That Girl on the Ganges

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 19th, 2007. Updated on February 15th, 2011. Published in: Travel blog » India.

Travel Journal Overview: Quite often I will take from my journal here, and create a travelogue in my stories section. This is one such extract.  Below is the original blog write up.  While the following link contains a better written travelogue and story, including many more photographs. Accomplishing Something on the Ganges

A Flower Girl on the Ganges (click to enlarge)

A Flower Girl on the Ganges (click to enlarge)

Bob had headed off the night before, and the Italians were off on another boat trip. I had my train tickets delivered to the hotel and had a morning with Waseem showing me how much better his bike is than Raja’s. Indeed his was all of a 180cc, but had the added benefit of having a red faring in the style of a 400cc speedster. I also have to say Waseem was a better driver. And he did take me to some good photogenic places.

I knew it was going to be a long day, my train was at 12.30am tonight. And after spending the morning zipping along Varanasi’s streets with Waseem I wanted to chill out. There was no better place than a river side seat on the Ganges.

It was after lunch, and the river was quiet. Even in the afternoons harsh light, the river had a certain golden glow to it. A cute young girl of about 8 years was selling flowers came up to me. I brushed her away like all the others young kids around the area. But she did have a good face for a photograph. She had clever eyes, something I caught on to very quickly.

“10 Rupees for flowers” She said showing me her basket of little orange flowers arranged into little candle boats. The flowers were in bundles of 5 all surrounding a short little white candle set on a brown leaf of some type that was shaped into that of circle so that it could float like so many others on the river.

I shook my head, “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

She smiled, “I was, This morning. See, learn English there.”

Whether she was smart, or good at extracting tourists money, it didn’t matter. She made me laugh. I handed her 20. She smiled again. We talked for a while, and indeed her English was quite good. Then she ran down the steps towards the shore and tried to sell the candle boats to a tourist. But each time she would come back.

“I give you 20 rupees for the fifty in your pocket!”

Damn, she had seen my change when I had paid for the flowers. Smart girl.

Shaking my head I smiled, “Why should I give you my fifty?”

She shrugged, “Because I asked for it!”

I laughed again. And yes I did give her the fifty. It was worth it for the conversation, and the fact that she kept the other street children away from me. She didn’t stay much more. But our parting conversation would effect the rest of my evening.

She asked my name as she looked at the little vessel of flowers I had bought from her. “You should put that in the river for your family, and light it.”

Her eyes were innocent, yet wise, she paused while looking between the flowers and me, “or, for your friends.”

I thanked her again and watched as she walked away. Something about all that made me think if indeed India had that spiritual essence people talk of.

Waseem was gracious enough to allow me to stay in my room that evening for half price. It gave me a chance to pack and relax. For dinner it was just me and the Italians, which was nice. I began to tell them of the girl at by the Ganges. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the little candle boat I had bought. I had never sent it to the river.

Gillian looked at me with a blue eyed gaze and out of nowhere said she would do it for me tomorrow. I scowled. What was it about the little candle boat?

The hotel chef and resident conversation starter interrupted. He suggested I should go to the roof and stand in silence for 5 minutes, and that would do instead. It was a damn flower boat, yet everyone was concerned I had not set it away.

As I bid the Italians goodbye, Waseem and his family presented me with a garnet of orange flowers. They then gave me the Hindu symbol of good luck and placed a red dot on my forehead along with a big round of applause. Was this my birthday in Hindu? Such a fuss. I wondered if Waseem thought I worked for a guide book company. But it was moving to have a mini send off like that.

Back in my room I had everything ready. It was 11pm. And the candle boat was doing my head in. I had to do it. Heading downstairs I woke Raja up to open the door and told him I had to go to the Ganges to do something.

“No problems, you go.” he stretched wearily.

I walked quickly through the dark alley’s. There was nobody around. I wondered if the crumbling little candle boat would even float.

I reached the shoreline and lit the candle. Being careful not to touch the water myself and wondering if it would float I gently placed the little candle boat into the Ganges river. It did float. The flowers headed off north with the rivers gentle current. The candles little light twinkling in the waters reflection. It felt good. As if it was meant to happen, and did.

Raja opened the doors to the hotel, “Did you get to the Ganges?”

I replied with successful nod.

“Good,”he nodded thoughtfully in return. Though it could equally have been a sleepy nod.

Was I missing something here? It didn’t matter. It felt good to have accomplished it.

Now all I needed was an Auto Rickshaw to the Train station.

Some related links on this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from India)

Stories: The Dealing with the Delhi Post Office

Stories: Accomplishing Something on the Ganges

Video: On the Ganges Ceremony

India Travel Guide

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