An Incredible Pilgrimage
An Incredible Pilgrimage
Quote - - Once a year, go someplace you've never been before. - - Unquote
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Disclaimer: This story is an imaginative work fantasized by the author. All the characters and events are fictitious and have no relevance to real-life events. All efforts have been made to maintain the honor of the customs and practices of the indigenous people.
It was the quintessential Bengal tea stall made of bamboo poles and roof with sunburned clay tiles. Ratan da, the owner was boiling away a big kadhai of milk and tea and serving earthen small cups of tea to the buyers. His wife was helping by handing it over to the customers. I, along with my friends, Haru, Kanu and Shyam were sipping away tea and waiting for our common friend Shibu. I had told my friend Shibu or Shib Charan Mukherji, that we would be waiting for him at Ratan da's tea stall. Shibu who had joined the army had just come on holiday. We wanted to hear from him his incredible journey to Mt Kailash and Mansarovar Lake where he had gone last year. In fact, this achievement had made his entry into the army easier. Very soon we were joined by Shibu. After joining the army his swag had changed and had become more personality driven.
Shibu was the same old fellow among the friends. Haru and Kanu as usual were pulling his leg with coarse jokes. But I insisted that we leave aside the jokes for now and concentrate on Shibu's story. Shibu was also eager to get on with the story. He began ———
As you all know I always wanted to join the army. But to join, I knew I had to make myself physically fit. I joined a tour and travel providing company. Because with them I would be able to visit high altitude regions and going there I would improve myself physically by undertaking trekking and climbing. Representing the company, I took touring parties to the hills of North Bengal and Sikkim twice. Then we went to Shimla, Kulu Manali, and Rohtang pass. I gained some valuable experience from this. Then our company took part in a trade fair and we were doing bookings for Kashmir, Vaishno Devi, Amarnath Yatra, and Ladakh. Also, we had got the government permission to organize tour of Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. For this tour, we had to obtain China government permits through the help of our government. As these tours were costly so people mostly with deep pockets did their registration with us.
Soon the two tours would begin. First, the tour of Kashmir with Mata Vaishno Devi and Amarnath yatra and Ladakh in June end followed by Kailash and Mansarovar by July end back to back. I was a part of both the tours. It would be very tight and hectic I knew but I was tremendously excited. The management gave me the option to choose but I decided to do both the tours. I knew that this opportunity does not come often so no missing out. Also, my trip was company sponsored so more compelling for me to undertake. From the Ladakh tour, I would return with the group and I would get down midway and join the ongoing Kailash Mansarovar tour party at Bareilly.
The Mata Vaishno Devi tour was without much of an event and went per schedule. The Amarnath yatra is always an event full Pilgrimage what with the terrorists targeting the innocent pilgrims. But the security arrangement made by the government with the defense and paramilitary forces deployment the yatra and darshan went off very well. Fortunately, there were no casualties and the weather also remained very conducive.
Generally, the Kashmir tour does not accommodate Vaishno Devi, Amarnath yatra and Ladhakh all in one due to the cost and time factor. But as this was a small private group of about twenty people and all very well to do so for them, money was not a factor and being a business class of people for them, time was also not a constraint. For the last leg of this month-long tour we proceeded to Leh the capital of Ladakh region. From Leh, we were scheduled to visit Pangong Tso or Lake on the border region of Akshai Chin. Due to the sensitivity of the region and strategic defense location we had to seek prior permission from the government.
Situated at about 220 odd kilometers from Leh it was a five and half hour journey by road to the Pangong Tso. The road passes through some beautiful scenic locations as the region is situated at an average of 14000 ft above sea level. The road winded through high hilltops and passes and wrapped the mountains like a snake. We would be spending a couple of hours at the lake and then make the return trip to Leh. From Leh, we would make the homeward bound journey.
