Enterying the Himalayas

Posted By Author on October 10, 2009

Our sojourn began at 11 P.M. at night. There were four cars.  In Ramkrishnaji’s car Baba, Gita and Kalyani were in the rear while Ramanidada and Ramkrishnaji’s son were in the front.  In Motisingh’s white taxi Dinbandhu and I occupied front seat while Dinbandhu’s widow sister Shantididi, Shomu’s sister Jayanti, Pilu-the youngest daughter of Ramanidada and her sister Dipali occupied the back seat. Shubir, Haribandhu, Haridas, Gobind and others occupied the third, Sitaram’s taxi.  Ratan Maheshwari accompanied Ramprasadji in his car.  The royal convoy filled petrol and proceeded with Baba’s car at the front.

After one hour Baba stopped the convoy at Company Garden of Sitapur and told us to get down.  He took us in the garden. The gardener Chandrika Prasad came.  He addressed Baba as ‘Bhagwanji’ (God) and lay prostrate before him.  I was intrigued.  It seemed both knew each other well.  Baba rebuked him for his statement given to Uttamchand Malhotra.  He confessed that Uttamchand deceived him. Baba then enquired about his welfare and his relation’s.  He further queried about the Doctor Sadhu who was in the garden.  He asked about Deputy Superintendent of police (D.S.P.), his whereabouts and told the gardener to give his address. He told me to handover Rs. 50 to the gardener and asked to him to purchase sweets for his children.  Baba then turned to me and said that he had lived there in 1952 for many days.  Even after that he would visit intermittently.  He used to perform deep meditation there and Chandrika Prasad would provide water for bath at four o’clock in the morning in cold winter.  In the noon he would cook khichari for him.  He served Baba heartily.  Then Chandrika Prasad asked about the welfare of Radhakantji.  He was with us and in those days he attended Baba round the clock.  Once the poor Gardener treaded long journey and reached Shaulmari Ashram.  He had already dropped a letter in the name of Baba. He was denied interview as the letter was directly addressed to His Holiness instead of the Secretary as per protocol. Poor fellow returned in dejection.  When Baba came to know about it he became livid and very disturbed.  We drank water and moved on.

We traveled the entire night.  Ramprasad’s car was not with us.  Haridas said it overtook and went ahead.  From Lucknow our route was Sitapur, Shahajanpur, Bareilly, Rampur, Moradabad, Muzzafarnagar, Rourkee and reach Haridwar at about 8.30 A.M. next day. We arrived at the Ganges Bridge near Gadmukteswar.  The east coast had half a mile wide sand deposition, a lovely beach.  Baba halted on the east coast and told that we would go to the west bank by boats.  All were jubilant.  We reached there and I fixed a boat for three rupees.  The navigator was a boy of eighteen years old. All of us climbed in.  He tried his long pole but the boat got stuck up in sand.  Then I fixed another boat and half of us sat in that one.  The boats started.

It was an unforgettable sight.  Baba said that we would cross the bridge, as the immediate east bank was filthy.  The boatman warned that by law it was not allowed to go from below the bridge.  There was a police guard on the bridge.  I shouted and requested the cop to permit us to pass below the bridge.  After persuasion he allowed on the condition that we will get down on the west bank.  As we sailed, two constables on the west nearby shouted and prohibited us to cross under the bridge.  I told them that the other constable on the bridge permitted us to cross below the bridge. They retorted that he was a fool.  He did not know anything.  Baba ordered to cancel crossing or going to the west bank.  Halfway we returned to the east bank.  The two cops felt that they displeased Sadhumaharaj.  After getting down they requested Baba to forgive and take bath on the bank.  Baba refused.  Baba said to me that the constables were right.  Some saboteur could throw dynamite below the bridge. He expressed anxiety about the missing car of Ramprasadji.  I surmised that it might have had some snag hence delayed.  Haridas told Baba that the car had gone ahead.  He saw it.  So the journey began.

