Healing the Wounds
Poem By Sheena Row
Gathering ebony clouds looming overhead
Warring emotions of shame and disgrace
Hovering pitch of darkness
Crashing frothing waves
Unwavering cold fear
Inked with black tears
On a wrinkled white paper
My wounds are open and fresh
When will the slow healing begin?
"Doctor Verma, how is he?" Jai asked with concern. Dr. Verma was the best psychiatrist in Mumbai recommended by their family doctor.
"He is in a shell shock. Most likely post traumatic stress of the kidnap. I have dealt with cases like this before. It's a long road to be back in the normal world. You need to coax him out gently from the shame and helplessness he is going through. I talked to his school psychologists, Mr. Walia, and they say that Nachiketh has been going through some emotional issues. He feels abandoned and unloved. The kidnapping has worsened the feelings of loneliness and depression."
Jai rubbed his temples in frustration. His brother was missing for so long and he couldn't help him out. It was his fault for not realizing how his marriage affected the boy. He should have been more understanding of what Nattu was going through.
How was he going to heal this boy's wounds? How was he going to make him understand that he is with his family once again, safe and sheltered?
"What can I do to get him out of this state, Doctor! Nachiketh is just sixteen, I can't bear to see him like this." Jai's voice came out husky.
"Time is a great healer, Mr. Walia. Just assure him that you are there for him, make sure he doesn't stay depressed. Being with the family all the time will help him." Doctor Verma was sympathetic toward Jai.
Dr. Varma hesitated slightly before coming out in the open. "Mr. Walia, usually the boys respond to their mothers or fathers, but Nachiketh's mother's presence didn't seem to affect him..."
Jai sighed. "It's a long story, Dr. Verma." He explained the circumstances of how he came to be Nachiketh's guardian.
"Mr. Walia, you may want to take the boy on a family vacation. He may respond better in an unfamiliar surrounding amongst the loved ones. Nachiketh is not a little child, so this kidnapping has made him lose face. He feels that he could have prevented it somehow. He also feels betrayed by his own friends. He might feel worse if he encounters his so-called friends. I would strongly suggest that you take him to a far away place.
Jai's spirits sank lower than they already were.
"Bani!" hearing his husky voice, her heart throbbed with joy. It had been so long since he talked to her. But she knew this was not the time to share her desperate need to be with him. It had been more than 8 weeks since they saw each other.
"Jai, kaise hai?" her subdued voice made the tic in his cheek spasm. He closed his eyes and conjured her image in his head. It was the day she left. They had made desperate love and in her haste to get him out of his shirt, she had ripped off the buttons. Afterward, she blushed as he put the shirt on and realized several buttons were missing. She tried to sew the buttons back while the shirt was still on. He loved the proximity, surreptitiously watching her bent head; the soft hair framed her oval face, the small forehead scrunched in concentration as she sewed the buttons. She bit her lip and blushed as she felt her husband's unwavering gaze on her. He laughed, enjoying her discomfort. She hit him with her hand, telling him to stop bothering her.
He came back to earth with a jolt as she repeated his name again, this time with worry.
"Haan! Bani, Mein theek hoon, aur tum? How is our baby doing?" He tried hard to keep the huskiness out of his voice.
"I am doing well. I gained 8 pounds already!" Bani tried to keep the conversation light.
"Really? All of 8 pounds? At this rate, you will become huge." He teased her.
"That's not even funny, Mr. Jai Walia. I am not fat! I am five months pregnant." She wailed.
He sobered. "Yes, with my child. And I can't be there for another month." He knew that he couldn't keep the secret from her any longer.
"One more month? It's Nachiketh, isn't it?" Bani had an inkling of the situation because Adi kept her up-to-date.
He came straight to the point and told her what the doctor said. He told her that he would take Nachiketh on a mountaineering trip along with Pushkar and Tarun for two weeks and then possibly to America afterward.
She wanted to cry and shout at him. "But what about me? I need you too, the baby needs you too! You promised to cherish me and take care of me." But she controlled her selfish heart.
"You can't come and see me for a day or two?" the words came out in a whisper.
The silence on the other end was unbearable. "I can't!" His answer was forced out. "I have the tickets booked out to leave tomorrow morning, we are going to the Amarnath Caves."
"But that's a dangerous trek at this time of the year." Bani said. She was very unhappy about their choice for the trek.
"We will be OK, trust me Bani, I will be back in no time, and when we are back, I will come and visit you before I take him to the US. I promise, Kasamh Se!" he swore to her.
