The King of Varanasi

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November 12th 2008
Published: November 12th 2008
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So away I galavant from Antara, with the ambulance as my private vehicle escort and Rach and Nat as my entourage (just in case they are reading this... oh how I will grieve the loss of their good company. No, genuinely, I had a really great time with them and Suman, Kelly and Amanda, it will me missed!) I wave goodbye at Howrah Train Station, Kolkata, and set off into the fray...

Before I went, I had my "official welcome meeting" by the literary society at Antara, literally like an hour before my planned departure. I had to prepare some creative and imaginative literature to read out at the society, and as I would hate to feel you were missing out, the full literary talent I posess wowed the audience in the median of the following Limerick:

There once was a boy called Jack
Who set off to India with his pack
He flew to West Bengal,
Where he worked at Antara Hospital,
Which he loved so much he will definitely be back!!

Pretty awful, I know. So in the hope of improving my distinctly lacking arty side, and to attempt to blank out scientific scepticism I have decided to read a book reccommended by a friend of mine, a patient. It is called "Autobiography of a Yogi" and the patient who has Bipolar Disorder was convinced his Manic phases were due to a spiritual enlightenment, and due to that had very poor compliance with his meds. I did my best at convincing him to take the meds, as otherwise he will never be discharged from Antara, which he said he will, but with two catches. Firstly I have to endure nearly 500 pages written by a man who can beckon a kite to him as a kid, using the "power of his mind", and secondly if he gets a message from a higher power to stop taking lithium, then he will. Brilliant.

I am coming live from Varanasi, before catching my train at midnight, and I have been influneced by a few hippiues to give spiritualness-and-that a chance. They were planning a 10 day silent meditation at one of the local Ashrams, which sounds pretty hardcore. However, when you factor in NO speaking, eating very little, no reading, no listening to music, NO speaking, no eye contact, NO speaking, into it, I decided to opt for the two hour Yoga class. And I am still in pain.

So quickly, Varanasi- incredible. The burning ghats are amazing, but just how I imagined they would be (there is not much scope for the imagination when you think of a wrapped up body burning). However, I did not bank on stepping into the boat for the sunrise views over the ganges to be honoured with a floating dead-body getting in the way of the oars. I was aware dead babies are put in the Ganges whole, and not cremated. What I was unaware of is that holy men, pregnant women, and people killed from snake bites, small pox or leprosy, also get this privelege of being thrown in with rope attached to heavy rocks. Indian rope seems to be of particularly poor quality, as the bodies become bloated, the rope regularly snaps, and they gently float to the surface and bob along the shore.

Old town of Varanasi is also going to be kept in the memory-bank. The streets are tiny and traffic free, as only crazed motorcyclists can fit through them. However, despite India's huge accident rate, you do not feel any safer on the traffic-free lanes in Varanasi. Picture the scene, you may be ambling along a busy little alley, passing by the local silk shops, yoga centers, and huge piles of firewood. A chanting line may cross your path along an intersecting alley, where they are taking a highly decorated dead body to be ceremonially dumped in the Ganges then cremated. You momentarily lose concentration, as a man hassles to take you to a place with "very good view of burning deadbody". The next thing you know is that there is a damn cow hurtling its way down the lane towards you, absolutely alpha-maling the street. You dive into the nearest doorway to save yourself. The cow really is king of the streets around here, and when you step out of the doorway into a huge fresh cow-pat, their point is very clearly proven.

Anyway, that is my little update on my adventure, feel free to leave any comments, I will catch up with you when I am in Nepal (If all goes to plan!)


12th November 2008

the cow
alpha mailing cow mate - classic

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