If a black cat crosses your path, it’s a bad omen.
A broken mirror brings bad luck.
Twitching of an eye is inauspicious.
Do not go to a Peepal tree at night.
Christiano Ronaldo steps on to the field first with his right toe… I can go on and on!
How relevant are these superstitions? All my childhood, I’ve had this habit of trying to check if they really work. Wikipedia defines superstition as any belief that is irrational or supernatural; that arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality. How often does it happen that you’re excited about an event but something negative occurs before that and all your enthusiasm gets punctured, leading to you cancelling all your plans? Perhaps all of your answers match to a “Yes”.
16th April 2019, I received a call from CHIRAG head office (my fellowship host organization working in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand) confirming allotment of a motorbike for my conveyance to and fro my field location. Only people living or associated with any work in the “Pasauli-Haidakhan-Harital” belt of Uttarakhand would empathize the excitement of having an own vehicle for conveyance. One could almost save 5-6 hours a day if they had their own conveyance. With an experience of driving over 3-4 lakh kilometers with no accidents, anyone would qualify as a safe and competent driver.
One would also argue that most of my life I have spent on plains and there is a big difference between driving in plains and driving in the hills. The difference arises considering terrains in the hills having high gradients of climb-descent steep, narrow-wide trails, sharp and blind curves what we call – Ghat Roads. The fact of the matter here is, I am no stranger to driving on ghat roads. Srisailam, Tirupati, Keesaragutta and my most favourite Bhutan road trip (Phuntsholing-Thimpu-Punakha drive of over 1500kms) have been my previous experiences in the hills. To give an analogy; driving on ghat roads feels like “Go-Karting” with no escalated charges.
Unfortunately, just in a span of one and half months there have been five accidents and I’ve luckily been getting away unhurt every time. As it happens, all well-wishers, mentors, colleagues and family members had concerns with my commute and suggested me to abandon the vehicle for some time. Why not? They care for my well-being and wish that I remain safe; I would do the same to a dear one too. The interesting fragment that caught my attention all this while was the suggestion “Abandon vehicle for sometime. Seems like your time is not running good and hence you need to take a break from driving, get “pooja-homam” done.
After my induction into CHIRAG, I am assigned with the responsibility of coordinating the project with Hinduja Foundation towards recharging the natural springs. This project is commitment of Ashok Leyland Pantnagar to improve the ground water level in Bhimtal-Okhalkanda block of Kumaon region by recharging an estimated number of 79 Natural springs and influx of 4,20,00,000 liters of water every year.
With my ‘Spring Water Recharge’ activities entering into an interesting phase of implementation, it required me to be more agile, demanding me to cover more places in lesser time, meaning a bike was a compulsory thing. To add arguments in support of the critics, I met with a couple more accidents. One might think, I am making up stories to say that it was not my fault; but there is no legal prosecution that I need to justify. For once, I started thinking if my time was not running positive. Since childhood, I never believed in superstitions and considered them as hindrances to your karma. This time was no different as I ignored critics and did what I always do; flirt with superstitions – I did an impromptu 570 kilometers bike ride to Pindari Glacier and back. The plan was to finish a field visit at Khamari village by 11am and head to Pindari. As I left for the meeting on the morning of 3rd June, I met with the 4th of the five accidents. I wondered if it was a subtle sign for me to drop my plan. With a childlike adamancy and perennial love for bike drives I set out for my tour.
The visit to Pindari was a life-changing experience for me. It had a lot of takeaways personally as well as professionally. Aloof from the quarterly targets, assignments, family pressures, it was the space I sought for myself since long. Pindari trek was the toughest I ever did. In total, it was a 64kms trek by foot passing through rocks, river, water falls, snow trails. It was risk at every step disguised as beauty. Also, since the trip was very sudden and unplanned i struggled in the cold, fumbled along the slippery routes, ran out on food and spent whole night beside the Pindari river in the middle of thick jungle and wild animals – all of them adding to our adventures. Thus a five day cut-off from my routine world had helped me introspect, pause the chaos momentarily and develop a newer perspective to see at things further. It refreshed my morale and stacked up loads of positive energy to sail through challenges from the routine life and gave me a place where I can go to when I needed peace.
The journey instilled a very important realization in me – life is a balance of positive as well as negative events. It is very important that we never get carried away with the successful moments and at the same time we should not get bogged down during the time of distress. Every time I reflect on the memories from the trip, I also remind myself what I would have missed if the trip had stalled on the pretext of my accident and bad omen. My old habit of flirting with risks – has helped me conquer more fears in the past and this time, superstition.
P.S.: Not to boast, a couple of weeks later I made a trip from Kathgodam to Delhi and back . . . safe and sound!