We reached Pangong Tso soon. As we got down, I was mesmerized with what I saw. The whole ambiance was heavenly. Surrounded by a very high snow-clad mountain and ranges all around with the crystal turquoise blue lake in the center. As the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly, I felt that if there was heaven then this must be it. There was another tour party of roughly ten people other than us, otherwise, the place was devoid of any trace of human civilization. There was no building or any construction whatsoever and there was no tree and no vegetation and not even a blade of grass grew anywhere. The lake was huge running into many kilometers and mixed with the horizon. The water was crystal clear and the pebbles at the bottom could be seen without any haze. I also noticed the whole area was devoid of any life whatsoever only nature with her primitive colors. Like pictures we have seen of the tundra regions in the North Pole, this place resembled that. The sunlight falling on the mountain ranges created many hues and colors for the eyes to behold. Eyes need to be protected with sunglasses as the sun's glare is too penetrative reflected from the snow covers.
Beginning of my travails
As if in a trance, I absent-mindedly got detached from my group and started walking towards the water's edge. Probably in hindsight now I remember that my friends on the tour were shouting and throwing caution at me, but all went in vain. I should have remembered that the weather here plays truant and is highly unpredictable. It does not take much time for the bright sunshine to change over to moderate to heavy snowfall. I did not notice when the sun went behind clouds and strong winds started blowing and it began snowing. Visibility reduced to a few meters. Nothing could be seen and there was no place to hide or take shelter from this inclement weather. Although I was wearing heavy woolens, I got soaked to the bones. How long the bad weather continued, I couldn't tell but as soon as the bad weather cleared, the sun came out again and was shining brightly. There was no trace of our tour party nor the other one. I realized that in that huge amphitheater of hills and the lake, I was the sole actor. There was not a trace of any life whatsoever. My tour party must have left during the bad weather and I got left behind. There was no means I could contact them as there was no mobile connection available. I was simply lost. Completely at the mercy of the weather God for now and wait for any fortuitous travel party to come to visit this region with whose help I could go back to civilization. But I started worrying about what would happen after sunset as there was no shelter and there were still a couple of hours for nightfall. Also, had no stock of food with me except for a few packets of biscuits in my backpack and just one bottle of water. I was getting circumspect and was angry at my callousness. I was also angry with my friends to desert me in such a hostile place all alone.
Here, I am not ashamed to admit that I am an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, a Shivbhakt to the core. I have inherited this from my mother and grandma. They have named me after Lord Shiva and in my childhood, they told me countless stories of Shiv and his consort Parvati and their eternal residence in Kailash and Mansarovar which solely has motivated me to undertake this Pilgrimage.
So, without further rancor, I sat down on the gravelly soil by the setting sun and started meditation thinking of my Lord. Within say fifteen minutes when I felt more strength, I opened my eyes. Opening my eyes, I observed a tiny dark speck on the horizon. It became conspicuous as the whole region was devoid of any movement while this black speck was moving and becoming bigger and bigger as it moved forward. Little later when it was discernible, I observed it to be a caravan of mules and Tibetan yaks. In a few minutes, t was upon me while the sun had just set and there was still light enough to recognize things. It was a caravan of about ten mules and yaks carrying loads of cargo on their backs and they were accompanied by a motley crowd of a like number of men and women.
The leader of the group introduced himself as Gyatso. He was accompanied by his wife Bolormaa and daughter Aashi. The rests were his cousins and extended families. Fortunately, Gyatso could speak Hindi and so I could converse with him.
Gyatso wanted to know how I got left behind. I told him the whole story. He said that as it would be nightfall very soon, so they would halt here for the night. Tomorrow morning, they would begin the journey afresh. He invited me to stay with them for the night and wait for any help that might come by tomorrow morning.
