Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Pilgrimage Of Sorts

Boat ride in Varanasi

Last month, I was on a five day trip to my home town Allahabad at the fag end of the Kumbh Mela and Varanasi- the oldest living city in the world- where all the Naga sadhus (sky-clad) had migrated from Allahabad.

My co-traveller is Paavo Yliluoma.

The first two days in Allahabad was relaxing. My sister-in-law, Ranjan Bhabhi, fed us so much with the most fabulous food that it seemed she is preparing two goats for the Eid sacrifice.
Kumbh Mela, Allahabad.

The trip to Kumbh Mela was overwhelming. I felt solitude amongst the millions of devotee. They followed rituals blindly to see the light to life. Something good was happening to them. Some thing good was happening to me.

Paavo, cow and an age old culture.
For Paavo it was a free ride to the wonderland of the Ganges. It was interesting to see what bemused him. Apart from the usual things, Paavo seemed enamoured by naked kids jumping in and out of a muddy pool, stray pigs and cows and roadside garbage that was piling up with no remorse and me, in that order, if his photo album is of any indication.

The trip to Varanasi was special. Ghats have stood for centuries by the Ganges give me strong sense of stability to the passage of time and equanimity to changing seasons. A static witness to the flowing water of Ganges.

Marnikarnika Ghat in the evening.
Witnessing the burning ghats of Marnikarnika was surreal. This place reminds me of the people I love and lost to the other world. I now know that life is a zero-sum game. There sitting gazing at the flames rising from the charred human body make me feel humble. The smoke fill the air like dark ominous clouds. All the struggle of this world, love and hate, seem trivia. The present is so precious. The future so uncertain. Self is of no consequence beyond self. 

The boat ride in the evening was pleasant. We witnessed Ganga Aarti from our boat. It was a spectacle grandeur of flickering lights rising to the dark sky.

Nagas, I felt, played their part well. They comfortably wore their nudity but not their self. They too harbour restlessness, though much less in measure than me. It was no big fun to sketch them as they were not challenged.  

the sky clad amongst the clothed.
A Naga with pot belly, in his late thirties, claimed that he is 70 years old. There is no respite from hassles and complexities (jhanjhat) of life. Nagas have different kind of jhanjhat, he told me, but it is there and resisting jhanjhat makes it grow stronger. Acceptance of jhanjhat is like cutting its supply line.

There was one other significant experience that I have promised to my co-traveller not to write about.

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