After an arduous 2 hour trek up a hill not far from my place, me and my friends were sitting and doing bc, feeling the cool wind breathing on us through our sweat drenched shirts. It was 8 o’clock in the morning and we were cooling our heels atop the second highest peak of Ajmer , on top of which stands the shrine of one Zinda Shah Baba, a Sufi saint who came to Ajmer sometime in the 14th century (not to be confused with the Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer!).
We were so engrossed in our bc and smoking that we didn’t notice a man coming to the top of the hill from the other side. We were enjoying the scenery on this side and naturally had our backs towards the other side. When I heard someone walking, I turned, and was in for a big, big surprise.
A thin, weary middle aged man with a lined face was walking towards us, and across his shoulders, grazing the nape of his neck was a heavy bamboo, from both the ends of which were dangling two large steel buckets full of water. I looked at that man, and I peered down at the way he’d come from. An almost vertical climb. And I’d read somewhere that this hill was some three and a half thousand feet high!
Greatly moved, I stood up in respect of the man as he drew nearer.
‘Namaste baba’, I greeted awkwardly when he came close enough.
He just stopped at looked at me, panting.
‘Aap pani mazaar pe le ke ja rahe hein?’ This was a stupid question, I realized as soon as I’d aksed it.
‘He’d removed his skull cap and was mopping his brow with a Gamchha. ‘Haan bhai.’
‘Baba naam kya hai aapka?’ Could not think of anything else, yet I felt I had to carry on some conversation with this man.
‘Chhotu Khan sa’ab aap roz Baba ke liye pani le ke jaate hein?’
‘He’d now attached his buckets back on the bamboo. ’Haan bhai, Mazar Sharif ko saaf toh rakhna padega.’
With this, he slung his gear over his shoulders, and resumed the remaining part of his journey to his beloved Baba. The morning sun was shining on his back, and my eyes caught the reflection of beads of sweat on the exposed parts of his shoulders. I imagined the weight of two buckets of water, and how much of an effort it was to carry them sometimes at home. I recalled the 2 hour effort of climbing this hill with 3 bottles of water. I tried to combine these two, and wondered what would make me do a thing like this. Marveling at him, I tried to fathom the extent of devotion of the man.
Chhotu Khan had meanwhile, disappeared inside the Mazaar. I realized that some things cannot be reasoned, calculated or put a price upon. Devotion is one of them.