I looked at Vaishali as if waking up from sleep, my eyes blank, my mind still faraway.
‘Come, lunch is served,’ she said.
I was still in a daze. My heart thudded loudly in my chest, as if I had just run a few miles. Few miles? I had been to the eternity and back. The world seemed colorless, compared to what I had just experienced. The music from the band, so vibrant and soulful some time ago, seemed lifeless. The guitar strings which had poured blithely into my soul, and had lifted my spirits up and up into the heavens, had helped me find an audience with the Gods, seemed cacophonous now. I looked at the young boys on the stage, still crooning movie songs, and was surprised that I had found this music inspiring and melodious.
‘Come,’ Vaishali said, ‘We are going to pick up our plates.’ And she left.
I stood rooted to the ground, still unable to move. The river still flowed, but she did not speak to me now. Though she had receded, and spoke no more to me, I could still feel the connection with her. I guess it is difficult to let go once you have been with the divine.
The river, I knew, was the ‘real’ divinity here, she was the living God we saw daily and did not recognize. She was the nourisher of five hundred million insignificant souls who resided on its banks. She had fed them, nourished them, carried their dead, carried their sewage and had watered their crops; feeding more than a third of the population of this landmass we called India. She was more real than the stone Gods who resided in the stone temples. She was the one who gave birth, one who sustained and one who carried away one’s body and soul after death – she was the trinity rolled into one.
‘O Mother!’, I said to myself, ‘Why can’t mankind see who you are?’
The Mother did not reply, for she is the embodiment of Mother Nature; and Mother Nature sees everything, hears everything, loves everyone, but doesn’t respond to mere mortals. She quietly does her job, repays everyone back according to what they have earned. She doesn’t take sides, she is not cruel, she is not merciful either, she is not just, she is not unjust either. Her logic is inexorable, unstoppable. If we don’t see it, we will suffer its consequences.
The Mother Ganga simply restores balance – we dirty her, she cleans herself. We try to kill her; she tries to sustain herself and in doing so tries to sustain us. But we are persistent, incorrigible, insufferable; we will not learn.
We are bent upon killing her, killing our Mother. There is a word for this crime – what is it? Matricide? Is there a worse crime? We are bent upon matricide. But no, this is more than that. She is also the only God we can touch and feel and see. What is killing Gods called? Deicide? Yes, that is what we are doing.
We build dams on her, restricting her flow, restricting the movement of the plants and animals that reside within her. We divert her waters, making her bed run dry. We pour industrial waste, and urban garbage and human waste and plastic waste and dead humans and animals and even our stone Gods into her. We are bent on killing her – and I know we will succeed, unless we wake up and recognize her for the deity that she is.
I hope we are not too late. We may be. The glaciers, that feed her at the source, recede every year. Those who love her say that the source will be gone in another 40-50 years’ time. What will happen then? It is impossible to think of India without Ganga; of Indian civilization without Ganga.
The last great break in Indian civilization came when another major river of the subcontinent – the deified Saraswati – disappeared a few thousand years ago. Now she lives on only in myths and legends and folklore. Is this what is going to happen to Ganga too?
Saddened by the thought of the future of Goddess Ganga, I walked slowly, dejectedly, towards the lunch stall, looking over people talking loudly and enjoying their meal – oblivious of the great burden of killing Mother Ganga that we all shouldered, oblivious of the great sin of killing the Mother Goddess!!!
‘How long till we can do this; enjoy a meal on the banks of Ganga?’, I thought.
The rice and the ‘nimona’, a dish made from green peas, and the ‘litti-chokha’, an eastern delicacy, looked delicious, but I wasn’t hungry anymore. Reluctantly I poured a little food on my plate and swallowed it in quick gulps – looking forward to the Ganga Aarti, that I knew would start soon. The ‘Ode to Ganga’ was about to begin!!!
To be continued………………………………….
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