"You better, Jai! If you don't, I am not going to talk to you and neither is my child." She threatened him.
"Our child, Bani! My child and yours! Let me go baby, I promise I will make up to you!" He pleaded for the permission to let him go without guilt.
"OK." The permission came reluctantly.
"I love you, Bani!" His voice was crystal clear, determined and without a doubt.
She mumbled something incoherently.
"Thank you, I heard that!" he teased her.
"I didn't say nothing." She used the grammar Rano used when she was angry.
"Yes, you did! You said you loved me." He laughed triumphantly.
"If you choose to think that, then it's your problem." He could see the pout on her face.
"Tell me Bani, do you love this baby very much?" he asked blandly.
"Yeah!" She wondered why he asked her that.
"What about the Baby's father?" he prodded her.
"May be a little." She grudgingly accepted.
"How little?" he wanted the banter to continue forever.
"Enough to last a lifetime and more." She sounded forlorn.
"Trust me, Bani! I will come back…just wait for me, Baby!" He hung up the phone, before he lost his self-control.
(Amarnath Caves source: koausa.org)
Even though the trek to the caves was just four days, Jai wanted to spend a little longer on the mountains. He hoped that the tranquil mountains, the cold air, the hard trek would thaw the frozen emotions of Nachiketh. He waited patiently for Nachiketh to respond to him.
The sheer beauty of the Lidder valley with its mountain peaks and deep valleys took their breath away. The guides followed them, instructed them on the tricks and tips. Each of them carried the climbing poles to overcome the arduous uphill journey. The layers of clothes they wore along with the wind-breakers and heavy boots protected them from the mountainous winds and the early morning chill. Usually the trek happened in July-August time frame, but Jai took a calculating risk and went after the travel season was over. Normally they closed the trek to the incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally of an ice-stalagmite, and which waxes and wanes with the moon. By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice-lingams, that of Parvati, and of their son, Ganesha.
Jai talked to his brother constantly, read to him from the tour guides about the history of the caves. He ignored the morose behavior of Nachiketh and deliberately did not discuss the kidnapping. He pretended that they were having a vacation and he was enjoying his time with Nachiketh.
He thanked God for the company of Pushkar and Tarun who were cheerful and constantly chattered.
The physical stress of climbing for days was taking toll on Nachiketh who was not used to the undue duress on his body.
He was getting irritated frequently and turned violently toward Jai a few times. Jai secretly was happy at least he was getting out of his morbid silence. He knew that Nachiketh needed to confront his demons, and this was just the beginning.
By the end of first week, they got educated in the art of mountain climbing and covered the foothills. They set out to Amarnath from there. The sorties helped them with their camping equipment.
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnath stood at 3,888 m and is 44.8 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar. The trek from Pehelgam took five days exactly in fair weather conditions.
The trek from Pahalgam to Amarnath cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The 45-km distance is covered in four days, with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari (12.8 km) is covered in about five to six hours, and the trail runs alung the Lidder river. Pilgrims camp here on the first night out. A major attraction here is a bridge covered, year round, with ice even though the surroundings are free from it.
The bridge was treacherous and even with the poles, they slipped several times on the ice.
When Nachiketh slipped on the ice, Jai was right behind him and held him with an iron grip. The scared look on Nachiketh's face tore at his gut.
Nachiketh sat on the slithery ground, uncaring of what every one thought. He started crying, his sobs loud and heart wrenching. He hugged Jai hard and repeatedly beseeched him not to leave him alone. When Tarun and Pushkar came toward them, Jai warded them off, requesting them with a look to stay away.
He held his brother in his arms and rocked him until the tears were dry.
"Nachiketh, If you need me, I will always be here. I want you to overcome your fear. I want you to confront your experiences. I am your brother, but I have also been a father figure to you. It was my fault for not knowing what you have been up to. I had no idea tht you were unhappy at the school, and you indulged in booze and drugs and hung around with the bad crowd. Nachiketh, I too have had a bad childhood, I have suffered fearing that my father did not love me. I blamed your mother and my father for getting married so quickly after my own mother died. I most of all resented you being born so soon after their marriage. But I grew up when I went to Rampur. I had help from Jagdish Uncle and Dadi. They gave me enough room and love to become strong and independent. I did bad things, Nachiketh. I drank, I roamed around with girls, I smoked, and I hung around with hooligans." He took a long breath.
