Slumber makes good bedfellows with tired minds and tired bodies. Minor irritants like the twists and turns of a hilly road, blasts of cool breeze, the jerks and jolts of an otherwise creaky bus et al get ignored. However the circadian rythm of hunger pangs create a threshold, a point beyond which slumber fails and hunger takes over and the other irritants , so encouraged, sneak in too.
That surely must have been the case with me as I opened my eyes and looked around to find the others awake too. Too weary for conversation of any sort I looked around. The bus had descended from the mountains on to the plains, the breeze had a lesser bite , the dawn had painted the horizon with a lovely orangish hue and above all we had never discussed where to alight. Too tired to bring up the discussion I decided to stay on mute mode and perhaps carry on till the bus reached its final destination.
Caught between an aching body, a blank mind and a hungry stomach I was numb and had just allowed fatigue to take over when I heard Saibal and Alok urging us to shake ourselves up and prepare to get down. As if triggered into a chain reaction everyone of us was on our feet and we had soon alighted the bus with Vivek and Saibal thanking the driver profusely for his generosity. Beyond us and across the road where we had alighted there was quite an open ground and a temple with an upraised platform. We all decided to go to the temple. The temple complex was nice and clean and the temple itself was on a large elevated marble basement. The place was nice and clean and we all settled down there. The marble floor was comfortable and there was a tubewell nearby which helped us wash and clean ourselves a bit and also provided us with much needed drinking water.
A banana tree within the temple complex was sighted blooming with almost ripe bananas and was attacked immediately. Cool drinking water, and about one and a half banana each brought great respite and thus un disturbed and un perturbed in this serene surrounding and at a holy and religious place we one by one collapsed on the marble floor and fell asleep again.
When I woke up I found Sridip, Dhruva, Alok and Saibal missing. I learnt that Sridip had been able to remember the name and para ( a particular location generally in a residential area ) of a relative and along with Dhruva in tow had ventured out to trace him. Alok along with Saibal had gone out with fervour and hope to no-one-knew- where.
The remaining of us could only wait with Vivek suggesting that we could try and do some manual labour (( carrying bricks: in the distance a building construction was going on and daily labourers had lined up looking for days work and the contractor was recruting them one by one for the day after fixing up the dihadi ( a term used for the rate for the day )) by lining up for work like the daily wagers and earn some money to see us through. We even walked up to the Contractor only to scurry back without the gumption of trying to attempt the ask though in the bargain I could manage a few beedis from one of the labours and gleefuly lit one and spread out again on the marble floor of the temple. We had our fits and bouts of conversation interspersed with dozing off when at around 12 Noon we spotted Dhruva and Sridip running towards the temple excited and brimming from ear to ear. They had brought great news. They had located the relative, fed them a cock and bull story of how we had come here to participate in a volley ball tournament, had got mugged and robbed on the way and were in desperate condition. The relative had wanted to come along for help, was cajoled not to and eventually in the end parting with INR 200 to help our cause of going back to the hostel. Sridip and Dhruva had got some breakfast there too and had also brought few apples for us.
This was great news. We almost had our capital back and also some food so the celebration was impromptu only to be interrupted by Alok and Saibal who had just come in to announce that lunch was organised and we needed to quickly follow them and follow their instructions to the T.
In hindsight I feel that our silent prayers at the temple might have done it, Till date I have not been able to find any other valid explanation except that there was a divine intervention.
On the way to our luncheon destination we heard the story. Alok generally frequented a “MATH” ( A monastic order of Hindus. There are various MATHS in India. A parallel can be drawn to Buddhist monastries maybe ) at his native place.
A brainwave sent him on the look out for a similar ” MATH” / a branch/ an affiliate etc and he ended up finding one. Refernce to certain monks and names at his native place established his credentials and his story about our having run out of money while coming to participate in a tournament evoked sympathy and thereby an invitation for lunch.
As we reached the ” MATH” we were greeted with warmth. The Head Monk himself came out to welcome us and Alok fell on a “Sashtang Dandavat” ( A form of prostration wherein the devotee lies fully prostrate at the feet of an idol or spiritual leader with arms outstretched towards the idol/leader/guru ) and we followed suit in awkward fashion. It would have looked like quite a comedy sequence to onlookers with seven people suddenly collapsing to the ground in unsion.
We were blessed profusely by the monks, sympathised on our predicament and led to lunch after washing our hand and feet. We sat down on the floor with other monks for the lunch.
Till date I cannot forget the meal. It was like sharing a meal with GOD. The food was simple and extremely tasty. The meal was filling replete with warm milk, hot steamed rice, two extremely tasty curries, lentil and salads, some pickles and chutney ( an indian sauce made in various ways ) , papad ( crisp, generally disc shaped food made from seasoned dough usually of gram flour ) and lots and lots of love. We were famished and this was heaven. The conversation with monks was kept by Alok. In any case we were under strict instructions from him to speak less lest we contradicted each others versions.
After such a Godly meal we left after courteous exchanges with a great feeling of love and respect and with our faith in humanity restored. Alok stood out as the hero of the day.
Our stomachs were full and we had money too…. Happy Days Were Here Again.
We broke into a song as we started our walk towards the Siliguri station…..
To be continued..