Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tarakeshwar Trip - 13th May 2007

Tarakeshwar is a village approximately 80 kms from Calcutta. It is a site of pilgrimage for the Shiva devotee as this is where a major temple dedicated to the Lord is situated. The rush of pilgrims to this place during the holy Hindu month of ‘sravan’ (or ‘saawan’ as folks from northern parts of this country would call it) is worth admiring.

I myself have been fortunate to have walked a couple of times to Tarakeshwar. On those occasions, we travelled by train from Howrah to Seoraphuli, a suburb of Calcutta where the ghats of the Ganges are considered to be particularly holy. Once there, we collected water from the holy river in two earthen pots and suspended them by ropes to either end of a bamboo stick, which we then carried on our shoulders all the way to Tarakeshwar. The distance of 40 kms from Seoraphuli to Tarakeshwar was covered barefoot (as is the custom), which usually takes 10 to 11 hours, inclusive of the numerous breaks that one must take for resting the feet and taking a bite to eat.

However, last Sunday’s scheduled trip to Tarakeshwar was bound to be special. First, I was going to Tarakeshwar after a good two years. I was waiting rather eagerly for making a trip that I have made innumerable number of times. Second, the ‘adventure’ bug had bitten both, me and Chatur (my good buddy Prashant Chaturvedi) and we wanted to do things slightly differently.

I guess it all started when Dada put the idea of travelling to Tarakeshwar on his bike. Although he said he couldn’t make it, he had absolutely no qualms about me taking his bike. With that idea, I’d called up Chatur. Chatur was immediately gung-ho about the whole idea, but there were speed breakers ahead.

One, Dada’s bike has a Maharashtra number plate, and on a highway, that itself increased the chances of our papers being checked. And since I don’t have a license to ride bikes, that could spell trouble.

Two, Chatur’s sister’s friend also wanted to come along. Chatur’s sis, Vandana, had already said she wanted to come with us. That made five of us: Chatur, Bulla (another great friend, whose real name is Ravi), Vandana, Vandana’s friend and me. Two bikes, five people…problemo.

Hence, we decided to chuck the bike-ride idea and had almost convinced ourselves to a more conventional 7:25AM train to Tarakeshwar on Sunday morning. That was till Saturday evening.

Chatur gets a brainwave around 6 on Saturday evening and asks me if we could ask my Dad to allow us to drive to Tarakeshwar in our Santro. “Not bad,” I thought. I convinced Dad and I called up Chachu to ask for directions. (‘Chachu’ is our family driver; he’s been with us for almost 30 years now. I’ve never called him ‘Driver’ or even ‘Driver ji’. It’s always been ‘Chacha’ until around class 9 when I decided ‘Chachu’ sounded cuter. :D ).

The next morning, the skies were clear and the cast had gathered at my house for what turned out to be a beautiful outing. As luck would have it, Vandana’s friend couldn’t make it due to some reason.

We drove past the Vidyasagar Setu (the second Hooghly bridge) and onto the Kona Expressway. Next, we were on the Calcutta-Delhi highway which forms a part of the Golden Quadrilateral. The road was simply awesome! Bulla obviously had butterflies in his stomach, being the guy who prefers listening to Jagjit Singh numbers to Aerosmith. But Chatur and I were absolutely ecstatic when I managed to touch 120 kms/hour on the speedometer. The Palsit-Dankuni stretch was awesome and there were regular stretches during which we had a clear vision of the 2-3 kms ahead of us. A beautiful day, clear skies, morning sunshine, cool wind in your hair, friendly road conditions and the company of great friends…what else could one ask for?

We had left my house at 7 and we reached Tarakeshwar by 9:15.

(The entrance to the temple)

We met up with the local priest who has been helping my family conduct prayers at Tarakeshwar ever since I can remember the place. We washed our hands and feet at the ghat and were then led inside the dark and extremely crowded sanctum sanctorum. The place was chaotic with all the shouting and chanting of Sanskrit shlokas. Add to that the smoke emanating from the ‘agarbattis’ (incense sticks) and the smell of fresh flowers offered to the Lord, and the picture of the place is complete. Somehow, serenity and calmness engulfs you even in the midst of all this.

We offered our prayers at the Shiva Linga the temple and then at Kali Ma’s mandir right next to the main temple.

(From left: The priest, Bulla, Chatur, Vandana, Me)

Puja completed, the hungry quartet headed for the local shops where we treated ourselves to hot samosas. Our angry stomachs quietened down a bit and we headed back home. Somewhere on the highway, we stopped to quench our thirst at a street-side vendor who offered freshly extracted cane juice. Little did we know the kind of delight that crushed ice in a glass of cane juice can bring on a hot summer afternoon. :)

We were back on the Palsit-Dankuni expressway, and this time I decided to check how high up I could take the needle on the speedometer. As I glanced around and saw that we had a completely empty stretch ahead of us, I pushed the accelerator as far as I could. Absolutely confident of the safety factor, I kept pushing well past the 120 km/hour mark (my previous fastest ever) and eventually managed 140 km/hour. Woohooo!!

(A great capture of the Vidyasagar Setu that Chatur took on his cell phone. I'm actually using this as my desktop wallpaper currently.)


arpana said...

* smiles*
but pal , u seem to be losing weight in every second pic I see of urs ..

Himanshu Jain said...

so the adventures continue :)

140+ ... and you don't even have a license!! that is "License to Kill"

Shaily said...

cool yaa..
sahi hai.....but plssss take a license shekhu.

ani said...

u were right! I luvd it!!! triggered of sumthn in me... reminded me of the time wen me n a few frenz used to escape to a dam on the outskirts n totally chill there... had a temple in the centre of it... long winding road to reach it.. we would luv the walk!!! :) luv ya mommy!!!

nitinmohta said...

sahi hain beta... apne khushi ke din jitne enjoy karne hain kar lo...!!! and I agree with one of the comments... whats the secret of your weight loss.. pass on some tips

Shekhar said...

arpana: Hey, I left a note in your orkut scrap-book about the weighty bit. :D

himanshu jain: Ha ha.. I don't have the 'License to Kill', agreed. But then, neither do the truck-wallahs, and hell, I'm a lot safer than them. ;)

shaily: Hmm... Kinda agree with you on that one. Kuch to karna padega. ~naughty grin~

ani: Told ya! :D Love ya Motee. :)

nitin: Ji janaab, full-tu enjoy kar rahe hain. As for the weight loss bit... trade secrets aise hi thode bata denge. :P

ani said...

Mommyy.. kill me if you will but I have tagged you! Details in the post, 'Quirky lil me!' :D ludviskpnks! :D

animkundu said...

Tarakeswar is a village?
where r u got this information..
its a small type city, pls correct it.

Anonymous said...

I love your site, but honestly tell you that you need more for him to monitor those who commented with your records

Shekhar said...

@animkundu: Beg your pardon, it is a town. Moreover, have never thought the importance of Tarakeshwar comes from whether it is classified as a town or a city, but by the love of devotion which brings people there.

@Anon1: You're welcome.

@Anon2: Agreed. Have been away from the blog for almost a year now, and hence the presence of erratic comments.

@Anon3: Thanks.

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Keep up the good work.