The Yatre (journey) took us through four different worlds. All at the same time. We kept flipping from one world to another. Each of us were going through the worlds independently, yet we seemed to meet in one of the worlds (let’s call this one “reality”) once in a while. Time moved extremely slowly. It was like TDMA (time division multiple access) was going through our minds, as we went through the four or five worlds simultaneously.
Parts of the human brain are sequential and parts are parallel. I discovered during the course of the Yatre that our minds are equipped with a parallel, maybe even superscalar, processor. However, certain features such as context switches are not very well developed in human minds so this capacity is seldom used. The human mind prefers linear processing and thus most of the time, all but one processor is shut. And there is a continuous stream of thought that allows us to “execute”.
Those like me with ADHD seem to have an easier time in context switching. While this results in a generally higher level of mental output, it also means that there is greater discontinuity in thought. This discontinuity in thought leads to what psychiatrists term as ‘lack of executive functioning’. “Executive functioning” as us humans have defined it depends on a single train of thought working continuously to get things done.
The Teertha (holy water) however ensures that all human beings, ADHD or the lack of it, become equal, and opens up the superscalar processes in people’s heads. It is like everyone who imbibes it reaches a state that is an advanced level of ADHD. Four or five streams of thought. Parallel inhabition of four or five different worlds. And constant switches between the worlds. One moment you have a sense of achievement. The next you are paranoid. Paranoid about getting through the madding crowd and back safely to the dirty hotel room.
Fifteen minutes past six, we are on the way to the river bank to watch the world-famous aarati. An eternity later (but with the watch only showing six twenty) we see a chaat shop on the way and decide to imbibe some chaat. Another eternity later, some parallel thoughts drive us to the aarati, the rest recommend stopping at the restaurant for an early dinner.
I order pav bhaji. Four pieces arrive. In my journeys through the various worlds, I think I’ve spent an enormous amount of time eating it. During fleeting visits to “reality”, though, less than one piece has been eaten. The rest of the table also consists of plates with a lot of leftover food. I break a piece of pav. By the time I bring it to my mouth I’m in another world. And when i return to “reality” the piece of pav is still in my hand, uneaten.
The final bit of the teerth yatre is the most surreal, when we have to get back to the hotel. We are in no mental state to tell our driver where to reach us. We decide to take cycle rickshaws. To get to a cycle rickshaw, though, we need to go through a sea of humanity.
We don’t know where we are going. We hold hands. In the moments when we are in “reality” we check if we are still together. In the fleeting between-moments, we worry about losing each other. We do our independent trips of the other worlds (I think we have our own set of worlds and the only intersection is “reality”). We independently worry where we are going. The sea of humanity means that traffic is rather slow and there is little chance of being run over. Yet, we worry.
The teertha in question is a product of this tiny store at Godowlia Chowk called “Mishrambu”. It came highly recommended by a friend who had studied at the Banaras Hindu University. It was sweet, laced with dry fruits and nuts, and dollops of butter. “Shall I put a little or more?” asked the kindly shopkeeper as he displayed a dirty-looking green paste from a small stainless steel box. In one of those collective fleeting moments of bravado we asked him to put ‘lots’. Maybe our inexperienced showed up there.
So what if we had gone to Varanasi and not seen the famous Ganga Arati? So what if we didn’t take the boat-ride to see the various famous ghats, and instead settled ourselves in a rooftop cafe on the banks of the Ganges (we were the only Indians there)? So what if we went all the way to the Kumbh Mela and spent our time mostly clicking photos and walking around, and didn’t venture close to the river?
We’ve undergone the most exhilarating Teerth Yatre ever. I’m not sure any of the religious experiences could match this parallel journey across four worlds.