Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 24
I have spent three days in Hairdwar in eager anticipation of the expedition starting. The feet are itchy, the anticipation has been building, the adrenaline glands are on overdrive and there have been a host of last minute chores to be completed. The first evening was spent on the banks of one of the holiest spots in all of Hinduism ... Har Ki Pauri. It is a ghat in Haridwar which is where the Lords Shiva and Vishnu are said to have visited.In fact, there is an imprint of Lord Vishnu’s foot in a stone which is today submerged, and the local priests will show it to devotees, albeit for a price.
I have witnessed the evening arati, an ode to the Goddess, many many times, but it never fails to amaze me. What has changed over the years that I have been witnessing it is not the hundred who throng the banks to witness it, but the number of mobile phones that get activated to take pictures. Is it to capture the moment and to mark the check box to indicate “I was there” or is there some other religious or spiritual significance to capture this moment for posterity, I wonder. But, it is a spectacular sight.
What was particularly gratifying to me this time was the fact that the intonation to the Goddess was interspersed with the message requesting people to realise the importance the Ganges holds in our daily lives and to take a pledge to maintain her sanctity and purity, by promising not to defile her with garbage and other rubbish. Walking along the banks a few minutes later, kind of put the promise made in its perspective, since the garbage is there for all to see, and there is no dearth of people chucking their empty packets of chips and other garbage right on the road, just outside where they took the pledge not to add to garbage. When will people learn the sanctity of a promise made? I suspect that most people who visit Haridwar and witness the Ganga arati, are religiously inclined. Why then do they forget the promises made in front of the very same Goddess they come to pay obeisance to? It is a cultural thing and will take a long time to change, if ever.
The next day warranted a trip to one of the partners of the expedition ... Adventure Axis ... and get a “medical” done on the canoe. A few weeks ago I had inflated her and left it for a few days to find that the port side had deflated. I was worried about a pinhole puncture somewhere which was certainly not something that would be beneficial to the journey. I needed to find out the source of the leak, if any, and rectify it if necessary. Fortunately, nothing untoward was found and she passed in flying colours.
Talking of “she”, I still need to christen the canoe. I think I have finally settled on THORNBIRD. It is a story that has a deep resonance with me in terms of how I lead my life and it seems apt that this humongous journey that the canoe will take me through reflects that. Hence THORNBIRD. I need to etch/stencil/paint the name on the side of the canoe before I embark on the journey, though. I only hope it does not slip my mind, there is just so much to do before launch.
Devprayag is where the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers meet to this is where the Ganges officially gets her name. A trip down the Ganges would be incomplete without a trip to the confluence of the two rivers and from where the holy river becomes the Ganga. It was a long and arduous trip. The road was being widened and the traffic was horrendous. A hundred click each way on under-construction roads, on the mountains was not very comfortable, but I did manage to make it there and back. I always like to see the two distinct images of the two rivers, as they form the Ganges.
The next hundred odd kilometres downstream of Devprayag where the confluence is, is the last stretch that the Ganges flows through the mountains, to finally enter the plains at Haridwar. There is a pretty big dam at Haridwar that diverts the water into the Upper Ganga Canal, and our expedition starts just downstream of that.
Sam, Tara and Coco arrived the morning of Sep 30. To be honest, I am a little apprehensive about having Coco on the journey, just because it adds another dimension to it. But Coco is a peaceful traveller and as long as Sam and Tara can deal with the vagaries of the expedition as far as Coco is concerned, I am ok with her. I just hope that the focus of the expedition does not shift to the dog in detriment to the expedition itself.
The other wonderful thing that happened was that we met a person who is a Distributor for the products that Ygeiax manufactures and sells. A host of herbal products. A trip to Good Living Organic was quickly planned, and they were gracious enough to pitch in towards the expedition with a truckload of goodies. I believe they are all health foods, which is something that worries me a little bit, since I am a die-hard meat eating, non-health-food-eating type of person. But I am sure there is a lot of goodness in the foods and it will keep the team healthy and nourished.
At the time of writing this, there are 11 hours, and 22 seconds to go for the launch. On the first stretch, Sam is going to co-paddling with me, while Tara will drive the car. The first day is always the trickiest since one is confronted with Mr Murphy and things that he throws up. The plan is to paddle a relatively short distance of around 20km to Bhogpur. But, if the going is good, we might decided to go as far as we possibly can. We do not have a time table in mind, and no one is going to send us to the clapper if we paddle more than we hoped we would, or indeed, paddle less than we anticipated.
After three years, A SLOW BOAT ON THE GANGES will finally be on the river and we will be on our way towards the Bay of Bengal. Will it be successful or will it need to be aborted for a variety of reasons? No one knows. It is an ambitious expedition and it requires a lot of perseverance and lot of cojones to ensure a successful fruition. The mojo is right and unless things go drastically off kilter, I hope to walk into the Bay of Bengal and swim in its salty water a couple of months later.