Monday, May 15, 2017

Badrinath travel Inception

Well, its been a long time since I sat down to write or rather blog :). Its been ages. I think my last post here has been 7 years back. But, thanks to my dear friend SK, i am right now trying to put my mind together and record my very recent trip to Delhi and Badrinath last week. Thanks SK for motivating me.

How did the whole plan start ? Sincerely i dont know. I never thought I will be taking the initiative & planning for a pilgrimage trip to Badri 6 months back. Not even in my dreams. But as they say, you dont decide. It is not in your hands. It is HE who decides to call you and give you dharshan.

My parents have been desiring to dharshan Sri Badri Narayanan for the past 4 years. They have almost completed other kshetrams among the 108 divya desams. They had even booked for theertha yatra for Badri in 2013 with a regular tour operator. But due to the natural calamity (land slide), Badrinath was closed in 2013 and they could not travel. Post that, every year, something or the other was preventing them from going and my mothers health also played a major role in the delay. 

With the dawn of 2017, again the topic of Badrinath started with my parents and suddenly one fine day in Feb 2017, it struck me out of the blue that I might be in a similar state when I get older (health problems preventing me to travel and miss out). This, along with my desire to satisfy my parent's long pending thavam, made me think "why not ? with god' s grace, right now it is possible for us to travel in all aspects - heath , financial, mental peace. So lets plan and go together". There's a saying in Tamizh. "Ore kallu la 2 mangaa. " Here its 3 . I was also slightly hesitant to send them alone with a tour which would mean I would be sitting here worried with no proper communication & signal. Thus the seed was sown.

Next important aspect in the pre planning  stage was getting Sriram's acceptance as well because I just cannot manage alone with elders & kids (leaving them was not an option). It is a big project, hundreds of miles to cover and anything could go wrong. The first time I opened the topic with him, he was not very keen. But once I told him about the 3 mangoes :), he was very generous and sweet and immediately accepted with no further questions. A very big thank you to you, Sriram. This definitely made a big difference and would have been a show stopper otherwise.

The rest, as they say is history. Once the ball started rolling, devotees increased :). My chithi, mom's sis wanted to join. Next my FIL, though technically he cannot be called a devotee but he loves to travel. Last, just before 1 week of commencement of travel, my athai, dad's sis also expressed her desire to join. 

The making of the Itinerary

I should say again, it is his blessings only that has made this happen as the whole thing could have gone wrong with my one single negligence.  Initially, when I started to plan for badri, i enquired and did the basic regular ground work as usual. The general occurrence is that Badrinath opens on the day of Akshaya thrithiyai every year. (Badrinath is closed for 6 months from Deepavali to May during winter). I asked around, made enquiries and planned to start on April 30 (Akshaya thrithiyai was on Apr 29 2017) right after closing of school for the girls.  (Had I gone ahead with my plan, I would have been in a rude shock later.) But my mom wanted to start only on May 2 as May 1st was Ramaujar jayanthi (his 1000 th birthday) and wanted to see the happenings at Sriperumbudur live on the TV. My mind was not open enough to accommodate for this as I had other reasons as well to stick to my dates. But a chance warning from one of Sriram's friends that sometimes they open late in May and the fact that tickets to Delhi were cheaper on May 2nd when compared to April 30 made me go ahead and book tickets for the latter date of May 2nd. (This was the time when I should have double checked the opening date of Badrinath. But it never occurred to me to re check and confirm.) Still a costly mistake which I could have avoided if I had just double confirmed. 
As it is, bookings were made on May 2nd to travel to Delhi by flight and return a week later.

The plan was to travel to Badrinath first, then 2 nights halt at delhi. We had booked Panicker travels to take us from Delhi to Badrinath and drop us back at Delhi.  My parents wanted to visit kurukshethra from Delhi. So, the moment I mailed the dates to Panicker for Badrinath travel as May 2nd, I got a highly panicky call from Panicker. The lady on the other end was all jitters as she said that Badrinath opening date was only May 6 th  and no way we could travel on 2nd. I got a few scoldings from her as I had not asked her the opening date during my initial talks. My heart stopped for a moment and then started racing. Then my mind cleared and I instructed her to pick us up on May 4 th from Delhi for Badrinath instead of May 2 nd as our return date to Chennai was only May 9th and we had the buffer to take in the change. (It takes 2 days to reach Badri from Delhi through Haridwar Rishikesh by road). Man proposes, God disposes. I had to change my plan to first stay 2 nights in Delhi ,visit kurukshetra and then move on to Badri. Although altered, the trip was still on with his blessings.  

If I had booked as per my earlier date of April 30, I would have been left with no buffer and would have had to either cancel the tickets or just visit Delhi with no Badrinath. But why still a costly mistake ? Because with these dates, we were left with no option but to dharshan the lord on the opening day and the crowd was unimaginable along with the added hindrance of the honorable President Of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee choosing to visit the shrine on the opening day, it took us 8 long hours to dharshan the lord in the crowd. It is our misfortune that Badri did not open as per norm on the Akshaya thrithhiyai this year. But, it is his wish that we should dharshan him this way. 

Once the bookings were made and everything was set and paid, Sriram dropped a bombshell that he might have to be in the United Sates on May 10 and had to start from Chennai on May 8th for the same.  I did not panic this time. I understood this was a wait and watch game. I entirely left it to the lord for the next 2 months. "If it had to happen, it will happen ". Just 1 week before our departure we came to know that he need not travel.

We were all set. My chithi came down from Bangalore 2 days before. Appa gave for yatra dhaanam in Sathya narayana kovil on May 1st.  8 of us started from chennai to Delhi on May 2nd early morning.  My athai was to join us in Delhi the next day on her own before starting for Badri.

On to Delhi with me in the next post....

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