skiing the trees Reading Time: 6 minutes

NIRMOHI – THE ALTRUIST

Santosh and his friends were contemplating an unconventional winter outing. After mulling over various options, they decided over skiing in the ice-clad mountains. In the area surrounding Mumbai, snow was a commodity just heard of or watched in western movies or a few Hindi films. Exposure to skiing was a further matter. But this enthusiastic group was keen on doing something unusual. They decided on Musoorie, the place near Dehradun. Instead of going for just site seeing, they planned to try out skiing.

They gathered woollen clothing from all the possible sources since they were needed only for 2-3 weeks. 

Taking flight up to Dehradun, and a bus ride, later on, they reached Musoorie on 5th January at 10 O’clock in the night. They took some accommodation for the night.

The swing of atmospheric temperature from 25 degrees to minus 5 degrees Celsius was adding enthusiasm to their spirit.

The next day morning, they went to the skiing resort. Hired all the gear needed and joined a training center.

After a brief introduction on the skis, the poles, the goggles, the postures while sliding down, etc. Santosh and his group had a stint with the snow-clad mountains. They had training sessions throughout the day. All of them enjoyed skiing a lot.

The group gathered at the dinner table. They were not content with their experience.

They wanted more encounters with the snow, to have some more rounds of skiing. They decided to stay on and continue with skiing.

But Santosh was thinking a little differently. He was tempted to go on hiking in this area. He also knew that none of his friends would agree to this idea. So he had some plan to stray while skiing and execute further ideas.

The next day morning, all of them reached the skiing training center. They collected their skiing gear and with a little experience they had, they started skiing on their own.

Every one of them was enjoying skiing. They were tracing the tracks chalked out. Butat the first opportunity, Santosh deviated and continued skiing down. And he was on a track where none of the skiers had gone. He continued at very high speeds. He could not control his pace. He was going down and down enjoying the beauty of nature. On both sides were thick forests of tall pine trees with snow stuck to their leaves. The forest was so dense that the sun rays were not able to penetrate. After about 15-20 minutes of sliding down at high speeds, Santosh realized that he had come far away from their site of skiing. He could get some control over his speed. Just then, he spotted a person at some distance, at this temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius with ash on his body, completely naked walking away from his path. Santosh tried shouting for help, but that person could not hear him. The sadhu just disappeared in the forest.  Santosh was now getting scared. He wondered whether his decision to take a diversion for an adventure was right. He was still sliding down. But now at slower speeds. He spotted another sadhu with just a small linen cloth covering his privates, meditating his eyes closed, standing on one leg.    

Santosh reduced his speed further and somehow, came to halt a little away from meditating sadhu. Santosh put aside his poles, folded his hands, and spoke in Hindi, “Guruji,  I need your help. I am lost.”

After a few minutes, Sadhu opened his eyes. Without moving even a bit in that posture of standing on one leg and the other leg folded, he said.” Who are you?”

Santosh bowed with folded hands and said,” I am Santosh. I am on my skiing practice but lost my way.”

“Okay. There is a small village about 8 kilometers away. There you can get some transport.”

“How do I reach that place?”

“If you take the right turn and walk down, you can reach in an hour.”

Santosh thanked the Sadhu and started walking rightward which was going up, with his skis and poles in his hands,  Hardly he had walked a few steps when Santosh heard the Sadhu saying. ” But my son, you will have to hurry up. In about 10 minutes, I see that a snowstorm is coming. If you get delayed, you will be caught in the mid of the snowstorm.”

“Oh my God! Then what should I do, Guruji?” Santosh was worried.

“In five minutes, I will start for a cave that is just 2-3 minutes away from here. But its approach road is not straightforward. I suggest, you wait and come with me. We will take shelter there. After the storm settles down, I will take you to the nearby village. Probably, you will get transport from there. But now you take off your skis as we have to walk upwards”

Santosh was comforted with his words. Sadhu went into his trans again. After silence for about 3 minutes, Sadhu said,” Let us get going.” He bent down and with ease lifted the skis. Santosh held the poles and both of them started walking up the small hill. Though a bit scared, Santosh was enjoying this experience.  

