Walk like a goddess

by Gabriella Sonabend

The trees still fall throughout the day; the rain does not stop but still the city is filled with goddess statues being paraded towards the Ganga ready to be submerged in her holy waters. Today is the final day of the goddess festival and the statues, which have been sitting in various temporary temples throughout the city, are now being taken through the city at all hours of the day to the waters where they are being released to the great goddess of the Ganga.

We are no longer intimidated by the swampland outside. The mud-coated streets are a playground to those celebrating the great deities. They are lit with fairy lights. Women, men and even children walk east to the river following the drumming, the carts and the clay figurines. The sound of singing and chanting fills the city, bouncing off every surface and no one is deterred by the rain. Phyllis and I grab our cameras and head to Assi Ghat where we arrive perfectly in time to see 5 large deity figures being marched to the river, placed at the edge of the waters and then hoisted into a large row boat and paddled out into the strong choppy currents ready to be submerged. The children throw bright coloured pigments in the air and draw red lines on their foreheads. We duck and dive through the crowds and snap away; people pose and are thrilled to be photographed. They link arms, stick up thumbs, make silly faces and ask us to photograph them with their friends and the statues.

I hide out for a while in Open Hand Café, (another touristy hangout which serves French fries!!), with Phyllis and we meet with Saurabh – my new find in town. Saurabh is an Indian musician and music scholar who works with disabled children teaching them music. He is extremely polite, humble and gentle. He believes that his job is his sacred mission and he feels very emotional about his path. He admires Phyllis greatly for her energy and can’t believe that she is still so enthusiastic and bold at her age. He is honoured to have met her and repeatedly says how happy he is to be in her company. On Wednesday, he will come to the gallery to discuss the possibility of us working together.

Back at the residency the sound of the procession continues to tempt us to the streets outside, every 10 minutes a new deity passes by and the drumming begins again. Now I sit and write – in the distance I can hear her approaching.