Sudiksha’s Zen Piddle in the Himalayas
by Salil Chaturvedi,
Sudiksha, an eternally curious three-year-old, and I, a slightly-bored-slightly-forty, were travelling together to Ranikhet recently with other family members. As soon as the vehicle was on the highway she turned to me, “Tauji, when will we reach Ranikhet?”
“Oh, it’s a long way off. It will take us seven eight hours to get there,” I said.
After about half-an-hour she wanted to know if we were within striking distance. I told her it was still a long way off. She asked the same question after twenty minutes.
“We’ll get there when it’s dark,” I said. “Oh, that’s a long way off,” she said.
When we reached Haldwani she was tremendously excited at seeing the hills.
“Will there be snow?” she wanted to know.
“If we’re lucky…” I said, and then to get her in the mood, I inhaled deeply and said, “Hmmm, I’m liking the air!”
As we climbed the hills, she started inhaling deeply and saying, “Tauji, I’m liking the air!”
“That’s nice. How much are you liking it?”
She thought for a moment and said, “More than twenty.”
“When will the road stop going round and round?” she wanted to know next.
“When we have reached Ranikhet.”
“Tauji, now we are going down!”
“That’s because we have to cross a hill before we reach Ranikhet.”
“How many hills do we have to cross?”
“Three more,” I guessed.
“Hmmm…I’m liking it!”
We reached when it was dark. The next morning those of us that managed to get up early went out for a short trek. Sudiksha was with us. After walking for a kilometer or so she came up to me and said, “Tauji, I’m tired now.”
“Shall we turn back?” I asked.
“No, I was thinking, I could sit on your lap,” she said.
I hoisted her on my wheelchair and she sat astride my lap. She inhaled deeply and said, “Hmmm…I’m liking it!”
We were walking through a cantonment and the trees had various signs on them. I read them out aloud in a sing song way to entertain her.
“Is this a new song?” Sudiksha asked me as I read out, “Ped dharaa ka abhushan hai, karta dur pradushan hai.” [The tree is earth’s ornament, it gets rid of pollution]
“Yes,” I said hoping she’d join in.
“It’s a funny song. Stop singing it.”
Then I found a nice one and started singing again, “Dharti ki yahi pukaar, Vriksha se karo mera uddhaar.” [The earth has just one call; my upliftment is through trees]
“Has the earth caught a cold?” Sudiksha inquired.
“Then why does it want us to apply Vicks.” [The Hindi for trees, ‘Vriksha’, sounds a lot like Vicks.]
Later, in the afternoon we drove to Machkali which offered gorgeous views of the snow-clad Himalayan ranges. Even though it was about three o’ clock, we could see the full moon rising from behind the Himalayas. Sudiksha wanted to know the flavor of the snow on the mountains. Then, answering her on question she said, “Looks like Vanilla.” I had not thought of Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nand Kot and the Pindari glacier as being vanilla flavored and the thought was delicious. As we stood taking in the beauty Sudiksha piped in, “Mujhe rabbits ke paas jaa kar susu karni hai!” [I want to piddle next to rabbits.]
I almost feel off my wheelchair. I felt like I had been touched by a Zen master. Here we were, standing in a loud silence, admiring the overpowering beauty of the mountains and Sudiksha’s mind was thinking of peeing among rabbits. In a flash I could see that with all my education and professional pre-occupations, I had lost track of the real meaning of life.
Ever since we’ve returned from Ranikhet I’ve been telling my wife that I also feel like peeing next to rabbits.