This morning we are treated to a unique form of kirtan from somewhere up the river, the exuberant call and response accompanied by tabla and harmonium. Spirits are lifting after two days of rain and high wind, and a stampede in the crowded Allahabad train station that resulted in 36 deaths.
Two days ago, as a result of the high wind and rain, the power was out everywhere. No lights. Anywhere. It was dark and quiet, even at 4:30 am, prime time for PA systems throughout the Kumbh Nagari (the Mela pop-up city). From the roof of the main building, the Mela was not visible. There were no lights anywhere—across the river, in the villages, up the river, down the river—everywhere, all dark. And quiet.
Since we were between groups, the staff had an unplanned rainy day in. We sat on the first floor bereft of electronic devices drinking chai and reading old New Yorkers, a detective novel featuring Vish Puri the intrepid Delhi sleuth, a coffee table book featuring the colorful Juna Akhara, a bit of serious scripture, and Myth and Legends of Ganges. The wind blew like a fiend and it rained and rained and rained. All in all a quite satisfactory day! I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant night down in Kumbh Nagari, the pop-up city on the flooding flood plain, but we were snug and warm and happy in the darkness and the quiet!
Fortunately the Mela administration soon restored water and power, and worked with the city of Allahabad to control the flow of pilgrims in and out of the Mela grounds as well as the railway station and across the bridges. Two days later the volume of sound from the sangam reassures us that the Mela is once again in full swing.
The third and last of the Institute pilgrim groups arrived yesterday in time for late afternoon chai and a fabulous sunset over the Ganga. And so the last leg of the Allahabad pilgrimage begins.