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It began with a thought I hadn’t planned
Hindsight is indeed a great thing. Had I packed with me a notebook and pen then who knows what useful thoughts I may have penned on this journey of mine.
January 1993 and I was celebrating my 16th birthday. I can still remember my parents had organised a blessing at home with family and friends to mark the occasion. After that there was a cake cutting ceremony and I lapped up every moment. An obedient 16 year old I was but also had a little naughty streak in me. In the coming months I’d be head down preparing for my final examinations! However instead of looking forward to a relaxing summer and waiting for exam results, I’d be making an unplanned journey to India with my mother. It was unplanned because I could never have imagined boarding a plane with my father’s ashes in my hand.
19th May 1993 and our small world stopped moving, the smallness became even smaller and turned to darkness. It happened so suddenly that I forgot what the concept of death really meant! With a title no child ever wants, I was the father figure of the house. There was no point in questioning the powers to be on this life changing moment. When the first phase of the mourning process ended we were left to ourselves to re-build. Tradition stipulated traveling to India to spread our fathers ashes in the Holy waters. The last time I went to India with my family was 1983, when I was only 6.
When we booked our flight someone told us we must go visit Sri Hemkunt Sahib, in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India. I’d heard mystical things about this place and in a dark time there was an opportunity for us to maybe find some solace?
First, a journey within a journey
Before embarking on this journey 3 fears played havoc in my mind.
The first, how would my mum cope with the storm of emotions that were about to greet her back home. My mum had just lost the love of her life, her soul mate who departed at a very young age. This combined with the emotional stress could have proved a deadly tipping point of no return.
Secondly, I had not seen my extended family for over 10 years and was terrified at the prospect of having to be responsible. I wasn’t sure if I could lead the line, be a man, stand up and be a barrier for my family.
Thirdly, and most important, I feared being separated from my younger siblings. As I write this today, I can forgive all the pain I felt at that time. But I cannot forgive for the pain and hurt my siblings felt at that moment of knowing their world had been ripped apart.
So our journey to Sri Hemkunt Sahib was a journey within a journey. In the company of family who so kindly escorted us we had time to reflect. My mother and I came to realise the challenges we would face when back in England. She was only in her early 30’s and now had to shoulder the responsibility of three unprotected children. But little did I know she was the rock that could not be moved, the barrier that shielded us through our own challenging years, the glue that held us all together. We have our demons but often forget the demons our parents are fighting each and every day.
Our salvation rested in us reaching Sri Hemkunt Sahib safely!