From Kolkata, I travelled directly to Kakdeep and then a ferry to Ganga Sagar island all the while I was watching the rise of fear inside me. The fear of facing unknown. The feeling arises sustains and disappears like the tides of the ocean. I was practising to be calm amidst the turbulence. I could stay at a Kapil Muni Ashram. These people don’t allow single individuals to stay there but I convinced them that I am not a thief. Inside I could see few sadhus praying and doing bhajan in the mandir. I quietly joined them. It went on for an hour. They gave me the prasadam when it ended. All the while I was meditating. The environment there was very suitable for it. The smell of aarthi and sounds of bhajan allowed me to contemplate on self and various identities we make for ourselves. I could see many of my selves, identities come forefront, act and then vanish. I am looking for that which doesn’t transform, unlike these identities, that me which is ever present and attributeless.
The morning was pleasant. Reached the place where a river meets the ocean and also a Kapil Muni Mandir. Now sitting in the shade and waiting for the ferry to come, it may take 3 more hours. I remember yesterday sadhus at ashram came to me and said that “it must be feeling very good to be in complete calm and silence. I have been observing you during the bhajan and felt very happy that you are sitting in the silence.” He said he was previously a government employee and now he spends his life for truth and God.
I should have started the journey from Ganga Sagar early morning itself. But I couldn’t wake up early. Now by the time I take a ferry and reach Kakdwip. It will already be dark and I am not sure where will I have to sleep and stay at night.
My luggage is too heavy to carry for long. I need to give away few so to lighten up. Few clothes and bedsheets are now donated. It’s light but can get lighter. Next time I need to pre-plan the luggage so it’s very light or else this could limit my walking journey.
It was a heavy storm yesterday while I return from Ganga Sagar. The ferry was delayed. The clouds became dark and let itself into a heavy rain. All the passengers waiting for ferry ran for shelters. I never much enjoyed the company of large members of people packed in a small place. But this time it was very cold and a place among hundreds of people gave warmth.
Finally, the ferry arrived. Almost 800 people packed themselves in the ferry. I would say the place is too filled for even a mosquito to enter. But it’s fine. On the way, I was watching a thunderstorm hitting the ground. The thunder light lit up the waters as if it was a day. I felt the magnanimously of the Ganga river. The mighty mother Ganga gave me the darshan of her powerful form. It’s her kingdom. The thunders crack the sky at her will. People are praying for her mercy. What a wonderful Goddess. I am proud to be her instrument of service.
I took a hotel for the night. I thought I would wake up at 5 am and start my journey but I woke up at 9:30 and started the journey at 10:30. I have been walking since then now it’s 2:00 pm. I think I have covered roughly 15 km. I have been walking along the bank and Ganga upstream and traveled along the villages. They were all good. I see a lot of ponds. Almost everyone has a personal pond in their homes. These are rain fed and used for fish rearing. I see people using the same water for bathing and cleaning clothes and utensils. The whole place looks green and beautiful. To my surprise, many people understand slight Hindi. Here the Ganga is very very wide, so wide that it appears like an ocean. The horizons end with sky touching the waters. It’s very sunny. I need to balance my journey or else I won’t be able to walk for 15 more days before falling sick. I need to intelligently manage my breaks so I don’t expose myself too much to Sun and get dehydrated. I am short of water too. Need to back up with more water next time.
I am practising meditation as I walk. I need to differentiate between the self and objects of perception. Let me be myself and let the world of perceptions come and go, transform into its will. I am not my body, not my thought. I am the sense of self. Let the observer be observed and mind rest in calmness.
Preparing for tomorrow. Yesterday was hectic but good. In the end, I was walking feeling tired as I could not have food for the whole day. Passed through many beautiful places, such green lands with water and brownstones looked very pleasant and calm. People were curious about my mosquito net. Almost everyone that spoke to me asked about it.
