Hatu Peak, at an altitude of about 12000 feet near Narkanda (7 kms), is at the same height as Leh and is one of the highest points around Shimla (about 70 kms away). Atop the mountain one gets a wide 360 degree panoramic view that can get a hold of you and here you will find a small but very beautiful temple that surprisingly is dedicated to Queen Mandodri, wife of Ravana.
Being a Sunday (5.6.2016), it was a bright day when we decided to visit the temple and seek the blessings of the Goddess. Little did we know that there was a fair being organized and that’s perfectly alright, no complaints there. Temple fairs in Himachal can be most interesting and simple at the same time. There will be like two dozen or less temporary shops that will be set up for that day.
Locals will sell mountain high piles of jalebis, pakoras, and other local snacks. Children will get the option of buying some Chinese made toys. And women can refurbish their stock of make up and other accessories. But this post is not about the scenic beauty or the faith of the people in this old and historic temple. We are sharing with you today an experience that seems to have become the norm of the day.
When we reached the bottom of the hill from where the stretch of 7 kms becomes very treacherous, and almost one way, we were told that due to the fair, traffic was being organized in a systematic manner. Only when 50 vehicles will come down from the temple, will another fifty be allowed to go up. We thought that was a fair deal and quietly got into line like many others, already waiting before us. After waiting for almost forty minutes, which were spent in counting how many vehicles had come down, a government vehicle drove in and stood right at the start of the road. It was the state ‘Legal Advisers’ vehicle, a Scorpio and he was seated in the car with his wife. After waiting for about ten minutes the officer and his driver started hassling the Lady Constable and the ASI on duty to let them proceed. The police personnel on duty obviously had very little choice. Another thing that must be mentioned here was that the police had no walkie talkie with them. They were entirely dependent on their cell phones for communication.
The Legal Adviser was allowed to pass, despite knowing the fact that about twenty vehicles were yet to come down. Soon other people like us, who had been waiting for long started questioning the police personnel on duty and asked them to let them through too. As expected all mayhem set loose and in a matter of ten minutes we found our self in the middle of a massive jam. In a shocking revelation, we realized that the number of cars that had been allowed to come up was identical to the number coming down. And mind you we are talking of a road that gets so narrow at places, that you are forced to remember your ancestors, and ask for their blessings. Or you might find yourself at the bottom of a gorge or a mountain side so steep, that no human will be able to find you for days.
The jam took two hours to open, the traffic was moving at snails pace. People from the plains had a tough time driving like this. We saw many cars get overheated and had to be abandoned at the side of the already narrow road. Many families with children and elderly were asked by the drivers to get off the vehicles and start walking. And mind you it is not an easy gradient to walk on.
There is a very interesting forest trail close to the temple which we had intended to do but had to be abandoned, thanks to this jam and utter confusion. By the time we reached the temple it was pouring cats and dogs. And we got so occupied with the fact that going back might turn out to be bigger ordeal, that we could not really do justice to the natural beauty all around. Sharing some pictures that we nevertheless managed to click.
It is very sad that public servants today, are adopting this attitude that they can twist arms and get away with it. If they start behaving so irresponsibly, how can we expect the common masses to abide by the law. If not anywhere else, in the court of God, we all are equal and we should not make the mistake of assuming that some are superior and others inferior.
It was by God’s grace that there was no accident or mishap that could have easily happened. It is our sincere to request to all ‘lal battis’ to not take the law for granted and invite public wrath, for petty matters. They should instead set a good example for others to follow.
Bon vivant, writer extraordinaire.