Like an injured animal crawling on its belly, our vehicle was cautiously inching along. Outside, contours of the mountains were wet with tearing rain while inside, our cheeks were the same with tears. None showed any signs of abating. Clasped palms and quivering lips in focused devotion were desperately trying to evoke the attention of Lord Shiva, from whose Himalayan abode we were returning after a brief rendezvous.
The scene outside was extremely scary. An inhospitable weather coupled with a cocktail of mist and rain had considerably devoured the visibility. It would have been better if our hearing too had got negated, but no! A swelling river thundering away at sneezing distance was menacingly inviting us was into her freezing embrace.
The river did not seem the same entity which had danced all the way along us a week ago as we ascended the mighty mountains to seek salvation at the feet of the divine. That mountain maiden was calm, chirpy and cheerful. But the sudden unseasonal train of rains had transformed her into a demon, eager to destruct and devour. Reined in the name of hydropower and raped in the name of development, the river had finally managed to break free of all barriers and was reveling in her new-found freedom.
Suddenly at a serpentine turn, our snails’ pace was abruptly halted by a roadblock – a gigantic boulder had fallen off the mountain and lay right on the middle of the road. There was no way we could move ahead- the space towards the mountainside was insufficient for our vehicle to squeeze through, while attempting that stretch which dropped right down into the river would simply be suicidal.
“We will have to wait here till tomorrow morning!” our driver announced with an air of finality and parked the vehicle at the side of the mountain. As I looked up, I could see similar-sized boulders positioned above, waiting to roll down on us.
No one said anything. But the look on our faces said it all–everyone, including me was confirmed that we had reached the end of our mortal existence. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, all through the dying evening and deadly night, we sat imprisoned in the vehicle paralyzed with panic, while all around us the wild wind howled and danced in harmony with the fast descending downpour.
It was around midnight when the rains halted, the first time in the last three days. The skies cleared up and stars emerged, shining so brightly that their luminance surpassed that of the moon.
At dawn the sight which met our eyes served a confirmation that yesterday our prayers to the Almighty had not gone unheeded. The stretch of the road immediately after the boulder had caved in and disappeared into the river roaring below. Yesterday, in the dwindling twilight, had we not been stopped by the stone, which we had silently cursed throughout the night, by now all of us would have been resting in our watery graves.
Slowly the earth woke up. The sky was a clear cloudless blue and there was no trace of yesterday’s calamity. The sun shone brightly and the air was full of birdsong. The rising emotions of the river too had got subdued and she was her normal self once again.
We sat near our savior. Till then, it was just another non-living mass, an obstacle in our path of escape from the tortuous terrain. But now our perspective had changed completely. We hugged the stone and cried in relief and gratitude, downloading our deepest feelings without any inhibition. Our driver smeared it with engine oil and placed a handful of freshly plucked flowers at its feet. And perhaps that is how gods are born- elements of nature shaped by firm faith and showered with unadulterated human emotions.
About the Author: Sriparna Saha is an architect who loves to draw pen pictures as much as plans and perspectives. A die hard lover of traveling in the Himalayas, she prefers to take up projects in remote mountain locations (avoided by the city bred professionals) compared to those closer to civilization.