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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth de Veer

Prayers for India

"India, where are you? In the darkness of the early dawn in the holy city of Varanasi, on the Ganges River, pilgrims are lighting tea candles and setting them afloat in small boats made of leaves alongside strings of orange marigolds, and I am not there to see them. Wait for me. I will come back."

from The Ocean in Winter

Dawn breaks in Varanasi on the Ganges

In 1994, I went to India for one month, and the experience changed my life. In 2003, my husband and I - newlyweds - went to India for three and a half months, and it was right around this time that we were just returning to the United States. That time had been a journey, an adventure, a pilgrimage.

And when I was writing my novel, The Ocean in Winter, I included a scene about traveling in India that unfolds in the book pretty much exactly the way it did for us in real life. When my husband and I were in India, we cancelled our return flight so that we could stay a bit longer, thinking it would not be too hard to get a flight - to London, actually - whenever we were ready. How did that work out? We made it to London, but truth be told, it was a lot trickier than we imagined. In the novel, this scene is actually the beginning for my character, Alex, who must end her travels in India and return home to Amesbury, Massachusetts, unexpectedly.

But it's India that I am thinking about so often recently. From a country that finally has Covid under some control - whether this will last or not, we will not know until later - we watch in desperate sadness as beautiful India battles on. As I read the news, my heart hurts, deeply.

The spires of the Chidambaram Temple
A park in northern India

I don't have any grand insight here, I don't have any wise words, I really don't actually know what to say. If you are a praying type of person, please say a prayer - maybe several - for India. If you are a sending money type of person, the New York Times has several suggestions. I shall do a little of both.

Hang on, oh, dear unknown people in India. Stay strong, stay brave, stay healthy. You are not alone. We have not forgotten.

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