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.

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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.

Surfing & Elephants

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Colombo was done and in the early hours of the morning I embarked on an odyssey which even Homer would have smiled at.
The initiative had come from Pundit, whispering about a famous tooth which could be visited in Kandy, up in the highlands.
Disembarking, my backside tingled after hours of being beaten on the wooden bench in the bus. The early morning, veiled with the promise of a new day hummed quietly, as I stepped into an elephant turd. About the size of a 10L bucket, & still steaming, its owner brightly painted and tinkling with trinkets swayed comfortably down the road in front of me.
Welcome to planet India, magical in its chaos, dirt and vibrant colours. A fragment from the Middle Ages turbaned and sari ed swirled around my tired vision and I smiled.
Yes I smiled, as a deep sense of recognition and understanding washed across my soul, this was my deja vu, my odyssey beginning, my Parsifal journey to an unknown grail.
Later that day I met Buddha. His huge golden image illuminated by oil lamps and awash in swaths of sweet incensed smoke, his gaze fixed on the casket, containing his once living tooth.

Aragum Bay has no real geographical or even geological significance. It marks the South eastern most corner of Sri Lanka with a rocky point. This point however is so exactly positioned that the ocean swell, after traveling thousands of sea miles, is tripped and dissected, resulting in a perfect and pristine curving wave. A Shangri-La, for surfers like me to enjoy in the solitude of paradise lost.
“Guten Tag, wie heist du?” a foreign language but a friendly bearded face greeted me as I entered the palm hut just off the beach, “Welcome to Aragum Bay!”, here we surf with the elephants.

Part 3. Aragum to Cochin