It was 9 PM in the night. I had just finished my dinner at the Ekal mandir and was headed back to my room. My plan for the night was not to stay in the room but, I wanted to camp alone in middle of the salt desert. I was heading to the room hoping to pack what i needed for the night and then go to the salt desert.
As I entered my room, I was greeted with a shocking scene!! 8 or 10 people were sitting in the room laughing and eating and, on “MY” bed, a sadhu was seated. They had causally swept aside all my belongings and they had cleared my bed out and now this huge swarthy sadhu was seated there.
This sadhu looked like he had come straight out of the kumbh mela or something. The hair on his head was voluminous and it was tied together with some kind of cloth. He had a magnificent beard and his eyes were blazing. It was clear he was one of those followers of shiva who keep roaming around in the himalayas.
What’s interesting to note here is, most people are afraid of sadhu’s like this because they perceive them to be very powerful and harsh and unforgiving. I’m told that most people avoid looking these sadhu’s in the eye.
Our eyes met as soon as i entered the room and i stared at him for a few seconds unable to say anything. I tore my eyes off him and asked if I could pack my stuff up. He said no problem.I went in and quickly packed up all my stuff. One part of my mind was focused on making sure i did not leave anything behind and the other part was focused on not looking back at the sadhu who was following my every move.
When i finished packing, one of his followers asked me to sit with them for a few minutes. One part of me wanted to run away from the room but I managed to blurt out yes and sat down.
The sadhu then brought out a huge chunk of charas from his bag!!! I mean, the “piece” was so huge, it would have been enough to sustain these 10 guys for over 6 months. I causally glanced over it and one look told me it was the manala cream. I was shocked to say the least!! Next, the chillums came out and I dropped all pretense and was staring at them with my mouth hanging open!
“Chillum piyoge???” (Will you smoke?) asked the sadhu looking straight into my eyes. His gaze was very uncomfortable. It felt like he knew something about me that I didn’t. I shook my head and looked away. He smiled and said, “thoda sa pee lo, acchi neend aa jaayegi” he said (smoke for a bit, you’ll get good sleep). I shook my head again and then one of the disciples looked over at me and said: “baccha hai abhi yeh” (he’s still a kid). The entire room burst out laughing and even I smiled a bit.
After they finished their rounds, they asked me where i was from and where i was headed. I told them all about my cycling trip. Another one of his disciples cracked a joke again but the sadhu said, “hum sab yahaan yaatra karne ke liye toh aaye hain. Cycle se ho yaa gaadi se ho yaa pairon pe, yaatra toh sabko karna hai” (We’re all here to travel. Be it on cycle, or vehicle or on foot, everyone has to travel).
I didn’t know if it was one of those profound, chillum-inspired thoughts of the sadhu or if it was pure gibberish. I told him I had to take leave as I had to reach the rann and setup my camp. After making sure I had left nothing behind, I bid them good bye and left the room.
As I headed out, the sadhu said again, “tumhe lagta hai ki tumhe rann mein jaa kar khushi aur shanti milegi par tum galat ho” (You think you will find peace and happiness by going to the rann, but you are wrong).
I turned back and looked at him. He had read me after all, because, that was precisely the reason I had sought out the salt deserts. Unable to say anything, I just turned and left.