Understanding the mind is difficult. Many times I was calling myself mad to get into this travel. Only a madman can think of doing this. I do not find a place I could stay or eat. Fear is creeping up but the trust on Ganga kept one going. I started regretting the idea of walking all the way. It’s too long a path for someone alone. I don’t even understand the language but I knew, whatever the mind says, I should keep going. Trust the heart and leave the fate to the Ganges. If she wants me to end, I shall end but until then I will keep going. And I kept going. It’s almost 22km from the start. Now in a village where a group of people who were curious of attire my stopped me. They enquired about my purpose. They seemed rude at the start but became helpful in the end. They dropped me to a nearby village where I could small hotels to eat. One of the persons understands Hindi better than the rest. He said that there is a lot of poverty in the Bengal. People are very poor with no employment opportunity. He blamed Mamta Banerjee for everything. He says people come and say they will develop and gain votes but nothing really happens. On enquiring, he claims that just agriculture as sustenance is not prosperous. He showed half constructed cement houses and claimed that only people who leave the homeland and work in other states can afford such houses but even they take many years to complete a single house. The man I was speaking with is a Cook. He earns 200 INR per day, drinks every night and sleeps.
I see a lot of oilseeds glowing (raai and sunflower). People mostly produce rice, do fish rearing in these ponds. The ponds get water from rain and in turn, also works as an irrigation source for rice plantation.
I took a bus and reached DIMOND HARBOUR, the only place nearby where there are hotels for night stay available. My companion on the bus claimed that terrible industries are polluting the Ganga river a lot. He asked me to do sugar production business and stop working for Ganga. He claims that only an attitude shift in people can bring the change towards river rejuvenation and in the modern world it’s impossible. Sugar factories can generate a lot of money so I better do it he says.
I reached a tourist lodge Sagarika. I took accommodation. The Ganga is just opposite to the road. This city is built on the banks of the river. I stayed in the night. My legs are aching. Not a problem but the skin between my thighs and toes ripped and is causing pain as I walk. This is limiting. I had to stay the entire next day till it heals. For now, I didn’t know where to go next. Again fear started creeping in. I understand I am the self and all the objects come and go so is fear. When I watch the kilometre-wide Ganga, it’s powerful stream, all other problems and hurdles look very very tiny and small so they disappear. Now I am prepared for tomorrow’s journey. I have a start plan. I know Ganga take care of end plan. Let’s see.
The day before yesterday that is 16th, like always I planned to get up early in the morning at 5 am but ended up waking a few minutes before check out time 9:00 am. I took a bus to Falta police station from where I expected to walk till an ashram 11km away. Just before we could reach, the sky turned to pitch dark with clouds. A heavy storm came by. The intensity of rain and thunder is only increasing. I was telling myself, what a day!. I had an umbrella. The bus dropped me earlier than my stop with rain pouring like a waterfall and thunder roaring, I felt the Ganga was speaking to me. In fact, I enjoyed the whole feel. I felt powerful and connected. This heavy rain gave the entire road to me with no traffic at all except few cows.
I walked and walked. Passed through villages. These look little economically forward than the ones in my previous walk near Kakdwip. The road is well laid. I really thank Google maps for all the support. It has been my role guide. Like before I see a lot of ponds. Every house has a beautiful pond designed in its compound with stairs to reach the waters. I wondered how they ensured the safety of small kids in not falling into them. There are a lot of fishermen too. Their boats have two eyes painted on the front. I think that gave these boats a personality and life.
I noticed that the water is moving in the direction opposite to the sea. I was wondering if this is because of high and low tide effects. I asked a fisherman why it’s happening. He says every few hours the direction of flow shifts and he claims that not even researchers can tell why it’s happening and how and where and when the water flows. He looked happy to talk and I was surprised that he could understand Hindi. I also saw a lot of Brick kilns on the way and noticed sunflower and rice fields on the way.
