Tag Archives: Varanasi

**it Happens

1 Oct

 

Sidney Poitier's image, cropped from Civil Rig...

Sidney Poitier’s image, cropped from Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963, an image in Public Domain 

 

Sidney Poitier once said “So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.” Sometimes without even trying things come your way. Some people chalk it up to “fate.” A friend of mine says “I guess that’s karma for you.” I walk through the claustrophobically close streets in Varanasi, India. I have absolutely no idea where to look. If I look up, I see signs for bakeries, silk shops, jewelry shops.

“Heya, sister, you wanna samosa?” a shop keeper yells after me. I ignore him. It wouldn’t have been the  first time I’ve been called after…and it will not be the last. So I keep walking…oops I slip a bit and look down. Brace yourself. Yes that’s correct I had slipped in none other than the excrement of a near-by cow. “I almost landed in that!” I say to my friend walking behind me. I smile with pride. Crisis averted. I am safe.

Cows are roaming here and there. Everywhere it seems. Flea infested dogs are fighting to my left and I can see through their thin coat of fur to their pock-marked and bloody flesh. These dogs are not at all cute. In fact the cows are in better shape.

The Indian fellow walking ahead of me, smiles. His stained teeth stare at me in a gaping mannar. It’s very popular for Indian men to chew this tar powdery stuff called paan. I smile back but can’t help but curl my lips in a tad bit of disgust.

So we’re walking through a tight, tight street. Like this:

 

I’m distracted by a monkey swinging from an electrical wire above my head and I instinctively reach for my purse to protect it. Sometimes monkeys are trained to steal a foreigner’s bag. Guess who reaps the benefits when that bag gets back to the owner.The person who trained the monkey to steal the purse in the first place. But that’s beside the point. Because right at that moment we are passing a cow who thought it pertinent to let flow some…fluid. So my feet are now covered in cow pee. 

“Do not worry sister,” a voice says, I don’t know who, I’m busy staring in disbelief and anger at this dumb cow. “This is holy piss, it is good luck.”

 

I look up to see whether this person is joking. Nope. Not even in the slightest.

 

How wonderful. I was enjoying my claustrophobic walk, the shops that are so close, they invade my personal bubble. Seriously, sometimes it feels as if I can’t move for how close things are together. I was just beginning to appreciate everything about this place. I had even just enjoyed a treat at The Blue Lassi (gotta have a lassi). Narrowly missed falling in poo and now…this.

“Well its character building if anything,” I say to my friend and we both throw our heads back a laugh. What else could we do? Be angry? Annoyed? Tired?

There are far worse things that could happen to a person than pissed on by a cow. Great. At least it was “holy piss” right? At least I’ll have some luck right? Oh dear. If I had chosen that moment to be annoyed than well I would have lost all the other moments I had attributed to “character building.”

Good old character building. Life is nothing if not character building. That’s proverbial gold  you can take to a metaphorical bank.

 

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Uncovering Needed Beauty

19 Sep
Fishing boat, Koh Samui, Thailand

Fishing boat, Koh Samui, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently went for a little travel. Down to the lovely Thailand and lovely (more or less) India. I thought I’d look for beauty in completely opposite countries. Both are a culture shock.

There is a constant bubble of sound that seems to follow you wherever you go in India. Sometimes it felt as if I couldn’t turn around without someone staring, touching, yelling, crying…anything really. There is no such thing as personal space only the relentless look of derision and judgment at having white skin. To the people on the street; white skin means money and stupidity. Street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers, “guides”, are automatically allowed an attempt at cheating you, you’ve risked coming here and what happens in India, stays in India.

Great.

But what am I saying? That all of my experiences there were on the negative side of the spectrum of perception? Not in the slightest. It simply became more of a challenge to discover the “beautiful.” In many countries they put their lovely aspects on display, not India, nothing is hidden. It’s all there for you to see, and that is why you should go, because it helps you realize that there is power in having to work at loving something. Let me tell you that while I loved Thailand, I loved India more, simply because I had to toil to love it. Thailand laid all of its beauty out there for me to see, India hid it from me and I was on a hunt to find it. And I did.

Take a breath, the next bit will be a tad cliché.

Dear India. I found its beauty in the holy towns where women washed in the brown waters that met the steps. It was in the smiling faces of those children in the school at the Jaisiyaram Ashram. In the smiles of the happy Ashram workers; they’re always singing, laughing at something. Beauty and love in the kiss that Nanniji lay upon my forehead when I left the Ashram. “Goodbye,” she said and smiled.

There was beauty in the way that families are so connected there, just a tight support group. In the face of Ankit, a little boy who stated decisively “I will be the Leader of India, and clean it up.” I saw a beautiful monkey, who then stole my crackers and stared at me defiantly, challenging me to take them back. I threw my head back and laughed.

Where else? Let me tell you.

In the forts and temples, the mosques. But of course that is a given.

I saw it in the priest who blessed me in the name of Krishna, and then demanded a donation. When I cried in frustration at his incessant urges, he fell over, almost landing in the mucky water that is called “holy”. He said, “Now see, you are crying and I fell over. Everything is connected.” I gave him some money. Yes there was beauty in that. Its small but it’s there. Oh! I saw it in the family I stayed with in Varanasi. How the father adored his mother, and loved his children, he was a lighthearted fellow, very quick to help and tell a joke. I saw beauty in the willingness of our driver, Lucky, (who doesn’t earn much), to give twenty rupees here and there to the children who pleaded to him with hungry eyes. He put me to shame, and there is small beauty in shame; it reminds me of my humanity.

Need I go on?

The beauty I discovered in Thailand, was precious, albeit at times more superficial. I stayed on an island, in a bungalow. Met a beautiful Chinese woman named Eva. She’d grown up in Italy and had an Italian accent. In fact the only thing Chinese about her was her appearance. But she smoked and drank like tomorrow didn’t matter. I’ve never met someone so free and uncaring. There was beauty in that. Before I left she said to me “Tricia you are only here for one night. I just met you, but I know you like to talk, and I know you like to live.”

“Thank you Eva.”

I saw beauty in Bangkok, in the different markets, the different senses of “need”. There, the rush is not a rush, but an ambling sense of the word “go”. what I mean is that, stress doesn’t seem to exist here in the outskirts of Bangkok. The same goes for India, there is a relaxed atmosphere despite the noise. There was beauty in what I call the “train market”, a market set on the train tracks. 10 times a day they move their produce and fresh meats from the track to make way for the train. But when the train comes, it’s not a big deal, it rolls through at a slow lull of a pace. Everyone is relaxed and calm. Nothing to see here.

Where was I?

Right, beauty. There was beauty in Thailand, in the elderly woman with leathery creases in her face, when she gave me this tiny apple-star fruit. She smiled a toothless smile and made a motion to eat it with her leathery hands. Ah such a precious sight. Perhaps I didn’t have to look as hard in Thailand. Oh well, beauty is beauty.

I have written that word quite a bit. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, read it again and tell me which words seems to appear in each paragraph or sentence. After you do that, tell me how hard you search for it wherever you are. Because I can guarantee that if you’re depressed/angry, and you challenge yourself to search for it. Your outlook and attitude are sure to change.

Recently went for a bit of travel. Down to the lovely Thailand, and the lovely (more or less) India. And while I was there I sought out beauty.

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