His beloved Pandharpur Wari was around the corner.
He was an old man now. His joints were swollen and arthritic. His challenges were different now but he smiled.
He knew he would participate in the Wari at any cost. It was no longer a sojourn that promised solutions but a journey home for him.
It had been 22 years. He was 45 years old then and utterly defeated in life.
Business that failed, a marriage on the rocks, siblings who cheated him, friends who deserted him and children who never saw him.
He no longer had any interest in solutions or looking ahead. Bitterness sat heavily on his shoulders as he made up his mind to end it all.
But he decided to have his last tea. Tea- his mother used to make wonderful “chaha”. How he used to look forward to that cup twice a day!
Through all his trials, tea stuck through. Anytime he was tired, he would stop to have a cup of tea. It was his breather, reprieve, and a loyal companion. It only seemed fitting to have one more cup before he bid adieu.
A man sat next to him. Initially, he paid no heed. But there was something about this man- the joy on his face, the “samadhan”, his garb or his footwear that screamed for attention.
Suddenly the man looked at him and smiled, “Kaa padlay chehra Saheb, Ya Vithai la bhetayla, Samdha thik karil” (Why the fallen face Sir? Come to meet Vitthal, our mother. She will fix everything.)
He seemed to speak of his own accord, “Yes, where?”
The man smiled, “Join us, we are traveling to Pandharpur for the annual Wari.”
And just like that, he became engulfed in the madness. The mechanics of the Wari was eccentric and esoteric. He discovered that on his first journey. He couldn’t keep up with the joy of the Warkaris or their inexhaustible energy but even when exhaustion overwhelmed him at many points, he was dazzled by the electric energy of everyone and everything around him. His insurmountable challenges seemed so trivial that he didn’t think about them for those 21 days.
It was the last day as they thronged into the sanctum that the sight of the deity swathed in revelry chipped the last piece of him. His self broke down, tears rolling down his face in a stubborn unregulated stream. They seemed to redirect the storm inside him leaving him alone with the deity, who looked on silently.
He had changed when he returned but no one could see it. He started hammering away the challenges, one pebble at a time.
The landslide didn’t stop but he learnt to peg it right.
His Wari continued. Sometimes on foot; always in his heart.
The turbulence never stopped.
But the Wari taught him to keep moving. It was the salt of his life.
So he did. He kept working on the outside. His beloved Vitthal worked on his inside.
He smiled. The Wari would never end.
Akshata A. Hegde
Wari- Pilgrimage to Lord Vitthal in Pandharpur
Warkari- The one who performs the Wari
Pandharpur- Religious town in Maharashtra