Before Hapur there was a bifurcation for Meerut but Baba’s car went straight ahead.  I tried to stop the second taxi that followed Baba’s car but it did not stop either and headed behind Baba’s car. It was about 10.30 A.M. We chased at seventy miles per hour to stop Baba’s car. Then both the cars returned and joined Meerut road. Before Meerut there was a big canal. It was 11.30 A.M.  Baba took a halt.  We stopped at a distance but he called us.

Fortunately Ramprasadji and Ratan’s car arrived when Baba was worrying about them at our halt near the canal.  Baba walked fast towards their car.  He began to shriek his rage on Ratan whether he was not ashamed of his anxiety. Brute. He boxed his ear and gave a slap on cheek.  Including us a few villagers assembled, all of us were stunned.  Ramprasadji was an owner of a hosiery factory at Kanpur, a short, stubby fellow of middle age in dhoti, balding and fair complexioned. He came forward to intervene.  Baba burst on him, ”Have you come with us to enjoy picnic?” Ramprasad received ‘prasad’ (Sweet distributed after prayer to God) exactly similar to Ratan who sneaked out.  It was his turn to intervene.  He ran towards Baba and told that they were delayed due to failure of car.  Baba awkwardly reminded that Suresh was suggesting all along that their car might have broken down.  Now his mistake was to be undone.  Probably after action he had to take resort to reaction to neutralize his mistake.  He called Haridas and asked him as to how he told that the car had gone ahead.  Haridas got bonus of extra slap on both cheeks.  Dinbandhu deposed as witness that at night their car overtook and in the morning Ratan showed him a hand to go ahead.  Ratan admitted that twice they had trouble of fuel pump and it took two and half-hours to repair. It was all chaos. Baba cancelled bath at the canal and instructed that all of us would halt at Laxaman Zula (hanging bridge named after epic Laxman) at Haridwar.  We would take bath and lunch there.

March Forward. Two hours’ drive was ahead.  The order of the convoy was first Baba’s car, second ours, third another taxi and fourth Ramprasad’s car.  We had a brief halt at Muzzafarnagar to purchase provisions.  I realized that Ramprasadji’s face was drawn.  He was dumb and gloomy after being insulted n front of everyone.  I whispered to him that he was extremely lucky and fortunate because Baba does not touch anybody.  He was convinced and with great joy told  everyone that Baba touched him. My panacea worked.

All cars were driving above the speed limit.  At 12.10 P.M. a shallow and narrow canal, six feet wide, ran across the road.  Baba saw it and shouted to the driver to stop the car.  The driver suddenly pulled the breaks and his car stopped dead.  It happened in a split of second .  Our car was thirty feet behind Baba’s car.  Our driver Motisingh applied full pressure on breaks, wheels screeched and our car rammed in the rear of Baba’s car.  There was a big sound.  Labourers working in nearby fields, men, women and children on hearing the crash were rushing towards us.

I was sitting in the front seat with Dinbandhu.  The dashboard knocked my right knee.  I feared fracture. Adjoining me, Dinbandhu was staring with wide-open eyes.  I then realized that he was unconscious. I put my hand on his heart, it was beating. Uma on the rear seat was shouting.  Next to her was Dinbandhu’s widow sister Shantididi.  She was calm but profusely bleeding on forehead.  I pressed my handkerchief to her wound and I was shouting to pacify all, “don’t worry,” I thought Shantididi was stuck up in door but that was not so.  I got down from the driver’s side and we pulled Dinbandhu out and put him flat on the ground.  He was still unconscious with eyes wide open. It was a frightening sight.  Uma and Motisingh were also bleeding on foreheads.  Water of the canal was sprinkled over Dinudada.  He regained consciousness.  He had no serious injury, just shocked.  Baba was standing nearby with one hand on his chest and blood oozing from a scratch on top of the baldhead.  Baba wiped off the blood and exclaimed in Bengali, ”Ramani do you understand what it means?” I could not understand its coded meaning.  Like Gandhiji naturopathy was in vogue in the Ashram. The medicinal ‘mati’ (silt or slime) that was boiled then cooled was brought with us from the Ashram. Ramanidada got busy applying it to wounds.  The ashramites were carefree.  They took bath and then were engaged in eating fruits.

