Monday, May 17, 2010

Of the Kumbh and my country

If looked from above, from a high pedestal, you wouldn’t see six kilometres of the black road. But you’ll find a crowd, a huge multi coloured mass moving in one direction chanting names of Ram and Ganga Mayya. I consider myself lucky to have witnessed the largest mass gathering for a festival in the world- The Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh for me beheld no religious excitement and the prospect of bathing in the Ganges held no thrill. But witnessing the mass was. The main bathing ghat called Har ki Pauri where the Ganges is widest at Haridwar witnesses each year a cross section of the Indian population and foreigners too, only this year I was also part of that gathering. It was indeed quite wondrous for a city bred lad who considers himself modern in the purity of the word to see a chunk of the Indian society of which he is also a part of want to wash away their sins in the holy river which is the life blood of the Indian subcontinent.

Less that 3 days before the Maha Kumbh, I was in Delhi where globalisation and what not has taken its toll. We were put up in a small room which they claim is an International guest house for Rs 3000 a night for 4 people. Not more than 230 kilometres further north is Rishikesh where we had to stay for 2 nights since accommodation at Haridwar was almost impossible unless u wanted one of those fine river cooled banks. A room for 3 came for 600 bucks a night. It gave me hope. The people were much more friendly and simple unlike a metropolitan where selfishness was the order of the day. The average man who doesn’t have five star education and latest technological gadgets seemed much better individuals. On the flip side, they’re the most gullible people around and that explained the existence of so many godmen and fake swamis around the area.

I walked around the whole of Rishikesh and Haridwar with my friends who were new to North India, their excitement at seeing a new part of the country was infectious. Each place had a uniqueness, be it cuisine, people, landscape...I can’t put my finger on one and say, yes this is what I like the best. It is a mixture of various factors. We were in Dehradun at a waterfalls named Sahastrdhara. After having our fair share of fun in the icy water we came up and sat on a restaurant overlooking the waterfall having bread pakoda and chai...I couldn’t help think for a minute, what all could I experience if I could be there for a day more...but alas time was against me.

The great place, India my country is...It surprises me every day. I was having a small chai-samosa chat with one of my ex teachers a couple of days ago. She was telling me that she wants to travel abroad, at which instance I narrated my experience of this recent trip. Her reply to why she doesn’t want to travel much in India was quite amusing... “At my age I can’t travel in India, there is so much to see...if I want to see at least one state, I need to spend at least a month there and then start to unravel the place. Whereas if I go to some foreign country like Singapore or Maldives, it is all over in a weeks’ time. I would’ve finished seeing the country in a short span” This is the expanse of the country we live in. My mission now is to see my country in all its beauty and mystifying glamour before I even venture out to see other places.

I am not a patriot only when there is a cricket match or a hockey tournament. I have always regarded my patriotism as something born out of the physical beauty and the glamour the country holds. One walk from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the India Gate, was enough for me to salute the great nation I live in.

So true are our text books. As a child I also grew up reading the drab text books saying, India is a multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi...what not country. But to truly understand it and be part of a huge culture, you need to feel it, experience it, be with the people, talk their language, have their food, their drinks and dance and sing with them...thank god my journey has just started...


  1. my favourite so far. good job, john! u have a soul! :) when i think about the sheer size and socio-cultural diversity that characterises India, i always get the same feeling i get when i stare out at the ocean and see water till as far as I can see. the feeling goes: i have no idea where to start, but i want to be out there!

  2. hmmm an interesting now i won't go into the conventional details of "this is what i think is right or wrong."...rather i wud say that we all need a moment of stillness somewhere in our lives. and for you it was the kumbh mela..u felt different, relaxed and you had time to think and most importantly, for yourself..yes! we are all social beings, but can we be social all the time?
    cricket matches and hockey matches does not make one a patriot...that is jingoism...for me or for you patriotism means to accept the flaws in your country and yet never giving up i sound like paulo coelho???LOL..
    i guess all of us live in there are both international guest houses and small congested rooms overlooking the sea....we live and appreciate both...
    all i can say is it is a relief not to see a "chetan bhagat" or a "shiv khera" in your writing style....keep going mate, i'm with you..

  3. Do agree with you..To appreciate the multi lingual n ethnicity n colors of India, we really need to go around India. I too had d opportunity to visit Haridwar n Rishikesh, n it was intellectually rewarding to say the least.

  4. Nicely written. I like the emotion behind this and what triggered it off... and what I'm about to say is not entirely in line with ur piece...yet, I'm going to say it. True that we are a great nation. A lifetime probably wont suffice to experience it in its entirety. But as people we aren't that nice (ref to the kinds of the con god-men u have written abt). So while I too would- like many others- LOVE to experience India, the whole idea of being taken for a ride kinda puts me off :( we could write another blog post abt this huh? ;)Jus a thot that struck me.

  5. @ Kavitha
    True, as people we aren't tpo great, but which country is? We are not an asinine mass of people who co exist. We are part of a huge culture, a tradition which is unique. A nation where everybody is good is an utopian concept. In fact, compared to other nations, Im happy inspite of so much, differences and extreme behavioural shifts, the sheer ease with which our country exists is wondrous.

  6. I get all that - but compare the chances of you getting ripped off in say, the US to that in India...I'm definitely not pro-US and anti-India...Just think that a country as vibrant as ours can do soooooo much better with a litttle more honesty and humanity. And I'm more amazed than happy at how we hold ourselves (as you said - quite easily) together as 1 nation inspite of all our differences :)

  7. Finally read it and now it is inspiring me to travel to the north. Keep going.

  8. @ Jayanti...I consider the blog a success! I could inspire atleast one to travel!