Varanasi has been the dirtiest of all cities I have seen and will probably see. Full of insects, lots and lots of cows, hundreds of flies everywhere… were mixed within the chaos that invades the city. I have spent almost a week in a city that tests your limits. It is one of the most ancient inhabited cities!
The first day the city just mistreated me. To start, I went to the other side of the river with super nice new friends I met in the hostel. The boat took us to a very rural area where tourists barely reach, to introduce us to a clean tidy small town with houses spread all over. Such a contrast! But back to Varanasi the city gave me a bit of itself: A plastic ball landed in my head, thrown towards my head from a roof. Absolutely painful. And then monkey poo landed on my arm, Gross!
I just came back to the hostel, had a shower and thought: India is like this. It gives you 100 amazing times to also give you a very bad one from time to time. Stay positive, you have so much ahead of you…it will just be better tomorrow. And it was, to tell the truth. The days passed between walking along the ghats, watching life around the Ganges, think about how contradictory this city is and I also could add a little visit to Sarnath, the small town where some Buddhist ruins are based and where Buddha had given his first sermon.
The visit to the crematory was a must thing to do for me. I have no words for what my eyes saw that day. I will just say that for them, there is no reason to be sad, it is a good thing and they kind of celebrate it. Or at least they show some proud feeling. But what you see…our eyes are simply not used to. Pyres and pyres, at different stages, that would end up in ashes. And more pyres. And ashes. And everything will just end up in the river. The same river where they dip. The same water they drink while inside. 50 metres beyond the crematory ghat, there are people fishing. And 100 meters further, people washing clothes. Or washing themselves, with soap and everything, taking a true bath. And at the same time, more bodies arrive to the crematory, accompanied by the families, all men of course. And they are dipped in the water before conforming the pyre and making pictures of the deceased. While the corpses are dipped to be burned after in the ground, some workers in the crematory are trying to dissolve the ashes right next to them. I have the vivid image of ashes in a pile waiting to be dissolved while dogs and cows are wandering around, even eating. Everything happens in a chaos I have no explanation for. And at the same time is perfectly coordinated by the workers at the crematory.
Varanasi is everything together. It is noisy in the streets and quiet at the alleys. It is dirty and crowed at one shore and clean and empty at the other side of the river. It’s logical and unlogical at the same time. It’s water and fire. It’s energy you can feel. For me it is also been a city of goodbyes. I had to say bye to my dear travelling buddy Sirena, who is gone now towards Mumbai. And many other friends that left me alone in the city at the end of my stay in it. My journey as solo traveller starts now, to be truly alone at least for a couple of days, until I reach Jaipur, the door step of the state of Rajasthan (with a pitstop in Agra in between). But…wait a minute, are you ever truly alone in such a crowed country??
The last days around the city has given me many many sights of it and has also mistreated me a bit more with an attack of a monkey that no doubt has been the ONLY moment in all my travelling done so far in India when I have felt truly SCARED.
I do not have words to explain about the feelings that this city awakes. It’s been almost a week of wandering the alleys and enjoying life at the ghats. Too intense. The city is a test that I don’t even know if I passed. I did learn something: We all die. And take nothing with us but what we have done.