Monday, June 11, 2012

The Pilgrim

This is that time of the year again when the warkaris begin their annual pilgrimage from the temple towns of Dehu and Alandi to Pandharpur, the seat of the holy deity Lord Vithoba, on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river. The pilgrimage has already begun and will reach Pune on June 13.

This wari procession, notwithstanding its religious undertones (the pilgrims, followers of Bhakti saints Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar, are called warkari, and the annual procession they undertake on foot is called wari.), is the carnival for the city, our very own Mardi Grass, where the entire city spills onto the streets to welcome the devotees, and also to join them on their journey.

With the wari comes the rain, heralding the arrival of monsoon. It’s given that the day the procession enters the city (this year on June 13), it must rain. It’s easier for the pilgrims to walk in the rain than to walk under the scorching sun.

I have a peculiar affinity with the wari tradition, as it was the first thing I noticed, and also took part in, after my arrival in Pune from Guwahati, and I was impressed beyond measure. Till today, the scope of the event continues to impress me.

This year, with the wari arriving, and with the beginning of the month of June, I complete 14 years of my stay in his wretched city. I reached here under the drizzling rain on June 29, 1997, a wide-eyed teen-ager, full of hope and apprehension about the future. Now, 14 years have passed and I am still here, in the city which continues to change and yet remains the same.

After 14 years, Ram had finished his “vana-vas”, his exile in the forest and had returned home to Ayodhya. After 14 years, Pandavas had fulfilled the terms of their exile and had demanded their rightful share in Hastinapur.

Fourteen years have passed and it’s time I leave this city. But, I don’t know how. I don’t know what I am doing here. For years there was something or other reasons (which I invented for the sake of convenience) to stay put here. I did not want to return to Guwahti. Now, I have run out of reasons, yet cannot find an alternative. (I mean, why this city? Since I am away from home, I can live anywhere, and all places would be same to me, foreign, alien... despite the fact that I have educated myself to the local language and culture, I am still an outsider here and would remain so, forever.)

The moot question is the same: Where do I go now? And how? (Unfortunately, you start liking a place you have lived for a long time, despite everything, like you learn to live with your shortcomings even though you want to get rid of them.)

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