Saturday, November 14, 2015


Cows roam freely and are everywhere in Varanasi, India. Photo at night.
It feels as if lifetimes have come and gone in the short span of time I have been in India. The crush of humanity, brightly colored and diverse, mostly in squalid conditions has made my Italian sojourn seem far off and long ago. I have walked narrow passages and skirted around cows while stepping over piles of manure, seen men pissing in the stinking streets, had my eyes dazzled by women in colorful saris of every color and shade, walked past many temples and smelled fragrant burning incense, become vegetarian by default and a chai drinker, and been bombasted by fireworks so loud and frequent during the festival of Diwali that dogs in America probably heard it and quivered. I have drifted in a rowboat on the Ganges River at evening with an American friend and made personal rituals, leaving candles floating in the night water, and visited cremation fires by day and watched bodies burn on pyres of flaming wood. Friends have been made, including a young man who drives a rickshaw and works 16 hour days to support his wife and two boys. Many people are like him—working long hard hours. He told me it would look bad if his wife worked, that he would meet with disapproval from family and so he does what he must. And he always greeted me with a smile, and often looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you happy?”

Lighting candles in baskets with marigold blossoms to float in the Ganges River.

I arrived in Pushkar, India today after the longest train ride of my life—22 hours. That in itself was a sort of lifetime experience. The train was full . . . so densely packed that it was four hours late on arrival, probably because it could not go fast. I was in a more costly air-conditioned sleeper car that squeezed six berths in each compartment and the coach had perhaps 12 such compartments. The only clean items were the sheets they gave. The bathrooms would make some people ill on sight. Imagine the second class coaches. Anyway, I am going native and roll with the punches. I made friends with a family sharing my compartment, and they helped me when I arrived at the station, staying by my side until I got a rickshaw to the bus station where I caught a bus that was similarly packed with people. Now I am in Pushkar and arrived just before an important festival, and this might be good luck.

Herding camel, Pushkar, India

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