A Brahmin is a Brahmin..
When we were in 9th or 10th grade there was a story in our English Non-Detailed textbook called "A table is a table" (forgot the author already) where an old man who is bored out of his wits decides to call his table a bed and a plate a spoon etc. and renames everything one day at a time. He is a loner and soon loses his mind as his warped language becomes out of tune with the rest of the world.. it is a sad story.
Well that was a side story just to put the title in context? Maybe not. Just writing that title reminded me of that old story. So if you have a link to that story on the web, do let me know.
This post is really about our one day trip to Allahabad from Varanasi during our recent India visit. We started early in the morning and went to the Triveni Sangam. Then went on to visit Nehruji's house which is now a museum and on the way back to Varanasi stopped by a place called "Sita Mardi" which according to our van driver is the place where Sita is supposed to have gone into the ground at the end of the Ramayana. There was nothing to indicate this at the site even according to religious propaganda people, but it was a cool place and a neat temple in a great setting. So it was worth it.
The kids were their co-operative best considering we had to stop at roadside tea stalls for breakfast and tea. The flies were buzzing by the 100's and daddy and grandpa were designated swatters as mommy watched the tea cups (mud cups of course). In spite of the swatting the little one ended up with gastro-enteritis the next day and we were dealing with doctor visits in Varanasi!
We made it to Prayag and saw the place where the Ganges in full flow met a relatively timid Yamuna river. There were many boats that were willing to carry us to the confluence so "we" could take bath (on the boat?). Let me just say that those ads by Aamir Khan on how to treat tourists in India are simply not working!
The boatmen were hell bent on conning us and our cab driver seemed to be in on the scam for his kickback. Finally after some bargaining we managed to get in one boat and the funny thing was the "exclusive boat for your family only" ended up taking two last minute extras. The boatman said "this is a priest who will go to the sangam and back many times, so he doesn't count against the exclusivity clause".
Off we went and this priest gets to the point and says he will offer a short prayer and it is not going to cost us anything since we paid for the boat. Our spider sense did not tingle and we said "okay". Then he started off and we followed and before you know it the dude is asking us to donate 10000 rupees for some religious charity as part of the prayer!
We told him as politely as we could that he gives the whole priestly class a bad name. Then the rest of the family backed out the "dip" plan because of the strong current and only yours truly decided to take a dip in the confluence of rivers. They had guys on either side of a platform created between boats to catch anyone who drifts off. It was nice and the water was definitely murky and muddy but super fast.
They tell you that when you take that dip at Prayag, you should give up something for the rest of your life. Well, I gave up trusting priests from the UP!
Just before taking the dip we put a few coconuts into the water and this was part of the deal but the guy who drops the coconuts added a 100 rupee note to the coconuts. There are people who go recover the coconuts and the notes and that is another story. But that guy was doing hard labor and I let it slide. So gave him a 100 rupees and told my FIL to give the priest also a token 100 rupees (in spite of his attempted con job) and guess what he says?
"Don't give that untouchable and me the same money! Don't insult a brahmin like this!"
At that point, wanted to just spit on his face and get out of there, but one cannot walk out of a boat that is between two fast moving rivers. So told him to return the 100 rupee note and when we came back to the bank of the river told him that I was touched by the untouchable while he disgraced me.
We have a long way to go and it is hard to believe this is 2011 after an experience like this.
Some pictures from the boats..
It is truly a humbling experience to let the river surround you..
With the exception of the con artists, everything else went well and we did enjoy the boat ride and the small temples on the river banks.
People say you should visit Prayag at least once in your lifetime..
Well, our "once" is done! It may be our "only once" considering the wife, kids and FIL all said "Not again unless we have our own boat!"