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Mar 14: Kumbha Mela, Haridwar

14 Mar
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Ganga ghats in Haridwar

The jet lag woke us up latter than the previous day. We planned to go in the city all of us and show my friends how to get into the temple. However they have been in Haridwar before and know the place relatively well. We plan to leave at 9 am but something gets delayed and I take a walk for an hour around the camp. The place is fascinating. Filled with tents and compounds you have a feeling of a big trade show. Everybody has banners advertising their trade, with “sales people” that want to show you the offer, and “marketing people” that are conducting the prayers. It is mind boggling. I took lots of video/photos of shadus, naga babas (naked babas), prayers with large audiences, in English or Hindi, in large pavilions, sometime huge like ISKRON that is the Hara Krishna International Organization. Shot kids in poor tents that abound by the river bay living in abject poverty. Poverty is endemic in India. You see here poverty like in no other place and this is so obvious mainly because of the incredible number of people. Once C said that her feeling about India is that of a soccer stadium where the gates just opened after the game and people started to go home. But this flow of people will never end.

At around 10 am we leave, all 3 of us including a new addition, James a TV Producer from Smoke and Mirrors in London. Is the world small or what! We walk over the ChandiDevi Bridge and we arrive into the city on the Ganges at the ghats. The ghats were full of people bathing , making offers, all holding on heavy chains anchored by the shore, the river being extremely fast and very dangerous. This is Ganga upriver not the one in the plains, around Varanasi, where is slow and dirty. It is extremely fast, green and very clean. We shoot and take picture all 4 of us and decide to take a deep in the Ganga to deal with our karma and our heat. Around 12pm there are 28C. Emil goes first and after that me and James. We take embarrassing pictures of ourselves not to be published in NY Times. When we leave we are witnessing an amazing scene. A young girl was swept away by the river and she swims frantically to keep afloat but she moves with amazing speed. One guy right in front of us fully dressed jumps in the water and catches her and swims with her to the chains. Meanwhile a fast boat comes with fours guys and helps both of them. This is the most “rapid reaction” I could see both from the guy and the boat. The guy who jumped I am sure that had a moment of illumination when he did that. It was nothing calculated just the gut feeling that she has to help her. God bless him!

We left marked by this event and started to walk to the Har Ki Pauri temple. We got again separated from Emil who went into the bazaar and James and I went on the streets. We took lots of pictures from different vantage points in the city and in the temple, with the ghats full of bathers, to the extent that at 2:00pm James finished his card and his battery. India can be unexpected.We went to lunch going for the already proved Navratan Korma and butter nan, hoping not to get sick. After lunch James helped me to do a recording on a bridge and he went to the camp and I stayed and visited the temples inside the temple compound and taking more pictures. Around 5pm I saw that most of the people were seated on the floor and somebody told me that it will be a puja around 6pm. After kicking myself that I did not get a permit to shoot and get on a platform, I did the best out of the situation where I found myself a place to keep the camera steady and get some good view and shot the entire aarthi, that always ends after sunsets with fires put in various places that make the night absolutely spectacular. It was so much to shoot that you needed two cameras. After the aarthi, people are getting in the water that is now blessed by the puja and put candles and offers with candles that flow on Ganga. Everything is so nice that you are speechless. One thing is sure. To be here it is such a treat and a joy that cannot be matched by any other travel in our sedate, developed world. You breath this joy through each of your pore like a bliss. Maybe is normal because Nirvana is a local product. I feel like V when he gets a new Lego set. I left after a while because some guys suggested to me to get a permit and showed me where but after I found the place, there it was a total hysteria with Europeans journalists who did not get their permits and they needed it for the next morning shoot. Here you have the “I have to do this or die” attitude of the US/Europeans meeting ” No problem. Let’s talk tomorrow” attitude of the Indians. So I gave up because my chances were extremely slim and I had some other plans. I went to the camp, a long walk after a full day of shoot with more than 60 minutes on tape, being also puzzled by a small defect in my camera, that luckily I was able to figure out the next morning. At the camp I found out that we will wake up at 2:30 am and we will go and take a deep in the Ganga so we went to sleep around 9:30pm  and we crashed the moment we touch the pillow.

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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in Blog, India

 

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