Some more stories from Varanasi and Agra
Nov. 8, 2010
I’m in a super cool coffee shop. Air-con, sofas, large windows and many types of coffees. I had a huge ice cream with coffee. Maybe it’s not the best for my insecure stomach, but I really wanted it, you need a treat from time to time.
I’m in Agra, the town of the Taj Mahal. I’ve seen it from far away, from the terrace of my hotel, and it was enough to leave me speechless. I’m so happy, I’ve been dreaming of coming here for so many years! And finally, I’ll visit it tomorrow, at sunrise. With that light it must be even better.
I left Varanasi last night. Every time I leave a place I feel bad. In Varanasi I spent the last two days with two boys I met along the Ghat. They took me around town, to visit a Nepalese temple with Kamasutra scenes adorning the roof, we went to have the best lassi (yogurt with ice) in the world (second only to that of Janakpur) and I wanted to go to the cinema, but I would have had to pay for everyone (1 euro per person), and that was above my daily budget, so I decided not to.
One evening I had 10 minutes of panic, because I was in the middle of the labyrinth of alleys that is Varanasi, in the dark, with few people, with three kids that I didn’t know, going to places I didn’t recognize. But nothing bad happened.
Later that night a man by the ghat asked if I wanted a “Kamasutra massage”. How do you do it? “with condoms”, was his answer. First massage, then oils, then kamasutra. With condom. 1.6 euro, all included.
I’ve met Mowgli again. He brought me to his house to meet his family. When we arrived his mother was resting on the bed that they use as sofa, chair and table; she got up to let us sit down. I don’t know why we went to meet his family if after a couple of minutes they left us alone. Maybe he just wanted to show me where he lives. 5 people in one room 2 meters by 3 that is a kitchen, bedroom, living room and laundry at the same time. There’s also a terrace where they sleep because the room is too small to fit them all. The father works, but probably he doesn’t earn enough to get a bigger home.
Not all the dead in Varanasi are burnt along the Gange. Pregnant women, children, leprous and those killed by a snake bite are tied to a stone and thrown into the river. Kids and pregnant women because they are pure. Those killed by snakes because the snake is holy and you can’t burn his venom (or something similar), leprous because leprosy is god’s punishment. Well, I don’t really understand it, but this is what I was told. Sometimes a corpse comes back afloat.
Along the streets that take to Manikarnika Ghat, the main ghat where corpses are burned, you can see groups of men escorting the dead. They sing to their gods while they walk. Only men take part to the ceremony. The excuse is that women are too sensitive, they cry too much and disturb. Or they might jump into the fire themselves.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 5am and took a boat along the Gange. Amazing. At 5.30 it was still dark, but there were many people bathing and praying. They washed their clothes, men in their underwear, women completely dressed in the water, but they were in different ghats, men and women. Amid rubbish and offers. And with the bottom of the river swarming with corpses.
The previous evening, as part of the Diwali, I saw people taking statues of the goddess Kali to the river and throw them in. In Kolkata I saw the neighborhood where they build the statues in straw and mud, I thought they were for the temples, but they are actually for the river. Families pay as much as 100 euro for a nicely decorated statue, they take it to the river, kiss it everywhere, make it turn a bit around itself, throw some offers into the river (mainly fruit and vegetables, plastic bags included; a man threw a coconut and three steel teaspoons… and I wondered if a knife wouldn’t have been more useful for the coconut?) and then the statue. They can throw the statue directly near the shore or rent a boat and go 10 meters into the water. They are all happy and take a lot of pictures during the ceremony.
Muslim women in Agra walk with their face completely covered. They see where to put their feet looking down under the shawl that covers them.
Earlier today I had a lassi. The seller advised me to be careful with the men of Agra, that are a bit disreputable. He told me that he is 34 years old (he looks like my father), he’s married with two children, 7 and 10 years old. When he goes home in the evening after work the children are already sleeping. His wife loves him so much that she wants the children to sleep in another room, so she can have him all for herself. When he’s back his wife serves him dinner, then locks the door, undresses him and makes love to him. She would like to do it every night, because she loves him so much. But he can’t do it so often, so he asked her to give him some respite one every other day. “You’re a very lucky man”, I told him. After the second son the wife told him she doesn’t want another child, so they use a condom. He left me speechless. He suggested I find a husband soon because meditation in the morning and sex in the evening are the ingredients for a happy life.
I thanked him for his interesting tips and promised I would think about what he told me.
While he was talking to me I wondered what was wrong with him. Was he a bit retarded? Or does he think that in Europe we talk freely about our sex life with strangers? Or does he force his wife to have sex every other day and pretend that she wants it so that he feels loved and important? Or was he just teasing me? I will never know. Well, very lucky man in any case.