They unloaded some packages from the mules and set up three tents. Gyatso invited me to his tent which would be occupied by his wife Bolormaa and daughter Aashi. The rest of the group settled down in the other tents. Immediately Bolormaa served me hot butter tea, a Tibetan specialty with some pancakes that are called Gyabrag in Tibetan language. Tasting food after so long felt very good. The butter tea warmed my throat although the taste was a bit funny. But I had no choice. I couldn't get Ratan da's tea there.
Bolormaa lit up a stove and got busy preparing dinner. These people move about carrying their whole household with them. Gyatso and I got busy talking as we had a lot to share. He told me that I could go back to Leh tomorrow if I got lucky and some tourist vehicles came here otherwise situation would be very challenging for me. I let him know my programme of going back and from the midway make a comeback with another trip to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. I told him that I had the Chinese government permission and I was carrying it with me. Gyatso said that the route which they would follow would also touch Kailash and Mansarovar, but this route would be through the Chinese Tibet and travel permits are needed even for residents leave alone foreigners. I was a foreigner to them.
The caravan Gyatso was leading had originated from a town called Qiang Longongma. This town was situated on the Tibetan side on the road leading from Siachin just accross the Galwan Valley on the border with India. Gyatso and his team was making this annual Pilgrimage to the Tibetan capital Lhasa situated at about 1500 km. There they would be attending the month-long Saga Dawa Festival to celebrate the birth of Lord Buddha. This festival would be held in the Potala Palace the official residence of his holiness the Dalai Lama. This distance Gyatso said would be covered in a month by the caravan as the route passed through very high mountainous terrain and narrow passes and deep ravines. Although now Xinjiang Tibet highway the G219 a superb human creation an all-weather road had been built. They could reach their destination in one third of the original time and with much comfort. But the Tibetans are tradionalists and in honour of their ancestors and in their rembrance they wanted to enact the journey the way they did. Every year they did this and felt very happy and proud about it.
Gyatso further said that if by tomorrow I couldn't make my way to Leh then there was no other option for me other than to accompany them. Because leaving me there alone, I would die of starvation and cold. But I showed my concern that by taking me along with them without having the requisite permits Gyatso and his group were putting themselves in peril in front of the government officials.
Gyatso thoughtfully at first and then confidently patted my back and said that they were ever grateful to the Indian people. We the Indian people had given refuge to their holy leader the Dalai Lama for so many years. His holiness and his disciples have been living peacefully in India since the past sixty years. The Indian government had taken this immense risk even at the cost of jeopardising its relationship with China. So Gyatso and his team were duty bound to take care of me. If my journey to Leh did not happen tomorrow, then they would take me along as a fellow passenger and drop me at the check point for Kailash and Mansarovar. Whatever risks of taking me along without the permits they would face up to it.
Dinner was soon served by Bolormaa. Tibetans staple food is barley. Roasted barley is called Tsampa. Generous servings of Tsampa with noodle soup and steamy vegetables were served accompanied by salad and bean lentils. It tasted good in that cold night.
After dinner we went to bed in the sleeping bags provided to me. After a traumatic day it was happy sweet dreams for me. Next morning what challenges lay ahead was for the time being in deep slumber. Time was very well spent as I slept like a log.
The next morning got up to the sound all around me. The Tibetans had already got up and were preparing for breakfast and the onward journey. I woke and went outside the tent to some distance to relieve myself and freshen up. Then as I came back Bolormaa served me butter tea and breakfast of bread and pastries called Gundain in Tibetan.
Then we waited till forenoon to wait for any tour party. But to my disappointment there was none. Perhaps it was in my destiny that I should make this trip. I was aware of the dangers I was facing and the huge risk I had put to Gyatso and his people what with the frequent military check posts on the way.
Our Journey Begins
The weather was very good today. Then Gyatso ordered that we must leave now to cover as much distance as possible before sunset. They provided me with a special type of clothes that were worn by Tibetan caravan travellers to keep themselves warm and snug from the onslaught of the blizzards and snowstorms. The clothes consisted of long sleeve leather robes, coarse cloth trousers with wide waistline and leather boots and hats. I have taken photographs of them which I shall show you.
