Hardiwar, India: Discovery of the Self


HARIDWARGrowing up, all of us want to believe we are special … special in our personality …special in our choices, special in the way we shape our lives… Bestowed with a well-educated independent upbringing, a fairly successful career, I am now the Urban Indian stereotype- the caring wife, the ‘Nurturer’ in a nuclear family; complete with a loving husband and a beautiful child.

Not in want of having to earn a livelihood, I settle for a 9 to 5 stress free job which gives me enough time to stress about micromanaging my family. Occasionally, when I find respite from work, I sit in my balcony with a cup of tea watching the dusk, trying to catch up on my reading. The book is either too boring or too introspective to continue and thoughts do tend to trail away ……’Why’ and ‘What if’ questions seem to have a will of their own, edging out contentment in solitary moments.

What was I trying to assess? My life so far; My life ahead or simply Myself? So many questions which need answers….. As a well-deserved break after one particularly long job stint; leaving my husband and daughter at home to handle each other for the first time, I decide to travel with my sister and brother-in-law on a trip to Uttarakhand. Nomad at heart, blessed with physical stamina, traveling comes easy to me. Uttarakhand is famed for its enviable list of holy places, notably those along the banks of the GANGA, the holiest of Hindu rivers.

Via Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, we travel by road to HARIDWAR, where geographically the Ganga enters the plains (metaphorically touches the mortal realm) after cascading down the towering Himalayas. They say millions come to the banks of the Ganga to find their true calling. What solace can this place offer to my comfortable soul which wants to be restless? After the customary visit to “Places of Interest” in the scorching 46 degrees of North Indian summer, we arrive at the ghats… from a few hundred meters away, we hear the GANGA gushing and gurgling… My soul searching questions temporarily forgotten, I search for an outlet to buy mineral water. Tourists are buzzing around. After stopping at a roadside stall to buy a toy for my daughter, we slowly meander towards the Ghats elbowing out throngs of pilgrims. I busily click photographs with my mother and sister to upload onto my social network, the GANGA is gushing away in the backdrop… My mother tells us to finish our ablutions. We couldn’t agree more. In the scorching heat, a dip in the water would be comforting. We push through the crowds to step into the river and take the perfunctory three dips. The water is freezing. It is the glacial melt from the GANGOTRI, the source of the mighty Ganga. The dusk is approaching, my sister and brother-in-law are trying to enquire about the evening Aarti for the Ganga. I settle down quietly next to my mother on the steps.

The GANGA is gushing away along the ghats… Though I want to write that it suddenly hit me, I know that is far from the truth. This feeling has been creeping in from when I left home. Like the Ganga it has been flowing (inward out or outward in? ), till it reached the physical manifest… the setting sun… the twilight… the river …the chants… the crowds… the vermillion and saffron …the lamps afloat on leaves–I feel serenity envelope my soul… Is my journey complete? Do I want to stay here forever, away from work, responsibilities and emotional bondage, break the stereotype, find my singular space in this Universe? NO, I want to go back. I want to see the immeasurable joy on my daughter’s face as she receives her toy, experience the warmth of my husband’s affection, relax in my balcony with a good measure of an evening aperitif, sharing the physical and metaphysical experiences of this trip with my life partner… ONLY then will this journey be complete!

Yes, I am Special, Special to my loved ones and Unique to the context of MY life. I realize the life I live is what I weave for myself through love, care, joys and heartbreaks. I realize that the forces of the universe have complied; not conspired to tune my body to my mind to my soul; because I desire them to. I realize that all questions need not have answers; neither do all answers need to be questioned. They say millions come to the banks of the Ganga to find their true calling. I too find mine. I go home. I am content AND I am restless… the yin yang of my soul. The GANGA…She gushes in me…

About the Author: The author, Rajini Itham is a Practicing Architect, Design Educator and Freelance Writer.

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3 responses to “Hardiwar, India: Discovery of the Self

  1. An interesting article with different perspective of the longings of the soul- so common and so unique at the same time. Congrats to the author.

  2. A well written piece and a throughly enjoyable read!
    It has been one of my dreams to see the Ganga, I’m currently closing in o her, should be there in a few weeks!
    I assume the river is quite clean, at least much cleaner than in the likes of Varanasi, in the place where you took your three dips?

    1. Thank you, Francis…Yes, the Ganga is still in its pristine state at Haridwar as it is one of the first few towns along the banks…Happy journey!!!

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