In the still warm October afternoon at Lansdowne, how was I to know that I could be settling some old accounts in next few hours.
When, I looked down from my ancestral house at 234, Sadar Bazar Lansdowne, I could see the triangular silken red flag of Kaleshwar temple fluttering in the wind that was slowly getting cold by the day. It was still early, and you could feel the nip. I was scheduled to leave for Kotdwara in some time.
It was then that my mother called from Jabalpur. She has a simple instruction. She wanted us to visit the Kaleshwar
temple before leaving town. Kaleshwar means kaal (Time) eshwar (God).
Like every other grown-up mamma boy, I could not refuse my mother. It was after all a very small thing she had asked.
A BIT ABOUT LANSDOWNE
Lansdowne is a quaint little town in UK, Uttarakhand. It is at a decent altitude of 5577 feet, mere 1000 feet lower than the much admired and exploited Mussorie. It is predominantly a cantonment area with Garhwal Rifle Regimental centre occupying a large part of the town. Maybe that’s the reason that the town still remains unspoiled.
I spent my childhood in this town. I studied at Kendriya Vidhyalaya Lansdowne until class –III. The school was at a fair distance from our home. We used to walk and climb through meandering roads and forest paths across hills to reach it. I remember it used to snow in Lansdowne. I have a faint but sharp memory of sliding down the hill on the white carpet. Now day’s people celebrate if there is decent hailstorm. In some lucky years, snow finds its way on the slopes.
LANSDOWNE OF LATE 70s.
In the late 70s, Bharat Hotel was the only place you could pay and stay at Lansdowne. It is at the top plateau on the hill. The place is proudly referred as chota parade ground and was always the bus stand. There were very few tourist spots, Tip-in-top or was it Tiffin Top, the highest point with the majestic view to Himalaya ranges, the Church with an attached Cemetery, the lake, the big parade ground, the garden and tea stalls.
Lansdowne acts as a feeder town for other places like Pauri and Satpuli. The famed deodar surrounded Tadkeshwar Mahadev temple (5900 feet) is nearby, just 38 km away. By jeep, it takes four hours of winding serpentine roads across the mountain belly to reach the divine place, whereas local’s trek and reach it in few hours.
LANSDOWNE OF TODAY.
Today, the approach to Lansdowne is dotted with hotels. However, the town has kept its basic fabric intact. It has modernised in many ways. Now you can see so many taxies plying up and down. There are ceiling fans and Air-conditioners that no one needed earlier.
Its proximity to national capital has been a boon and a curse; It is a mere 247 km from Delhi. You can drive down in 5-7 hours depending upon traffic you hit between Meerut, Muradnagar and Ghaziabad. Alternatively, you could take the ‘Mussorie Express’ that will drop you early at Kotdwar railway station. And then you could take a jeep or hire a cab for the 90-minute ride up the hill.
Like all hill stations, there are many paranormal stories of Lansdowne. However, let’s leave it for some other day.
BHOLENATH OF KALESHWAR TEMPLE AND I
The more than century-old Kaleshwar temple I was now looking at was once a small one-room structure. Today it is a complex with few other worship places surrounding it. Garhwal Rifle maintains it. It has a smell of neatness accentuated by the fresh white chuna (Lime) and Geru (a reddish coloured soil water paste) smeared on the walls. The bells are much bigger. The arched gate has majestically got a new life. As you step in the premises, you feel the serenity of the place hit you.
This temple, and I have a long relationship of ‘give and take’. To be correct, it is more of a relationship of Take. During the late 70s whenever I needed money, Kaleshwar temple was my bank.
I am letting you into a secret here. A simple trick.
I would come down after the prayers. I carried a 50, 25, 10, 5 or sometimes even a 2 paisa coin. No one would be around. There were no donation boxes then. In those days, everyone placed their offerings in the open ‘Pooja Plate’, normally kept near the deity. The offering, mostly coins glittered in the light of flickering diya. This was my bank.
HERE IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENED.
It was really very simple. And I must not been the only magician in the temple.
I surveyed the Pooja Plate, focused on high-value coins. I deeply bowed in respect to the deity and surrendered my small offering of a low-value coin in the Pooja Plate. I ensured it made some sound. Then while withdrawing my hand, I slowly as an artist at work palmed off few coins of the higher denomination. It was simple, fast and smooth.
This was the fastest way to get rich as a kid.
On a good day, you could repeat the trick and make a majestic sum of two rupee. It was more than sufficient for anything a kid may dream of. Later, I became an expert in the act. I could do it. At the peak of my art, I could even make the coins already on the pate make the sound of coin hitting the plate.
BACK TO 2017.
Whenever I came to Lansdowne, I ensured I visited the temple. These visits were short and rare with time. On every visit, like every other person, I donated money for the upkeep of the temple.
Today it was different. For reasons unknown to me, I wanted to settle my account with Kaleshwar.
I calculated or rather estimated that Bholenath would have allowed me to pick some 80-90 rupee during all the years he helped me as a kid. To be on the safer side, I considered a round figure of hundred rupee a decent approximation. I doubt Bholenath would be interested in the interest it would have earned or what the net present value of it. Bholenath world is after all inflation proof.
Anyway this time, I returned his hundred rupees. Mind it, I separately placed a donation. One must be clean in financial transaction and more so while returning extended loans. I settled my account. The other account of wishes, demands and visits to temples, etc. is a different system. It remains fluid, and I have no desire to settle my account there.
Hope my credit rating with Bholenath at Kaleshwar has improved. It helps.
My current account with my list of demands, wishes, tradeoffs, prasad, and attendance at various temples and places of worship of with Bholenath, Ganesha, Sai baba, Ajmer and Jesus continues.