We moved on east wards taking an age-old dust trail coming from the Karakoram ranges in the west. The approximate distance from this point on Pangong Tso where we began our journey to the foot of Mount Kailash would be anywhere between 400 - 600 km was what Gyatso said and time taken should be around a week to 10 days depending upon our fitness and the weather conditions. I did a quick mental calculation and estimated that I could reach in time to meet our Mount Kailash tour group. I was hoping that everything should work out fine.
But there was a caveat as per Gyatso. The trail we would take would pass through very high altitude with thin freezing dry air, intense harsh sunlight, gale force winds with sub-zero wind chill for hundreds of kilometres. Our first point of call would be Rutong Town in Rutong County about 100 km to the east which could be reached within a day and a half. This region we were crossing is known as Aksai Chin, a disputed region occupied by the Chinese is mostly salt flats and basins at a height of about 5000 metres or 17500 ft above sea level and perhaps higher than Tibet. This entire region has practically no population except for some nomads. This region is of strategic military importance. As we moved east and left Indian territory behind, we entered the Tibetan Autonomous region. It was not an easy road, in fact, it was one of the most challenging roads in the world, but at the same time one of the best and most rewarding. The journey offers superb views. The road was very narrow and very high on the ridge from where could be seen a river few hundreds of feet below flowing rapidly and meandering downstream with a thundering sound I have documented it in my digital camera which I will show you in leisure. Famous rivers like Indus originate from here. A little eastward towards Tibet is said to be the originating point of the famous river Bramhaputra or Tsang Po in Tibetan.
Gyatso said that several stretches of the road are known as 'no man's land' having elevation of about 17600 ft above sea level. He continued that several stretches are without water or food for many kilometres. We will not be able to take a shower or even a wash. The night temperature may fall to - 25°c or lower. Another big challenge is the lack of oxygen. The Tibetans were used to this, but this may prove to be very challenging for me. So, it did which I will narrate a little later.
I had to gear up myself mentally and emotionally. The human brain is not a rational computer, emotions play a vital role and what controls human emotions is the hormones. Hormones guide the choices of humans and even their risk perception. Testesterone, the male hormone is associated with aggressive behaviour and confidence, whereas cortisol relates to fear and risk aversion. Therefore, I had to activate my testosterone to be able to find success in this incredible journey.
We all trudged along mechanically and silently because talking draws energy and oxygen. And oxygen supply is so limited, depleting it unnecessarily was pointless. We targeted to reach Rutong by mid-day tomorrow and halt there for a day to replenish our essentials. When we do reach Rutong we would access the Tibet Xinjiang highway the better road. Our journey would become easier than. Although we would be exposed to frequent scrutiny by the military police. Now we were following the ancient caravan route. We had to halt for the night as we would reach Rutong by midday tomorrow.
It became very cold in the night. So Gyatso served everyone Ara an alcoholic beverage made from rice to keep ourselves warm. Bolormaa prepared a soupy goat meat dish with potatoes and we all ate it heartily. The Tibetans carry with them a stock of dried goat meat to quickly prepare protein meals while in transit. Gyatso then introduced me to his daughter Aashi who was shy and had not talked to me since the beginning. I talked to her freely to make her feel at ease. She was very handsome and fair complexioned like all Tibetan girls generally are. Bolormaa her mother however was not so fair looking now due to her hard work and much time out in the bright Himalayan sun. But Aashi was well cared for it seemed from her bearings. She had completed her education and had trained as a nurse and could speak Hindi as she had lived in Leh for a few years. After the initial hesitancy then I found her to be very friendly and talkative. She told me that she knew to handle emergency cases on the travel routes, and she was now working in a government hospital in Leh. From her talking I found out that she began to trust me because one naturally trusts someone from one's own age group.