I inspected the cars.  I found out that the radiator of our car was damaged, carrier on the top uprooted and thrown, and chassis bent.  With Baba’s car, the rear was smashed, body displaced and chassis touched the connecting rod. I removed buffer and radiator of our car.  One local student named Rathi helped me.  Our car was to be towed. Without much passenger load Baba’s car could be driven. After that I took bath and then my knee got swollen as big as a cricket ball.  Till then I did not realize the gravity of injury.  I could not bend the leg. Each member was given two oranges, two mosambis, one apple, one banana, and one cucumber.  I was about to appease my growling empty belly when Baba came. He was very angry.  He was in the habit of using fresh newspapers for sleeping and sitting .  The purpose was to keep him in touch with the current affairs.  The latter use was more important.  Thrice he told to purchase newspapers but he was not heeded to.  He quoted this as an example of neglecting him. He said he needed nobody’s help.  I was told to pluck branches of a tree and spread them on back seat of another taxi.  He sat on it and left alone not allowing any one to escort or follow. About half a mile ahead he got down in a farm and sent back the car.  While consuming my quota of fruits I completed my diary.

Ratan and Ramprasadji went to Roorkee to bring new taxis.  They brought two taxis from Haridwar.  It was decided to leave one taxi of Suryal in care of driver Motisingh and Sriram.  Our taxi was to be towed and the three drivers were told to bring cars to Haridwar for repairs.  Then Ramanidada, Gita, Kalyani and Ratan and I went in car to persuade Baba.

It was evening.  Baba was walking slowly along the road all by himself.  We got down and followed him maintaining some distance.  After sometime he happened to see us.  In a very mild, subdued and exhausted voice he called me by name and said come on.  He was moaning.  His shirt was torn and shreds were hanging from his dhoti. My eyes became moist to see his condition and suffering.  We plucked branches and spread them for him to sit.  All of us sat before him.  He appeared as if crippled.  His soft heart would not leave us all.  His bouts of anger were outlets of his suppressed worries, anxiety and suffering.  He said if he was allowed to take care of his own self he would come.  He added that because of our repeated mistakes Divinity was going away from him.  What worst there could be than an accident to the taxi in which he was sitting, he bemoaned.  We begged an apology but he said nothing could be done.  Then I explained to him the plan that two extra taxis were brought, the damaged cars would be left for repairs leaving one taxi with the damaged cars, reach and wait for them at Haridwar.  He agreed.  We went to an adjacent village to park the damaged cars overnight in the yard of a bus stand but being a Government property we were turned down.  One old Muslim villager did our work.  At 7.30 P.M. all of us began the journey and at early night reached Haridwar.

At Haridwar, Baba took me with him and moved through the crowd for shopping.  We visited many shops. He would bargain after asking prices.  Fruits, snacks and sweets were purchased for us. He told me that it was his habit from childhood that whenever he was very angry on someone, he would give sweets to him or her.  I learnt this habit from him.  Anyway, after that he purchased rice and mung dal without kernel 250 grams each for himself.  He kept it with himself and paid himself. He would never touch money.  He would bring out money wrapped in paper and keep it before a shopkeeper who would unfold it, take required amount, refold it and then back to pocket.  While accepting offered money same process was followed. (Ramkrishna Parmhansa never touched money. Baba emulated him. Ramkrishna preached that money and woman were the main obstacles in spiritual pursuit. Netaji in his autobiography on page 130 mentions, “ I abhor money, as money is the root of all evil.”)  With provisions we walked down to Laxaman Zula.  It was 1 A.M. and weather was cold.  We occupied a Dharamshala (charitable free lodges).  Baba occupied a lonely open terrace of the second floor.  Gita cooked khichari for him.  We enjoyed the feast and called it a day at 2.30 A.M.  After rest I realized the shooting pain of my knee.

