Posted in Family

Happy Fathers Day…to me

21.01.03 | 19.08.08

…..two of the most significant dates in my life

You know it’s a special day when the custard cream biscuits come out.

Happy Fathers Day to all parents, carers and guardians.

Posted in Family

A Special Journey…the final part

If you missed earlier posts related to this one

You can access those posts here [Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday]

 

In congregation one finds the answer

From Gobindghat our last base camp before the trek to Hemkunt Sahib was Ghangaria. Nerves were jangling inside me that evening but the calmness of the environment played its part in coming to my aid. Amidst the music of the flowing water sacred hymns could be heard. Perched on one of rocks the words flowed through me and suddenly a change took place. The anger soon began to dispel from my body, the fog of doubt dispersing over the horizon. As I sat shoulder to shoulder with my mum we both felt a renewed sense of confidence, with hope we had once again reunited. I spent most of the evening exchanging stories with members of the congregation, everyone had a story to tell. I was no longer scared.

Sri Hemkunt Sahib: where light fills faded hope

I was truly left speechless

We woke at 5am to prepare for our walk, the rain bellowed at an angle, pushing against our room. “Would we walk today” I said to myself? As I peered out of the window I witnessed a scene of joy. Men, half dressed soaped themselves and used the rain water to wash themselves down. “Worry not brother, it rains between 5-6 here every day” said one man with a cheery look. As uttered the rain came to a halt at 6am, we began our walk.
Unable to contain my excitement I decided to try and run the incline but soon ran out of stamina. Young I might have been but my fitness was lacking quite somewhat. Along the way we met many personalities of varying ages. Those walking downwards would shout words of encouragement “just a few km’s to go” they would say. We stopped at a small stall to consume a butter endorsed bowl of lentils. A much needed source of energy we continued walking to our ultimate summit.
Several hours later we reached the very top to witness one of the most beautiful sites my eyes had ever seen. I was instantly mesmerised and in complete awe of the scene unfolding in front me. Words didn’t flow at all, but the tears in my eyes did not lie. The darkness I had been carrying for the past few weeks had finally drained itself away. I remained silent all the time as I walked to the men’s cubicles with my uncle. Wearing special shorts I walked to the lake where other men were dipping into the water. It was cold, frozen but I was radiating with the warmth of hope. Remembering my beloved father I dipped my shoulders into the water and then sprang up again. I repeated this over 80 times only to be stopped by my uncle for fear of safety.
As we got dressed, the free kitchen handed us a large steel mug, tea brimming to the top filled with a few spoonfuls of sugar. This would bring the energy levels back up while we sat listening to sacred hymns sung by the resident priests. For the first in a long while I was at peace, a genuine smile had found its way back across my face.

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The journey back down, the drive back to Delhi was a haze. It was a haze because I was not longer afraid. Not afraid of the narrow rocky roads, the crazy bus drivers, the sharp turns around the hills. I had made it to one of the most scared shrines against all the odds, against the storms that had been brewing inside me. My mother and I, my siblings, were not alone and I knew together we could overcome any challenge.

19th May 2020 will signify 27 years since the death of my father. His fragrance lives on in his children, in his grandchildren. Our mother has spent her lifetime allowing us to blossom and continues to be the bedrock. This post, and one’s from this week is a small thank you to our rock!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family

A Special Journey…the story part 2

If you missed earlier posts related to this one

You can access those posts here [Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday]

 

Our salvation rested in us reaching Sri Hemkunt Sahib safely!

Good intentions speak loud volumes

When all the traditions had been completed it was time for us to embark on this journey to Sri Hemkunt Sahib. On leaving Delhi we travelled the following route: Meerut | Haridwar | Rishikesh | Rudraprayag | Joshimath and finally arriving at Govindghat. But two places and what happened between them stuck out the most.

