Discovery of India

May 20th, 2008

I sat next to Mrs. Sukhwar on the train from New Delhi to Haridwar, and we spoke together in English. She has lived in Delhi for 50 years, though she was born in Lucknow, and she was on her way to Haridwar for the same reason we were: to join the Aarti ceremony in honor of Mother Ganga (see Immersion in Ritual, below). She explained to me that “Haridwar” means “door to God,” and that the holy sites and famous temples multiply as one travels north from Haridwar into the Himalayas.
“I cannot remember how many times I have bathed in Ganga,” she said, making the word “Ganga” a mother’s caress. Indeed, she has been to temples all over India in the past several years: as far south as Chennai, and to Benares and Allahabad and Amritsar, among other cities in the North.
“So you have been discovering India,” I said.
“Yes I have,” she said.
“That’s what we are doing,” I said.

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