?”
Shraddha Said “ Our Conscious , It tells us. When we are about to do something wrong, it stops us”
I Jumped from my seat to take an upper hand in the conversation
“ My Problem is not with Believers or god or its existence
.The Problem lies with Fanatics. I never thrust my atheist beliefs on others. My debates are always for Religious Tolerance
“Your faith is so strong that it can move mountains
Yet it cannot stand the criticism by an atheist and they get killed for being blasphemous”
Shraddha Nodded . Inamul Said “ Even i am against Fanaticism of any kind. But it is the wrong interpretation of certain things mentioned in the religious texts”
The debate went on and on and what had started as a repulsive behaviour from Shraddha had already turned into attraction. Her body language suggested that she had started liking me.
She complimented me for my confidence and was now sitting right next to me. She was very fidgety and clearly showed how impressed she was with me. Her eyes never made contact with me. Whenever i tried to look into her eyes she would look the other way and blush. This journey had given way for a potential love story to develop between us
The night journey was even more fabulous . While Inamul snored away to glory , we took some time out for romance. As we sat in the corner of the train discussing everything under the sun. I realized that the entire rude and bold avatar was just a pretence. She was the usual girl next door, extremely shy and very beautiful.The more she spoke about her endeavours , the more she impressed me.
I wasted no time in telling her how fascinated i was by her. Everything she did or said made me feel so awesome .Even the perfume she was wearing was mesmerizing . The fact that drew me to her was that she had no qualms about my atheism and she accepted me the way i was . She was the first female i had met who had not tried to preach me and restore my faith in the almighty.
As we reached the destination, we realized that this might just be an experience of a lifetime. As we got down at the station, everywhere we saw there was a Saffron Clad Sadhu. The Whole ambience of this place was filled with religion. It gave us the feeling that we were blessed by a certain entity just to reach here. Many had queued up and struggled for days but were not able to reach this point where they would get the instant salvation they so deserved.
I had booked two adjacent rooms in an Ashram since i wanted to get the feel of the place to write the words i would speak on National TV and then in my article which would appear on the International Platform Called the World Wide Web.
Shraddha and I had spent almost the entire night in the passage outside our adjacent rooms glaring into each other’s twinkling eyes and talking sweet nothings
I had hardly closed my eyes for a few minutes and something disrupted my sleep It was 4.00 am in the morning when a bhajan playing in the Ashram woke me up from my sleep
As i walked out of my room the voice grew louder. It was a beautiful young girl dressed in a saree singing in the Ashram’s temple and rotating the thali in her hand in a circular motion
Inamul grabbed his camera and Shraddha grabbed her Camera and they started recording the heavenly atmosphere of the place. Almost everyone was awake and they had showered and were dressed in traditional attire and were swinging their heads in similar motion to the song. The Music was melodious and the lady’s voice was enchanting. It did not look like a pretence.
When they do this in Mumbai, It somehow feels very annoying and gives no pleasure. But these people were doing it from the heart. For the first time i was amongst real believers.They had no agenda. No selfies were being taken. No one was dressed as God or Baba. It was just devotion in its purest form and it somehow impressed me
We had a breakfast at as early as 5.00 am. The same lady who had set off this auspicious day with the melodious song was Serving us Breakfast .Shraddha was slightly insecure at the way i was looking at this woman.It was not attraction here, just my curiosity. I wanted to ask her how she could be so engrossed in Godly deeds at such a tender age. Does she not get tempted when she sees young boys of her age? Does she not feel like going out with them, Watching movies, letting her hair down ?
But her face had a certain tranquility and peace. She looked completely satiated by her god and his devotion.
Time was moving at snail’s speed. When i opened the gate to take a stroll outside. I realized that it was still pitch-dark outside. We still decided to take a stroll. As we walked ahead we saw some massive monstrous statues of all kinds of gods you could imagine. The Clinging of bells came from all corners and the sound was magnificently glorious. As if the Entire set of humans who had laid feet on this immensely auspicious place were celebrating their godliness
The Three of us were walking on the highway where trucks were passing at breathtaking speeds.On either side was River Ganges..My Only fear was that if a truck could not see our hazy figures and hit us we would all achieve instant salvation by drowning in the freezing water of the Ganges and as per hindu scriptures reach Vaikunth Dham which is the most sacred place to go after death
Inamul Haq came up with an Idea. He Played a loud bhajan (A Song with God’s Praises) on his cellphone. According to him it was his survival strategy. The Passing truck would hear the bhajan and not hit us.
