Recently I climbed a big mountain; big both in girth and loftiness, very big. Much happened during this climb and much that should not have happened, but today’s story is not about this mountain or about the climb, it’s about something else entirely. Something that is intriguingly significant to me and even though I do see its rationale in afterthought I am still puzzling over the incident.
Lord Shiva is one of the primary Hindu Gods, in fact the most supreme of the trinity. He is on one hand the destroyer and on another the procreator since without annihilation there can’t be creation or so we believe. Shiva certainly is someone’s figment of imagination on high testosterone and the legend is an extraordinary saga. Of all the facts about Shiva that we are led to believe, the one I hold closest to my heart is that He resides in the Himalaya and his five abodes are spread across the length of the icy peaks. Therefore with that belief, he is my only god since Himalaya is my home too and the icy peaks my abodes. Even if He indeed exists, I doubt if He does so in the way we depict Lord Shiva in our myths; wearing tiger skin, snake around the neck and holding the moon in his hair locks. Yet this image is so deeply embedded in any Hindu mind that I cannot imagine him to be any way different than this.
Memory defies me as to its origin now, who gave it to me or where did it come from, but for over two decades I have had in my possession a tiny Shiva statue, measuring no more than an inch by half. It has been my inseparable companion for all these years during all my climbs, all my voyages over land, sea or air. No matter where I went, it went with me. It stood atop one of my ice axes while at home. In this statue Shiva is in His benign form, smiling, all forgiving and truly magnificent. As I went through my adventures and misadventures, repeating my death defying and death-inviting motions, I came to regard this statue as my guardian angel, as if Shiva Himself stayed with me to safeguard my limbs and life. I grew bolder, crazier and reckless with this belief.
On any climb, the statue remained inside by breast pocket, therefore remaining close to my heart and to my pulsating life. I never parted with it and never failed to carry it, no matter where I went. I knew it was only my belief that gave this statue mythical power over life and death and despite all my rationality I was fine with it. I have seen logic-defying things in the outdoors and out there I believe in things that normally I may not. Hence it is obvious that upon this big mountain too I had this statue right where it belonged – deep inside the breast pocket of my climbing jacket / suit. And that’s exactly where it remained for the duration of the expedition.
Everything went off well and I could feel the statue against my skin through the clothes every now and then. The climb continued as envisaged. We finally reached the summit camp one fine windy afternoon. We had planned to start our summit push the same evening. We were well within the death-zone. The statue, as far as I can recall now, was very much there. After this things get fuzzy.
In the bone chilling freeze we got ready for the summit bid, clipped on our oxygen masks and breezed out into the gale that was blowing in from the west. After 20 hrs and a successful summit when I returned to the tent I had no recollection about the Shiva statue. I looked for the statue in all the lower camps till the Base Camp but the statue could not be found anywhere. I fail to understand how could the statue fall off from the inside pocket of my down climbing suit, since the pocket was well zipped off. I hadn’t fallen any place. The statue could not have disappeared, yet it had, as if it never existed. I looked everywhere except of course retracing my path to the summit once more.
So the question is why did Shiva decide to take a hike upon this mountain!
Either he was tired of me or of returning to the city life again and again or he decided to stay back into the Himalaya this time and what better place to go roaming than the highest Himalayan arena. His main abode of Sri Kailash isn’t too far as well. By now He must be with his friends and overlooking the limpid blue waters of Mansarovar, relating the adventures he had shared over the last 20 years in my company. So I wish him luck and accept that He is gone.
Does that mean I would go get another statue of Shiva or that my guardian is no more with me; certainly not! Like I said, it was always a question of my belief and the strength came from inside me into the statue and not vice versa so now I don’t need a statue anymore. 20 year long belief can pretty much conjure things out of thin air.
Om Namoh Shivaya!