Monday, 14 June 2010

My Diary of India: Fifth Extract

This morning the group got up at 4:30am for a sunrise boat tour of the River Ganges. It was hazy but still boiling as we scraped ourselves out of bed and were ferried down to the waterfront by minibus. It was really surprising to see everybody up, awake and selling at 5am. Trade was bustling and the same street kids from the previous night were up to greet us as we walked to the gnats. Traffic never stops. India is so alive. We sat round on our riverboat and listened to Paddy talk about the Ganges. It was truly beautiful, bobbing along the water, watching the Hindu community in morning prayer to the sun and bathing in the Ganges waters. The same waters which would probably kill our weak constitutions. All the gnats are on one side of the river facing the sun; the other side is a sand spit for fishermen, although none of us are eating fish, because they probably feed on corpse?!

Further on, there was a man chanting into a microphone and we soon realised that below him there were about twenty children practising yoga; this was an ashram. It struck me that the discipline these children showed was nothing like anything I had ever experienced. It was as though they were putting on a show, but actually I was just their morning ritual. We were soon told to put our camera away and, as the smoke rose, we realised why. A family was cremating a man on the bank, and the further we looked, the more piles of ash and still burning beacons we saw. The man’s legs were on view from the pyre; it was probably the most disturbing and emotional thing I had ever seen. I felt sorry for the family having a boatload of tourists watching the funeral of someone they loved. As we floated back, everyone was silent for a few minutes as we let flowers into the river. Ironically, as this was happening a boat with traders in, trying to sell us stuff, followed.

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