Wisdom: Life

Wisdom: Life

In its longing, let life find the self you came here to discover.

Liam

Blog 9 Part 1 Varanasi

Blog 9: Varanasi Part 1

When translated from ancient Sanskrit, Varanasi could also be called the City of Light. It is here on the banks of the great Ganga River that Budda rolled out his first teaching, The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma, there by initiating a new religion called Buddhism.

Author Mark Twain wrote in 1897 of Varanasi, “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

My western style of clothing had by this time on my journey, melted away, being replaced by brightly colored balloon trousers . Held at the waist by a cord and tied at the ankles, my shirts all two of them, were white light embroidered cotton . Around my neck hung a beaded leather pouch containing my passport and travelers checks. Other than this, I owned nothing of value. My hair had grown into an awesome Afro of curls and for the first time a recognizable beard augmented my visage.

It was culture that I came for in this holy place. In Bombay I had heard about the great festival of classical Indian music and dance and I was here to experience it first hand.

Ravi Shankar became quite famous around the time of the Beatles and he was a star player amongst many others.

Varanasi has been this cultural centre of Northern India for a thousand years and is closely associated with the Ganges.

Hindus believe that death in the city will bring salvation, making it a major centre for a death pilgrimage. The city is also known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps from stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform the ritual ablutions of washing , cleansing and cleaning themselves in the sluggish flowing waters. These ghats are also where Hindus cremate their dead.

The whole amazing spectrum of life till death , being played out along the banks of this great and Holy river, I now had become part of it too.

Accommodation was simple, the rooms were spartanically furnished. A bed, a small table, a light and as everywhere a squat toilet. The food was abundant, delicious, vegetarian and diverse. Never a day went by without a new treat to my already inspired palate.

Breakfast could be chilly badgies, a fresh chilly dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried, washed down with the ever ready chai available almost on every corner.

The chai wallas, as they were called were the captains of huge copper cauldrons which simmered continually over a small coal burner. The regular addition of milk, cardamom , cinnamon, Black pepper, Darjeeling tea, honey and water results in a heavenly nectar to be enjoyed at any time of the day or night.

With that it’s “ Namaste 🙏“, I’m off to bed .

Continued Part 2.

BLOG 8: Last Bit

As our journey disappeared into the dark tunnel of the second night, I lay out stretched on my hard upper bunk. Unconsciously fiddling with the protective wire mesh which surrounded the ventilator fan.

Unexpectedly, there was a loud clunk, my middle finger had slipped through the mesh and been hammered at 120 RPM by the blade .

Dear reader the immediate and excruciating pain caused a burst of sweaty pearls to appear on my forehead.

I gasped deeply and intuitively breathed in the pain, not running from it, not trying to escape it , just the opposite.

I focused into the objectively insane reality of trying to increase this pain.

No, I was not on drugs of any type or description, my mind simply leapt at this extraordinarily unusual way of dealing with a bad situation.

My heart thumped heavily, my breath heaved in unison with those heavy locomotives and inexplicably I could control myself .

The results were amazing,

The pain rapidly subsided , the swelling which should have transpired didn’t and my nail remained intact. True in detail and it’s never happened again.

Magic happens in India when least expected.

Blog 8: The Train Journey to Varanasi in Utra Pradesh. 1983

Blog 8: The Train Journey to Varanasi in Utra Pradesh.

Bombays Victoria Terminus of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, completed in 1888 was one of the finest stations in the world. 96 years later It was here that I booked my one way single ticket to Varanasi.

The journey of 1600Km took almost 2,5 days by steam rail. The engines great belching monoliths of iron & steel dragged an armada of passenger wagons, each compartment for six, equipped with 2 hard shiny wooden benches & 2 more which folds down from the ceiling as beds. Our only luxury a fan attached to the ceiling.

What a simple pleasure as it scooped thick moist air , pungent with body odor and impregnated with 39C of heat over me hour after hour.

It was an initiation as to how a herring must feel while it’s slowly being smoked in an oven.

Opposite me sat a fine Sikh gentleman with an enormous face of hair, his mustache twisted, waxed and immaculately tucked back behind his ears, his beard white as snow flowed down over his small round belly, giving him the unusual look of Father Christmas on holiday in the heat, wearing a turban as a disguise. I later learned that Siks Seldom if ever cut their hair, this belongs to their religion.

Beside me exquisite twins wrapped in saris & hung abundantly with copious amounts of gold jewelry.

Fine chains hung between the earlobes and dainty rings pierced to their noses. Each wrist carried it’s very own fortune in a mass of tinkling golden bracelets. Each finger bore its own treasure chest of ruby sapphire corundum and Emerald.

A few weeks later I would recognize one of the girls in an unforgettable moment which will be shared in the next blog post.

As the final whistle blew, the train gave an earth quake shattering jerk. Two steam engines belched volcanic masses of black hot soot Into Bombay’s already polluted atmosphere. Then a metallic scream as the wheels, metal on metal, were slowly shunted forward by gigantic stainless steel pistons lurching us into the journey and onto another adventure.

As the morning past, ones senses, acclimatized to the clickety-clack movement, the characteristic smell of coal smoke as it regularly wafted through the open and glassless window of the apartment.

A sharp rapping at the door awakened us all from the drowsy meditative repetition of the wheel clacking. “Tickets please, tickets please everybody.” Announced the conductor in at lest four Indian languages & lastly in english.

His progress through the train could be compared to the queen ant 🐜 as it squeezed and wiggled it’s way through this long packed and heaving colony. It was only until the next day that I realized that not only were the coaches a body on body squeeze of humanity but that clinging for dear to the outsides of the train and hanging precariously to the roofs of the coaches were equally as many individuals.

This gave the whole thing surreal look of a living hairy Catapillar of enormous proportion’s huffing and puffing its way across the vast countryside of India.

The days were long and hot, The monotony being broken by the occasional stops along the way. The engines needed to fill up with water and coal, more and more passengers piled board this already living organism of modern day technology. The stillness of the stop gave way too shrieks and laughter, chatter and bartering. Sweet steaming cups of chai came through the windows accompanied by delicious curried meals served on huge Banyan leaves 🍁 .

Cloth and cookies, livestock and jewelry traded swiftly in those few precious minutes of immobility, before again the conductors whistle initiated our further progress.

( to be continued) Liam

POETRY: Königswinter

POEM: Königswinter Germany

Through this valley wide sweet & long.

Vine covered slopes the Rhine flows strong.

Thick the forest leaf tinged in gold.

The river grips the boat it holds.

Through the folds of my open shirt,

It’s warm, the sky of a blue summer burnt.

Wheels spin as bikes zip by.

A single cloud hooks the lash my eye.

Turning in, to my thoughts profound.

Solace meets the me I found,

I’d lost and searched for ages long.

Found last night in a dream sung song.

Here I sit with a new found me.

Pondering life along the Rhine Valley.

My glass frosted in pearls of dew.

Spätburgunder I toast the new.

Liam September 18

Poetry: The Muse

POEM: The Muse

Morning, harbor bathed in glow.

Boats bob, the ripples flow, reflecting gold.

Behind me clouds dark fill the sky.

My journey starts, a tear wet eye.

Richness all around to see.

Day born moment wakes in me.

Bag clatter echoes from the cobbled stone.

Seagulls screeching heard alone.

Jellyfish puls in the cold wet blue

A whispered word deep in my ear.

My muse awakes with a laugh clear call.

Reach out touch embrace this call.

Then smile &

Set it free that’s all.

….

Liam September