JUST CRUISING ALONG
For sights worth seeing.
I AM TALKING OF THE HIGHLY INTERESTING GANGA AARTI CRUISES IN BANARAS OR HARDWAR. THE PLACID GANGA AT BANARAS PLAYS HOST TO HUNDREDS OF GANGA AARTI CRUISES. THE HUGE BOATS STAND STILL WHEN THE REVERBERATING SOUNDS OF THE DRUMS, THE CHANTING AND THE WAVES OF AARTI FILL THE AIR.
Acouple of decades back going on a cruise was a great event ventured only by the very rich. But now cruises are available and within the reach of even ordinary, middle-class people. There are great cruises like the Mediterranean or the Caribbean or the Bahamas and so on.
But for people like me who are afraid of flying from London to New York thinking of the great Atlantic Ocean below, smaller ones are more to my taste.
I am talking of the highly interesting Ganga Aarti cruises in Banaras or Hardwar. The placid Ganga at Banaras plays host to hundreds of Ganga Aarti cruises. The huge boats stand still when the reverberating sounds of the drums, the chanting and the waves of aarti fill the air. The cameras go click click click and people fill their eyes and souls with the beauty of the whole evening. There are smaller boats, row boats and others which stand to watch the beautiful pageant. We were about 20 couples , senior citizens who had been students five decades back at the Banaras Hindu University – and had got together to celebrate the event. The visit to the Alma Mater, the shopping of Banaras saris, and a visit to Sarnath were all incomplete without witnessing the grand Ganga aarti and we were not disappointed. Though there was a definite nip in the air (it was the last week of January) we enjoyed the special Banaras mithai, the thandaai, etc while drinking in the beauty of the aarti.
A couple of years back we had seen a similar scene at Hardwar where the aarti is also in full swing every day. But it was a slightly muted version of the one at Banaras. Here also cruises standing midstream to watch the aarti are plenty.
Talking of cruises, who can forget the musical Goan cruise along the Mandovi River? I have gone on this cruise several times and experienced a different tone every time. The usual Goan songs with beautiful young couples dressed in all their finery is excellent. The food and the drinks that go with it are also very fine. My husband and I were so enamoured by this cruise that we had a fourhour-long full boat to ourselves for our daughter’s wedding reception and all the guests were treated to Goan dances and cuisine. Since the couple is stationed in the US for quite some time, their university and work colleagues came from all over the world. We had a Japanese couple, an Egyptian girl, a New Zealander, a friend from Turkey and other countries to share the cruise. During the typical Indian wedding, these people wore Indian clothes. The girls wore saris, and they had even managed to stitch a blouse but, hilariously, they did not know that a sari petticoat is worn underneath and we had to give them ours! The men loved the kurta pajamas and looked grand in it. The
wedding along with the cruise became immortal even after so many years and the birth of kids.
We have seen the Marble Rocks at close quarters from a cruise in Jabalpur and were struck with wonder at the grandeur.
Every place which has a prominent water body opts for cruises to attract the tourists. There are dinner and sightseeing cruises, breakfast cruises, day-long cruises, cruises that take you to nearby islands for a couple of days. In fact, there are cruises to suit every pocket.
While in Australia, we opted for a dinner, Latino show and sightseeing four-hour cruise. We were staying just 10-minutes from the harbor and everyone assured us that if we started half-hour earlier than the scheduled time, we would get the cruise. However, we had not bargained for the Friday rush of traffic and we reached the boat with just two minutes to spare. We got in and even before we could find our seats in the crowded boat, it had started! We saw the famous Sydney Opera House with its distinctive sail-like design, Sydney Harbour Bridge and other attractions. The next day we saw all this by road. One of the most interesting aspects of these sightseeing cruises is that they take photos as you enter and display huge prints by the time you get out of the ship. You are free to buy them or not but most people buy them as mementoes.
I just cannot forget the lovely cruise at Milford Sound in New Zealand. Though we had seen quite a few places in the world New Zealand was a beautiful destination. My whole family decided to take a cruise on the lovely lake and what a beauty it was! We saw dolphins playing in the waters, seals sunning themselves, and cute penguins waddling about. The seals were lazily sitting on rocks and staring at us with unwinking eyes.
Years back, on my very first trip to Europe, I was fascinated by the trip on the River Rhine. The boat was huge and while travelling the river it was very fascinating to see how the different water levels were maintained by the boats. Two gates on either side at a distance of maybe a kilometer were there. The ship from the lower level of water would slowly float up to the higher level when it was firmly kept between the two gates.
When it reached the higher level, the other gate would open and the ship would pass. I was terrified and also fascinated. I cannot recall now which place it was but it was part of our Grand Europe Tour, a scenic cruise on the River Rhine.
Cruising on river Thames in London or a cruise in New York is great. My daughter and son-in-law ‘presented’ us a New York cruise for our anniversary which was fascinating. We saw all the sights of New York from the boat and even circled the Statue of Liberty and took great pictures from close quarters. There are hundreds of cruises and one can cut one’s coat according to the cloth one has. They are all interesting and fascinating and great tourist delights, ones which no one should miss. “Family is the most important thing in the world.”
White marble rocks at Bhedaghat. Milford seals. Sydney opera house.