Mowgli in Varanasi

Mowgli in Varanasi

November 5, 2010

I’m exhausted. I’ve been walking around Varanasi with Mowgli all day, the boy from the Jungle Book (that I’ve been willing to read since I arrived here; I also want to read Alice in Wanderland, don’t ask me why). I met him last night, he told me about the essential oils he’s studying with his uncle, Aroma Therapy, so he convinced me to go to his “uncle’s shop” (how many uncle sops have I visited in my travels?). I knew I shouldn’t have gone because I can’t not buy when I’m in a trap like this. But my friend Giorgia, who is studying Aroma Therapy for real, says that essential oils are very expensive. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad business I did. And I bought this oil that should help you sleep better, for my dad, so maybe he will stop complaining I never think about him.

Later Mowgli came with me to the university campus, about a couple of hours walk from the old town, and despite the fact he was talking about interesting stuff (religion, yoga, ayurveda, fabrics), I get tired when I spend too much time with the same person alone. So a few minutes ago I told him I had to go and came to this caf?-shop with wifi. One nice glass of lemonade. I deserve it. I also had a nice piece of carrot cake, with Mowgli. We came here together for coffee and tea, earlier.

A walk in Varanasi

It’s weird, when you travel for a long time you miss the ordinary things that when you are at home bore you. I miss cooking for example. I wish I could bake a cake right now and I want to make that past with tomato sauce and mozzarella the way I like it.

Last night I was excited because I was about to have a pizza for dinner. When I finally had it, of course it was disappointing. I had big hopes about it, because it’s cooked in a wood oven, but it looked like the frozen pizza you buy at the supermarket, and of the worst quality. Ok, you can’t really expect to have real Italian food when you travel abroad. But I really needed a pizza after so much Indian food.

Anyway, here I am now in the place where they make the best coffee in India; they also sell scarves, table covers and clothes that I can’t resist to. It’s beautiful. Indian textiles are colorful and beautiful.

While I was on skype with Enrico, that always checks I’m not going out with bad companies, I thought of the cool guys that you meet in the street here in Varanasi, and in particular along the Gange. I don’t know if they are guru, priests, ascetics or what. They walk around wearing white, yellow or orange sheets around their waist, they usually have very long hair (but clean, in most cases), they seem wild, a hunky chest in display… well, quite attractive, in my opinion. Yesterday I had to turn around to look at two of these guys because I couldn’t believe it! And they don’t seem to care about women. They are the only men in India that don’t look at women. Shame. But I would like to talk to one of them one day. They are like the three men pictured here, of which the one in the middle is from Iran. Similar, but younger and more handsome.


Today we are celebrating Diwali, a big festival in India. They cleaned the streets from cows’ poo and took off the rubbish, so people can walk around with bare feet. It should be the festival of lights (with all houses fully lit), if I’m not mistaken. Or maybe that of the lights is in a few days. The problem here is that nobody knows anything for sure. Like in Nepal, when there was this big festival but everybody gave me different information. Well, I’ll see how it is tonight. The only annoying part are the firecrackers, shooting all the time. As if car and bike horns weren’t annoying enough.

When you walk in Varanasi you have to be very careful, because in India the only effective law is that of the jungle, the strongest wins, so the poor pedestrians must pay attention to everything: a sweep of cow tail in your face, bicycles, rickshaw, motorbikes, cars, monkeys that pee on your head from the roofs.

I wonder if my mom learned how to open the blog by herself.
Your father must be a gardner

Your father must be a gardner

November 3, 2010

Your father must be a gardner.

This is what a guy told me, while we were walking by the Gange river. Because I look like a flower. Not bad for a 12 years old, right?

Today marks 6 days since I came to Varanasi and I for the first time I was able to visit the town. I spent the last 5 days between bed and bathroom, with a terrible diarrhea and vomit that were starting to worry me because it wasn’t stopping and I wasn’t eating anything. On the forth day, with the little strength I had left (and the help of a mango juice that I vomited on the way back) I went to a drugstore that gave me some of their Indian pills (Marco told me that to kill Indian viruses you need Indian drugs) and a rehydration solution (that immediately gave me some relief). A policeman saw me vomiting the juice in the street a minute after the drugstore. I made him the sign of stomach ache, it’s the international sign for “I’ve got the travel disease that affects so many tourists in India”. The good aspect of all this is that my belly hasn’t been so flat in 16 hears.

Today for the first time I was hungry again. Nice feeling. A few days ago I thought I was evaporating in the air without anyone noticing. Actually there were some people in the guesthouse that asked me how I was and if they could help me in some way, but what could they have done?

So, today I went out. I went out in the morning, but it was too hot and I felt weak, so I came back to rest. I went out again at 3pm. I went to see the Ghats for which Varanasi is famous. They are quays along the Gange river (that here is called Ganga) where people go to bath and do their ablutions mainly in the morning and evening (something I also witnessed in Kolkata), but at some ghats they cremate the deads. It’s a bit weird. And interesting, of course.

There’s a long staircase that takes from the road to the river. Along the steps there’s a line of corpses that wait to be put above a small pile of wood, enought to burn the corpse. I thought they would make the body float on the water, but I haven’t seen this yet. They leave them there.

a walk in Varanasi

Later I went to see another Ghat, the Dasaswamedh, where from 6.30 to 7.30pm there’s an interesting ritual, with 7 guys that dance carrying an incence urn. Nice.


There are also many tea lights on the Gange in the background. The tea lights are put on a leaf covered in flowers, carried by the stream. Mine didn’t last too long. After 5 seconds that it was in the water, the rope of a boat landed on it and killed it. I hope this won’t have a bad influence on my karma. The girl that was with me told me not to worry, and put another tea light on a leaf without flowers and lit it up.”It’s still nice”, she told me. She gave me her tiny ring. So when I wear it I think of her, Sunita. It was very sweet of her, considering that she has a wound in her feet that doesn’t heal because she doesn’t have the money to go to the doctor.

Baths in the river are quite popular here. Well, both Gange and the river in Kolkata (the Hooghly) are holy rivers. I don’t know if all rivers are. People don’t bath just to wash, because in the street there are fountains with cleaner water. Well, less dirty. But for them it’s like bathing in holy water. For me it’s weird, because after a bath in these polluted waters you should also bath in bleach, but probably for them it’s very important. One evening while I was in Kolkata I tried to write in my diary what I was seeing.

17.05 hrs. Baaby Ghat. Yellow-brown waters. Garbage and crows. There’s the usual street people that bath, but also people well dressed that come closer to the water, splash a bit on their head and face. Sometimes they drink it. Then they leave. A couple is taking home a small jug full of water. They lather themselves. Then they enter into the muddy water. I wonder how they can drink this water and not die. They even brush their teeth. Not with a toothbrush, of course, just with their finger. A woman is entering the waters with a pure white dress. A guy in a corner is empting some bags full of trash, directly into the water. There’s incense on the steps. The lady in white went in to the head. She squeezed the scarf and rinsed her sandals with the brown water before coming out. And now? Will she take the bus all wet like she is? Or does she have a car to soak? Or will she walk in the street like this?

I’m in a small restaurant with two musicians playing Indian traditional instruments. Nice. I had Aloo Dam Kasmiri and Mushroom rice for dinner. Potatoes with sweet curry. I can’t finish it. I think it’s the first time in my life I can’t finish my dinner .But it’s better not to force my stomach too much yet.

Tomorrow I would like to wake up at 5am to take a boat on the river and look at people doing their morning ablutions. I’m gonna try. I’ve slept a lot in these last days, but I don’t think I’m ready to get up that early.

And I’m ready to go to bed. 9.35pm. Good night!