Thursday, March 13, 2008

Indian Tea and the Ganges River

When I’m writing I work best with classical music. Can’t seem to focus when others sing or talk, so I’m often tuned to WQXR, the classical music station of the New York Times. This morning there was a glorious program - “Sunshine in Music.” Discovered that Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) composed an aria about the sun rising over the Ganges River:

Already, from over the Ganges, the sun

More clearly sparkles

And dries every drop

Of the dawn, which weeps.

With the gilded ray

It adorns each blade of grass;

And the stars of the sky

Paint in the field.

As I listened to the Russian singer and the English orchestra, I remembered my trip to India as a guest of the Indian Tea Board. On one plane flight I happened to glance out the window and saw the most enormous river (1,569 miles), I had ever seen, glowing molten in the sun. It was so big that there was nothing to see, on either side of the plane, but sky and swirling water. I asked the stewardess to identify the body of water; she smiled and said with great pride, almost as if it were a member of her family, “That is the Ganja (Ganges).”

Hindus believe that those who bathe in the sacred river are absolved of their sins ; the dead who are cremated on the banks and have their ashes scattered in the river achieve salvation. The memory of standing waist-deep in tea bushes, on top of a mountain plantation, drunk on the scent of tea leaves warmed by the sun, is as close to heaven as I'm likely to get. If you ever get an opportunity to visit India, any part, for any reason, go!


No comments: