Monday, July 25, 2005

197. Jai Ram (the new boat)


Ganesha is the god of new beginnings,
a portly jolly little elephant, with the hint
of a twinkle in his eye: so, naturally, when
the new boat was ready, we draped the bow
with bright orange marigolds, used our thumbs
to rub on the lucky red powder, lit the cones
of incense and then said our poojah.

Bholanath, red-eyed with drink, dark as a Dravidian,
clapped his hands and we all sprang to our feet
with a shout, pushed the new boat down the sand,
and launched it into Mother Ganga: shabash!
Arey bap ... it floats! Well done, Ganesha!!
All five of us tumbled on board, fitted the oars,
grinned and waited for starter's orders ....

Jai Ram! Ram Ram ki Jai! Ahchaa ... shabash!!
Dukhi and Nagesh took a lunge on the oars
and we shot like a bullet into the stream, roaring
with happy laughter, narrowly avoiding
the decapitation of several pious bathers:
dear sweet snotgreen Mother Ganga,
most blessed and wonderful of all rivers!

Ignore the iron ugliness of the railway bridge,
a legacy of the myopic practical British,
and gaze on the jumble of temples and terraces
elbowing each other along the shore, see the
colourful crowded bathing ghats, a scene unchanged
for two or three or four hundred years,
and know you are in the heart and core of India.