And finally, after more than 14 hours of work in two days, this afternoon we dragged the raft down the steep, sandy descent – which in the monsoon period is completely submerged by water – to the river.
Needless to say, our last effort was full of emotion, visible in everyone’s eyes. The satisfaction of putting our creation into the water was typical of those who have made something.
I know it may sound ridiculous – after all, our journey has yet to start – but we felt as though we have already accomplished it!
Equally exciting was my meeting with Temsutula Imsong, a 34-year-old lady who has contributed to change in the city of Varanasi, improving the health of millions of inhabitants.
I was introduced to her by our Indian assistant Totem (I will tell you more about him in the future) who supports us and facilitates the logistics here in India.
Imsong enjoys great respect and admiration even at the top of the Indian government because, one day in March 2013 and completely by her own initiative, she began to clean up the ghats – wide steps – leading down to the river banks.
These ghats – there are 84 in Varanasi – are frequented by millions of devotees from all over India who congregate there for the ‘Holy dip’ – the sacred ritual of bathing in the Ganges.
The ghats of the Ganges are also highly polluted with plastic, myriad offerings, flowers and even excreta. All this had made these areas of the city unhealthy, filthy places. Shocked by the situation she found, Imsong and some of her friends took brooms and disinfectant and set to work.
She told me that it took two full days just to remove the layers of human excreta which had been there for years. She could not swallow food for several days after her work, due to the sickening odour which clung to her.
After four years of cleaning up the ghats of Varanasi, Imsong is now focussing on prevention, teaching waste management and recycling in schools – and the practice of creating domestic compost with the correct use of the toilet.
I was very happy to have had the opportunity to meet her in person because, once again, I noticed how much strength and change a single person can generate.
I hope to see Imsong again at the end of my voyage.
Tomorrow, it is time to go!