Deodar ka Tilla and Gwanulal
– Harish Kapadia
While trekking to Nag Tibba I walked to Ghodiapa pass which was on the ridge towards the north, and leading down to Chapda village. As I walked up to the pass, one villager, Gwanulal walked with me in the dense forest. He kept a distance from me and when I asked him, he said, â€˜My guru has advised me that in this kaliyug (dark age) be afraid of men not animalsâ€™. He laughed and we teamed up.
From the pass we had excellent view of the ranges from Bandarpunch to Himachal and the trees of this forest at the top of the ridge were a treat. Both of us sat down and exchanged information about our families. As I offered him some of my food he tasted it and asked, â€˜Can I take this with me and not eat here? I would like to share it with my daughters. They have never tasted food from Bombay. They would love it.â€™ He asked me about my family and I told him about my two sons. The younger one, Lt. Nawang Kapadia had joined the Indian Army and was killed by the terrorists in the bloody conflict in Kashmir. Gwanulal suddenly got up asking me to wait. He came back with small cones of deodar and rubbed them in his hands. There was only yellow powder left, looking pure like pure saffron. He put a mark on my forehead.
â€˜This is deodar ka tilla, the mark of deodar, and it is made from deodar ki pithai. These small cones are considered holy and are available only during these times, in early winter.â€™
He got a handful of pithai and stuffed it in my rucksack, â€˜Take these home and put it on the photograph of your son. He will be blessed.â€™ In this four-hour walk with this simple Garhwali villager, I had formed a lifelong friendship. Such are the ways of trekking in this land of gods. We said goodbye to each other on the pass as he descended towards his village to the north of the pass and I returned back towards Devalsari. At home the tilla of deodar adored the portrait of Lt. Nawang Kapadia for may days!