8/29/2013

THE HOLY RIVER IS NOT HAPPY!

Here (in Allahabad) is a beautiful river which is surmounted by two bridges; an ancient bridge which has reputation as ‘Old Bridge’ - certainly built in the times of British in India – and another recently constructed ; ‘New Bridge’. Other than the two, the other means to cross this mighty yet gentle river is by boat.

Boats of all sizes row across this river. One can see massive barge gliding across the river sometimes and on other days, listless poor fishermen on their boats plying across the river to the banks or in the middle of this great river, spending their time fishing. Besides being a divine river, which has mythical relation with the Hindu Gods and the religion, this river seems to serve as an economic source to the people living on the banks.

And little beyond the New Bridge, there is an ancient palace of the king Ashoka – Sangam Palace.  At this point of place is a confluence of three rivers; Ganga, Yamuna and the imaginary yet legendary river – Saraswati – which is believed to flow beneath the currents of Yamuna. (Natives here say that if one likes to see Saraswati, they should be patient enough to wait until midnight of the full moon. But I have never ventured out to witness what happens at the odd hours of the night and as result, I have never known Sarawasti with my own eyes.)

Recently, the ‘ Kumbu mela ‘ celebration at the confluence – which is said to be celebrating after a cycle of twelve years- invited an influx of worldly crowd which, in a way or other, would have contributed to the economy of the natives, esp. the boatmen. The auspicious celebration, as the NDTV reports, is one festival that calls in the largest gathering on the Earth. All these are because of the divine interpretations that people assign on the Holy River- tenacity the river history has on the Kumbu mela.   

However, this August, the divine river is not happy anymore; it has shown it’s wrath as the water level has immeasurably increased inflicting cumbersome damages and destruction to the property and the lives of the people living along her bank. The cause, probably,  could be due to the incessant rain. That the river has displayed one of her fierce looks; the brown-muddy water almost closer to the under span of both the bridges, it leaves no question whether the slums would have flooded also. 

People, who are already poor and prone to death, are now obviously set to the jaws of death by the consequences of the overflow. Boatmen and fishermen are no more seen on the indomitable currents and to describe the situation in Sangam, one should take oneself there to witness the water’s massiveness for you may not believe the fitting exaggerations that I may write of it. Even then, the situation in a line is; as overcast is the sky, so overcautious are the people now.

The overcast sky glaring down on Allahabad. Picture taken near the Old Bridge. 
The only college nearby has been officially called off until the river level begins to subside. The happy and excited students left for home. But the feeling of the poverty-struck people, especially those living by the river, may be obviously baffling to understand- it can be the fear of losing their dear lives, expectations of the government’s assistance, sympathy from the rich, pity from the philanthropist or all the same; afraid of the proximity of their lives to death triggered by this holy river.

The Kumbu mela was given to the people by the river's significance but it has snatched more away from them then what that ‘mela’ can provide. Not always human, but nature is also cruel sometimes. Just as I write this, I decline in acceptance (as I wasn't agreeing till now) to the Helen Keller’s words- Nature is not always kind!

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