Today in Varanasi, Burning Ghats, India 21/9/10

Delhi train pulls into the station at 6:15am.

I find my backpack in a puddle.

Men offer me a rickshaw or opium.

Opium from a ‘government approved shop’.

A man slips in a cowpat above the burning funeral pyres.

Not me this time.

A restaurant proclaims that it is ‘less dirty than most’ on its sign.

I eat masala dosa in the place next door.

Good strong chai, heavy on the cardoman.

I check into a room the size of a small animal hutch.

Fan broken, bed sheets stained with something beige.

150 rupees per night and I have my own chair.

I buy ayuvedic remedies for my ailments.

The ganga runs brown, a shade of oxtail soup.

9 sewage outlets pumping crap into the spiritual heart of India.

The humidity means lots of sweating.

Pink arsed monkeys molest me, for what I do not know.

I have no bananas.  The dogs leave me alone.

I have never seen such filth in streets.  It all seems semi fermented.

The people smile warmly, guiding me wherever I’m going.

This place is a maze.

The cows look in good health.

Lime soda and I read the Hindustan Times.

Stories of floods, dengue, train accidents and a rapidly failing Commonwealth games.  Some lady comments on the jeans she wore in the ‘Transformers Movie’ belong to someone else.

I think of my childhood living in the world of Megatron and He Man.

A japanese fellow picks at a travel sitar sitting above a ghat.

He is wearing a turban.

I struggle to find the burning ghats.

I find the burning ghats and wonder what to do.

Children play in the piles of pyre wood.

Ghee is poured on piles of pyre wood.

Corpses wrapped in colourful cloth.

Everyone is singing.

Pyre wood is set alight by oldest son.

It takes four hours for the body to burn.

The ashes then scattered in the Ganga.

Then they are really free.

A man sits beside a corpse, keeping flies away and waiting his turn.

A sadhu brushes his teeth in the river, sitting on a faded wooden barge.

Garlands of orange flowers are caught in the whirlpools.

I buy over-sized bidis, because they look cool.

A Japanese chap plays tabla sitting on some hotel steps.

A blue lunghi catches my eye, I decide not to buy it.

I am not a great buyer.

A gang of sadhus with elaborate patterns painted on their heads call me over for a chat.

We talk of many things.  Sometimes cricket.

The evening prayers have started, small candles float down the chocolate brown.

This is one of the oldest cities on earth, an ancient centre of learning.

But what have I learnt?


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mama Wolf said,

    Lovely to read it at last, sweetheart. Woderful writer, you are.

    Keep travelling, keep shining, keep on keeping on…..

    Hope you received my long email sent in the early hours?

    Let me know how and where you are.

    Your time is nearly over in Incredible India Where are you headed now – are you still meeting your Mam? Will you be returning to India after the 2 month gap?


  2. 2

    Paulo said,

    Reading this entry lee it seems like you were slightly disappointed by the Varanasi experience. I guess that for us western types we will always struggle to see anything associated with death in a massively positive glowing light. That person or those people no longer there with use physically.

    It is worth taking time to read amongst other things the Tibetan book of dying, it turns your plain of though upside down, brings a real dignity to what after all is an inevitable act.

    Varanasi can be a shock the first time you visit, people’s bodies are treated as what they are, vessels (of all shapes and sizes) which carry us (the real us) on part of our journey. Where to after this? I don’t know, but we are all matter, and as Laura has always said to me we are the world and universe around us. In varanasi, to see a child chuck the a hip bone of a relative in the ganga after the pyre is nomalmente. These people confront the d word without the wooden box, the curtain which covers the reality. Its filthy, dirty but real, like many things in India.

    • 3

      leroywatson4 said,

      Brother Pablo,
      Death is all around us this is TRUTH. In every moment, but it does not define us. No beginning or end on this trip. Having the privelege of spending time with Tibetan monks, Brahmins and Yogis and reading the good stuff, I now have a fuller understanding of the process according to Buddhism and Hinduism. Its a blessing and something we should all be aware of in the ‘West’.
      Varanasi was a little subdued on my visit. The ganga was so high it almost met the main street, bodies were being burnt in cramped areas and after 6 months on a cosmic rollercoaster in India, I didn’t feel much. Expected shock and revulsion faded into acceptance at what was and is a ‘ritual’. It seemed almost mundane and something practical as opposed to spiritual. I had a vague sense of history there and enjoyed yoga above the ghats, but otherwise left feeling I jaded. Too many Indian cities in a row had worn my old body down.
      I miss talking with you brother, your insights constantly inspire, challenge and radiate with a natural clarity.

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