Update for 24 December 2009
As I alighted the rickety bus by the roadside, I was pleasantly taken in by the forested surroundings, yet within bustling distance of the religious town-centre and its chief attraction. I carried by luggage and looked around for a coolie – with none in sight, just tossed it over my shoulder and followed a small band of pilgrims towards the town centre. Just across the road, and I was face to face with the fast flowing green waters of the Ganges. It was meandering along in curves, not rushing, and not stagnant, but very calming and refreshing for a weary traveler like me. I walked less than a furlong and then crossed the road to the chief attraction, the bridge that would take me across. It was the bridge that every Indian had heard of – and was out of bounds to vehicular traffic. It had a mythological lilt to its name that swung dreamily from one bank to another. This was the Lakshman Jhoola, Lakshman’s Swing. Rather large at around 100 feet in span and since it was a suspension bridge, it was almost as tall at the entrance bank where I walked in. The hoists dropped down in a parabolic curve and almost stayed flat for a large part of the bridge. The tricky part of walking on this suspension bridge was its supposed flimsiness – because it bounces up and down with the human footfalls and if a prankster wanted to frighten the aged matriarch shrouded in a shawl, he would just jump up and down a couple of times to wobble the bridge under her feet. She would shriek and let out her choicest swear words, which would never cross the PG 13 limit (perhaps the effect of walking on the Lakshman Jhoola also led to drawing the famous Lakshman Rekha* on your vocabulary). And even if you did not have pranksters in your pilgrim group, there would be enough in others to give you a dose of the wobble on the bridge. The walk was refreshing as you saw the calm gurgling green Ganges below you, to your right and left and as you approached the exit of the bridge, the parabola rose again to hoisted high as the second support in the suspension bridge. Then I entered the Pilgrim Town with its temples, ashrams, and series of steps that led down to the river. I am sure I will return to these steps at sundown to witness the River Prayer, aarti. The bell chimes, and hymn chants in the background sound soothing and the crowds add to building the atmosphere.
The morning after the heady SENSEX recovery, the D Boyz started their work on a good note – they opened their offices to some good cheer and thereafter, looked around for good news and cheer. Not hearing much, they quickly got down to discussing inane nothings which quietened the SENSEX (keeping it flat for the next 4 hours or so). And then the cricket match in Calcutta started, exciting the D Boyz that they picked up the SENSEX to over 100 points again today and lofted it to 17360 – up 129 points.
The young boys at the ashram were cute with their foreheads smeared with the religious 3 stripe ash and dotted with the vermillion. They were filing past us towards the river for their daily prayer meet. I walked into the ashram and the smiling housekeeper offered to show me to my little room on the first floor that overlooked the Ganges, the Road that I just took from the bridge, the Lakshman Jhoola and the forested hills beyond.
Have a nice weekend and Season’s Greetings. Cheers….
* Lakshman Rekha – reference – the Ramayana – where Lakshman draws a line (Rekha) on the ground as the threshold limit for Sita, his sister-in-law and her safety when he goes looking for his supposedly hurt brother, Rama.