The Ganga visit is utterly fascinating. Three strangers, of whom I am one, plan to buy/hire/steal a rowboat and paddle from Allahabad to Varanasi (150 kms, 2 hours by road, 5 days by boat). Only one of these three knows his/her way around a boat. We plan to take it slow, with the journey being far more important than the destination.
We will camp on the river islands, watch the sunset turn the river to gold. We will wake in time to see the sun's rays chase away the wraith-like tendrils of fog that rise from the water. At times, the river will be blanketed by flocks of migratory birds. We will pass different time zones. Some places, the banks will lined with forts that were once impenetrable but now are crumbling into the river. The next minute, we might pass groups of children exulting in the water they live by. While I expect to learn a lot more about myself and about my companions in these six days than about the people along the river, we will be treated to an ever-changing but eternal landscape.
And I will be doing all this without a camera. A grain of sand, nothing more, that my camera happened to swallow and this will challenge me more than the bed of the Ganga herself. I was pretty upset, as you can imagine.
But not any more. Think about it. The great travellers I grew up reading- the heroes I mentioned earlier- have not only painted impressive images of the places they visited, but also of the flavour of their experiences. Their words and descriptions are with me wherever I go, adding to the pleasure of what I see. I greet some landscapes with the joy one reserves for meeting old friends, because that is what they are- I know these areas intimately through these books. The necessity of photographs? It's all maya.
I will see you around Christmas, then. With stories and sketches.