The Pilgrimage

A blue bus driving on the highway to Varanasi,
to the holiest of holy cities in India,
carrying the load of nine uneasy passengers on nine heavy seats
who were strangers to each other but shared a thing in common.

The back seats of the bus
are occupied by three college friends-    
the noisiest of them all,
not because of the excitement they have for this journey.
Their noise is evident of their nasty remarks
made on every girl passed by the bus.
Everyone inside have shut their eyes and everyone outside have shut their eyes,
for what choice do they have, don't they?  

Just ahead of them,
at the four seats on two rows, one at each side,
sat an old woman in her late seventies, her two sons and eldest daughter-in-law.
She is the quietest of them all,
not because of the eagerness of her kids in finding her a new home
and take a holy dip later.
Her pale face, bereft of all the hopes she had with her children
And her closed lips, yelling to them that she does not want to be alone.
In front of the old lady,
there lie an old man,
most contented of them all,
not because of the milestone he is going to achieve 
by completing his last fatherly duty
of disposing of his daughter's ashes
in the holy water of Ganges.
Her soul was ripped by no one but the man holding her
for honor matters more than life, he says

On the left side of the old man,
there is a young lad,
crying the most among all,
not because he has turned into a widower at an early age.
He is running away from the police
after smashing his wife's head at the glass window of his house
and killing her to death
for she tried to elope with her paramour  

And let's not just forget the driver-
the happiest of them all,
not because of his least detrimental deed
among all in the world's eyes. 
He is here for the rituals, the holy rituals of wedding,
the approval for which came after a settlement
by him with the bride's family over phone
just like a minister negotiating for bribery.
Perhaps, a sacred union at a sacred site.

Not all who visits a holy place is unblemished, it seems
And not all who dips in Ganges actually wash off their sins, it seems

And the irony does not end here 
A text shining at the dazzling back window of the bus
read 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao',
a veneer of the civilized characters,
embossed with red,
a color of assertion,
of survival and
of vigilance.

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