Jaana jogi de naalA most delicious thing happened to me on this trip – an event that coloured and informed my entire outlook. About three or four years ago, I came across Sri M – a kriya yogi, an enlightened being who came from a great spiritual lineage. Extremely curious, I ordered his book, Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master. When the book arrived, however, I read a few pages but put it aside. My own journey was so new, I needed perhaps to cement the bond with my own glorious Guru – intake nothing but his words, look upon no face but his. It was not yet time.
Sri M’s book is set in the very sacred mountains, around the same rivers that we were travelling in, and as it happened, a fellow traveller was carrying a copy – in fact, a copy signed by the great man himself. She most kindly lent it to me and I spent a few long bus journeys drinking in this story avidly.
In his book, Sri M narrates a sharp incident set in a cave in Mana, the outermost village before the Indo-China border – of how a fakir climbed the steep cataracts of the Alaknanda to fling himself at the feet of a yogi meditating in the Vyasa cave in these cliffs. Even with my brief reading of the book, I had been fascinated by this place on the fringes of Badrinath.
Now, all of Lesser Himalaya, and its throbbing spiritual activity, came alive for me. The innumerable seekers, sages, saints at various levels of achievement... the several establishments, the ashrams, the infrastructure, the difficulties, the doubts, and the juxtaposition of the mundane with the profound... in fact, the very way of life and its orientation.
Sri M speaks of refuges in Hardwar and Rishikesh, of the steep paths beyond Gangotri and Gomukh, of kutirs in Kedarnath and Badrinath, of walking drunkenly in the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib... he describes the yogi’s life, how they eat, how they live, how they pray, how they are... I was absolutely riveted! This is a near-fantastical book – he talks, almost casually, of things that seem bizarre to the modern mind. It occurred to me that perhaps our Amar Chitra Kathas spoke nothing but the literal truth of how things are, if only we could suspend our disbelief!
I read faster than I should have, maybe – I did want to finish the book before we touched Badrinath, and also wanted to return the book to Farah as quickly as possible – she’d taken the trouble to lug it across the peninsula only to have it wrested from her by a needy reader; it wasn’t fair.
Once before I had the good fortune to read a book set in the very spot I was reading it in – and that was in the Himalaya as well. It is an incomparable joy, this.