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...