It was specifically the second time that I was visiting Mussoorie and Dehradun, in my entire life till now, that my family decided to take a stop at ‘Haridwar’ and spend a night before we could proceed further to relax and enjoy our winter vacations in the queen of hills: Mussoorie. Everyone agreed to visit the holy river ‘Ganges’ and have a snaan (bath) in it, but due to overly cold weather, we stuck to just splashing some water on our faces, I (to be honest) didn’t want to do that even for I read an article about ‘The Ganga Pollution, a cause of concern – research by IIT-Kanpur Professor’ a few weeks back only, and even dipping my hand in the water made me nauseous. Sorry, but this is the truth (I don’t intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments!!)

So, we reached Haridwar at around 8pm, and it was freezing cold (not to forget the fog!) and we reached The Holy Ganga by 9pm. It was all dark and secluded, unlike the usual evenings, when one can’t even find a space of two foot steps to stand by. We all bought a little basket with a diya (earthen lamp) and some flowers, scented leaves and some incense sticks. The pandit initially demanded only Rs. 10 for the puja, but the amount rose to significant Rs. 200 as the puja was over! Then I remembered the movie ‘Oh My God’ by Paresh Rawal, where he brought the truth of pandits and priests in light, and enlightened their ways of befooling the common man on the name of God. But we couldn’t negotiate at that moment, for the priest also asked for Rs. 2500 more if we were interested in any further puja or donations. But we all simply chose to be quiet and washed our hands in Ganges, prayed in silent and moved on. I had to dip my hands in the water for I couldn’t argue with mom who is a devoted religious personality in the entire family!

Next morning, we all decided to visit some temples and also see the ‘Ram Jhula’ in Rishikesh. It is nothing, but an ancient bridge over the Holy Ganga. We watched some ancient temples like: ‘Swarg Asharam’, ‘The Gita Bhawan’ and continued our journey. The guide with us tried to mislead us and also provoked us to buy a ‘Rudraksh’ (estimated of worth a few lakhs) in just a few thousands (that proved it was a forging!).

Next we took a boat to cross the holy river and reach back to our car, and start with our journey to Mussoorie. We got off the boat and started walking along the banks of Ganges and meanwhile I was shooting some awesome shots of nature and hills, with river flowing speedily, making it even more serene. I took a few shots, and then my lens just got stuck onto a ‘saint’, who was rubbing the sand of the river-side on his body. He was dressed in loose saffron clothes, his hair all stuck up together, untidy white beard and lots of malas (garlands and ornaments) in his neck and arms. He had a jute bag with him in which he may be carrying some food or vessels, or may be clothes? I didn’t know, but the wheels of my mind churned and I was forced to think about if these people actually live a peaceful and contended life? Were the really happy with their life? Is it the way to abode to the heavens? I can’t imagine even one day of my life without electricity, internet and all the facilities that made the human race lazy and dependable, but this is the truth!

That man was wearing a few clothes in such a cold weather, don’t they feel cold? I was packed up with sweaters and jackets, but he was barely wearing two layers, and with his bare legs and feet, he started walking. The picture shown above is the actual picture of that man; unfortunately I couldn’t capture the frontal side, for we had to follow a different path. I was nearing the car, and my mind was filled up with questions. Was this the way to get salvation from the circle of births? If yes, then WHY? What about all the rest of the people who are far, far away from such a lifestyle. People like me, or you (reading this on computers via internet, dependable society!). He carried so little with him, and we have so, so much and still cry for more. He didn’t wear shoes, but we have multiple pairs, and still are not satisfied. He didn’t had much food, but we have pizza hut, dominos, café coffee day, and what not! But still we go to try the new Italian restaurant opened in the city.

What is MOKSHA (liberation)? The true definition might be different for each of us, but for them Moksha means living independently, till the last breath. Living with limited supplies, enough to keep them alive, and keep them away from all the moh-maya (hedonism) of this world, and more than enough to keep them happy.

I thought deeper and deeper…we were going to stay in Fortune Resorts in Mussoorie (rated as one of the best hotel chain in India), does it matter? NO! We were going to have a luxurious week ahead, but will it lead me to internal happiness and satisfaction? I don’t think so. I may end up craving for more, and being greedy instead, or just being plain about it. No amount of money or luxury can provide internal liberation, rather the person just ends up being avaricious and as per the mythology of Hinduism, his soul wanders and his cycle of re-births never ends. But is it the fate of around 6.5 billion people (if we roughly ignore a number as large as 0.5 billion, for all the priests and pandits and moulvis of the world)? Will all the souls wander and will they all take birth again and again?

The questions are endless and answers are limited and contradictory. The best thing is to find the answer within one’s own self and define liberation on our own terms. Till then, keep thinking, keep travelling, keep talking to yourself and know yourself within…one life!