While there are overnight trains to the famous devi temple, we decided to drive from Delhi to Vaishno Devi. And so began the adventure.

The Bhawan, Vaishno Devi, Picture courtesy: Vaishno Devi Shrine Board website

It was a long weekend. And our plan was to ease off. But who wants to ease off in the old style—we decided to ease off with a visit which would please the body, mind and spirit. A soulful journey is our way of easing off. Well, as all families do, our plans began to take off from all rooms. Each had an opinion and each had a method. The plan slowly escalated into an argument and eventually a yelling match. But then that’s a typical family outing. Who was going to drive for how many hours? Why we shouldn’t take the train? Who had many days free? Who all would go? Why we were not consulting the map for the right path? We needed a GPS! We also needed sanity.

Eventually, after a round of failed ‘loud’ discussions, we found the ‘middle path’. We would hire a taxi and enjoy the 14-hour, 650km-long ride. But what time would we leave? There was the unavoidable office in the day. Now, a reliabletaxi service was needed. And so began another round of chaos. Everyone had suggestions but everyone had problems with the suggestions. That’s what family outings are for—trying to find consensus through the ‘devi’. We juggled and Googled car rentals and found savaari.com, a car rental service. This company offered multiple choices—car rentals across 98 cities, self-driven, chauffeur-driven, taxis for airport, city taxis. They have been around for 12 years and the choice of cars is from the small to the big—Etios to Innova. Clean cars, reliable service, courteous chauffeurs, transparent billing and a 24X7 helpline. This looked like a network which was accessible and easy for us four.

We narrowed down on the Innova, leaving after dinner and taking turns to keep the driver company. It was going to be an exciting weekend because we had not even booked our rooms in Vaishno Devi. We thought of doing that on the way, now that’s another story.

So, 10pm was our departure time and the taxi arrived before time. The signs were all good. With enough time to load the luggage, our ‘loudness’ did not disturb the neighbourhood. Dot on time, we were off. The AC worked fine. We preferred our own music and found a phone charger plug too. The chauffeur smiled, as the website said. ‘Jai Mata Di’ and we hit the highway.

For a change, we did as we had decided, slept in turns and played the music a tad bit high to keep the ball rolling. The mad social media geeks we are, the darkness forced us to keep the cameras shut, except at the mid-way night meal for the chauffeur and tea for us.

It was around lunch that we reached Katra. It could have been a faster journey, but we were in no hurry. And our chauffeur too was in no hurry. And then we realized that we had very carefully forgotten to book the hotel. But we did find two rooms in a small hotel. Nothing much to write about that! Rested and well fed, we found our token for the climb up. The evening was pleasant and we enjoyed the walk, slow and easy. The stars twinkled and smiled. Chants of ‘Jai Mata Di’ continued on the well-lit path. Tempted by the many stalls, we did have tea twice before reaching Adhkuwari. Faith can make one do amazing things—the old regain hope and energy, the young take up the challenge of adventure, the true seekers immerse in the divine. Finally at the Bhawan, we stood in the long queue. We were there.

Walkway, Vaishno Devi, Picture courtesy: Shrine Board official website

But the last walk to the Bhairon temple was left to complete this journey of faith. We took that even more slowly, reveling in the divine energies and soaking the mountain air.

Finally, the walk down was via the small, narrow staircase cut into the mountain and pretty fast.

The small rooms looked more welcoming this time for we crashed for many hours before dining at Sagar Ratna. And then began our peaceful trip back home. The weekend of family bonding was over. Yes, we didn’t hear any loud voices in the car.

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