Strange are some pilgrims
A lady is talking to herself; loud
sounds like a conversation with God
she seem lost
Lost in her world; oblivious to surroundings.
First saw her on the road, she was walking up; not too far from the a temple by the river Bagirathi. A few kilometers from the village Dharali.
She appeared at a restaurant where I was having my lunch
All by herself; she chose to sit
on the other corner of sofa I was sitting.
Blank eyes, harsh voice with the manager and staff
She is here yet not here.
I was talking first with a friend of mine and then with bunch of bikers from my state. Only when my chit-chat with bikers turned to the topic of ‘peace and spirituality’
did her body language and face showed some recognition
Perhaps; her world is not without a bridge.
She asked about how Gangotri is. That is the famous pilgrim town I walked down from
she wants to know what transport is available.
It is snowing up there. I just walked down twenty kilometers
for the transport is sparse and unpredictable.
It is off season now. Even the temple is closed.
But I tell her about occasional share jeeps or road construction trucks
I am back in my room after the lunch.
But she stayed
in my mind.
Lady who knows where she wants to go;
But utterly lost from the world around.
How do they end up in such places; I wonder…
Many hours later
Rested well; I step out for a tea.
It is starting to rain at Dharali.
Roadside shack; warm cup of tea in my hand. Standing looking out at the road
I see her for the third time on that day.
She is sitting on the stairs of an abandoned building. Her body curled to protect from the cold. She does not have much of a warm clothes to protect her from cold at these altitudes. She has same lost look; staring at the ground in front of her. I do notice her shivering a bit from the cold. Her presence there and not usual for this village.. I can tell from the ‘stares’ of some of the passing-by villagers.
My tea is finished quickly. Warm tea always feels good in cold whether like this. But tea was way too sweet for my taste to order the second one. I continue to stand there watching the road and the rain.
Clearly, she does not belong here. Nor is she in her senses. What is wrong. Is it some kind of trance or is she spaced-out simply? It will be night soon. It gets dark early on a day like this in a village surrounded by mountains. What she is going to do. Definitely it is too late to look for vehicle to Gangotri and find accommodation there. Snow mountains and rain making it really cold and lady seem vulnerable.
Normally I would walk-up and inquire or ask if she needs any help. But in this case, I feel it is not right to do so. This is a village I just came in and hardly know anyone. Moreover, the lady has a look on her face which says “leave me alone”. Finally all thoughts could be my judgments and inferences only. When someone is in sensitive space, you would not want to interfere. What do I do ? What do I do ? I am feeling helpless with the urge to help her. I decide to just stay with the feelings and thoughts I am having totally and just watch myself and see what happens.
Must have been fifteen/twenty minutes. My heart is not ready to move yet. I keep watching the cloudy sky, the road, villagers winding up for the day, lady staring at the ground across road, and the rain. I continue to stand there witnessing my feelings and my helplessness.
Suddenly, my attention goes to the road coming from the white peak. I hear some sound. There is a speeding vehicle approaching and that comes to halt right in front of the tea shop. Many people rush to the share-Jeep. I notice the lady getting up from the steps and running to the Jeep as well. She is gotten inside now and shouts name of a place she wants to go.
What a relief. After all she has a place somewhere in this no mans land. She wont be spending night out on those steps shivering and vulnerable.
As the vehicle continues, I feel the relief, I feel the expansion. My eyes start to fill faster than the rain-drops. I move finally from the tea shop. By the time I reached my room at the guest-house, I am crying; almost loud cry and uncontrolled. First time in a long time…