They reached a rocky area. Sadhu jumped over a small rock with skis in one hand. Then he pulled Santosh up by giving him hand. Somehow, Santosh was in front of a cave which was closed with a big log of wood which the Sadhu moved and both of them entered the cave. At that moment, a fast breeze started blowing, the sky became overcast turning the atmosphere dark and gloomy. Soon it started snowing. Sadhu moved the log swiftly and closed the cave. It became pitch dark inside the cave. Sadhu moved inside and picked up a lantern and even lighted it. The entire cave was dimly lit. Santosh took out his mobile and checked for the network. As expected, the network was not available. 

There were few gaps from where the wind was leaking in. The cave had become freezing cold. Santosh wondered with all the woolen clothes on, he was finding the cave unbearably cold. But the Sadhu with his small linen was comfortable.

The snowstorm continued with its frenzy. Santosh was now very worried. After half an hour, the storm slowed down. Santosh asked Sadhu, “when will it stop completely?”

“Don’t worry, the sun will shine brightly in a short time. We will start immediately.”

Santosh was extremely hungry. He was wanting to eat something. But he could not ask the Sadhu about food.

The sadhu went to one corner and picked up some fruit that he had collected for the eventuality. He handed over one mango-like fruit to Santosh.

“Have this fruit. You must be hungry. After we reach the village, you can get lunch.”

Santosh ate the fruit. He thought there must be another fruit that Sadhu would eat. But there was none. Sadhu had remained hungry himself. Santosh felt guilty that without giving any thought to whether there was any more fruit which Sadhu would eat, he had finished the fruit all alone. He was overwhelmed by Sadhu’s gesture. Selfless! Santosh bowed down and touched Sadhu’s feet. “Guruji, please excuse me for my selfishness. I am ashamed.”

Sadhu lifted him holding both hands. “Don’t worry my son. You have not done anything wrong.”

Santosh had tearful eyes.

Slowly, after a couple of hours, the storm stopped. The sky started getting cleared. The sun was shining brightly. Time must be four in the afternoon. Sadhu moved the log of wood opening the cave. They both moved out of the cave. Snow collected was ankle-deep. Sadhu picked up the skis with ease. Santosh picked up the poles. And they started.

After a walk for a short time of half an hour, Santosh was greeted with wonderfully blooming flowers. Cobra lily, Himalayan Balsam, Himalayan Hogweed, Forget me not, Edelweiss, Blue puppies, Blue geranium, Aster, etc. plus many more varieties. Sadhu said, “The divine, many persons seek within, is right in front of you. Just look and breath in the fragrant air.” Santosh was exhilarated. He tried to memorize the picture in his mind. He took out his mobile phone and took pictures.

They came across a small rivulet with crystal clear water. It was flowing with a soft burble. A small wooden bridge helped them to cross this stream.       

 Soon Santosh could see some signs of habitation. They had reached the village.

Sadhu told Santosh to check whether he got a network connection. Santosh was surprised that sadhu staying in a cave was aware of the latest technology. Satish was delighted that he was connected with the outside world. Sadhu guided Santosh to an autorickshaw stand and turned back. Santosh was overwhelmed. He again bent down and touched Sadhu’s feet. A few tears wet Sadhu’s feet. Sadhu picked up Santosh with his both hands. Santosh saw affection flowing out of Sadhu’s eyes. Santosh asked, “ Guruji, am I fortunate enough to give some cash to you? This will come in handy in any emergency”.

Guruji said,” Haven’t you learned anything in the last 4-5 hours?”

Santosh was embarrassed.

“Guruji, may I know your name please?” with a choked voice Santosh asked.

“NIRMOHI,” he said and started back to his living place, the cave.

Santosh found out that it would take an hour if snowstorms didn’t intercept, to reach Musoorie.

With network-connected, Santosh could contact his friends. After loading the skis, poles in the auto-rickshaw, the rickshaw started to go to Musoorie.

Santosh was lost in thoughts. “Nirmohi.- the altruist. Haven’t I learned from this great person at least this much?”

At Musoorie, his friends were waiting for him. All of them were delighted to find Santosh unharmed. “Where were you? Were you not affected by the snowstorm?”

“I got diverted and lost my path. And I met a Sadhu, a saint ….” Santosh told the entire story.

After reaching Mumbai, Santosh had many more stories to tell about his experience. But he was the most influenced by Nirmohi, the altruist.

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