The next day by late afternoon we reached Rutong and set up our tents at a liittle distance from the town to avoid unnecessary peep ins and curiosity. Going out of the tent for me was a strict no for my own safety. I had to wait till night fall to go out and releave myself. Bathing was a luxury which I had abjectly forgotten. Coming to a new place and being forcibly confined was like a punishment for me. Everyone went out and had a look around except me. Even the ever busy Bolormaa could find time and go to the town and stroll around. Gyatso and the other men were totally absent from the tents and were only seen in the night. I was left alone in my tent for the full day. Perhaps sensing my loneliness and to overcome my boredom Bolormaa asked Aashi to spend some time with me. Aashi was also lonely except for one middle-aged lady who gave her company.
So Aashi sat down with me and we talked and talked. Her inhibitions now overcome she became freer and bolder. We found a common preference discussing latest Hindi cinema stories and some Hollywood movies also. Later, we began talking so much that we forgot to be aware of the time. All the others were fast asleep, but we were talking and laughing. Nobody disturbed us and Aashi also never felt tired. Whatever lack of sleep was for me I used to make up during the day. At Rutong we got delayed by full three days. Some necessary work of the caravan group could not be completed caused the delay. But I felt much more relaxed and fresher because so much traveling on foot had taken a toll on my body and mind. My bowel system causing unnecessary problems was restored and I was slowly getting used to the weather. Plus, the company which I was getting from Aashi was also working as a wonder tonic. For Aashi also was very happy and relaxed and never felt she was with a stranger.
We both used to wait impatiently for the night to come when everyone else would be asleep and we would be talking and talking late into the night undisturbed. Although nobody objected to our talking even during the day. For the elders had complete faith and trust on me. At night we used to sit out and stare into the dark night and watch the stars. It felt different from our city nights. It used to get so cold, but we could not feel it because Aashi would slowly slip in close to me and stick to me tightly so that our body heat got exchanged and we felt warm. It felt truly wonderful. We both thought and said aloud that hopefully we stayed in Rutong in this tent perennially. I knew slowly some drastic change was overcoming my body, mind and soul. Aashi could read my mind and held my face tightly in her hands and gave a hard kiss on my cheek. I felt the warmth of her body run down my body and the heat made me feel intoxicated. Then we went off to sleep in our separate sleeping bags and slept in a deep slumber. Those three nights at Rutong were the most magical time in my life.
But I had to decide that I couldn't continue this for long because mine and Aashi's lives were totally different. We belonged to two different worlds. Plus, if I continued this way further then a time would come when we had to part ways and go in our different worlds then that would be cheating on the love that has grown between us. Before leaving Rutong I became candid with Aashi and told her my worries. What she said surprised me initially, but it strengthened our friendship. She said that she was fully aware that we could not move ahead further because our world and surroundings are entirely different. But she was testing the honesty in our relationship and found it to be pure like the offerings we make to our Gods. She said that Shibu you are very honest and down to earth and there is no fake in the way you present yourself to me. She further said that she was completely enjoying my presence and would part ways when the time came. Because our Gods had destined it that way. I was spell bound to see the awareness level present in her. The Buddhist teachings had increased her consciousness level. The innocence in her drew me towards her and made me feel assured that no one is cheating on anyone. Truly now we were in heavenly land and Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva was not far away. So, everything was pure, good and honest.
We soon bade goodbye to Rutong Town. Aashi and me specially with a heavy heart. The best time of our lives we were leaving behind. However, now there was a sense of urgency in everyone because considerable time had been lost. Now we moved on from the dirt and dusty road to the tarmac of the Tibet Xinjiang highway. It was a wonderful creation at such a difficult terrain. How the infrastructure was created to finish such a marvel. Our next point of call would be Shiquanhe the capital of Gar County in Ngari Prefecture. It was at about 125km and the caravan would take one and a half days to reach approximately.
