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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Varanasi


Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi—one of the oldest cities on earth at 4000 years old. There is nothing older than two hundred here. The Ghats along the Ganges are a happening place - no question. The masseurs, the knick-knack sellers, the devotees, the ashes of people going up in smoke, the odd cow, the boats on the river, the incense, the marigolds, the shit,  
An underwhelming city in my view. Visually the row of ghats are vaguely interesting. The spread of cattle ordure throughout the tiny alleys a bit nasty. Cows are kept in houses and let out to roam throughout the old city alleys.

 
Sarnath
It was a relief to get a rickshaw to Sarnath a Buddhist town with a number of friendly and not so friendly monasteries. The Tibetan monastery so welcoming I stayed there. The Japanese the opposite. Closed and rather mean of spirit. Always the richest. They build the cleanest most impressive stupas and gompas. The general atmosphere the opposite of Varanasi. No one wanted anything from you. Jeff Dyer writes most comically of Varanasi in his Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. About a cow with a tail so splattered with its own ordure that it became a deadly weapon and guess what. It hits him around the face. It is the last straw and he goes down with the sickness.
Interestingly that is where I got terribly sick too. The food not fresh. The place not fresh.

Now if my perspicacious friend from Copenhagen were here she would instantly see the issues here. There is no pushing on from the Indians at large. Now I wouldn't want to put words in her mouth but she might point out that in Denmark they have museums where Danish houses have black insides because they had yet figured that smoke is better funnelled outside of the house. 16th century Denmark she might say. The Indians are still at it. The insides of their houses are still black. Alas she is not here to confer with. I'm sure she would contact me if I misrepresented her here.

Really I'm upset that I've been sick three times since January. Twice pretty badly. The last time I wondered whether I was in India to stay. Quarantined away from the population at large. Varanasi
Three days recovering in my monastery cell at Sarnath followed.

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