Rishikesh
This was our first overnight stop. The original plan was to sleep-over at a nearby Gurdwara (Sikh Holy place of worship). On reaching there and inspecting the living quarters I was less then pleased. In my infinite stupidity I refused the humble surroundings in place for a hotel, I felt the standard was beneath me! I look back now and it was an opportunity lost and my ego got the better of me. The hotel was OK but morning view of the mountains was breathtaking, especially when sipping hot tea on the balcony.
Leaving the hotel our small van (old day SUV), carrying five of us hit a sharp rock along the way which led to a leak in the brake fluid. Not able to drive any further we stopped over at a small village surrounded by a lake, still in Rishikesh. Frustrated at our misfortune, my uncle and I managed to hitch a ride with a truck driver back in the opposite direction to a nearby garage. My mum, my auntie and cousin remained at the village. My heart began to sink, further separation from a loved one, I felt more alone then ever amongst the passengers sitting next to me.
We managed to find the garage, engage a mechanic who then got the bus back with us. My downward mood was uplifted by the rest of the passengers who sang all the way back to the small village. They were en route to Sri Hemkunt Sahib themselves, filled with anticipation. Glad to re-join the family, the fix took a couple of hours and we were back up again. While brief our residency in Rishikesh was a memorable one. I didn’t realise but the bubbling anger inside of me was surfacing in the disguise of my ego, I just refused to recognise it. Despite what looked like a bleak moment that threatened our journey, our problem was solved. If not me then my mum was carrying good intentions, I’m sure someone had heard her plea.

You may not believe it, but I do

Govindghat
When a believer is testing their faith, toying with it’s existence, then something happens which reaffirms ones position. This is my view based on my experience and I do appreciate everyone is on their own journey.
But now Govindghat comes to mind as the second place of importance. This was to be the last stop before reaching the tip of Sri Hemkunt Sahib. Again I pushed back on staying at a local accommodation, opting for a hotel. It was dark and maybe not wise to continue driving. Having been given instructions on how to get to the hotel we drove off. The road snaked around the steep hills, a small drop welcomed us if we got too close to the edge. Our driver was experienced enough but not even he could have prepared for what happened next.
With a loud thud the van shuddered against the pitch black sky! Our gearbox, it seems had given way. As the van came to a halt there was an eerie silence around us. We were well and truly stumped and I felt very angry with myself for not listening. Looking back now I can say a cocktail of emotions were making me force my opinion. The adults, sensing my predicament went along with it, but I deserved to be put in my place! The reality facing us was we were deserted in the middle of nowhere, and on top of that had no torch to assess the problem.
I retracted back into being some stupid brat and thought this was some kind of adventure in the dark now. It’s only when my mum began uttering a prayer that the seriousness of our position sunk in. As the driver walked further on he commented we were perched right near a bend on the road. That meant, if a vehicle turned the corner it would have very little time to avoid colliding into our van. We couldn’t even stand outside as there wasn’t much room between our injured vehicle, the road and the drop. We all felt somewhat doomed but hoping no one used this road until sunrise.
So the testing of faith? My mum was the first to notice a small light veering towards the back of our van. As the round light got larger, a loud beep signaled the arrival of man on a scooter. A dialog ensued between the scooter man, our driver and my uncle. The conclusion was the man would use his scooter light to shine on the underside of our van, thus allowing our driver/makeshift skilled mechanic to apply a temporary fix. 20 or so minutes later we were patched up enough so as to get us safely to Govindghat. As we all celebrated this mini victory the light diminished and the scooter man was no where to be seen. There was no humming noise, no beeping, no nothing but us and the dark hills. Our saviour had vanished into thin air. I couldn’t explain it then and my mum would agree we can’t process even today. It was truly a personal experience for us all at that time. A force provided a lending hand when we needed it most, when doubt had crept in.
So far I had excelled in masking my feelings, trickery that I was still firm to my faith and beliefs. But in truth, even before my plane left England I had forsaken what I had believed in. But whatever barrier I had built was beginning to chip away, its rotten foundation being questioned.
The sleepy residents of Govindghat must have heard the cheering, as the passengers in the little van slowly crept across the bridge.

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Posted in Family

A Special Journey…the story part 1

If you missed earlier posts related to this one

If this is the first post you are viewing on my A Special Journey series then kindly access the links below to catch up from earlier in the week.
[Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday]

 

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!

Posted in Family

A Special Journey…completes with belief

I’m lost for words

I arrived at the second Holy gate.
The driver and I departed without ego,
One more evening before my pilgrimage begins,
Time to unpack and rest my tired mind.
At 5am my eyes open from darkness,
The rain is pushing against the window,
‘Will we be able to walk today’,
‘It rains 5-6am each day’ I hear,
By 6am I am focused, no rain!
With my mum I make the climb,
It takes several hours, lots of encouragement,
People of all ages are climbing today,
Each with a reason for their soul,
Alas, we have reached the very top,
I am now lost for words, speechless,
My troubled and angry heart at peace.
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[“A special journey” series – Wednesday]