"But I had one ambition in my life, that was to be better than my father in business. I wanted to show him what I was capable of. Because of this ambition, I sustained myself through hardships." His mouth twisted bitterly when he remembered the day his uncle died and his crops burned.
"You know what? There was this young girl of 13 years age, she told me that I should be more resilient and bounce back with vengeance. She told me I should not give up on my dreams and ambitions because of one setback in life." He smiled when he remembered Bani's face, earnest and sincere as she recited the poem 'IF' by Rudyard Kipling.
He recited the poem to his brother, his voice steady and strong.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
Nachiketh wept unashamedly as Jai continued.
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
"Bhaiyya, I am not like you. I am not smart or handsome like you. I am weak, I let them take advantage of me. I was foolish to trust people like them. I thought they were my friends." He held on to his brother's hand not letting him go.
"Nachiketh! You can choose to live life by letting your fear rule over you, Or you can take a vow to not let things like this bother you. Tell me, Nachiketh, do you have the Walia blood in you? Are you going to let a minor thing like you affect the rest of your life?" Jai urged him earnestly.
Nachiketh shook his head. "Bhaiyya, You are the only person who tried to be a family to me. Jigyasa di was least bothered about me, and for every one else, I am a nobody."
"Listen to me, Nachiketh! That's not true! You are the one who is not letting anyone to come inside the hard shell you used to protect yourself. Maasi loves you, dadi loves you, Anu and Sahil love you. Adi treats you like you are his own." He hesitated a bit before saying, "And your sister-in-law will love you, if you let her." His gentle words made Nachiketh look up into his brother's eyes.
"I have been so mean to her, Bhaiyya! I just could not stand that you loved some one else. I thought that she would come in between the two of us." He rubbed his tears from his cheeks.
Jai smiled. "She won't! She let me come with you even though she needs me now. Bani is my wife, but if you let her, she will be your sister as well." He toyed with the idea of telling Nachiketh about his impending fatherhood and finally thought it was best to come clean.
"Nachiketh, you are going to be a chacha soon. I want you to take care of the baby if something happens to me. Be the baby's guardian. Would you do that for me?" his gentle question brought more tears to Nachiketh's visage.
"Bhaiyya, I would love to be my nephew's guardian. I have been so selfish all along. I didn't realize what I was putting you through." Nachiketh hugged Jai tight.
Jai hugged him back warmly.
"Before everyone starts thinking that there is a love fest going on, shall we get up and move on?" Jai joked as he got up and gave his hand to Nachiketh to get up from the ground.
Nachiketh looked self-consciously at people staring at them and got up in a rush, only to fall back on his behind as the ice gave away under him, bringing Jai down along with him.
When every one started laughing at them, Nachiketh looked angry and about to fight with them, and then he stopped and started laughing along with them.
Trek to Amarnath Caves
The second day's trek, of 13 km, is through spectacular, primeval countryside, and the main centre of attraction is Sheshnag, a mountain which derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a mythical snake. The journey to Sheshnag follows steep inclines up the right bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery untouched by civilization. The second night's camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep blue waters of Sheshnag lake, and glaciers beyond it.
There are legends of love and revenge too associated with Sheshnag, and at the camp these are recounted by campfires, to the stillness of a pine-scented, Himalayan night.
The third day's 13 km trek steadily gains height, winding up across Mahagunas Pass at 4,600 m and then descending to the meadow-lands of Panchtarni, the last camp enroute to the holy cave.
From Panchtarni to Amarnath is only 6 km, but an early morning's start is recommended for there is a long queue awaiting entrance to the cave. The same day, following darshan, devotees can return to Panchtarni in time for lunch, and continue to Wawjan to spend the fourth night out; or continue further to Zojibal, returning to Pahalgam on the fifth day.
Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the doves-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam, the phallic symbol of Shiva.
According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik.
Yet another legend has it that when Kashyap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva's abode and a center of pilgrimage.
Entrance to the cave is regulated, and darshan a hasty affair for there are many others waiting outside to pay homage before the awesome Shivalinga. The devotees sing bhajans, chant incantations, and priests perform aarti and puja, invoking the blessings of Shiva, the divine, the pure, the absolute. For those who journey with faith, it is a rewarding experience, this simple visitation to a cave-shrine, the home of the Himalayan mendicant who is both destroyer and healer, the greatest of the Hindu deities.
Edited by Sheena_Row - 21 June 2008 at 2:05am