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Saturday, December 20, 2008


Crossing the holy river

The holy Ganga River passes through the holy city of Rishikesk. Seekers from around the world come to study under the yogis, gurus and sadhus who abound here. Indian people come to bathe in the holy river. It certainly looks cleaner here than further downstream. Crossing the Ganga is another matter. For me that brings challenges.

My mind was open (and still is) to the possibility that one or two of the sadhus had acquired the ability to walk across the water. If that is the case, I have yet to see it but what I do see are sadhus walking across the bridge like me and many others. Let me assure you, if I knew how to walk across the water, that would be my preferred choice but I can't so the bridge is my only option.

There are actually two bridges perhaps about a kilometre apart. They are of similar design—suspension bridges. What I hesitate to call the walkway on the one near me at Laxman Jhula is wide enough for four average-sized people to walk abreast.

Indian people like to pose for photos on the bridge, sometimes alongside the monkeys who hang out there looking for handouts. I don't know how successful they are at getting these photos as the other Indians, the ones not having their photos taken, usually do not wait but walk straight between photographer and models.

The occasional sacred cow (they are quite plentiful in Rishikesh) also wanders onto and across the bridge and invariably drops some holy shit before reaching the other side—just another challenge for us to avoid while crossing.

Pack donkeys are sometimes driven across the bridge. I haven't actually encountered any while I've been on the bridge but I know that the ones in the street give way to no one.

Why I hesitate to call the walkway a walkway is that it is also used by motorcycles. The riders (not all, but many) of these show as much sense and manners as do the donkeys except for the fact that they do beep their horn to warn you to get out of the way. Often they are riding too fast for the situation and often the bridge is so crowded with pedestrians, cows, donkeys and people taking photos that the only way to go to escape the oncoming beeping motorcycle is up.

Let me assure you—and them—that if I had the ability to levitate at will, as they seem to expect, I wouldn't be walking on the bridge. I'm sure it would be way easier to walk across the water.

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