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Aarti


…The air is charged with anticipation, as it always does before sunset every day. Scores of people have gathered on the ghat to watch the aarti and offer obeisance to Mother Ganga. The tout who took to me to a vantage point as close as it can get to the aarti hastens me through some rituals. I do them perfunctorily and press some money into his hand. The blue light of dusk spreads around us, a fish prods my foot under water, buoyant diyas embellish the gushing river, chants fill the air and a general sense of euphoria rises.


Suddenly, I see faith floating down in a plastic, disposable bowl, even as a chorus begins to praise the Mother. “Jai Gange Maata..”

The flame of the aarti is so close that I feel the heat on my skin. My eyes alternate between the ebullient flare gyrating in the hands of the pandits and the plastic diya that is assigned with the task of fulfilling its patron’s wish and wash away his/her sins. The Mother does this day after day at the cost of her own well-being.

Elsewhere, in the land of lush green, rivers have turned murderous. A sharp shiver goes down my spine.

As I watch the styrofoam lamp sink at a distance, I say a silent apology. To That which creates, sustains and destroys.

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