It was 2005 or 2006, I cannot recall. We were going to Kedarnath after completing the pilgrimage of Yamunotri and Gangotri.
The paved road ended in Gauri Kunda and from there we had to either walk or take a horseback ride or dandi/kandi to Kedarnath- the holy place where the temple of Lord Shiva is situated. A nine-mile mountainous way to Kedarnath from Gauri Kunda was arduous. Still most of people chose to walk. Some were riding horses and some were being carried by porters (dandi/kandi). Old people, kids, and women were among the most user of riding options.
Gauri Kunda is also called the base camp for Kedarnath temple. In Gauri Kunda, there is a famous pond. People usually stay for few days in Gauri Kunda for two purposes- one, to see the Kunda (pond) where, as per the belief, goddess Parvati had holy bath, and second, to start a fresh journey to Kedarnath temple.
Pilgrimage to the temple of lord Shiva is a lifelong dream for most Hindu devotees, especially seniors. The temple of lord Shiva- the god of the gods is situated in the high snowy mountain of Himalayas (the Indian state of Uttarakhand), which is about 3548 meter above sea level. There is a river called Mandakini- a branch of Alaknanda river, near to the Kedarnath temple. Having no vehicle accessible road to Kedarnath, it makes the trip more difficult. Still, people in greater number go there to fulfill their lifelong dream.
Our group of eight people reached Kedarnath temple at around mid-afternoon. We stayed there for about three hours and concluded our worship. At around late afternoon the group departed for Gauri Kunda. On our way back to Gauri Kunda we walked because the beautiful view of the Himalayan range not only fascinated us but also compelled to leave the horses that we had rented for our rides.
By the time we got back to Gauri Kunda it was already evening. Since we lost our way to the hotel, where we had already stayed when we first arrived in Gauri Kunda, it was very dark outside when we reached the hotel. Despite renting horses for our way up to Kedar Nath, we were very tired at the end of the day because of the rugged mountainous way. In a small room of the hotel, we were expecting someone to take our dinner’s order. We were discussing about how tired we were from the journey. We had no energy to speak still we were using few words to keep us busy and forget how tired we really were. We all were in just one room because of the flooding of pilgrims which had made the availability of room in hotels tight. And the flooding also compelled us to compromise with dirty beds and filthy environment of the room in which we were. The bed sheets, pillow cover and blankets hadn’t been washed, I assumed. But we didn’t have any energy to think about that. We just laid down on the bed trying to forget the tiredness. At the mean time a person entered the room without knocking on the door. He approached very gently though. We all got up and looked at him. We all asked him at the same time ‘Is the dinner ready? Could you bring that in this room? We are not able to walk even a step.’
The man smiled and said ‘I am not a hotel attendee.’
My friend asked ‘Then who are you?’
He said ‘I am a masseur. I know very well that you all are completely tired. My experience says so. You all need massage to reduce your tiredness.’
He added ‘My job is to make people feel relaxed. By doing this job I make living for me and my family, and also people get service. This is also kind of philanthropy in such a religious place. The little amount of income is enough for me. I have no big dream of being millionaire’
After a short bargaining, we fixed the rate for his service. We all received massages. During massage, the masseur told us how his business was and the types of people he dealt with. At the end of his work I asked him his name. He said ‘My name is Hamid Ansari. It is just me in this business here.”
I uttered, ‘Being a Muslim how did you succeed in this business, in such an exclusively Hindu religious place?’
The masseur shrugged and responded ‘Sir, in this place only religious people come, politicians don’t.’
After completing this sentence the masseur disappeared from the room leaving us in a deep thought.
(Source : English Samakalinsahitya)