Posts Tagged ‘collective celebration’

yep, that's the path

yep, that's the path

There were people pressing in all around me. The streets were full of men and women and children who were pushing through the mass, or patiently scuffling along with it. A young girl to my right jumped over the open sewage canal (there was just dried garbage at the bottom of it) to take a few steps along the wall of a shop, jump onto its front steps, and then push her way back into the crowd. She grabbed her mother’s hand and glanced down at the canal, careful not to fall into it. To my left was a long line, roped off by a yellow chord, leading into one of Gokarna’s many temples. People were wrapped around the block waiting in it, like thrill seekers standing in line for a roller coaster.

Yesterday Gokarna was throbbing with an influx of pilgrims who came from all over India to celebrate Shiva’s birthday. I’d left my haven of Om Beach to take the costal path into Gokarna—a three hour hike that was much more than I’d bargained for. There was a fork at the beginning of the path where an Australian man nicely suggested that I take the road because the foot path got ‘a bit rugged’ further ahead. My response was to chuckle, tighten my Tevas, and stick to the coast. To make a long story short, let me just say that never did I think the skills gleaned from climbing the rock wall in Palladium so many times my Freshman year would be so useful. At one point I had to use vines to pull myself up the side of an embankment because the way on the ocean rocks ended with an unclimbable vertical rock face. At another point I lost the path entirely and had to push through picker bushes and picker trees (which I was surprised to see existed) in the woods. I quickly learned to watch where I put my hands as well as my feet. And that when an Australian says ‘rugged’ he really means it.

My main reason for going into town was that I was running low on cash and there aren’t any ATMs out on these beaches, but I also wanted to see what the festival would be like. Tarps and big pieces of fabric were slung across the tops of the buildings to shade the people waiting in line to pay homage to their god. There was another time in my life that I had been in a river of people like this, but it was in the shade of skyscrapers instead of tarps—it was in midtown Manhattan, right around Christmastime. I was still in high school and, being new to the city, I was in awe at the number of people. A lane of the road had been shut to cars to make room for walkers, and I was still pressed up against the person in front of me.

Although these pilgrims in Gokarna were there for worship, and the shoppers in New York were there for good sales, I couldn’t help but see and even feel the similarity. It was a tradition, something to be excited about, something to do with the family. Our traditions just center around a different god- theirs Shiva, and ours the Dollar. But I think this can fall under the category of one of those ‘it doesn’t have to be that way’ things. After all, it’s the excitement of so many people being in one place all for the same reason, and the individual journeys that brought them there that really matters. The question is; why do our traditions tend to center on such a transient thing as money?

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