Friday, June 20, 2008

varanasi, part 2

Today I’m in Varanasi again. We slept very late, and although I had nightmares again (shot several people in the head, ran from the law, etc), I was glad for a good rest, as I always am.

We had breakfast at the hotel place, which is a really nice place so I’ll tell you about it briefly—it seems to be family run, and it’s called the Sahi Riverview Hotel, by the Assi Ghat. A ghat is a access to the Ganges river, so there are a zillion up and down the river. Ours is the furthest south on the main run of ghats, and while it probably should be pronounced “ah-see” we call it assy, because we are 12.

The food at the hotel is great (we ate there last night, too), so that’s always a relief. After food, we found what must be India’s Fastest Internet Shop. It zooms! I wonder how it would compare to the states. All of my standards are changing—I’m drinking rag-water from a bucket in Nepal, sleeping on beds that probably could use some disinfecting, feeling ripped off about being charged $7 for two hours worth of backbreaking labor (last night’s boat ride), and bathrooms…well, bathrooms. Here is how I report back on the bathrooms to travel companions:

“does the job” = hole in the ground
“has a real toilet!” = western style toilet
“nothing weird about how you flush it” = has straightforward flushing mechanism
“has a sink!” = has a sink
“has soap!” = has soap (and a sink)
“bathroom is REALLY nice” = has towel and all of the above

Anyway, as I was saying.

Last night, we went to a Ganges ceremony at the main ghat, and I believe I may have mentioned it kicked Haridwar’s ass. There was live music (sitars, tablas, harmoniums; harmonia?) and singing and a zillion priests welcoming then bidding farewell to the goddess, and we watched it all from our boat. Tonight, we walked down the same string of ghats, brushing away dozens of cute children trying to sell us things (“hello! Where you from?” “You are from Australia I know it!” “you want to buy? Good karma for you, you buy it.” “flowers only, you buy!”). We made it to a market, which didn’t have much we wanted to buy—mostly weird children’s clothes with sequins, and clear indications of the gender of the wearer (for instance, Sarah took a picture of a dress bedazzled with the word “GIRL”). But still, each stall tried to sell us something (“Yes, here! Shoes” “Yes, saree! Come!” “Yes, where you from, America, Australia?” “Namaste!” “Yes!”).

Alex pointed out the “where are you from” question really irks. Because it seems so innocent and curious, even though we know it’s not, it’s just a way to get you to respond—it’s like their way to find the chink in the armor and then they can begin to pry it all open around you, and goddammit, you just want to walk in peace. This is why India begins to wear us down after all this time. The children today even said “Why you no answer? You like not human being!” Heartbreaking! And irritating!

We had dinner on a rooftop (Dolphin café or something), which was delicious, as per usual, and then we walked a few ghats over to the main burning ghat. They do cremations, 300 a year, and we saw bits and pieces of several ceremonies while there. Our eyes burned with the ash….

I have to go now because our café is closing…so I’ll have to write later.

1 comment:

munish said...
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