Archive for January, 2007

I Love Varanasi

Monday, January 29th, 2007

We had a lovely afternoon with a family we met yesterday who invited us to their house for a meal today. I was suspicious, as nobody has yet been friendly without wanting anything, but I tried to keep an open mind. They were very friendly and trusting, and ended up wanting absolutely nothing but our company. They fed us the best food I’ve eaten so far in India and let Kate take care of their baby, also spending a while making her up as an Indian bride! They all had beautiful smiles and spirit, and I’m feeling quite humbled by India today.

Lovely Family
Lovely Family
Kate
Kate

Beautiful Morning

Monday, January 29th, 2007

I’ve been feeling much better recently, and far less grumpy!
I couldn’t sleep last night, and so I got up before the sunrise leaving Kate snoring in bed to go up on the roof and greet the new day.
What a beautiful daybreak, and my heart felt wide open to the world. I went down to the Ghats (riverside), and chatted with a Saddhu (holy man) who gave me some tea and a necklace that they all wear that has something to do with Shiva. I made it clear from the start that I had no money on me, so I really appreciated the gesture.
It made me really remember why I got into photography, I’ve spent far too long stressing about getting good photos without really enjoying the process, and I need to open my heart and my feelings again if I want to really improve my photographic eye.

Saddhu
Saddhu
Saddhu

I Hate Varanasi

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

I’ve really been here for too long now, which has not been helped by becoming significantly more ill since my last entry. According to the doctor’s tests, I have a chronic E-Coli infection with a low red blood cell count. I looked it up on the internet, and it can have a 9 day incubation period, so it is possible I became infected the moment I set foot in India! Apparently it can’t be treated, but the doctor has given me loads of pills which I think are starting to make me feel better.
There are many things about India and Varanasi which are annoying, and my tolerance levels aren’t helped by a constant level of nausea and low-energy.

Things I hate about India/Varanasi:
Oh My God, the touts! They are relentless and even physically grab hold of your arms and legs. They try to get your attention when you’re in the middle of a conversation and will not be put off with a ‘No’. They are agressive and are everywhere. They have no humour or sense of play about what they do, they’re like automatons. They also stalk you before they even say anything to you with the subtlety of a brick. It feels like swimming along with people grabbing on to your legs and arms before they’ve even said anything to you. Sometimes they stand right in front of you to make you stop, and seem surprised when I push them out of the way after asking them to move.

If you actually want to buy anything in a shop, people will lie about what they have until you prise out of them that actually they don’t have what you want. This makes shopping very slow and tedious.

Indian people love to talk, but they really don’t listen at all well and are completely uninterested in anything relevant you have to say.

Most people will stare at you with no trace of a smile. I find it quite threatening.

Men constantly approach Kate in a predatory way, even when I am right next to her. I have no idea how to deal with this without punching them.

Nobody seems to know how to cook in Varanasi. The food is awful, and obviously made by people who aren’t cooks. I’m really not exaggerating!

Everything takes so long. If someone says that something will take 10 minutes, it will take 3 hours.

For a country that is supposed to be so spiritual, everyone is surprisingly materialistic. The main topic of conversation is money and all the stories centre around it as the main theme.

Nobody will ever smile to you or say ‘Hello’ without eventually ending up wanting something. This is really demoralising, as I don’t want to have to ignore everybody.

I don’t like curry.

But from what I gather, we’re really not in the best place to appreciate the best of India, and I’ve not been well enough to rise above all the annoyances. As soon as I feel better, we’re out of here!

The good things about India:

Children are very uninhibited and happy, which is nice to watch.

I love the cows.

I’m not in England!

I can learn new musical instruments.

The holy men in India are amazing, and have an energy about them which you’ll never find in Western people.

We have time to listen to music and watch videos which I didn’t have time for in England. I’ve got Karajan’s Wagner Ring Cycle which we’ve been listening to each evening for an hour, and we’ve also been watching series 2 of Lars Von Trier’s ‘The Kingdom’ and also watching loads of old Twilight Zones. I have stacks of videos and music to keep us entertained for months!

I love roadside shaves. Apparently, Indian men don’t know how to shave because it’s so easy to have somebody else shave you.

Everything is cheap. It’s especially cheap to have clothes made. The cloths are amazing.

The Hindu religion is beautiful.

There are loads of festivals.

One month with E-Coli has enabled me to lose almost all the excess flab I wanted to get rid of!

……………………………………………
Anyway, there was a festival on my birthday (35 now, yikes!) celebrating the Goddess Saraswati (music, learning, language). The day after, all the statues are thrown into the Ganges which we photographed from a boat:

Saraswati
Saraswati
Saraswati
Saraswati
Saraswati
Saraswati

Yet more Varanasi

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

I was violently ill not long after my last blog entry, I felt like I lost my entire insides! I’ve seen a doctor now though who has given me lots of pills, and I also have had various tests done to see if I have anything serious… I should get the results in a couple of days. The tests were expensive… equivalent to staying for 13 days in our previous guest house! But actually it was around £15, so just expensive for India.
Anyway, some more photos! The first photo is interesting, you can see the smoke from the Burning Ghat on the left side of the photo which is where dead bodies are burnt and placed into the river. The river Ganges and the city of Varanasi are considered very holy, and if your remains are burnt and carried off here you are supposed to be released from death and rebirth. These bathers are all slightly downstream of the dead bodies. Lovely!

Bathers
Boy with Stripy Steps
Man with Blue Scarf
Girl in Green
Scary Cow
Sunset Dog