As soon as I got up Baba called me.  All were requesting him to allow us to perform his work as usual.  He refused.  I said I alone would serve.  He smiled and told that it was all right but I would be required to go under lot of training before that.  There were strict rules and rigid restrictions.  He would give me an opportunity in future.  He said he must gain power (divine or political?).  Then we discussed plans for further journey. He refused to go by bus and insisted that all must go together. He gave an example of an operation.  If the assistants were idiots, the patient would die.  Therefore a good surgeon must discard assistants. He himself was in a similar situation he observed.  He confidently stressed to bother least about money.  He assured that my knee would be all right and sent me for my bath.

I was immediately summoned after bath.  A very big problem arose.  On the check post of Rishikesh unless we took an immunization shot, (inoculation)  we would not be permitted to enter the Himalayas.  It was mandatory.  Baba ordered that no Ashramite would take an injection. He was dead against the rule.  It was a queer snag.  He said all of us would walk about ten miles per day as pedestrians were not checked or stopped.  All agreed.  I suggested we hire a few mules. He agreed. Ramprasadji was sent to fetch a paid guide.  He could not get one.  I suggested that a few amongst us would accept inoculation and with bribe I would manage a certificate for all.  He said he would not permit as it would be perilous for the future work of the country. I argued that as per Constitution of India the Government was not supposed to interfere in any religious matter.  He gave a hearty laugh and said that it would have to be fought in the Parliament.  Of what use it was then and there.  He suggested an alternative that we would have permanent camp somewhere near Rishikesh but his problem was that he would not do anything without waters of the river Manadakini.  I said for religious goal, any deed or means were not a sin.  He laughed again and assured that he could swallow any sin and had capacity to digest it. “Ramani, why are you dumb and not suggesting a way?” Baba then told a story of Nagadevata (Cobra-God).

Baba was sitting on his dalda drum.  I again asked him to permit me to bribe.   After debate Baba reluctantly agreed and said that to achieve sanctity there was no harm in doing anything.  He said, “Do anything but the responsibility would entirely be mine.”  I took the car and straightway went to the health officer.  I appeared like a pilgrim with beard and clad in dhoti.  I spoke in English.  He told his name as Shukla.  I queried whether our Ravishankar Shukla was related to him. He proudly said he belonged to the same village.  He expressed his surprise at my talking in English.  I told him our difficulty.  He said he would not prepare false certificates and that he was not accustomed to bribe.  After persuasion he agreed, provided at least some people from the group would be inoculated.  I went to the bus stand and got tickets for some members.  On way back I picked up Dr.Shukla and his assistant.  We came to Dharamshala at Laxaman Zula.  Me and a couple of Ashramites took injections and I got certificate for our batch of twenty-one.  I told Dr. Shukla that it was not a bribe but visiting fee and thus I put Rs.20 in his pocket and Rs.10 in his assistant’s. Shyly both accepted.  Baba had gone to take bath but before that he crossed us, made a brief halt, talked with the doctor and told him to do whatever possible. Baba warned me to be aware of monkeys and goods.  They were capable of stealing clothes even.

Baba refused to accept purchases done by Ashramites but permitted to get cigarettes for him. Ratan suggested that existing ones be given and tell Baba that they were purchased.  I refused. I purchased two cartons of Capstan for fifty rupees.  It was 3 P.M. and the gate of one-way traffic was to open at 3.15 P.M. If the vehicles did not join the convoy at exact given time, they were detained.  Time was short.  Ramaprasadji brought an extra taxi and he took his car in time. The police on the gate was shouting for delay in our name. Ramprasadji was yet to come and Baba insisted that without him none would move but luckily he came in time.  Our entry into the Himalayas began. We were required to be ahead of the convoy’s vehicle with green flag.  The taxi driver was a young boy of eighteen.  He was restless to move ahead and Baba had already told him to control his speed.  Now Baba was worried that only ladies were in that taxi.  On the next stop he ordered me to put a male escort with them.  I was in Baba’s car on the front seat with Ramanidada and Gita at the back.  On the way, Baba would point out maths and caves and explain to us as to which saint, rishi, tapaswi lived where.  On mid-way halts, we would get down and Baba would walk ahead with Gita, Ramanidada, and me. When whistle of the convoy would blow, the driver would come and pick us up.