My foot started paining. But I remember the words of Satish. He said, if the mind is fixed on a target or Aim, it should not sense any pain on the way till it reaches the goal. So I moved my mind from the pain in the foot to the feeling of self. I told to myself, I should not allow any thought other than Ganga flow and being in self entered my heart and mind. As I did it, the pain vanished. I became stronger. I crossed my original destination Ashram and felt that I have lot more energy to continue. I started meditating while I kept walking. I could feel the urges of smoking, drinking and sensual pleasures come from my mind. I see them came, sustain for a minute and then vanish. At first, I worried that why do I need to give up all these pleasures. What’s wrong in being their slave, at least they gave me satisfaction for time being. The more I think so, the more I missed them. But this time as the feeling and desire arose, I saw for how long it sustains. They came, creating a craving for a few minutes and then subside. As they subsided, the feeling to fulfil the desire vanishes. That’s it. This is the trick. Let it pass, it eventually dissolves in me like all other experiences.
I kept walking. Only me and Ganga in my perception. I shall not allow anything else occupy my mind. That was my determination. When I sit silent, the mind easily drifts between thoughts but as I am walking, the energy of the body is already being disbursed so it allowed my mind to stay still at one point so it’s “walk and meditate”. I started enjoying this. I saw different identities of mine pass through me. They arose, sustained and vanished into me. I am there.
Is it really me who is walking. I am just there. The body is walking. I, in reality, do not move at all. I am always just there. I appear as if I walk and my body moves. But in reality, I just stay at being there. I am still. The body and mind were doing its walk. As per it’s given a goal. I am not the body, not thought. I do not walk or do I experience. I am just there. With no identity. Watching myself in the stillness. Me within me by myself, slowly though I walk, people look at me, places change, I notice nothing but me being there, I notice myself, fulfilled and complete. Oh! Ganga, I am your devotee, please take me in your arms, I am your child.
I covered around 25km. I contacted Chiranjeevi, my senior in college. He stays in Kolkata. What an experience I had to take a sharing auto, then local train, then local bus, then metro, then a sharing auto again, and finally a rickshaw to reach his place. But when I was walking I didn’t recognize the pain in the foot but now as my mind moved away from my goal to walk, the pain became very evident; every step is painful. I reached his home and saw my feet. It’s wounded and soaked in water. The friction in my shoes and wet sole tore the skin at few parts. Now, this needs to heal before my next walk.
Yesterday was a break. The day went by. I met Satish on the night. He travelled to Kolkata for some work. This is the first time I met him outside Kanpur and Hyderabad. I enjoyed meeting him.
Today we planned to visit Bandeel. Let’s see.
We visited bandeel Church and then the Ganga bank. I could see a lot of boats and ferries. I remember seeing large ships with containers travelling towards Kolkata on my walk from Dimond harbour. I wonder how much do these ships pollute the water.
We visited the ghats in Hoogly and Naihati as well. This gave me a perspective of Ganga ( Hoogly river) just upstream of Kolkata. I thought I would stay at a place called Kalyani near Bandeel and start my walk from there but it happened that my plan shifted to Mayapur. Chiru suggested that I start my walk from here. It’s a birthplace of Swami Prabhupada, the ISKON man. I got a ticket to Krishna Nagar, the nearest station to Mayapur. It’s a local train from Kolkata (start). It was way too crowded but in all these days of my travel in Bengal, I got used to travelling amongst heavy rush. I barely get the chance to move my hands inside the train. I got glimpses of me sitting in a comfortable A/C rooms but now standing in an iron box (train), packed in between so many people, I got back to the self and meditation mode. I saw the world of train and people disappear. Now I am comfortable. Without much notice, 15 hours of the journey just passed.
