Saturday, April 26, 2008

Devil Worshipers and other tales

It was a hot morning in Delhi, when the six of us set off for Shivpuri. A small village north of Rishikesh. The small Wagon R was cramped and the air-conditioning had little effect. After a breakfast at a small roadside eatery, we managed to arrive at Rishikesh at about one in the afternoon in spite of the fabled roads of UP. The drive to Shivpuri lasted another two hours through the narrow hill roads. Reaching there, we checked into one of the rafting camps on the banks of the Ganga. A hot wind blew across the camp slowly heating the already baking sand. Seven hours in the Northern sun had left precious little in us.

The first dip in the waters of the Ganga took my breath away. It was cold. Very cold. But it felt good. All around us, people were playing and swimming the the river. We stayed in the water for all of two hours, before hunger drove us away. After a very agreeable lunch, we were back with a vengeance. After swimming about some more, we lied on the bank and relaxed. All the while, we watched various pretty things splash around in the river.

Building sand sculptures was never my thing. But the weather was pleasant. The water was cold, the scene was pretty. I was intoxicated. And we took it upon ourselves to build a replica of the Pentagon. In the end, we achieved something that resembled a pentagon. At which point, we hit upon a bright idea. We would convert our pentagon in to a pentagram and conduct devil worship. We the proceeded to turn it into a convincing pentagram and began our devil worship with very convincing fake rituals. As that soon grew old, we decided to go to sleep for a while.

But we were soon interrupted by a loud commotion. Someone was calling out loud for the camp in-charge. We thought that it might have been the volley-ball that had got washed into the river. When we arrived at the scene, it turned out that it was actually someone who had gone under. He was part of a four people group on the bank, who were making merry, getting pleasantly drunk. And the person who had now gone under, had until then refused to get into the river. The camp people rushed to the scene and got rescue rafts circling the spots. As we talked to the people there, they expressed little hope that he would be found alive. All their talks were of when the body would surface and not of actually finding him alive. They told stories of many such incidents because of the strong eddy that pulled everything underneath it.

Flustered, we returned to the camp. Realisation dawned that that unfortunate fellow had gotten into the water the precise moment we had our little game of devil worship. He had until then refused to get into the water. We tried to rationalise that this was all just a freakish co-incidence. Perhaps it was. Yes, it was just that, a freakish, very unfortunate, co-incidence.