The incident occurred in 2016. I was working in Bengaluru then. For the past some time, I was seeing Lord Hanuman everywhere. It looked like he was calling me. I have never been too devoted a person. During this period, a sketch of Lord Hanuman by a local artist was the talk of the town. Wherever you went, there it was: Made on a black background, a very handsome and angry looking Lord Hanuman etched in saffron. This was the same image I was seeing every place.
From ancient times, mankind has always believed in ‘power’ beyond. If something was not understood, it became godly. And if something was beneficial, it became a god. So at one end, the lightening coming out of the clouds was equated to divine power, and at the other, trees that provided us nourishment became the God. Today, science can explain a lot; but on faith, it is yet to convince the believers. Thus, when I started to see ‘Bajrangbali’ everywhere, my mind began to explain it through science, while my upbringing took it as a matter of faith and divine calling. Whatever be the reality, I decided to go to a Hanuman temple.
It is seldom, and that too by chance, that I turn towards the temples. I look at the sky once every morning to nod to that divine power. That is the limit of my meetings with the maker. No wonder, therefore, that the temples always seem angry at me. In between the road from my home to work, happens to be a small Hanuman temple. One evening, while returning from work, I stopped my car a little farther away from the temple. And started walking towards the God. It was around 5 in the evening. When I reached in front of the temple, I saw that the main gate was closed. I went closer. Thought that the smaller door might be open. It was not to be!
‘You have been calling me for this long. When I have finally come, you decide to close the doors?’ I smiled and left for home.
The work had been a little stressful of late and I was feeling like a vacation. Wife and kids were both asking for a road trip for some time now. There are loads of places to visit in the state of Karnataka, but wifey and I had made up our minds for Hampi. We were eager to glimpse the lost glory of the Vijayanagar Empire in its ruins. The plan was made, preparations done, and one fine day, the Joshi family jumped in the car and left for Hampi. My wish to visit Lord Hanuman remain unfulfilled. ‘well, some other time.’ I thought.
We landed in Karnataka tourism’s hotel in Hampi. The room wasn’t that great. In its hay days, the tourism department hotels were the best. Now they too looked like the ancient ruins maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Anyway, the room was clean, and the place close to most of the tourist attractions. We threw the luggage in the room and left for sight seeing. When we returned in the evening, I noted a brochure in the room by the bed. Tourism department’s brochure indicating the attractions.
I started reading. While glancing through, my eyes came to a standstill at a corner on the brochure. There was a surprise in my eyes. A lot of places in Hampi have been associated with ‘Ramayan’. There is Sugreev’s cave, and also the temple, where he was crowned by Lord Ram. I was not surprised about that information. My eyes had stopped at the words ‘Anjaneya Hill’. About a quarter hour’s drive from Hampi was the place called Anjaneya Hill. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. He is also known as Anjaneya, in reference to his mother Anjani. Till now, Hampi to me was about Vijaynagar kingdom, and now it turned in ‘Kishkindha’. I told this fact to my wife and she was also surprised. We decided to climb the hill the next morning.
We rose early, completed our morning ablutions, and left for the hill. Hampi is south of the river ‘Tungbhadra’, while ‘Anjaneya Hill’ is to its north. The nearest motorable bridge is about 15 kilometers, the total distance by road is 35 odd kilometre. The funny thing is that the aerial distance is less than two-kilometers; if you prefer a boat ride. The state has a lot of hills, and invariably, on most of them, there is a temple. These hills made of huge boulders, look very pleasing. If one looks at the ‘Anjaneya Hill’ from afar, it would seem like a huge rock kept on earth and slashed multiple times by a massive sword wielded by some divine power. With time, plants and shrubs filled these scars and made them their home. It looks like some green lines on a huge brown rock.
We reached the base of the hill at seven in the morning. I looked up and said,
‘Everyday, I look for you in the sky. Today, I am coming right there to meet you.’
Have you ever given a small girl a slate and a chalk? The way she will scribble random white lines on the slate, was exactly how the view looked. Like someone had scribbled a lime powder coated staircase through to the top of the hill. Incredible! The stairs led to the Hanuman temple at the head of the hill. We started the climb, halting every so often to capture the beauty in the lens of a camera. The climb went off in a jiffy. People had put their shoes and footwear at the end of the stairs. I too sat down and started taking off my shoes. As I neared taking off the last sock, ‘Aarti’ (Prayer) started. Wife smiled at me and said, ‘Looks like they were waiting just for you.’ We paid our respect, and I felt a little light. For many days now, the image of Lord Hanuman was running wild in the mind, hopefully, now, my thoughts will be at peace. After the prayer, we started walking around on the hill top.
