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May 30, 2013

Local Voices From Around the Globe: Arriving at the last bend in the River

The month of May is the height of the summer in India, a time best spent indoors with a good book and a sliced mango for company.

Unlike the comfortable temperatures of May in Upstate New York, the afternoon highs in my city of Baroda come to rest at around 42 C (that’s 108 F) every day, and will continue to do so until at least the end of the month. For that reason, we all take cover beneath trees, fans, and/or AC units each day for the few hours it takes the sun’s heat to peak and subside. Returning to the United States during the “hot” weather of June will be a welcome change.

My mother recently paid a visit, stepping into my life like a figure from an old painting that hangs in a prominent position on the wall. Immediately upon her arrival, I looked on as she gasped at and photographed some of the more profound aspects of India, things that have become ordinary to me. I was reminded that there had been a time when I too was seeing everything the same way, “shocked and awed” by my new surroundings. While what I see is the same, my vision of it all has been greatly changed.

We traveled to Varanasi (Benares) and New Delhi for a few days of sightseeing. Besides being the oldest city in India, and the holiest in Hinduism, Varanasi, with its indescribably wild streets and eccentric inhabitants, is truly a unique place. The city is on the Ganges River, and many people travel to the city at their time of dying, believing that if one passes from life at Varanasi and has their ashes spread on the water, the soul travels directly to heaven. Thankfully, our purpose there was quite the opposite: To live, to take it all in and to experience a brief but unforgettable moment in both our lives.

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