Shiva (Hindu God), a true lover, carried his burning wife, Sati (Goddess) in his arms and travelled the whole world in grief and sorrow. The eye of burning Sati fell on the ground and formed a lake which is now known as Naini lake. Naina (eye) Devi is worshipped by the side of this lake. Nainital the lake district of Uttarakhand is named after this lake and its goddess.
A boat ride in this lake is one of the major tourist attractions. Being a feisty tourist, we took a paddle boat for four. The 30 minutes boat ride started enthusiastically with my father and uncle paddling the boat, giving me an opportunity to enjoy the scene; rope-way taking tourists up the pine trees, people walking on the road; carrying popcorn cones and coffee cups in their hands, the typical smell of stagnant water and now the sound of laboured breaths of my father and uncle.
We could sense that next 20 minutes would be a challenge for our legs. Taking over, we decided to try go farthest in next 5 minutes. Paddling as fast as we could, we reached almost the end of the lake. The lake now looked even bigger; the farthest point was now blur. After a short pause, to take in the beauty and serenity we started paddling backward. Within minutes we could see whirlpools forming, some a bit far but one of them was just beside our boat.
Trying to paddle away frantically, we were either still or the whirlpool was travelling with us. ‘Is my life ending this way?’ I thought. That panic moment was only showing me flash back of my life and the eye of whirlpool. It seemed as though Naina Devi was trying to come up in agony.
Ignoring that thought, I paddled for my life. By now, all of us were paddling the boat. Unable to watch the eye, getting closer, I closed my eyes and kept paddling against Naina Devi’s agony. With a sudden increased force on the paddle, I opened my eyes. We were out of the whirlpool and my uncle had stopped paddling from the opposite end.
Trickling sweat, sour muscles and the fear immediately took us to the person at the ticket counter and we asked him about the scary whirlpools in the lake.
The person half-spitting his tobacco, “Are vo na talab ke jameen ke neeche se pani upar ata hai, tab aisa hota hai, 5 minute ke bad khatam hota hai vo. Kuch na kuch cheez vo chhed bhar deta hai.” (Trans: Water from beneath the surface of the lake comes up, but this happens only for 5 minutes as something fills up that hole.) Till then, I thought whirlpools occurred only when conflicting currents met each other.
Naini lake was definitely the conflicting point for Sati’s eye and human trash. Shiva’s love for Sati had brought her eye here, which could now see popcorn cones and coffee cups casually being thrown in her, people smoking around her, couples fondling around her temple.
Her attempt to come out of the lake and tell her story of true love was stopped by a wrapper thrown by a couple in love. Was true love in the hands of Shiva or in the hands which threw wrapper? No one knows. But one thing is for sure Sati’s eye now burns even more than it was in the arms of Shiva.
“A responsible tourist, takes only memories and leaves no footprints.”Chief Seattle(edited)
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