“Do you want to make a boat?” There was a hint of concern in the man’s voice – he seemed to have mistaken our behaviour as a threat to his livelihood.
Up until then, the nawik was quite cheerful. He encouraged us to feed the birds. Another man on another boat sailed by, selling goodies to be fed to the birds. “Don’t worry about polluting the river – the birds will swoop down before it soils the water”, he said, gently steering the boat across the remarkably clean Ganges. The Magh Mela had ended only a fortnight ago, and the temporary docks were still up – being taken down one nail, one plank at a time.
Seeing our keenness to photograph everything around us, and the special attention his boat was getting, he was at first amused, and then a little worried.
We couldn’t help laugh a little and reassured him that we were just fascinated and enjoyed getting up close to the many textures in front of us. We had no intention of making a boat.
Somewhat reassured, he returned to his usual cheery self and continued to row gently. “The other nawiks were interested in showing their muscle and speed at rowing. What’s the point? Why rush? I enjoy myself. Don’t you? You’ve clearly come from far just to see the Sangam*. You would want to spend more time, won’t you?”
We nodded our approval of his thoughts. He offered if we’d like to try our hand at rowing. Of course! He taught us to row and the technique for steering. We both took one oar each and rowed for a while. “I’ll take a picture of you two! You would want to keep this memory.”
We taught him how to use the phone camera and continued to row. He was a good teacher. And rowing was actually fun! After a while he took back the oars. It was, of course, his job!
We soaked in the glow of the golden sun as it began diving into the river and once docked at the ghat, we paid our nauka a tip for the memorable trip.
Here’s one of the many close-up pictures of our nawik’s prized possession – his nauka
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*Sangam: the confluence of three rivers at Allahabad: the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati