Monday, November 4, 2013

When I Went Down to the River to Pray

Although, admittedly, I have been here in Varanasi for over a week now, I hadn’t yet done, what everyone comes here to do. I hadn’t gone down to the river and bought a little flower bundle from a cute little girl or boy selling them, then gone down and crouched by the shore of the great holy river Ganges to light the wick and say a blessing for those who have passed. I don’t know why I hadn’t done this yet, except to say, sometimes when you have time, you take time. I was, in a way, waiting for my last day here to say my prayers I think.
Today, however, I got news that a dear friends father had passed away after a very long, very hard, and very well fought battle with cancer. That was my que. It was nearing sunset when I received the news and I had a feeling that his passing was quite recent, I wanted to go right away. I got up, grabbed a little cash, locked my room, left my camera behind for the first time since I got here and went down to the river to pray.
I bought my little prayer bundles from two young girls. I asked the eldest one how much they were, she said, 50Rp. I found this quite amusing because I am pretty sure the Indians get these for 5Rp, maybe 10rp. I had only brought 100rp with me and I had a lot of praying to do, so I knew I had to drive a hard bargain - something I am, much to my regret, not good at. The truth of it is, I could have bought all of those bundles and still had more prayers to make and more blessings to give and more love to send. I asked her how much it would be for five, she said 100Rp. I’m not sure she can drive a hard bargain either. I settle nonetheless, after all, I can’t carry more then that. She is overjoyed by my purchase.
I go down to the water and I sit there for a long time with the flowers and candles in my hand. The youngest of the girls helps me light them. I realize, that this is the first time I have been in public in India and nobody is hassling me. In fact, I virtually disappear. It’s as if they completely respect my devotion and it’s amazing, they aren't offering me boat rides or asking me where I am from, or barely even looking at me. It is heavenly and I bask in it. I am at so much peace down there. I take my time.
I pray for my friend’s father first, I pray for a safe passage for him. Then I pray for her and for her family and for all of his friends and loved ones, and for their strength and courage. Then I send them all of the love in the world. Then another list starts, Raleigh, Dale, Nancy, Aunt Leni, and so, so many others from these past years and onwards back into time. I pray for my friends who have lost their parents young and for everyone who has lost parents. I think about how difficult that must be at any age. I think about cancer. I think about parents who have lost their children young. I pray for them. I send them love. I’m crying now. I’m in public in India and I am crying. I don’t think people do this here. I haven’t seen a single person crying in this city of death, not one. So, I finally wrap it up. I wrap it up by sending out my love to all of the people I love and hoping they know just how important they are to me. And so, to you, whoever you are reading this, I love you, so, so incredibly much and I am so grateful for your love.

Those five candles looked lovely on that river tonight.


  1. Praying for you, dear, for your next leg of the trip. I think you have a few more days in Varanasi but please don't forget to let me know that you've arrived safely in Katmandu! Waves of Love going out over rivers and oceans...

  2. Thank you for sharing such tenderness of the heart. Somehow, some part joins you as you narrate your journey and I can also be a" traveler" in India. Love love love the photos. Bless you and safe travels.