I reached Mayapur. To my surprise, no hotel accommodates a single person. It’s strange but almost every hotel refused to accommodate me. They say “Ek Jun Ko nahi dete”. Foolish minds. I was getting angry. I have all the ID cards but none are willing to take a look. I met a family from Andhra. I recognized them while they are talking in Telugu. They took me to Geeta Bhawan in the ISKON centre. Even they refused to accommodate a lone person. They said a minimum of two people is required. When I enquired it appears that suicide is a problem I don’t really understand but it’s nonsense. I got all the IDs. Anyway, after the personal guarantee by the Andhra family, they charged me for a 4 bed filled room and gave 10 hours before check out time. I shout I was looted by them. I have got no choice. I took it. I am angry because I thought I would visit this place and go around to see the temples and maybe have few spiritual discourses but the place felt unwelcoming. I am very scared of cults and I very strongly get that vibes here. If it is not for my angel, this place would have appeared very attractive but now I feel very repelled. I will get up and start walking away from this place early tomorrow morning.
Yesterday morning started out pleasant. While getting down from stairs, I heard the chants of “Hare Krishna, Hare Ram” in the ISKON prayer hall. I stopped by to listen. The tone of chanting pleased my mind. This felt so opposite to yesterday. Anyway, I am happy that my heart is leaving with a positive feeling. I got into an auto and asked the young kid driving to show me a place where I can start my walk. He said that before I leave, I must visit Jagannath temple and birthplace of Chaitanya Swami. Initially, I refused but then I felt his words are genuine so I asked him to take me there.
As I went inside the Jagannath temple I found a lady and guy foreigners in Indian clothes playing with their two small kids in Indian dhoti. I was surprised and wondered what would have motivated them to adopt this place and culture. ISKON was very well able to do that all over the world. I don’t understand how. They just chant. The temple was new, I sat for meditation and then got lost in the beautiful fragrances probably from the incense sticks. They were so good that it touched my heart. Then I visited an old Shiva temple there, bowed to the idol and saw a young Brahmachari doing sashtanga namaskara. I always bow and pray but to literally lay down on the floor to offer respect is not what I usually prefer to do. I saw that as a common practice among all the ISKON followers. It’s not really my ego that stops me doing it but I don’t really accept complete submission to any human. Here it’s Shiva so I followed him and did sashtanga namaskara. Then I moved to the next temple in the same vicinity. It’s Maa Durga and Chaitanya Prabhu temple. Again I saw this man lying on the floor and offering his respect. I did the same. This time he looked at me and smiled and enquired where do I stay. I told him that I am leaving and came here just for a day. He explained to me the entire story of the temple and the idols of all the Gods there. He said that he saw a sincere devotion in my presence and something deep inside his heart asked him to talk to me and introduce me to the place. He also explained to me why people in Mayapur do not give the stay to lone travellers. It’s the few cases in the past where people died and blame went to them. But he said if I want to stay more, he can easily get me accommodation. This smoothened my angel. At least I am at peace. I meditated little more and left to the birthplace of Swami Chaitanya and came back to auto. The young kid driver told me that he is very happy meeting me. He said he never met anyone like me. I was surprised at what he saw. To be true I thought he just wanted little more extra tip while I leave but at the end, I felt his words are genuine, and he means it. Not sure what he felt but I liked his presence too. He dropped me at a ghat and asked me to walk from there. Overall, I liked the Mayapur. Next time I will take more time and visit this place. I will ask someone to accompany me too. ☺
It’s mad. Beside the Ganga is full of bushes and filled with elephant grass. I cannot imagine walking through them. It’s literally a part jungle. I thought there would at least be a thin route along the river. But this is crazy. How can I go ahead? I prayed to Ganga, took a leap of faith and moved towards walking along the banks. Initially, I had to move in between long grass blades but soon I found farmlands beside it. I moved there. I asked people walking if there is a way forward through the farms. They said there is no direct route but I can move through farm boundaries. I saw a lot of lands with harvested paddy. I also saw a few vegetables like Parwal. With Ganga in my heart, I am sure she would lead the path ahead. As I moved I found a thin route along the Ganga bank beside the farmlands. As I moved ahead I saw jute (paatt) crops everywhere. Most of the land is either rice or jute. It’s mixed mostly. A small patch is used for rice surrounded by a lot of jute farms. I kept walking. It got very very hot now. I am feeling weak. I asked for water and snacks in between from farmers. That kept me going. Unlike other days, this time I feel very dehydrated. I found a shade and laid back for 1 hour. This time on my walk I could interact with some farmers. Though language is a problem I managed to make small conversations through sign language and few common Hindi words. I found that the entire area at least 100 km from here grows mostly jute, rice, and a few vegetables. Their major source of irrigation is groundwater which is typically from 60 to 120 feet below. Their major problem is land inundation due to flooding of the river. They claim floods destroy a lot of their crop and leave them at loss. They also claimed that agriculture is a work of the old generation and young kids don’t prefer it. Mostly because it’s too much work and less profitable. They say that most of the young population is unemployed and poverty is sticking back at them. Young say, they are waiting for the government to offer some jobs.
