As the bus nears Tiruvannamalai, I turn deaf to my co-passengers and start straining my eyes, to look at the mountain.
The conductor will not sit down. And the glass is so dirty. And my friends keep on talking. Even spiritual talk can get so taxing at times. They know I am crazy about this mountain. They should realize that this is a special moment and leave me alone. Now another stupid fellow is standing right between me and the mountain.
I get up and go sit next to the driver. A young fellow is sitting there, watching me with an amused expression.
But who cares, for I ...finally ... see the Mountain. His head is shining in the sunlight and He yells a big Hello at me. He flickers out of sight quickly and I join my hands in pranaam.
'That is not the Mountain.' my neighbor says.
'Ofcourse it is. It is Arunachala.' I retort.
'Arunachala is ten kilometers away. Its the next mountain.' he says, gesticulating with his hands.
'Arunachala is next,' he says again.
'Listen, you. I have a blog called Mountain comma. Even right now, the head picture on my blog is the exact same view, from Bangalore road. I have written a book because I yearned for this damn fellow. I know the mountain when I see it.' I retort.
'Maybe you have a blog, maybe you have a book, but this aint the mountain. Arunachala is next. You coming to Tiruvannamalai first time?'
'No.' I cant contain the fury. 'You first time.' I say.
'No, Maa, my native place. Tiruvannamali my native place.'
'Really? Ok, but this is Arunachala.'
'No, Maa, Arunachala next mountain.'
I look again, as the mountain swishes back into sight. The same curve, the same creek, the same color, the same heart beat going dhuk dhuk, the breath going deep into the belly, the same tears stinging my eyes, there is absolutely no mistake.
'This might be your native place, but Arunachala is my father. So shut up.' I tell him.
The mountain, my very own mountain, endless and without a frame, is now to the left of the road. Luckily, the seat behind is empty. I go sit there and let my heart fly out of the window, and look at the mountain and look at the mountain and look at the mountain.
One young fellow in the bus is laughing. One fat woman is crying. And the driver is honking his horn as the bus moves closer to Arunachala.
Edited to add: On the bus back to Bangalore, a day later, Grasshopper sheds more tears as the Mountain ditches her for the nth time. And then, as she opens a book gifted to her by the good old friend who told her she never walked on the path, she reads these words:
518. Tears are one of the principle offerings in the worship of God.
-----Cloudburst of thousand suns
(Being English rendering of Sri Sri Omkar Sahastra Vaani)