We were down for breakfast at 7 in the dining room. I was in Kolkata for the first time in my life, and I had no idea if and when I will be here next. All I saw in Kolkata was the inside of the hotel, with heavy eyelids weighed down with sleep when I came in last night, and I was equally sleepy when I left this morning.
From inside the air-conditioned Volvo bus, the market place looked no different than market places in other Indian cities, except that I could not read the signboards in Bengali. Soon, we were on a bridge over the river Hugli, which is known more by its Anglicized name Hooghly. One more blessed sight I had not planned on, when I had prepared for this trip.
The Hugli separates from the Ganga and joins it again in Kolkata. The Ganga is known as the Bhagirathi in Bengal, and this river is called the Bhagirathi-Hugli. The delta of the Bhagirathi-Hugli as it empties into the Bay of Bengal, is called the Ganga Sagar. Ganga Sagar is a sacred place for a dip in holy waters. For the Vaishnavs, this is the location of the 84th baithak - seat, of Vallabhacharya.
I had a vague memory of Rudyard Kipling writing about the Hugli, and then there was the Hindi movie "Howrah Bridge" that is one of the bridges over the Hugli. We got a good view of the Hugli as we crossed the bridge, the Vidyasagar Setu, an architectural wonder whose images can be seen on the Internet. I could not get the classic pictures that I would have loved to take, because we were on the bridge.
|Hugli, as seen from Vidyasagar Setu|
The long drive from Kolkata in Bengal, to Deogarh in Jharkhand is about 230 miles. This is the longest bus journey that our group had taken so far. We were still leaving Kolkata when we sang for two people on the bus who had a birthday during our trip.
Anantanandaji continued with our discussion - how does one become free of thought patterns. We had discussed the processing of thought, the active awareness that identifies thoughts as they arise, and now he explained the source of thought.
Around 2 in the afternoon, we reached Dhanbad, the coal capital of India. A town with a population of over 2 million, Dhanbad is a major industrial center in the state of Jharkhand, formed by separating from the state of Bihar. We were to stay in the Seventeen Degrees hotel, a unique name that piqued everyone's curiosity in the bus. Soon the bus was standing in front of a multi-storeyed shopping center called the Seventeen Degrees mall. Dheeraj got down and found out that the hotel is on the top three floors of the multi-storeyed shopping center. It was raining quite a bit, but the hotel employees were very helpful, running across the street to the bus, and holding umbrellas for us as they helped us cross the street. It was difficult to imagine that this hotel would have the same amenities as the hotels booked for the group so far. As we went up the elevators, the lobby of the hotel was beautiful and it was easy to forget that we were a floor above retail outlets.
Everyone was hungry and rushed to lunch. The three children settled in my room after lunch. The children had bonded on this trip, and enjoyed each other's company on a long and exhausting journey. It was four hours later that I realized that they would continue to see show after show on TV, making funny comments and giggling till it was dinnertime. And I had not had a minute to lie down yet. Venkatji helpfully took the children away, and I could finally put my feet up.
After dinner, some of us sat with Anantanandaji in the hotel lobby and drank tea. He spoke on thought and the source of thought. Thought itself is a distraction from the consciousness, and one needs to move towards chittavruttinirodha - cessation of thought. How then is one to live in this world? Swamiji said to only use thought needed to perform the necessary actions. It was an amazing end to an amazing day. It is these discussions that make this trip a yatra for me, to get the ideas to contemplate on.
Tomorrow, we start early for Baidyanath in Deogarh.
Aum Namaha Shivaaya!!
Aum Namaha Shivaaya!!