Varanasi the difficult. Varanasi the profound-maybe. Varanasi on the Ganges.
November 21, 2017 in Agra, India: The bloom is definitely off this trip’s rose. It happens a time or two on every one of my jaunts too-far. But when I plan them, considering my age, income, and available vacation, there’s pressure to wring as much experiential ‘joy’ as possible out of each hour and dime. Then I wake up one morning in a strange room I don’t like very much, with various god-based prayers and chants echoing through the neighborhood; sick of Nescafe for an eye-opener; wondering how many more days I can wear this sweatshirt without emanating some near-homeless odor, and wanting to just get up, shower, put on my jeans, and drive Ghost to work.
Part of this morning’s angst is how I scheduled this last week—including an early morning train ride into Delhi tomorrow, then catching a 20-hour train to a city called Jaisalmer in a state called Rajasthan in the Thar Desert. Overnighting at the Mud Mirror Guesthouse. Taking 20-hour train ride back to Delhi to breathe poison air for a day and one-half before getting on a plane for Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque. The seriously daunting part of that whole scenario are the train stations. Pretty much hell they are.
I think I should be out now to see the sun rise over the Taj Mahal; I think I’ll go for sunset over the Taj Mahal.
I’m up this 5:30am writing this because I’m tired and I thought maybe if I put the next few days planned activities down in black and white they wouldn’t seem so foreboding. Because I am pleased to be here. Really. Although India’s tough. Every move requires some level of determination: people, traffic, noise, dust, pollution blah blah blah.
Can I just add…I do check in with the Times and HuffPost periodically to see if Harry and Meghan are engaged yet…no no no, I mean to see if there’s anything I should know beyond the expected death-by-gun tolls; new ‘dumb Trump’ quotes; all the men in the world have been ousted from something/place for their stupid behavior around women lo these many millennia; and it all sounds so trite. Viewing up close and personally how many of the world’s people exist on bad air and refuse-gathered scraps, it’s hard to get excited about most of the above. Even the US’ excessive gun-love just seems like what we do for fun when we’re not buying crap at Walmart.
Okay…now for the closing album on Varanasi, a special place, because of the Ganges. First must mention again, the Alka Hotel. I’m going to write a review of some on-line places, but just my off-the-record-love-poem. Old hotel, stacked up rooms, the ‘suites’ hanging out over the Ganges where morning noon and night the quiet of a river without motored pleasure boats can lull one to dream…sleep…ponder, three lassis a day keeps the doctor away, warm water for this morning’s shower, paint peeling, people friendly enough, helpful, every single thing costs money but not a lot.
I am proud of the following pics. School girls visiting a famous Varanasi temple which may be on the campus of their biggest university. They wanted to have their photos taken with strange little wandering lady I guess. The situation for girls and women sucks in India. It is awful, visible, deep, abiding. These girls offer such hope. I wanted to say to them ‘your education and determination and toughness in the face of this very-male-world is what will make it better…someday…maybe…perhaps.’ You too can wander around the world on your own just like me.
Here all of the questions directed at me aren’t about how old I am but rather why I’m alone, why I don’t live with my sons…one guy said ‘but don’t they want you to cook for them!’ I ignored him.
In India, the different species just sort of co-exist. It’s hardest on dogs who really don’t want to live their own lives. The cows (buffalo some call them) seem to do best…like yeah, run into me and you are the one in trouble.