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  • Exhausted and just wanting a reasonably priced bottle of water, my roommates and I headed out for a short walk. Got a 7 up. Jeff went to the ATM, and when I wanted to go home to bed, James said “you can go back, but I’m going to keep on walking.” So we walked and walked into the dark night. A plan formed. “Let’s go to the Ganges, take a boat to the other shore, and swim.” Yes and no. Crazy. New momentum and life emerging. A rickshaw pulled up beside us, “Gunga.” Well, yes and no.

    We kept walking steadily into uncertainty but we had all of our clothes and stuff, and no towel. We bought flip flops for 90 rupees and a lungi for 100 rupees and we now had everything we needed to live forever. A guide joined us. Thank you sidekick. What was your name?

    And he brought us past the armed guards, through the alleys, past a cow and a beggar and motor bikes and down into the river ghat. Silent and serene on the river. No boat people. Nobody. Our guide walked to a building, shouted, and a couple of teenagers came scrambling out.

    “We need a boat to take us to the other shore.”

    “You cannot do that now. It is not legal at this hour.”

    “Oh come on. Please take us. We can give the police some rupees if they complain.“

    Pause.

    “We need to get to the other side of this river and submerge in the water tonight.”

    Finally one boy stepped up, “I can take you.” A boat man came out putting on his lungi as he strode over and up from sleep, and he was willing too. They insisted on silence and quickness for this spiritual journey.

    As we paddled out, funeral bonfires blazing beside us, a part of us was dying forever as we crossed the river. James meditated in the back with a half crazy look of disbelief and sincere hand poses. Jeff and I started to undress and focus. Impossible not to completely focus, moving along the calm water, staring at the cremation fires in the still night. We will all die.

    We arrived at the other shore, stepped out, the whole horizon open. The sand soft and welcoming, we submerged into the water. Smooth and thick Ganges. Standing up for the first time. Unlimited energy and clarity. Back on the boat. Drying off. Dressed like western saddhus from a bad Bollywood comedy - when does the song and dance start? (Always from now on ready for that moment.) Headed back to the other shore, which one is heaven and which one is hell? The bonfire pyres kept blazing. And we got a tour of the live cremations, saw dead bodies, felt the fire on our faces. Death and life are perfect the way they are when you look straight and clearly. Meaning appears with invigoration.
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