By Kamlesh Tripathi
When I was young. My maternal Granny often used to remind me as an endearing edict. That when I die, take my mortal remains to the banks of river Ganga (Ganges) for cremation, considered, the ultimate holy grail. To the splendorous gateway of heaven, in Hindus. But I was not sure. If she ever realised, whether a ten year old kid understood, what she meant. Surely, I had no idea, of what a ‘cremation’ on the banks of river Ganga meant, until one day. I actually saw a dead body being cremated, while I was crossing river Ganga, at Kanpur in a train. And, that shook me as a teen.
My Mom, was her only issue. So, she understood her mother’s writhing trauma. That was encased in her subconscious, now for ages. And she often hovered around her. Sensing, Granny might repeat her request for Ganga, at the pangs of life beyond death.
For me, life continued as usual and with that my meandering rigmarole. In the guise of school, college, career and then raising a family. But, all this, didn’t deter her from placing her request, whenever she had an opportunity. And, as life flew. One day I lost my Mom, and with that Granny’s infrequent requests, became more like frequent holy warnings—that she be taken to the banks of river Ganga.
But, in the drift of life. For quite some time, I was posted away from my hometown. During that period, whenever I spoke to her. I did assure her a cremation on the banks of holy river Ganga. But when the destined moment came unannounced. I could not reach on time, and she was cremated on the banks of river Gomti in Lucknow. About eighty km before the banks of river Ganga.
That gave me a feel of intense guilt that continued lifelong. As if, between Gomti and Ganga, she had lost the battle because of me.
Ever since then years have passed. But she hasn’t complained to me. My guilt says she couldn’t reach heaven. Where my heart says, she smiles at me from heaven.
And today. I am returning from the banks of river Ganga. Where, I came to tide over my guilt. To request Holy Ganga, if not already, take her to heaven even now. And to offer my lifetime apologies to her. From the serene surroundings of holy Ganga. But I guess I came quite late. Because now even I have started thinking of the holy Ganga.
There are a few things that are non-negotiable in life: one happens to be death.