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in Delhi: A Memoir|
The next morning at 4 a.m., we woke, packed meals of chapatis and mango pickle in a piece of cloth, and set out for the long trip. We did not have a map and were not sure how far Bheekuwal was from Hoshiarpur. We walked, or rather ran, in the warm June morning fragrant from pine trees. We were very excited about the movie we were going to see. We had no water and no change of clothes. All we had with us were the chapatis and clothes we wore. We carried our shoes in our hands; walking barefoot was easier and less tiring. Soon it became hot and we were thirsty. The sandy dust became hot under our feet. The temperatures in June in India go into three digits, and I began to wonder if I was being punished for lying to my father.
We managed to get drinks of lukewarm water in the villages we passed. People would pour water out of a jug, and we would take turns gulping it from our tightly cupped palms. Then we would ask for directions to Bheekuwal. Most of the people who gave us directions had never been there, but had heard the name of the village because of the siddh. We followed the general direction and felt fortunate we were not lost.
By noon, we knew that Bheekuwal was not next to Hoshiarpur; it was seven miles to the east. We kept walking as fast as we could and asked for directions whenever we passed anyone. We arrived in Bheekuwal in the afternoon after walking twenty-three miles.
It must have been over one hundred degrees at that time. We were hungry and tired and both had splitting headaches from hunger; we had been in too much of a hurry to stop and eat our chapatis. We came upon a huge crowd of people who had come for the blessing. It was apparent that this siddh did not provide individual service; he blessed people en masse. His disciple passed out ash that was supposedly blessed by him.
Ramesh asked me to sit on a rock in the hot shade of a mud house while he checked around. Since we had walked twenty-three miles in the hot sun for this, we needed to get some ash. He managed to get some and wrapped it in a piece of old newspaper.
We were crestfallen when we learned that Hoshiarpur was seven miles away. We had just enough money for the cinema and food for the evening. We decided that we would skimp on dinner and spend some money on a tonga since walking seven miles would require about two hours, and we didnít want to miss the movie. The seven-mile trip took a little over one hour by tonga pulled by a nag. We both dozed in the semi-shade of the tonga roof.
There were two cinema houses in Hoshiarpur. We saw movies at both cinemas. The fact that both cinema houses were hot, crowded, and smoke-filled did not bother us. Indian movies are full of songs and dances. Ramesh, of course, sang along with the actors on the screen and was told repeatedly to shut up by other viewers. He would borrow my program to read the song lyrics and return it to me so I could follow the movie.
After seeing the movies, we bought some chapatis and dal from a roadside tandoor. Then we started walking toward Gagret. After walking for about five miles, we became too tired to travel any further. We found a brick platform built around a peepal (fig leaf) tree and lay down in the dust. Before we knew it, we were asleep and did not wake up until next morning. Our bodies were sore as we arrived home around noon the next day. We gave ash to Bhua Parvati who touched it with her forehead and gave pinches of it to everyone in the family. She touched my head to show her affection and patted Ramesh on his back for taking me to the holy siddh.