It was four o’clock and the sun had left its abode in the sky. The color of the sky met with that of the river. Both were of a mystifying grey color. The river at the banks was quiet and the grey sky looked calm giving no signs of the future jeopardy. Overhead a bird soared through the clouds calling out to its mates. On the banks our guide was pumping air into the raft. We huddled closer to him as he gave us instructions and precautions. I tried hard to focus on his words but my mind was occupied with the surrounding beauty of the silent river and the eagerness of rafting. Not once did I think that these words would save my life later. We jumped onto the rafts with much enthusiasm. Our guides made sure that our life jackets were tight and helmets on their place. We were handed paddles which were longer than I was. I imagined how much strength I would need to move it through the water. With a few strokes our raft left the banks and the sky turned darker. We hollered ‘Jai Ganga Maya Ki’ and cheered our paddles. We drifted through the river and even hopped out of the raft into the cold river for a while. Our guide informed us that we were nearing the rapids and here we would need to paddle harder. I was excited for the new adventure. I admired the flowing water and dipped my fingers into the icy water. Huge waves were forming in front of us looking like lifeless ghosts. Our raft rocked with the waves and a gigantic wave hit our raft. In seconds it overturned. All seven of us were dumped into the chilling water. Before I could take a breath I was pulled downwards by the strong current. The waves kept pushing me into the river. I gulped down much water. My life jacket kept bringing me back to the surface against the current. Water sprayed all over me and I felt as if I had no chance of making it out alive. I ran my hands around the raft and clung on to the rope tied at its sides. It was my only hope. I lunged upwards trying to push the water down with my legs. My head bobbed to the surface and the waves became less violent. I saw that everyone had clutched the rope. The words of the guide instructing us to hold the rope whenever we fall out of it came back as a faint voice in my mind. Fear gripped me as I saw panic in my dad’s eyes. I looked around for my mom and sister. They were there and terror was visible across their faces. We had to turn the raft to make it upright. I swallowed some more water. The water I had admired before now looked like a threatening force. We toppled the raft and once again I was sucked into the water under the raft. My life jacket pulled me upwards but I only hit the raft’s floor. I closed my eyes and I tried to get myself out. My lungs longed for oxygen. Finally after a few kicks I was able to get out and I grasped the rope. One by one the guide pulled us into the raft. My heart pounded as I took huge breaths and tried to take in as much oxygen as I could. I felt a surge of pain throughout my whole body. My sides ached and my legs were numb. Water ran down my face and my wet t-shirt clung to my body. I breathed in and out frantically. My hair had come out of the rubber band and was hanging loose, sticking to my face. I was safe. We all were. I couldn’t have felt more relieved in my life than at that time. We had lost two paddles and a helmet adding to the guide’s distress. He got off at the banks to search the missing paddles. Our raft was tied to the rocks and the deadly waves were behind us. Larger waves were now forming and it seemed as if the ghosts were trying to reach out to us, calling us back. I looked up seeing that the sky was as calm as ever and still showed no signs of the past crisis. I shivered in the cool evening breeze. I had never imagined that I would take a dip in the holy Ganges this way. I thanked God that we were safe. We went down the rapids more cautiously now and finally our journey came to an end. This incident which had taken place in mere minutes felt like a lifetime. The three other men were strangers to us but somehow those few minutes connected us to each other. Each of us had been seized by the same emotions while drowning. We drove back to our camps and had a steaming cup of hot tea. We sat by the bonfire and shared our experiences each telling his story. I felt glad. The moon shone brightly in the cloudless sky telling us that the day was over and a new tomorrow will come.
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