The road was however excellent but the going became heavy although there was very little or no traffic for miles. The terrain was very mountainous, and the air became very rarefied. Everyone felt difficulty in breathing, but it was worse for me. I could barely walk and had to drag myself holding the stirrups of a mule. At times Aashi put my arms around her shoulders and pulled me along. Somehow, we reached Shiquanhe and set up tent. I immediately felt flat in my sleeping bag. I was slowly losing consciousness. I faintly heard Gyatso shout to do mouth to mouth resuscitation to increase oxygen level in my lungs. Someone did but did not have effect. Then I faintly saw Aashi volunteer as she was trained to do as a nurse. She immediately put her open mouth over my open mouth holding my head and pumped in warm breaths from her mouth. Though I was collapsing but I felt wonderfully warm and happy. The effect was however short lived, and a Tibetan doctor had to be called stealthily to conceal my presence and with a portable oxygen cylinder. I became well but we had to overstay by two days to gather strength to take the heavy strain. Aashi was constantly nursing me and I became well thanks to her efforts.
I became well but felt very embarrassed due to the problems that had come to the travellers all because of me. Gyatso cautioned me lovingly not to think in those terms but concentrate on the remaining journey.
The Final leg of the Journey
The next important point of call on our journey would be Bagaxiang situated at the foot of Mount Kailash. The distance of Bagaxiang from Shiquanhe was about 249 km and time it would take to reach it would be almost two days. The journey now was a bit better as the gradient was lower and the breathing problems no longer persisted. Due to the lower gradient we could see signs of vegetation here and there. Little tufts of grass grew in places. The journey though better my problems remained this time manifested in a different form. Due to coarse food my bowels were becoming irritable and I was suffering from diarrhoea. Luckily the medicines for this was taken by Gyatso at our last pit stop. Only multiple stop overs had to be done for my relievings. However, we reached Bagaxiang on time and put up our tents after sunset at the outskirts of the town. I could see the silhouette of the peak of Mount Kailash in the evening twilight. I felt a sudden surge of emotion well up in my heart and drops of tears came down from my eyes. I thought of the image of Lord Shiva in my mind. Silently I uttered '' Har Har Mahadev ''. Aashi seeing me emotional left me alone to myself.
The next morning fully energised, I got up early even before the sun was up to see the mount. Then the first golden rays of sun fell on snow covered peaks of Mount Kailash. The peak took a bright gold hue. It looked so awesome and I felt so overwhelmed that I was standing at the door of heaven at the abode of our dearest Lord Shiva the God of all Gods.
Dear friends it was an amazing experience. I was simply mesmerised. All the emotions accumulated in my mind through the years hearing stories from my mother and grandma all welled up at once. How I could immediately tell them that I had achieved our cumulative lives dreams. Even if I had to die then I would die a contented and satisfied soul.
The height of Mount Kailash is 6714 metres or about 22028 ft above sea level. The sight of the mountain is truly mesmerising and looks more lovely and lively than other peaks which have a dull hue as compared to the golden hue of Kailash.
My personal journey was achieved though my duty as a travel company executive was not over. I had to return to Kailash with the tour group in a few days. Our reaching Bagaxiang had been timely because there were just few days left before our troupe would come over. To meet them I had to go from Bagaxiang to Burang Town in Burang County situated at 102 km just a one-day trek from here. There at Burang (Purang in Tibetan) is the check post which monitors the entry of Indian pilgrims to Kailash. It is situated just after crossing over from the Indian side.
Gyatso and team did a little diversion for me They had to leave their Tibet Xinjiang highway to accompany me to Burang because as I was still a persona non grata here. When finally, our troupe would come they would let me mingle with my group then only their duty would be over. Because until then I would remain vulnerable in the books of law. The amount of sacrifice they have made for me is unimaginable.
