Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I'll start this post by saying that I really like Varanasi. I've met a few people around town (vendors, shopkeepers) who are actually really funny people that I can share a chai and BS with, and it's a ridiculously interesting place. When I crossed the bridge and saw all the ghats and the life swarming them, all the temples and traditions unfolding before my eyes, it occured to me that this place has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Sure, there are mobile phones and internet cafes, but the way of life for the average Veranasian has remained the same. The industries (silk, brass) have been going strong for millenia, and this is the absolute epicnetre of a damn near timeless religion. Looking out over the cremations today (story about that too!), I tryed to comprehend how many people had been reduced slowly to ash and then thrown into the Ganga's currents- countless. This place bends time, or so it seems. Took a tabla lesson yesterday (tabla is an Indian hand drum set), and then another one today. I'll be having one tomorrow as well- and once I return to Canada and have established myself on the job front, I'll be ordering a custom set from these guys. It will cost me a fraction of the cost of one in Canada, and I know it will be of good quality. The shop where I study is very relaxed- I even went there just to hang out and have a tea tonight. My next story takes place at the burning ghat. Photos of the cremation are thoroughly dissaproved of, but I decided to be sneaky and just pop the camera out of the side of my pocket and grab a snap. I wasn't sneaky enough, and a man saw me. He claimed to be a worker at the ghat. Anyhow, he started telling me that "I have made a mistake, but I make donation; no problem". I asked him what would happen if I didn't make a donation, and he replied "Big trouble, I tell everybody", and motions to a bunch of dudes standing below. He was trying to threaten me into giving him money, and I didn't really want to play that game. I told him I wouldn't pay, and he repeated big trouble...blah blah blah. I had a feeling he was bluffing, but not wanting any bullshit I pulled the old "let me go get my wallet from my hotel" routing. The schmuck totally fell for it and I walked away, with photo, no ruppees, no problem. I talked to a few locals about the incident, and they informed me of a few things. First, all these touts want is money for some drug habit (whatever their choice may be), and little money, if any, goes to the hospices. Secondly, I found out that if I paid "the boss" about 300 RS, then I would be able to take a picture. (The boss, I presume, is Shiva). Anyways, long story short, I got a photo of the cremations, and saved 300 ruppees. Spent the rest of the day shopping for my friends back home and playing Tabla. It's so hot during the day here (45 C), that my proposed photo project never came to fruition, but I think the one that I did get should make up for it. Tomorrow I am back on the train (A quick 30 hour jaunt to Mumbai) in the evening, and I'm thinking about heading to Sarnath again, as Budha's birthday celebration is taking place.