Posts By: J.J. Kelley

A Blessing From the Gods

The team questions the Brahman’s intentions for holding a ceremony.

Either we’ve received blessing from the gods or we’ve just been married in a traditional Hindu ceremony. We’re not sure yet, but we’re told the paperwork is in the mail. Stay tuned.

It’s been nearly three weeks in India, and we’ve followed mother Ganga just a fraction of her length. We’re nearly 125-miles along on this 1,500-mile journey. From her glacial source, we’ve followed her precipitous drop from the Himalayas, and are now settling into the Indian plains. Our constitution is unyielding; though our immune system’s have been attacked several times. To date we’ve suffered 2 bouts with Gastro-intestinal distress, 4 cases of altitude sickness, 2 common colds, 1 sinus infection, and more smiles than there are gods in this beautiful country.

We’re thinking about doing something really crazy next—perhaps a cycle rickshaw…

Working on my health, I successfully complete a Yogi nasal purification.

Wedding Season in India

It’s wedding season in India, and it’s impossible to avoid the ceremonial excitement. It’s an auspicious time of year, when the stars are aligned. Weddings are extremely important in India. Their presence is ubiquitous. The Engagement Ceremony is one in a series of festivities to formalize a union. This is when the couple formally announces that they are to be married. It is a jovial artifact from a time when boyfriend/girlfriend relationships were unheard of. At that time, after the engagement, it was acceptable to see the couple-to-be together. It is a sacred ceremony, reserved for family and close friends. We felt honored—and a bit surprised— that we were invited to attend. At the party, we were lead around the reception hall, being introduced to the fiancés and their families. We were given copious amounts of delicious foods. More than we could eat. So much food was offered, in fact, that the only way we could stop more from being put on our plates was by outstretching our hands, blocking access to them. “No, thank you” didn’t work. Everyone greeted us with smiles, and it seemed as though they were willing to do anything to make us feel more comfortable. We had an absolutely delightful time. All of us felt like we couldn’t provide enough thanks to justify their unyielding kindness.

An Auspicious Twist of Fate

This is India! Arriving to a cacophony of competing horns, sweat-purging heat, and an incredible variety of life, all new to our naive Alaskan eyes, we are reassured by a warm face.

MUMBAI—Several months back we had the good fortune to meet a young Indian man traveling for his first time to Alaska. “I love the mountains and I wanted to see bears.” Recounts Vishal Shah.

On the tarmac of a Fairbanks airport Vishal paced up and down the aisle, waiting for his delayed flight to depart. As chance would have it, our good Alaskan friend, Devin, was on the same plane. The two weren’t sitting next to each other, but eventually began to share their stories.

“Devin was just sitting alone and the flight got delayed and we were stranded in Fairbanks, I was just taking my walks in the airplane. He asked me ‘Where are you going?’ I told him, I’m going to Seward, but I don’t know where I’m going. Then he said ‘you could stay with me.'”

Vishal took Devin up on his offer to stay in one of his three apartments. We ended up being neighbors. I was in Seward, preparing for our Ganges Scout Trip. I introduced Vishal to Josh and we did our best to show Vishal the Alaska that we loved. When the time came for him to make his way back home, we left with a promise to meet again in India.

Fast-forward several months to our Ganges Scout Trip: there he was at the airport, waving enthusiastically. He took us to his house where we explained our plan to visit several places along the sacred Ganga for a scout for our upcoming expedition film that will take us journeying down the entire length of India’s most sacred river. We expressed our fears of traveling in a country that Josh and I nor our cameraman, Dave, had ever visited. Then before we knew it, all had been decided. Vishal would join us on the scout!

Now, we have just a few more days to prepare all that we’ll need in India’s second most populated city. Soon we’ll embark on our adventure together. First, we must travel for several days by train, bus, and foot to the source of the Ganga. Our goal is to arrive just in time for Diwali, one of the most important Hindu holidays and a major celebration, taking place at the head of the Ganga.

So, here we are; an unlikely international team of adventurers. We’re thrilled to have Vishal along. We’re so proud that we could show him Alaska, and we’re overjoyed that we can now learn about his home-country from him.

And, Yes, Vishal did see a bear when he was in Alaska. Now, I wonder if we’ll find what we’re looking for.