While trekking towards Burang we passed midway through two important large inland water bodies. One is the Lake Mansarovar and the other is Lake Rakshasthal. Lake Mansarovar the more famous of the two is a high-altitude freshwater lake with an area of about 410 sq km and at an elevation of about 4500 metres above sea level. I was taken in by the calm turquoise blue crystal-clear water of the iconic lake. There was an aura of serenity surrounding it. Mansarovar has been immortalised in our holy scriptures and mythology. Mansarovar is revered not only by Hindus but also by Buddhist and by Jainism followers.
Outside Burang Town we set up our camp. In a couple of days, the Indian pilgrims came and among them was our group. There was a happy reunion with our company staff and from here our travel company took over the responsibility of which I was a part.
Gyatso and his team finally after successfully achieving their goal of delivering me in safe hands now looked set to take their own targeted journey towards Lhasha. Aashi and I bade tearful goodbyes to each other. Like a soothsayer her farewell message was that if Buddha wished we would meet again. We both exchanged our telephone numbers. Next morning, they would be on their way and we on ours. At night which was a moonless one we met each other finally in the dark for one last time. She came over close to me gave a tight hug and a wet kiss on my cold cheeks and whispered in my ear ' I love you' and quickly and quietly disappeared into her tent. I stood there momentarily aghast and with a deep lump in my throat.
Next morning everyone was busy, and we didn't see each other. We had our clearances done at the consular office and moved on towards Mansarovar. Now I was a confident man. At Mansarovar some of us courageous people had a bath in the sub-zero temperature water amidst the chanting of '' Om Namah Shivay ''. From there we had a glimpse of the Mount Kailash which we showed to our fellow travellers. Mount Kailash was at about 50 km from where we stood in the lake. From now we would make the return trip back to India. Only I knew what a fabulous view I had enjoyed so long of the mountain from such close quarters.
We returned to Burang Town and stayed for the night. Next morning, we headed towards the Indian border at the Lipulekh Pass which we reached by day end. Again, we halted there for the night. Crossing the pass was a little cumbersome as it has some very steep muddy roads with forceful waterfalls.
Finally, we were in our own country. For me it was an epic journey to be cherished lifelong. We reached Gunji an Indian village where our troupe was accosted by the local police and was told to report at Pithoragarh the next big town to report for a missing person diary. As I had gone missing in Leh my team had made a missing person diary at the local police station. Since then there had been a watch out alert for me. Now as I had been traced, I was told to report at next police station so that my case was closed.
On reaching Pithoragarh I did just that to have my case closed. After this I was told that the local army HQ wanted to have a word with me. At the local army HQ, the commanding officer heard my full story and was tremendously impressed. He said that after completing this heroic journey the army felt honored and duty-bound to serve me. On the successful completion of this very challenging journey I had become a sensation, a mini celebrity in the defence circle. Because he said that this region was very strategic to the defense and for a person who has traversed this region incognito and unscathed would be of invaluable service. So, the army laid bare the gates of its door to me and I was offered the post of a junior commissioned officer. Immediately on returning to Kolkata, I reported to the local HQ at Fort William and I was inducted. Another of my desires was fulfilled and silently I thanked Lord Shiva. I am still on probation and at present posted at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
So ended our friend Shibu's amazing and incredible journey or Pilgrimage.As he ended somebody from us happened to ask about Aashi. To this question, he looked down blushing his cheeks flushed. In a little while after getting back his composure, he answered slowly and softly. He said that Aashi was able to contact him after a long time. She seemed very excited and happy talking to me. I asked her what she had decided. She said that she would wait for me if he had her on his mind. I felt both humbled and overjoyed. I just wanted to confirm that was it real love or just a temporary aberration, an effect of the situation. I am now certain that I must keep my commitment to honor her love.
The Final Part
Shibu ended his marathon story which he had told us in three phases as per our time availability. Kanu and Haru became very emotional on hearing Shibu's new found love. Before I end this tale, I want to inform readers that Shibu has been called for defence duty in Leh and he is already on his way to protect the honor of his motherland and also his sweetheart