At 6 P.M. we reached Deoprayag and the convoy halted at motor stand.  Our car proceeded on Badrinath road.  Baba knew a temple of a Devi (goddess).  It was perched high up the road.  He climbed fast.  I was gasping and panting.  He said he would sleep in the open yard but there was no source of water and he canceled the site. We returned to the stand.  Baba told me to give alms to all beggars and pandyas. We booked the Inspection Bungalow for the night halt.  It was situated on a knoll.  The location was marvelous. It had a jaw-dropping view.  Baba chose an open platform of the adjoining small temple.  I was feeling feverish and he told me not to take bath.  He too was feverish and exhausted but he took bath.  None had taken food.  His mood was pensive.  Why did Radhakant not go to Sidholi with the message?  He said he would forgive a mistake but not bluffing and defying his orders. He dictated a telegram. He said after sixteen years he was expelling Radhakant from the Ashram.  He further dictated a letter to Niharendu Dutt Mazumdar that in Ashram’s cases Radhakant would not represent.  All of us requested and dissuaded him and he became silent.  I was exhausted and my knee was throbbing with shooting pain. So without food for the whole day, I slept.

The moment I got up I was immediately summoned by Baba.  I washed my mouth and rushed. He was not in a good mood. He said that we were to go to Rudrapryag that day but being Sunday entry was not allowed.  So he told me to book a trunk call and talk with the District Magistrate at Pauri and arrange his permission.  His instructions were noted down.  He left me on stand in his car and told me to return from the post office.  A boy Surendra Bhatt, son of a pandya, accompanied me.  My leg was giving awful trouble.  The post office was three quarter of a mile away. After crossing two bridges I climbed up and reached the destination.  The postmaster told that up to 10.30 A.M. the Exchange would not open.  I came back to the stand and from there to the Inspection Bungalow.

It was a horrible trek. Baba decided that about one and a half mile away, there was a secluded spot. Baba decided to see it himself. Ramanidada, Ramprasadji, Surendra Bhatt, and I accompanied him. Up and down, we walked three miles.  Baba looked very exhausted but even then he would be ahead of us. The spot was beautiful. There was a spring and mango trees on the terraced fields.  Baba inspected the building.  Spring water was collected in a pond.  The river valley of the Alaknanda was too deep.  Baba said that if his hut would be built, in rainy season it would be flooded as it was a depression.  Then we climbed up to see another spot but motor road was too near which would disturb him.  The sound waves would pass above.  He confirmed that the road was closed to traffic from 10:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M.  Then he told that there would be no watchman or a gardener.  The rent would be paid as demanded.  There was one Bengali sadhu but if he continued to live he did not mind. He decided to build his hut and a concrete tank.  Ramprasadji took notes and went ahead.  Baba, Ramanidada and myself sat down for a gossip. It seemed Baba was conversant with the region thoroughly well.  He showed the area of bears. I asked Baba whether wild animals ever attacked him. He laughed and expressed his inability to answer the question.  Then again we went to inspect the water. Just before the outlet the spring water was flowing on the land surface. The whole plan was upset.  Everything was cancelled.  We returned and after a long walk and steep climb reached Inspection Bungalow.  I sent a car to the stand for Baba and brought him myself.

It was 1.30 P.M. All were exhausted and he got a bout of rage.  He said that his body was burning.  Everyday was turning from bad to worse.  He said poison had climbed up to his knees.  It was he alone that by Yogic power  was able to keep his body active.  His work was yet to be done otherwise he would have left the body by Yogic method long ago. Then he took everyone to the task for bringing old newspapers. He needed fresh ones always.  He declared that he would not take food or water.  He said he did not like bluffing and was off on Ratan who received couple of slaps. He was angry, angry on self, angry on all.