Even if you had a house on the top story of a high rise by the beach in Mumbai, the view from this place would beat the view from your balcony hands down. The hilltop was flat. There were a few trees. The small white temple was on one end. All around us was the earth patched in red and green. The blue morning sky was above us. I looked down. If the stairs were not there, the climb to this temple would have been impossible for a chair wrestler like me. The hill was shaped such that there were no slopes, only sheer 90 degree straight sides. As I looked down the wall, I was thinking of Tanaji Malusure, Yashwanthi the Monitor Lizard, and Sinhgadh.
After spending some time with nature, we decide to head down. We put our shoes back on. Close by, there were two monkey infants were playing. What? I didn’t tell you? Well, this is ‘Anjaneya Hill’ after all, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. The general of Lord Ram’s ‘Vanar Sena’. Of course, there are monkeys here. In thousands that too, don’t be surprised!
Let’s get back to those naughty infants. Like the hilltop, their stony playground was also flat. They were not playing in the centre but on the edge of the playground.
‘Son, don’t play in the water today.’ Trying saying it to your kid some day. A billion dollar smile with light up his innocent face as he will reply, ‘Sure Paa.’ But as soon as he is out, he will jump in the water. These two were probably doing the same. Their mother was sitting a little away. And Dad was playing dead under the morning sky. Hey, I’m not insinuating anything about my fellow men. But just think about it. Is there a Sofa in each house, where the men species flat out in a slow stage-wise manner?
Absorbed in their play, the infants had no clue about their surroundings. They were playing on the edge of the rock. One slip and they could fall straight down. No slope, straight down. They would not land in the soft lap of mother nature, rather on rock hard surface. How far they would fall, was anyone’s guess. The bottom was not visible owing to the scattered trees and branches. I was about to say this to my wife when one of the infants decided to push the other one. We were stunned. My wife grabbed the hand of our kids. The monkey fell off the slope. He tried to save himself with his tiny hands and nails. But the rock surface was smooth. In an instant, he disappeared from our sights.
The infant who had given the push was mortified. He took a few steps back. Fear, shame, and anger shrunk his already tiny figure. Their mother was watching them both play. She jumped up and ran to her infant standing there petrified. What the mother did next, we will never forget. She took that child and hugged it with all her love. While we could not see the mother’s eyes; but here reaction gave out the whole story without a word. On the one hand, her heart was crying for the fallen child, and on the other, her maternal instinct was protecting the other one. I have never seen such a heart-wrenching sight.
In all this hustle, the father was not sitting quietly. He was slower than the mother to react, but he immediately got up and walked towards the edge. He looked down for some time with hope. My heart sank. Even my wife looked utterly without hope. But then, suddenly, there was a shriek from within the trees. The fallen infant was shouting at the top of his voice and jumping on the branches shaking the whole tree. He was safe. We both exhaled in relief. The kiddo had not been able to grasp the smooth rock, but had managed to hang on to the branches. Now he was in a terrible mood and abusing his sibling at the top of his pitch.
The mother had still not let go of the other infant. But father went back to his business. He went back to his stony bed and went back to sleep. We all started back. The trip to Hampi went well, but the example of exemplary humanity that we witnessed on the ‘Anjaneya Hill’, left an everlasting imprint on our hearts. The fact that it was an animal that taught us about humanity is beside the point. Even today, when my kids hurt each other while playing and come to me to complain, I am reminded of that mother who just hugged her child. When I sometimes get angry on one of my kids for hurting the other, I completely miss the fact that they were just playing. Getting hurt is part of playing and growing up. The other one did not do it intentionally. The man has too much pride on his understanding, but I guess he still needs to learn a lot.
Well, Lord Hanuman does not call me now, we are back to one nod at the sky in the mornings. Sometimes such events happen, which are no less than miracles. Whether it was him calling me to his birthplace was the miracle or the mother who hugged the kid was; I leave it to your good judgement. One believes, what one wants. The story sounds fictional, but it happened!
Jay Ram Ji Ki.
P.S: The photo is captured from the top of the hill. One can see the Tungbhadra too!