I also saw a few plantations of banana, mango, litchi and a lot of stray bamboos. I kept walking and meditating. I am the self, the shuddha Chaitanya. The world is just a dead matter(Jada Padarth). The world gains life through me, so does my body and thought. I felt fear in between as I was going through unknown places. Didn’t know what I had to face but my knowledge that I am the self and different from objects of experience and can never be affected by any experience whatsoever gave me courage. My body is of same nature as this Earth, river, air and living systems. It’s all dead matter. It’s me who is the observer and giver of reality to these objects. I am there and in me, the world appears, sustains and disappears. Any reflection on a mirror can never affect the mirror itself. A fire or rain can neither burn nor wet the mirror. The same way any construction or destruction in the observed experience doesn’t really affect the self that is the me that is the shuddha Chaitanya. It’s very important to understand this subtle knowledge of self (Chaitanya) and would of dead matter (Jada padarth)
So I had covered around 15 km today, took a drift from a tractor and reached dooglapur, and took a train to Berhampore, and got a stay at tourist lodge.
Today morning I took a walk to Ganga banks. I found an old banyan tree with Shiva linga under it. I took some Ganga water and offered my prayer to Shiva. I sat to meditate for some time. Time went by. My mind got calm. The river is quite thin here. As I was travelling from Ganga Sagar the river became thinner and thinner around 5 km wide at Kakwip (mouth), around 800 meters to 1 km below Kolkata, around 500 meters at Hoogly district and around 200 meters at Mayapur and Berhampore. As the river goes towards sea many other distributaries of Ganga river and small tributaries of Hoogly river join the main channel.
Here the river appeared clean and I could drink the little water from the banks. Tomorrow I plan to walk along the city and town roads beside the Ganga river and reach Azimganj and then finally Jangipur. Let’s see what comes ahead.
Yesterday was great. I could walk for 22 km before I reach Azimganj and Jangipur. The trip went as per the plan. I started with city roads. There were ghats everywhere. Almost every ghat in Berhampore had a Shiv Mandir and a banyan tree. I even stopped by a site and meditated. Then the path led to the village side, I walked along the banks through the villages and farmlands. This time I got far more looks than in the past. I could see a lot of farms with crops that look like bajra, the local said it’s called gahuma and it’s the fodder for their animals (cows and goats). Then I saw maize crops and came to know that it’s one of the dominant crops of this season here. They are also growing a lot of vegetables like brinjal, tomato, parwal, banana etc. I could also see the gardens of mango and guava trees. Here people in villages and towns are far more fluent in Hindi than the ones downstream. Almost everyone spoke and understood a little bit of Hindi thus making my conversations easier. Then I reached Murshidabad. The river is getting thinner. The meandering of the river has increased very much since Kolkata. Downstream of Kolkata, the river is wide and almost straight while the upstream is thin and meandering. I could spot a lot of oxbow lakes on my way too.
