A tribute to India's greatest gift.
|My conscience burdened by the sin I had just committed, I reached the point of atonement, where the earth’s most magnificent spectacle greeted my eyes. Awestruck, I approached with trembling steps.
As was customary, I bent and touched her and sought permission to embrace her hallowed presence. In the backdrop, bells tolled in a nearby temple, children laughed by my side and a saffron clad monk offered oblations to the Gods. It was a timeless landscape dotted only by the ugly specks of industrialization in the distant horizon. I paused and pulled in a deep breath because I now stood knee-deep in the consecrated waters of the Ganges, the soul of my nation and the lifeline of four hundred million people who dwell on her banks, a population larger than that of the United States.
The waters swirling around my feet had traversed a distance of fifteen hundred miles, originating from the glaciers of the mighty Himalayas which ensure a year round supply of water, flowing through the fertile Gangetic plain, giving birth to bustling cities, before reaching Calcutta, my abode. She was now at the end of her journey, a mere sixty miles short of meeting the Bay of Bengal. Tears of repentance cascaded down my cheeks, and, like the countless believers who dip in her waters daily to be cleansed of their sins, I, too, prayed to Mother Ganges for deliverance. Yes, the Ganges is both a mother and a Goddess for a billion people who call India their home.
Since time immemorial, the Ganges has forgiven and blessed. Her children have exploited her waters, harnessed her energy, deforested her banks, and polluted her body, but she continues to dote on them only as a mother can. Her divine status is rooted in science and though her waters are the dirtiest in the world, they contain rare bacteriophages that kill disease-causing microorganisms, else one third of India’s population would have succumbed to epidemics.
Ignoring the incessant ring of my cell phone, I glared at the monstrous factories on the far bank which belched tons of toxic waste into her waters, but the fish diving around reminded me of her curative powers. Scientists are still grappling with her mysterious ability to retain dissolved oxygen. My heart calmed when the silhouette in the distance took the shape of a dredging boat. Following the Supreme Court’s orders the Government had started to clean the Ganges, earmarking a billion dollars for the project.
This time I had to take the call. It was the woman I had wronged.
“Mom!” I answered.
“It wasn’t your fault, son.”
“Papa never wanted to go through the surgery. I forced him.”
“You did it for his good.”
Soothed by her words, I dragged myself out. As the eldest son, I had to consign my father’s body to the funeral pyre and immerse his ashes in the Ganges. Yes, I would pollute Her too.
Would She forgive me?
Word Count: 494