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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014
In holy comfort
Manas Chakravarty
February 09, 2013
First Published: 21:53 IST(9/2/2013)
Last Updated: 07:34 IST(10/2/2013)

Do you want to be cleansed of your sins in a relaxed and stress-free environment in a spacious weather-proof heated luxury tent at the Mahakumbh at Allahabad, with running hot water and multi-cuisine vegetarian dining facilities? Thankfully, they've now found a way of getting people like us our ticket to Nirvana without the experience being sullied by the smelly presence of the masses.

The first step in your spiritual journey begins with the selection of the proper type of tent. I would recommend the Super Deluxe one, which will enable you to combine your status with your spirituality. The tents are heated, so that you can preserve the warm glow created by your inner faith. And while the dip in the river may be cold and dirty and you just have to grit your teeth and get over it, the thought of coming back and washing up in your 'En-suite bathroom with wooden floors, running hot and cold water, showers & western toilets' will help you cope with the trauma. 'Soft pliant bath towels' as well as 'herbal bath and shower accessories' will soothe your troubled soul. The wall-to-wall carpeting in your tent will heal your poor feet, which suffer terribly during the dreary trudge to the river and back again. And a massage therapy session at the Ayurveda spa will ease any lingering aches and pains.

Once the holy dip is out of the way, you can sit at the little writing table in your tent or cottage, light the little table lamp and write to your friends at length about how you braved the dust and the cold at the Mahakumbh and what an uplifting religious experience it has been. You must choose a Wi-fi enabled cottage, of course, how else will you keep tabs on your stocks.

The problem is, how do you get the Kumbh experience without being contaminated by contact with the masses? One camp has the ideal solution - it advertises 'A special viewing terrace with a panoramic view of the entire Mela has been set up for guests to enjoy from a distance the vast melee stretching out in front without leaving the comfort of the camp.' They even have a telescope on the terrace, so you can see the holy men up close and soak up their spirituality. Don't forget your suntan lotion.

The food is vegetarian, but apart from the usual Indian stuff they also have 'improvisations on pasta, macaroni, mint potato, coriander soup, noodles, cabbage sauté and spaghetti', which should make the stay more tolerable. Of course, they should have put in a gym, a beauty parlour for the ladies and a swimming pool. I know your faith will steel you to bear the anguish of doing without these essentials at the mela, but that is no excuse for not having them.

Next time, tour operators should be allowed to take devout and well-heeled worshippers to the site in helicopters, lower them into the river for a quick dip and then winch them up again. That way, we could take a chartered plane from Mumbai in the morning, finish the dip by afternoon and be back in the office in the evening having spent a profitable day wiping out our sins. As Mark Twain put it in his book Following the Equator: "It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes…. enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining."

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal


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