Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boating Along the Ghats

Akkassh came to pick me up at 4:30 AM. I had assumed we would go on one of the boats at the ghat(literally means gate) nearest us -walking distance. There was a rickshaw waiting for us. It was eerie riding on the empty roads at that time in the morning. Where we went there was going to be a sunrise puja. There were already many people bathing and praying in the Ganga. We contracted our boat. Once again, I thought we would be in a crowded boat with many tourists but this turned out to be a private tour. As the sun rose you could see many old yogis practicing asana, and saddus praying to the sun.The air was thick with mist, smoke and smog. The sun was a faint red ball coming over the horizon. Small pressed leaf bowls with burning wicks and flower offerings were floating on the river. I pulled my breakfast out of my bag and was about to eat when we drifted by some floating debri. As we drew closer I noticed it was a portion of an old decomposing human body...breakfast back in the bag. I later found out that young children and the holiest of people have the honor of being deterred directly in the river instead of being burned on a pyre. As the boatman oared down one end of the Ganga there were a few funeral pyres that were burning from an electric generator. I was told that only the very rich can afford to use this method. About 10 Kl in the other direction we arrived at the burning ghat. Massive piles of wood branches and logs were
everywhere. Many old temples with onion shaped domes were black with soot. There wer 4 large fires burning. I am told the custom of sati still continues.(A wife voluntarily joins her dead spouse on a burning pyre.) We returned to where we started, hopped on a rickshaw back to the academy at about 8:00AM.
At the academy, one of the house workers followed me downstairs where I went to practice tabla. It seems no one will allow me to be alone here. The worker insisted that I pray to an image of Saraswati before I begin my practice. This is truly a different way of learning-a discipleship. I am picking this up fast.
I have learned one kaida and am halfway through my second.( a kaida a composition of rhythms based on a simple meter becoming increasingly complex.) The singing lessons, I realize now, are not going to materialize.

Settling into a routine. Up at 4:30AM, yoga practice till 6:00AM, shower, jal neti, walk to the corner shop to purchase dahee (yogurt from fresh unpasturized milk), walk back to the academy, fix breakfast, dahee, musli and fruit, and prepare chai boiled in milk. Then, practice tabla, go for another walk, practise tabla, tabla lesson with Guru Ji, go to the internet or explore, out to lunch, more exploring, return to the academy, practice tabla, lunch leftovers for dinner, practice table, retire to my room reading or practicing m'bira. I am thankful for this extra week on my own to synthesize and process what I went through at the ashram.

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