Dec 9, 2011

Life || The Lake Where No One Lives

Have you ever wished to get away to a place where there is not a living soul, miles and miles around you? Have you wished for silence so profound, that it engulfs your entire being like a black hole?

If you haven’t then you must. Consider it, at least. It’s a life-healing experience. I’ll talk about mine today.

I was around 16 when I first thought of visiting Kailash. The mountain in Tibet, in case you are hearing of it for the first time. I used to sit with my eyes closed every now and then, to get away from the stresses of preparing for exams. One day, I saw snow, some peaks. I imagined it was Kailash. I knew I had to go there someday.

Img Credit: Isha Foundation

That ‘someday’ came sooner than I expected. I thought I would go when I was much older. But when the opportunity presented itself, I decided it had to be taken. I convinced M, everything fell into place. We went last year.

All the time I was thinking of Kailash. Lake Manasarovar was on the itinerary, but I never paid much attention to it. A woman on the flight to Nepal asked me if I was going to take a dip in the lake. I told her that I had no idea. Kailash, and the moment I would lay my eyes on that peak was all I could think of. My dream was coming true.

The lake is on the way to the mountain. The drive was tiring. I was all weary, dozing off, sick from the high altitude. When someone said the word Manasarovar, I opened my eyes. What met them was something that I will try, but find it very hard to explain.

Img Credit: Isha Foundation

Untouched. This was the first word that came to my mind. And then all words stopped. The camera was forgotten. Everything was forgotten. There was a silence like silence was never felt before. It felt like I was at the very top of the world, at the highest point possible, although this is geographically untrue. It was a place that humans had not yet managed to encroach, to conquer, to spoil. A place where man was still at nature’s mercy, having to defecate in the open, camp out in tents, helpless when the rain water flooded in.

There was a Sathsang that evening. Stories were told, of the significance of the Lake. Of the supernatural beings that inhabited the place, beings from a different world. The beings that accompanied Lord Shiva. They might have been true, or not, but I wasn’t interested in them. This was not a time for speculation, not for me at least. It was a time to look around in wonder, absorbing like a sponge, at everything the place had to offer.

Img Credit: Isha Foundation

We were asked not to approach the lake at all until the following morning, after a meditation process would enable us to withstand the cold waters. We were asked to stay away especially after dark, for our own safety. The obedient people that we are, M and I complied with the instructions. We stayed in the tent all night. Rain was beating down heavily, steadily. Wild dogs started to howl at around 3 AM. I thought I heard a several female voices at once, but I couldn’t tell with the sound of the rain. It was not a comfortable night.

We were up the next morning at 6. The process started at the lake shore, where everyone gathered at around 7. It was still pitch dark. A light, persistent drizzle continued. We were offered a sort of liquid that we needed to apply on the very top of our heads. When I did, I felt an instant heat course through my body, a sudden surge of energy. A few pranayam exercises and chants later, we were ready to get into the lake.

Img Credit: Isha Foundation

It is said that dipping in the waters of Lake Manasarovar will cleanse you of all your sins. But this was not on my mind. Again, oddly, nothing was on my mind. Before I got into the lake, all the layers had to come off, the thermals, the jackets, socks, hats, gloves, everything. All I had on finally were a flimsy kurta and pyjama. By the time I was ready, almost everyone was done bathing. It was just me and another girl. We approached the lake holding hands. I did not know what the temperature was, nor what to expect.

When I first set foot in the waters, I did not feel the cold. I felt pain. From no pain, to pain. Just like that. And it only increased as we went further in. When the water reached our knees, it was as deep as we could go. It was time to take a dip.

My heart was pounding, in a way that told me I might not come out if I went in. My courage was faltering. The other girl went in first. Inspired, I did too. As I dunked and came out, the coldest I have ever been in my life, I began to cry. No, not from the pain. It was from the devotion that coursed through my entire being. I was broken, defeated. Nature had showed me where my place was, what it could do to me. I had no choice but to bow down. Internally and externally. To what, I don’t know. But I had to bow down, I felt nothing but reverence.

Perhaps that is what it feels like to be washed away of all sins. I dunked twice more.

The walk back to the tent was even more excruciating. I could barely walk, I thought my feet would be dead forever. Invisible teeth were biting away at them, there was no way I could ever recover from this state, I felt.
It took M and me over an hour inside the tent to get back to normal. As the countless layers went back on, in silence, the only sound that of clattering teeth, we sat it out, finally regaining the proper use of our limbs.

The meals tent was buzzing with activity when we went in for breakfast. Several small groups were formed, people recounting their experiences animatedly. M hung back, always the silent one, and I wandered from group to group, listening to different tales.

One particular group of people were talking softly, barely in a whisper. When I approached them, contrary to my expectations, they included me in their conversation. I learned from them of something that had taken place the night before.

A few people had apparently decided to disregard the rules and go to the lake at midnight. They had heard stories back home that this was the time when the supernatural beings came out in the open, so they wanted a glimpse at any cost. Perhaps to be able to have some interesting stories to tell.

Full of excitement, they ventured out, spotting nothing for a while. (Solving the mystery of the female voices for me). And then, one of the ladies told me, they saw something far away that was shaped like a star, zip out of the sky and into the water. That’s all they saw. As if on cue, one of the men in the group fainted. They had to drag him back to the tent.