We cleared the Highway and reached the Location. The Preparations were on. Shraddha started capturing some divine moments on her camera. A Sadhu walked up to us and tied a silkish red thread on our hands and asked for some money. We shelled out some change and he blessed us.
Inamul Haq held his hands across his face enacting to have a camera and started choosing the angles he would shoot the scenario by. After a few minutes of Monkeying around with his hands he finally found the angle he wanted and adjusted his camera .He adjusted the lights and he started shooting me
With my back to the Sacred River i set off with my shot in style “ As i pointed out the River, Sadhus, The Ambiance . I felt proud of representing this fantastic scenario to my people who were watching this Live on their TV Sets. The Atheist in me had slightly began to believe in the magical power of a certain almighty.This place made me feel alive. Millions had gathered at the single place and this almighty whom we all had never seen had the power to gather a crowd of Millions who could sing his praises in unison.There was something magical about all this and i started admiring this awesome moment like an awestruck child. Shraddha was gaping at me with her mouth wide open getting impressed at my ability to speak and hold the show so well
As i was confidently phrasing my anecdotes. I noticed a change in Shraddha’s emotions.Her eyes had grown wide and she was looking at something with astonishment in her eyes . I turned around to see what had transpired. It shook me to see a whole herd of petrified people running in one direction pushing each other fanatically.It sent shivers down the spine and the sudden change of events led to a whole negative vibe in the entire auspicious air. I Overheard an old man say that someone had kept a bomb in the premises of a sacred temple where the holy event was about to take place.
Shaken and stirred we tried to find a secure place as our first reaction but then we realized this was an important news.
We climbed on a temple roofs and tried to shoot the havoc. As i struggled to stand on the slope and deliver my lines, i realized how inhuman we had become. Inamul had tears in his eyes and Shraddha was constantly looking at the tragic incident unfolding itself
The Stampede grew in magnitude as maximum people were trying to run away from the place to escape death.We closed our shutterbugs and decided to help people in needed. Some people had suffered fatal deaths and some were injured very badly .Shraddha ran from pillar to post to get first Aid and other things required.
I and Inamul tried to drag injured people to safe corners and many others joined us in the process The Moment had left us all wounded. Our hearts that were admiring the beauty of the creator suddenly felt cheated and disheartened. I felt that if he had the power to bring such a big magnitude of people to a place.He should also have the power to protect them from the Mishaps.
This continued throughout the day. I hoped that the believers would certainly walk up to the temple and perform the sacred event However The Celebrity 201 Sadhus that were going to perform the Yagna did not set their foot in that place. The Bomb demolition unit made us all breathe with ease when they said that the bomb scare was just a hoax .
An Entire Tragic twelve hours had passed to get the situation somewhat in control. It was 4.00 pm in the evening now. The Loudspeakers had started blaring again with Bhajans and Praises of the almighty that sounded irritating to me now. I had changed from an Atheist to a believer and back to being an Atheist in a span of twelve hours.
We walked up to the Ashram to collect our luggage and return back to the city where we all belonged But then we saw something that shattered us all to pieces. The Beautiful women who had started this auspicious day with her melodious voice. The One who had divinity in her eyes. The One who had made me feel inferior to her because i did not believe.The One who believed and sang praises from her heart. She lay dead on the pavement. The Mob had walked all over her. She had been a victim of the stampede and no one had even tried to move her away or save her. She had suffered some major head injuries.I sat down next to her dead body and tears flew down my cheeks. Her enchanting voice still lingered in my faded memory. The way she had referred to god as the one who is our Palanhaar.
Palanhaar is someone who protects us, raises us and takes care of us.
Who was responsible for this Tragedy ?
A Foolish man who set off the rumors just for fun or the foolish millions who flocked to a destination to be blessed.That moment made me question the very need to travel to an auspicious place to seek god
“Our scriptures say he is Omnipresent” Shraddha replied.
“ He is everywhere, You are right . We should try to seek him within ourselves or a nearest temple” She Concluded
i was too stunned by the occurrence. It reminded me of hundreds of other such occurrences where humanity has been subjected to terror, tragedy and untimely death by the so called faith keepers and religious heads.I made it a point to make it a revolution and change a few people like Inamul and shraddha and take them out from blind faith and Hypothetical beliefs
Finally seated in the jeep that was taking us to another city .Inamul Haq started singing in his heavy voice complaining to his god that what is happening to humanity and why are people killing in his name I hope that he gets an answer soon
© Jitendra Kotai