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Refuge in Recluse


king of cochin
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Rama Varma is troubled.

Walking barefoot on the sand strewn grounds of the temple, with the crunch of the gravel under his firm footsteps the only sound in his ears, the gentle cool breeze drying the sweat forming on his bare upper body, the gentle swish swash of his white dhoti flapping around his speeding legs, all these normally comforting things are not performing their charm for this world weary man.

These daily rounds in temple, at a time when the sun has set and the moon is letting loose his reign as the master of the night sky usually calms the nerves of this very busy man. Everyday after the rigors of the day the King of Cochin would come to this temple, his family temple, and spend one whole hour in silent communion with the God and nature. The simple sensory experiences and the calmness of the environment usually soothes him and envigorates him for another day of stressful work.

However the cool blue rays of the full moon peering through the night sky was not soothing him tonight. Tonight his mind is too perturbed. The troubles of his office, the tensions in Africa, the brooding hostilities of Asia and the menacing hegemony of the New World were all matters of routine drudgery for a man who ruled a land of millions, however this evening Rama Varma was especially unhappy. Perhaps it is the cumulative strain of the work.

Perhaps it is time for him to take his palliative break.

Surely the Queen Mother can handle things for a week?

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The jet black Rolls Royce Phantom was unescorted as it drove down from the Hill Palace towards the outskirts of the city. The discretely powerful engine was negligibly bothered by the winding roads that snaked up the mountains to the quaint little bungalow that nestled on its sides. As the sedan idled off in the entrance the man in the back seat entered the bungalow to meet his aunt bearing two long cases.

After about 20 minutes the man returned to the sedan unencumbered by the two objects and the power and responsibility that went with its possession.

Rama Varma had just entrusted the ceremonial Sword and Staff of the Kingdom of Cochin to the Queen Mother Girija Varma, making her the temporary executor of the Kingdom of Cochin.

He is free now.

At least for the next few days.

The driver sensed the joviality of the relieved man and sped up on his course. The driver of this sedan is a 55 year old ex soldier from the King's Guards and a very good friend of Rama Varma. Before ascending the throne, when Rama Varma was the Crown Prince to his uncle, the two men enjoyed a lot of good times together. One, the Senior Chaver Guard of the King's Guards and the other the celebrated soldier and intellectual. The trappings of royalty never stood between friendship between such an unlikely pair.

When Rama Varma ascended the throne, the Chaver Guard soldier deemed himself proud to protect such a wise King.

The long years of reign never dampened the friendship between the two, outside official hours the two still enjoyed a game of chess and occasional rounds of whiskey outside the sights of both their wives.

Thus it was that during his escapades Rama Varma trusted no other man for secrecy. Even Queen Mother and his nephew the Crown Prince did not know where he went. It was a secret that the wizened old Chaver Guard, guarded most preciously.

Reaching the foot hills of the mountains, the sedan drove farther south.

The dark tinted windows prohibited any sight from outside and the resounding crescendos of the Bach being played was a fitting prelude to the days ahead.

As the kilometers to their destination began shrinking, an object of marvel slowly materialized from the blue white skies, a shimmering presence floating above the clouds beckoning the weary traveler to its abodes.

The abode of Gods was beckoning him.

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The car stopped finally at the Shaksgam Valley at an ancient monastery at the foot of the Himalayas.

The car was parked inside the garage and the driver set about to change his dress for one week of solitary service amongst the Budhist Monks of this monastery.

Rama Varma on the other hand set about southwards towards the peaks that beckoned him.

Clad in a simple saffron tunic, barefoot and carrying just a satchel bag with a few odd items Rama Varma started climbing up the mountains with a sturdy staff in his hand.

The 24275 feet high mountain peak is part of the Gasherbrum mastiff a collection of very high mountain peaks of Himalayas. Meaning "Beautiful Mountain" in Baiti language, these mountains were the spiritual rejuvenation centers for Rama Varma, The King of Cochin.

Each ascending step towards the top of the mountain was accompanied by the chanting in his mind, the continual reverberations of the Gayatri Mantra uttered by him was also energizing the mountains around him.

The world weary legs of this 55 year old man is getting fatigued. No longer is he the firm of limb, able body man of his soldierly youth.

No, now he is a middle aged man, in the penultimate phase of his life. Soon his work would be done and he could truly renunciate everything to take up the life of a hermit. That was his destiny, if the heavens ever blessed him with a long life, devotion to God after culmination of a lifetime of duty and service.

