Saturday, 12 June 2010
My Diary of India: Fourth Extract
Varanasi is famous predominantly for two things; silk and the River Ganges. Hindus believe that those who die are bathed in the Ganges before being cremated on the banks and then their ashes thrown in. All Hindus should make the pilgrimage to the Ganges at least once in a lifetime. We witnessed the aftermath of this ceremony after dinner. A white knuckle tuktuk convoy took our group to the Mazda cinema. From there we had to walk to the ‘Dolphin’ restaurant through the traffic. There are no pavements, so people walk around roundabouts, cows drag carts and mopeds carry families of four or more all in one flow, with additional cars and tuktuks for good measure. As we walked, we dodged cowpat, fended off stares and avoided stray dogs. We couldn’t find the restaurant so a group of bored and pervy police officers showed us the way. One of our drivers, Raj led us through those alleyways that were too narrow for traffic, with shouts of ‘when I fuck, I fuck for one night only’! After walking around an impossible maze of shack vendors and up six flights of stairs, we finally reached the Dolphin Rooftop Restaurant. It was picturesque as the sun set and the colours and lights danced at the ceremony below. We drank the best mango juice ever and watched the candlelit boats float down the Ganges. It is a magic moment until you realise what is happening. The music was so loud and the lights so bright that after dinner, we walked down to where the rituals were taking place. There are steps down to the bank from the old city, where people sat but we found a rock to stand on which gave us a better view of the colours and the six men dancing with lanterns on stands along the bank. It was perfect because it felt like we were finally here, it was so spiritual that everyone was moved by its beauty. We accidentally put ourselves on a pedestal by jumping onto the rock and like a moth to a flame, street kids plagued our white wallets with their wares. You see their faces and wonder how they can possibly be so carefree and happy. I always thought photos of street kids were a bit sick but they beg to have their picture taken. They were so desperate to sell that they followed us, again through the traffic, to sell their bindis and dye. One of them held my hand the entire way and another told me how he desperately needed money to fund college. You can’t justify saying no but as soon as you buy something from one, fifty others jump on you. It is heartbreaking to be a part of. On the ride home (our drivers had waited all night for us) we saw two wedding processions. It’s strange when traffic stops because people get a chance to stare at you, then they either shout or carry on staring!