Sunday, 29 January 2017

Varanasi the City of Death - Part 3 The lotus flower only blooms in the dirtiest swamp

The next day after breakfast the three of us were off to explore again. I had only two cups of Lassi for last night dinner so I was glad to be out and looking for lunch. A walk along the main road this time and Josh and Adam had a mission of sorts. They have it all planned out since they only had two days in Varanasi but I was just going with the flow deciding to stay one of my longest stop during this trip … a total of 6 days in Varanasi

We walked around much more into the Ghat after getting a good headstart with the main road and by then I have gotten my equivalent Indian version of tiger balm. We stumble upon the golden temple, shiva temple one of the oldest in Varanasi and very sacred for there was many hindu pilgrams which I later found out was because we came during the Savants month.

The one temple we could not go in. Passport is required to enter and no phones or camera is allowed in. Me and Adam tried to get in using identity card which we did the first gate only to be turn around the second one. Giving up we decided to head to the Blue Lassi place again since we were close.
Signs to Guide your way ... but beware of fake signs

More lassi for lunch …. I have gone nearly 24 hours with no food, just water and lassi.

Sitting down at the Lassi place every so often one could see dead bodies being carried on a possession heading towards the burning Ghat. It was a surreal place where people drink and enjoy and the local immune to the fact hundreds of dead bodies pass by their front shop every day.

Fruit Lassi
This Blue Lassi place was famous. Recommended by lonely planet and filled with tourist. It was my first try of Lassi and I have to say it was pretty good. Lassi was made out of milk and curd mixed together and this shop provided all kinds of fruit that could go with it. We asked the chap making the lassi which we presumed was the son of the ownder … 70 years old Lassi place what is his most favourite type of lassi flavour and he replied without a moment of hesitation …. I do not like Lassi.

The Blue Lassi Shop - Varanasi
He just sits there all day making lassi and people all praise him for a delicious lassi but he does not drink it …. He do not like the taste. Ironic of it but understandable. One question was asked of why the clay cups that is used to serve the lassi is being smashed after a single serving. Why don’t they recycle and wash them. According to him the holy men in India would not drink Lassi from a cup that has been used before or drank from before hence they all throw them away after a single use. If known that the Clay cups are being washed and re used he would not have any more holy men patronizing his shop for Lassi. Hence if you want a free souvenir clay cup authentic to India that is used to serve Lassi or the smaller one for Chai one do not have to buy them but just take them home after finishing the drink.

As we sat there drinking lassi after lassi … ( I only had one but Adam and Josh had like 3 each ) more and more people we recognise from the hostel entered the shop and joined us for Lassi.  Soon the shop was full and after a long time in the Lassi place we were finally head out again and towards the burning Ghat. Some of them had not seen it yet so we all head towards there.

The only thing we realized that was really taboo, was taking Photos of the Burning … No Photos of the burning corpes.

Round two to the Burning Ghat with a hoard of people … around 10 of us and you could see the gleam of the vulture eyes. Adam and Josh led the way and bulldozed down to the lower inner parts of the Ghat. I started to think by then that if it was really just a family area and tourist are not allowed surely there would be a big signboard to inform the tourist in English respectfully. That single board would have prevented so much hassle with the locals. I realized then that it was a local ruse … there was no such thing that the lower and inner section of the Burning Ghat is reserved for the families. It was an open burning cremation and anyone can go there as long as they do not stir up trouble. In fact it was the local vultures that tries to stir up issues with the tourist in order to profit off it.

May your Karma be fitting of your life?

Solemn silence while we visited the Ghat but with the taunting of the Vulture and the insults that the throw occasionally Josh and a few other started to heat up. Fuck off was used one or twice and I suggested it was time to leave. Downstream this time I headed and not the way we came. We were out of the Ghat and here we saw a lot of boat men this time trying to get up on a boat ride down the Ganga river. Walking on we saw another few familiar faces which was from the hostel and boarding a boat.

How much is the ride guys ???

150 a person ….

Another 10 of us stood there contemplating if it was worth taking a boat ride. …

Josh asked for a 100 rupee a person and the boatmen looking at shear volume decided it was worth his trouble …. Ok 100 per person for all of you .. come come …

We all got onto the boat and went for a ride down the river.
Scindia Ghat - Varanasi

The boat men was honest … or at lease more honest than the vulture … we knew the boat ride could cost as low as 50 rupee but at 100 rupee it was cheap enough that most of us find it a fair price. Ask me any question he said and slowly the random question surfaced up …

The boatmen told us things about Varanasi

There are a total of 87 Ghat in Varanasi … with Assi the first ghat and Varana the 87 …
Varanasi Boat Ride
Do you know how much the price of burning wood in the Burning Ghat ??? The bad men all talk about 150 rupee a kilo but it only cost 10 rupee a kilo. All the people there asking for money not for poor but for themselves.
Lal Ghat - Varanasi
It is illegal to take boat out in Ganga now as the river level is high. The govt announce that no boat shall go out now but dun worry if they come the fine will be on me and not you. I am taking risk but its ok.

Burning Ghat - Varanasi

The usual water level is about 25 metres lower. .. and the worst flood ( he pointed to the marker on the wall afar)
I believe that mostly the bad people come to Varanasi to die. In Hindu culture if you have done good in your life you can die anywhere and go to Nirvana. Why do you need to come to Varanasi for that? It’s because it is believed that Lord Shiva is most kind in Varanasi for this is his city hence if anyone die in Varanasi and be cremated here in the Burning Ghat his soul regardless of his deeds will go to Nirvana hence I believe that mostly the bad people come to Varanasi to die.
Burning Ghat - Varanasi

As we reach the end of the downstream river the boatman started up the motor and push us upriver. He even went pass the burning Ghat so we could see it from the river side.

Burning Ghat - Varanasi
You can take photo he says …. No problem ….

As all our cameras was unleashed from its cage and shots fired away, some families waved at us friendly and touch our hearts. To see the good in the bad and not be affected by the evil, one has to calm his mind and understand his soul before understanding others. Our boat pass by the Ghat and another turn was make to bring us back to the starting point.
The Burning Ghat - Varanasi

I was really happy with the boat ride …. And I passed him 150 rupee going off the boat. Adam saw it and told me it was only 100 rupee …. I know I told him … I know ….

It is an unwritten rule that I have … if someone were to ask for money, no matter how much he seems that he need it, I have the tendency to be so defensive that I would never give it to them. However when it is not asked …. I may give more than is required even if he do not need it base on his actions alone. I left that to Josh and Adam to contemplate on its meaning ….

Go back through the burning Ghat … easier way to walk the boatmen said …. But I was not about to walk back to vulture infested land after taking photos on the boat ….. I am not going that way I said …. I’ll go this way the harder way and explore …. See you guys back at the hostel as I waved the big group of 15+ heading towards the burning Ghat and me alone wandering the nooks of Varanasi Ghats.

That was the end of the second day …. I only reach back the hostel an hour or two later and rest for the whole day. Josh and Adam rushed back from the 430 Hostel Ghat tour and I shook their hands while they rushed to catch their 730 train to Agra.

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