Slowly Down the Ganges

I went to exchange my copy of the Ramayana at the used bookstore in Kolkata today and found Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby. It’s about a couple’s 1200-mile trip down the Ganges in the 1960s. Here’s how it starts:

This is the story of a twelve-hundred-mile journey down the Ganges from the place where it enters the Plains of India to the Sandheads, forty miles offshore in the Bay of Bengal, made by two Europeans in the winter of 1963-4. It is not an heroic story such as that of Franklin and his companions chewing leather on the banks of the Coppermine River but having got there (it is difficult to envy Franklin); of Ives seeing for the first time the great canyon of the Colorado; of Garnier reaching the headwaters of the Yangtze; or of Bailey and Morshead travelling sixteen hundred miles on foot through the gorges of the Tsangpo. We were born too late for such feats, even if we had had the courage and determination to perform them. We were even prevented from emulating the painter James Fraser’s long journey to the sources of the Bhagirathi Ganges–one which is made by numerous pilgrims–by the coming of the snow and our own meagre resources. It is not a book about India today; neither is it concerned with politics or economics. It is certainly not erudite, as must be obvious to anyone who has the patience to read it. It is about the river as we found it.

–Angie

Excerpts – WHAT INDIA OFFERS THE WORLD

The notion that the west is ahead in the march toward world progress is now discredited. If we want to have a world that functions properly, we need to accept the fact that all cultures have their own integrity and all cultures have a part of the answer to life. In this understanding, India has some things to offer, and we do well to consider its offerings in our understanding of the world.

NON-DUALISM is a basic tenet of a major school on Indian philosophy with implications for all philosophizing. There is no twoness, all is one. This includes the oneness of men and gods

NON JUDGMENTAL ACCEPTANCE OF ALTERNATE SOLUTIONS; this is most obvious in religion. All of our gods are only part of GOD.

WE SHARE THE WORLD WITH OTHERS; none of it is ‘mine’. See this in the traffic patterns.

LIMITATIONS OF THE MATERIAL WORLD. Underlying Hindu spirituality is the notion that the material world is not the real world or at least not the only world.

NON ATTACHMENT to material, temporal things.

GREAT PATIENCE recognizing that the path to fulfillment/salvation is long. and may even require multiple ives to travel.

METHODS OF MEDITATION involving great discipline of body and mind. Yoga is one name used for some of these techniques.

WAKE UP SLOW IN THE MORNING

KARMA. We reap what we sow. Actions should be weighed in terms of their spiritual and eternal results.

MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS. In the search for solutions the Indian is not confined to looking for a single solution; there are limits to linear thinking.

YOUTH. India now has a larger group as % of population of young persons coming of age in the next two decades than any western country or China

Today India’s youth are OPTIMISTIC, confident that the future belongs to them.

[from Frank Van Aalst's tour book]

the tale of an image

photo by Ben Mortimer

We stopped at a temple before a bridge in the middle of the afternoon one day on the river. We were trying to make time and hurry along, and it was just after the nerve-wracking morning when Charlie was taken to a hospital for kidney problems, not long after we passed through the bhiraj. We were still a little shook up.

The man to the left of Martina, he insisted we eat at the temple, which was beautiful and surrounded by woods. Many Indians had been taxied there to spend a holiday that day. They fed us bottomless plates of spicy curry and rotis, rice pudding. He spoke English really well–had been in the US Air Force, he said, went to the Philippines.

In america, we have “closed” showers, but in india the showers are “clothed”! A bunch of us had our first showers in a while here, squatting on the bows of our boats or walking over to the temple well. In the morning as we left he only asked we mention our stay on our website.