The trekkers had never ventured to this part of the hills before. The group of 16 were in their early 20s, all final year students of an engineering college in Bhopal. In the next three months they would all go their separate ways and this would probably be the last outing for them together, before they get ready to encounter the bigger adventures of life.
It was the fag end of the monsoons, and all the vegetation was in a sparkling shade of green, usually associated with continuous rains. There were many perennial waterfalls, Rajesh, the group leader, had himself counted 118 of them. As the trekkers reached a rocky outcrop, they saw the breathtakingly beautiful sight of a waterfall cascading into a green waterbody.
It had started raining again. At first, they did not notice, but then saw a man was sitting on a rock, with the water flowing like a frozen sheet behind him. Amazingly, there was a peacock, perched near him. He seemed like a Yogi, an ascetic or a sage, with white hair and flowing beard. They knew they could not reach him from the hill where they were standing, on the other side of the water body. Then they noticed there were lotuses blooming on the water. After a few moments they realised that a white horse was prancing nearby.
It was as if a stage was being set, and one after another different elements were being added – the man/sage, the peacock, the lotuses and the horse. Then before the astonished eyes of the youngsters, the man got up from the rock, sat astride the horse and in a flash jumped into the waterfall, disappearing right on contact with the water. The peacock, flying low above his head, also disappearing. The trail of lotus leaves were the only things visible now.
Astounded by what they had seen, the students panicked. Did the man commit suicide? It took them almost two hours to cross the hill and reach the waterfall, they searched but there was no trace of the man or the horse. It was almost evening when they started the descent, enroute they stopped at the first village, a tribal hamlet. Rajesh wanted to report the matter to the police, and as their cell phones were out of coverage area, they sought the help of the village headman, Mahamat.
The tribal chief sat them down and said, “The police will not come, what you have seen has been reported by a few others before.” One of the boys asked, “Was it a ghost then? It was an unusual apparition to see in broad daylight.” “No, it was not a ghost,” clarified the headman, telling them that the legend of the sage and the horse has been a part of the local lore for centuries.
In the distant past, the stretch of forest was known to attract many ascetics and saints, who spent years here in meditation and other spiritual practices. Mahamat believed that a great saint had meditated at the exact spot of the perennial waterfall for years, and had gone beyond the essence of time through his spiritual powers. Not by conquering time (which is not possible), but by being one with it. “He exists even now and will always be there. He appears sometimes before people who are going through major changes in their lives. If he has appeared before you then it means he has a message for some of you, or most possibly one of you. What he wants to communicate, the chosen one will know at the right time,” said the old man, with great conviction.
What Mahamat revealed to them, went beyond the perception of most in the group, apart from one. He was standing behind the others, but had seen something that nobody else had. Despite the distance and the rain, he knew the sage had looked at him, and had seen and felt the power of the golden brown eyes. He was a patient young man, and was ready to wait for the message, to reveal itself, in time. Strangely though, he knew that the look, was the life-changing experience itself, and it has set him on the path to the greatest adventure of all.