For a very long time I nurtured a secret desire… to travel alone, all by myself. I never mustered enough courage to do so but still kept the longing alive in the hope that one day, may be one day, I’ll be ready to venture out in to the unknown. It was around May 2012, exactly an year before, when the desire became so intense that I knew I had to act upon it. Being a free lancer, I had the advantage to plan it as per my convenience. Still I chose to go during end of August which was good 4 months away. Now, anything can happen in this time which can prevent me to go and my logical mind kept arguing why not now? Go now… Go and finish it. But there was always a definite answer coming from the other corner of the mind saying: Wait, It’s not time yet. Prepare.
To begin with I had not even planned where I wanted to go. Every day, I’ll read about a new place online, will check the places to visit and where to stay. But nothing seemed like this is it! this is where I have to be. One fine day, this part of the puzzle seemed to solve itself and I knew I have to go to Haridwar/Rishikesh. So again, the hunt of what to see, where to stay and what to do started. Having a modest budget for the trip, I had to figure out the best way to optimize my stay and be safe at the same time. The world wide web came to the rescue again. The only previous info I had about these places was that they are considered to be the holy cities of India. I knew nothing more than that. So reading the travelogues really helped me to understand what I should expect when I visit.
A string of incidents which were quite strange started happening once I locked my destination and the month of travel. I was flooded with work offers like never before. On a routine basis, I worked for production in ad films and each project usually lasts for maximum 2-3 weeks. So ideally, only in August I had to see if my current project overlapped with my travel plans. But No!!! I didn’t get any ad film work and instead started getting feature film offers which is a 4-6 months commitment. And, every week a more lucrative offer than the last will come and I kept saying no to them. The reason: I have to travel in August and can’t postpone my travel plans at any cost. Saying this always pained me a lot. Its so difficult to say no to work. I looked up at God vengefully, “What’s up with you. Why are you doing this and making it so much more difficult than it already is.” At this point, again my logical mind started making quick paces up & down… ‘It can only mean two things, either I really shouldn’t be going or this is one of the ploys as usual put on the path to lure me away.” All my friends yelled in unison saying this is madness, insanity. I quietly consented, “I know. But I am helpless. I just have to go.”
Now I was less than 2 weeks away in taking this highly hyped trip and still had no idea where I’ll be staying. The idea of staying in a hotel alone irked me somehow. I decided to stay in an ashram as Rishikesh has infinite numbers of it and it will suit my pocket as well. At first, I searched for an all women ashram (if something like that even exists) , didn’t get very lucky with that. So in the end, I shortlisted 3 ashrams, 2 of them were in Rishikesh, and one in Haridwar. The charges of the Hardiwar were more than a decent hotel. So I kept it last on my list. Now out of the two, one ashram was very popular and commercialized so it appeared okay from safety point of view. While the other one appeared more quiet, in a secluded environment. The quietness of the place reflected so strongly even through its website, that one gets suspicious. When you are sitting amidst the chaos of a city life, the serene silence appears to be haunting and scary. “What if I someone kills me, no one will even come to know. Do i deserve such an anonymous death?”
I had a hard time zeroing in on the place. So started showing the websites of these 3 ashrams to my friends and asked them which appears the best place to stay. Everyone suggested and advised me to go to the most popular one and they will add please don’t stay at the secluded one. You never know what might happen to you. “Yes I know!”, I’ll reply pondering on all the possibilities that can happen.
Finally, I decided to stay at ‘Sadhana Mandir‘, Yes the same quiet looking, secluded ashram against everyone’s suggestions and against all the possibilites of dying a mysterious death. And since then there has been no looking back.