It's 4am, and I'm on a boat. This is one of the few things in India that has happened on time, and I'm grateful that I didn't sleep through my alarm. The boat moves quickly, and the paddles cut through the still water of the Ganga. The driver rows from the front, leaning forward and back with more effort than I can imagine using at this hour. There are only four of us on the boat, and we make small talk as our eyes adjust to the lights along the river that are bright against the dark sky.
It's surreal enough given how early it is, but also because this is what I dreamt of a year ago: sunrise at the Ganga. I played a song of the same name in my classes and Google-d photos of this place in anticipation of being here. It may be the only place in India that held large expectations in my mind.
I was doubtful from the moment the travel agent handed me the bus ticket. It was hand written. He made a phone call in Hindi, told me there was one more sleeper berth available, and confirmed that I wanted that seat. He wrote the location of the bus pickup, a local cinema parking lot, on the back.
I looked at the paper ticket quizzically.
"Now you pay me 1100 rupees," he says.
"This is my ticket?" I ask.
"But it's not printed. Don't you need my name and my age or something?"
"No. It's in my name. Any trouble you call me."