Sunday, January 30, 2011

World's Most Polluted River is Holy - India Part [2/3]

These few pictures are not for the weak hearted.

The Ganges river is the Mecca of Hinduism. And along 7 km of its coast, people bring their loved ones who passed away and burn them at the Ghats. Fires of the Ghat stay alive as long as the dead bodies keep coming. They dip their loved ones into the river. The wrapped body is kept on the stairs of the Ghat to dry up. The body, wrapped in red, gold or white clothes, is carried onto piles of wood and soaked with a flammable liquid. Then the body is lit on fire, while the world, the loved ones, the dogs and the cows, watch. 

And I, with my loved ones, from our little boat and our little cameras and little worlds, watched others carry their own loved ones and burn them. Burn them, and throw their ashes into the river. It was sunset, and the weather was calm and sweet. Smoke rose from the fires and little ashes flew slowly towards the river. Little ashes fell on me and my loved ones. Ashes of loved ones.

The little boat took us back to the little port of the Ganges where thousands of believers were already chanting. They were lighting up little flames and they, the little candles, floated into the river. They were praying for the Ganges.

The stairs going up from the Ganges were filled with the poor and the weak. They had nothing but to wait and be reincarnated while kites flew in the sky, guided by children around the city. Poor and weak people, those that waited along the Ganges and the Ghats, along the fire of loved ones and the loved ones long forgot, were stripped, left alone with nothing. Yes, they survive on what others give them. And so survives hundreds of millions - if not billions - of others around the world. Weak and poor and alone. Yesterday on the Ganges, I had a taste of the salt of a human element.I felt minuscule, small, weak and poor. I was scared. I think I know what it means to be human, a barbaric and beautiful thing. 

When I see the things that make my life mine, my body, my hands, my feet, my feelings, my loved ones... I start to feel that it is all precious. And that other things, are not. Life is tough. And I have been lucky. But regardless, to me and others, so many things plague our visions and our actions. When I visited other areas here in Varanessi where people do not rely on others, it is all different. People are still poor but they are living life as usual. Our usual that is. 

Life is too short. And being hurt because of things that are not precious is not worth it. Getting angry at your friend who didn't tell you about the party, getting jealous of your ex because he is with someone else, getting frustrated at your parents because they won't let you go out on weekends, getting insecure when someone tells you are overweight... I don' feel that this is worth our lives.

What I think is worth my life is seeing my little sister laugh, it's saying good morning to people I don't know, it's a mother seeing her grandson for the first time, it's helping someone carry their bags in the airport, it's telling students that shouldn't be scared to be wrong, it's dancing in the streets, it's making people smile whole heartedly.

What makes your life worth while?


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