Varanasi Vibes

There is this feeling you get when you first visit Varanasi that can be summarized in two words Dante's Purgatory. In a good way.

This was not my first time here so I sort of knew what to expect, but the magic of India (one of them) is that it surprises you with something new all. the. time. So, although the Ganga is still there, the devotes are still worshipping, the chai walla are still doing their thing, and the tourists are still snapping their pictures..
The vibes you experience change according to how you feel. What state of mind are you in when you walk about the ghats? When you watch the sun rise? When you sit on the warm, dirty stone amongst stranger to experience the daily offerings to the sacred river? Are you going to focus on the sweltering heat, the garbage scattered everywhere, she smell of sewer filling your nostrils,  and the many homeless bodies sitting wherever they can? Or are you going to see the multiple shades of orange, hear the mellifluous voices of the seated women chanting, as the day begins? Are you going to feel overwhelmed by the horns incessantly honking, or the drivers following no rules whatsoever? Are you going to get mad when the tuc-tuc walla tries to overcharge you because you are a foreigner? Or are you going to go deep inside yourself as you become one with silence, while you sit on the boat floating about?
Are you going to focus on the smell of burning bodies (it is here that Hindus come to die as it is believed that dying in Varanasi means one attains moksha or liberation) or are you going to ponder on the meaning of your life and its purpose? The choice is ours, really. Which is pretty much everywhere one goes, come to think of it... it's just that in India everything seems more charged, fuller with the meaning of what is really like to be alive, as one's senses, feelings, emotions, are constantly tested. (Side note).
This time the flowing of Ma Ganga catches my eye. I'm used to Her course being at different speeds throughout the seasons, showing a variety of shades of grays and greens depending on what's going on up in the Himalayas. In Varanasi it is not like that. Here the water does. not. move; it simply sits, as if too tired to go anywhere. It is stagnant, as particles of all shapes I don't dare to investigate float to the surface.

The hot weather doesn’t help. Although it is the middle of October it's HOT by any standards. I go out early in the morning -the best time, really, because the view of the sun rising on the holy river leaves me speechless every. single. time- and at dawn to be part of the daily ceremony in honor of the Ganga.
The more i explore the town, the more I can’t help but notice the condition of the animals here. Mainly cats and dogs are the ones that get to my heart the fastest. In Varanasi they look... what's the word... hopeless? Desperate? Demoralized? Disconsolate? Pick one of these adjective you prefer. They are skin and bones, hungry. Some have injuries probably from fighting with other animals. They are thirsty and dehydrated. I feed them how i can the few days i am here, but the problem is so huge... it makes me wonder what one did in a previous life to attain this birth... It is difficult for me to accept it and remind myself that everything is always in Divine order
I love going to the aarti (fire ceremony) by the Ganga at sunset. I like to sit in the midst of chaos together with people from all over the world who come to Varanasi to experience India. (Although India is much much more than this).
There is this woman i happen to notice i don't know why. Blonde, hair in a clean round bob. In her thirties. French? I turn my eyes and i see her bending over a very young indian girl, broken clothes, barefoot, dirty long disheveled hair. She is holding a sleeping infant. The foreigner is asking her in English, "Where is your mom?" The little girl doesn't understand; shy smile, she gives her her right hand, palm open. The blonde girl gets irritated and raises her voice hoping to get her words across. It doesn't happen. The french girl's level of frustration is escalating by the second; raising her voice even higher she (almost) shouts," The baby is sick. You need to take him to the doctor RIGHT NOW. Where's your mom?" The Indian girl still has no clue, so the French woman begins to shake her as if to get more of her. It doesn't work either, with the result that the Indian girl runs away, baby in arms... The moral of the story is that i used to be that foreign woman concerned about the state of humans in India. It used to keep me awake at night, trying to figure out how i could help, what i could do. Now, i still feel their pain. With acceptance. I accept the fact that there are things i will never understand, situations i cannot solve, people i cannot change. I accept the fact that India is like this. It shakes you to the core. It makes you feel powerless. It makes you give up your desire to control, to give your westernized version of how it should be. It makes you completely surrender to the bigger force above all of us. This does not mean that i am not going to help where i can with what i have as much as i can. No. I am still helping. This means that i accept the fact that there are situations i can do nothing about.

  Surrender is the moral of the story. 


  1. Varanasi has been one of our favorite destinations, and by far the most fascinating and distinctive, in India so far. We are planning to return for a longer trip when we can explore the city at a slower pace.


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