Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What makes the Ganga dirty and the roads stinky!

Recently I completed reading a work of fiction, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer. I cannot say that I liked the read but parts of the book remained with me long after I put the book to rest. I must confess that I purchased the book after reading some glowing reviews of the book. I wouldn't say that the purchase went awry for the book is an impressive hard-bound one with a colourful jacket that is quite a sight in my shelf of books! So much so for the appearance. I remembered the phrase, "Appearances can be deceptive" from Shakespeare. Let me go on with the post.

The first section of the book talks of the protagonist's experience in Venice and the second half is his experience in Varanasi. Apart from the Vs, it so happens that both the cities have many similarities that only the discerning traveller can spot. The protagonist Jeff does not see much similarity between the two Vs and treats each city according to its special flavour.



Jeff is sent to Varanasi for an assignment and even after he completes his assignment, he prolongs his stay in the holy city. When Jeff first lands in Varanasi, he seems like any other tourist complaining about the dirt and squalor of the city and questions the 'holiness' of the river Ganga. But as time goes on and Jeff grows tuned to the city and its ways, he experiences a spiritual transformation. But believe me, the spirituality is what I perceived of the change but Jeff does not think so. One fine morning when the sun is just about rising and there is a chilly weather, Jeff plunges into the Ganga for a dip. The previous thoughts of dirt, grime, dead bodies and other things no longer niggle his mind. This particular passage struck a chord within me. I began to meander as to what is this disgusting feeling with dirt and shit? Everyday while passing the roads one encounters so much garbage, shit, and an assortment of waste materials but inspite of all that we continue living and in a way all that on the road becomes a part of our daily existence. Even though we despise squalor, we cannot leave the place looking for a place which is benign. We live on. And Jeff discovered that when he decided to take a dip in the infamous 'dirtiest river in the world,' where corpses float and animal carcasses rot. Nothing bothered him. At that precise moment when realisation struck Jeff, he became someone who valued the sanctity of the river and respected the intrinsic value of the Ganga.

Reader, does this post strike a chord with you. Tell me . . .

Image: Internet

29 comments:

  1. Actually, it intrigues me to read the book to hear more about how he came to get in the river. How did he decide and for what purpose?

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    1. Jodi, welcome to the Meanderings. Glad to have you stop by.

      Jodi, Jeff lives in Varanasi visiting the temples and engaging in the things that the city has to offer. One fine days he shaves his hair and beard and starts wearing a dhothi, the traditional Indian costume. He gradually grows into the place and on a whim plunges into the river, one fine morning. he just did it without any thought or meditation. Certain things are just done -- no reason or explanation can suffice.

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  2. interesting...when he was able to accept it for what it was of maybe even what it could be he was able to transcend the dirt and filth...interesting thoughts out of this...

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    1. Brian, the transcending just comes. I was not able to put my finger on a particular incident or time. It just happened.

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  3. This sounds like a very interesting book to read Susan! I am curious to read about his transformation. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You should read it, Nel. Being an avid traveller, you might enjoy this work by Geoff Dyer.

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  4. interesting - maybe will get to read it someday

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  5. Interesting, Susan. Briefly here I tell you how my view of the Universe has changed. As a baby, and into memory is embedded this: my mother referred to excrement as "messy". If we youngsters had to "go" we referred to it as "UNGH" (pushing!) or "I gotta MESSY" which meant take a crap.

    I have grown to see nothing unusual about the 'nature-of-natural'. The Universe, of which we all are...is made of dirt, dust, decay, smells (gas), death, green grass, cow manure, etc., and you and me--and all else, MOST of which we know nothing!

    So WHY would I still prefer to bathe NOT in that river of yours? Perplexing question, on which I will dwell for several seconds--grin!

    Riding my scooter today, I passed--in different neighborhoods--groups of Peeps, mostly older, filling sacks with trash and garbage from alongside the highways. On my trips, I see the same out on the Interstates, keeping our country clean. It is never-ending work, but proud work...satisfying. (They are NOT paid!). I see this all over our country.

    Not perfection--but a striving for that end. STILL, LOTS of filth(?) (Universe!) left...it is a big country.

    India has not the infrastructure which has been built here--ours is a rather new country in comparison, of course! As I began....INTERESTING!

    Thank you, my Friend!
    PEACE!
    Steve

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    1. Thanks for the detailed comment, Steve. You are quite astute in your observations. You have the stronghold of age!

      India definitely is quite a large country with huge population and it's kind of difficult to get anything done uniformly. I think if each and every citizen does something, then there might be a change.

      Inspite of everything, the country is subsumed within us and we within it.

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  6. Hmmm Doesnot strike a cord with me this one .. but interesting though..

    I am contradicting myself here :)

    Bikram's

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    1. Hmmmm. I wonder what was going on in your mind when you read this!

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  7. what does not kill you (or disgust you)...becomes a part of your life...applies equally to dirt/grime and also people..

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    1. Doktor, the shit on the roads do disgust us but still we go on and live here.

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  8. Yes, this post strikes a cord with me. It sounds like quite a spiritual transformation, and I wonder how the author goes about explaining this. It sounds like a book I would read. It's interesting that some parts of it stayed with you.

    Take care always.

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    1. Myrna, only if you read, you can understand what I have to say. I think I fail when it comes to talking about the transformation -- The change just comes!

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  9. Your posts are always so interesting. I always maintain that we can get used to anything if we do it often enough or if there is no alternative. But dead bodies floating, shit and dirt...hard to imagine getting used to that or accepting it as norm.

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    1. Is it getting used to something or internalising something unconsciously, I wonder.

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  10. The book sounds really intriguing. I think Jeff finally understood spirituality.

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    1. Yes, I guess so. But Jeff never calls it spirituality or anything. He just carries on with life, continuing his stay in Varanasi.

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  11. Very deep and interesting....I think it is all about eventual acceptance in the end Susan...Is it?

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    1. Acceptance of the individual by the place or vice-versa?

      I still wonder . . .

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  12. Interesting. Sometimes we find treasure in the midst of the filth.

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    1. Is it finding treasure or internalising the filth and not seeing it as apart from you.

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  13. Can you see me nodding Susan, I am in absolute accordance to your post! The crazy muck we live with and call it a day.

    Why, in Trichy my hometown, a temple called Samayapuram is SO famous and is visited by numerous devotees, in turn rendering it dirty. BUT we tend to see the sanctity in the place and not the grime... welll... good or bad or the attuned life?? :)

    Do stop by my blog!! I'd love your visits & comments!

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    1. I don't believe this! I am from Trichy and my dad's home town is Samayapuram!

      It is not temples alone but even the roads, hospitals, bus-stops and many such places. One just unconsciously tunes to it.

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  14. I have gained a lot while reading your blog. I will definitely share this information with my friends.
    Thanks for sharing.
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