On the Ganges: Encounters with Saints and Sinners on India's Mythic River
The Ganges flows through northern India and Bangladesh for approximately 1,569 miles to the Bay of Bengal where it empties out. It is sacred to the Hindus who worship Ganga, the goddess of the river. In On the Ganges, George Black, who chronicled the creation of Yellowstone National Park in Empire of Shadows, takes readers on an extraordinary journey down the entire length of the Ganges in a book that is part E.M. Forster and part Bill Bryson. On the Ganges, originating from a New Yorker article published last year, is a look not only at the river, but at the people who live along it, receive its blessings and, unfortunately, pollute it on a daily basis. From the river's origin point near Hardwar, to Varanasi and on to Colkata and Bangladesh, Black chronicles the lives of people who cremate their dead at the river's edge, perform in the streets of towns along its shores, eke out a life funded by lower-than-average factory wages and - for some Brits - live as if The Raj was still in place. What Black finds is a land of contradictions, one that is both sacred and profane. At the conclusion of the book, trying to make sense of the rich and contradictory Ganges, he finds that there is no absolute conclusion. As a roadside vendor tells him 'There are good days and there are bad days. It all depends. Everything is in the hands of our mother, Ma Ganga.'