As the fatigue of climbing up the horrendously steep mountain side taxed his energy the power of his chanting took him to a transcendental state, a higher mental elevation where pain has no meaning, where age has no meaning, where the only thing that mattered was the will to go on, the sheer belief in oneself and God that one's aim is attainable.

Realizing the transitory nature of physical pain and its cleansing nature on the spirit, Rama Varma trudged on.

Taking occasional break for drinking water from his flask was now proving deadly. The temporary lethargy threatened to paralyze his exhausted body. The body wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep, and wake never more, however the mind wanted nothing less than to attain the apex. Thus it was that the very palliative act of drinking water to alleviate the body became a battleground of mind over body.

His legs were now starting to buckle under the strain of propelling the body up these impossible heights, his knees were crying the agonies of a half century of active life, blistered soles of his feet are threatening to paint in crimson the path he is taking, his hands are hurting from all the clambering up the steep sides, his eyes are watering under the shrill cold of the shreaking wind, his lungs are craving wildly for an ounce of extra oxygen, his bowels are screaming for a morsel of nourishment and his heart is thundering under the herculean effort being taken. However the mind, was negating all these impelling the body to rise higher.

Hours since he started climbing, now Rama Varma is in a semi conscious state, the twilight of consciousness past the thresholds of pain and endurance. The body has all but surrendered its complaints , resigned to a destructive fate, however now the conflict was between mind and thought.

"Would I be able to reach the top?"

"Yes I can."

"But I am too old, no longer young."

"My mind is young, and so I can."

"I am so tired, let me stop, let me rest for a while."

"No I shall not stop until I reach my destination."

"Just a little bit? Else I will die!"

"NO . I will die if I stop now. Onwards. Onwards"

"What is the point anyway? There is nothing up there? Let me climb down. Nothing is worth this pain."

"It is worth all the pain. I shall not quit. I will never quit. Quit moaning and climb on."

"What would my Anu do without me? What would my daughter Shruthi do without me? If I die now the Kingdom would be in chaos."

"I wont die if I carry on. If I stop now, I shall prove myself to be unworthy of their love, respect and trust. I will go on."

Thus raged on the battle between mind and thought, one unconscious, one subconscious, battling for control over the conscious.

Finally Rama Varma reached a point when even the mind was being forced to recognize the exigencies of the situation, the body was hurting severely. The unnatural strain was telling upon the half century old body.

At that moment when even the mind seemed at the point of faltering the eyes perceived a sight, a vision so enchanting that the whole mind and body was envigorated in a burst of speed. All pain was forgotten, all doubts shed, all worries cast away, for the peak was upon him. Rama Varma literally scrambled up the last few feet as he stumbled upon a horizontal terrain with his hands.

Willing his hurt and aching hands to perform this last act of service Rama Varma climbed up the mountain peak to stand at its very top.

It was heavenly.

It was serene.

It was divine.

It was peaceful.

It was so quiet.

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Rama Varma never knew for how long he stood there, transfixed. The sheer beautiful Himalayas spread before him for hundreds of kilometers. Snow capped mountains of snow, their pearly crests becoming golden by the Sun rising from the East. The distant clouds forming up like a mattress for Gods. The skies, so clear and so blue that it would shame the seas!

Mesmerized by the sight, Rama Varma stood on. All the pain was gone, all the worries vanished.

Rama Varma was at peace.

Finally after what seemed to be mere seconds or ages, Rama Varma came around to his bearings.

He had done it yet again.

It was always a challenge to climb up for the first time after such long breaks. That first climb was when one's doubts, misgivings and weaknesses had full reign. Now for the next few days it would get steadily easier.

Rama Varma set his satchel bag at the peak and slowly climbed down to the northern side of the mountain. Here in a snowy valley formed between the towering walls of mountains was a small lake, which stayed liquid even in this extreme cold.

The turquoise blue waters of this glacial lake lent a swifter feet to the man.

Finally reaching the edge of the lake Rama Varma disrobed. Clad only in his loin clothes, Rama Varma took a jump into the water, praying to Gods to keep him alive.

The ice cold water of the lake felt like boiling lava to Rama Varma. Gulps of this water scorched his insides as it chilled its way inside. However after the initial shock of the cold water, it was quite comfortable for Rama Varma.

It has been such a long time since he had bathed in this purest of pure waters.

After frolicking in the water and swimming a few rounds, Rama Varma prayed and climbed out.

Dressed again in his robes, Rama Varma climbed up the mountain.

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