Saturday, 12 November 2016

Bargains in Kedarnath

Bargains are part of our lives. Bargaining scenes can be seen in markets, while hiring of autos, purchase of property and so on. Getting lower price after haggling gives a feeling of satisfaction in having won the duel!

Sometime back we were in Kedarnath and had a couple of chances to bargain at an height of 11755 feet which must be eligible for record books! Some examples:

With Nandi in Kedarnath

*** In Guptkashi, we were informed by hotel manager that helicopter service to Kedarnath Temple was still available. It was October end which is usually off-season for tourists because of cold weather setting in. The number of tourists had dropped considerably as doors of the Temple were to be closed in first week of November. Hotel manager added with a smile,
-Try to bargain the chopper fare. They are jobless these days.
It really was an amusing idea to bargain for chopper fare. We walked down for about two kilometres till Fata. There were three helipads where small, colourful 8 seater birds were parked in the backdrop of green hills. Pilots & ground staff were wearing equally colourful T-shirts making the scene interesting. We did bargain with Manager & eventually paid Rs.6000/- per person for return journey instead of normal fare of Rs.7300/-. It was fun to haggle with Helipad Manager & see him lowering the fare as you do with an auto driver in Delhi! Flight was all of 9-10 minutes but was worth watching over beautiful Himalayan range in bright sunshine with cheerful river Mandakini bubbling down below in the valley.

*** On landing at helipad at Kedarnath it was ice-cold winds which welcomed us. We could see snow on the grass here & there. Snow clad peaks were massive & towered over the Temple on three sides. Small cheerful rivulets gurgled from all sides & mingled into Mandakini. We were immediately surrounded by Pandit jis asking simultaneously:
- Which district are you from?
- Which caste?
- Which Gotra?
- From Kerala? From Punjab? From Garhwal?
- Brahmin? Aggarwal?
- Pooja karwani hai?
Though we refused to all of them, one followed us quietly. In between our dialogues he kept informing names, historical & mythical stories about the place. In sanctum he offered to help perform pooja. Here they allow pooja only by couples. Eventually we came out & paid Rs. 500/- but Pandit ji gave unsatisfied look. A bit of argument ensued as he wanted Rs.1000/- but we stuck to our end of bargain & that was it.

*** Near the temple several Sadhus or beggars were sitting on stone floor in a line, having ash (Bhabhoot) smeared all over their bodies and enjoying the warmth of sun. As soon as tourists came out of temple they raised a chorus of 'Jai Bhole Nath'. And then almost shouted:
- Chai ke liye de do,
- Khane ke liye de do,
- kambal ke liye do baba,
- daan karo jodi bani rahegi’etc.
They really looked pathetic yet were vociferous, aggressive, greedy & spoiled the serenity & piousness of the place. We gave them Rs.20/- each. All accepted thankfully except one who shouted ‘isase kya hoga?’ & threw back the note. I picked it up & pocketed back much to amusement of onlookers. Somebody’s loss is somebody’s bargain!

*** Turning back towards helipad we were discussing about behaviour & bargaining by Pandit jis & sadhus living there. Such scenes can be witnessed in practically all Hindu temples. To this discussion my wife replied:

- Chopper-wala bargained with us for profit of his company, his own position & his salary. Pandit ji bargained for more so as to feed his family as temple will remain closed for six months and he will be jobless. Sadhus bargained for they would have to trek back to plains in winter & would be needing money for creature comforts. You bargained with Shiva for a happy life. So everybody bargains.
It is all Maya!

Near Kedarnath Temple

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