From time to time, a dip in the river changes your perception about that river you just became with. She starts knowing you and you her. To start with, first of all she calms you down. Slowly changing your inner nature. And gradually of the outside. It may even happen that hundreds of dips later over the years you may start earning some qualities of that river. Your temperature of the body gets strengthened and so does your smile. And if you are open as you naturally should be, like a child; your ever expanding nature will carry you then to the places that can only be created behind your closed eyes. Sailing along patterns of current, looking at forms, colours, patterns, walls, speculating other dimensions in the dark, to the sounds of birds and leaves, of burning dead trees and water ripples, hearing bodies visually and later, very slowly language.
Sometimes a small reaction changes the whole tail of events. Sometimes the start itself is the end. But the dip is important. Because that is the window to nature. And all nature is within.
Today, three years ago, i was bathing in the northern most ancient river Vitasta; Jhelum, as people know of it today, with Rasool and Shiva, in South Kashmir. It was such a beautiful noon that even today i keep travelling back to every single tide that joined me whenever i hear of Jhelum. From where we were swimming, a few hundred metres later she, the river was meeting a small messenger like river Lidder. Some
children had joined us from Anantnag, bathing too. I was observing them, more so looking after because I knew their parents.
Meanwhile Arif found an eagle for me to photograph, she had died may be that same morning. As the young boy opened her wings, its span covered his upper half.
People in most part of Kashmir, still carry a feel of the old world. A fish catcher just like a bird catcher in old days, was literally seen running over the river, catching fishes with a bow net, keeping them all alive in a bamboo basket. Decades old Indian houseboats were seen passing by, children sitting in them watching us watching them; these boats looked completely different from the british ones on Dal. It was here on her banks sixty six years ago, Rasool was born in a houseboat, their home- and his father after his birth decided to leave Jhelum and rowed on a rainy night approximately 150 miles upstream to Dal Lake, in Srinagar where now Rasool lives alone, mostly locked in a small room marred by memories and the floods of 2014. It was this room which became my home for five months, where i lived, slept and ate together with Rasool, looked after his bird park. Learnt rowing myself. But It was much later, only after all those months Rasool brought me to meet with his birth river, Jhelum from Srinagar.
I saw Kashmir with Rasool’s eye. It is his voice that i hear when i travel to Kashmir lying my Delhi Room today. His directions became mine. And the quiet midnight’s that he enjoyed on Dal only after he taught me rowing.
Ka is water and mir is collection. It was him due to whom all my dips in the ancient waters of Kashmir happened. And they all are dedicated whole heartedly to him.
Many writers have different opinions about the name Jhelum. One suggestion is that an earlier name of Jhelum was Jalham, reportedly derived from the words Jal (pure water) and Ham (snow). The name thus refers to the waters of a river which have their origins in the snow-capped Pir Panjal, The Himalayas.
It is said that the sanskrit name of Jhelum is Vitastā, and which was given to her by Shiva himself. River Vitasta was written about in the first ever text known to mankind Rigveda, where she is mentioned as one of the major river, also as one of the seven rivers (sapta-sindhu). According to the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Vitastā is one of the many transcendental rivers flowing through the land of Bharata, or ancient India.
It had already been five hours. I was sitting sun bathing on the pebbles admiring the peaks of the Greater Himalayas on one side, and Pir Panjal on the other, thinking of this day, time, moments passing which I knew was nothing more than divinity gracing me, to feel her beauty, her nature like she welcoming an old acquaintance to her best kept corner; It was that feeling of simultaneous realisation when I wanted to have this afternoon going forever, letting the sounds of Shiva and Rasool talking and laughing over the sound of the river. Sitting, i kept desiring to keep going back to the river, to her cold assuring water so that no moment should pass where in I can regret in future that I didn’t drink her water more, as i knew that was the only day i had, the window to heaven cannot open forever. And thus came the last Dip, i remember it because in it was all the memories that were came together, of the Himalayas, of all the people I had loved till then, of all the rivers i had drank water from and all my desires, dissolving. And hence I let Vitasta take it with her to Lidder, and then them both to the another mighty beauty, Indus.
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Bright sun showed after body-stopping dust storm made my movement impossible. I was in the middle then, crossing a bridge over Ganga when a blizzard of dust from found me alone. I had to turn back, pushing myself out of the storm’s way, instead I walked down to the river, and along her banks started walking towards har-ki-paudi; once again in this life time but probably alone for the first in three decades. And 18 years later in Mahakumbh
18 years, took me this much time to come back to Kumbh in Haridwar. The center, like navel in the body, kumbh carries you through multitudes of Yogis practicing Tapa in the only ways their individual memories know of. Some come up, for us to merely see them as explicit sights; mysticism unknown to our senses, and too old for our digital eyes.
Coming to the banks of Ganga in kumbh, is like dipping one self in the electricity of emotions that this river carries. Of all the people who come, leaving prayers, bodies, sankalpa/promises, iccha/desire, siddhis; even doing away with all the left overs. Yet it is the awe that one can feel for Ganga, through the masses who have been moving around her for innumerable number of centuries, that she has seen.
When in today’s world civilizations grow where the roads, highways become. Mother river is an assurance that here on earth is divinity flowing, something not only alive, but electric, something far bigger, deeper than all the seven lokas/heavens can absorb, that energy which can direct one’s kapala(brain/buddhi) to pure kalpa(imagination), Ganga.
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Leaving you all with a wish, a desire that i would love to make it happen slowly. As rivers are still the carriers of most civilisations, i would love to be graced only if i could bathe in these five someday.
1. Amazon River
2. Nile River
3. Volga River
4. Yangtze River
5. Danube River
6. Mississippi and Colorado Rivers
6. Each and every River of the Indian Subcontinent.
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And as i leave you with an image of the river Indus leaving Kashmir, Do tell me about your favourite rivers, in which you would love to dip in, bathe in and in time i must too ?
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