I am taking advantage of the fact that India is playing Criket against Sri Lanka in the finals of the world cup, as the government will surely not allow power cuts to occur now, or masses will riot!!!
I will try to summarize a little what happened after Bangalore, my impressions and the ups and downs of my moods. Knowing that I have very critical readers, I will try not to generalize too much. Indians have given me constructive criticism. Feel free to correct me if I got it wrong, but keep in mind that these are merely my personal impressions and I may be carried away by my emotions. But I intend to be honest and to show the good sides as well as the bad ones.
These were my stops in short so far: Delhi - Amritsar - Haridwar/Rishikesh - Varanasi
The train from Bangalore to Delhi took 38 hours to get there. I booked a berth in the sleepers class (nearly the cheapest class). The toilets you can imagine were dreadfull, but what could I do? I had to go eventually. Delhi was quite nice for a day. I slept in a hostel in the
ambassy area, so it was more quiet at night. I met a very nice girl from Japan (who fortunately did not have any relations in the parts affected by the Tsunami) and we set off to go and see Humayun's tomb (recommended by Peter - as it shows a small version of the Taj Mahal). The metro system in Delhi is fantastic. There are special compartments just for women! I just stayed a night in Delhi and took the train to Amritsar the next day.
Amritsar is truely a sacred place - you can feel that. I loved it right away. Especially the people here were very kind. I was warned already that Sikh men are especially attractive. And that is true. Very handsome and majestic with their turbans, the full beard, often blue or green eyes, quite strong statue and their mysterious smile. Everyone in the Golden Tempel seemed so gentle and fully at peace. I also learned a lot about the Sikh religion which embraces every religion and everyone who just is compassionate about others. The Golden Temple is a place of absolute peace except for the canteen. Every day 60,000 to 80,000 people get fed every
day. And if you thought you cannot find organisation in India, you can deffinetely find it there. I have never seen so much efficiency in my life! You just have to follow the masses. Plates and bowls are thrown into your hands and you get pushed into a room where you sit in rows and people with big buckets and bread come around and serve you. You get as much refill as you want. Food as well as accomodation is absolutely free, and the place is spotlessly clean as they wash the floors every 5 minutes. Even though I am not religious I had to get onto my knees and bow my head to the floor before I left this place - as it truely touched my heart. The other reason why I wanted to go to Amritsar was to see a place of historical significance. I went to see Jiallanwala Bagh, a courtyard where a massacre took place in 1919 and which made the whole of India stand up for indipendance. You can still see the bullet holes in the walls. This courtyard could only be reached by a narrow alley, high walls surrounded the place. 20,000 people protestet
in peace against the British when 150 soldiers marched up and open fire without any warning killing 400 men, women and children and leaving over 1,500 wounded. People then had no chance of escape. If you shut your eyes at this place you can hear the screams. As a contrast to this sad spot, I also went to see the border closing ceremony between India and Pakistan. One cannot find the right words to describe this show. People from both sides stream into stadiums to cheer and dance and to show absolute patriotism. It is a real shouting match and the soldiers are performing the ceremony and their marching just looks like Monty Python's ministry of silly walks. It is ridiculous - but the crowds love it!
I was very sad to leave Amritsar but I was very happy to meet Sol who would be traveling with me to Haridwar. Spontanuously I decided to follow her to Rishikesh, just one hour from Haridwar. Sol comes from Argentina and we liked each other from the start. Rishikesh is known for its Yoga and the Beatles have been here too. Here are a lot of Hippie-Tourists. It was nice to stay
at an Ashram for a couple of days and to do some Yoga. I missed Lillemor so much when I was there. She is my Yoga teacher in Hamburg and has become a very special friend to me. Combined with a vegeterian ayurvedic diet, this has been very relaxing for me. Unfortunately I had to leave Sol there. But we will meet up again soon in Rajasthan.
I am in Varanasi now. And I am going into extremes here. You can feel that it is a sacred place but something in me still fights against accepting it completely. "That is normal" a Sadu told me. Sadus are called "holy men", they sacrifice their lives to the gods. "you always have this fight between good and bad - even within yourself" he explained to me. The first time I saw the Ganges river was yesterday at 6 o'clock. I went for a boat ride to see the sun rise over one of the oldest cities on earth. It was breath taking. And then I was confronted with everything this river and city is about. Life and death! the first thing that I saw in the river floating towards me was
a dead corpse. Burned with the face in the water. I knew people are burned at the Ganges, and some people cannot afford a lot of wood cuz the family has to pay for every single piece. The boat man saw that I was quite shocked and tried to calm me down and invited me to Chai, which was difficult to get down after that. Everything happens at the ghats at the Ganges. Steps from the city reach down into the water for people to wash themselves, wash clothes, hang out, meet, pray, play games, go to the toilet, eat, drink, die and get burned. Everything happens simultanuously. You cannot find words for that. I come from a world where everything and every aspect of life is neatly seperated. You have private places to go about your business, but here everything happens in public! The first time i was confronted with this was on the train ride from Delhi to Amritsar. There is a whole culture which build up next to the train tracks. Animals eating garbage which people throw out of the window and people recycling whatever is possible. Huts and whole villages are next to the train tracks
with no privacy. In the mornings you see hundred of men scattered around to go to the toilet. It is strange when you think that women and men are kept seperate, every woman knows how men look like after a train journey like that! The same sort of intimacy you will find here. That does not mean that people are very close to each other, they all stick to their own clans and don't care much for other matters. But it is all fascinating, shocking, surprising and somehow enjoyable. Lucky for me that I found people to explain it all to me, and I am still putting all the puzzle pieces together...
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