New Clothes for Ganga

I am sitting by the Ganga, up in Rishikesh, somewhere near the soles of the mighty Himalayas. This is where the river shines like bottled water, uncontaminated by the mud-brown guilt of redemption-seekers and industrial effluvia.

I am lazing on the grey sand that holds in its heart the memory of the sea—its final future as well as its distant past. The sand despite its aeons of memory has nothing to say. But the river speaks. In baby gurgles and noisy licks of the sand bank.

The river is young and reckless here, enjoying her freedom from the Recluse Liberator’s hair-lock. Adventurers come to this stretch of the river to celebrate her liberation. They ride her various moods of escape. They ride these rapids in boats built for turbulence and turtle-turns.

The Ganga is playful here. She’s not the somber laundry-mom of the plains, where she takes on the task of washing, tumble-drying and ironing souls. Readying them for another life.

But beyond the froth and gurgle of new liberation she also seeps wisdom into her banks. Into the groundwater. Into the taps of 'drinking water'.

Ganga’s mystery, in the form of flowing water. She’s a goddess without temples. She's a force but she's also benign. Raging, but powerless to human encroachments. She is elegant and graceless at different points. She’s shy and shamelessly in-the-face. She’s naked but her nakedness is invisible. Like the emperor’s new clothes. She is reticent but she can tell you her backstory in a flash. Ganga is saint and slut rolled into one.

As her stories pull me deeper and deeper into a warm-and-chilling embrace, I can almost taste the salt in her waters. Are they tears of joy? Or tears of pain? I enter her gingerly, not wanting to disturb her absorption in her painful pleasure or pleasurable pain.

But she sends me an eager wave that yanks at my towel. Once, twice and thrice. And the towel goes with it like a flying rug under water. And suddenly I see her water face grinning at my nakedness. As if saying 'Gotcha!'


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