After a few hours of driving, we stopped to wait for the other vehicles in our group to catch up Waiting in a land with endless space, not going anywhere, not coming anywhere, where vision stops only at the deep blue sky with its fathomless mysteries, I was constantly reminded of the insignificance of the body which I call myself Night had fallen when the last vehicle arrived and we continued our journey We reached Saga – a town midway between the Nepal-Tibet border and Kailash Saga is the town where high-altitude sickness really gets you.
Continuous waves of dull pain roll around your head, and your stomach threatens to heave at the slightest excuse. The Tibetan guides told us that if we could get past Saga without coming down with respiratory problems, the rest of the trip would be fine too. Kailash seemed to be beckoning us because our whole group made it through; nobody had to head back to Nepal. The next leg of the journey was to take us to Paryang, the last overnight stop before Manasarovar. On the way, everything seemed to strike directly: the penetrating and pervasive light, the relentless wind, the sand that blasted our skin, all were indicating how tiny, or rather how infinitely minuscule we humans are.
The encounter with the sky, the land and its people has probably carved out a special space within many of us, a space that cannot be replicated or elicited by any other in the world. That night in Paryang, the wait to reach Manasarovar became unbearable. As the journey began the next day morning, my heart started beating heavily Occasionally, nomads in the wide plains caught my eye. They lived a life as it must have been for centuries; quiet, undisturbed. I wondered if their arduous life is a struggle for survival or a triumph for humanity.
When we finally reached Manasarovar, I was just overwhelmed – it was silent, serene and mysterious. There was this dark blue-green lake, the complementing sky, and an endless horizon marked by huge mountains, each different in its glory, some snow-capped and others in all shades of brown and grey. Questions rose in my mind. Who am I anyway? What is life all about? As day passed into night, it seemed as if light and darkness moved in and out of each other, with strong winds blowing. The following day, after a meditation process led by our guru, we took a dip in the sacred lake.
Those moments in the freezing water were ecstatic. It was as though I simply drowned myself in the glory of the lake, yet waiting for the sight of Kailash, waiting for the clouds to part. We halted at Manasarovar that night. And suddenly, a most blissful moment descended upon us. The overcast sky opened up, just so we could glimpse the sacred mountain in the distance, its peak covered with bright white snow, gleaming in the golden rays of the sun. The view stirred my soul; it was love at first sight – the legendary Kailash! Next day, when the trek to Kailash began, the mood was ecstatic with anticipation.
And, as if nature was welcoming us, it began to snow. During the course of the trek, a sacred mantra kept us moving. Breath became a silent prayer, a divine moment, connecting with a divine force, recharging us. I began to question all the so-called knowing that I had. What was I? Who was I? Why was I? Moving ahead, we saw two different faces of the Solitary. One I could not place them as two sides of the same mountain, such was the dramatic change between the two. Towards evening, we reached the place where we were to stay, situated right at the foot of the north face of Kailash, the giant black rock standing in solitary splendour.
I couldn’t take my eyes off that snowcapped mountain; I was being pulled in by some force, a tremendous gravity. The following day, we started our small trek towards the inner parikrama, or circumambulation. An initiation process conducted by our guru there enabled us to experience the sacred space. I felt I was exploding within – I wanted to live and die in that space. I felt completely free, going nowhere, coming from nowhere, just being completely dissolved in that space. The next day, during the descent, we saw three Tibetans prostrating at each step on their way to Kailash, without food, water, or anything to shelter them from the ever-changing moods of nature.