Mother Ganga
by Feroza Jussawalla

If only we could—
             treat you as the goddess
we say you are.

I sprinkle Ganges water on myself
to purify myself, every morning,
when I suspect an evil eye
has been cast.

I do not ask, if—
The water is pure, clean, bacteria-free.
I take the word of the seers that
Mother Ganga purifies herself

But I cannot help wonder,
as I see images of the Covid dead
floating, fully clothed, abandoned—
not even cremated.
How do we love thee,
let me count the ways,
in the number of bodies abandoned
in your bosom, to do as you may have done,
for aeons?—But at least then,
they were ashes, not clothed in plastic
body bags.

How can we save thee—Ganga, Jamuna?
Let us start: by using the ghats,
by cleaning the burning pyres
that burn the heart of Mother Earth,
but most of all, just by respecting thee,
O ancient rocks and rivers, the sacred Himalayas,
by really seeing the sacred holy ones, reincarnated,
from Kashi to Comorin, resplendent in the flowers,
our Mother, Gaia, grows out of them, and not,
the ones we cast adrift in waters turning to sludge.

Let the goddesses dwell in pristine waters
clean snow-clad mountains,
not in our castaways, offered as holy offerings.

Let us worship the goddesses
as they would want,
in their own clean abodes.

PHOTO: A new day on the River Ganga (Ganges River) by ImHR111 (2021).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Feroza Jussawalla is Emerita Professor of English at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Originally from India, she is the author and or editor, and co-editor of several scholarly works, in postcolonial literature. Her collection of poetry, Chiffon Saris, was published by Toronto South Asian Review Press and The Writer’s Workshop, Kolkotta (2002).