This guy was still feeling faint in the morning and couldn’t make it to the process and the dip in the lake. Needless to say, their little expedition was found out and they had received a reprimand of sorts.

Img Credit: Isha Foundation

Later that day the sun was shining and people were hanging their clothes to dry over the tents. M went to take a nap. My lake-dip companion and I headed for the shore once more and sat there for a long time. Maybe an hour, maybe more. There was no one to disturb us, literally.

I stared and stared. At the lake, at the mountains, at the lake some more. Then I closed my eyes for a while. I felt like something was changing, shifting inside of me. Like I was letting go of things, healing. I experienced a clarity like never before. Rejuvenation is a small word, compared to what was happening to me.

The journey to Kailash continued the next day. But that’s another story.

The experience has touched me in more ways than one. The most significant change in me is that the hankering after material wellbeing has reduced. Wealth and comforts are a little less important than they used to be, there are other things that matter more.

A journey of this nature, to any place in the world, is perhaps what is known as a pilgrimage. It is a necessity for every human being.

Do you have any similar experiences to share? Is there a place like this you dream of visiting someday?

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  1. I'm speechless. Your words virtually transported me to that holy place. No seriously, am not kidding. You're a helluva writer..or should I now say 'heavenly'? :P

    Awe-inspiring post this. Am a fan here. Done. Deal. :)

  2. Sumi, this is your best post ever! Feels like I was watching what was happening from above and not reading! Beautifully written!

  3. Hi Sumithra,

    A Rejuvenating post. I was immersed into the post as such and i didn't do anything for sometime. We learn many things the harder way. The way you wrote was like i was travelling to Kailash. I will do one day for sure :) Especially the things which have been given in this post. The happy heart deserves silence and peace rather than a material or money. :)


  4. Beautiful, healing words Moolady:)
    I always thought of myself as a people's person who's happy with a 100 people and as much noise around. But lately I have been craving silence, solitude and peace. This sounds like a good place to go to now, kaash, I could:|

    And I love the cow on the header!

  5. Beautiful! That is the one word that comes to my mind. Your experience and narration - both are awesome. Kailash and Mansarovar are on my list now. I knew that they are must-see places, but never knew that they were this life-changing. I will go for sure :)

    And you know about my wonderland,don't you? ;) I tend to go there in my head, once a while,to get relieved of all stress.

  6. @phatichar: wow, those are some really kind words there. I'm honestly flattered, and elated. Thanks so much! Thanks. Thanks, again. You made my day!

    @neets: Thanks ra!

    @Ravi: You're right, peace is what's needed for a happy heart. Glad you found the post rejuvenating. Thanks. I read your post about the Kakinada trip. Hillarious it was! And you had to meet the drunk guy on your way back too. Well, at least you had an entertaining train journey.

    @PeeVee: Moolady!! haha, that is the cutest thing! :D Thanks, glad you liked the post. Yeah, at some point of time in life I guess we all start longing for some kind of inner peace. Shows that we're constantly evolving I guess. You must go, someday. Glad you like the cow too.

    @Kerithana: Haha, maybe I should have done this post before you did the 6 places thing. Would it have become 7 places then?
    But you know, the thing about Kailash is, it's only as life changing as you allow it to be. There was a couple who picked a huge fight and started yelling in the hotel lobby, right after we came back. It was surprising.
    Ah, yes, wonderland. You must tell me more about it someday, or better, do a post on it. What is in your wonderland?

  7. Nice recapturing, Moo-devi! :)

    You took us through a nice inward journey with this anecdote. A pilgrimage is very much on the cards of every Indian but unfortunately we feel its a journey for the old people. Your narration shows how transforming it can be for anybody that is caught up in the 'ways of the world'.

    I congratulate you for having such a wholesome experience and hope something likewise happens in our lives too.

    PS: The name (Moo-devi) was just wordplay. Please no offense.

  8. I`m in sheer awe, for you have painted such a beautiful picture for us with this write-up. I felt like I was there with you in person experiencing the chill of the lake water and the pitter-patter of the rain on the tent.

    I`m sure you'd agree that your experience at Mansarovar is something that cannot possibly be constrained to words. This is probably the material with which miracles are made of.

    Wonderful write-up. Would love to go there once in my lifetime.

  9. @Vikas: None, taken. That was a clever wordplay :)
    Thanks. Yup, that was what everybody was saying when we decided to go. Why are you acting like you're 60. But age has nothing to do with it, really. Hope you get to go there sometime soon.

    @Atrocious Scribblings: Hey, thanks. I'm so glad you liked the post. :-) You must go there, hope you get to go soon.

  10. Sumitra--Putting your thoughts/feelings almost exactly on the paper is a gift, you are gifted. I said almost exactly because I think no human language is matured enough to represent all of the human feeling exactly. Came across your post while I was wasting some time, I was wasting only until I came across your posts. Just this Kailash post is good enough to become your fan, will take some more time to cover your other work. Congrats for losing job and chasing dream, I guess you have some other fine talent too, Keep going.

    1. Thank you so much Srinivas for the kind words. Comments like these really make my day and inspire me to write more. I'm so grateful for that :)

      Haha, thanks not many people congratulate me for quitting my job and chasing my dream.

  11. Speechless ..... nothing I can say will tell you what I feel.... this trip is now etched in my heart... Thank you

  12. I could actually picturize the whole place and the dip in the lake !
    I HAVE to go to this place! *start googling Lake Manasarovar*