July 29th Sunday, Guru Poornima…It was early bird time when I set out in a cab, and on reaching Nehru Place, I got off near Paras cinema – where I was to wait for Marwadi, my old school chum.
Nehru Place wore an ‘abandoned factory’ sort of look at that time of the morning. It was a ghostly jungle of concrete. The outer-Ring-road pavement in front of Paras theatre was not without activity though. Some pavement dwellers were fast asleep – nary a care in the world. There were a couple of newspaper merchants, who were unrolling the morning’s papers from a large-large bale, doing some artistic-magic and folded them in intricate ways – ready for display in shop-windows and shanties. Some stray animals, garbage strewn around, and gutter stench completed the picture. Good Morning!
Soon Marwadi loomed up the horizon and down the flyover in a large Toyota Innova taxicab, and we were on our way. We were nearly done in when a truck drove past us and immediately turned directly in front of us. Somehow the survival skills of the taxi driver saved us. There is such a thing as Karma.
Twenty minutes later, we went past the beautiful Akshar Dhaam temple, and drove into Mayur Vihar – Phase 1, to pick up Ramay (pronounced Raa + May) and Venkat, also school mates.
So there we were, old school chums, going out together, some three decades and more since the time we passed out of school! We were school kids, all over again. Age doesn’t count when you are with your classmates.
Our destination: Garhmukteshwar.
In the 1500 kms route that Ganges takes from the mountain to the sea, Garhmukteshwar is the point that is closest to New Delhi. It is about a couple of hours drive from the point where river Yamuna flows, near Akshar Dhaam. The road to take is the National Highway that goes towards Lucknow. A good road to drive in.
Ramay was worried. He was worried that we had picked the wrong day to go the Ganges. “At least a hundred thousand pilgrims will come there today” he warned. He claimed that he’d been there and done that on a similar festival day. I wasn’t worried. I had implicit faith in my guardian angel and so pooh-poohed his apprehensions.
“It’s a great day to have a bath in the Ganges! Guru Poornima! These things don’t happen by chance or by plan. This is Karma at work. Take your foot off the pedal, and just float downstream with the flow of Karma. Heed the call of Mother Ganga!” I said, with a spiritual flourish, which only made him feel even more cynical.
Marwadi too muttered something about Kawadias…Their tryst with Ganges too commenced on Guru Poornima day. He too wasn’t too sure…
Driving past Hapur, we ran into a huge traffic pile up. Thousands of vehicles in standstill. The highway was choked. No can move, Senor. Ramay smiled.
When things go wrong, skeptics smile….
To be contd…