Ever looked up at the sky to see a sky like black velvet with a glorious multitude of diamond-bright stars strewn all over it? Ever see the rising sun’s rays strike a cloud just as it is crossing an ice-clad peak and make it appear as though there was a flame in the heart of the mountain? Ever seen an ice spear, tall as five men, break off from a mountain and fall thunderously down? Ever looked down on a large emerald-green pool glisten softly in the sunlight? It is experiences like this on a trek to the Himalayas that lift you from your mundane concerns and put you in touch with the serenity that is at the heart of all creation. A touch of the divine, one may say.
Sitting in the train to Delhi, I was lost in the thoughts of the wonders of my last trek and the expectations of the one that I was intending to go on this time. There was just one old rustic lady in the compartment with me, whose daughter-in-law had parked her there and left for her seat in another compartment. I had just recaptured the serenity that I usually feel on my treks when it was rudely shattered by a cacophony of voices. The rest of the companions on this train journey had arrived – in the form of two twenty-something girls and four boys of the same age. I mused bitterly about what it was that caused the young to think that enjoying themselves necessarily involved making noises fit to wake up the dead.
Thankfully, they did feel sleepy at around the same time that I did and, so, the night passed off reasonably peacefully. The next day morning the chat-fest was at full swing and I was looking out the window trying my best to deafen my ears to it. The old lady opposite me was fidgeting in discomfort, as well.
“Maaji! Do you need some help?” asked one of the girls in Hindi. The old lady demurred but continued to fidget.
“If you want to go to the bathroom, I will come with you”, said the girl.
“My daughter-in-law will come soon”, said the lady.
“How long will you wait. Come with me”, said the girl and took the lady along.
It seemed a common enough affair for me till I started thinking about it. In a world too full of its own affairs, it is difficult enough to find someone unknown to help you even when you ask for it. Here was this young girl, who not only had enough empathy to guess the need for help but also insistently offered it to someone from whom she could have had no expectations.
From then on, the old lady’s needs were met by this girl almost before she felt the need. Slowly, the other girl and then the boys, too, were participants in the affair. Make no mistake, the noise levels were as before and the group was not hovering over the old lady every moment of the day. Other than, almost instinctively, helping her, the group was busy with its own business. Strangely, however, their chatting had ceased to rub me raw! It made me realize that it was I who had grown too far away from my youth to enjoy their high spirits.
By the time it was midday, all of us were sharing snacks and tea and, it seemed as though we were all one family traveling together. Not that they got the old woman to open up at all but, to them, taking care of them like their responsibility…no, that is too serious a word! Taking care of her came as naturally to them as offering tea to a friend while you were ordering one! An interesting side-light to the tale is the case of the vanishing daughter-in-law. She did come later that morning but once she realized that there were people around to help her mother-in-law that was the last we saw of her!
There are times when you cease to view the world from the perspective of your own concerns and feel a sort of oneness with your fellow-men and, indeed, with all creation. A touch of the divine, dare I say? This wonderful young girl with her instinctive generosity of nature had, for a day at least, made a group of people feel that quiet joy that comes of being taken out of your own self and enjoy the unalloyed good will of companionship.
Reminded me of my earlier experience on my trip to Haridwar. I had had my pocket picked and was stuck with a RAC seat to be shared with a youngster. He was asking me about ‘managing’ the TTE and getting a berth. I told him I was in no position to ‘manage’ the TTE, thanks to a picked pocket. In whatever manner it happened he did get a berth and that was the last I saw of him that day. The next morning when we were disembarking I ran into him again. He remembered my moneyless situation, asked me if I needed help and insisted on dropping me close to where I needed to go. Rare people like this make my day and every time I remember the incident it makes me happy.
Nature brings you close to the divine. Wonderful people like this do that to you as well. It is my privilege that my life touched, however peripherally, upon their lives and I certainly live in the hope that many more will come my way even if they are becoming a rare breed. Hopefully, there will be more interesting stories of this sort in this thread as well as in my life!