Limping to the Centre of the World
Timeri N. Murari
At the first glance of the title, the reader wonders what the writer means by “Centre of the World “ and it soon becomes clear when the eyes run down below that the book is all about his journey to Mount Kailas which is located in a remote part of the western Tibetan plateau . Mount Kailas is revered by four religions: Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion Bon . The only reason for Murari, who is an agnostic to venture on the arduous trek , despite his age and a recent knee surgery is Bhima, his temporary son who is about to undergo a major surgery.
The visual and graphic portrayal of the river kali, (goddess of death) in the first chapter sets off the tone of the volume making a chill run down your spine. Murari writes “ The river itself is death ; it could smash a human or an animal into a bloody mess against those giant rocks , and not even a lunatic would try white-water rafting in this enraged torrent.’’ Expressing his hatred of the ledge which runs low above the kali, he says sarcastically , “The ledge isn’t a trek but an assault course, and the men who hewed it didn’t even have the decency to pave the pathway evenly but just dropped rocks and stones wherever they fell, no doubt exhausted by their labours” As you read on you begin to wonder how this first time trekker at 64 with an injured knee would make it to the abode of Shiva which involves a 200 kilometre limp over hazardous terrain in the lower Himalayas upto the Lipu Lekh Pass at 5334 metres to get past the border into Tibet . And a parikrama of the mountain itself which involves a climb upto the 5550 metre high Dolma Pass in not too friendly conditions nature throws up. He has porter Mohan Ram, strong and surefooted 22 year old Kumaon Native, who knows the mountains like the back of his hand, to support him while negotiating the roughest terrain.
After weeks of arduous journey when the sacred conical shaped mountain comes into view the yatris prostrate , some run towards it with excitement ,and Murari just stands and stares mesmerized . Strangely he doesn’t experience the same ecstasy and passion of his fellow yatris but has a feeling of puzzled certainty which he cannot explain. He finds himself speaking to the Mountain, telling the objective of his undertaking the journey and prays for the child’s well being and future which is followed by prayers for his immediate and extended family and wonders if the Mountain can hear his prayers. When they reach Lake Manasarovar, Murari finds it even more stunning mirror of the sky which looks as if it has descended to earth. Mount Kailas reflected in the Lake looks picture perfect and a photographer’s delight . He performs the parikrama passing through Yumdwar, (people believe by passing through this passage one escapes seven generations of rebirth) which he considers as a spiritual portal opening into his new dimension of belief. He becomes nostalgic at this moment reflecting on the past events in his life. Mission accomplished by completing parikramas around the mountain and Lake, his only wish for Kailas and Shiva is to grant him a safe journey back . His pleading is loud and clear for him to hear , ” Kailas, you called me here, so please get me down safely” which becomes his refrain as he inches down the mountain.
Murari undergoes a metamorphosis which is explained best in the Epilogue : “ I went with a vague belief in god and returned with a strong belief in god as an energy, a mysterious force, an incomprehensible power that had deliberately shaped not only our natural world, but in a fraction of a moment, created a universe. I never had an image of god in my mind when I prayed before but now I do —not a face, but a mountain and the sky.”
The author literally carries the reader along on his journey to Mount Kailas, describing every detail of the yatra and the behaviour of yatris who accompany him which add to the interest of this faced paced personal account. Perhaps he could have avoided a mention of his political views which appear to stick out like asore thumb and mar the flow of this very readable book.
N. Meera Raghavendra Rao