There I was in Rishikesh feeling that all nature was conspiring to make me feel at home by ensuring that it rained all night. This idea that everything was coming together to ensure that I felt at home was intensified when the next day's journey onwards was one long traffic jam after another - what else can make a Bangalorean feel more at home?
How human it is to think that everything in the universe is being staged exclusively to affect you! A massive landslide had halted all traffic about 3 hours from Rishikesh. The stop-start mode of transport continued almost all the way. Even the boulder that crashed into the road scant feet behind our vehicle gave us no indication of the massive disaster that was engulfing the region.
We hit Srinagar - between DevPrayag and KarnaPrayag - around 4.30 PM. The original intention of reaching Loharganj - which was the starting point of our trek route - had long been abandoned and we were intending to reach Karnaprayag by night and staying there. We stopped there for tea and by the time we started again, the bridge over the Alaknanda on our route was blocked and another traffic jam had developed. Abandoning any intent of traveling any further we took rooms in a hotel at Srinagar for the night.
That was where we stayed for the next couple of days. It rained almost incessantly for till the evening of Tuesday and the sight of the Alaknanda in spate was enough to strike terror in the hearts of anyone staying just one house to this side of the banks. One more day of rain would, in all probability, have found us stranded on the second floor with water lapping at our heels. The roads forward and backward were impassable.
We did not realize how lucky we had been. But for that stop for tea we would have probably been past the point of no return and looking for manna from Heaven and helicopters to the rescue. As it was, I felt almost ashamed when I received concerned calls from friends while comfortably ensconsed in a hotel watching cricket and guzzling vodka. A far cry from the desolate straits of the thousands of pilgrims stranded along the route.
A further indicator of our extraordinary luck was the news that an alternative route - which cut off at a point about 15-20 Km.s before Srinagar - was open on Wednesday. We opted to go back and with absolutely no problems or delays reached Haridwar by evening. Deciding not to go back we managed to find accomodation in Club Mahindra, Kanatal near Mussoorie and were there till Friday.
The most dangerous part of this entire trip was the car journey to Dehradun. Our driver seemed to have modelled his driving on the Formula 1 drivers and racing down a mountain road at 50 Kmph was certainly the scariest part of the whole trip. When we started remonstarting with him about the speed, the car started zipping at 60 Kmph as though he had mistaken the accelerator for the brake. We abandoned our attempts lest each attempt increased the speed by an additional 10 Kmph ending in our sailing off in a graceful arc into the valley below.
It seemed like our chauffeur had homicidal tendencies. Every time he passed any vehicle on the road, he seemed to be giving in to the temptation of sideswiping it before changing his mind at the last moment. While I was busy holding in the contents of my stomach, the others were bewailing the fact that we had escaped the horrors of nature's fury only to end up as a red smear on an otherwise harmless road. One of us was reassured about the driver's eventual entry into Heaven - having put the fear of God into so many people's hearts.
A change of drivers at Dehradun was accompanied by a gusty sigh of relief. The 'fear of God' companion sought our driver's name and, as he later told us, merely to ensure that he never got into another car which had a driver whose name even remotely resembled it. The trip back to Delhi was uneventful.
The trek to Roopkund still remains a proposal but, seeing the possible horrors that we could have undergone, that is a blessing. I do hope that all those who are undergoing such suffering now also end up safe in their homes.