Varanasi – Wet Bulls and Sitars

After being played out from our village retreat by the local troubador, we found ourselves waiting at Khajuraho station for the sleeper train to Varanasi. The fact that there was an imense bull laid down on the platform did not seem to bother the locals, so it didn’t bother us. The fact that the train was two and a hour late did. The lizard on the wall in the men’s waiting room (yes, they are segragated) entertained us for about two and half minutes. Eventually, I remembered that I had a deck of cards, so we played a game called ‘The Game With No Name’, though Josh was fairly certain it was called ‘S**thead’. Shaemus hadn’t played before, but won the second game, and it wasn’t until midnight that I got my first win. At that point the train arrived, and we were re-united with the group. After a lullaby and a bedtime story we settled and the train arrived in Varanasi twelve hours later.

After the obligatory hotel stop, we were to make our way down to the Ganges – the holy focal point of the city. The transport method would be cycle rickshaw.

20150715_Rickshaw_WEB

Our driver was half my size, but was obliged to propel his singled geared machine loaded up with 24 stone (336lb or 153kg) of tourist through the Varanasi streets, which are tight and hectic, even compared to Delhi. Shaemus and Angela managed to look like honeymooners as we started off.

20150724_Rickshaw_Honeymoon_WEB

The journey was like a very intense fairground ride, apart from the fact that the danger was very real, and there were farmyard animals all over the place. Rags was holding it together through the middle section (but he’s used to this sort of thing).

20150724_RickshawRags_WEB

By the end of the ride Nikki and I were in a meditative state…

…as an alternative to browning our pants.

From where the rickshaws dropped us off, there was still some walking to do, then as we worked our way through the busy streets the heavens opened, so we took refuge in a chai shop. Masala chai is a national institution in India. It’s a spicier, creamier and sweeter version of normal tea. The locals gathered round the chai master in eager and fairly damp anticipation of his works.

20150724_ChaiInRain_WEB

With chai in our bellies we headed back onto the street, and made our way past another enormous bull down to the riverside.

20150724_BullInRain_WEB

My drenched casual white shirt was making me look like an entrant in a wet T-shirt competition.

20150724_CasualWhiteShirt_WEB

Leaving my dignity on shore, we clambered into a boat from where we could see the many Gaats and the area of the embankment where bodies are ceremonially cremated.

20150724_RiverBoats_WEB

As we returned to the riverbank people were gathering for the evening prayer ceremony.

Next morning we came down early to catch the sun rising over the sacred river.

20150725_GangesDaybreak_WEB

20150725_GangesDaybreak2_WEB

You could sense how rejuvenated the people were by the day’s fresh turn of the wheel.

20150725_GengesDude_WEB

20150725_GangesDude2_WEB

We felt better because we weren’t getting rained on.

20150725_NikkiOnBoat_WEB

As the tuk-tuks returned us to the hotel, a new working day was beginning in the city.

20150721_SchoolGirlFromTukTuk_WEB

The cattle maintained their imperious position on the roads.

20150725_BullinStreet_WEB

An unexpected and very welcome gift from the holy city was a sitar lesson conducted by Tarak Nath Mishra. Thanks to Hannah and Josh for thinking of it, and Rags for organizing it, but the biggest thanks of all to Mr Mishra and his family. I have always loved the sound of the instrument, but it looked far removed from the six string guitar, which myself and Josh were familiar with. Mr Mishra was able to demonstrate how the do-re-me-fa-so-la-te-do from western music fits onto the sitar; so he had us playing scales on a sitar; and yes, I did try to play that song from The Sound of Music.

20150725_SitarLesson_WEB

20150725_SitarPerformance_WEB

Following the lesson, Tarak insisted that we take masala chai. We were then treated to a performance with his uncle and then his son taking turns on the tabla – a totally awesome experience! Thanks to Nikki for recording it.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Varanasi – Wet Bulls and Sitars

  1. Hey Pat,

    I am absolutely loving your blog, it’s bringing back so many memories.

    Sorry we didn’t get chance to catch up before you left and I never gave you my ‘things to do’ sheet but it looks like you didn’t need it anyway.

    One thing I did forget to mention was, do not rely on be trains, they have a timetable but it’s apparent they don’t have to stick to it but it looks like you’ve found that out the hard way ha ha.

    Varanasi was probably my favourite place and the masala chai is superb. I was kindly invited into a family home and shown how to make it by an Indian mother and grandmother. I then served it to the rest of the family and we sat talking for hours about the city and culture.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

    X

    Like

    1. Hi Staci,
      Good to hear from you, and really please that you like the blog.
      For me, Varanasi was the funniest and most musical city that we have been to so far.
      I have our visit to McLeod Ganj (home to The Dalai Lama), and our experiences in Kerela still to write up.
      The blog runs around 2 weeks behind real time – it takes us that long to sort through the pictures.
      Please feel free to keep putting your comments up.
      Cheers
      Pat

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s