The banks of Murshidabad have a good combination of both Hindu and Muslim architectures. There was even a palace of King Murshid Quli Khan as a heritage site. As I go along, the jute plantations came back. All the while there is a lot of stray bamboos grown everywhere. I even picked up a fine one for myself. The dogs from here became nasty. They started barking and growling as I walk past them. Mostly locals stopped them from following me.
I stopped at a temple and meditated for 20-30 mins, drank the tubewell water. It tasted very metallic. Maybe heavy metal combinations. On the way, I saw a lot of surface water extraction sites, where they draw water from the river and supply for drinking water. This may be because of prevalent groundwater contaminations.
The whole place besides The Ganga has been very beautiful. I calm my mind. A still mind is a great tool for meditation. I walked, I allowed various identities of mine surface up and I observed them act and let them pass. My goal is to see the transience of these self-identifications. We usually take them way too seriously and even drive our lives thinking they are real. These identities of self in the mind are accumulations of a set of thoughts and emotions. They grow, change and vanish with time. I meditated on the fact that I am there, the different identities came, sustained and disappeared but I the sense which is identityless still remains. For that is pure Chita or shuddha chaitanya or pure consciousness.
My leg started hurting. I am sure new wounds have developed on the feet due to friction. For me to move ahead I need to shift my mind from the pain to the goal and Ganga. As I allow my mind to meditate on the purpose of walk and sense of self the pain vanished from my perception for the time being but as I drift from the focus, the pain resurfaces. I had to practice this again and again through the entire journey.
I reached Jiaganj and took a boat Azimganj and then a local train to Jangipur. Today I plan to travel to Farakka and end this short journey to fulfil the bigger Ganga journey from Gomukh.
I reached Farakka. From Jangipur, I took a bus to Dulhiyaan and from there I walked about 18 km to reach Farakka. The road was straight and along the just emerging Hoogly. Here the river is still a feeder canal from Farakka barrage which eventually becomes Hoogly from Jangipur. The channel does not meander and has a width less than 200meters.
Today was the last part of Hoogly. I was thinking of all the events in the past journeys. I felt that with Ganga in heart anything could be achieved. A mind without devotion is a breeding ground for hedonistic life. A weak mind is always attracted to seeking and consuming pleasures. In my case, it’s craving for smoke and sensual feelings. All this while in the trip I stayed vegetarian, never sensualized women, even in thoughts, didn’t intoxicate myself but still remained happy which isn’t the case when I’m at work. I need some quick pleasure to fulfil myself but here when the mind is surrendered to something higher, then running behind the quick gratifications has ceased. Like they say, Intellect is a great tool and worker but a horrible master. When I let the mind to run the life, it’s a self-degrading and slavery for pleasure seeking but when it’s directed towards devotion with love, it has set itself free.
Finally, I could see the litchi plantations. I have been seeing them in the markets since the start of my journey but never could see the trees. Today I saw and ate one directly from the tree. There are also a lot of sugarcane plantations. One of the farmers gave me a small stick to chew. It was great. On the way, I saw rice, jute, and a few vegetables. In many villages, I observed that women are sitting in roofs and rolling beedis. It was a very common right here. I see women sit in front of their homes, beside the road and make beedis. The kids collect all the rolled ones and sell it to a dealer who seems to be common to a particular village. I wanted to photograph this but I couldn’t as I was not sure if me clicking pictures of village women will be taken in a positive light.
The water here is very clear. I see a lot of people bathing in the afternoon. Surprisingly a lot too many people are using ghats here to bath. In my conversations with the locals, everyone was curious where is my hometown. That’s the first question almost everyone asked me. My answer that Andhra and Kanpur were interesting to them.
I reached Farakka. Took bathe in the Ganga. It’s wonderful. Now I need to plan for the bigger trip. But this time I want to fill everything. Not just click pictures and write, film the entire journey and gave a perspective on the motivations of Kritsnam to all the people.I will take a ride to Kolkata and then to Kanpur from here.