Then he lowered his voice and mildly told me a story laughingly. He said one young boy was in love with a girl.  He would make a list of whatever she desired and promptly furnish it. If there be real love one would not forget.  These people do not love me.  From 1.30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. he was constantly giving outlet to his roar and anger.  People from the neighboring house came out to watch him.  Anger was waning.  I persuaded him to take food. He agreed to cook his own food.  He sent driver to purchase rice and mung dal but he could not procure it in the shop.  I took bath and food.  Baba was calm.  I requested him to accept our ration. Promised to vacate the outhouse for his cooking. He said, “If there was a brick wall it would do.” He expressed he would inspect the place. I followed.  He asked whether there was enough brick support to almirah.  I said yes (unknowingly). He saw filth of ash and blackened walls and enquired whether our food in the morning was cooked here. Someone said yes.  Again he got off and said to me, ”Suresh, I taught them cleanliness but they kept it only for me and not for themselves.  That is what they learnt in the Ashram.”  Everything was upset.  The door of the outhouse was away.  He was utterly exhausted both physically and mentally.  He calmed down at 6:00 P.M.  Then he ordered to clean a corner for cooking his food.  The ladies began the preparations for cooking.

In the meantime while we sat there, discussions began. Topics were on castes, Gandhi, ahimsa (nonviolence), etc. He said ‘ahimsa’ of cowards was useless.  We need ‘ahimsa’ of the braves. He recited a stanza of Bhagwad Gita. Anybody could become Brahmin but molecular structure of hereditary Brahmins’ was different. (Netaji wrote that he had faith in eugenics.) He did not agree with the theory of evolution of Darwin. “Spencer said he did not know who was wiser.  The whole humanity of the world needs change of heart through Divine Power.“ He said he moved through the country to study humanity and their needs like Ambedkar.  He talked about a humorous experience he received at that time.  He met a fake sadhu in Central India who shut himself for five days in a concrete tank.  He told many stories.  He disclosed that there was a very good spot in ‘terai’ region near Srinagar, Garhwal, but people there knew him and they would be nuisance, crowd after crowd would throng.  Then he talked on philosophy and brainwashing. He insisted on destroying the caste system and making it a dynamic one. (Netaji remarks.“ Must abolish the entire caste system or convert all castes into Sudras or Brahmins.) Baba believed in four ‘Varnas’, the Vedic divisions of society. He disclosed, ”Dronacharya was a Kshatriya who by ‘tapasya’ became a Brahmin. Between a Sadhu and a Raja (king), the Sadhu was a bhogi because he kept himself aloof and clean, yearning for God.  On the contrary the Raja would remain amongst people, neglect himself and give help to the needy.  Raja was a giver but sadhu was a taker.”  Baba then went for his bath and called us all again after he was done.

His mood was docile and affectionate. In a loving voice he told me that I committed a mistake that day and that I should do retrospection and find out my mistake.  Everyday I should use this method to take a stock of what good and what bad I did on each day.  Even if one punished someone, the feeling behind it should be to do good to that person and an intention of his welfare.  All asked him about information of the Himalayas.  He would tell about places and distances between them. He described Tehari and Pauri of Garhwal.  Then he gave us fruits (in return of his anger of the day?). He narrated stories of Swami Vivekananda.  He told me not to give letter of recommendation to a pandya who sought it.  He told that he applied oil and ghee always to ward off influence of others.  Because of contamination of food he never accepted ‘kacchi rasoi’ boiled or baked food but only ‘pakki rasoi’ (food fried in oil or ghee).  That day I argued a lot. He confessed that he was fully conscious of the fact that for hours he was barking like a dog in anger but he was helpless. People around him committed mistakes and he had to pull Divinity from within through venting anger.  He sincerely observed, “ Suresh I was always smiling and jovial. Radhakant and Krishnakant are with me for the last sixteen years. They also wonder as to how I have changed but I have no remedy. I had to change.” He was probably conscious of his anger again.  A layer of medicinal mud had been put on my knee under his direction earlier. He reminded Shubir to put a fresh layer again before going to bed.  I found him taking personal care of each and every individual about problems whatsoever they might be.  (Similar was Netaji’s nature.) I retired for the day.

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